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Working in Pairs

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She likes Lydia in blue.

Allison likes to see Lydia in blue, because Lydia wears a short skirt like Allison does a weapon at her side, because when Lydia puts on a red dress or a black one or a clinging sea green top it means something, and as far as Allison can tell all blue means is that she feels safe. So nice as clinging sea green tops are, Allison likes blue.

For her part, Lydia seems to like Allison in green, picks out dress after dress for her in dark forest colors. Allison holds dangling glass leaves up to her ears and Lydia’s lips part. “You should buy them,” she says, and Allison does, but no occasion ever feels special enough to put them on.

When Allison breaks up with Scott, Lydia wears red for a week and files her nails in class. It’s terryfing; equally scary is Stiles sitting perfectly still across the room. When they think she’s not looking she catches a glance between them, and Allison realizes—they have some sort of understanding, Stiles and Lydia, though she can’t imagine what it could be. The thought chills her, a little, but more than that she finds herself lying awake wondering what it is they have in common.


For a while when Scott and Stiles were kids they tried to fool the afterschool teacher into thinking they were deaf, and made meaningless signs back and forth instead of talking, Stiles’ fingers jerking too fast to follow, Scott patiently tracing shapes in the air. Now Scott remembers the game and he learns a few signs, teaches them to Stiles—he means them for crucial communication but they end up just spelling H-E-L-L-O across the classroom.

When Stiles and Scott were even younger Melissa read them Where the Wild Things Are so many times that they could read it themselves, trading lines back and forth. Scott has to read Great Expectations for school and he can’t get through it and it almost makes him hate the whole stupid concept of books, as he sits on Stiles’ floor and reads the same line again and again. But Stiles’ back is pressed hard against his, and how can he hate books? He knows that if he starts, “On the night Max wore his wolf suit,” he will hear, “and made mischief of one kind and another.”

When Scott breaks up with Allison he sees something flash in Stiles’ eyes, something he can’t understand, and he imagines for a moment Stiles fighting her for hurting him—never mind that Stiles likes Allison, never mind that Scott still does, for that flashing half-second he thinks Stiles is about to go and find her, and he almost wants him to. He watches for the flash, after that, and it comes a lot, most often when Scott reaches down and grabs tightly to his hand.

He sees it in Lydia’s eyes, too.


Lydia dreams of Allison’s throat under her lips. In her dream she is a vampire, she thinks, because she can’t keep herself from going for the neck, because she wants to bite down on Allison and draw her inside herself, because she feels beautiful and powerful and predatory. Lydia dreams of Allison’s fingernails pressing into her shoulders as she sucks hard, and in her dream Allison is Allison, and to be honest in the dream Lydia, however vampiric, is Lydia. It’s a good dream. She licks her bloodless lips when she wakes up and hopes she has it again.

Lydia has never liked television characters who are good at math and whose brain runs in equations, because Lydia’s mind is red and gold, not black and white. Lydia feels more emotion than she’d like to, really; sometimes even math is emotional for her, or it is when the curves she plots look like recurve bows. Lydia is better at math than anyone she knows, but she sometimes fears she got left behind when it comes to emotions, because she has so many and she only knows how to show the cruel ones. “Best friend,” she says to Allison, and she knows as she’s saying it they’re the wrong words, and the right ones.

When Scott breaks up with Allison, Lydia resorts to cruelty again, because she’s burning with this desire to look at Allison always, and looking at Scott is at least a distraction. Stiles looks at Scott too, and Lydia was always good at spotting the obvious; “best friend” is a confusing pair of words and she isn’t the only one who thinks so. “You can have him,” she tells Stiles, because she sees that he knows how to be cruel too. “I’ve got him,” Stiles says, and Lydia smiles too widely. “Keep him away from my girl.”


Stiles read once that the acquisition of language is what causes memory to start, but Stiles is pretty sure whoever said that is wrong, because Stiles remembers things with Scott in them, the end. Stiles has a memory of being three years old and getting haircuts together, taking turns to sit in the tall chair at the barber’s, running their hands over each other’s newly shorn heads. Now Scott’s hair is long and Stiles wants nothing more than to pull Scott’s shaggy head into his lap and card his fingers through the curls, work out the tangles that come from not showering after practice, feel hair loop tightly around his fingers. Instead he crashes a hand across his own scalp, makes a face and keeps doing his homework. You do what you have to do.

When Stiles was fourteen, and Danny Mahealani was fifteen, Danny came out. Or, in true Danny fashion, didn’t really; he showed up to winter formal with some senior guy from the next town over and they hooked up in a bathroom. Jackson probably got his popularity on that night alone, having the goods and all; he’d known for weeks this was coming. Stiles was in the opposite position—his brain couldn’t stop racing, because he’d never known anyone gay, figured, you know, it would be more obvious in some way if someone was, because if Danny Mahealani could have this inside him, so could, well—

Stiles sleeps over at Scott’s after the dance and stares at the ceiling (stares at Scott) the whole night.

When Allison breaks up with Scott, Stiles goes home and googles “bisexuality”. What he finds is a little dippy and purple for his tastes, but is undeniably something, is maybe an explanation for why he feels certain things. All right, he tells himself, and he claims Scott for himself, knows he’s never going to get what he wants from him and knows that is getting what he wants, understands what it means when he sees Scott do good and needs to reward him. If he can’t reward him with a kiss, he’s there with a grin and a curled fist, and what he sees when his eyes are closed is between him and himself.


When Allison was eleven or twelve and imagined herself in college, she imagined herself capable and beautiful and strong, and sometimes she imagined herself with a girlfriend. Not on purpose—some nameless female person would pop up with her head in Allison’s lap and a wicked smile on her face and a sense about her that they were not just friends. Allison never really questioned this; it somehow fit with the idea she had of her college self, even though she wasn’t gay. At seventeen Allison has almost forgotten these old imaginings. But she did imagine them.

Allison’s seventeenth birthday is a quiet affair. It’s October of junior year and whatever she and Scott are building between them now is still tender to the touch, and all of Allison’s friends are Scott’s friends, except for Lydia. So Lydia brings her dark chocolate cupcakes with green icing, and they eat all six between them. Allison is pretty sure she saw a bottle of something in Lydia’s bag too, but they don’t drink it, just get icing on their noses and chocolate in their mouths and smiles in their eyes. Lydia tells Allison birthday party stories, from all the birthdays Allison missed, and Allison doesn’t tell Lydia about sixteen prior quiet affairs. It’s the nicest birthday she’s ever had, and she tastes the chocolate in her mouth for over a month, long after she should’ve let it slip from her mind.

Lydia has long strawberry hair and feet that look made to slip into five-hundred-dollar heels and a wicked smile on her face, and Allison has Lydia, strange as it seems. Because Lydia seems to have glued herself to Allison’s side and drawn a curtain around them, and Allison doesn’t mind, leans back against her with her heart and with her body. She doesn’t need Lydia—Allison’s never going to need anybody again—but she wants her close.

Maybe wants her closer.


Scott’s first full moon without Allison is easy. He dreads it for weeks, gathers extra locks and chains, considers asking her to be there even though they promised they’d stay apart this time at least until they’re ready to be friends. He’s ready for it to be impossible. And then it isn’t, and then it’s easy, and he doesn’t think it was him getting older or better.

He thinks it was Stiles.

At some point—Scott doesn’t remember if he was eleven, or thirteen, or fifteen, but maybe after the Danny thing—Scott’s mom sat him down and asked if he and Stiles were a couple. It was early enough, anyway, that Scott wasn’t expecting the question. He doesn’t actually remember it very well at all. He thinks he said no, and that was that, but sometimes if he thinks about it right before he falls asleep he thinks he said yeah, or as much as it matters, and he practices for next time someone asks.

Here are the firsts that Scott had with Stiles: first drink of alcohol, first day of school, first time in a car one of his friends was driving, first hug with not his mom. Here are the firsts Scott had without him: first kiss, first time having sex, first school dance. Scott isn’t sure how many firsts he has left—childhood is kind of ending, isn’t it?—but he knows he likes with-Stiles ones better.


It gets to the point where Lydia is dreaming about Allison every night, and dreaming about Allison some nights, and Lydia figures it’s time to admit that she’s probably a lesbian. (Lydia has always been sort of aware of the lesbian thing, but it didn’t seem necessary to deal with before.) She’s not going to go to the point of actually telling anyone, of course—Lydia’s got a strict control on her persona and she’s keeping it that way—but she starts using the word on herself. Bitch, queen, lesbian.

When Lydia was six she decided she was going to rule the world one day, in every way that mattered. She wasn’t going to do anything she wasn’t the best at. So when Lydia turned seven she invited everyone she knew to her house for a party with a treasure hunt and face painting and favors as nice as the actual presents, and Lydia in the middle of it all wearing a sparkling crown. Lydia does not like the vulgarity of the phrase go big or go home, but she admires the sentiment.

As part of Lydia’s lesbian education she decides she should actually try kissing a girl. There are three girls who like girls at Beacon Hills High School, to her knowledge; Tammy and Becca are dating each other and she doesn’t want to go down that road, not now, so she picks Rae, who is a small sophomore with a halo of short blond curls and a little gap between her teeth. She’s cute, Lydia supposes, for someone who’s not Allison. Lydia’s mean to her, a little, goes up to her and makes her promise not to tell anyone and must seem kind of threatening, but Rae’s not getting any either, or maybe she likes threatening, because she nods and leans in and it’s a really good kiss. Lydia’s a good kisser, technically speaking, and she’s done a lot of it. Tiny Rae clearly hasn’t, and doesn’t really know what she’s doing, and they don’t go too far or too long.

But it’s a really, really good kiss.


Stiles learns how to shoot a gun.

It’s something he’s been avoiding, really, because he knows his dad would’ve taught him any time he wanted, he knows that that actually is something he can do in the neverending battle against the forces of evil he’s been sucked into, he knows that knowing how to shoot a gun does not make you, by definition, a murderer. (He knows that killing some of the things he wants to kill—anything that wants to hurt Scott—wouldn’t make him, by definition, a murderer. He knows that when he thinks about anything that wants to hurt Scott he doesn’t actually mind becoming a murderer as much as he’s supposed to, and that actually might, by definition, make him one.)

Stiles cannot, actually, count the people that he’s ever kissed on one hand, but that’s only because there’s no such thing as a zero finger. He’s pragmatic about it; who the hell would want to kiss him? He doesn’t really mind being unattractive; he minded not having Lydia, except he didn’t really, because wanting Lydia was all about not getting her. He minds not having Scott, except not really, because wanting Scott is all about having him already.

When Lydia tells Stiles to keep Scott away from her girl, he has to sit still for a moment from the jealousy and the protectiveness and the understanding that wash over him. “Keep her away from my boy,” he wants to say, but he’s not Lydia and he can’t call Scott his and just trust in it the way she can. Instead he says “love sucks”, and Lydia blinks at him like he’s actually caught her off guard for once and then smiles scary, and Stiles does too.


Stiles remembers being at a party once and finding Scott kissing some girl in the corner, and here are the things that ran through his head: first, I’ll kill her, second, I’m proud of him, third, his first kiss, fourth, I’m proud of her, fifth, I’ll kill her. At the time he didn’t think about it. Now, now he knows, and he thinks about it all the time.


Lydia wears a blue dress to winter formal and Allison watches her dance and dances with her and thinks she is the most beautiful thing Allison has ever seen, except no, because Lydia’s not a thing. Lydia’s not a thing and Allison’s not and no matter how much anyone wants to forget that, they’re going to go through life and be women, not things, together. They’re going to be Lydia and Allison in blue and green dresses and she can’t think of anything stronger.

Allison isn’t sure when she starts putting Lydia into all her imaginings of the future, but she knows when she notices. She knows when she notices because it’s in the middle of AP American History and Allison has finished her essay on the Vietnam War and Lydia is still scribbling away at hers, and Allison’s mind is drifting, and it’s drifting toward Lydia, and it’s a comfortable, familiar drift, and Allison as a test imagines herself two years from now, in college, and without even trying Lydia’s by her side.

Allison asks Lydia to prom.

She shows up at Lydia’s door with a single pink rose and bitten lips and asks Lydia, “Do you think we should go to prom together?” which isn’t how she means to say it at all. Lydia doesn’t say anything; she’s staring at the rose and putting it together, Allison supposes, and maybe she guessed wrong about that curtain around them meaning something more than two friends who’ve been hurt by the outside world, and maybe she’s never going to find out because they’re going to be stuck in this moment and neither of them will ever be able to talk again, but she has to know—she leans forward and catches Lydia’s pink open mouth with hers, and the rose falls to her feet.


Scott finishes Great Expectations sitting on Stiles’ floor, and he chucks it at the wall when he gets through. Stiles laughs at him from the desk. He’s doing pre-calculus or something, Scott doesn’t know, but he’s suddenly struck with how nice it is sitting here each doing homework, chucking books at walls and laughing at each other. He’s dizzyingly afraid for a second that he’s gotten used to Stiles, that maybe he was born used to him, that he hasn’t realized how great this is, their being friends, their being together. He doesn’t want to forget that again.

And then Scott does get asked if he and Stiles are a couple again.

He’s on a college visit, and the guy from the lacrosse team who’s showing him around is asking him about his life, and maybe he mentions Stiles a lot, and maybe he’s texting Stiles while they talk and he keeps smiling at his phone, and maybe when the guy asks if he knows where he wants to live he says he’ll have to check with Stiles, if he goes here too; or maybe there’s just some vibe and he gives it off, but anyway when they pass by a small white-painted house on the edge of campus the guy pauses for a second, and then turns to him and says too quickly, “And here’s where the LGBT groups meet if you need any of that shit,” and keeps going. Scott lingers for a second—two girls in tie-dye shirts push out the door as he watches, and he can hear laughter from inside.  “You’re dating that guy, right?” lacrosse guy asks, and this time Scott doesn’t say no, and he doesn’t say yeah; he shrugs. As much as matters.

Scott thinks about waiting until the next time Stiles flirts with him, or whatever it’s called, asking if Scott finds him attractive, if Scott wants to make out. He thinks about waiting for it, but maybe Stiles has outgrown those jokes, maybe they were just jokes, and Scott has to know—he plays every dumb line in his head again and again trying to figure out what Stiles wants, because he doesn’t want to lose him. He’s trying to wait, and then Stiles saves his life (again), pulls him out of the path of some rampaging beast, and Scott smiles up at him. “Your newfound heroism is turning me on,” he says, remembering. “You want to try making out a little?”


Lydia feels more and more like a vampire the more she falls for Allison, like some horrible creature sucking out of her what she thinks is friendship and what turns out to be blood. It’s unfair of her, Lydia thinks, unfair to be in love with Allison when Allison doesn’t know, doesn’t reciprocate, and she feels guilty, crushingly guilty. It doesn’t mean she can stop. She pulls her human girl tighter and keeps sucking even when she’s afraid she’ll drain her love.

For Lydia’s seventeenth birthday she considers not having a party. Not because of what happened at sixteen, but because of what happened at seventeen—Allison’s seventeen. For a second she’s wildly jealous of Allison, of Allison not having an appearance to keep up, of Allison getting to spend an entire birthday with just Lydia, and then she realizes she’s Lydia Martin—she can do both. She imagines herself, surrounded by people and looking at Allison like they’re the only two in the room, and she sends out the invitations.

Allison leans in and catches Lydia’s lips with her own, and Lydia’s dimly aware of the rose falling and landing on her bare feet, and her girl is kissing her, her girl is really hers (she’s really Allison’s), she can taste that disgusting watermelon lip gloss on her tongue and it’s even worse and even better than she’d imagined. “Yes,” Lydia says when they pull apart, “yes we should go to prom together.”

“And also maybe everywhere?” Allison murmurs, and Lydia kisses her again, where her chin meets her throat.


Stiles finds out he is not unattractive like this: Danny Mahealani kisses him. Almost. That is to say, leaning in happens and feeling each other’s breath happens and thinking oh-shit-I’m-about-to-have-my-first-kiss happens, and then Stiles violently pushing Danny off of him happens. He doesn’t realize how it must seem for a second, and then he apologizes too fast, “That’s not why, that’s not why.” Danny grins sheepishly. “I thought I was reading you right,” he says. “You were,” Stiles says, “but I can’t have my first kiss with you.”

Danny seems to understand (but he tells Stiles to move on already. Stiles doesn’t listen.)

Stiles has saved Scott’s life five times, directly, and about once indirectly. Stiles has saved Scott’s life six times, and he has only failed once, but it’s the failure that counts, isn’t it? He sees Scott change and it looks like it hurts and all that beats through his head is I let you down, I let you down. Stiles has his gun and his running feet and a hand to hold, and Stiles will be saving Scott’s life until the end of time, and it will never put back the one time Scott got hurt, and Stiles could’ve stopped it.

“You wanna try making out a little?” Scott asks, like it’s in any way a normal question to be asking, and Stiles’ throat goes dry, and his palms go sweaty, and he’s actually grasping Scott in his arms like some prince with his distressed damsel, and he could lean down and kiss him so easily—but he doesn’t. But he just nods, small and jerky, and says “yes,” and Scott leans up, and holy fucking shit, this is really, really good.