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Lydia can't muster up the energy to be surprised when Erica slides onto the stool next to her in Advanced Chem. Ever since Jackson dropped a big "it's not you, it's me" speech on her at the Whittemore's Labor Day party, the Power Puff Pack has been neatly splitting their stalking time between Jackson and her, all perky ears and attentive noses, just waiting for that moment when she somehow makes him revert to kanima form.

"Wow." Erica plants her elbow next to Lydia's lab book, her mass of Pantene curls fluffing out around her hand as she smirks upwards. "You could actually teach lessons in snooty, couldn't you?"

Lydia ignores her, focused instead on lining up the beakers by volume. She changes her mind almost immediately and starts rearranging them in the order they'll be used. It doesn't take long; the experiments Harris has them doing aren't exactly intricate.

"Bitch," Erica mutters, pulling back into her own space.

Lydia moves on to the small collection of graduated cylinders, rotating each so that the numbers face exactly forward. Finished, she folds her hands and turns to Erica with a Splenda smile.

"I'm sorry," she chirrups. "I realize that we have such a warm and giving relationship already, and I really should be falling all over myself to stay in your good graces. Or am I misremembering the stalking and attempted death? Some of the details are a little fuzzy, since the only person who ever really told me what was going on was the psychotic murderer living inside my head."

Jackson's head comes up, back in his self-exiled corner of the room, and Lydia resists the urge to openly stare back at him. Instead, she starts ticking off the steps in the pre-lab checklist. Erica doesn't say anything else, thank goodness. It's all so stupid. Lydia loves Jackson, despite his obvious case of self-hatred and general stupidity, and Jackson loves her. They're just...on a break. It's a thing. It's not going to have any metaphysical consequences.

The tardy bell rings. Lydia sets her pen down, squeezing the bones of her fingers together as she waits out its piercing shrillness. Stiles races into the room, shoes squeaking across the floor. He tilts towards the stool Scott's saved for him, backpack swinging dangerously from his flailing hand. Somehow, he manages to get himself seated rather than tumbling to the floor.

Erica sighs.

Lydia turns just enough to take in the doe eyes and the miserable pout on those wax-red lips. "Seriously?"

Erica straightens, shoving her shoulders back and chest out like she just remembered she's not mousy and meek. She flicks a burning glare Lydia's direction, but it can't mask the flush on her cheeks. "Just because you're blind, doesn't mean all of us are."

Lydia lets her feel the weight of her disbelief a moment longer, before aiming it towards Stiles. He's hunched to one side, one leg wrapped around the leg of the lab bench to anchor himself while he digs for something in his backpack.

It's not that he's Quasimodo. He's almost as tall as Danny, but it's the long, gangly kind of tall. The buzz cut makes him look younger than he is, like someone's baby brother tagging along with the big kids. Still. He's sweet, underneath all of the snark, and nearly as smart as she is. Lydia can see how that might appeal to a girl, especially a girl like Erica, who hadn't stood a chance with most guys in school before she got the biker chic makeover.

"You should all be prepared for today's assignment," Harris drones from the front of the room, "but since I know ninety percent of you aren't even sure what day it is, turn to page forty-six in your lab book."

Lydia ignores his repetitive instructions and gets to work. Erica is actually a passable lab partner. She lets Lydia lead, which is the most important trait in any partner, and mostly manages to do what Lydia tells her. Right up until they hit a crucial point in the experiment and Lydia asks her to pass the graduated cylinder full of acetic acid. Her hand remains empty. Lydia snatches it off the desk herself and pours it in, blowing out a breath when the liquid changes color. Then she looks up, ready to let loose with both barrels.

Erica is staring at Stiles' ass.

"You've got to be kidding me," Lydia says, not even bothering to whisper. Her words are smothered by the buzz of students muttering at their desks, the squeak of chairs being shoved across the floor, the clinks and tinkles of glass meeting glass. She spends a moment following Erica's line of sight. Stiles has an ass. Not super tight, not super perky. Just a nice, normal, masculine ass.

Erica glances over and rolls her eyes.

"No, I don't get it." Lydia feels like she should get it, at least a little bit. She's the one Stiles has had a crush on forever, after all, and she would at least like to know what it is she's passing up.

Erica huffs. "You really don't see it? God. I can't believe he holds you up as the paragon of womankind."

"Then explain it to me," Lydia snaps.

"Fine." Erica leans in, then leans in further, until her breasts brush against Lydia's arm and her breath is hot on Lydia's face. "Look right now. Just look at those hands."

Lydia looks. Stiles is standing straight, beaker held aloft so the sun streams through the clear liquid inside. The muscles in his long forearm flex and twist as he rotates the beaker slowly, searching for the pale pink that should be inside. His palm is square, large. His fingers...

Lydia swallows. Those fingers—Stiles' fingers—are long and elegant. And long. She's held his hand before, at the skating rink, at the dance, but she's done her best to block every second of both occasions from her mind. She certainly can't remember anything about his hands, even though it seems impossible that she didn't notice on her own.

She knows exactly what those fingers would be good for.

Erica snorts, the blast of air ruffling the hair at Lydia's neck. "Yeah," she says, smug and confident. "Now you get it."

"Aren't you dating Boyd, anyway?" Lydia murmurs, but then Stiles sets the beaker down and stretches upwards, arms and hands spread towards the sky, and she doesn't hear Erica's reply.


Allison slips into the bleachers seconds before the teams are due to take the field. Lydia spares her a tight-lipped smile and gets an even tighter one in return. They're still friends, of a sort, the kind who'll share cheering space at the first football game of the season, but Lydia can't remember the last time they actually talked in more than a ugh, I hate cilantro and what page are we on? kind of way.

She's pretty sure it was sometime before the only use Allison had for her was her Archaic Latin skills.

The crowd erupts with a roar. Lydia jerks. The Cyclones storm onto the field, circling and posturing in that masculine way that's meant to stimulate testosterone release and intimidate the opposing team. Lydia smashes her palms together, the crowd's applause driving her own muscle memory. Jackson's out there, somewhere in the swirl of red. The stadium lights turn the numbers on their jerseys into a blur of white, and the team's back to the bench before Lydia spots him. She rocks back on her heels, dropping her hands to her sides.

It's not like it matters whether she sees him or not, anyway.

"Great," Allison mutters.

It doesn't take long for Lydia to dowse the source of her deflated tone. Scott and Stiles are at the bottom of the bleachers, faces aimed upwards. Scott's clearly spotted them: his gaze is locked on Allison, and he stands as still as a rock in the surging tide of the crowd. Stiles finally takes notice of that stillness, following Scott's pointed alertness up and to his right. His face breaks into an overbroad smile, and a comical wave follows a second after that.

Lydia sighs in concert with Allison.

The boys push their way through the crowd, creating a space for themselves on the bleachers below and slightly to the side of Lydia and Allison. Scott's still locked on Allison, who smiles and shifts back and forth and ducks her head and smiles again.

"So," Stiles drawls, and Lydia can't help but be grateful for something to focus on besides the tangled ball of tension and longing beside her. "We miss anything?"

"Just the coin toss," Lydia says. The teams are lining up for the kickoff, but since the opposing team elected to receive, Jackson's not on the field. She watches anyway. Anything's better than Scott and Allison's ridiculousness, or trying to close her mind to her realizations about Stiles earlier in the day.

Suddenly there's a hand wrapped around Lydia's wrist. Tugging. Lydia stares down at it, pulse jumping madly in her throat. She tries to pull away, but the grip is wiry and tight, full of practiced strength. Lydia has no hope of fighting free.

"Come on." Allison tugs again. "I want popcorn."

"Let go of me," Lydia hisses. She snaps her hand back. She breaks free, whether it's because she finds the strength or Allison let go, she doesn't know and doesn't care. The rumbling thunder in her ears resolves into the normal drone of the crowd.

"Oh! Um. Sorry?" Allison's eyebrows furrow as she stares at Lydia. They're all staring at her: Allison, Scott, Stiles, the whole crowd. She doesn't have to see all their faces to know that eyes are on the back of her neck, or to hear the whispers to be aware of the gossip that will inevitably follow in her wake.

She finds a perfect smile in her reserve. "No, I'm the one who's sorry," she says, as sweetly as she can manage. It still comes out pickle-tart. "It's just that I don't want to miss any of the game."

"I'll go," Scott pipes up, because of course he does. Allison is still close enough that Lydia can feel her flinch.

"That's okay. I don't need you to—"

"I know," Scott says, Boy Scout earnest. "I just thought—"

"How about I go," Stiles breaks in. "That way you won't have to crawl all over me to get out. Because while I love you, dude, steel-toed boots have nothing on your stompers."

Scott's mouth dips into a pout, but only for a second before he's grinning at Stiles. "Whatever, man. Ten bucks says you end up flat on your face before the end of the night, anyway."

"And that is what we'd call a sucker's bet," Stiles says as he edges into the aisle. "You want anything, Lydia?"

"I'm good." She ignores the way Stiles' gaze lingers on her before he turns to go. Allison rabbits after him, sneaking a glance back over her shoulder. Scott watches her until they disappear beyond the bleachers, and even then he keeps staring, like a sad little dog who doesn't know its master's dead and gone.

"You should give her more space."

"What?" Scott's eyebrows do a full on crunch as he looks up at her. "I am."

Lydia huffs. "No, you're not. Trying to force her to spend time with you isn't giving someone space."

His mouth drops open. "I wasn't forcing anything! And besides, she said she still wants to be friends! How can we be friends if we don't do friends stuff?"

"She doesn't want to hang out in sweatpants and burp the alphabet like you do with Stiles." Lydia rolls her eyes when Scott's face slackens with confusion, like he can't figure out how she could possibly know that about the two of them. She wants to shout in his face, rant about how stupid men are—but she's seen Scott with Allison. She knows how much he tries, and how often he really does succeed.

"Look," she says, folding her arms under her breasts. "After you break up, friends means you still like each other. It means you're not going to try to hurt each other." Her gaze goes out the field, where Jackson's dropping back into a shotgun formation. "She needs time to heal, okay? She can't do that if you're there all the time, reminding her of all the mistakes she made."

His face turns mulish. Lydia wonders what it will take to get through to him, and whether she has the energy to bother, but then he takes a deep breath, his face clearing as his shoulders drop.

"Okay, I think I get it." He turns his head, eyes going distant in that werewolfy way. "They're on their way back. Should I leave?"

Lydia shakes her head. "No," she says as Stiles and Allison come into sight. Stiles has his arms wrapped around two huge buckets of popcorn, the fingers of each hand splayed wide around a monstrous cup of soda. He smiles when he sees Lydia looking. "No, you should stay. It'll just be more awkward if you go."

Scott nods eagerly. "Thanks, Lydia," he whispers, grinning at Allison as she approaches. "You're awesome."

"That's right," she murmurs, letting her fingers brush against Stiles' as she accepts one of the sodas. "That's right, I am."


Lydia pushes her way through the sluggish crowd before the final horn sounds, making her way over grass and gravel to the locker room door. The team is quiet as they lumber towards her, heads down and helmets in hand. They're too tightly packed to make out the numbers on their jerseys, so she rises on her tiptoes, scanning every face. Jackson's nowhere to be seen. Danny meets her gaze. He doesn't say anything, just watches her with eyes that would feel cold and judging, if she didn't know that's the way he looks at Jackson sometimes. He lifts his chin the tiniest amount, then disappears through the door with the rest of the team.

Lydia crosses her arms over her chest, holding herself tightly against the brisk evening air, and settles in to wait.

The human noises of people dispersing have mostly died off, replaced by the low chug-chug-chug of engines idling in the parking lot, when Jackson finally trundles up the slope. His head hangs low, but unlike his teammates, it seems determinedly so, his jaw set tight and his shoulders rigidly humped. Lydia's own jaw tightens. She drops her arms and thrusts her shoulders back, ready and waiting, but by the time he's ten feet away, she knows he's not planning on acknowledging her.

"Jackson!"

He flinches. She wonders what werewolf senses would pick up, whether the beating of his heart or the stench beneath his sweat could tell her anything more than what she already sees so plainly.

"Jackson, please," she whispers when he's abreast of her, but he doesn't even pause.

"Jackson, it wasn't your fault," she says as he's about to enter the door. "He was trying to sack you! You did what you were supposed to do."

Jackson stops. His head is still down, but she can see the muscle jumping in his jaw.

"He's going to be fine. You know that, right? The announcers said so."

He lifts his head, but he doesn't look at her. "You need to stop, Lydia. Okay? Just stop."

Lydia can't speak for a moment. Her throat is stupidly full. "Stop what? Stop worrying about you? Stop loving you? You know I can't do that." She wants to reach out and catch hold of his arm, force him to turn around and face her. Force him to face himself. But she won't. She can't.

But she can at least speak the truth. "I know you still love me."

His eyes finally slide towards her. "You need to stay away from me, Lydia," he says, and then he's gone, werewolf fast.


The parking lot is empty when she gets back to it. Empty, except for Scott and Stiles having a furiously whispered conversation at the rear bumper of the Jeep while Allison shifts from foot to foot under the streetlamp where her car's parked. Lydia wants to roll her eyes, march over and yell at them all, but she so does not have the mental energy for it right now. She gets in her own car instead. The drama unfolds in her rearview mirror while she sits with her knees tucked against the steering wheel and tries very hard not to cry.

To say it's a plan would be mangling the definition of the word. It's more that a vague idea turns into an impulsive wish, which firms into resolve as Stiles waves his hands in the air. When Scott gives a final sheepish shrug and walks away to join Allison in her car, Lydia unfolds her knees and pulls the compact from her purse. Her heart is beating wildly by the time Allison's tail lights flash red. It doesn't stop her from unlocking her car door and stepping out.

She's not surprised to find Stiles watching her. He waits, hands in his pockets, for her to make her way across the barren parking lot, not trying to rush her approach. Lydia would add that to the list of things she likes about Stiles, but lists have no room in what's about to happen. She knows it, and she's going to make absolutely sure he knows it, too.

"I love Jackson," she says as soon as she's close enough that she doesn't have to raise her voice.

"Okay?" Stiles glances left to right, like her meaning is crouched in the darkness somewhere. "I love Taco Tuesdays. Back to you."

Lydia puts her hands on her hips. It's a posture that evokes confidence, almost brashly so, but she needs the boost. "I was just making that clear, since everyone in your little clique seems to have forgotten that fact. I love Jackson, and he loves me."

Stiles holds up a hand, index finger pointing to the sky. "Okay, A, it's not my little anything, and B, even if it were, I still wouldn't call it a clique. Mostly because I'm pretty sure Derek would gut me if I did, but so not the point. Which brings us around to C, hi, I think that was made pretty clear when you turned him from a murder-lizard into a real werewolf."

"You would think so, wouldn't you? And yet I've had a wet nose glued to my ass for the past two weeks, just because they think I'm somehow going to do something to make Jackson turn back into the kanima."

"They really don't like the dog jokes," Stiles mutters, and then holds up both hands in response to her glare. "Sorry! But I repeat, not my anything. Nobody's asked my opinion on it, okay? Don't go getting pissed at me."

"I'm not pissed at you." Lydia draws in a breath. This hasn't gone the way she envisioned it, which, considering this is Stiles, shouldn't actually surprise her. At least her nerves have settled, washed away by the flash flood of righteous indignation. She drops her hands to her sides and smiles pleasantly. "We got a little off track. I was trying to explain my position, because I have a proposition for you."

Stiles' eyebrows climb. "A proposition. As in...?"

"As in a proposition." She draws the word out syllable by syllable. "I love Jackson, but, as everyone knows, we're on a break right now. Which means that I have several needs going unfulfilled."

"Er." Stiles' mouth works several times. She thinks this is the first time she's ever seen him unable to form words. "Like, movie buddy kind of needs? Because I gotta say, I'm not really a Notebook kind of guy."

Her teeth clench without her permission. She turns it into a feral smile. "I realize this is a very new experience for you, so I'm going to cut you some slack for A, being an idiot and B, being an idiot. Oh and C, being an idiot." She huffs out an inelegant breath. "Sex, Stiles. I'm proposing sex."

"Sex." He says it flatly, like the word has no meaning. Then his face goes through a not particularly attractive series of contortions. "Wait. Sex. As in you and me..."

"Seeking a mutually pleasurable experience together, yes."

"Oh." She can see his Adam's apple bob. "That's... Oh, my God."

"Hopefully."

He nods compulsively, up and down, up and down. "That's, uh, awesome. But, and God, I can't believe I'm actually saying this, why? Why me?"

"Because I didn't think I'd actually have to pretend to be coy and stupid with you to get what I want!"

He actually recoils at that, taking a half step backwards, and she regrets her loss of control immediately. Weak, so weak, she can tell he's thinking it by the way he steps forward again with his hand palm up, like she's a wounded cat cowering behind a trash bin.

"Hey, Lydia, no," he says, too gently. "I'm sorry. You just surprised me, that's all. Like, probably the most surprised I've ever been in my life, and considering I just found out werewolves are a real thing like, six months ago, that's pretty freakin' surprised."

Lydia considers him with her fists clenched inside the brace of her elbows, fighting down the burn of embarrassment and defensive anger so she can just think. Stiles still has his hand out, turned slightly now so it looks more like supplication. She could tell him to forget about it, that she changed her mind, but despite everything, she still wants that touch to land.

"Well," she says at last. "I've made my case. Think about it, and let me know what you decide."

She hasn't even completed her turn before she hears his shoe scuffing forward. There's a heat spot, hovering over the back of her upper arm, but he doesn't try to grab her.

"Wait. I've decided."

She turns, head cocked. "And?"

"Yes."

A flutter of...something eels through her stomach. A return of nerves, or possibly anticipation, or just a quick flash of what the hell are you thinking. She isn't sure. It doesn't matter.

"All right, then," she says, flashing him a business-like smile. "Your Jeep had better be clean."


He doesn't take them to Lookout Point. "I know way too many of the cops assigned to patrol up there," he says. Instead, he parks the Jeep in a deep stretch of shadow behind the industrial arts building at school.

"Clever."

Stiles hmms. He shuts off the engine and then folds his hands in his lap. She thinks maybe he's trying to contain himself, to force himself to be something other than he is.

"Stiles—"

"I don't, um, have anything," he blurts, gaze darting to her before he visibly loses his nerve and stares back down at his hands. Lydia can't help being sidetracked for a second by the sight of them, but there's no point in lingering on daydreams when she's going to have reality soon. Very soon.

"That's for the advanced class, anyway," she says. "Today we're focusing on manual stimulation."

"Oh." She wants to laugh at the conflicting emotions flitting across his face, the way his eyebrows and mouth contort in a series of disappointment-relief-interest-oh-my-god-this-is-really-real-holy-shit. "Oh. So. Um."

"Why don't we get into the backseat?" Lydia suggests. "We'll have more room."

She slips between the front seats. The only time she's been in the back of Stiles' Jeep was when she was bundled inside by her friends like a kidnapping victim, but it's clean enough, bare of fast food wrappers and other typical teenage boy stuff. It smells like sun-decayed vinyl and slightly mildewed canvas, along with the mild musk of Stiles' aftershave. She bounces a little on the bench seat, getting a feel for its give, and then slips her shoes off her feet.

Stiles is still in the front, staring back at her with a furrowed brow.

"Well? The invitation to the ball isn't going to be open all night."

That gets him moving. He shoves his wide shoulders into the gap between the seats and then wriggles the rest of his long body through until he half falls, half pours himself into the space beside her. Lydia has to lean back to avoid his foot as it comes flying across, following behind him like a dog's forgotten tail. He flounces around a bit, until he's settled opposite her, shoulder wedged against the rollbar and his knees flopped outwards. It's not really an efficient position, not for what she has in mind, but she's confident she can guide him to exactly where he needs to be.

"Just to be clear," he says. "You're not, like, on Valium or anything, right? Drunk? Mind-controlled? Experiencing stretches of missing time?"

Lydia goes still, fighting to breathe past the taste of cold earth and musty leaves. "I am fully aware and able to give consent," she grits out. Her jaw aches with tension. It's a good thing she hadn't planned on blowing him tonight. At this rate, he's not going to get so much as a well-intentioned handshake on the way out the door.

Stiles must get that. "I'm sorry, okay? I just..." He swallows, probably eating whatever consoling words he was going to offer. "It's just that I'm nervous. I know you said that it's a buddies thing, and that's fine, that's more than fine, believe me, but, Lydia. You kind of overwhelm me."

"Oh." Well. Maybe he's earned more than a handshake, then.

Lydia moves forward, easing across the seat until she's kneeling between his legs. She pauses there, hands flat on her thighs as she studies his face. "Do you..." It seems absurd, but. "Do you want this, Stiles?"

Instead of answering, he levers himself forward, one elbow shoved hard against the window behind him. He brings his other hand up, fluttering it over her cheek as he presses a soft, askew kiss to her lips. She pulls back when it ends, licking at the gloss smudged above her cupid's bow. For some reason, when she planned this out, she'd never considered kissing Stiles. It seems a ridiculous thing to forget.

"Sorry," he says, gaze darting everywhere but her face. "I thought that's what—"

She surges forward, catching hold of his chin and angling his head so that her own kiss lands perfectly. His mouth is still moving—it's always moving—and once he figures out her intent, they fit together just fine. She strokes her tongue against his, and he gasps into her mouth. She pulls back, sucking on his bottom lip before nudging him with a softer kiss, trying to show him the push-pull, the give-and-take of it.

Stiles catches on fast.

He scoots forward, bringing his hands down to her hips. She whimpers just a tiny bit at the heat in his palms, the flex of his fingers. He brings his mouth back to hers, brushing their lips together before he opens his mouth for their deepest kiss yet. They both groan. This, she thinks, this is why you didn't consider it. There's no way she ever would have imagined Stiles kissing her this way, with just the right amount of want and need.

"Here," she says. She catches his hands in her own, gliding them up her ribcage. She lets go just long enough to shift her grip on his wrists, then she guides him around to her breasts. He just stares down at their hands for a long couple of seconds, and then he shifts on his own, turning his hands so he's cupping her, so that his thumbs rest right at her nipples. He looks up at her with reverent awe.

"Go to town," she says, because really, she loves having her breasts touched. It's one area that she and Jackson have never disagreed on. "Just not too hard. More like tossing a whiffle ball, less like gripping a baseball."

He doesn't do much at first, just moves his thumbs back and forth as he stares down at them. Lydia arches into his hands. "It's okay if you want to pinch my nipples, though," she adds as frustration licks at her spine. "I like that. A lot."

Stiles doesn't, not right away. He makes a noise, a little doggy grunt in the back of his throat, and pushes her breasts up and together. He leans forward to kiss her again, and oh, there it is, the spark that makes her shove herself into him, mouth and body both. Stiles groans, breaking the kiss before she's ready.

"Can I see you?" His thumbs stroke ceaselessly over her nipples. "You're so beautiful, Lydia. Can I?"

You already have, she thinks, even before she really remembers his wide eyes as she shivered in the dark, bruised and bloody and bare.

"You first," she says instead, leaning back to hitch at the bottom of his tee. He's still got his hoodie on, and an overshirt, too, but he strips all three layers up and off at the same time.

"Well, well." She lays her hands over the respectable swell of his pecs. He's in no way as cut as Jackson, but he's definitely muscled. "Hit the weight room over the summer?"

"Yeahnggh...oh, God," he groans as she tweaks his nipples. Pinching seems to be a hit, as does simply rolling them under her fingers. "Oh, my God, how is that so good?"

"Because it's me touching you." She pulls her sweater up, carefully easing it over her head so her hair doesn't go all staticy, and then, more quickly, unclasps her bra and takes it off. "I'd appreciate it if you'd return the favor."

Stiles brings his hands up—and frames the key dangling from her neck. She'd almost forgotten its presence, the metal the same temperature as her skin; she's worn it non-stop since Jackson came back from the dead. Lydia wants to clutch at it, hide it away beneath clothing that's no longer there. It's not a part of this. Stiles shouldn't be seeing it.

"Hey," he says, voice low, gentle enough that she must have let her thoughts slip onto her face. He brings his big hand up and curls it around the back of her neck, right under the base of her skull, and guides her into a long kiss, sweeter than anything. Part of her hates it, so much, because he wasn't supposed to do this to her.

"Maybe, how about," he says as he pushes her back, one hand on her shoulder and one on her hip, urging her to turn. She figures out what he wants soon enough. She settles between his legs, her back to his warm chest, and just like that, it's all good again.

She can breathe again.

He brushes her hair away from her neck, nosing in close behind her ear. "Like this?" he asks, bringing one hand up to gather a breast, squeezing just right, thumb and forefinger closing on her nipple.

Lydia arches into him, letting her head drop back. "Mmm, yes, that's perfect." He nudges her cheek with his nose, and she twists to let him kiss her again. It doesn't take long before she's arching up into his touch. Soon even the tightest pinch does nothing but make her want more, so she pulls her skirt up over her hips, then catches his right hand in hers and draws it down the front of her panties.

"Pay attention," she says, guiding his finger with hers, down to her labia and then sliding up, so together their fingers curve around her clit. She'd intended to show him how to tease her, how to brush the inside of her thighs to really get her going, but it's been months since she's had anyone's hands on her but her own. She's so ready for him, so wet.

"Oh, God. You like that, don't you?" Stiles pants the words into her ear. He moves with her, letting her guide him, but he's no shy violet. His touch is firm but not hard enough to be painful, and it's not long before she's gently rolling her hips with every stroke. "You like what I'm doing."

"What we're doing," she corrects, speeding their hands to emphasize her point—and because she needs to come. Stiles is hard behind her, rolling his cock against her ass, and she's getting close to the point of mindless need where she just wants to turn around and ride him until he comes, then hold him there until he's hard again, just for her to use.

"Are you close?" Stiles asks, voice cracking. "You sound like you are, but I have no idea if I'm right. Is there something else I need to do? Tell me, Lydia."

"Just. Don't. Stop," she gets out, and then oh, there it is, that thundering roll of her muscles. It's so strong she doesn't understand how anyone could think 'pussy' means 'weak'. Lydia gasps her way through it, digging the fingernails of her free hand into Stiles' flexing shoulder. When it gets to be too much, she pulls their hands free, then sags back into him, panting and still on fire.

"Wow," Stiles says softly. He flexes his hand a couple times, then flails it around like he has no idea what to do with it now. Lydia grabs it and settles their entwined hands against her belly. "That was amazing. From this side, anyway. Was it...uh, for you?"

Lydia snorts. "Of course it was. Now, it's time for you to show me what you learned."

This is where Stiles'...Stilesness is perfect. He doesn't have to ask what she means. He doesn't ask if she's sure she's ready to go again. He doesn't shove his cock against her ass, whining that it's his turn. He simply slides his hand back into her underwear, taking care as he eases under the delicate waistband, and starts touching her the way she'd taught him.

"Do you like it exactly the same the second time?" he asks, settling the tip of his finger a little more firmly against the base of her clit. "Or do you like more? Less?"

"Depends," she pants. "More is good, right now. Faster, too."

It doesn't take as long to get her to orgasm this time, but it's just as strong. Stiles groans open-mouthed against her neck when she comes, like he's not far behind.

"One more," she says, even though she's not sure even that will be enough to satisfy her. She grabs hold of his hand again, guiding him further down, until that long middle finger of his is finally inside of her.

"Jesus," Stiles says, thrusting so slowly it's nearly unbearable. "You're so hot inside. I had no idea."

"Put another one in," she tells him, and oh, it's almost perfect when he does. "Now curl your fingertips towards your palm and rub, just like you did before."

He stills for a moment, like he's processing her words. He's a little tentative when he starts moving again, a little uncoordinated. She rolls her hips, exaggerating the rhythm until he finds it. It's better than she'd thought it'd be, the tips of his fingers hitting her right in her G-spot with every stroke, his palm firm against her clit. She starts grinding down, needing more, wishing she was in a different position so he could really shove in.

He slows. Lydia sucks in a breath, readying herself to let him have it—and then he pushes a third finger inside.

"Oh, hell yes!" It's not quite perfect anymore, his fingers aren't pounding right into that spot every time, but oh, God, it's exactly what she needs. She's almost proud of him, the way he keeps going, hand moving so fast it has to be aching now. She'd feel bad about that, but damn it, she's Lydia Martin. She doesn't feel bad about needing to come.

And God, she needs to come. Her thighs and calves are tight with it, straining towards that peak like it's a mountain she can actually climb. She throws an arm over her head, catching hold of the back of his neck, and lifts her hips. That does it. There's no cascading over the edge this time, no sweet tumble down the slope. The whole world blanks around her, leaving just her and the blackness of the roof overhead.

"Ohhhh," she finally sighs, sagging back down to the seat as her body gives it up. She's had orgasms like that before, the ones that just go on and on and take her to some other place, but it's almost always been when she's had an afternoon to spend with her special toys. Her chest heaves from exertion, and, for the moment, all she can do is sit in his arms and gather herself.

"You okay?" Stiles asks softly, like he gets just how overwhelming a really good orgasm can be. She supposes he's probably done enough of his own personal research to know. She nods jerkily, and he eases out of her. He spreads his fingers wide and shakes his wrist out again, laughing softly as he does.

"What?" she asks muzzily, unwrapping her arm from his neck and slowly turning to face him.

He shrugs. She thinks maybe he's blushing, from the way his gaze darts around, but it's impossible to tell in this light. "I never really thought about how much, uh, work, it'd be. Not work in a bad way! I just—"

"Relax. I get it." Lydia tugs her skirt back down over her hips, then kneels up between his legs. She hooks her first two fingers behind the warm brass button of his jeans. Stiles' stomach whooshes inwards like she hit him. "Now it's your turn to play teacher."

"Wait. What?" His face is full of incomprehension as she works the button and zipper. He's wearing boxers, probably some obnoxious plaid or horrible print that she thankfully can't make out. She tugs at the waistband, and he lifts his hips until she can drag boxers and jeans down far enough for his cock to spring free.

It's long, like everything about him is, and the head is so wet with pre-come it's shiny, even in the small amount of light filtering into the backseat. She strokes the pads her fingers around his length and then rubs her thumb through that slickness. Stiles thrashes, knocking his head into the window behind him.

"Holy crap." Stiles is breathing harshly now, just from that one touch. Lydia knows this isn't going to take long, but some perverse part of her wants to draw it out. She makes another pass with her thumb, then lifts it to her mouth, closing her lips in a perfect O as she sucks the taste of him onto her tongue.

"I think I'm dead," he says, eyes impossibly wide. "I'm pretty sure I died at some point and just didn't notice."

"That's going to make getting yourself off rather difficult." Lydia smirks at the look on his face. She grabs his hand, his fingers still slick from her own wetness, and brings it down to his cock. He holds himself loosely, and she wraps her hand around his, guiding him into a slow slide. "Show me what you like, Stiles."

He swallows. "You really want to watch me?"

"Why wouldn't I?" She squeezes his hand into a tighter ring, then lets go. "Don't you like watching people get themselves off in porn? You can't tell me you're not into that."

"Yeah, but." His eyes are starting to flutter as he gets into it, and whatever he was going to say in protest is lost to the touch of his own hand. He's gone back to that loose hold, long fingers dragging up his length, pausing at the top to squeeze the head. He watches her with heavy-lidded eyes, gaze flicking restlessly between her face and her breasts as he works himself.

Stiles isn't Jackson. He's almost the complete opposite of Jackson, in fact, and maybe that's why she's finding herself actually attracted to him. She likes his lean strength and the way he's digging his teeth into his lower lip, probably to keep himself from spilling out foolish words. Lydia watches until his grip tightens and his strokes speed up. Then she leans forward, bracing herself with one hand on his flexing shoulder. She grabs him at the base of his cock, using her grip to push his hand up and off.

"Fuuuuck," Stiles moans. His upper body seems to work independently of his lower, arms flailing to the side and fingers scrabbling at the upholstery of the jeep while his hips fall into a natural roll and thrust, dragging his cock through her hand. Lydia thinks about slowing him down, pausing for a second so she can gather more pre-come onto her palm, but he doesn't seem to mind the friction.

"You're going to come for me, aren't you, Stiles?" Lydia's merciless, stroking as fast as she can, squeezing hard. Stiles is whimpering now, all but writhing under her hand. "You've imagined this moment for years, haven't you? So do it. Come for me, Stiles."

"Oh, God," he chokes out. "Lydia."

He shoves up and comes, semen shooting up over his belly, dripping down her hand. She strokes him through it until he's shuddering, until he's shaking like he's in the throes of a terrible fever. Lydia smiles.

"There," she says, easing him down before she lets go completely. "I think that should be an equitable exchange."

Stiles snorts. His head's still lolling against the window. His eyes are closed, and there's a blissful smile on his face. "Only you, Lydia."

"Yes, well." Of course only her, but she's not in the mood to discuss her individuality right now. She tugs Stiles' overshirt free of the twisted bundle of cloth on the floor, using it to wipe her hand clean, and then sets about redressing herself. She climbs into the front seat while Stiles cleans himself off. A peek at her compact shows the damage to her makeup to be nothing a little quality time with lipstick and a tissue won't fix.

Stiles wriggles his way into the front seat, again nearly clipping her head with his foot. He shoots her a sheepish smile, then rubs the back of his neck like he wants to say something, but hasn't found the nerve yet.

"Take me back to my car, please," she says, because she is so not about awkward after-sex conversations. He opens his mouth again, then does what she says, sneaking glances at her the whole time. She hops out as soon as he throws the gear shift into park, giving him a little wave before she closes the door.

She steps towards her car—

Blue eyes shine out from the dark.

Lydia keeps her head high as she unlocks the door. She starts her car and arrows it towards the exit, not once looking into the rearview mirror.


Lydia pauses just inside the door of her first period classroom, cocking her head as she takes in the tableau. Jackson is glowering at the back of Stiles' head, looking all the world like a toddler who's been forced to share his favorite toy. Stiles' pencil is a blur as he drums it against his notebook, his shoulders hunched protectively against Jackson's gaze. Scott is hunched even tighter, curled into himself so much that he's got the front of his shirt tucked up over his nose.

She takes a step into the room, and a trio of heads come up. Erica's glare makes a good attempt at searing her skin off, but Lydia was born impervious to jealousy. Jackson's eyes are too big, full of pain and betrayal, and Lydia thinks, with vicious heat, you did this to yourself; you made me do this.

Stiles just blushes.

Lydia makes sure to put a little extra sway in her step.


"Stiles, my clit is up here," she says, parting her labia with two fingers and running them up alongside said clitoris. It feels good enough that she leaves them there, rubbing a little while Stiles continues to nuzzle in the crease of her thigh.

"I know," he says—and then actually nips at the delicate skin beside his mouth. Lydia jumps with startled heat, and thinks, what the hell what how. They're parked behind the industrial arts building again, the air outside cold enough that they've already steamed up the windows, and Stiles acts like this isn't the first time he's gone down on anyone, ever.

"Just, let me try something." Stiles pushes her thighs farther apart, spreading her open with his thumbs. He touches his tongue to her tentatively, but it's enough to send a shock of pleasure deep inside. He mumbles something, or maybe just groans, and then he pushes his tongue into her.

"Oh!" she squeaks. He really goes for it then, driving his tongue into her with quick, deep thrusts. Her breathing speeds up to match his rhythm, but it's not long before she's writhing from frustration. "Stiles, wait. I can't come like this."

He lifts his head. "But you like it, right?"

"Kind of," she says, but he's already diving back down to tongue fuck her again. Lydia squirms her foot in against his chest and shoves.

He sprawls backwards, staring at her with wide eyes.

"I don't want that," she snaps.

"Sorry," he says, voice cracking. "God, I'm sorry,"

Lydia huffs. "It's fine." She hooks the foot she pushed him away with around his waist, drawing him back in. "Just lick my clit. Make me come."

"Yeah, I can do that, just like—" He buries the last of his words in her crotch, lips working her open as his tongue finally finds her clit. He just licks around at first, a lazy, circling exploration, but just when she's about to dig her heel into his back he starts working her in earnest. Lydia squeezes her eyes shut.

"That's good," she says, because positive reinforcement is especially important in these situations. It never takes long this way, and even with his inexperienced wriggling, she's soon breathing hard, rocking up into his face. "Oh, yes, that's it."

Stiles grunts. He speeds up, like the quick study he is, and oh, that does it. She shudders with the force of it, accidentally pulling away from his tongue before he catches up and manages to work her through the last few pulses. When it gets to be too much, she pushes him away, this time with a gentle hand on his fuzzy head.

"That's enough," she says, hating the way she sounds absolutely wrecked.

Stiles scrambles around until he's sitting up. He rubs at his chin and jaw, turning his head to the side as he makes some complicated maneuver with his hand over his mouth, like he's trying to hide the fact he's spitting out one of her pubic hairs. It's adorable.

Lydia rolls to her knees. "Come on," she says, urging him to lie back against the opposite side of the Jeep. "I want to taste you, too."

"Oh, Jesus," he says, even before her mouth is actually on his cock. She smirks, then takes in just the head, licking away pre-come as he tries to hold himself in check beneath her. "Oh, my God. I'm not going to last, Lydia."

She lifts away so she can look him in the eyes. Or try to, anyway. It takes him a long moment to figure out she's watching him. "You're not supposed to try to hold back when someone's giving you a blowjob," she tells him. "That's just rude."

"Oh. Oh, I guess that makes sen—ahhhhh!"

She doesn't try to draw it out. Instead, she brings the best of her finishing techniques to play, bobbing her head fast and as deep as she can. He tastes like clean skin and pre-come, like he washed up right before he headed out to pick her up. Everything he does is precious, and it makes her grind her weight into his hip bones as she keeps him from thrusting.

"Lydia! I'm gonna—" That's all the warning he gets out before he does. She swallows because she was planning to. He grunts and groans and makes a grab at her head, but she's prepared for that, swatting his hand away before it lands. She sucks him until he starts to soften, then pulls off with the most obscene pop she can manage.

"Lydia," he says, voice ragged like he was the one with a cock down his throat.

"Don't," she warns. She slides away, leaning back and spreading her legs. "My turn again. Whenever you're ready, of course. I know men tend to lose IQ points after they orgasm."

Stiles takes that as a dare—just as she planned.


"Prada," she calls, and he trots in from the back garden path, head held high. Lydia rolls her eyes as she scoops him up. "Yes, yes, you are the best little tinkler to ever tinkle. Honestly. Men are impressed by the simplest things." She smooches him on the nose, turning to head back into the house.

Peter Hale is standing in front of her.

The fear is so immediate, the surge of adrenaline so strong, that her vision actually greys out for a second. Vasovagal response, a distant part of her thinks, and that's enough to get her focused again, enough to get her to breathing. One deep breath, disguised through her nose, then a second, and she's got it tamped down. She's back in control.

The knowing light in Peter's eyes is almost paternally proud.

"Those jeans do nothing to flatter to your waistline," she flings at him.

Peter's eyes narrow. "I'll take that under advisement. Better yet, you could accompany me on my next trip to Macy's."

"Pass."

He takes a step forward. Prada squirms and whines in her arms, so she lets him down. She and Peter have an understanding; she pretends he's still a hallucination, and he pretends he has any right to talk to her at all. So far he's proved he has a much better imagination than she does, but that doesn't stop her from holding her ground.

"What game are you playing, Lydia?" he asks, circling around to her side, just far enough that she has to turn or depend on her peripheral vision to keep track of him. She turns, cursing herself for being outmaneuvered.

"Game?" she asks, fluttering her eyelashes. "I have no idea what you mean."

Peter shakes his head. "Vacuous isn't a good look on you, Lydia. It gives you fish lips."

She sucks in a breath. It's an observation straight out of her own head. She knows him well enough to be sure he's only echoing her insecurities, using them to dig under her skin, but it hurts nonetheless.

"What do you want?" she asks. He might accuse her of playing games, but Peter plays at war. She's too tired tonight to match him volley for volley.

He eases his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket and tips his head to the side. "You've got a good portion of my pack twisted up in knots. I don't think it's beyond the pale to ask about your intentions."

Lydia throws her head back, honest amusement deepening her laugh. "That's rich. You worrying about whether something's beyond the pale."

Peter chuckles. It's not a nice sound. "Be that as it may. Tell me what you're doing with Stiles, and I'll go."

"I would think it'd be obvious, since you already seem to know so much about it," she bites out. "We're having sex. Mutually pleasurable, consensual, sex."

Peter looks at her for a long moment. Her pulse jumps. It's not fear this time, not in the way it was when he surprised her. Looking at him is like looking in the mirror. He knows her every flaw, her every wish, and it's painful to see that knowledge in his eyes.

"Does he know that's all it is?" he finally asks.

"Of course he does," she snaps. "Do you think I'd be stupid enough to have sex with Stiles if he didn't know exactly what it meant?"

She spins away before he can answer, her blood hot enough with anger to give her the courage to turn her back on him. Before she can take a step, he catches hold of her upper arm.

"Do you know that's all it is?" he asks.

She turns her head to meet his gaze. "Take your hand off me right now, and never touch me again. Or I swear you'll have the opportunity to decide whether being burned alive is better than having sulfuric acid poured on your head, drop by slow drop."

Peter lets go. He holds up both hands and takes a step back, then another, until he's melted back into the shadows.

Lydia's hand doesn't shake when she turns the lock on her door. She doesn't let it.


She waits until their last class of the day. Five minutes to the bell, the whole room hums with end of day excitement, feet bouncing on the old linoleum-tiled floor and fingers tapping against varnished particle board desktops. Ms. Marquette is absorbed by grading, ignoring the whispers going on around her with queenly serenity. Lydia pulls her phone out without fear of being caught.

My mother is out Saturday night. Be there at 7pm, she sends.

Stiles' head comes up. He glances at Ms. Marquette, then over at Scott, before slouching down in his seat so he can drop his hand down and pull his phone out of his backpack. As soon as he slides his thumb across the screen, she sends the second text.

"Ohmygod," he yelps. Ms. Marquette looks up, frowning, and Scott gives him an inquiring nudge. Stiles shakes his head. The bell rings, and the whole classroom surges upwards. Stiles is slower, his gaze swiveling towards her even as Scott starts to hound him. She smiles innocently.

She takes her time packing her things. Once everyone has gone, she picks up her phone again, enjoying the satisfaction that thrills through her as she rereads her text:

I prefer Trojan. *Ribbed.*


It occurs to her that she's never spoken to Derek Hale. She's dragged his heavy ass across the forest floor, and yet they've never exchanged a single word, neither greeting nor insult.

Lydia's okay with that.

She should probably be more afraid of him than she is. Oh, she's not stupid. She knows he's more powerful than any of the others now, including Peter. She knows he tried to kill Jackson, very nearly succeeded. There was that whole incident with his pack stalking her to Scott's house that to this day nobody will come clean about. But standing in front of her, hands stuffed into the pockets of his beaten leather jacket and shoulders trying to ward off the misting rain, he just looks...less. Like he doesn't even have a clue what he could do with all that power in his hands.

"If you're here about Jackson, then I'll tell you what I've been telling everybody else. Our feelings for each other haven't changed. So you can just relax about the whole kanima thing. He's safe, all right? You can call your pack off."

Derek just looks at her, eyebrows hulking on his forehead.

Lydia huffs with frustration. "You know, it's really not okay that you're making me responsible for whether he lives or dies. Feelings don't work like that, you know. Or maybe you don't know, for all I can tell. But." She has to swallow to free herself of the tightness in her throat. She thinks, probably, if Stiles were here, he'd look horrified, say, God, of course not, how could anybody put that on you? The thought makes her weak, makes her want to rage and cry, makes her lose track of what she was going to say.

"It's not okay," she spits again.

"I don't think it actually works that way," Derek finally says, his words slow like they're hard to shape. "Jackson was the kanima because he'd never really had a sense of himself. You helped him find that. He's not going to change back if you stop loving him."

Her pulse starts throbbing in her neck, hard enough that the skin twitches behind her ear and her face prickles with heat. She can't think about what his words mean. Not now.

"Then why," she grinds out instead, "are you here? Are you so hard up you have to come stick your nose in my sex life to get your rocks off, is that what this is? Why is it so hard for everybody to understand that what Stiles and I do is nobody's business but our own?"

Derek makes a noise like Prada does when he turns his nose up at his food, only about an octave lower. "I came to ask you about Peter," he says, and all the heat of her anger flushes right on out, sliding right down her gullet and leaving ice behind. "I thought I smelled you on him the other night. Has he been bothering you?"

Lydia opens her mouth wide, but she can't even manage a good, hysterical giggle. All that escapes is air. "Has he been bothering me? Bothering me. I don't know. What do you think, Derek? How could he possibly be bothering me?"

Between Scott, Stiles, and Jackson, there's been more than enough rolled eyes and grumbled complaints to make her think that Derek will walk off in a huff, or maybe rush in to try to intimidate her physically. Instead, he sighs and slips his hands out of his pockets.

"Has he been coming here?" His voice doesn't really match his face, she realizes, more cuddly Schnauzer than determined Rottweiler. "Has he been following you? Talking to you? Has he hurt you again?"

Lydia swallows. "He comes here sometimes. He seems to think I want his advice."

Derek nods once, firmly. "I'll talk to him."

She shakes her head. "You honestly think talking to him will make a difference?"

His eyes glow red. "The way I talk, it will."

"Well, then." Lydia nods once. She doesn't want to feel gratitude towards Derek, not for finally doing what she understands is his job, but there's a suspicious warmth in her stomach. "See that you do that."

He nods. And then he just stands there, eyes down, the muscles in his jaw jumping.

"Was there something else? Because as enlightening as this conversation has been, I have better things to do with my time. Like organizing my nail polish collection. It's a dreadful mess."

"I made a mistake once," he says slowly. Once, the clever, cruel part of her wants to whip forth, but then he looks up. She doesn't know him well enough to read him, but there's something in his eyes, something soft, that stays her tongue. "I trusted the wrong person. I've been trying to make up for that ever since. But I just keep making more mistakes."

She frowns, trying to figure out what he's trying to tell her. "You can't possibly be saying I shouldn't trust Stiles."

Derek shakes his head. "I'm saying you can't ever change what happened in the past," he says. "No matter how hard you try."

The breath stops in her throat. Lydia crosses her arms in front of her chest, casually resting her fingers against the key over her sternum, the warmth of her own hand reminding her muscles to move. "Isn't that a lovely thought," she says, offering up a perfect country club smile. "Have a nice night. I assume you can find your way out."

He holds her gaze for several seconds. Then he turns away without another word, taking the ten-foot wall behind her house in a single, bounding leap.


The doorbell rings promptly at seven. Stiles has his hands shoved into the pockets of his unflattering red hoodie, but she smiles and reaches up to draw his head down for a kiss. One of his hands finds her lower back, holding her just firmly enough, but his lips are careless and distracted—and she knows. She pulls back, licking spit away from her lips, and turns to lead him inside like everything's going according to her plan.

Stiles shuts the door behind him and follows in her wake, like he always does. Except, as she angles through the living room, his steps slow. He stops, somewhere back by the ugly-ass coffee table her mom bought with her first alimony check, the one her father had hated as much as Lydia did.

"Lydia, wait."

She squares her shoulders at the foot of the stairs, knowing she has to turn around and face him. It shouldn't hurt. It wasn't supposed to hurt, damn it. It's just her ego being bruised, that's all it could possibly be, but she doesn't like it at all.

She's faced far worse things with a smile on her face, so turn she finally does. "Changed your mind?"

Stiles fidgets, head ducking, fingers twirling the strings of his hoodie, before he looks up at her again. "It's not—Okay, no, I am so not going to give you the it's not you speech."

"Is this some kind of 'the first time should be with someone you love' kind of thing?" she asks, aiming for gently understanding rather than scathing. "Because you realize virginity is nothing but a social construct, right? We've already had sex."

"Yeah, I know." Stiles flushes. "I just don't think sex is what you really want from me."

"I like having sex with you," she says, and then for some reason she blushes, too, like a Puritan at a strip joint. "And I'm not sure I like what you're implying. It's not a bad thing to like sex!"

"I'm not saying it is!" Stiles huffs. "I like having sex with you, too. That's not the problem." He shrugs. "Look. I might be totally wrong about this, and if I am, then we can go upstairs and I will do my very best not to come in three seconds. But would it be so bad if we talked? Could we maybe try the friends part of the 'friends who fuck'?"

"I don't—." Lydia swallows. Her hand has found the key at her throat, fingers twisting it back and forth like it might unlock the choked up feeling inside of her. "I don't know what I'd say."

Stiles' lips curl. "Yeah, well, I'm usually pretty good at not running out of words."

He's just standing there like it's the easiest thing in the world. Like all you have to do is open your mouth and let everything come out. It probably is for him, the way he rattles on all the time. Part of her is angry at him, furious actually, that he's asking this of her.

The small, determined part wants to try it.

"Okay," she rasps out.

They wind up sitting on the low, concrete steps in front of the pool, knees shoved up tight to their chests. Lydia feels like she's in the middle of a dream, everything hazy and her thoughts not matching up with the world in front of her eyes.

"My mom died of lung cancer," Stiles says, and Lydia stares down at her fingernails. There's a hangnail on her left thumb, dry and peeling, and it takes too much effort to not to raise it to her teeth. "Oat cell. She stopped smoking when they decided to try to get pregnant with me, but I guess it caught up with her anyway."

Lydia cuts at the base of the ragged cuticle with the tip of her index nail, without much success. "The risk remains nearly as high for the first ten years after quitting as it is for those actively smoking."

"Yeah." Stiles makes a sound in the back of his throat. "She, uh, she had this irritating cough for the longest time. She thought it was allergies. The doctors, they said by the time the symptoms showed up it was probably too late anyway, but I've never been able to stop thinking if I'd just told her how much it bugged me, that I hated the way she kept doing it... Yeah."

Lydia tips her head to the side, just enough to see him without straining her eyes. "Why are you telling me this?"

"After she died, I totally freaked out about keeping my dad healthy. Like, we're talking lentils and kale freaking out. And my dad, he hates the crap I make him eat, but he eats it, because he knows it makes me feel better." The tips of Stiles' eyelashes are clumped together with damp, even though she can't see any see any tears in his eyes. "I get it, Lydia. I get that need to take control of stuff in your life. Even if it doesn't fix what needs to be fixed."

"You think I need to be fixed," she says flatly.

"No!" Stiles lets out a heavy sigh. "I think some really bad shit happened to you, okay? And I know for a fact that some people who should have known better weren't listening to you when you needed to talk. Myself included. I'm listening now, if you want me to be."

She hates that she can feel tears gathering in her eyes. "Talking won't fix anything."

Stiles shrugs. "It won't make what happened not happen. But it might help you feel better?"

She can hear her own ragged breathing. Stiles can probably hear her, too. There's really no hiding how little she's in control of herself right now.

"Sometimes I think." Lydia licks her lips and swallows. She'd always thought it a fanciful literary trope, the idea that one's throat could be desert-parched, but she's actually having a hard time getting the words to sound. Stiles lays his hand on her forearm, fingers cupping her elbow so lightly she can barely feel them.

"Sometimes I think," she says again, forcefully enough that her voice has no choice but to work, "that the worst part is that Peter made me like him. I mean, I don't like him. But sometimes..." She shakes her head, thinking of wide blue eyes and a purple flower, a proud smile surrounded by a dapper goatee. "Sometimes I do. Did."

Stiles clenches his fingers. Not hard, not possessively, but like a flinch. "Yeah," he says, "I can see that."

She turns her head towards him. "Can you? Can you really?"

He weaves his head back and forth, like the yes-no-maybe of a bobble-head doll. "I think so? But it'd be better if you tell me."

Lydia nods once, considering. Should she start with the way he wooed her, with his young man's face and awkward persistence? Or the way he tore the veil away from her eyes, the veil that her friends had wrapped around and tied tight. The way he knows her better than anyone ever will, because he's been inside her mind, and how there's a freedom in being known so completely.

Stiles shifts beside her, letting go of her elbow, giving her space to move. She reaches down and finds his hand, lacing their fingers together.

"The worst part," she says at last, finally sure. "The worst part is, he made me."

END