Lydia had loved Jackson. Despite who he was as a person there was something deeper to him, something much sweeter. And there was a kind of honor in being loved back just like with Lydia herself. They were people of status, able to keep who they wanted at arms length, and let in only those most special. Lydia kept people away not to be cruel but because she did not have to deal with anyone she didn’t want to. There were nice girls who were popular, girls like Allison, who were so sweet to everyone that the young hunter often found herself trying to dodge half the school. Lydia was different. Lydia didn’t have to be nice which was a good thing because she didn’t particularly want to. There were only so many times a girl can be drooled over and bothered before a stern look and cold silence is the only way to let someone down.
Jackson was different. He didn’t love anyone or be nice to anyone because he didn’t know how. His parents were nice enough, Lydia had expected something different before she met them. But they were like her own parents: affectionate but had their own lives and knew enough to leave their child do his or her own devices. She had been expecting more of a “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe” situation and was a little disappointed when Jackson’s parents were just normal and eager like any teenage boy’s parents. But it had hung there: that resentful silence from Jackson. The quiet and unforgiving anger of: why are you not my real parents? Lydia left it alone, only talking about it in the quiet moments after sex when Jackson would open himself up and the things he hated about the world came slithering out of him. He had so much anger and hate that he could contain it all in himself. But he didn’t hate Lydia, and that was so special to her. He loved her, he shared things with her, and even though he was angry with her as often as with anyone else, she knew she made him happy. There is something special about being able to make such a beautiful and miserable young man happy despite his own goals.
Falling in love with Jackson was a slow and steady thing, like heating a frog in water, and she found that falling out of love with him was just the same. Each day she thought about him a little less, remembered him kindly a little less, wanted to be with him again a little less until one day, as she was putting together a box for Goodwill, she found herself throwing out most of his shirts without a second glance.
“Don’t you want to keep these?” Her mother had asked.
“Why?” Lydia said with matter of fact emotional distance.
“I don’t know. Make a quilt maybe?”
“Hm. No,” Lydia clipped and trotted back up the stairs. She didn't want to forget Jackson and she didn't hate him. It was more like a nostalgic effect of love. She loved the memory of being with him, but not him, and if he wanted her back she would have to kiss his knuckles and say “no, darling, no”.
Lydia was quite proud of herself actually. She hadn’t forced herself to stop loving Jackson, as she’d seen Allison do with Scott and cause more emotional torment to herself than anyone else. She hadn’t continued to pine and hold fast to the feeling despite how burnt out it was like Stiles did to her. And she hadn’t forgotten that she loved him and gone on to something new right away like Scott had done to Allison with Isaac. She had loved him. She didn’t any more. It had run its’ course as naturally as anything.
But she was not ready to jump head first into the next thing. Aiden had been a distraction and a helpful one at that but she did not love him and could never love him. He was too much like Jackson in a lot of ways and that was a taste in her life that she did not find appealing anymore. She did not want to fool around for new tastes, doing things like maybe throwing Stiles a bone? No. He was too in love with someone else and, besides, she respected him much more now. Lydia figured that when she knew what or who she was ready to love next it would occur to her as it had with Jackson and she would not force it. But in the meantime, she had to keep herself busy. She had to do something to occupy herself.
She had been reading “Emma” for class when the idea came to her. Was she herself not a Cher Horowitz? Most popular girl in school, most fashionable, and most likely to hook up with hunk Paul Rudd? With Allison as her Dion, Stiles as her Christian, she now only needed a Brittany Murphy to play her Harriet. (She did not need to cast a Josh because Paul Rudd would be Josh. Forever.) She turned her body around in the class room and spotted her almost immediately: Cora Hale.
The dark red head was exercising the Hale Sulking Muscles in her chair behind Lydia, brow furrowed down at her paper as she scratched out note upon note about the book.
“Is this your first Austen?” Lydia asked.
Cora took a minute to realize that the comment was addressed at her. She looked up with her eyes but kept her body hunched into her notes. “What? No. I read Northanger Abbey.”
“I don’t remember. Ages ago. Why?” Cora’s voice had that grit that one only found in jazz lounge singers from the thirties. Lydia liked it, finding it a nice contrast to her own high and musical tone. After all, Brittany Murphy (god rest her soul) had had one just like Cora’s. Lydia turned in her chair.
“Do you like it?”
“Emma? Or Northanger?”
“I think Emma’s a lesbian.”
“Oh do you?” Lydia asked with a curious tick of her eyebrow. The important thing about investigating a theory, for Lydia, was to make sure that you did not reveal if you agreed or not until the other person explained.
“Clearly she has an exception in her brother-in-law,” Cora went on, “I think lots of girls have exceptions.”
“You don’t believe sexuality is fluid?”
“It certainly is in The Hale family,” Cora muttered looking down at her notes. Lydia tapped her on the shoulder until she looked up again.
“We weren’t done speaking.”
“I’m going to bypass asking about your family’s sexual preferences,” Lydia began.
“Because,” she continued, “I’ve met your brother and uncle. But you need to go on about Emma.”
“Fine,” Cora set her pencil down and sat back in her desk chair. The teacher glanced over at them but seeing that they were discussing the assigned reading, did not interrupt. “I think that maybe she’s a lesbian and her preoccupation with Harriet has a sapphic tone in all the writing. Emma admires her, fawns over her like a girl with a doll or a puppy.”
“Wouldn’t that just argue that Emma would rather possess Harriet than love her?”
“That’s the thing about Harrimma- it’s just a precursor. You need to establish Emma’s attraction to women with a non-serious relationship before you can introduce the true interest.”
“And that would be?” Lydia was trying not to smile.
“Jane Fairfax. Look at all the ways Emma treats her. She’s jealous. And lesbianic undertones often manifest in female to female jealousy.”
“But Emma doesn’t remain jealous of Jane.”
“That’s because this was written by a woman and not a horny man. Jane Austen knows how to treat a lesbian coded character. Emma accepts Jane Fairfax, she begins to admire her as a person, rather than the way she admires Harriet, like a toy. And similar to the way she admires Knightly.”
“You are a master of romance and romantic tension,” Lydia complimented.
“I’ve never been accused of that before.”
“Congratulations. You’re going to be my assistant.”
“In what?” Cora’s lips quirked in a half smile clearly apprehensive but somehow still trusting of Lydia and eager to hear the other girl’s intentions.
“You’re taking this book very seriously.”
“I am taking my annoyance at everyone we know seriously,” Lydia explained tucking her hair behind her ear. “We’ll start small. Something easy and long overdue.”
“I haven’t agreed to help yet.”
“You will,” Lydia chirped turning back to her own desk and writing out a plan.
They had to indoctrinate Stiles for this mission. His access to the Sheriff’s office was necessary but he practically ruined it when he tried to control the menu. He was texting Lydia a little more often than usual with salad suggestions and diet drinks. Cora ended up taking her phone and blocking Stiles’ number for her.
“At least until afterwards,” Cora explained handing the phone back. No sooner had she done so before Stiles was texting Cora’s Motorola. “He has too much time on his hands.”
“Wait until some big mystery wanders into town. Then he’ll be out of our hair while he plays Bougart.”
“Stiles doesn’t strike me as a Bougart,” Cora thought aloud.
“Oh no?” Lydia’s eyebrow quirked up in encouragement.
Cora shrugged, “He’s more like a Nick Charles.”
Lydia smiled. “That’s not bad. You kind of remind me of Nora actually. Complete with the platonic sexual tension.”
“I was going to say that you were Nora.”
Lydia groaned and rolled her eyes. “Do not tell Stiles that.”
“Phyrne Fisher then?”
Lydia blushed but did not deny that that one she liked very much. She busied herself with Mr. Stilinski’s cell phone, finally figuring out the passcode to be “091203” (the day Johnny Cash died), and texting Melissa right away. ”Long shift tonight. Don’t suppose you’d like to have dinner?”. Melissa took a while to text back, probably because she was working a long shift and could only get to her cell phone every hour or so.
would if I could. Just got assigned to pull a double.
“Now what do we do?” Cora asked her face showing clear disappointment. Lydia smirked.
“Do you really think I didn’t plan for this?” Lydia set her fingers about working and had Cora update Stiles.
That night, after Cora snuck Sheriff Stilinski’s cell phone back into his office, the man none the wiser, she met up with Lydia at the hospital. Stiles reported the delivery man showing up with the food labeled for “Melissa McCall” and saw his dad pay.
dad tried to get me to take it to the hospital but I told him I couldn't. He just left with it. Little Red Fox out.
Cora texted back: Stiles there is no need for code names. We are texting not on walkie talkies.
Are you and Big Red in position?
Cora shut her phone down then not really eager to put up with Stiles’ shenanigans. “Mr. S is on his way.”
“‘Mr. S’ is it? How 90s of you,” Lydia said with amusement.
“Would you rather I put it in code like Stiles? Papa Bear has left the cave. Team Red is ready and in position.”
“We’re team red?”
“I’m Red Queen and you’re Big Red.”
“Why are you Red Queen?”
“Because I read more YA novels than you and I thought of it first.”
“And why am I Big Red?”
“Because Stiles is Little Red.”
“I want to be Ariel.”
“Does that really fit with the ‘red team’ theme?” Lydia fixed her with a look and Cora sighed. “Fine. Ariel. But I’m still Red Queen.”
“As you wish.”
The Sheriff’s car pulled up and got out carrying the large bag of food Lydia had ordered them. Team Red exited the car quickly and trotted to the window. Cora gave Lydia a leg up so that she could see into the receiving room where Melissa was typing away at the front desk.
“He’s there! She’s looking up at him.” Cora could hold Lydia’s weight without any trouble but the woman’s heels were digging into her shoulders uncomfortably. “She is practically glowing. There we go she’s saying she didn’t order any food but that she was hungry.”
“Can you read lips?”
“A girl can tell these things,” Lydia explained. “Look at that! She invited him to eat with her! Just say ‘yes’.”
“What would McGruff the crime dog say?”
“Yes,” Lydia said quietly and almost lost her balance on top of Cora. Cora, tired of being stabbed in the shoulders and sensing the mission to be complete, threw Lydia up, stepped back, and caught her bridal style. Lydia was glaring.
“You could have asked and I would have come down.”
“Next time I stand on your shoulders.” Cora set Lydia down. “Sparks are flying?”
“As usual,” Lydia said proudly. “Now we have a whole evening to work on the next project.”
“And that would be?”
Right on cue, Lydia’s phone buzzed with a Facebook message (several actually) from Stiles asking why she wasn’t returning his texts and how the plan was going.
“A little Bougart for our Nick,” was all Lydia would say just then.
This plan was much more involved than the other. They had to involve Stiles without Stiles knowing that he was the true subject of the plan. This meant inventing a dummy plan that would be enough to fool Stiles. Scott and Isaac seemed the most obvious but then Stiles had such a tense relationship with Isaac that maybe he wouldn’t agree to be a part of it. Lydia also didn’t think that Allison was quite ready to be with someone new either. Cora suggested mixing Danny into things but Lydia was all too aware of Stiles semi-crush on Mr. Māhealani. Besides, trying to operate around the whole “Derek is Miguel Stiles’ Mexican Cousin” thing seemed a bit too much to take on just then. Cora’s next suggestion was to lock the two in a room together. Lydia rolled her eyes “That only works in fan fiction,” she said and gave Cora a little pat on the hand for trying.
No it would have to be subtle. Something Cora didn’t seem all that capable of when it came to her brother. Probably growing up with Derek it was hard to be subtle. Honestly, Lydia thought of Derek as such a cave man she couldn’t really see how he and Stiles would make it work. But powerful sexual tension and dreamy-eyed stares were blatant, hard to ignore, and above all else annoying. Something had to be done. So, oddly matched or not, this plan would have to be successful or Lydia would lock them both in a closet just to get away from them.
A movie night. Simple as that. Just a non-threatening, non-pack affiliated movie night. Stiles was easy to get involved. He had been insisting the pack do more bounding experiences together. It was quite a chore reining him in, telling him that she would invite the rest of the pack he just needed to show up with a few snacks. After that Lydia had to send out quite a few “don’t you dare come over to my house Saturday no matter what Stiles says” texts to the rest of the pack. Cora had to invite Derek and convince him to come as he was still a little prickly towards Lydia over that whole “resurrecting my evil uncle” thing. Lydia was happy that Cora herself was not hung up on that. Maybe the fewer dead family members she had the better was Cora’s line of thinking. Or maybe, Lydia hoped privately, Cora just liked Lydia that much she could get over it. After all, it certainly couldn’t be because Cora had any affection for Peter.
Stiles was early, of course, and Lydia assured him that most of the pack had to drop out because they had their own thing. Stiles was a pouting mess for the twenty-three minutes it took the Hales to arrive.
“What’s the point of a pack bonding experience if the pack isn’t here?” He whinned.
“Some of them will be here,” Lydia assured him.
“Not Scott though. And he’s the alpha.”
“Well he and Allison and Isaac needed to have a long overdue talk. You don’t want to get in the way of that do you?”
“No,” he groaned, “I just wish they could have done it on any other night. What about Boyd and Erica?”
“Berica have a date,” She answered.
“Stop making couple names.” Lydia arched an eyebrow and Stiles’ hands went up in defense. “Sorry. Do whatever you want. It’s cute.”
“I know,” She took the bowl of Cheetos out of his hands. He protested but she waved him off. “I’ll have no cheese dust all over everything. Ruining the night. You can wait until after the film.”
“Cheese dust can’t ruin anything. It can only make it better.” The doorbell rang and Lydia gave Stiles a push.
“Go get that,” She ordered but he was already obeying her unasked. He was clearly surprised in a happy way to see that Derek showed up. Cora let Stiles hug her and then was sure to take a seat on the couch next to Lydia. Stiles was exiled to the floor and Derek took the arm chair. “You won’t be able to see over there,” Lydia told him and with begrudging silence Derek relocated next to Stiles but below his sister.
The movie was “Ladyhawke”, one of Derek’s favorites from childhood and, Cora told Lydia, always something that put him in a good mood. Lydia could see the appeal of it as far as a young and talented Michelle Pfeiffer acting the hell out of every scene. But the jarring eighties synth music and annoying self narration of Matthew Broderick did not make it an enjoyable experience in her eyes. She did, however, hear a few sniffles from Stiles and that pleased her well. After the movie, as the credits rolled up, Cora excused herself to the restroom and Lydia went to the kitchen to get more snacks. Both of them hid in the hall and listened.
“I’m not crying, by the way,” Stiles said quickly. Cora heard Derek pass Stiles a tissue.
“Yes you are.”
“So? It’s a really nice love story. They were together but not together. Then they got together. It was beautiful.”
“You really liked it?”
“What? Are you kidding me? Of course! It had everything! And what a classic too! Right up there with Beast Master and Legend.”
“You’ve seen Beastmaster?”
“I’ve seen all three Beastmaster movies.”
Derek chuckled. “And they say your generation doesn’t appreciate classic film.”
“Don’t make fun,” Cora could hear Stiles grinning, “seriously though,” Stiles voice became lower, more serious, “thanks for coming tonight.”
“No problem,” Derek said easily enough but Cora heard his heartbeat increase.
“I mean it. Every one else dropped out and I think that these kinds of things are really important. This pack stuff. This non-fatal pack stuff I mean.”
“I think so too.”
“Is that so rare? It’s just nice, okay? It’s nice to see you being a normal teenager. Movie nights and everything.”
“We should do this regularly don’t you think? You know, excusing any super evil that manifests. Like every week.” Derek was silent. “Unless that’s stupid?”
“No,” Derek said quickly, “of course not. Let’s do that.”
Cora and Lydia counted to twenty and then came back into the room just in time to be a part of the movie night planning. Later, Cora saying she was staying the night and so Stiles gave Derek a lift home, Lydia toasted to her success.
“Do you think they’re hooking up?” Cora asked with a mixture of uncertainty and disgust.
“No of course not. Not yet. It’s a long game. They spend a few more movie nights cozied up like that, talking about feelings, sharing pack stuff, not being in mortal danger, and they’ll realize that maybe they want to spend even more time alone together. That’s when it’ll happen. But we’ve given the little push, you see? Now we just watch it snowball downhill.”
“You are a very clever woman,” Cora tapped her wine glass to Lydia’s and sipped. “So? Next project?”
“I was thinking about you.”
Cora leaned over the counter looking up at Lydia with interest and amusement. “I was thinking about me too.”
“Oh? And pray tell what were you thinking?”
“I was thinking that I don’t want to be Harriet.”
“Fancy yourself a Jane Fairfax?”
“Fancy myself a Knightly,” Cora said with quiet bravery that made Lydia grin. Lydia took a slow drink of her wine and then set it down. She leaned on the counter to be at eye level with Cora, their arms pressed together.
“Tell me more,” Lydia pressed. Cora shook her head.
“I can’t, I simply can’t.”
“Why not?” Lydia scoffed.
“Perhaps if I loved you less,” Cora quoted, “I could talk about it more.” That made it very easy for Lydia to kiss her.