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For We Are Bound By Symmetry

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Actions have consequences. No one knows that better than Allison Argent, and yet, when it had come to saving her father, Allison hadn’t hesitated one second to invite the devil to her doorstep all over again. Three short weeks since the end of the term, and everything has changed. Now they all know just what kind of curse they’d raised. Still, she's not sure if she'd have made a different call had she known beforehand.

She shakes her head to get rid of the thought, pushes open the door to the gym. From here, they'll go down the hallway, and then it's only a few more rooms they have to cross before they get to the nurse's office. She stops to listen, chances a glance back to Lydia, immediately regrets it. Lydia is still upright, but she's pale, white as a sheet, eyes half-lidded with pain. She doesn't complain, hasn't said one word since the last attack. Occasionally, she sucks in a breath or groans, but that's all.

Allison remembers a time when she thought Lydia was a delicate flower, a wimp and a coward, only interested in her own gain and safety. How wrong she was; Lydia is every bit the survivor, the fighter, that Allison is. She just didn't have an opportunity to prove it before.

Another groan, followed by breathed-out curse, and Allison wishes it would've stayed that way.

She doesn't look back again. They're almost through the gym, and they're faster now that they got the kids out. A few years younger than them, terrified, been out here for a couple of days. They were the reason Lydia and her came back to the school in the first place, and now the two of them are the ones that are trapped in here.

The hallway is a risk, but once they make it past that, they'll almost have reached the offices. And that's where they have to go – Lydia's leg needs to get properly cleaned and bandaged so it doesn't get infected. A few painkillers might be good too. There's no other choice.

This is her fault, her's and Scott's and Stiles', and if nothing else, she'll at least get Lydia through it in one piece.

 

***

 

The first morning after school's out, her father greets her with a tired smile and shoves a bowl of cereal her way. It's the end of the term, their world still intact and in relative order. Deucalion dealt with, the Darach dead and gone, things have been quiet for a little while. Time to draw their breath while dreading the effects of their spell. It's something they don't talk about, but if Allison knows her friends at all, she's not the only one who spends her waking nights imagining the evil they conjured.

“Allison,” he says once she's sat down. “I've been thinking. An old friend of your mother's called last week, and he has a cabin up in –“

“No. I'm not going anywhere.” She feels it, she feels them, in everything that she does. There's something lurking in the shadows, waiting for its moment. Absolutely no way she's going to bail and leave the others to deal with it when it does. She can't say that to her father though; he's hovering enough as it is. She hopes a determined glare, challenging to disagree, to decide in her stead, will be enough. She tries to model it after her mother, sees she succeeds when he flinches before he averts his eyes.

“Alright. Quiet summer at home it is, I guess,” he says, pushing back his chair and leaving her alone with her cereal and the fear that's breathing down her neck.

 

***

 

They're a few steps from the swinging doors that lead out of the gym and into the hallway when Allison smells another one of the creatures. That's the one good thing about them; they may be fast and sneaky and able to move basically without noise, but they stink. She can't compare it to anything else she knows, not quite, but if she had to describe it, she'd say they smell like death. Rotten, like blood and mold.

Suppressing her gag reflex, she reaches a hand behind herself while she changes their stance slightly, positions herself between Lydia and the beast. Lydia grabs her arm, squeezes it once, so hard it hurts, then lets go.

“It's just one,” she breathes out. “No problem. You won't even break a sweat.”

And well, she probably shouldn't have said that. Both their heads whip around at once when they hear another growl from the opposite direction.

 

***

 

Lydia calls around noon that day. Everyday, really. The two of them, and then Scott, Stiles and Isaac, they're not really avoiding each other, but they don't go out of their way to meet, either. It's not because Scott is her ex and Stiles is his best friend and Isaac is the guy who lives with him and whom she couldn't make up her mind about dating at some point. Or, okay. Maybe it's that too.

When they're together, all three of them, that feeling Allison has multiplies. It fills the room, making the air too thin to breathe and too thick to move through at the same time. At school, with all the other people around, it was bearable, but if it's just their little clique? Then it becomes suffocating, commands all her thoughts, makes her want to scream and run.

Lydia doesn't ask. She stopped suggesting they meet up with the others after Allison declined a few times. Her eyes narrowed, knowing and understanding, and then she cheerfully went on to make other plans for just the two of them. They do things normal girls would do during summer break, go shopping, swimming, stay at each other's places and just talk about anything but werewolves and monsters and spells. Sometimes it works, and Allison forgets.

Sometimes, it doesn't.

 

***

 

Allison wastes precious seconds trying to decide which of them to aim at first. It's a trap; to finish one off, she'll have to turn her back on the other and leave Lydia defenseless. Lydia has a knife on her – and in the last few weeks she's become quite skilled with it too – but she's injured. If the thing charges at her while Allison's distracted...

No use in thinking about that. The longer she hesitates, the more time she's going to give them to advance, the closer they'll get. She closes her eyes for a brief moment, conjures up the image of her father when he taught her how to hit a moving target, out in the woods. Tries to remember his words – watch out, learn their rhythm, anticipate their movements – and then aims at the one she saw first. It's a direct hit, and the creature cries out before its knees give.

Allison doesn't take the time to watch it go down, whips around as quickly as she can, reaches for another arrow and aims while she turns. The arrow lands in the other thing's side, not fatal, she can see that immediately. But it stops and winces, head swinging back to lick at the wound, and doesn't try to follow them when they shuffle backwards to the door, both their eyes still trained on their attacker.

A few more steps, and then they're out of the gym. Lydia presses herself to the closed door, then nods her head at the case containing sports trophies and paraphernalia. It's heavy, and Allison's not sure she can move it on her own, but in lieu of a better idea she puts away her bow anyway and moves to shove it away from the wall and in front of the door.

 

***

 

The dreams start two weeks after their last day of school. They're vague, and foggy, and all Allison remembers when she wakes up sweating and panting is that she ran. She was running for her life, but she doesn't know from what or from whom.

She's barely got her breathing under control, sitting upright in her bed, lights on, chest heaving with a diffuse but all-encompassing fear, when her phone rings.

“Allison.” That's all Scott says, her name, and he sounds like she feels. She hears noises in the background, a voice, probably Isaac.

“Yeah,” she replies. “Yeah, me too.”

Then he falls silent, not because they were together and now they're not and it's awkward, not tonight, but because there's nothing to say. She knows he saw the same, and she knows he's aware of that too. Stiles might feel the need to babble the fear away, but it's never been like that with her and Scott. They're not afraid of a lack of words to fill the void.

As if on cue, Scott heaves a sigh. “I've got another call. Stiles.”

A few months back, he'd have tried to juggle them, promise her to call her back instantly. But no such thing now. “Take it. I'm fine.”

He exhales, with relief or regret, she doesn't know. “I'll call you tomorrow? We should meet, all three of us.”

Allison agrees, and the line goes dead.

 

***

 

The case isn't quite as heavy as it looks, which is both a blessing and a curse. It means Allison can move it, but it also means it won't make for a very effective barrier. But every second's going to count when that thing recovers, so it's better than nothing.

Only after she's done does she allow herself a moment to catch her breath, resting her body against the closed door while she reorients herself and checks out her surroundings more thoroughly. The hallway seems clear, but the doors leading to the nurse's office are on the other end of it, and there are plenty of other doors, other rooms that could be empty – or not – on their way.

Lydia presses close to her, rests her head against Allison's shoulder and exhales, takes Allison's hand, and Allison pushes off the wall, gripping it firmly.

“Come on,” she says. “We're close. More time to cuddle once we've got you safe and taken care of.”

The smile Lydia gives her in reply is halfway between surprised and relieved, and it's positively blinding.

 

***

 

It's barely nine in the morning when Lydia calls. Allison spent most of the rest of the night dozing and flailing awake again, and it takes Lydia a hello and two yawns to pick up on that.

“You sound trashed,” she says, sounding like she's trying to solve a puzzle and chiding a child all at once. “Did you sleep at all?”

Allison blinks, images replaying in front of her eyes that she still can't quite decode. “No. I had a nightmare.”

“Oh,” says Lydia. “That's so.... normal.”

She sounds genuinely surprised, and Allison smiles despite herself. “Not if you consider that Scott, and likely Stiles, had the same one. We think we did, anyway. At the same time too.”

Lydia sighs. “Of course.”

“We're meeting up later,” Allison says, then pauses, suddenly unsure if she's supposed to ask Lydia if she wants to come, or if that's implied and the question would be weird.

“We'll, yeah. It's probably related to the ritual, which makes it all of our problem. I hate this town. I really do.” She heaves another sigh, then there's a crunching noise when she presumably switches her phone from one ear to the other. “I'll be over in half an hour or so, okay? Mom insists I go and pick up her dry cleaning first, ugh.”

No question that they're in this together, none at all, and Allison didn't know how important that was to her until she feels as if a weight has been lifted with those words.

 

***

 

The hallway looks so normal it's eerie. There are still decorations up from a science fair they had shortly before the summer break. The locker of a kid Allison doesn't really know was smeared with insults, and no one has bothered to remove them yet.

She flinches from a noise to her left, in a classroom they were just about to pass. The door is open, and she extends a hand behind her to signal Lydia to stay behind before she peers through it.

It's empty, but the window has been smashed in, and the map of the United States on the back wall rustles loudly in the wind. For a moment, Allison stares out of the broken window to the parking lot. There are no cars right now, and except for the shards of glass at the edges of her vision, it could be a normal summer day. The weather's beautiful, the grass green; looking at the town in the distance, it seems like nothing has changed, when in fact everything has.

 

***

 

They meet in the school parking lot, because both Scott's mom and Stiles' dad have been watching their boys like hawks ever since the ritual, and Allison wouldn't even try to hide something from her dad anymore. Doing it right under any of their noses would get them involved. All three of their parents have been networking a lot more since they've all been let in on their children's secret.

And so there they are, the three of them plus Lydia and Isaac, staring at each other. Allison doesn't know how to start, what to say, how in the world she's supposed to explain the dream they all had.

From the helpless looks that Scott and Stiles keep shooting at each other, neither do they.

Finally, Stiles clears his throat more theatrically than necessary. “Something's coming. Right? That's what this means. And it's coming for us. Just like Deaton said.”

Lydia rolls her eyes at him. “You sure know how to stay optimistic.”

“Yeah, well,” he snaps. “I'm not sure positive thinking is going to help us a whole lot here.”

Scott opens his mouth, closes it again, and Allison understands. She can't come up with anything to cheer them all up either. If there's a silver lining to this, she can't see it. Things didn't exactly take a turn for the Hallmark for any of them in the past months. They're exhausted, she can see that in all their faces, the way they hold themselves. The thought of yet another threat, another fight, so close on the heels of the last one... It's too much. They're running on fumes.

But it's not like they have much of a choice, is it? She straightens up, folds her arms in front of herself and looks from Scott to Stiles and back. “What did you see? Do you remember anything?”

Stiles shrugs, and Scott scratches the back of his head. “I don't know. It was dark, I was running, and something was hunting me.”

“Something or someone?” That's Isaac, who had been silently listening up until now. “Do you mean that, like, generically, or do you know it's a thing and not a person?”

Allison digs up her fading memories of the dream, concentrates on what's beneath the fear and confusion. “Definitely a something. Whatever I saw, it's not human.”

Scott nods. “Yeah. At least not in the form it was in in the dream.”

“Fantastic, we narrowed it down to...” Stiles throws his hands up. “Basically everything we ever came across. Real helpful.”

Allison can see Lydia's digging for a comeback – Stiles riles her up, and Allison sure gets why – but she bites it back. He's right. They don't know anything yet.

“Alright,” Isaac says, with an apologetic smile at no one in particular. “I guess it's time to hand out dream diaries to the three of you?”

Somehow the thought that the dream could repeat itself didn't occur to Allison before. Not a fun prospect, but yeah. It makes sense, and it's probably their best shot right now.

 

***

 

Just when Allison's about to turn around and join Lydia in the hallway again, to continue making their way to the nurse's office, she catches movement out of the corner of her eye. The thing is fast and agile, gallops towards the building so fast that she almost doesn't get her next arrow ready in time. She catches it when it's about to enter through the window, and the hit knocks the wind out of it mid-jump. That's not what kills it, though; it impales itself on the broken glass sticking out of the window frame.

Allison grabs one of the chairs from the work desks and drags it with her, slams the door and uses the chair to jam it shut. Then she runs, pushing Lydia along, until they made it around the next corner of the hallway.

Catching their breath takes a moment, and Allison cuts her gaze away to block out Lydia's eyes on her, wide with fear and pain.

 

***

 

The dreams do come back, but they stay vague and unhelpful. Allison wakes up a few times each night for the next week. She follows Isaac's advice – it was probably a joke, but hey – and puts pen and paper on her nightstand to write down what she recalls right upon waking, but her notes don't make sense to her come morning. She ignores the concerned looks her dad starts to send her way over breakfast when she hasn't yet bothered to mask the deep shadows under her eyes with makeup. But she can't quite ignore Lydia.

Allison's taken to not waiting for her to call every morning, and calls her herself as soon as she's up. There's no asking if they'll meet later, only when.

Nevertheless, the sleepover is Lydia's idea. Her mom is gone – a family thing, her sister having an existential crisis or something, Lydia didn't give much detail except that she was annoyed by it – and she suggests a full-on girl's night. No curses, no rituals, no creatures, no werewolves. Just them, a ridiculous movie about women who don't have any more immediate problems than falling in love, and more candy than they both can eat.

Truth to be told, Allison doesn't need much convincing.

 

***

 

When they round the corner to the school offices, Allison wants to cry out with relief. Behind her, Lydia has been matching her pace, but her panting has gotten worse and there are tears brimming in her eyes, her face scrunching up in pain every time she puts weight on her injured leg. Fresh blood keeps seeping through the makeshift bandage. It's high time they get her a better one and then hightail it out of here, back to the hospital. They'll steal a car on their way back – neither of them has ever done so, but together they'll figure it out. There's no way Allison is going to make Lydia walk all the way.

The door to the offices is locked, but a few well-aimed thrusts at the handle with Allison's crossbow solve that problem. She'd have preferred to leave it intact, and adds lock-picking to the skills she'll have to acquire as soon as possible.

They maneuver the school secretary's desk in front of the door, and then make for the nurse's office.

 

***

 

They settle for a romantic comedy that Lydia snags from her mom's DVD shelf, because picking out one on their own seems like too much of an effort. It's a few years old, and probably not exactly aimed at their demographic, but if anything that makes it funnier. The main actress is clumsy and adorable, her knight in shining armor nice and a little confused, the kind of thing where they jump through an hour and a half of contrived hoops before they end up in each other's arms.

Allison makes it about halfway through the movie before the warm weight of Lydia beside her – they're curled up on her bed where they had been doing each other's nails in a truly girly fashion and just didn't move far afterwards – and a week of fitful sleep conspire to make her nod off.

She wakes to Lydia's fingers slowly stroking down her face. For a moment, her heart is beating faster, body relaxing into the touch, but then surprise and confusion kick in and she flinches back, eyes flying open.

Lydia takes away her hand, then slowly slides of the bed. She doesn't say a word, gaze towards the floor. “I'll, uh. I'm gonna sleep in my mom's bedroom, alright? You stay here. It's fine. We'll talk about it in the morning?”

She doesn't wait for an answer before she swings around and rushes out of the room.

 

***

 

Lydia's face loses all of its remaining color when Allison digs out the surgical needle and the thread and lines it up on a tray next to the cot for students to lie on. “Are you...?”

“I have to.” Allison strokes the hair out of Lydia's face, doesn't miss the way her eyes briefly fall closed at the touch. “It hasn't stopped bleeding yet. If we don't take care of that, you'll slowly bleed out.”

“Okay,” Lydia says, takes in a breath, sits up straighter. “Okay. Do it.”

Allison pulls a couple of latex gloves out of a disperser by the wall. “Don't worry. Sewing up wounds was part of the Argent warrior crash curse. I know what I'm doing.”

She isn't sure how much confidence she managed to infuse into the words, but Lydia exhales once more, shuffles around on the cot so her back is straight to the wall and her thigh rests on the metal surface. Then she closes her eyes.

Lydia yelps when the needle first pierces her skin, but that's the only sound she makes until Allison's done.

 

***

 

Early that morning, Allison gets woken up by a call from Scott. He's breathless, like he's been running or fighting, and her stomach immediately curls itself up into something hard and painful.

“Allison,” he says. “Allison, are you alright? Did they get to you? Where are you?”

Her heart misses a beat. She's out of bed before she realizes it, running down the hallway to Lydia's mom's bedroom with the phone pressed to her ear. Scott has to say her name again to remind her that she hasn't answered his questions yet. “Yes. I'm fine. I've been sleeping, we're at Lydia's place... What's going on?”

There's a muffled scream on Scott's end of the line, and the sound of something dropping and shattering. “They're here. They... I don't know how to describe them, but it's them. Allison, they're here, and –“

Then the line goes dead. All the sleep-addled fog clears from Allison's brain in an instant, leaving her alert and vigilant, like a trance. She knocks on the door to the other bedroom twice, then goes in despite not having gotten a reply. She shakes Lydia awake, has to step back when Lydia flails as she rears up.

“What the fuck is wrong with you, I –“

Allison shakes her head, not even sure what it is she's negating. “It started. Scott just called, and they... What we dreamed about, it's here. I don't know. But I think it's bad.”

 

***

 

After Lydia's leg has been disinfected again and properly bandaged, Allison climbs on the cot next to her. Lydia doesn't look up, but she inches closer, rests her head on Allison's shoulder. She must be tired, worn out from the blood loss, the running and the pain. A few minutes to catch their breath, they've earned that much.

It's completely quiet outside. Allison knows that's deceptive, that whatever's out there is far from done. It’s probably only just started.

Lydia hasn't been home to shower in days, got chased by monsters just as Allison did, so maybe it's an illusion, a memory, but Allison thinks she can still smell traces of her shampoo. Tropical fruit – a new brand Lydia was trying out. They’d bought it together a little less than a week ago. On their way here, they’d passed by what was left of that store; people had started to ransack when the military moved in, and the once cheery decorations in the window were burned and charred, the window itself in shards.

Allison bends down slightly, taps Lydia's chin until she blinks her eyes open to look up, tired and confused. But she comes willingly when she seems to realize that Allison is trying to get her face at the right angle for a kiss. Her eyes close again the moment their lips touch, and that's when Allison closes her own as well.

She's definitely smelling that shampoo now, fruits and candy-like sweetness. She'll never forget that scent.

 

***

 

Stiles texts them half an hour later, while they're on their way to Allison's, to get her weapons and check on her father. They're all okay, it says, but Scott's phone is a goner. They're with their parents, and Isaac. Deaton joined them quickly after it started. No one has heard from the Hales, and at this point, no one expects to anymore. Some others are missing too; she can't think about that right now.

A few minutes later, Allison and Lydia encounter their first creature. Another one is waiting for her in the yard of her house, an arrow hanging from its side already, her father nowhere in sight. She finishes it off methodically, her mind on autopilot while her heart races with fear.

Once inside, they split up after Allison is satisfied that there's nothing else waiting for them. Lydia is the one who finds Allison's father, blood all around him and gurgling in his throat, but still alive.

She doesn't register much of what follows, the ride in the ambulance, Scott's mother feeding her sandwiches and tea while her father’s in surgery, the endless hours she sits by his bed. Lydia stays by her side the whole time, doesn't even leave when her own father arrives to pick her up. She still hasn't moved when the news starts airing clips from pixelated cell phone videos and emergency broadcasts, or when it tells them the military will move in. A state of emergency gets announced at some point while Allison sits vigil by her father's bed, no one allowed to go in and out of the county at first, then the whole of California.

Allison can't say if it's been hours or days when her father stirs, blinks his eyes open, and the hand she had hers wrapped around all this time starts squeezing back.

The sun has set and risen again when an emergency call from a group of kids comes in over the police radio that her father has taken to carrying around. The nurses gave it to her, and whenever she's not sitting by his side, she listens to it. These kids were out partying in the woods when all this started and just so made it to the school, the message says. And they need help, hidden in a locker room but surrounded by creatures outside of the building.

Allison wants go to. She insisted on staying in Beacon Hills in the first place for that exact reason; to help those who get caught up in the evil they conjured. She's better equipped to deal with these creatures than is any policeman or soldier. This is what she was born, raised, and trained for, right?

She exchanges a quick glance with Lydia, sitting right next to her, and Lydia nods. “We'll go. Both of us.”

 

***

 

It's Lydia who breaks the kiss, a big, happy smile on her face that doesn't belong into a situation like this, running for their lives, fighting to survive. She touches the bandage on her leg absentmindedly, then smooths her skirt down and hops off the cot, taking Allison with her.

They pack a bag with medical supplies before they leave – never know when they might come in handy, or how long the stock in the hospital will last – and walk out of the school hand in hand, Allison clasping her bow in the other.

This is their world now. Things might get better, or they might get worse from here on in, who knows? It's not like any battle they've fought before. The usual rules don't apply, except for one:

Whatever happens, they'll figure it out together.