Allison breaks up with Scott a month into college. She drops out three weeks later.
She calls her father from the bus station, duffle bag tucked between her feet as she scans the DEPARTURES board. (The bag already feels too heavy. She’ll dump half of its contents before she hits her next stop.)
She tells him she’s not going home.
She’s got the bar’s name scrawled on a slip of notebook paper.
(That notebook was tossed too—from a Psych 101 course she started skipping about three weeks in. She started spending her nights running long, loping miles around campus and the city. She started sleeping through her classes. Her courses felt like playing-pretend after everything she’s lived through. What was she going to do with a notebook full of Freud anyway?)
It’s a decrepit little place outside of Seattle populated by locals and hunters passing through. Hunters are good at networking, all friend-of-friends-of-family bound by old blood debts. For the last years of high school her father allowed her access to the Argent grimoires and beastiaries, into their records and their arsenal of weaponry. But he guarded his contact lists. To keep her close, maybe. Keep her from getting ideas of going too far away.
Allison found them anyway and carefully copied them down. Figured this place was as good a place as any to begin.
Hunters are also professionally mistrustful-- she walks in and the place goes silent.
She only hesitates for a moment, to hike up the strap of her bag from where it was slipping down her shoulder. And if that gives her just enough time to swallow down her apprehension, that’s entirely a coincidence.
Allison beelines for the bar. She asks first for a beer and then for Max Bouman.
Max gets up from his stool behind the pool tables and walks over. He looks her up and down and narrows his eyes. “You’re Argent’s kid.”
The rest of the bar gets even more silent, if that’s possible. She can feel their gaze on her, prickling and uncomfortable. The name Argent has been raising eyebrows for three years-- Kate and Gerard are the kind of cautionary tales that inspire both awe and a wide berth.
She doesn’t break eye contact with Max. With deliberate ease she lifts the beer bottle to her lips and tips back a mouthful before answering.
“I’m Allison. And I’m looking for work.”
For the next three years she lives between cities, traveling light. She never stays anywhere longer than a few months.
In the beginning she spends most of the time proving her right to be there at all. She’s impressive and deadly, but so was Gerard. So was Kate. But her speed and strategy make her too valuable to lose. She finds couches to crash on, and hunters to fight by her side. She works side-jobs to make end’s meet, gravitates toward bartending and bounty hunting.
It’s a living.
She wears her hair up. She ditches all the jewelry except for the silver wolf pendant, a little piece of history hung over her heart. She wears heavy boots, with a knife sheathed along either ankle. (A slim little stiletto, and a serrated dagger that used to be Kate’s.) She keeps a gun, but prefers her bow. It’s cleaner.
Allison’s always been lithe and lean but now she looks hungry. There’s an everlasting restlessness that keeps her up at night, that she swears she can feel crawling under her skin.
So she keeps busy. She hunts rogue wolves and demons and ghouls, and things she didn’t have a name for until they tried to kill her. She fucks mostly-strangers in back-alley bars and motels. She travels her way up the west coast and then back down again, to Texas and then to New York City. There’s a wendigo in Florida that almost finishes her for good but she gets it first and she books it to Chicago.
…which is where she gets knifed by another, more wayward hunter. He gets shot by his friends soon after. Before she passes out in a puddle of her own blood, she thinks maybe she’s had this coming for a while. Hunters aren’t famous for living very long lives.
She tries to keep this news from getting back to Beacon Hills, but hunters? Still good at networking. She swears she’s going to shoot the sorry bastard who decided to call her father. She thinks they already suspected this because the other hunters don’t visit the hospital.
She feels guilty, because Chris Argent has buried his wife and sister and father. He shouldn’t have to think about burying his daughter. It wasn’t like she was going to die. Probably. It wasn’t even that big of a knife.
She tells herself she isn’t so bad. She calls home every other week. She even came home last Christmas. Her father had looked so much older than she remembered. There was a terrible tug in her gut to stay, just stay.
But she couldn’t, was out by New Year’s. Restless, remember? And it’s exhausting, trying to avoid Hale and his pack in a town so small.
Now her father is threatening to fly across the country immediately and bring her home. She thinks she’s talked him out of it by the time the morphine’s kicked in enough to warrant a groggy goodbye.
Allison wakes up to a familiar figure seated in the chair beside her hospital bed. She thinks she might be dreaming because it’s been four long years. And if Allison is being honest with herself, it wouldn’t be the first time Lydia Martin has preoccupied her dreams.
“You’re in my city, you know that? It’s inconvenient of you to almost die here,” says Lydia, who is currently focused on a compact mirror and the careful reapplication of blood-red lipstick.
Allison manages a mumbly reply. “Sorry for that.”
She swears she can smell Lydia, the same perfume that used to follow her around the high school hallways, that used to haunt Allison’s sheets after Lydia would spend the night.
It’s so horribly comforting that Allison could cry.
She’s blaming the morphine.
Lydia puts on the finishing touch, and then pops her lips. Then she looks right at Allison.
Lydia’s as magnetic as ever and Allison couldn’t look away if she wanted. (She doesn’t, she wants to keep looking and looking.) Lydia tilts her head, and says, “When you are discharged, you are staying with me.”
It’s not a question. It never was, not with Lydia.
Lydia graduated university early. She got an impressive job (at a commercial laboratory associated with space travel), a large apartment overlooking the shoreline, and a terrifying collection of shoes. (They get their own side of the walk-in closet.)
Allison thinks it should be uncomfortable, these four years of history stretched taut between the two of them. Except it isn’t. Lydia doesn’t allow it to be.
Lydia doesn’t make the silences strange and isn’t afraid to fill up the space with conversation when she wants. They talk about a lot of little nothings.
They don’t talk about Beacon Hills, about what they left behind. Allison is grateful, because otherwise she would have to start feeling guilty.
Allison is still supposed to be on bed-rest. She settles for padding around the apartment while Lydia’s at work. She watches terrible daytime television, burns what she tries to cook, and can’t help but notice there are no photos anywhere in this apartment. No signs of friends or family. Lydia never did return to Beacon Hills after graduating a year ahead of the rest of them.
Allison can’t blame her, not after what happened to Lydia. What they let happen, while trying to live on good intentions and adrenaline.
She sleeps on the pull-out in the living room for two nights until Lydia walks in when Allison is getting under the covers and sits down next to her. Lydia rolls her eyes. “This? Is ridiculous.” She makes a little up motion with her hand and Allison is standing and following her into the bedroom before she can think about it too much.
The cold-hearted-ice-queen act is a kind of con Lydia’s been running for years, thinks Allison, though she’ll never admit it. Because Lydia knows how to take care of the people she needs to care for, because she knows better than anyone what it’s like to be alone.
They used to share a bed during sleepovers. Allison thinks that the rules should have changed since then, except they haven’t. Maybe they are polite for the first night, but by the second Lydia is back to stealing the sheets and Allison finds herself big-spooning come morning. It’s like they’re kids again, except they’re not.
She wakes with a nose buried in red curls, an arm around warm skin where Lydia’s nightie has rucked up, and a knee tucked up between soft thighs.
Lydia stirs, and rolls towards Allison. They are flush against one another, limbs tangled awkwardly, and Allison’s heart is beating very, very quickly.
Lydia’s voice is sleep-heavy, pitched just a little lower than usual. It makes Allison want to slide her knee up between Lydia’s bare legs, to rock against her until Lydia gasps, face flushing in surprise and pleasure. It makes Allison want to slide her hand underneath the cotton nightie, to skim the soft skin there with light fingertips and feel Lydia shiver beneath them. It makes Allison want to bury her face in the crook of Lydia’s neck and bite.
It would be so easy.
But Allison doesn’t do any of that.
Lydia blinks sleepily, smiles, and then gets up to make coffee.
Lydia spends Friday evening primping before a surgeon picks her up for a dinner-date. He’s tall and dark and handsome and Allison tries very hard not to scowl at him. Lydia tells Allison not to expect her back until morning, so Allison settles in for a night of decidedly not feeling sorry for herself. Because Allison doesn’t mope, no matter how tight her chest is feeling. She cleans her gun and sharpens her knives at the kitchen counter, and resigns herself to a future of being a highly weaponized loner. She thinks maybe she’ll go to Canada next.
Lydia teeters in at one in the morning, just tipsy enough to be flushed all over and half-trip onto the bed. She shakes off her heels and shimmies up to settle beside Allison.
She curls into Allison, who had been spending the last hour lying prostrate on top of the sheets and staring at the ceiling and wondering if going running would really rip her stitches.
“You’re back early.”
Lydia exhales an mhhhmm, warm and wine-sweet, onto Allison’s neck.
Allison shivers. “No staying over with your doctor?”
Lydia snorts, unladylike and lovely still. “He’s not mine.”
Lydia reaches over to Allison’s other side, groping a little. Allison doesn’t know what she’s looking for, but then Lydia snatches up her hand with a satisfied noise, lacing their fingers together.
She’s half on top of Alison now, warm and welcoming. Allison is careful not to move at all, because she’s not sure what she’ll do if she does. After a while, Allison thinks Lydia’s probably fallen asleep.
She squeezes Lydia’s hand, gently. “I’m sorry, you know,” she whispers.
Then Lydia’s opening her eyes and oh, she wasn’t asleep after all.
Lydia looks her in the eyes. “I know.”
Allison thinks she might start crying. “I’m so sorry. What we did to you back then…” Her voice cracks, but she continues. “You were so alone.”
Lydia just nods. She looks sad, but not angry. Not bitter.
Allison’s heart is breaking because Lydia should hate her.
Instead Lydia kisses her, chaste and slow and soft. Allison’s lips part for a big, shuddery breath that is part relief and part greedy gratitude. Lydia just takes the opportunity to make it open-mouthed and dirty.
Allison whines and Lydia draws back, to readjust or maybe ask something, but Allison thinks if she lets this moment go she’ll lose it for good. So she reaches up to tangle her hands in curls and drag Lydia close enough to kiss again. This time there are teeth and tongues and no room for questions.
Maybe it could have always been this easy. But there’s no time to think about maybes and befores, because Lydia is hitching a leg over Allison’s hips, pinning her down.
Allison pulls her closer, closer, closer.
If they’re not fucking, if they’re not touching, Allison settles for watching Lydia move around their shared space. She’s all grown-up and still so much the same. Allison doesn’t know what to do with any of it.
Lydia’s propped up against the headboard, Allison half-asleep in her arms. Lydia’s combing back Allison’s hair with careful fingers: a mindless, tender intimacy.
She stops. Allison makes a sleepy noise of protest. That had felt so nice.
When Lydia doesn’t resume, Allison opens her eyes.
Lydia says, too casually, “You know, Chicago’s a big city. I’m sure there’s plenty of supernatural activity around here. It could be a good base.”
At this, Allison twists in her arms, to get a good look at her.
Lydia continues. “And I am clearly a valuable resource here. The pack wasted their best potential researcher back in high school.” She pauses. “And explosives expert.”
Allison wants to explain that she’s forgotten how to stay still. Allison wants to explain that she’s not sure she’s good for anything except fighting anymore. She wants to cry, though for what or for whom she’s not so sure. She just needs to say something.
Instead, she kisses Lydia. Instead, she tugs their clothing off. Instead, she mouths her way down Lydia’s body, bites her hipbones and drags her underwear down and off. Allison sucks little love-bites into the tender skin along her inner thigh, gets her long fingers into Lydia, crooks them and loves the gasp that gets her.
She watches Lydia shudder and shake apart, biting her bottom lip and making helpless noises and rocking up against Allison’s mouth and fingers. She watches Lydia smile, flush blooming across her cheekbones and chest.
Allison thinks maybe she doesn’t have to say anything after all.
Allison’s stitches have been out for a few weeks but she stayed around anyway. It’s morning and Lydia’s slipping bread into the toaster. Their coffee mugs are still steaming, side-by-side. Neither of them can cook, it turns out, but they can manage a decent breakfast.
Allison is sitting on the counter, watching Lydia.
Lydia catches her staring, and rolls her eyes. Allison slides off the marble countertop, and walks over to slip an arm around Lydia’s waist so she can nestle her chin on Lydia’s shoulder.
“You’re ridiculous,” says Lydia. But she reaches over and wraps her own arm over Allison’s, holding her close.