Actions

Work Header

Look For The Girl With The Broken Smile

Chapter Text

When Lydia showed up at Derek's house, it was three o'clock in the morning. He never would have realized she was there if his wife, Braeden, hadn't been so aware of her surroundings. She was a former bounty hunter turned private investigator and had learned a long time ago that not knowing your surroundings could mean death. She had awoken in the dead of night and said to him, "Baby, someone's outside."

Derek had learned a long time ago not to question Braeden when she knew something was wrong. A sixth sense, she had always told him, and Derek never questioned it. Hell, if werewolves were real, then anything could be possible.

Derek went down and let Lydia in. He took one look at her; the makeup running down her face, the fact that her hair was hanging limply on her shoulders and the little girl she was carrying in her arms, and Derek knew that something was wrong. He watched his sister for a good minute before saying, "Come in, Lyds."

He spoke softly, which made Lydia even more nervous. Derek was never soft, never gentle, unless something was wrong. Derek was really gruff on the outside, but when it called for it, he had such a wonderful bedside manner. That was the one thing that made him such a good teacher.

Lydia deposited the sleeping girl on the couch and then looked at her brother. She had tear tracks on her face, which meant she had been crying, and maybe it was the fact that Lydia had been his sister for the last ten years, but seeing his sister upset like this made Derek want to beat whoever did this to a bloody pulp.

"What happened, Lyds?" Derek asked her. He watched her as she sat next to her sleeping daughter. "You can always come to me. Is that why you're here?"

Lydia nodded, "Yeah. I'm sorry, Der, but I didn't know where else to go. Laura would push, Cora shows almost no empathy most of the time, and I don't like to bother Isaac. You know how Erica gets and I don't think I could deal with her right now, and Malia and I haven't spoken in almost an entire year. You were the most logical choice."

Derek nodded, "Sure. Why don't you put Meg in the guest room? Then we can sit up and have a cup of tea."

"Do you have any Saturday classes?" Lydia asked. "I mean, did I come at a bad time?"

"Lydia, you're always welcome here," Derek said. "No time is a bad time for family." He glanced at the clock, "Besides, I have weekends off. My schedule this semester is pretty lax and I only have classes three days a week right now. You came at the perfect time."

"Three o'clock on a Saturday morning?" Lydia asked skeptically.

Derek just smiled, "Go put Meg in the guest room, Lyds. I'll meet you down in the kitchen afterwards."

When Lydia came back downstairs to where Derek had two steaming mugs of tea on the kitchen island counter, Lydia looked at him closely. He handed her a mug, and Lydia breathed in the aroma before sitting down on a barstool beside him. He watched her closely with concern in his eyes.

"I had to leave, Der," Lydia said finally. "Aiden almost killed me last time, and he tried to lay a hand on Meg. That was not happening, okay? So Danny helped me get out. He got Ethan to distract his brother and he moved me." Lydia watched Derek for a good moment before adding, "Der, they're the reason we're alive."

Derek nodded. "So what are you going to do?" he asked her.

Lydia shrugged, "I don't know. I don't know what to do. I figured I'd come here and give myself a fresh start. Make a new life for myself and Meg."

"And I'm going to help you any way I can, okay, Lydia?" Derek said. "I mean it." He took a drink of his own tea before saying, "What about your stuff?"

"I left it," Lydia said. "The only thing that Megan and I have are the clothes on our backs."

Derek nodded, "Okay. We're going to get this settled. I promise."

-x-

After finishing talking, around five o'clock, Derek told Lydia to go upstairs and try to get some sleep. As Lydia lay next to her daughter, she tried to put everything out of her mind. She tried to calm herself down and think about the positives in their lives.

She had had a bad run of luck in her life. Her parents had died when she was eleven, in a hit and run. She had no other family, so she was forced into the foster care system.

Foster care was brutal. She drifted from home to abusive home for almost four years, until she was placed with Talia and William Hale. They were wonderful people, people who actually cared about others and were in this to help kids. They had two adopted kids of their own - Erica and Isaac - and then their three biological children. They also took care of Talia's niece, Malia, because Talia's brother Peter was never around. Talia had petitioned the court for full guardianship when Malia was just a baby.

The abuse that Lydia had endured at the hands of others didn't stop once she met the Hales, though. When she was sixteen, she fell in love for the first time. When she met Jackson Whittemore, she thought everything was in place. He was smart, handsome...and a douchebag. But, as Lydia thought at the time, two out of three wasn't bad.

She was wrong, though. A couple of months into the relationship, he started getting abusive. It started with emotional manipulation, which turned into emotional abuse, followed by physical and then sexual abuse as well. She was ashamed, because she had entered into her relationship with Jackson knowing full well that he wasn't the nicest guy in the world, but when she was eighteen years old, she decided he hurt her for the last time.

That's when she moved to Boston to go to MIT. She was the smartest girl at Beacon Hills High School, with her GPA to almost a 5.0. She also had an eidetic memory, memorizing things about four times faster than a normal student. With a degree in number theory (which, a doctorate normally took someone 8 years to procure. She had it in half that time), she had tried to figure out what she wanted to do with her life.

At twenty-two, with a doctorate under her belt, Lydia moved to Chicago because her good high school friend, Danny Mahealani, had moved there to take care of his father, who'd just been diagnosed with cancer. That's when Danny decided to open the center.

The center had been Danny's pipe dream all through college. He wanted to open a place where underprivileged kids could come to learn. It wasn't just a learning center, though; it was a place where they could hang out, a safe place where they were off the streets. Lydia and Danny had also helped a lot of them get jobs and apply to college. Danny had recruited Lydia to help tutor with math and science. While she was smart and could do practically anything, she was a whiz at both math and science. She had always known she wanted to be a teacher, so working at the center had been a dream.

For a long time, it was Lydia and Danny against the world. When they were twenty-four, though, they met the Miller twins.

As soon as Lydia laid eyes on Aiden Miller, she knew that she wanted him. They had dated for almost six months before Lydia got pregnant with their daughter. It wasn't until right after Megan was born that Aiden started getting physically abusive. His brother, Danny's boyfriend, Ethan, was the total opposite of him, and he knew how his brother could be, so he helped Lydia escape.

It was almost four years ago that Megan had been born, and, as Lydia drifted off to sleep, she knew that her family would keep them safe.

-x-

Megan woke Lydia up the next morning around ten o'clock. Honestly, Lydia had been surprised that Megan slept as long as she did. Normally, Lydia was an early riser, but since the fact of the matter was that she didn't get to sleep until after five that morning, she slept a little later than she normally would.

When she went downstairs with Megan, Braeden was flipping pancakes. She took one look at her sister-in-law and said, "Hey, Lyds. Hi, Meg."

"Aunt Braeden!" Megan exclaimed. "What kind of pancakes are those?"

"Chocolate chip, of course," Braeden answered. Lydia had a sneaking suspicion that Braeden made them because she was aware of how much Megan liked them. "The best kind."

"Can I have some?" Megan asked.

"It is okay?" Braeden asked Lydia. As Lydia nodded, Braeden said, "Sure."

As Megan sat at the kitchen table, in-between Lydia and Braeden, Braeden looked at Lydia. "Is everything okay?"

Lydia shrugged, "Things will get better. They have to."

After they finished their breakfast, Derek and Braeden offered to take Megan out so Lydia could go to their parents' house. Talia and William Hale lived out in the middle of the preserve. They had built that house before their oldest daughter Laura was even born, because, being werewolves, they needed a home away from prying eyes so they could teach their betas control. Even though Lydia wasn't a werewolf, she loved the fact that the house was out in the woods. Lydia liked her space, and even though she was plagued with severe PTSD, she knew she was safe out there.

Lydia cursed under her breath when she realized that, even though both of her parents were home, Erica, Isaac and Laura were also there. She got out of the car and put on a happy face as she went towards her siblings.

"Lyds!" Laura smiled brightly when she saw Lydia approaching. She put her two-year-old son, Tyler, down on the ground and pulled Lydia in for a hug. Lydia then hugged Erica and Isaac in turn. "Where's the munchkin?"

"Derek and Braeden have her. I need to talk to Mom and Dad."

Lydia was trying to ignore the concerned look that Isaac shot her way, but knew he wouldn't say anything. Before Isaac found the Hales, he had been in a very abusive home and hated any kind of confrontation. In fact, whenever anyone in the house got into a heated argument with anyone else, Isaac had been known to leave the house, shift into a wolf and just run.

While Lydia knew that Isaac wouldn't say anything, she knew that it was Laura and Erica she'd have to worry about. Separately, neither Erica nor Laura could leave anything alone, but when you put them together, they became a fucking nightmare.

"What's wrong?" Laura asked her immediately. "If you got Derek and Braeden to take Meg for the day, then it's pretty deep stuff you've got to talk to them about."

"Are you okay, Lyds?" Isaac asked after Lydia was silent for a couple of minutes. "I thought you were in Chicago."

Lydia sighed, "I'm fine. I mean, I will be. Meg's okay, too, and Derek and Braeden offered to take her for the day." She looked at her brother and sisters before saying, "I'm moving back to Beacon Hills."

"What happened?" Erica asked. "What are you not telling us?"

"I need to talk to Mom and Dad," Lydia said, trying to avoid the subject. "Are they inside?"

Isaac nodded at them. It was just then that Lydia was grateful that Isaac wouldn't push. "They're in the den. Or, at least, that's where they were about twenty minutes ago when I was inside. Mom's working on a painting."

"Thanks, Isaac," Lydia said, squeezing his shoulder. She dropped a kiss on Tyler's head and then went inside.

She knew that Laura and Erica would probably follow her - not that they needed to. Laura, Erica and Isaac were all werewolves and could probably hear her if they concentrated hard enough. As she looked back, she noticed that Erica and Laura were following her, just as she had predicted.

"Lydia!" Talia Hale was pleasantly surprised when she saw her daughter come through the door of the den. William looked up from the crossword puzzle he was doing and smiled at her. "Where's Meg?"

"Derek and Braeden have her for the day," Lydia said. "I need to talk to you guys." She looked back at Laura and Erica, who had just come through the door of the den and then stressed, "Alone."

"Sure, Lyds," Talia said. She gave Erica and Laura a pointed look until they scurried out of the den, even though Lydia knew they'd be listening. Talia took a seat on the couch that was in there and patted the cushion next to her. "Come, sit and talk with me."

"Sure," Lydia said. She sat down beside Talia and then looked at her and then William in turn. "I'm moving back to Beacon Hills."

"Without Aiden, I'm assuming?" Talia asked. Lydia nodded.

"Oh, thank God," William said. When Lydia looked at him, he said, "I'm sorry, Lyds, but he was bad for you."

Lydia nodded, "I know. I just...I was in love with him, okay? I fell for him hard and fast and I should've known he was bad. I guess I had a gut feeling but I just ignored it. After everything with Jackson, I figured that if he was evil, there'd be no question about it. I was wrong."

"What happened?" Talia asked.

"He tried to lay a hand on Meg," Lydia said, and she saw anger in both Talia and William's eyes. "I was not about to let that happen, so Danny and Ethan helped me to get out. Ethan distracted his brother and Danny bought us a plane ticket back. I didn't have a chance to pack anything, so I've gotta go shopping and get essentials for both me and Meg. I borrowed my clothes from Braeden -" she pointed to the obviously borrowed clothes, which you could tell since Braeden was a few inches taller than Lydia, "- and I washed Meg's clothes last night, so at least they're clean. I'm gonna start looking for a place, but I've gotta get a job first."

"BHU is looking for math professors. I remember Derek telling me that," William piped up. Lydia looked at him. "I know what kind of work you were doing at that center, and it'd be similar. You're one of the most well-known number theorists in the United States, Lyds. I know that you like teaching, and it'd be an ideal job for you."

William was right; Lydia liked teaching. She sighed before saying, "I'll think about it. But I'm gonna have to find a place to stay for now. I've got money put away, but I've gotta make it stretch until I'm employed."

"You're going to stay with us," Talia said, taking Lydia's hand in hers. "I know you like paying your own way, Lyds, so you can pay rent and groceries if you really want to, but it's not necessary. We want to help you this way."

"Are you sure?" Lydia asked. "I don't want to be a burden."

"Trust me, Lydia," William said, watching her closely. "You've been our daughter for almost eleven years now, and the last thing you've ever been is a burden."

Chapter Text

Lydia called Derek later that afternoon and told him that he and Braeden could bring Megan by their parents' house later. She had to go to the store first, to get some essentials, and that's how she found herself on a shopping trip with Laura and Erica. They both loved to shop, and Lydia knew they were probably going to try to weasel out of her what happened in Chicago.

So, with Talia and William babysitting for Tyler, and Isaac on his way to work, they left the house. Lydia decided she wanted to get clothes first, so that's how she found herself on the way to a new store downtown. It was a really cute kids clothing shop that wasn't there the last time Lydia was in town. They stopped there first, with Laura telling Lydia that's where she shopped for Tyler a lot of the time. They had really cute clothes for not a lot of money, and Lydia was trying to save as much money as she could.

"Ty's getting so big, Laur," Lydia said, as she started to go through the selection of clothes that would fit Megan. "I can't believe he's already two."

"Just like I can't believe that Meg is already four," Laura said.

"She's not," Lydia corrected. "Her birthday's not until September."

"True," Laura said with a laugh, "but she is getting big."

"Yeah, she is," Erica said. She held up a dress that would fit Megan to a T, "Isn't this cute?"

"Meg's got a thing for dresses right now," Lydia said as Erica handed the dress over. Her daughter had taken after her in that respect - Lydia didn't even own one pair of jeans. She always wore dresses and skirts because she liked the way they fit, the way they flowed.

They got a lot of good clothes for Megan, and after they checked out and paid, as they were walking back to the car that Lydia had borrowed from Braeden, Laura said, "So, Lyds, spill."

"What do you mean?"

"There had to be a reason that you left Aiden," Laura said. "And there had to be another reason that you left everything behind. What do you think Aiden is gonna do with all that stuff?"

"I really don't care," Lydia said. "He can sell it if he damn well pleases. I'm not going back there to get it."

"Yeah, but what happened, Lyds?" Erica asked gently. "I mean, when you left Beacon Hills when you were eighteen, you said that you didn't ever wanna come back."

"Things happened in Chicago," Lydia said. "When Danny and I met Ethan and Aiden, we were ecstatic. I mean, he was my best friend, and for us to click with brothers? I thought that we were gonna be happily ever after." She unlocked the car and then looked at her sisters, "After the shit I've been through, I deserve a happily ever after."

"I know you do," Laura said. "I agree with you one hundred percent, Lyds. But there are a lot of good guys out there, too."

"You've been married to the same guy for almost four years, Laur," Lydia said. "What do you know about what's out there?" Lydia sighed, "I mean, Jordan's a great guy and I like him a lot, but the point still stands."

"You barely know him," Erica said. "You haven't been back to Beacon Hills in years."

"I've kept up. I was back here for Isaac and Allison's wedding. I came back when Allison's mom died. I came back for our parent's twentieth wedding anniversary. I just never stayed."

"And you're wanting to stay now?" Laura asked. "What did Aiden do to you?"

"He did a lot to me, but that's not why I left. I left because he tried to put his hands on Meg." She heard the actual growl that came from Laura, and sighed, "Look, I may have let everything go before because it was just me. But nobody's gonna put their hands on my daughter. Ethan distracted his brother and Danny bought me the plane tickets back to California. I owe him my life. Actually, I owe him both my life and the life of my daughter. I will never forget that."

They spent a few hours in Macy's. When it came to Lydia's clothes, she wasn't a label snob anymore like she used to be, but grabbed clothes that would look cute on her and wouldn't cost a small fortune. She had quite a bit saved up, but she wasn't sure how long it would take her to get a job. When she explained that to Laura and Erica, they scoffed at her.

"You're good at your field, Lyds," Laura said. "You know your shit and you're an excellent teacher. You taught those kids at the center in Chicago, and you were good at it, right? I recall Danny telling me that you were one of the most popular teachers there."

Lydia sighed, "I know. I just worry. I don't have just myself; I've got Megan to support as well."

"Don't worry about that, Lydia. You're going to be able to do this. You've survived this long, and the odds were against you. You're a survivor."

Lydia nodded, "I guess you're right."

-x-

Allison Argent had been Lydia's best friend since they first met when they were fifteen. Well, technically, Lydia was fifteen and Allison was sixteen, but they were both freshman in high school. Lydia had just moved in with the Hales and Allison was new at Beacon Hills High School. They clicked instantly. They had so much in common; they were like two parts to one whole. Two sides of the same coin, Talia used to say.

So the first thing Lydia did after getting the stuff from the store and bribing Derek and her father to carry the furniture she had purchased into the house and putting it together was call her best friend.

"Lyds, it's great to hear from you," Allison had said. Allison had married Isaac, who just happened to be her high school sweetheart, several years ago, when they both graduated from college. Well, Allison had graduated from college and Isaac was starting medical school the next fall, which was why they got married in July. They had a kid that was just a year younger than Megan and one on the way. "I wasn't sure if I was going to hear from you in a while."

"I'm in Beacon Hills, Ally," Lydia said, and she heard the gasp that came from her best friend's lips.

"Seriously? When did you get in? Why wasn't I the first one to know?"

"Because I got in at three in the morning, and I'm pretty sure that if I would've shown up at your house, I might've gotten an arrow in the leg."

"How many times do I have to apologize for that one, Lyds?" Allison laughed nervously. "I was out in the preserve, with permission from your mom, of course, and I didn't know you'd be training with your brothers. It was a total accident."

"Yeah, I know," Lydia said, "but I wouldn't be your best friend if I didn't give you shit for it. But anyway, I showed up at Derek and Braeden's house. Listen, Ally, can you come to my parents' house tonight? I need to talk to you. And bring Scott and Stiles with you. They can even bring their girlfriends. I just need to talk to them - it's pretty serious." Lydia paused for a moment before adding, "And the sheriff. It wouldn't hurt to talk to him, either."

"Why them?" Allison asked. "And by the way, Stiles' relationship with Malia crashed and burned a while ago. I'm surprised you hadn't heard."

Lydia shrugged even though she knew Allison couldn't see her, "Mia and I don't really talk. I mean, we do, but she has a horrible time keeping in touch with people. Well, it doesn't really matter. I just need to talk to Scott and Stiles."

"Okay, sure. How about in an hour? I was just about to give Charlie a bath."

"Sure," Lydia said. "An hour sounds good. I'll see you guys here."

Lydia decided that this was a good time to give Megan a bath and change her clothes. As she took Megan upstairs and started running the water, Derek showed up in the bathroom.

"Uncle Derek," Megan said, "You can't be in here. I'm a girl."

Derek laughed, "Meg, I've gotta talk to your mama about something."

"It's okay, Der," Lydia said. "Megan's pretty good at bathing herself. We can talk in the hall."

"She's three," Derek pointed out.

"Yeah, I know, but she's brilliant. Before we left Chicago, I was approached by a pretty prestigious private school that wanted to enroll her in kindergarten. I guess everybody thinks she's a pretty smart cookie."

And she was. Megan had inherited her mother's brilliance. At three years old, she knew her alphabet and was already reading. She could also do simple math problems and loved to learn. They weren't quite sure what her IQ was, Lydia had never had her tested, but Danny had told her repeatedly that she needed to. "Your kid's just like you, Lyds," Danny had told her on more than one occasion. "She's brilliant, and I bet the banshee has something to do with it."

Megan was unique. There weren't a whole lot of banshees around, but Lydia was one, and Meg was at least half banshee. They weren't sure if she had any werewolf tendencies, since Aiden had been an alpha werewolf, but that wouldn't present for another year or two, Talia had said. But the screams - Megan would let out little banshee screams as a baby because she wasn't able to control it. She had gotten a grip on control as she got older, and even though she was only three years old, she was pretty good at it even now.

"I've gotta talk to Uncle Derek," Lydia said, "but I'm going to keep the door open just a little so I can keep an eye on you."

"Okay," Megan said. She was more interested in the bubbles and bath toys that Lydia had put in the tub.

"Why are you wanting McCall and Stilinski over here?" Derek asked in a hushed voice. "What can they do?"

"Easy," Lydia said. "Stiles' dad is the sheriff, so he can handle the legal stuff if Aiden shows up. And you know for a fact that Scott's a true alpha and he shares this territory with your mom. He's pack."

"Yeah, he is," Derek said, "but I just don't know. Can we trust him with this?"

"He's a very trustworthy guy," Lydia said. Derek didn't look convinced.

"It's your life we're talking about here, Lyds. Well, yours and Megan's. I just don't know if I can trust him to keep you safe."

"Derek, you know damn well that the reason you don't trust Scott McCall is because he's got a brain."

"That's offensive," Derek said.

"Scott wouldn't listen to anyone after he got bit," Lydia said. "He hated the fact that he was a werewolf, you know that as well as I do, so he was resistant. But from what Allison tells me, Scott has grown into a really great alpha."

"He shares a pack with us," Derek said.

"Still," Lydia said, "I want Mom at this meeting, too. I want to talk to them about what I escaped back in Chicago."

Lydia glanced back in the bathroom, where Megan was still playing with her bath toys, and then said, "Don't worry about it, Derek. I trust Scott with my life, and as you've pointed out, they're pack."

"Doesn't mean I have to like it," Derek grumbled.

"Yeah, I know. Just let me do this, okay?" She put a hand on his arm. "Der, you can't be my protective big brother forever - you do know that, right?"

"I can try," he mumbled. It made Lydia laugh.

She went back into the bathroom and helped Megan finish up in the bathtub. Well, correction - she sat on the toilet seat as Megan insisted on washing herself. Lydia helped her with washing her hair, though, since Megan wasn't too good at that yet.

After Lydia had gotten Megan out of the tub and dressed, and then taken a shower herself and put on a clean pair of pajamas, almost an hour had gone by. By the time she went back downstairs, Allison was sitting on the couch in the living room, her two-year-old daughter Charlotte was sitting in-between her and Megan, and they were watching Despicable Me. Lydia figured they'd get around to it eventually; Megan was going through a phase right now.

Allison stood up and hugged Lydia as she said, "God, it's good to see you, Lyds."

"Thanks, Ally," Lydia said. "Where're Scott and Stiles?"

"They're coming," Allison said. "They were still out when I called Scott. The sheriff said he could come as well. He'll probably be here before they will. Stiles had been out with Scott and Kira."

"That's Scott's new girlfriend, right?" Lydia asked. "I don't think I've met her yet."

"She moved here to go to college," Allison said. "She didn't move here until after you left. I don't know if you remember or not, but she was at my wedding."

Lydia just shrugged.

A few moments later, Talia was letting the sheriff, followed by Scott, Stiles, and a very pretty Asian girl into the house. Scott and Stiles went up and hugged her in turn.

"God, it's been a really long time," Scott said, stepping back to look at her. "I haven't seen you since Isaac and Ally's wedding, and that was what? Almost five years ago?"

Lydia nodded, "And you've never met Meg."

"Who?"

"Meg," Lydia said, and Megan poked her head up over the couch. "Come say hi to a couple of people for me."

When Megan came over, she held onto Lydia's leg and peeked around it. Lydia laughed, "Don't tell me you're gonna be shy now."

Megan didn't say anything, so Lydia said, "Scott, Stiles, Sheriff...this is my daughter, Megan."

"Of course she is," Stiles said, and he looked like he was in awe. "She looks just like you."

And she did. From the strawberry blonde curls to the bright green eyes, to even the same skin complexion, Megan was a total mini-me of Lydia.

"She's beautiful," the sheriff said. "Is she special like you?"

"Yeah," Lydia said, nodding. "She's a banshee. She might be part werewolf, too, but we're not quite sure yet. She hasn't presented as such quite yet, so I guess we'll know when we know."

"How old is she?" the girl, who Lydia guessed was Scott's girlfriend, asked.

"Meg, how old are you?" Lydia asked. Megan held up three fingers.

"I bet she's brilliant, too, just like her mother," Stiles said. Lydia felt herself blush.

"Are you going to introduce me to who I'm assuming is your girlfriend, Scott?" Lydia asked, and Scott got a duh look on his face.

"Sorry," he said. "Lydia, this is my fiancée, Kira. Kira, this is Lydia Martin."

"Martin?" Kira asked. "I thought she was a Hale."

Lydia heard the trio of growls that came from Laura, Derek and Erica, and she just rolled her eyes. "They are my family. For all intents and purposes, I am a Hale. I just don't share their last name."

Kira nodded, "Oh. Cool."

"Is there a reason we're here, Lydia?" The sheriff asked. "I don't mean to be rude; I just need to know what I need to know."

"In other words," Stiles said, smirking at his father, "he and Melissa have a dinner date and he doesn't want to be late."

"Oh, did you hook up with Melissa?" Lydia asked, a grin crossing her face. "Good for you guys." Then she motioned towards the couch, "Why don't we go and sit down?"

They went over to the couch and Lydia looked at Megan. "Meg, why don't you go and show Charlie your new toys? I bet she'd really like to play with you."

Megan nodded and grabbed Charlotte's hand, and they went upstairs together.

"Who do you need to talk to?" Derek asked.

"Well, this might be a pack matter," Lydia said. "And I might need law enforcement's help. I'm not sure yet."

In the end, Lydia was sitting on the couch, and she was surrounded by Scott, Kira, Derek, Stiles, Braeden, Laura, Jordan, Erica, the sheriff and Talia. Lydia looked around at them before speaking.

"Okay," Lydia said. "You guys know that I lived in Chicago for a while. I lived with a guy named Aiden Miller. He's an alpha werewolf." A lot of them nodded their heads, so Lydia sighed and continued. "He was abusive. A few years ago, right after Meg was born, I landed in the hospital. Contrary to popular belief, I was there because he put me there."

"I remember that," Derek said slowly. "You told me you were mugged. I didn't think anything of it, because muggings happen quite frequently in big cities." Derek sounded calm, but Lydia knew that was the time to be worried - Derek always sounded calm when he was pissed. Derek was probably the most level-headed person that Lydia herself had ever met. But Lydia supposed that Derek had a right to be pissed right then.

"Yeah," Lydia said. "I'm sorry, guys, but I lied. Aiden was abusive, controlling, and I had a six-week-old baby at home. The last thing I needed was to be homeless and out on the streets when I had a new baby to take care of." She sighed, looking around and continued, "I put up with everything he gave me. I didn't think anybody would ever want me, and I was working at the center with Danny, and while I loved that job immensely, it didn't pay very well.

"He tried to put his hands on Meg," Lydia said. "Something was telling me that if I didn't leave right now, he was going to end up hurting Meg like he hurt me. We had a blowout fight a few days before I left, and he told me, and I quote, 'Nobody leaves a Miller, Lydia. You can run, you can hide, but I'll always find you.'"

"You're scared," the sheriff said, looking at her. "You're afraid he's going to come looking for you."

Lydia let out a breath of air she didn't even realize she was holding before saying, "I'm not afraid for myself. I've been through hell and I'm still standing. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that I can survive whatever hell he can put me through. But Megan; she doesn't deserve that. She's an innocent child, and even if I have to do it with my last breath, I am going to protect my daughter."

Chapter Text

She couldn't sleep. It really didn't surprise Lydia any - she'd been plagued with nightmares a long time ago, and it wasn't just because of Aiden. She had had this problem long before Aiden had ever stepped into her life.

She got up at three o'clock that morning, sneaking downstairs to make herself a cup of tea. Whenever she had a nightmare, she woke up and made herself a cup of chamomile tea to calm her nerves. It usually helped, too.

Lydia had just heated up the water for her tea when she heard someone behind her. She grabbed the knife that she kept on her at all times and turned around slowly, but let out a breath when she saw that it was just Talia. "What's that?" Talia asked, motioning to the knife.

"It's my blade," Lydia answered. "Katerina, the emissary of the Miller pack, she made it for me."

"Even though Aiden was her alpha?"

"But he wasn't," Lydia said, setting the blade down on the countertop and taking a drink of her tea. She sat down at the kitchen island counter and looked at Talia. "Aiden didn't have a pack. Ethan did, though, and Ethan was her alpha. And he actually asked her to make it for me. He worried about me."

"I'm glad someone did," Talia said. "I mean, your father and I worried about you, but it seems like a lot of people in Chicago just used you up, Lyds."

Lydia shook her head, "It isn't like that. Danny and Ethan worried about me. You should be thanking them, Mom - Ethan and Danny are the reason that Megan and I are alive."

Talia sighed, sitting down on the barstool next to Lydia, "I am thankful, Sweetheart, that's not what this is about. I just...knowing that you were so close to death more than once really angers me, you know? I know that you don't understand, but you are our daughter, and you have been for many years. I love you just as much as I love the rest of my children."

"Really?" Lydia asked, feeling dumb. She had been one of the Hales for several years, and Talia shouldn't have to tell her this. But she needed to be sure. Talia nodded.

"Don't think I'm ungrateful, Mom, that's not what this is. It's just...I had a nightmare."

Talia nodded, "Do they happen often?"

"They're not about what I went through in Chicago," Lydia said, taking another drink of her tea. "They're about what happened when I was in Beacon Hills - before I found you and Dad."

Talia nodded, "Have you seen a therapist at all, Lyds?" Lydia just shrugged.

"I don't know why you have such an issue with seeing one," Talia said. "I didn't push you when you were in foster care, because I realized back then that, even though the state says you should see one, they shouldn't dictate to you how you live your life, and you hate it when people do that. You cannot stand it when people tell you what to do, even if it is the right thing. So I never pushed. But Lydia, you've been through hell, and I know that more often than not, it feels like you're carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. You can't keep going through life like that, Sweetheart."

Lydia took a deep breath and licked her lips before looking at her mother, "I don't want to tell a stranger my problems. Besides, they'll never understand half of them without know that you guys are supernatural."

"I have a suggestion about that," Talia said. "I know a woman who's well versed in the supernatural. She's not supernatural herself, but she grew up in a household of werewolves and witches. She's definitely in the know, with not only a doctorate in psychology, but she's also got one in mythology and folklore - Stiles was actually her student, and she knows him really well. They're good friends." Lydia sighed, so Talia continued, "Her number is on the whiteboard next to the kitchen. You should give her a call. She might be able to help you."

Lydia took the last drink of her tea before saying, "I'll think about it, Mom."

"That's all I care about, Lydia," Talia said, watching her closely. "I just want to make sure you're okay. I love you, you know?"

Lydia nodded, "I love you, too, Mom."

-x-

"I can't find my other effing shoe!" Lydia cried as she hobbled down the stairs with one high heel on and the other foot was barefoot, save for her tights. Talia was pouring milk in Megan's bowl of cereal. "Where the hell did my other shoe go?"

"That was a bad word!" Megan said from her place at the kitchen table. Lydia said, opening her purse and pulling out a quarter. "I'm already late, but here. Now help Mama find her other shoe."

"It's in the closet," Megan said. "Grandpa put it in there."

Lydia sighed, handed Megan the quarter that was still in her hand, and pulled her shoe out of the coat closet. She put it on and then looked at herself in the full length mirror that was on the back of the closet door.

She had a job interview. She had been home for exactly three weeks and had decided she had done enough wallowing; it was time for her to get a job. She put in an application at BHU and Stiles, Derek, and Kira had put in a good word for her. It turned out that Kira was the counselor at the college, and, of course, Stiles had a doctorate in mythology and folklore. Of course, they had heard of her reputation, and while they hadn't outright offered her a job, they had asked her to come in for an interview. And here she was, running ten minutes late.

"You're going to do fine, Sweetheart," Talia said, rubbing Lydia's shoulders lightly. "Everyone around here is well aware of your reputation."

"You guys haven't been talking me up, have you?" Lydia asked worriedly. She grabbed an apple out of the fruit bowl that was on the dining room table and took a bite out of it.

"Derek may talk about you," Talia said. "I mean, think about it, Lyds. You've got a doctorate and so does he. He may only teach history, but he's proud of his little sister."

Lydia sighed, "What if I'm not what they're looking for? What if they think I'm better than I really am? I'll just be a disappointment."

"Listen to me, Lydia Katherine Martin," Talia said, and she had an edge to her voice - the same edge she got whenever someone pissed her off. "You are every bit as smart as everyone thinks you are. You're going to kill this interview, you got it? You're a brilliant woman and they'd be lucky to have you teaching at their school." When Lydia nodded, Talia said, "Good, because you're going to be late if you don't go."

Lydia looked at the clock, grabbing another quarter and handing it to Talia before saying, "Goddamn it, I've gotta go."

As Lydia walked out the front door, she heard her daughter's voice, "Another bad word! I'm gonna be rich!"

-x-

The interview went well - so well, in fact, that the dean hired her on the spot. He had told Lydia not to worry about summer classes - her first classes would be in September. When he asked what math she would be comfortable teaching, she explained to him that she loved numbers and wouldn't mind teaching any of it. He thought that was a good answer, because he told her they'd been having difficulty finding anyone who was teaching any kind of math, and Lydia was good at teaching. Apparently, her reputation as a teacher at the center in Chicago had come all the way out to California, because he was well informed about her work there.

It was almost noon when Lydia got out of the interview, and she knew that Derek's morning classes were out at noon. She tried to slip into his class unnoticed, but, of course, she just wasn't that lucky.

"My baby sister," Derek said, looking at her and embarrassing her in front of his students. "Did you get the job?"

"Yeah," Lydia said, taking a seat at the back of the lecture hall.

A big grin broke out on Derek's face, "Everyone, this is Dr. Lydia Martin. She's going to be a professor here next year, so if you've got math requirements, you should go to her. She's an excellent teacher."

"Thank you, Dr. Hale," Lydia said with emphasis, "but you should finish your lecture. It's almost noon."

"Thanks, Lyds," Derek said, and then went back to finishing his lecture.

Lydia just sat back and observed Derek's teaching style. He was passionate about what he taught, and you could tell that he really enjoyed the subject. As he went back to Mesopotamia, Lydia just watched him.

"Mr. Dunbar, Mr. Hewitt, could you guys stay for a minute?" Derek asked. Lydia saw two boys in the front row nod.

After his lecture was over, there were two younger guys who stuck around. Derek looked at them and then said, "Lyds, this is Liam Dunbar and Mason Hewitt. They're pack, too, and I thought you guys should be introduced."

Lydia smiled at them, "Hi. I'm Lydia."

The boy introduced as Liam looked over at her, "I'm a werewolf, in case you were wondering. Talia bit me when I was being hunted by a wendigo. If she hadn't bitten me, I would've died."

"I'm human," the other boy said. "But Talia told me that humans were pack as well."

Lydia nodded, "Yeah. So you guys are a package deal?" She was thinking about Scott and Stiles.

"It's just like Scott and Stiles," Derek said, as if he could read Lydia's thoughts. "Mason's pretty intuitive, too...it's like watching a younger Stiles at work."

Lydia nodded, "Sure."

After the introductions, they decided to grab lunch. Mason and Liam said they had to book it across campus to catch their twelve-thirty class when Derek had invited them as well.

Derek despised cafeteria food. He had said it was because he had eaten so much of it when he was a student, and Lydia figured it was true. She remembered eating it as an undergrad herself. They ended up at a café across campus called The Rock. Lydia herself had never been there, but heard rave reviews from other people.

And those reviews were accurate, Lydia realized, as she sat down with her grilled chicken salad. Derek had gotten pizza, which was his one true weakness. He loved the stuff, and had to work out extra hard whenever he ate it. He would rather do that than cut it completely out of his diet, though - a Derek without pizza was also a grumpy Derek.

As Derek looked over at Lydia, he said, "So, how'd the interview go?"

"You already know I got the job," Lydia said. "He hired me on the spot. Told me something about how they have such a hard time finding math professors, though I don't know why."

"Not a lot of people are as passionate about numbers as you are, Lyds," Derek said, taking a bite of his pizza. "Besides that, your eidetic memory helps a hell of a lot."

Lydia nodded, "Yeah, I know."

"So, Mom called me a while back," Derek said conversationally, taking a drink of his tea. "She said something about nightmares. Do you want to talk about them?"

"Why call you?" Lydia wondered aloud.

"Because out of everyone, I'm the closest to you. I think it has something to do with saving your life."

Lydia shuddered, because she hated thinking about that. She had been ridiculed during school, shunned because she was a foster kid. People used the word foster kid like it was a bad word, a dirty word, and nobody really understood the fact that all Lydia had to her name was the garbage bag full of clothes that she carried from house to house. She had no real belongings to speak of, and she had heard one too many times that she should just kill herself and get it over with already.


Derek was eighteen years old, freshly graduated from Beacon Hills High School, and ready to start the rest of his life. He wasn't looking forward to moving out of his mother's home, though - the Hale estate had been in the family for generations.

Derek had never really made friends very well, and was looking for something to do when he heard a noise. It wasn't a good noise - if any noise could be qualified as good - so he went to investigate.

When he got to the bathroom, he had to do a double take. He saw Lydia, his new redheaded sister, on the floor, blood pouring from the wounds on her wrists. She was in a pool of blood, and it was at this moment that Derek was grateful that his mother had always drilled into her betas' heads how to take care of a human if they were hurt, or even dying. Talia had always been really thorough when she was training them, and CPR and first aid were something that they had to know. Derek was suddenly very grateful.

He managed to put pressure on the wounds as he howled, hoping someone would hear him. He wasn't sure that anybody would, because they were all busy, doing their own things, but when Laura showed up in the bathroom, Derek couldn't have been happier.

"She's cut herself," Derek said to Laura. "We need to call 911."

Laura nodded, dialing the number. Laura had always been the one with the ability to keep her head in stressful situations the best, so Derek was glad it was her that answered his call.

After the ambulance got there, they took Lydia to the hospital. They asked Derek to ride along, just because Lydia needed someone to be with her, and they wanted to ask him questions about how he found her.

Once at the hospital, they had to give Lydia more blood, and they kept her in observation for a few days before moving her to the psychiatric ward. When you attempt suicide, it's an automatic 72-hour psychiatric hold.

Derek came and saw her every day. For the first couple of days, she wasn't talking to anyone, and she just glared across the table at Derek. Finally, on the third day, she was talking, but wasn't happy about it.

"What are you doing here?" Lydia asked him, staring back at him from across the table. Derek looked at her seriously.

"I wanted to come and check up on you, Lydia," Derek had said. He watched her carefully before saying, "I wanted to make sure you were okay."

"What does it matter to you whether I'm okay or not?" Lydia asked, quite rudely. "I mean, what do you care?"

"Just tell me why you did it," Derek said, choosing to ignore her last sentence. "I mean, you're fifteen years old. You've got so much to live for."

"Not really," Lydia answered. "Look, Derek, all I've got is that garbage bag full of clothes that I carry from house to house. I have no one. My parents and real family are dead, and all I've got is me. I don't have anyone who cares."

"That's not true," Derek said. "My mother cares. My father cares. Hell, my whole family cares. And I know that you don't believe it, but we want to make sure that you're okay."

"Why care, though?" Lydia asked. "You guys are just going to get rid of me."

"Just tell me why you did it," Derek said. "After all, I feel like I'm owed an explanation. I saved your life."

"You didn't save my life; you interrupted my death. There's a huge fucking difference."

Derek sighed, "You need to talk to someone, Lydia. And I talked briefly to the doctor and he said you're not opening up to anyone. Why not?"

"What's the point?" Lydia asked. "Nobody really cares. The reason the doctor even asks me how I'm doing on a daily basis is because that's his job - that's what he gets paid for."

Derek reached across the table and grabbed Lydia's hand, "I know that you probably don't believe this, but I want to help you, Lydia. My whole family does." Derek sighed and then said, "I'm going to be the big brother you never wanted."

She had been a pretty rebellious teenager. She ran away, picked up bad habits, and hung around people that would bother her parents the most. Around sophomore year, though - right around the time that Lydia met Allison - things changed. She started believing that maybe the Hales did want her around. And she eased up a little bit when she realized they weren't going anywhere.

"I don't know," Lydia said, shuddering at the flashback. She took a bite of her salad and then said, "And I don't want to talk about my nightmares, thank you very much."

"We worry," Derek said. "You know that Mom and Dad love you and worry about you, and so do I. The whole family knows you're family, Lyds. We just want to be there for you."

Lydia sighed, "Look, they aren't about what I went through in Chicago. I mean, sometimes they are, but they're mostly about things I went through right here in Beacon Hills. With the other foster families and Jackson and everything."

"Don't even talk to me about Jackson Whittemore," Derek said, his eyes flashing blue. "If he was still here, I'd cut off his dick and feed it to him."

Lydia sighed, "Look, I know you were probably happier than most when I broke it off with Jackson. I get that. But I just...I don't need anyone protecting my virtue, okay? I can do a damn good job all by myself."

Derek sighed, "I know, Lydia. Don't think I don't think you can't take care of yourself - if you go down, you go down swinging. You're one badass girl, okay? But we worry. You're family."

"Look, Der, your family is my family. I get that, and I've felt that for a long fucking time. It's just..." Lydia's voice trailed off as she sighed. "My life hasn't been the greatest."

"I know," Derek said. "I know a little bit about what you've been through."

"Yeah," Lydia said, a slight smile on her face, "but you cheated. I know for a fact that you had Brae check up on me."

Derek looked surprised, "How do you know that?"

"I'm not a dummy, Der," Lydia said. "Besides, I added things up. You know things you shouldn't. Only Mom and Dad are privy to that information, and I know they wouldn't have told you."

Derek shrugged, "Are you mad?"

Lydia laughed, "Nah, I've known for a while, since before Megan was born. I just accepted it and moved on. I know that you just want to protect me."

"I do," Derek said, looking at her. "And I'm never gonna stop."

"I know," Lydia said. "Thank you for that. I do appreciate it, even if I don't act like it most of the time."

Chapter Text

Talia had declared that Saturday pack bonding day, and by the time Lydia had gotten Megan around for the day, most of the pack were already sitting in the living room. The only ones not there were Isaac and Jordan, and it was because they had to work.

Jordan was a deputy at the police station, and really tight with the sheriff, as Laura had told her the last time she had asked about him, and Isaac was a doctor, fresh out of medical school only two years ago. He was a pediatric oncologist at the hospital, and even though Lydia would've thought that working with kids who had cancer would be a difficult job, Isaac loved it.

It'd been a month since Lydia had gotten home from Chicago. An entire month of being surrounded by her pack again, and Lydia had forgotten how much pack meant to her. Having a pack was a lot like having a family, but felt different; they felt closer somehow.

When she went into the kitchen that morning, William was flipping pancakes and he looked at Megan.

"Hey, bug," he said to her. "Are you hungry? I've got pancakes here and I made some eggs if you want."

"And chocolate milk?" Megan asked hopefully. William just looked at Lydia.

Lydia sighed but then nodded. "Sure," she said. "But just half a glass."

That seemed to make Megan happy, so as Lydia got Megan's breakfast around, her father watched her closely. "You okay?" he asked her.

Lydia shrugged as she cut up her daughter's pancakes. "I'm okay as I can be, given the situation," she said. "I mean, I've been home a month and things could be so much worse."

William nodded as Lydia grabbed herself some pancakes and started eating her own breakfast. William sat down at the kitchen table and, after taking a drink of his coffee, started working on the crossword puzzle that was in that day's newspaper.

After breakfast was finished, Megan, Charlie and Tyler had all ran into the spare room that Talia used as a playroom for the kids, and Lydia was left to socialize with the pack. They had decided to put a movie in, and Stiles had won the rock paper scissors, so it was Captain America 2.

When Lydia was a kid, she adored romantic movies. Not things like The Notebook or whatever, but she was in love with the idea that there was someone out there for everyone - someone who you loved and made you better by just being there with you. But then, her parents died and she was thrust into this cold, cruel world where nobody was what they seemed, and she got rid of that thinking really quickly.

As a kid, her favorite Disney princess movie had been Cinderella. You know, someone who was hurt and nobody cared about, but then Prince Charming showed up and saved her. But then, after she'd been in foster care a few years, she realized that she was starting to despise the thought of Prince Charming. She learned early on that you can't just sit there and wait for someone to save you - sometimes, you've just gotta save yourself.

So by the time she was a teenager, Lydia didn't watch romantic movies anymore. Sure, the movies could have a sense of romance to them, but it couldn't be the main focus. She enjoyed things like The Hunger Games and Divergent, and even comic book movies, but hated things like Titanic and The Notebook. True love just didn't happen - and okay, maybe it did, but it definitely didn't happen like that.

So when Stiles had picked Captain America 2, Lydia was cool with it. She really did enjoy action movies. So as they sat there and watched the movie, Lydia felt content.

Afterwards, after checking on the kids, Talia asked the others if they wanted to do a little training. They didn't have a hunter problem in Beacon Hills - not anymore, anyway; not since Chris Argent retired from hunting after Allison and Isaac got together, and since Chris wasn't hunting anymore, he kept an eye out in the community to make sure that no rogue hunters were showing up in Beacon Hills. He may not have been a hunter anymore, but he was one of the Hale pack's greatest resources and allies - but Talia liked to keep up on the betas' training just in case something did happen. You never know what rogue hunters escaped Chris' eyes - or even other supernatural creatures, for that matter - so she liked to be prepared.

Talia was a damn good alpha. She was good at what she did and people respected her. Something that Lydia had found out when she was hanging out with the Miller pack in Chicago was that most everybody in the whole supernatural community knew who Talia Hale was, and half of them feared her and the other half respected her very much. And even though there was so much respect for her, every once in a while there was a hunter or two who hated her to the point that they tried to take her out. And when she joined forces with a seventeen-year-old kid - once Scott had risen to be the true alpha he was - she got a lot more hate for that. A lot of people wondered what made Scott McCall so fucking special that Talia would want him to co-exist with her pack the way she did.

So they found themselves outside, amongst the trees. Stiles had his magic (since he was training to take over the emissary position from Deaton for Talia), Allison had her bow, Braeden was pretty badass herself and had several weapons, but Lydia knew that Braeden could easily take down any person (supernatural or no) without even breaking a sweat, and Lydia had her blade. Nobody but Talia knew this, of course, and Lydia caught the wolves watching her every once in a while.

"How's Lydia going to defend herself?" Derek asked after watching her for a moment. Then he looked at her, "Not that I'm saying you're a damsel in distress. You totally aren't, okay? But you are only human."

"I'm a banshee," Lydia corrected, "but it's okay." She pulled the knife out of the sheath and showed it to him. "I've got my blade."

"What's a little knife like that going to do against one of us?" Liam asked, and Lydia was already starting to hate this kid. He was cocky as fuck.

"Do you want to try me?" Lydia asked, a playful edge in her voice - mostly to hide her irritation. She knew that the kid most definitely didn't know what he was asking for. When he nodded the affirmative, Lydia motioned towards the forest floor. "Well, come on then. I don't have all day."

She hadn't lost her edge since she'd been away. It'd been almost eight years since she'd lived in Beacon Hills, but she didn't stop training right away. She still went to the gym when she lived in Boston, ran the trails over there, and even joined a kickboxing class. And then in Chicago, she was very much a part of Ethan's pack, and she trained with them religiously.

"Before we start this, I gotta know," Lydia said as she and Liam circled each other, "how long have you even been a werewolf?"

Liam shrugged, "I dunno. I was a sophomore in high school."

"And how old are you now?"

"Twenty-three."

Lydia nodded, "Okay. Long enough then." When Liam leapt forward to attack, Lydia could see it coming a mile away. She shook her head and said, "Nice try, kid. Gotta be better than that to beat me."

They circled one another, and the pack was spread out around them, watching the two of them face off towards each other. A lot of the pack was curious about how good Lydia had gotten since they didn't know what kind of training she'd had in the past few years. And Liam may have been good - he had to have been, with the way that Lydia knew that Talia trained her betas - but his concentration left a lot to be desired.

Finally, Lydia had Liam pinned to the ground, her blade against his neck. She was on top of him, and even though he was a great deal bigger than she was, she managed to get him pinned and keep him there. When he struggled, the blade cut him a little.

"Shit, I wish that wouldn't have happened," Lydia said, jumping up as Liam let out a scream. Talia rushed forward.

"What happened?"

"I'm sorry, Mom, that wasn't supposed to happen. He struggled and I wasn't accounting for that."

"What the fuck is that thing even made of?" Liam asked, clutching his neck in pain..

Lydia sighed, "It's a silver blade, infused with mountain ash and has an external layer of wolfsbane. It'll slow your healing, and I know it hurts like a motherfucker, but it's not gonna kill you."

"Where'd you get the idea for that?" Stiles asked, and he looked intrigued. Lydia laughed to herself - of course Stiles would be intrigued. Lydia had heard stories from Allison and Laura about Stiles trying to figure out how to make weapons that would be good against werewolves.

"I didn't think of it," Lydia answered truthfully. "Kat, the emissary of the Miller pack, she made it for me. Ethan wanted to keep me safe."

"Ethan?" Stiles asked.

"Yeah, Aiden's twin brother. You know, the alpha I was dating, his brother knew about his explosive streak and wanted me to be safe. He took me to see Kat, who told me she had this idea for a weapon. I've actually been able to defend myself with it quite a few times." She looked over at Liam, who was still clutching his neck. "I really am sorry, though. I don't know why, but I just didn't expect you to struggle."

She offered her hand and Liam jumped up. He looked at her. "It's okay," he said. "You win this round. But I'm going to be ready for that knife the next time."

Lydia smiled, glad that Liam was being such a good sport about this, "Definitely."

-x-

Two weeks later, after the bi-weekly pack meeting, Stiles stayed afterwards to talk to Lydia as everyone else was shuffling out of there. Allison and Isaac were staying, but everybody else had other things to do. When Stiles approached Lydia, she was a little surprised.

During high school, she and Stiles were really good friends, but she overcompensated for her position in life by lashing out at everyone. And when Jackson Whittemore had showed an interest in her early on in high school, she needed to fit in with him and his clique, so she alienated a lot of people. She ended up saying a lot of really nasty things to both Scott and Stiles, even though they were pack, but neither Scott nor Stiles really bothered her. She realized she'd never apologized for those remarks.

"How've you been doing, Lydia?" Stiles asked her, watching her, rubbing the back of his neck. That was one of Stiles' biggest tells, whether or not he knew that Lydia knew. Whenever he rubbed the back of his neck like that, he was nervous.

"I'm fine, Stiles," Lydia said, watching him closely. "How about you?"

"Good," Stiles said. "The fall semester starts in about six weeks and I've gotta get lesson plans ready."

"Mythology and folklore, right?" Lydia asked. Stiles' face lit up as he nodded. "Don't you ever get sick and tired of the subject?" Lydia asked him. "I mean, you are part of a werewolf pack."

"Not really," Stiles said, shaking his head. "I love urban legends and folklore and it makes me happy to teach about it. I mean, you're always better off teaching about what you love, right? Isn't that what it's like for you and numbers?"

Lydia nodded, "Sure."

Stiles nodded silently.

A few moments passed where Lydia and Stiles were just watching one another, so Stiles cleared his throat and then said, "I, uh...I was wondering if you were free tomorrow afternoon? I thought we could get together, maybe get a coffee and catch up."

Lydia sighed; she knew this would happen sooner or later. She finally just said, "Stiles, you're a really nice guy and everything, but I'm just not ready to date yet."

Stiles nodded. "It's a good thing I wasn't asking you out then, isn't it?" Stiles asked. His words almost sounded rude, but the big grin on his face made Lydia ease up a little. "I was just thinking we could get together as two old friends catching up after not really seeing each other for so long."

Lydia thought it over for a moment before shrugging, "Sure. Sounds good."

Stiles' whole face lit up as he said, "Great. That's really great. We can meet over at The Grind at, say, two? Just to get a coffee and catch up?"

Lydia shrugged, "Sure, if I can find a babysitter. Mom probably will, but it's better to ask her, anyway."

Stiles nodded, "Sure. Just let me know what's going on?"

Lydia nodded. Then a thought hit her, "I need your number. You're the only one I don't have in my phone right now, so here." She handed her phone over to him so he could key in his number. Stiles did so, and as he handed her the phone back, he said, "Let me know what your mother says."

Lydia nodded, "Sure, Stiles. I'll see you later."

After Stiles'd gone, Allison came up to Lydia. "He's changed a lot since you've been away," she said. "Stiles and Malia were practically attached at the hip for a long time, but I don't think she appreciated him the way he deserved to be appreciated."

"Mia's always had a problem with that," Lydia said. "I love my cousin a lot, don't get me wrong, but she doesn't understand that she needs to show her appreciation."

"Didn't you hear?" Allison asked, a stricken look on her face, and Lydia was just about to ask what was wrong when Allison asked that question. Lydia just shook her head.

"Malia went looking for Peter." Lydia was shocked, and Allison could tell. She said, "Yeah, she basically told Talia and William to fuck off, even though they'd been the ones to raise her. It broke your mother's heart, too, but they let Malia go, since she's in her twenties now and has to make her own decisions. Now Talia doesn't really talk about Malia, so I don't know if she ever even calls them."

"Malia never got over being a victim," Lydia said after several moments of silence passed between the two of them. "The therapist I saw in Boston - for the short time I saw one - she adamantly told me that there was a difference between being a survivor and a victim. You know, the difference between overcoming your problems, and succumbing to them. Mia's always gonna be a victim, and there's nothing anyone can do about it."

Allison shrugged.

"How's Stiles been since I've been gone?" Lydia asked suddenly. "I was just so cruel to him when we were in high school, and I've always felt somewhat guilty about that. He didn't deserve that shit."

"I know it, Lyds, but you can't beat yourself up for that. Everybody's got problems, and everybody goes through things when they're teenagers. Stiles understood the pressure that you were under and he hated Jackson more than anybody else after you left town. I think he might've been just as pissed as Derek - if not more."

Lydia sighed, "I dunno, Ally. Derek could probably have beaten anyone in the pissed off department."

"Jackson treated you like shit, Lydia," Allison said after a moment. "And yeah, Derek's your big brother and he's always going to be a little protective of you, but Stiles had a thing for you. It's possible that it never went away, either."

"A thing?" Lydia asked. "What kind of a thing?"

Allison shrugged, "He liked you. Back in high school, when Scott and I were still together, Stiles used to tell him that he had a ten year plan. Wanted to woo you, to marry you and be together, you know, happy ever after kind of shit."

"Really?" Lydia asked. "You mean, when I was putting up with the asshole that is Jackson Whittemore, I could've..." she let her voice trail off.

"No need to dwell on it, Lyds," Allison said. "It's just something to think about, anyway."

Chapter Text

Even though Allison had told Lydia not to dwell on it, dwelling was something that Lydia was more than excellent at. It wasn't that Lydia meant to dwell, but it was the way that her brain worked. She had always had that problem.

After her parents had died and she had been thrust into this new world, she was sullen, morose, and didn't talk to anyone. Hell, she didn't even say a fucking word for the first three months after the funeral. And since she had just lost her parents, her only living family, people gave her a pass at first. But after she was still sullen and morose six months after the funeral, not making friends and going out of her way to be alone, her case worker had decided that she needed to talk to someone. There was a children's mental health facility in Santa Monica that specialized in special case foster children.

Lydia spent six and a half months at Saint Vincent's Home for Children, not really making friends, but learning how to open herself up again. The one thing she hated about the facility was the fact that she had to talk to a therapist every week, and they opened every session with, "How are you feeling today?" It drove Lydia crazy.

When she was finally released from Saint Vincent's, she was happy to be out of there, but she knew she'd miss it. She had actually made a few friends, even though she and her roommate did not get along, but then went back to what would become the hellhole that would try to eat Lydia's soul.

But since Allison had told her not to dwell, of course that was what Lydia was going to do. She didn't mean to, but she was a seasoned pro at it. As she got ready to meet Stiles at The Grind, which was the most popular coffee shop in Beacon Hills, that day, she looked at herself in the mirror. Her strawberry blonde hair was in curls and her makeup was immaculate. She looked damn good, if she did say so herself.

What she had told Stiles yesterday was true; she wasn't ready for a relationship right now, if ever. She wasn't one hundred percent sure that she would ever date again, not since the hell that had been both Jackson Whittemore and Aiden Miller. Talia's voice invaded Lydia's head at the moment, though, telling her what Talia had told her a dozen times. Not everybody is bad like that, Lyds. The bad guys are advertised more, but I promise you, there are good guys out there. You just have to find them.

Lydia had never found a really great guy that wasn't one of her brothers. And okay, Jackson had been quite a dick when Lydia knew him, when she started dating him, but he started out so sweet to her. He may have been an asshole to other people, but Lydia felt like she was special. And Aiden had started out the same exact way. While the emotional abuse started before Megan was born, it wasn't until after that the physical abuse had started, and Lydia felt like she couldn't leave. She had her daughter to take care of.

When Lydia went downstairs to pull the shoes she wanted to wear out of the closet, she saw Megan sitting on William's lap, and they were watching Mickey Mouse. It was something that Megan loved - even though she was a lot brighter than normal kids her age, she loved cartoons like that. And Lydia knew that William would indulge her.

When Megan looked over at Lydia, she got up off William's lap and went over to hug her mother. Lydia looked down at her daughter and said, "I've gotta go meet Stiles, Sweetheart."

"'kay," Megan said.

"I'll be back a little while later, okay? Then we can do something together."

Megan nodded and went back over to finish her cartoon, and Lydia looked over at her father. She grabbed her jacket out of the closet, giving herself one last look in the full length mirror that was on the back of the door and then said, "I'll be back later. You sure you're okay babysitting?"

William nodded, "Absolutely. I love spending time with my bug."

Lydia nodded, "Great."

She arrived at the coffee shop at a quarter 'til two. She went inside and saw Stiles there already. She went over and sat down in the booth across from him and just watched him for a good minute.

"Hey, Lyds," Stiles said softly. "I'm glad you could make it."

"Dad is babysitting Megan for me," Lydia said. "Ever since I've gotten back, he's been spending a lot of time with Megan and has been loving it."

Stiles nodded, "That's great. Dad's mentioned a few times about how I'm twenty-six years old and have no relationship, no children. He's not pushing or anything, I think he just worries about me."

Lydia nodded, "I get that. I've always wanted something like what Isaac and Ally have. They were high school sweethearts and they managed to stay together, and they love each other very much. You can tell how much they love each other just by the way they look at one another."

Stiles nodded and then said, "You'll find it one day, Lyds."

Lydia shrugged, "I dunno. I've been through a lot of shit."

Stiles nodded again, "I know, Lyds. But you're a fighter, and you're damned stubborn. If you want something, you go after it, no matter what, and I know you're gonna find love someday. You're gonna find someone who loves you and Megan so very much, and they're gonna wanna spend the rest of their life with you."

"Like you do?" Lydia asked before she could stop it. Stiles looked horrified, and Lydia felt so bad for that. She felt bad about it because she hadn't meant to say it; it had just slipped out. "I'm so sorry," she apologized, "I totally did not mean to say that."

"How, uh, how do you know about that?" Stiles asked, rubbing the back of his neck.

"Ally told me," Lydia said. "Don't worry about it, though, Stiles. I really am sorry, however, about the way I treated you in high school. I should've been kinder to you."

Stiles shrugged, "It's fine. Yeah, I was in love with you - I'm still in love with you - but I can be your friend. I want to be your friend, Lyds. Don't think that just because I love you it doesn't mean I won't live if you don't love me back. I can be the best damned friend you could ever ask for."

"Are you sure?" Lydia asked. Stiles nodded.

"Okay," Lydia said hesitantly. She wasn't sure if Stiles meant it or not, even though he looked genuine.

"So, fall semester starts in about six weeks," Stiles said after a few moments had passed. "Have you got your class list and everything?"

Lydia nodded, "Yeah. I'm teaching mostly Number Theory, but I am filling in this semester to teach an Advanced Algebra class and Geometry as well."

"Teaching three different maths? That doesn't bother you?"

Lydia shook her head, "Nah. I love numbers, and I have no problem with that. I can keep up with lesson plans - that's easy. I've got experience from working at that center in Chicago with Danny."

"And how is he?" Stiles asked. "Is his boyfriend anything like yours was? They're brothers, right?"

Lydia nodded, "They're brothers, yes, but Ethan is a real sweetheart and I like him a lot. He wanted to make sure I was safe, because he knew how Aiden was, and he's the one who asked his emissary to make me that blade. Ethan is a hell of a lot more compassionate than Aiden could ever dream of being."

"How is Danny doing?" Stiles asked.

"He's good. He and Ethan are very happy together. Last I heard, they were talking marriage."

"That's serious, especially for Danny."

"Nah," Lydia said, shaking her head. "Danny's a serial monogamist. He believes in one relationship at a time, and when he's in, he's all in. It takes a lot of time for him to fall, but when he does, he falls hard and deep. He and Ethan were attracted to one another since the beginning, but it wasn't until later that he fell in love with him, but Danny's always been a one and done type of guy."

Stiles nodded.

"I haven't talked to him since I left," Lydia said. "I really ought to Skype him soon. Danny quickly became my best friend not even a year after I moved to Chicago, and I really did love it there."

"Did you only leave because of Aiden? I mean, you loved the city."

"Nah," Lydia said, shaking her head. "I mean, yeah, I wanted to get away from Aiden, but that wasn't the whole reason I left. I mostly left because I missed my pack and my family. I mean, I had joined the Miller pack, but Ethan isn't half the alpha Mom is. I mean, yeah, he's a good guy and he knows how to run his pack correctly, but he looks up to my mom. He's heard all about the Hale pack and what a good alpha my mom is, and he looks up to her, hoping that people will say that about him someday."

"How'd he become alpha?" Stiles asked curiously. "Did he kill someone?"

Lydia shook her head, "No. Ethan and Aiden's parents died when they were twelve. They were attacked by a pair of hunters, and killed right in front of them when they wouldn't give up their sons. Aiden had taken Ethan and hid in some bushes where these hunters couldn't see them, and they killed their parents - stabbed them in the heart with a silver blade and then cut them right in half. It really messed the twins up.

"Later on, after their parents had died, the alpha power went to Ethan. He was just as surprised as Aiden was, but when an alpha dies, they can will their power to someone else, and their dad willed his power to Ethan. Aiden's twelve minutes older than Ethan is, and has always done the protecting thing, but got pissed as hell when he figured out that their dad willed his power to what he saw as his little brother. But he stuck around Ethan, because whether or not they fought or argued, he was still his brother. And then, a few years after Ethan became an alpha, Aiden went out and killed his own alpha to get the power.

"Aiden's always been untrustworthy, as Ethan tells me, but I guess he's gotten worse as they've gotten older. But Ethan's stuck by his side and probably will until Aiden does something unforgivable. I know when Aiden started to get more physically violent against me, Ethan was worried for both me and Meg, and helped us get the fuck outta there. He saved my life, Stiles, and he has my utmost respect."

Stiles was silent for a long time, watching Lydia intently. A few moments went by and Lydia was starting to wonder if maybe she had shared too much, but then Stiles said, "So, you were close with Ethan."

Lydia nodded, "Sure. He's a great guy, Stiles."

Stiles nodded.

"Look, I shouldn't have stayed with Aiden after Meg was born, but I didn't see a way out, and I had my daughter to protect, to look out for. So I stayed. But Ethan was my saving grace, the guy who made sure that we weren't killed. I owe a lot to both him and Danny."

Stiles nodded again. Lydia was really sure that Stiles would stop talking to her now, but instead, he said, "I'm glad that someone was looking out for you while you were in Chicago."

"Thanks, Stiles," Lydia said. "I really appreciate you said that."

-x-

Lydia heard the growling all the way upstairs, so she knew it had to be something really bad. When she went downstairs to investigate, she saw Ethan and Danny standing at the front door.

"Lyds!" Danny said brightly. "Would you please tell these guard dogs that this is Ethan, not Aiden?"

Lydia nodded. "Derek, Erica, Isaac, Laura," she said, and they all looked at her in turn, "this is Ethan Miller. You know, the alpha of the Miller pack, the guy who got me my blade."

"Prove it," Derek growled. All four of them were half-shifted and their fangs were out. Lydia sighed and went the rest of the way downstairs.

"Ethan," she said, and Ethan looked at her. "What's the first thing I ever said to you?"

Ethan and Danny chuckled at the memory. Then Ethan said, "You said, and I quote, 'If you were straight, I'd hit that in about half a second, but anyone can see that you're not. See that guy over there? His name is Danny, and you're just his type, and he likes hazelnut coffee.' Then you walked away."

Laura, Isaac and Erica snickered, and Lydia realized they had shifted back to their human form. Derek was a little more skeptical, though. "How do you know it's not Aiden telling you that?"

Lydia sighed, "Do you think I did that in front of Aiden? Are you fucking crazy?! Besides, Aiden wasn't there that day; he was tending to his own business. I didn't meet him until later. Besides, Ethan is Danny's height, but Aiden's about quarter of an inch shorter than them. Measure them if you want, Der, but both Danny and Ethan are six feet, so if he doesn't measure six foot, then he's not really Ethan."

Derek still looked hesitant, but had shifted back to his human form and was watching Ethan with a careful eye. Finally, Lydia practically snapped, "Derek, I dated Aiden for years. Do you honestly think that I wouldn't be able to tell them apart?"

Derek sighed, but then reached his hand out to Ethan. "Sorry about that," he said as Ethan shook his hand, "but Lydia's my baby sister, you know? I've gotta make sure she's protected."

Ethan nodded as Derek released his hand, "No worries, man. I get it." Lydia went up and hugged Ethan and Danny in turn and Ethan said, "Where's my niece?"

"She's in the playroom with Charlie and Tyler," Lydia said. "I'll get her in a minute. I just want to see you right now."

She noticed that Ethan and Danny were still standing in the doorway, so she said, "Do you guys wanna come in? Please?"

They followed her inside and sat down on the couch, with Lydia sitting beside Danny. Erica, Isaac, Laura and Derek followed her into the room and sat around them.

"It's so good to see you, Lyds," Danny said after a moment. "I missed you so much, and not even one word from you to see if you made it safely?"

Lydia laughed, "Sorry about that. I showed up at Derek's about a month and a half ago, in the middle of the night. I've been living here ever since, but at least I've got a job now."

"Yeah?" Ethan asked with interest. "What are you doing now?"

"Teaching," Lydia said. "The semester starts in three weeks, so I haven't actually taught anything yet, but I'm a math professor at BHU."

Ethan looked impressed, and Danny smiled a great big smile, "That's great, Lyds. I knew that you had a knack for it, and you seemed to thoroughly enjoy it."

"I do," Lydia said. "I'm actually looking forward to the start of the semester."

"The kids were asking about you," Danny said, "but I told them your circumstances. They seemed to understand."

"Of course they understand," Lydia said. "Those kids are underprivileged. A lot of them come from foster homes or negligent homes, and so they can understand what I've been through." She watched Danny closely before asking, "How's Tiffany?"

Tiffany Anderson was one of the kids at the center that was really close to Lydia. She had come from an abusive home, and she was afraid to tell anyone, but she and Lydia understood one another, and finally shared the news with Lydia. Lydia helped her get out of her abusive home and into a foster home with a good family that Lydia had become acquainted with. They seemed to get one another on a level that nobody else understood.

"She's good. She wants you to hit her up on Skype sometime. I have her username and everything, but she just...she misses you, Lyds."

"I miss her, too, Danny," Lydia said. "She's an important little girl."

"She's twelve."

Lydia shrugged, "Sure, but I'm gonna be thirty in a few years. She's a little girl to me."

"I guess that's true," Danny said. He handed Lydia a slip of paper with a username on it, and Lydia guessed that it was Tiffany's. She put it in the pocket of her jean skirt.

"Not that it isn't good to see the two of you," Lydia said, watching them closely, "because it's actually pretty great, but what are you doing here?"

"I don't know how to break this to you, Lyds," Danny started hesitantly, but with his hesitance, Lydia knew what was happening at once.

"It's Aiden, isn't it? He's after me."

Ethan sighed, "Aiden told me that nobody's ever left him before, and it wasn't gonna start now." Ethan watched Lydia for a good minute, and then said, "Aiden's a possessive motherfucker, and you know that. But we all know that you can definitely take care of yourself."

"Damn straight," Derek laughed. When Ethan and Danny both looked at him quizzically, Derek told them about the pack training where Lydia pulled her knife on Liam.

"You should've seen his face, it was hilarious," Lydia said. Danny and Ethan started laughing.

"That knife Kat made you has come in handy then, huh?" Ethan asked.

"Definitely," Lydia said. "I know I scared the shit out of Liam when the knife cut him, and it hurt like hell."

"How do you know that?" Danny asked, always the logical one. "You've never cut yourself with it."

"It wouldn't hurt me like it would these guys, though," Lydia said. "But I have it on good authority that it hurts like a motherfucker and takes a really long time to heal from it. You know, thanks to the wolfsbane and the mountain ash."

"Okay," Danny said.

Then Lydia looked at Derek, "Maybe we ought to get Mom to call a pack meeting. I have an idea that it's going to be pretty important."

Chapter Text

Lydia was a little nervous for her mother to meet Ethan. Talia knew Danny, since he had grown up in Beacon Hills, but when it came to her mother meeting Ethan, Lydia was extremely apprehensive. Ethan helped Lydia so much in the past, and she was desperate for her mother to like him.

Talia worked part time doing community service, and she spent most of that time at the hospital. She had met John Stilinski that way several years ago - she had met his wife quite a few times in the hospital when she was there. Talia had worked as a prosecuting attorney for quite a few years, but about two years ago, she decided she wanted to retire. Talia was in her fifties now, and while that was a pretty young age to retire at, she could afford it, and wanted to spend a little more time doing her alpha duties.

That day, Talia was at Beacon Hills Memorial, doing her rounds as a volunteer, taking toys to the kids in the pediatric ward. As Lydia sat down with Ethan, Danny, Derek, Isaac, Erica and Laura, Lydia looked over at Derek.

"Do you know when Mom is supposed to be done at the hospital?" Lydia asked, looking at Derek.

"Nope," Derek said. Lydia rolled her eyes.

"Look, Der, you're my big brother and want to protect me. I appreciate that," Lydia said. "But Ethan's not gonna hurt me. He's the one who had my blade made for me, okay? He's always been looking out for me - ever since the day I met him. He's always been there for me, making sure I didn't get hurt. And when Aiden tried to put his hands on Megan - your niece, may I remind you - Ethan and Danny were the ones who helped me get out of a bad situation. Besides that, I used to train with Ethan's pack quite a bit. Everything I know about taking down a werewolf? They taught me that."

Derek's features softened before he looked at Ethan. "Sorry," he said to him. "I just...I feel like I need to protect Lydia. She doesn't have a whole lot of that in her life, you know?"

Ethan nodded, "Yeah, man, I get it. I want her to be just as safe as you do."

It was at that moment that the front door of the house opened and Scott and Stiles rushed in. Scott took one look at Danny and Ethan, and then half-shifted. Lydia stood up and went over to Scott.

"Good God, Scott, this is Ethan, okay? He's the good twin."

Scott eyed Ethan warily, but then noticed Danny and shifted back. "Sorry," Scott said, looking at Ethan and Danny. "I just heard there was another alpha on our territory."

"Our?" Danny asked.

"Etiquette says that if you're an alpha on another alpha's territory, you need to go to that other alpha and introduce yourself, letting them know you aren't looking for trouble," Ethan told Danny. "That's the main reason I'm here."

Lydia shook her head, "Mom's not the only alpha here. Scott's also an alpha. They share the territory."

"Two alphas in one pack?" Ethan asked. "How does that even work?"

Scott shrugged, "I don't know, man, it just does. Talia and I've shared this territory since I became an alpha when I was seventeen."

"How did you become an alpha?" Ethan asked. "Did you take someone's power, or was it willed to you?"

"Neither," Scott said. "I'm a true alpha."

Ethan looked impressed, "Really? There aren't many of those around."

"One in every hundred years," Stiles said, looking proud. "And of course that'd be Scotty."

Ethan nodded. Then he looked at Scott, "I'm here, on your territory, to see Lydia. I come in peace and have no intent to harm anyone here."

Scott nodded, "Sure. I think introductions are in order."

The introductions were fairly short. By the time the last person had been introduced to Ethan, Talia walked through the front door. Her eyes flared crimson when she saw Ethan.

"Mom," Lydia said, putting a hand on her mother's arm soothingly, "This is Ethan Miller. Alpha of the Miller pack, remember I told you about him? He's the one who got me my blade."

Talia nodded, "Yes, I remember you telling me about him." She went over and shook Ethan's hand. "I'm Talia Hale."

"Alpha Hale," Ethan said in awe. "There are so many great stories about you. You're a legend, and my pack is a little envious that I actually get to meet you."

Talia nodded, "Thank you, I guess. The Hales have been protecting this land for generations."

"I know," Ethan said, nodding. "I've always envied the way that you seem to be able to take care of your pack and your family. You're a legend, Mrs. Hale."

"Please, call me Talia," she said. "So, if you're here, that means we need to talk?"

"Absolutely," Ethan said. "Aiden's looking for Lydia."

"Why don't we sit?" Talia asked. When everybody was situated, Talia looked at Ethan, "Okay. What do you need to tell me?"

"Okay," Ethan said, taking a deep breath. Danny took his boyfriend's hand. "Aiden's my brother, and I bet you know all about him, whatever Lydia's told you," Ethan said, looking at Talia. She nodded, so he continued, "Danny and I helped Lydia get out. You probably know that as well. When Aiden found out that Lydia was gone, he went ballistic. He's been looking up every Martin he can find."

"But she's not a Martin," Talia said. Ethan nodded.

"Yes, ma'am, I know that," Ethan said. "But Aiden doesn't. Lydia never really talked to my brother about her past, and he has no idea to look at the Hales."

"You never told your boyfriend about your past?" Erica asked, looking at Lydia. Lydia shrugged.

"Eri, you didn't know him," Lydia said. "Aiden knew about my past with Jackson, but that's it. If you knew anything about Aiden Miller, you'd know that he doesn't care about any of that stuff."

"But you took Megan with you," Danny said. "I think that if you had taken off by yourself, he wouldn't have cared, but you took his daughter with you."

There were a couple of growls, but Talia held up a hand. She opened her mouth to speak, but Lydia beat her to it.

"Megan is my daughter," Lydia said, a fire in her voice that nobody had ever heard before. "I don't care if Aiden is her biological father, he is not going anywhere near her, not while I'm still living and breathing."

"You know you shouldn't say stuff like that to Aiden," Ethan said. "He'd take it literally."

Lydia nodded, "I know. But I'd like to see him try to get past me."

-x-

Lydia knew that her family would protect her. They had been protecting her since she was fifteen years old, and Lydia had no doubt that they would continue to do so now. But after finding out that Aiden was trying to find her, her nightmares from Chicago started coming back full force.

She was downstairs at two o'clock that morning, drinking chamomile tea out of her favorite mug when she heard the noises. Grabbing her blade, she inched her way towards the kitchen door, but let out a breath of air when she saw it was only Ethan.

He was wearing a pair of plaid pajama pants and was shirtless, his hair all disheveled. Lydia looked at him before setting the blade back down on the kitchen counter and then said, "What are you doing up?"

"I have a hard time sleeping in a new place," Ethan said truthfully. "My wolf doesn't like being away from the pack."

"Did you talk to them?" Lydia asked curiously. She knew that whenever Ethan had to be away from his pack, he usually called them up on Skype, just to check in. He nodded as he sat down on the barstool next to Lydia.

"Yeah," he said. "I'm still having a hard time sleeping, though."

Lydia nodded in understanding.

"You still having nightmares?" Ethan asked after a few moments had passed. "Is that why you're up?"

Lydia nodded, "Yeah. Ever since I heard Aiden was coming back..." her voice trailed off. "I know my family can protect me and Megan - I'm not worried about that. Mom's a damn good alpha and nobody's gonna hurt her children. But..." her voice trailed off again as she got her words straight in her head, "I guess I'm just worried about Meg. I mean, I just don't want this to leave a negative effect on her."

Ethan nodded.

"Well, maybe this can help calm your nerves a little," Ethan said, watching Lydia. "I'm gonna propose to Danny."

Lydia looked positively gleeful, "Really? When?"

Ethan sighed. "That's actually where I need your help," he said to Lydia. "I want to do it while we're here in Beacon Hills. I mean, it's his home and everything, and I want to make sure it goes well. Do you have any ideas?"

Lydia shrugged, "Well, tell me how you want to do it. I mean, do you want it fancy? Are you going to take him out on a date to pop the question? Just let me know how you want to do it and I'll help you out in any way I can."

They stayed up for another couple hours, ironing out the details. Ethan told Lydia that he wanted to do something special, something that Danny would remember, but at the same time, not surrounded by people. Danny wasn't really comfortable around a ton of people, which always struck Lydia as odd, since he had always been one of the popular ones. Lydia had suggested a romantic picnic for two in the clearing by the preserve.

"That sounds good," Ethan said to her. "But I can't cook."

"The two of you are my friends, practically my brothers," Lydia said. "I can help with that. Just tell me what and when and I'll take care of everything for you."

"You don't have to do that," Ethan said.

Lydia nodded, "I know I don't have to. I want to. Let me do this for the two of you."

Ethan nodded, "I guess. If that's what you really want."

Lydia nodded, "It is. And now you better think about going to bed. It's late and we've got training and things to do tomorrow."

Ethan nodded, giving Lydia a hug, "I'll see you tomorrow, Lyds."

-x-

When Lydia awoke, the first thing she did was glance at the clock. When she saw it was almost eleven, she jumped up.

Megan usually woke up around eight, and Lydia knew that the first thing Megan normally did was wake up her mother. Did she sleep through it? What if Megan really needed her, and she slept through it? Lydia rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and then practically bolted down the stairs.

When she saw Megan sitting at the kitchen table, eating a bowl of cereal while chatting with Ethan and Danny, Lydia relaxed a little. When Danny saw Lydia in the entryway, he smiled and waved.

"Good morning, sleepyhead," Danny said. Lydia went over to the coffee pot and poured herself a cup of coffee. "How'd you sleep?"

Lydia shrugged as she added her milk and sugar, "I don't know. I was up late last night."

Danny nodded, "I understand." There were a few moments of silence before Danny said, "Are you training today?"

Lydia looked at Ethan, who nodded, "I think we should. At least for a little bit."

Lydia nodded.

"Then I want to take Meg out. We can go to the park or something. Maybe get ice cream later this afternoon." Danny looked at Megan, "How's that sound?"

"Great," Megan said. "I wanna go!"

"Good," Danny said. "We'll finish our breakfast and then get around for the day, okay? Then we can go to the park."

"Call Allison," Lydia said. "Ever since we came back to Beacon Hills, Megan and Charlie have been attached at the hip, and I bet Charlie would love to go to the park, too. Besides, it's been a long time since you and Ally caught up."

"True," Danny said. "Why don't you call her?"

"Okay, sure," Lydia said. She blew on her coffee before taking a sip.

Lydia got Allison on the phone and arranged for Allison and Charlie to meet Danny and Megan at Hemlock Park around noon. It was in an hour, true, but it didn't take that long to get Megan dressed and around. Lydia got Megan around and she and Danny left with twenty minutes to spare.

"You should eat something," Ethan said to Lydia after he'd kissed Danny goodbye. "You need your strength."

"Okay," Lydia said. She poured herself a bowl of Cheerios and sat down to eat it. She wasn't even the least bit surprised when Scott, Stiles and Kira came through the kitchen doorway.

"Ethan and I are going to train in a little bit," she said to them, "if you want to stick around and watch."

"Do you mind?" Scott asked Ethan. "I'd love to see you train."

"Yeah, it's no problem," Ethan answered. "I don't care if you stick around."

"Cool," Scott said.

"What are you guys doing here, anyway?" Lydia asked. "I mean, don't you have to work, Scott?"

Scott shook his head, "Nah. I've got today off. I thought we could just chill. But I understand that you want to keep up your training in case Aiden shows up."

Lydia nodded.

After finishing her cereal and then changing into a sports bra and a pair of black workout pants, Lydia laced up her tennis shoes and then went outside, where Ethan was waiting for her. Scott, Stiles and Kira were sitting on the front porch of the house, and Ethan looked at Lydia as she walked up. "Got your blade?"

"I always have it," Lydia answered him. "You know, just in case."

"I'm glad you remember that, at least," Ethan said. "Are you ready?"

Lydia nodded once.

They circled each other a couple of times before he lunged. Lydia avoided him easily, and they went back to circling each other again. Next time Ethan pounced, he pinned Lydia up against the tree directly behind them. She let out a soft "Oof" as she felt herself get pushed up against it, but she wasn't going to let that defeat her.

"What is going on here?" Lydia heard Derek call. Great, she thought. This was just what she needed right now.

Instead, she kicked her foot out and swiped it under Ethan's, surprising him and causing him to topple to the forest floor. She held up a hand, signaling to Ethan that she needed a minute, and then went to see her brother.

"What is going on here?" Derek asked again, his eyes flashing blue as he looked at Ethan.

"Don't, Der," she warned. "We're training."

"From where I'm standing, he had you pinned up against a tree."

"This is true," Lydia said. "But he would never hurt me. He knew that I could get out of it. Now, Ethan and I are training, but if you want to stick around, you can watch, but do not interfere, okay, Derek? Training is important to human-like creatures like me."

Derek sighed, "I don't like it."

"Baby," Braeden said, coming towards Derek and wrapping her arms around his waist, "you don't have to like it. But Lydia's one badass girl, okay? She can take care of herself." Braeden looked at Lydia and said, "I'd love to watch you train."

Lydia nodded, "'kay. Stiles, Scott and Kira are over there, watching too. Trust me, Derek," Lydia said, looking at her brother once again, "if I feel like I'm in danger, I'll let you know. But I can handle this."

"Where's Megan?" Derek asked. "I would hate for her to see her mother like this."

Lydia rolled her eyes, "I wouldn't keep her around when I'm fighting Ethan, okay? I'm not crazy. Danny took her to Hemlock Park. He was meeting Ally and Charlie there."

Derek sighed, "Fine. I'm sticking around, just to make sure he doesn't hurt you. But Lydia, it doesn't mean that I like it."

Lydia nodded once before looking at Ethan and saying, "Alright, E. Let's get back to business."

Chapter Text

"I think I want to propose to Danny tomorrow," Ethan said to Lydia a few days after their training session. "I mean, we're going to head back to Chicago soon, and I want to do it while we're still here."

Lydia nodded, "Sure. Just tell me what you want, and I'll arrange it."

"I don't exactly know," Ethan said truthfully. "What do you think Danny would like? You've known him longer than I have."

"I'll take care of it," Lydia said.

It was two o'clock in the morning and Lydia was up because of a nightmare, and Ethan just couldn't sleep. That's one reason he hated being away from his pack - he had an awful time calming his wolf. That's why Lydia had made him some chamomile tea.

"It'll help calm your nerves," she had said to him. "It's what I drink whenever I have a nightmare. It calms me a hell of a lot."

So Ethan had agreed to let Lydia make him a cup of tea. They sat at the kitchen island counter, drinking their tea, when Ethan decided to talk about his proposal plan.

"There's a really nice clearing in the preserve," Lydia said. "I can take you there tomorrow so you know the way, if you want."

"Sounds good," Ethan said. "We can go in the morning. Do you want to do any training tomorrow?"

"We've been training for days," Lydia said. "I think I'm pretty good at defending myself, don't you?"

"You're excellent," Ethan said. "Although that first day, I thought your brother was gonna kill me."

Lydia laughed. She remembered the look on Derek's face, how he looked like he was going to pounce any time. If it hadn't been for Braeden, holding him back, he probably would have pounced. Lydia really had to thank her sister-in-law for that.

"Derek's a good guy," Lydia said. "He's always been there to protect me. I really love that about him. But, at the same time, he just...sometimes he's just too protective, you know?"

"You really love this family, don't you?" Ethan said. "You never talk about your real family."

"They aren't my real parents," Lydia said. "They're biological. And I'm not sure if it's because I was young, or because of some other psycho mumbo jumbo, but I don't really remember them. My memories of them are fuzzy. This is probably a piss poor analogy, but you know how, in some movies, how when they're having a flashback, the screen gets all fuzzy?" When Ethan nodded, Lydia continued, "That's what it's like for me. It's like the screen gets all fuzzy around it and I can't tell what's real and what's not."

"Doesn't that ever get confusing?" Ethan asked, taking the last drink of his tea.

Lydia nodded, "Yeah, it really does. Do you even realize how hard it is when you can't distinguish dreams from reality? It makes life really kinda difficult."

"Kinda really?" Ethan asked, a smile on his face. "Isn't that contradictory?"

Lydia shrugged, "It's almost 3 AM. Sue me."

Ethan just laughed.

It wasn't until quarter 'til five when Lydia actually dragged herself back up to her room and she didn't even get to sleep until almost six. When she awoke four hours later, she blinked a couple of times before looking at the person who woke her.

It was Ethan. "Sorry, Lyds," he said, in a way of apology, "but I need your help today. Remember?"

Lydia nodded, "Yeah, right. Sorry. I didn't get much sleep."

"I know. I could hear you tossing and turning from the guest room."

Lydia nodded again, "I figured you would. But I know sometimes werewolf hearing can be a curse rather than a blessing."

"Damn straight," Ethan murmured. Then he said, "I can wait until you get a shower and some breakfast, if you want. Your brother and his wife are here and they said they'd watch Meg."

"Which brother?" Lydia asked. "I have two."

"Oh yeah. Um...the blonde one. The one with the little girl."

"That's Isaac," Lydia said. "He didn't have to work?"

"He said he didn't have to work until tonight," Ethan said. "They want to take the kids to the park."

Lydia nodded, "Sure. Let me get around."

After showering, Lydia felt better, but she felt terrific after making herself a cup of coffee. With caffeine in her system, she felt so much better, even though she knew it would wear off later in the day. Because of her constant nightmares, night terrors and flashback-y dreams, Lydia had become a pro at functioning and going about her life on very little sleep.

Allison met her down in the kitchen. "Hey, Lyds," she said as Lydia grabbed a bowl of cereal. "So, you're going off with Ethan today, huh?"

"Only for a little while," Lydia said. "I want to show him the clearing in the preserve. You know the one - the same one that Malia and I used to spend so much time at together."

When they were teenagers, Malia went through a rough time because she felt abandoned by her father, so she would shift into a coyote and go to the clearing. Lydia would always go looking for her, because the two of them had a pretty good relationship, and Lydia would take a blanket with her. She'd sit on the blanket in the clearing, next to the pond that was there, and Malia would shift into her full coyote form and lay her head in Lydia's lap and nap. Sometimes, Lydia took a book with her, and just embraced the closeness of the pack.

Closeness of pack was a big deal to Lydia when she was a teenager. After hearing some really bad things, things that no person should ever hear, let alone a teenager, being wanted was a really big deal and Lydia spent time with the pack and had the closeness of pack, she felt like she belonged somewhere. She felt like someone wanted her and she wasn't so broken.

After finishing her breakfast, she threw on her shoes and she and Ethan walked out to the spot she had in mind. It wasn't that far; maybe fifteen feet from the house, and when Ethan saw the spot, he was speechless.

"This is it?" he asked her. Lydia nodded.

"Yeah. I have a picnic basket at home that I'm going to fill with a lot of goodies for the two of you, including a bottle of wine from Mom and Dad's wine cellar downstairs. Don't worry about it, E. This is gonna be really great. It's gonna be something that Danny will never forget."

Ethan nodded and then pulled Lydia into a hug. "Thanks so much, Lyds. I'm never gonna forget this."

Lydia just grinned.

-x-

When they were in high school, Stiles was a baker. It wasn't anything that he wanted to do for a career, but it was something that he enjoyed doing and he spent quite a bit of time making goodies for the pack. Ever since Stiles was possessed by the Nogitsune, an evil fox spirit, when they were juniors in high school, he suffered from severe PTSD and had really bad insomnia. He started baking to take his mind off of whatever was bothering him. The inside joke was that if they hadn't been a pack full of werewolves, they would have all weighed at least 300 pounds.

Knowing this, Lydia gave Stiles a call when she was the only one at home that afternoon. Danny and Ethan had gone to see Danny's siblings, Allison and Isaac had taken Charlie and Megan to the park, and William and Talia did a children's reading time at the local library. Stiles was surprised to hear from her.

"Do you still bake?" was what Lydia opened with. Then he sighed, "I bake every now and again. Why?"

"Ethan wants to propose to Danny tonight, and I told him I'd make him a really nice picnic basket dinner. I want to make Danny's favorites, and do you remember those triple chocolate brownies you used to make, back in high school?"

Stiles let out a laugh before saying, "Yeah, I remember. Scott still has me make them for him every other month, at least."

"They're Danny's favorites, and I don't have the recipe you gave me written down anymore. All my recipes got left in Chicago. I literally brought nothing more with me than the clothes Meg and I had on our backs."

"Okay. Is that what you're doing right now?"

Lydia nodded, even though she knew that Stiles couldn't see her, "Yeah. The house is empty. I'm the only one here, so I thought it was just as good of time as any to get started. What I was meaning to ask was, would you come over and do some baking with me?"

"Sounds good, Lyds. I'm not doing anything right now, just went over some notes for the new semester, so if you give me twenty minutes, I'll be over there. Do you need me to stop and pick up anything?"

"Do you even know my parents?" Lydia asked sarcastically. "Mom and Dad keep everything around. We've got plenty of supplies - we probably even have enough supplies to go into next year. Just bring yourself, 'kay?"

"Yeah, sure. That sounds good."

"Thanks, Stiles. I really appreciate this."

It took twenty-five minutes for Stiles to show up at the Hale estate, and he explained that it was because traffic was a killer. When Lydia led him to the kitchen, Stiles started pulling stuff out of the pantry and refrigerator.

"You must really like Ethan to do this for him," Stiles said. Lydia nodded.

"Sure. Danny, Ethan and I got really close while I was in Chicago. We trust each other and love each other. It's kind of like a pack in a pack, you know? I'm not close with anybody else in the Miller pack, but I have an accord with Ethan and Danny."

Stiles nodded.

Stiles had the recipe for the brownies memorized, since it was basically a recipe that he had altered. When Lydia asked him about it, Stiles said, "I told you, I make these for Scott all the time. Becoming a werewolf did nothing for his sweet tooth."

They spent the next few hours cooking and baking. Lydia had forgotten how much she and Stiles had in common, until he started talking to her.

"So," Stiles started awkwardly, "what else did you have in mind for their dinner?"

Lydia shrugged, "Ethan left everything up to me, and I wanted to make Danny's favorites. I wanted this to be a night that neither of them would forget, you know?"

Stiles looked Lydia straight in the eye and then said, "Lyds, they're never gonna forget this. And do you know why?"

Lydia silently shook her head.

"Because proposing isn't anything that you forget that easily. And besides that, they know what a good friend they have in you, because you're the one preparing all this food. So tell me what you wanna make, and I'll help you in any way I can."

When the brownies were in the toaster oven, Lydia decided on starting the mac and cheese. When Stiles asked why she didn't just make the brownies in the regular oven, Lydia shrugged. "I need the regular oven for the mac and cheese."

"Mac and cheese?"

"It's something that Mom showed me how to make forever ago, that Grandma Hale used to make. I never met that grandma, but everybody loves the mac and cheese. It's basically a baked mac and cheese that is absolutely amazing. I made it for Danny once, and he fell in love with it. Anytime I'd ask him what he wanted me to make him for dinner, he'd always tell me Grandma Hale's baked mac. Since I want to make his favorite foods, I figured this would be a great time to make it."

Stiles and Lydia spent the afternoon just chatting and cooking. When the brownies were ready, Stiles got them out of the toaster oven to let them cool. He helped Lydia finish the rest of the picnic basket, and around four o'clock, when Ethan came through the house, Lydia watched him come into the kitchen.

"Where's Danny?" she said. "He's not coming in, is he?"

Ethan laughed, "Nah. We're going now. I just came in to grab the basket." He had a look on his face that showed Lydia that he was really nervous, and she went over and hugged him.

"Things are going to go great, E," Lydia said to him. "Trust me on this, okay? You and Danny were meant to be together."

"Thanks, Lyds," he said. "Wish me luck."

Lydia made a show of crossing her fingers and sent Ethan a smile as he walked out of the kitchen.

Chapter Text

After Ethan picked up the picnic basket and then left again, Lydia looked over at Stiles. "Mom and Dad aren't going to be home for a while," she said, "so you wanna watch a movie or something?"

Stiles just shrugged, "Sure. Sounds good."

They were halfway through Prince of Persia when Allison called. As Stiles paused the movie, Lydia took the call.

"Meg wants to stay the night with Charlie," Allison said. "Is that okay?"

"You're seven months pregnant," Lydia said. "Isn't that going to be too much for you?"

"Nah," Allison said. "Isaac's always said that I've got way too much energy for a pregnant lady." Allison laughed along with Lydia and then said, "It'll be fine. Is it okay with you?"

"Sure," Lydia said. "I'm just hanging out with Stiles."

"Stiles, huh?" Allison said, a certain tone in her voice that Lydia was pretty sure she'd never heard before. "Since when do the two of you hang out?"

"He came over here earlier to bake with me," Lydia said. "Ethan asked me to make a picnic basket for his date with Danny and I couldn't remember how to make Stiles' triple chocolate brownies. He helped me out."

"Uh huh," Allison said. Before Lydia could protest, Allison said, "Look, Lyds, hang out with him. It'd be good for the two of you, okay? You both have had enough issues in the past, it's time that you guys had some good things happen for once."

"Thanks, Ally," Lydia said, almost sarcastically. That just made Allison laugh as she said her goodbye and hung up.

"So what was that all about?" Stiles asked Lydia once she hung up with Allison.

Deciding that she didn't want to say anything about what Allison was insinuating to Stiles, Lydia just shrugged. "Allison is being...Allison," she said. "Charlie asked if Meg could stay the night, and Ally wanted her to. I mean, you'd figure that she wouldn't want the added stress."

Stiles shrugged, "She's got way too much energy for a pregnant lady."

"She told me that Isaac tells her the same thing."

They unpaused the movie and started watching it again. When it was over, Stiles was watching Lydia closely, but he seemed nervous, so as she put the DVD back in its case, she said, "What's eating you, Stiles?"

"Huh?" He seemed to be on another planet. Finally, he realized what she said and then looked at her closely. "Look, I know you are probably going to say no, but it's better to ask than to assume, right?" Lydia nodded slowly and Stiles said, "Would you go out with me, Lydia? Just the two of us having dinner together? I think that might be nice to do."

Lydia looked a little nervous, and she knew that Stiles could see it. "I don't know if I'm ready to date again, Stiles. I don't know if I'll ever be ready to date again."

"Look, Lyds, I'm not saying this just because I asked you out, but you really need to move on. I just think that it'd be nice if we could go out."

"Stiles," Lydia sighed. "I've got a lot of issues. And it's not just because of Aiden and what happened in Chicago, but because of my life and what I've been through. I just don't know if you could understand."

"Try me," Stiles said. When Lydia looked skeptical, Stiles said, "No, really, Lydia. Give me a chance. Let's get to know one another again."

Lydia licked her lips and watched him. He seemed sincere. But then again, Stiles had always been genuine. Lydia never had to worry about Stiles being fake or insincere. That just wasn't in his character. Finally, she just said, "Okay. I'm going to get a drink first, though, just because this is going to take a while."

Lydia didn't drink alcohol with people. It was a very rare occurrence. Every once in a while, she'd drink with her family - she trusted them. And it wasn't that she didn't trust Stiles, it was just...she needed to be safe. She needed to feel secure.

She grabbed a bottle of water out of the refrigerator, deciding that if she wanted alcohol later on, she could have it, but it was only four-thirty. She grabbed an extra one, just in case Stiles wanted it, and then went back into the family room, where Stiles was sitting in a recliner. She took a seat on the couch after offering him a bottle of water, which he accepted.

"I'm an open book," she said, after taking a swig of her own water. "If you want to know something about me, all you've gotta do is ask. I either answer any question anybody had honestly, or don't answer at all. I refuse to lie."

"You sure?" Stiles said. Lydia nodded.

“Okay,” Stiles said. “Do you remember your parents, Lyds?” Stiles’ voice was soft, like he was afraid to ask the question, but Lydia just shrugged it off.

“Not really,” she said. “In every sense of the word, Talia and William Hale are my parents. But Natalie and Richard Martin, I don’t remember them. I was only eleven when they died, but my memory of that time is extremely fuzzy. You know how, in some movies and TV shows, when a person is having a flashback, it’s all fuzzy around the edges?” Since that analogy had worked for Ethan the night before, Lydia figured it might work for Stiles, and he nodded. “That’s what it’s like. There are several instances where I’m not sure if they’re really memories, or if I just dreamt it up.”

“That must be really difficult,” Stiles said.

Lydia nodded. “Yeah,” she said. “When I was in foster care, I saw several psychiatrists and psychologists, and they were all convinced that I blocked it out because of the trauma. I don’t agree with that, though.”

“Why not?”

“Because I can remember every single little bit of abuse I endured in foster care. I can tell you the layout of their houses, I can even tell you what everybody was fucking wearing at the time of the attacks. I can tell you what they said, what they did, what even went through my mind at that time. If I was blocking things out because of trauma, wouldn’t I block that out as well? Every fucking thing I went through in foster care was about a million times worse than anything I could’ve gone through before that.”

Stiles nodded. The silence in the room got awkward, so Lydia looked at him. “Don’t you dare feel sorry for me, either, Stilinski,” she said seriously. “I don’t want anybody’s pity, okay? I just need people to know that I’m fucking strong, okay? I’ve been through hell, but I’m still alive. I’m still here. I’ve survived.”

“I wasn’t feeling sorry for you, Lyds,” Stiles said, and for some reason, Lydia felt like he was telling her the truth. “I was more just amazed at the fact that you’ve gone through some serious bullshit and you’re still here. You’re still here, and you’re raising your daughter all by yourself. I’m in awe.”

Lydia felt the blush start to color her cheeks, but didn’t think much of it. She took another drink of her water.

“There is something that I’ve always wondered,” Stiles said after a moment had passed. “Please don’t get mad at me when I ask, though.”

“I told you already, Stiles,” Lydia said, sighing. “I’m an open book. Either I tell you the truth or I don’t answer at all.”

Stiles nodded, “Okay. Why aren’t you a Hale? I mean, legally?”

Lydia nodded slowly; she’d been expecting that question. A lot of people found out about her particular situation and asked it. She took a drink of her water before saying, “Because Mom and Dad couldn’t adopt me. Not legally, anyway. My caseworker wouldn’t let them.”

Stiles’ face showed confusion, “Why not?”

“Because I was unlovable,” Lydia said, praying that her voice wouldn’t crack. “I was unadoptable. Nobody would want a broken girl like me.”

“Lyds, you can’t honestly believe that,” Stiles said, getting up and coming over to the couch. When he reached out to grab her hand, she yanked it away.

“I’m sorry, but when I feel like this, I can’t be touched,” she said. Stiles nodded in understanding.

“My caseworker spent the entire eight years I was in foster care telling me how much nobody wanted me. How nobody was ever gonna want me. When Mom and Dad tried to adopt me, she turned them down. And the courts always listen to the caseworker, so she pointed out all my bad traits and, while telling me how unlovable I was, the court refused to give my parents the right to adopt me. There was nothing that could’ve been done about it.”

“No kid is ever unlovable,” Stiles said, feeling his temper start to rise. “I refuse to believe that there is any child out there that nobody can love. It just doesn’t make sense. I refuse to believe that. And you weren’t in any way unlovable, Lyds. I went to high school with you, remember? I remember how you were. You were hurt and broken, yeah, but I loved you. And if I did, then I can believe that Talia and William loved you as well.”

Lydia scratched an imaginary itch on her forehead as she said, “Sometimes, Stiles, I look back and see the kid I was, and I wonder if maybe she wasn’t right.”

-x-

Around six o’clock, after Talia and William got home from the library, Lydia excused herself, telling them she had lesson plans to work on. Stiles was still at the Hale estate, so he went into the den, where Talia was setting up her easel to work on a painting. Even though she wasn’t a professional artist, Talia worked on paintings and they were sold for charities. William was sitting at his desk, crossword puzzle from the newspaper spread out in front of him. They both looked up when they heard Stiles enter.

“I’m surprised you’re here,” Talia said, setting up her canvas. “What are you doing here, Stiles?”

“Lydia invited me over,” Stiles said honestly. “She wanted help baking today. She was putting together a picnic basket for Ethan and Danny.”

Talia nodded.

“I actually have to ask you guys a question,” Stiles said, sitting down on the loveseat that was in the den. He licked his lips nervously before saying, “If you were able to, if you had had permission from whomever is in charge of these things, would you have adopted Lydia?”

Talia and William exchanged a look before Talia said, “Absolutely. We tried. We tried, we appealed, I even had my law firm look into the case. The Hales are pretty influential, but the judges that we went up against didn’t care about that. Lydia has a past, Stiles. A past of things that were done to her, things that were unfair that happened to her. And everybody made it out to be her fault, so she was labeled a bad kid.”

“We wanted to adopt her more than anything, Stiles,” William said when his wife was finished. “We love her just as much as we love our other kids. She means the world to us. And as far as we are concerned, Lydia is a Hale, and Meg is our granddaughter.”

“I don’t doubt that,” Stiles said. “I’m just trying to figure out how someone can be cruel enough to tell a child that she’s unlovable, especially a child like Lydia. How old was she?”

“Fifteen,” Talia said. “At first they tried to discourage us, telling us that she was a teenager, and they’re set in their ways and better off not adopted. But then they just outright refused to give us the right.”

“I’m sorry,” Stiles said. “ I just can’t understand how someone could be so cruel to another living human being, especially a child. It makes no sense.”

“Stiles,” Talia said, and Stiles hadn’t even noticed that she had crossed the room to put her hand on Stiles’ shoulder, “No good will come from you sitting here and dwelling on it, okay? Nothing good will come from sitting here and being so angry about it, either. Everybody in town knows that Lydia is our daughter.”

Stiles nodded.

“What made the question come up in the first place?” Talia asked, going back over to her canvas. “I mean, did something happen?”

Stiles shook his head, “No. Lydia was just telling me that I could ask her anything, and I asked her that. She was trying to tell me that she answers any and all questions honestly. It’s just something I’ve always wondered.”

“She’s had a lot of bad things happen in her life, Stiles,” Talia said, gathering up her paints, “but she’s still Lydia. She’ll survive. It’s what she does.”

Chapter Text

She was running. She wasn't sure where she was, all she knew was that there was so much dark surrounding her, almost pitch black. Looking up, she could see the moon, so it had to be at night, but Lydia was never very good at determining what time it was based on the position of the moon. She just knew that she was running, and she was scared.

He was following her, that much she knew from the sounds coming from all around her. She wasn't sure where she was, or what direction he was coming from, but she knew that he was there. She couldn't let him take her back there - she just couldn't go back there.

"Lydia!" Even his voice made her tremble in fear. She was trying to ignore it the best she could, but the fact that they lived surrounded by the woods didn't help. "Come on out! I'm not going to hurt you!"

She knew right away that he was lying, because he had dedicated the last three years of his life to making sure she was as miserable as she could be. She had the scars on her body to prove it. And she didn't want to let him win; he was a worthless space of a human being, and she was not going to let him win and know how scared she was of him.

Maybe glancing behind her while running wasn't the greatest idea she'd ever had, but before she knew it, she had tripped on a tree root and landed face first in the dirt. The wind had been knocked right out of her, so she took a moment to breathe, a moment that she knew she didn't really have, and then leapt back up to her feet. It was then that she felt the hand on her arm, and when she looked back to see if it was him - but hell, who was she kidding? He always found her - he looked at her and said, "Boo."

"Please," Lydia pleaded, knowing he was going to get off on this but not really caring otherwise, "don't take me back there. Just let me go. You guys don't give a goddamn whether or not I stay at your house or run away, so just let me go and you can think up some kind of cover story. Neither you nor your parents like me anyway."

"We can't do that," he said, dragging her back to the house, "you know we can't. You're free money to us, and besides that, how would it look for us if we just let you run away?"

"I'm not gonna stay put," Lydia said, and knew right away that she shouldn't have said it like that. "Even with my last breath, I am gonna get out of this hellhole. Mark my words."

"Well, it's not going to be easy," he said, twisting her arm behind her back just so, putting pressure on it until she heard the sickening crack. She winced in pain, but didn't want to show him just how much he had hurt her. This definitely wasn't her first broken arm, and if he had anything to say about it, it definitely wouldn't be her last.

A few tears escaped her eyes without her permission, but she took a deep breath, trying not to cry any more than she already had. She just was not going to give him that much satisfaction.

Lydia shot up in bed, sweat just pouring from her body. She took a couple deep breaths, trying to get her heart to calm down just a little. She jumped up out of bed and once her feet hit the hardwood floor, she ran into the bathroom. She took a moment, just staring at her reflection, before turning on the tap to splash some water on her face. Taking a deep breath, she just watched her reflection, the water dripping from her skin.

"It was just a dream," she told herself. "Just a dream."

Lydia had pretty vivid nightmares, and when she was having one, everything felt just so damn real. That was one of the reasons why Lydia only slept when she absolutely had to.

She took a few deep breaths before she deemed herself okay, and then started to creep down the stairs. After a nightmare this bad, she needed a cup of tea. As she passed the clock in the kitchen, she noticed it was almost five in the morning. Knowing that sleep probably wasn't going to come again for her, she decided to start breakfast.

Talia always got up at six o'clock. It was like clockwork; Talia had the kind of schedule you could set your watch to. It was actually a comfort to Lydia; it was what she had grown up with and had become accustomed to while living in the Hale household. It felt safe.

After heating up the water and making her tea, she set her blade down on the kitchen counter and took a seat at the island. She breathed in the aroma of the tea and just kind of let her mind wander.

These nightmares were starting to get ridiculous. She had been plagued with nightmares for a long time and had been diagnosed with PTSD the brief time she was seeing a therapist in Boston. It wasn't any surprise, not with the life she had been dealt, but that was the reason she had been prescribed the sleeping pills.

She had many fears and phobias that had stemmed from her time in foster care. The sleeping pills were a special kind with an antidepressant in them so they could only be prescribed by a doctor, but that was the only thing she ever talked to a psychiatrist about. She hated talking to therapists and psychiatrists, because they always talked to her like she was crazy. It was the look in their eyes when she talked about her past - the look in almost everyone's eyes whenever she talked about her past.

Lydia's past was a part of her. Lydia had a firm belief that every single thing you ever go through, it shapes you into the person you become. She wouldn't be the person she was now if she hadn't gone through all that bullshit, and for that, she was grateful.

She heard the creaking of floorboards, and she grabbed her blade as she put her empty mug down. She inched towards the hallway, and let out a breath she didn't realize she was holding when she saw him.

"Hey, Dad," she said, going back into the kitchen and setting her blade down on the counter. "What are you doing up?"

"Working the early shift," he said. While her mother had been retired for a few years, William didn't want to quit just yet. He was one of the deputies at the sheriff's station, and loved his job. The family worried about him, because he was the only one in the entire immediate family that wasn't a werewolf, and the kids had worried so many times that he wouldn't make it home, but he wouldn't give up his job for anything in the world. "Gotta be in by six."

"Don't the early hours ever bother you?" Lydia asked, getting into the cupboard and pulling out the ingredients to make pancakes. "I mean, it seems like it'd be hard on you."

He shook his head, "Nah. I do okay with the early hours. It's the night shift that I have a problem with."

Lydia nodded, grabbing a mixing bowl before starting to make pancakes. She added the eggs and the milk, letting thoughts pass through her head. She figured she might as well get up, so she was just going to make breakfast.

"Your mom will be getting up in another half hour or so," William said, making his own breakfast. "I'm sure she'll be thrilled that you cooked."

Lydia shrugged. "I can't sleep," she said, in way of an explanation. "I figured I could put my sleeplessness to use here. I knew she was getting up soon."

"You got things to do today?" William said, sitting down to eat his oatmeal. "I mean, what's on the agenda?"

"Last week of freedom," Lydia said. "Next week, we have meetings and such before the semester starts in three weeks. I'm actually really nervous."

"Why? You're an excellent teacher."

Lydia said, pouring some batter on the already prepared skillet, "You can't know that. You've never seen me teach."

"Danny told me. Danny told all of us. He told us how much of a teacher you really are. How much you like it."

"I'm not excellent or anything," Lydia said, flipping a pancake onto a waiting plate. "There are so many people who are so much better than I am."

"Lydia, I'm not very good at the emotional stuff, you know that," William said, getting up to put his empty bowl in the sink, "but listen to me when I say this, okay? Despite everything that's happened to you, everything that you've been through, you've made it out on top. Yes, you're a little broken, a little damaged, but I think that we all are in some aspect. You're never going to meet a single person in the entire world who hasn't been touched by a tragedy or two. There's no such thing as the perfect life. And you are good at your field. You are one of the most well-known number theorists in the entire world, and you could be doing anything with your time, but you choose to teach these kids. And I think that's one of the most important things here."

Lydia went over to her father and gave him a hug. "Thanks, Dad," she said. "I really appreciate that."

"Any time, sweetheart," he said. He gave her a kiss on the top of her head and then said, "I've got to go, though. I'll see you later?"

"Yeah, Dad," Lydia said, flipping the last pancake onto the plate. "I'll see you."

-x-

It was a little after nine-thirty when she got the call. Ever since that afternoon with Stiles, when he formally asked her out, things had been a little strained. She wanted to fix that.

"Hey, Lyds," came Stiles' voice after she answered. "How's it going?"

"Fine," Lydia answered. She and Meg had been sitting and watching Tangled for what seemed like the dozenth time that week. "How're you?"

"Good," Stiles answered. "I was wondering if you want to get together today? Maybe take Meg down to the part or something?"

"We're watching Tangled right now," Lydia said, "but later, if you want. What's the occasion?"

"Do I need an occasion to want to spend time with my friend?" Stiles asked, sounding offended.

"Sorry," Lydia said, getting up to go into the kitchen. "I'm sorry if I offended you, Stiles. That wasn't my intention."

"Then what was your intention?"

"Things between us have been a little...strained ever since that conversation happened a couple of weeks ago. I didn't mean for it to happen, but you need to know, Stiles, that I'm really damaged. There's not one thing about me that isn't broken."

"I know that, and I love you anyways," Stiles snapped. Then he took a deep breath, "Lyds, I would be glad to talk things over with you. Communication goes a long ways, alright? Just...don't be like Malia."

"I haven't been around in a while," Lydia said. "I haven't even spoken to Malia in almost a year. Did she do something?"

"Before she took off to go and find Peter, she just kind of shut me out. Didn't really talk to anyone about what was going through her mind, let alone me. The breakup came through a text and even then she was vague as hell. She didn't know how to communicate, alright? And I want things to be better with you. Lydia, you're my friend, and I want you to know that you can talk to me about absolutely anything, okay? Can you at least promise me that you'll keep the lines of communication open?"

Lydia nodded, even though she knew Stiles couldn't see her, "Yeah, Stiles. I think that can be arranged."