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Lydia doesn’t like surprises, as a general rule.

She’d self-diagnosed her OCD when she was twelve, a happy accident borne of her father’s propensity to leave the DSM lying around and Lydia’s recently-developed fascination with textbooks. She’d leafed through the thin pages, past appendicitis and multiple sclerosis until she’d flipped straight to it. Page 242, she remembered, even now, because it was both an even number and a palindrome, two of her favorite things.

Lydia likes order. Specifically, she likes the way that ordering things just so quiets the swirling thoughts inside her head. She also likes even numbers, for their balance. She finds them reassuring—always has, she remembers, since she was a kid. She likes that her fourteenth birthday was the one where both her parents showed up to the party, and that she’d been in fourth grade when she’d started teaching herself algebra. She tries to forget that her first boyfriend broke up with her on February 19th. She tries to forget about how, when she was thirteen, her grandma Olivia had died, leaving her alone with her parents in their huge house and no more laughter or the scent of freshly-baked pies to fill the spaces.

She has a thing about accidents. Dystychiphobia is the medical term, and though she treasures its fourteen letters, she doesn’t like to use it. Nobody ever knew what it was, what it meant, and she soon grew tired of explaining herself, of watching the way people’s eyes glazed over when she broke out the fifty-dollar words. Lydia had been unable to leave the house the entire summer after Olivia had died, unexpectedly, due to complications related to skin cancer. She was—is—terrified of losing control, of being mugged or breaking her arm or crashing her car, and she had quickly learned that nobody really cared. It was stupid and irrational to be afraid of the sun, so she had to pretend not to be. Her parents didn’t care if she was terrified of learning to drive, and so she’d learned. Jackson didn’t care if she had to force herself to walk outside at night, and so she’d forced herself.  She’d developed techniques, ways of gaining control: she got a car with an off-the-charts safety rating and constantly carried mace. She’d learned perfect bowling form before her double date with Scott and Allison for fear of hitting someone with the ball. She built a wall around herself with knowledge, turning text into stone and logic into control.

If research was the bricks with which she built her defenses, her compulsions were the mortar that held them together. She’d learned, in her father’s office all those years ago, that obsessions were like fire and compulsions were like sand. Obsessions—with accidents or luck, for instance—were what drove the disease, what infiltrated her mind and filled her with poisonous doubt. Compulsions dimmed the ferocity of obsession’s flame, never extinguishing it completely, but easing the burn. Compulsions comforted and reassured what obsessions upset and knocked off-balance. Lydia knew that her compulsions made the bad thoughts go away the fastest, and so she stuck with them, for lack of a better option. She saw a psychiatrist herself when she was fourteen (after her summer of isolation) and got on SSRIs to dull the compulsions, but the need was still there often, if less frequently than before.

Lydia likes order and even numbers. Specifically, she likes the way that ordering things a certain way and relying on even numbers tend to make her worry less about her house suddenly catching fire or Jackson forgetting to wear knee-pads to lacrosse practice. She arranges her things in height order and by color, and she avoids clutter at all costs. When people speak, she adds up the number of words in their sentences. If the number comes out even, Lydia feels safer. If the number comes out odd, Lydia will talk to the person some more, adding words of her own. Lydia has a reputation for talking a lot.

Lydia woke up every day, brushed her teeth, put her toothpaste and toothbrush back exactly where she’d put them the night before, and adjusted the hair products lined up on her sink. She made sure the books in her bag were arranged in order of class and that the outfit she’d laid out the night beforehand included an even number of accessories. She took her Zoloft, ate two granola bars, and left for school at exactly 7:40 a.m., going an even 46 mph the entire way there. Most days, she wore four-inch heels—both a “fuck you” and an acquiescence to her phobia, their sharp click-clacking punctuating her every powerful step while simultaneously reminding her how much further she was from the ground.

 Lydia likes balance, order, evenness. She hates natural disaster movies and her generation’s unexpected and morbid fascination with dystopian young adult fiction. Lydia likes the things she is able to anticipate, and she hates surprises.

Allison Argent is a surprise.

Lydia’d thought, when she first befriended Allison back in sophomore year, that she’d just been adding a demure and pretty girl to her ever-dwindling list of allies. Lydia hadn’t had a best friend—or a friend, in general, if she admitted it to herself—since Malia Tate had gone missing when they were kids. She’d muddled through all right with boyfriends and casual acquaintances-slash-lackeys to keep her company, but isolation carried weight. Sophomore year had seemed like it could be a good one: her tenth year of school, the year of her sixteenth birthday. She’d taken a chance on Allison, assuming she was just a nice, corn-fed military brat whose family was finally taking root. Allison had nice clothes and a wide smile and the hots for some second-string lacrosser who proved about as threatening as a puppy pile. When Lydia thinks back on it, she adds everything up and knows, with certainty, that Allison hadn’t seemed like a risk at the time. She refuses to factor in the way that Allison’s cheeks dimpled on either side when she got excited or how her eyes stayed wide and attentive when they spoke. She refuses to admit that, maybe, she had been infinitesimally charmed.

Regardless, Lydia welcomes her into her life. She does it in six words, clean and precise.

“You are my new best friend.”

Allison is a surprise in every way possible, and Lydia has warning whatsoever until the girl is suddenly front-flipping out her own window and encouraging Lydia to do the same. In fact, after Allison moves to Beacon Hills, Lydia’s whole life kind of goes down the shitter—Jackson is suddenly plagued with mysterious medical problems and is acting douchier than ever, that awful Thing charges them outside of the video store and leaves Lydia catatonic for days, and Allison herself leads them to the school and traps them there with a murderer. Lydia is already making excuses to her psychiatrist in order to get her Xanax prescription renewed a month in advance, and she doesn’t appreciate having to come off as a teenage junkie.

So, Allison is maybe extremely dangerous. It seemed like trouble trotted along at her calloused, pale heels, and Lydia has no interest whatsoever in joining the parade. In fact, she probably should have backed out immediately after the front-flip incident, or when Allison pointed her damn crossbow in her face for the first time, or even when the girl sends her a seven-word text reading “Study with me tonight? I’m bombing health.”

The stupid thing about Lydia, though, is that she finds Allison interesting, maybe even thinks she is the best worst thing to happen to Beacon Hills in years. She didn’t like that she couldn’t tell what Allison was going to do next, or that she had to surreptitiously pop more Xanax or start counting the letters of her words when they were together, but something—most likely the part of Lydia’s brain that relishes knowledge and logic—makes Allison’s unpredictability seem nearly intoxicating.

It doesn’t really make any sense, least of all to Lydia herself, but that’s probably why she finds herself sitting on Allison’s bed, health textbook spread across her lap, on a Thursday night.

They’d been studying for the better part of three hours, their concentrated silence only occasionally broken by the squeak of Lydia’s highlighter or one of them pausing to make fun of a sentence in the textbook. There had been a pizza break somewhere in there, and Lydia is consciously resisting the urge to pick up and throw away all the mushrooms littered around her from when Allison had pelted them at her like some five-year-old with assassin-grade accuracy. When the first one had hit her (right between the eyes, too, god damn it), Lydia had let out an embarrassing yelp before turning one of her signature glares on the offender in question.

In response, of course, Allison had just shrugged, said, “I don’t like mushrooms,” and proceeded to throw every single one she found at Lydia until the redhead cracked a smile.

If anyone asks Lydia, later, whether or not she’d retaliated by aiming the small pile of black olives she’d accumulated at the tiny gap of cleavage in Allison’s black tank top, she will most likely deny any such accusation.

The Great Pizza War had come and gone, and they’d fallen back into a pattern of occasional conversation and abject boredom. Lydia, who’d already read the health textbook the first weekend of school (not at all a daunting task, since she’d just skipped over all the information she already knew) busies herself by arguing with Jackson over text. She edits a spelling mistake on a particularly cutting six-word response when, before she can hit send, Allison pipes up again.

“It says here that more girls experiment sexually with members of the same gender than boys do during adolescence,” she comments, pen poised over the page. Allison is an underliner, not a highlighter, despite Lydia’s best efforts. The girl just didn’t make sense.

Lydia sits up and sets her phone aside, leaning back on her arms to stretch out a little. She huffs out a laugh before responding, as dryly as she can muster, “Yeah, okay. I’ve never kissed a girl, but I know for a fact that Jackson and Danny have hooked up, like, five times.” She picks up the book again, flipping aimlessly through the pages a bit before adding, “And that’s just while I’ve been dating him.”

Allison raises her eyebrows and let out a little breathy laugh before asking, “You’re serious?”

They’ve exchanged fifty-two words already, so Lydia just raises her eyebrows and shrugs, her usual way of nonverbally asking, “Do I look like I’m kidding?”

Instead of being intimidated or acting like Lydia was being a bitch, as most people did on the receiving end of her myriad glares, Allison just snorts and returns to her reading. Lydia watches her, eyes narrowed. Allison was surrounded by some weird impenetrable bubble of amiability most days. Lydia always expects Allison to give up, to yell at her when she insists on getting the last word or chew her out for being so controlling, but Allison never does. She’s always a variable—constantly the same on the outside, always Allison, but never consistent beneath the surface. Sometimes, a=6 or a=3/4, but it’s still a. Sometimes, Allison equals “cute, pushover best friend and minion,” or Allison equals “crazy huntress gun nut ninja gymnast,” but she was always still Allison. She had layers; that was a way to simplify things without resorting to stupid metaphors, Lydia supposes. Allison is never just one thing.

She further proves this theory when she lifts her head up from the textbook, meets Lydia’s embarrassingly-still-present stare, and asks, “Would you ever want to?”

Lydia’s brow scrunches up, but she holds the girl’s gaze. “What?”

Allison just stares back at her, big brown eyes wide and questioning. “Kiss a girl.”

Lydia hates admitting defeat—in anything—but she blinks. “What?

Now, Allison is staring at her like she’s a moron, which is both rude and unfair. She wets her lips and raises her eyebrows before repeating, this time complete with sarcastic enunciation, “Would you ever want to kiss a girl?”

Lydia attempts to look annoyed, but she knows she’s most likely pulling off bewildered, at best. “I heard you,” she responds, tilting her head to mimic Allison and raising her own eyebrows. Twenty-one words, and Allison is waiting for her to answer the question. Lydia hates odd numbers, and she hates looking weak. She licks her lips and shrugs. “Sure, why not?”

Allison mirrors her shrug, like she hadn’t just spent the past five minutes making Lydia’s palms sweat. “Same,” she replies simply, before circling something on the page she’d been reading and reverting her attention back to the text.

Lydia stares at the book in her lap without reading anything. She can feel her neck start to itch; they’d left the conversation right at twenty-five words, but Lydia doesn’t know what else to say. Instead, she runs Allison’s last word, “same,” through her head, counting out the four letters over and over again. When Lydia was much younger, she’d often been confused as to why adults spoke of four-letter words as though they were awful.

“You know, we could try it,” Allison pipes up.  She’s looking at Lydia with her head tilted slightly to the side again, as if she’s considering what to order for take-out or what to wear to Homecoming. “For the sake of statistics,” she adds, cool façade wavering slightly as her face breaks into a small smile and the last word tilts up into a question.

Lydia isn’t stupid. Her entire life revolves around recognizing—if not creating—patterns, and it would be insulting to suggest she hadn’t seen this coming.

Still, she hadn’t really seen this coming.

Allison moves the textbook from her lap and walks over to the bed, and Lydia’s brain is screaming at her that she should probably respond suavely soon if she still wants to seem like she is at all keeping her cool. Unfortunately, her mouth doesn’t really cooperate, and she ends up replying, “Well, if it’s for the sake of statistics.” Thirty-four goddamn words.

Allison just smiles in response, laughing a little through her nose in silent recognition of that probably being the nerdiest thing Lydia has ever said in her presence. As Lydia uses the pretense of putting aside her textbook to surreptitiously wipe her palms on the side of her skirt, Allison settles onto the bed next to her, warm smile steadfastly in place and legs folded in criss-cross-applesauce. Lydia has to lift a brow at the girl’s choice in seating position—after all, this is just an agreement between friends, a way to alleviate boredom on a school night. This isn’t the sixth grade, and she hasn’t just spun a bottle. As she turns her head to face Allison, leaving her legs dangling off the edge of the bed (crossed at the ankles, of course), she starts to count out an even-numbered retort. Before she can say anything, though, Allison grabs either side of her face and gently guides her forward.

Numbers and sarcasm die on Lydia’s tongue and fizzle out in her head. All Allison has done is press their lips together, slow and cautious, but Lydia is on internal overdrive cataloguing every sensation: the way Allison’s calloused fingers feel so rough against Lydia’s cheeks in comparison to the softness of her lips, how Lydia had forgotten to wipe off her lipstick and is trying to squelch the embarrassment bubbling up within herself, how she hadn’t even remembered her eyes fluttering shut. It feels, falsely, like they stay with their lips pressed together that way for minutes, the way that seconds can feel like years in the middle of a dream. Eventually, Allison pulls away, breaking their connection just as slowly as she’d formed it, and Lydia opens her eyes. Allison is smiling exactly the same way she’d been before Lydia’d closed them, dimples endearingly deep and cheeks flushed, but something is gleaming in the other girl’s eyes, a weird mixture of excitement and mischief that Lydia had learned, in the short time they’d known each other, to meet with her own mixture of apprehension and curiosity.

Lydia should have known it would be inevitable, then (should have, but patterns and logic had flipped out the window with the girl weeks ago, and she hadn’t even realized), that Allison would stroke her left cheek with the rough pad of her thumb before pulling Lydia back in, coarser and more determined as she opened her mouth against Lydia’s with a sigh.

Lydia kept her eyes open for a moment, so astounded that it is everything she can do to keep them from bugging out of her head completely. She would never admit out loud, even under oath, that she had done something so gauche, but it does give her the rare opportunity to see—blurrily and half transparent, the way most things are when too up-close—that Allison is kissing her determinedly, a small furrow of concentration between her perfectly-shaped eyebrows. It hits Lydia, with full-body force, that she is what Allison is pouring all of that concentration and precision into, that the other girl dealt as much in strategy and logistics as she did, sometimes, and the way she’s biting Lydia’s bottom lip and soothing it with her tongue certainly suggests an end goal. Lydia stops cataloguing—does everything she can to just stop thinking and let Allison carry that burden for her this one time—before she closes her eyes and opens her own mouth against Allison’s.

Allison’s hands had migrated from the sides of Lydia’s face to the back of her neck while Lydia was thinking, and when she opens her mouth, Allison closes her hands around fistfuls of Lydia’s red hair and pulls her even closer, adjusting the angle of her head so that their mouths slot together perfectly. Lydia breathes in harshly through her nose and places her hands on the jutting corners of Allison’s knees, for lack of the knowledge or courage required for doing anything better with them. Allison, on the other hand, seems to know exactly what she’s doing, and how much Lydia will let her do before she starts overthinking again and develops the good sense to stop the whole thing. Her hands are still tangled in Lydia’s hair, one stroking the back of her neck and the other holding her head in place. They just kiss like that, hot and slow and open-mouthed, Allison continuing to bite at Lydia’s lips, until Allison tugs at Lydia’s hair again before licking into her mouth.

Lydia’s hands clench around Allison’s knees as their tongues finally slide together. Allison moans into the kiss, the hand she’d been using to stroke Lydia’s neck once again traveling up to cup her cheek as Lydia leans forward even further. She can feel the corners of Allison’s mouth turn up slightly against hers before the other girl deepens the kiss again, sucking on Lydia’s tongue before tangling it with her own.

Allison is an excellent kisser, all things considered. She has impeccable timing, and she seems to take the most pleasure in making her partners feel good, in watching them come undone around her. Lydia tries not to think about how this skill and concentration probably definitely stemmed from Allison’s extensive training with a bow, or about how the fingers holding her in place were slender and strong and dexterous. She tries to remember that this is platonic—as platonic as making out with your best friend sans a male audience can be.

Lydia remembers, abruptly, that Allison is her best friend, and takes her hands off of Allison’s knees and opens her eyes.

She swallows at the way that, as Allison breaks the kiss, it takes the other girl a moment to let her eyes flutter open. Allison’s cheeks are completely pink, her naturally dark lips deep and shiny red and sloppily covered in Lydia’s magenta lipstick. Allison grins at Lydia again, as though nothing had changed between the last time she had and now, before nodding at her and saying, “Well, there we go.”

Allison returns to the chair and cracks open her textbook again, and Lydia silently thanks God for the four-word response, because it means she doesn’t have to try to say anything. She’s pretty sure that any noise she makes at that point will come out as an embarrassing squeak, or, worse, a plea.

When Lydia’s motor neurons kick back into gear, she eventually finds it in herself to clear her throat and fabricate a pathetic excuse about making curfew so that her parents will let her go to tomorrow night’s lacrosse game. Allison knows how little Lydia’s parents actually care about her whereabouts, but she still smiles and nods and says she’ll see her tomorrow while Lydia smooths out her hair with one hand and hoists her purse onto her shoulder with the other. It is almost physically painful for Lydia to maintain an even 54 mph on her way home, right hand tapping a manic rhythm against the steering wheel. By the time she bursts through her bedroom door, it feels like her insides are going to leap directly out of her skin; like she is going to cave in on herself and explode simultaneously, as though she is a supernova.

After discarding her purse and car keys, Lydia crashes onto her bed and tugs at her skirt until it falls past her thighs. She slides a hand into her underwear and lets her head fall back onto her pillows as she sighs loudly in relief. As she inserts a finger into herself and uses another to rub her clit, she closes her eyes and imagines Allison above her, perfectly wavy hair falling in tousled clumps around her and chest peppered with bite marks. She thinks of Allison’s warm smile and gentle patience, of the way she always seemed to follow the girl when her eyes shone like that, even when her brain was screaming at her not to. She thinks of how Allison had tugged on her hair and bitten her lip and made her mind quiet for so long. She thinks about how she’d seen Allison’s naked back the few times they’d changed together, and she imagines it covered in scratch marks. She thinks about how Allison’s hands had felt against her skin, and how her tongue had felt inside her mouth. She thinks about holding Allison’s head in place with her thighs, about fisting her hands into her own sheets and letting everything go, about how kissing Allison had made her want to laugh and scream and come all at once. She thinks about everything else she wants to do with her, everything else she wants Allison to do to her, working her hand inside herself until she comes, back arched and breaths shuddering.

Lydia rolls over, face smushed against her pillows as she uses her feet to kick off her heels. As she starts to fall asleep, too exhausted to even pull up her covers, she huffs two muffled curses into the pillows as her arms flop against her sides.

Fuck. Shit.”


Danny almost jumps out of his seat completely when Lydia slams Sexuality and Gender: A Comprehensive Study of Individual Identities on the library table next to him. He shoots her a look that clearly reads, “What the absolute fuck?” but she ignores him, planting her hands on her hips and squaring her shoulders before gesturing to the book with one hand.

“I’m a homoromantic pansexual.”

Without missing a beat, Danny extends his hand toward her and replies, “Puerto Rican Polynesian, nice to meet you.”

Lydia flounces into the chair next to him, arms crossed. “Can we not? I’m trying to come out to you.”

Danny raises his hands in surrender. “No belittlement intended here, man. I’m just not sure what you mean by that.”

Lydia scrunches her eyebrows in a confused frown. She’d decided to read the textbook before labeling her own sexuality for a reason.

“I mean,” Danny continues, gesturing to the book with one hand and shutting his laptop with the other, “Different identities can mean different things to different people.” He leans forward on his elbows. “Like, okay,” he starts, pointing to himself. “I’m gay, as in, that’s what I call myself, but I don’t want anyone to think that means I’m exclusively attracted to cis dudes, or that I’m exclusively not attracted to non-binary or genderqueer people, because I am.”

Lydia nods, running her tongue over her teeth and adjusting one of the bangles on her left wrist before answering. “So, for me, it was kind of—logical,” she begins, and Danny nods his head at her as if to say, of course. “I figured out—recently, I very recently figured out—that I probably only have romantic feelings for girls.” She pauses to look at Danny, who, to his credit, has merely blinked in surprise. Encouraged, she continues on, gesturing vaguely with her right hand. “On the other hand, though, I’ll pretty much screw anyone, consensually.” She’s talking pretty fast, now, the numbers flitting by in her head as she spoke. “And, I mean, I totally agree about the unnecessary implied binaries that society has assigned to identity labels, and I don’t want to be exclusionary, either, so maybe I should just say ‘queer,’ but I’m new at this and that kind of feels like a statement, so, you know, for now—“

Danny nods again. “You identify as a homoromantic pansexual.”    

Lydia smiles, letting out a long breath and nodding back. “Yes.”

Jackson might have been closer to Danny, generally speaking, but Lydia had always found his intelligence—which she considered to be on-par with her own and even more skillfully hidden, all things considered—unfathomably refreshing.

Danny leans back in his seat, crossing his arms behind his head. “Well, I gotta say, you sure know your stuff.”

Lydia taps one blood-red fingernail against the textbook’s cover. “Yeah, well. I read this last night, so.” Danny frowns and raises his eyebrows, as though unsurprised but still impressed. He breaks their eye contact and looks up at the ceiling, biting the inside of his cheek.

“There is still the matter of you identifying as homoromantic—which I’m assuming means you very recently discovered you have romantic feelings for another girl—and dating my best friend.”

Lydia sticks out her bottom lip and blows at some hair that’s fallen over her left eye. “Right.”

Danny faces her again, waiting for an answer.

Lydia scratches at the back of her neck. “It’s not…personal, or anything, I just—don’t. I’ve been thinking a lot about our relationship, and, I mean, the sex is good, and he’s really hot, but…I think about all the time we’ve spent together, and how I’ve felt, and then I think about this other person—“

“Girl,” Danny states frankly.

Person, and I realize that I’ve never felt, like, actual love for him, beyond the friend kind. Same goes any other guy. And I don’t think I can. Feel that way, I mean. Not when I can feel the way I do about someone else.” She sighs, looking down at the glossy cover of Sexuality and Gender. She’d left things at an even number, but she has to ask—“You’re not going to tell him, are you?”

“Depends. You gonna break up with him?”

Lydia nods. “Soon.”

Danny raises his eyebrows.

Soon. He’s really depressed right now, between lacrosse and his parents and that weird medical thing with his neck.” Danny is still giving her the side-eye. She scrunches her nose and lowers her voice, leaning towards him a bit. “He’s cried on me like, ten times in the past month. I’ll do it within a week, I promise.”

Danny rolls his eyes and holds a pinky out to her. She links her little finger with his, grinning.

“Only because you’re in the queer club now,” Danny adds, before giving their fingers a firm shake and letting go. He stands up and packs his things, swinging one of his backpack straps over his shoulder before saluting Lydia and turning to walk away.

After taking a few steps, he spins on his heel and turns back around to face her, pointing at her with the hand not keeping his backpack strap in place. “Can I ask you one more thing, though?”

Lydia shrugs, eyebrows raised in an attempt to mask her apprehension. “Shoot.”

“Who is it?”

Lydia swallows, licking her lips and glancing to the side before sighing and tilting her head. She taps her fingers against the table, other hand clutching the head of her chair as she twists around to look Danny in the eye.


Danny blinks, tilting his head back as though the name has physically hit him. He lets out a low whistle. “Fuck, dude.”

Lydia purses her lips and nods. “Yeah.”


Jackson dumps her the next day.             

It’s public and demeaning and awful, and Lydia can hardly be bothered to feel ashamed when she fakes sick in order to go home and cry her fucking eyes out. The tears burn on her face and in her throat as she chokes out hurt and humiliation and frustration, feelings that quickly bubble up into anger. She’s sick at the thought that she’d trusted another person enough to give him a portion of control over her life, and that he’d spat in her face in return. She’s furious with herself for miscounting the variables. She’s helpless and weak and fucking livid that another person has the power to make her feel that way,  to prove her right and demote himself from lover to anxiety-enabler in two seconds flat when she’d at least been banking on keeping him around as a friend. Lydia doesn’t get angry when things didn’t go her way because she’s spoiled; she gets angry because it’s generally easier than showing fear. More than anything, Lydia is fucking terrified. She is terrified that she was right and terrified that she was wrong. She is terrified that it had to be November 24th when he did this to her.

When Allison dumped Scott after the trapped-in-school-with-a-murderer fiasco, Lydia sat with her all night over a tub of Phish Food and didn’t make fun of her for liking Cherry Garcia the best, despite the fact that putting fruit in chocolate was a fucking abomination. Lydia let her cry and throw chocolate at romantic comedies on the television with her, a la Legally Blonde. She didn’t even insist on picking up the discarded truffles afterwards. Lydia can remember, in a fuzzy soft-focus kind of way, that they’d settled under the down comforter on Allison’s bed with their makeup still on and fallen asleep curled into each other, murmuring stories and secrets and nothing until their eyes felt heavy. Before she drifted off, Lydia’d hazily offered to kill Scott on Allison’s behalf so that she wouldn’t have to see him at school the next day. Allison scrunched her nose up and smiled a real smile for the first time in hours, shaking her head from side to side and giggling, No.

On November 24th, when Lydia gets a text from Allison that reads, “Hey, do you need me to kill him for you?” she wonders why it took so long to admit to herself that she is in love with her.

Instead, she simply texts back, “Not yet. Come over?” and counts on herself to pick up exactly four pints of ice cream (two extra, just in case) and a new killer pair of heels before meeting Allison at her house, because she is a WASP and blowing money has always been stronger than crying.

That night, Lydia does her best to act sad about losing Jackson as a boyfriend, and she does even better to shrug off any and all of Allison’s questions about how it felt to be blown off so brutally and publicly. She tries her damndest not to cry when Jenna tells Matt he’s her best friend in 13 Going on 30. Above all, Lydia does everything in her power not to stare too long when Allison smiles at her or laughs, or when they settle down under Lydia’s Anthropologie bedspread and Allison’s face is inches away from her own. She tries so hard—too hard, probably—to ignore the quiet ache in her chest when Allison talks about what it’s been like to see Scott every day, how she wishes she could be with him again. Lydia tries to just be Allison’s friend again, to act normal for a few goddamn hours and smile and nod in all the right places, but it’s hard. It’s hard because she can’t and it’s hard because she can.

They fall asleep curled into each other again. This time, when Lydia wakes up, Allison’s hand is placed protectively over her own on the pillows in between them.

Lydia swallows back the glimmer of hope rising within her and waits as it slowly fizzles out into sadness. Doing her best not to wake Allison, she turns to the closet behind her and slips into the heels she bought yesterday before contemplating the clothes in front of her.


A few days later, Scott tries to make out with her in Coach Finstock’s office. She even surprises herself when she doesn’t let him—after all, the guy has an amazing body and the kind of skin that would make an Olay ad exec cry—but something about him is off. The less-shallow part of Lydia’s brain notes that Scott’s best assets, his warm brown eyes and his honest smile, are noticeably gone when he approaches her, aggressive and unwarranted. It makes her feel uncomfortable, preyed upon, in a way she never expected to feel around Scott. He corners her in the office and doesn’t back down until she barks a firm No right into his face. As soon as she does, his face crumples back into a sincere and concerned expression that Lydia is relieved to find she can identify as one hundred-percent Scott. He quickly backs away from her, stammering out apologies and holding one hand out in front of himself as he exits the office and shuffles down the hall.

The day after that, Lydia opens her locker to find a bouquet of flowers and a hand-written note from the kid explaining that what he’d done was completely unacceptable and that he hoped he’d be able to properly explain himself someday, but for now she could rest assured that he completely understood consent and respected her as a woman and would keep his distance from her until she indicated that he could do otherwise. That he’d misspelled half the words does nothing to dispel the disgusting perfection of the whole thing, and Lydia is awed by the realization that Scott probably deserved—probably still deserves—Allison, and she should feel like crap for being jealous of him. She should maybe even feel like crap for kissing the girl he’s in love with, but then, he should probably feel like crap for doing the same.

She sighs and gingerly closes her locker door on the flowers, hoping that the lack of sun exposure won’t wilt them too much in between periods. This whole thing is a fucking mess, and she’s thankful to have AP Calc BC as a kind-of distraction from it all for the next hour. There is a reason numbers make more sense to her than people. There’s a reason she likes chemistry—it’s weirdly intoxicating to be able to break everything around you down to their most basic forms and know that you are unequivocally right about what they’re made of.

For what seems like the millionth time, Lydia wishes that people were as easy to untangle as a chemical formula or a quadratic equation.


Lydia finds herself wishing this again in a matter of days, when she and Allison go on the weirdest shopping trip ever, because suddenly Allison has a date with her asshole ex, of all people, and Lydia has agreed to attempt to tolerate Stilinski for longer than fifteen minutes just because Allison asked her. Also, they need dresses.

On the escalator up, Lydia fails to enthuse Allison, who has been resolutely down all day. “Never frown, someone could be falling in love with your smile,” she says, both because she knows from personal experience (on both ends) and because it’s something her mom would say. When Allison doesn’t respond, she desperately tacks on, “Smile, Allison. I’m buying you a dress.”

It doesn’t work.

Allison is being weird and hard in a way that Lydia used to think wasn’t possible for her, but she’s seen it slip through the cracks over the past few days, from that weird hunting session in the woods to the occasional rough setting of her jaw in class. It’s very clear to her by now that Allison is more than sugar-sweet smiles and on-point outfits; the girl is six shades of underrated badass—the kind of crossbow-wielding, knife-spinning whirlwind that monsters and rapists have serial nightmares about. Still, Lydia’s spent enough time with her that there’s some other dimension beneath all the leather and titanium, something coiled and scared that wants to cover itself in spikes and a Do Not Trespass sign. Lydia gets it; the same thing is somewhere in her, hiding under even-numbered sentences and eighty-dollar French manicures—it’s somewhere in every girl, probably, she thinks—but knowing that something is making Allison this sad and cold makes Lydia want to take up archery all on her own. Lydia knows that Allison can protect herself, that she knows how to even though it shouldn’t be her responsibility the same way that it shouldn’t be any other seventeen-year-old girl’s, but Lydia can’t help feeling like sticking a knife in whatever is making Allison this guarded and twisting it around for good measure.

Lydia has potentially found an actual human target for this newfound rage in the form of whatever leather-coated fashion victim creep is currently chatting up an obviously uncomfortable Allison over by the silver dresses. His smile is as slick as his hair, and he’s looking at her like she’s edible. When he grabs her hand, Lydia’s chest clutches and the rage in her stomach bubbles all the way up into her head. As if by rote, she finds herself throwing her dress choices at the nearest sales consultant and click-clacking her way over to the two of them, eyeing down Leathery Old Dude like the piece of garbage he is.

“Allison!” she chirps, cutting him off mid-leer and sizing him up in one glossy sneer. “Even though it’s super kind of you to be offering help to senior citizens, I thought we were here to buy dresses. Eyes on the prize, sweetheart!” She claps her hands twice and points to the right. “Dressing rooms are that way. C’mon.”

Allison blinks at her and looks at the guy, smiling blandly at him before nodding and heading off in the direction of Lydia’s finger.

Because she’s a sore winner, Lydia’s sure to throw a “Have a nice day” that sounds like “Go fuck a rake” over her shoulder as she spins away from the pervert and follows her friend.

When they get to the dressing room, Allison sits down on the wide bench on one side and puts her head in her hands without speaking. Lydia doesn’t know what to do because she’s always been shitty at troubleshooting people, so she figures she should do something about the fact that they’re in a dressing room and neither of them brought any dresses.

“I guess I’ll go get some stuff to try on,” she tries, gesturing over her shoulder with a thumb. Allison doesn’t budge. “Do you need me to stay?”

Allison’s head snaps up and her hands clench on her knees. The look she gives Lydia is fierce in a way that makes Lydia terrified and sad in a way she can’t parcel out. “No,” Allison grits out, like if Lydia doesn’t hear it she’ll never say it again. She sits up a little straighter, chin in the air, and crosses her arms in front of her chest before biting out in a clearer voice, “I don’t need you to protect me.”

Lydia is glad that was an even number of words, because she wouldn’t know how to reply if she had to. She exits the room and flags down the sales consultant to retrieve her pile of dresses. When the employee tries to remind her of the mandated five-item dressing room limit, she just raises an eyebrow and turns on her heel. It’s not that she’s insulted by the insinuation that she might shoplift—she’d probably try it, if she didn’t have like four different anxiety disorders—it’s just that she doesn’t have to, and she’s going to be spending a lot of money at this store if they’ll leave her alone and let her try the damn dresses on.

Luckily—really luckily, as it turns out—they do.

When Lydia returns to the dressing room with four dress options for each of them, Allison is chewing on one of her cuticles nervously, back to the cute, unassuming girl Lydia had befriended just a few months ago. Allison shoots her a close-lipped smile, and Lydia takes it for the apology it most likely is, because she hates the awkwardness of apologies almost as much as she hates the awkwardness of goodbyes.

“So,” she starts, clearing her throat before holding up a purple dress with her left hand and a green one with her right. “Can I even wear these, or am I way too pale?”

Allison shoots her a look that roughly translates as “Oh, please,” in Hot Girl and stands up to regard one of the dresses Lydia has hung up. “You’re not pale,” Allison tells her simply as she holds a silver number under her chin. “You’re just fair.” She looks at Lydia’s reflection and gestures to the green one with her unoccupied hand. “That one,” she tells her, like she knows she sounds bossy and she doesn’t care.

Lydia turns around to change and bites back a smile.

Fifteen minutes later, Lydia is sitting on the bench and idly checking her phone, the green dress hung next to her, while Allison stands in front of the mirror amidst a pile of dresses. Allison blows some hair out of her face and regards herself in the mirror before frustratedly peeling the latest reject off and stepping out of it. She’s wearing a grey cotton bra and some old underwear that were probably magenta once but are now a faded pink.  There’s a hole near where the waistband rests on her left hip and the butt has “Tuesday” printed on it in cracked black lettering. Allison is still staring critically at her reflection, and the silence is kind of growing on Lydia. Instead of wittily informing Allison that today is, in fact, Friday, which would pretty much be an all-out admission to staring at the girl’s ass, Lydia asks something that’s been making her itch for the past quarter of an hour.

She says it blithely, though, without making eye contact with Allison, because that’s how she does things. “You really are okay though, right?”

When Allison doesn’t respond or look away from the mirror, Lydia adds, “That guy was a major creep.”

Allison turns her head and tilts it, the sharp angles in her face catching the fluorescent dressing room lights as she regards Lydia like she’s a target and Allison can’t see the bulls-eye. After a moment, she replies, “Have you ever felt weak?”

Lydia scrunches her eyebrows. It’s not what she’d expected, but it is an odd number of words, so she simply replies, “Yeah. Hasn’t everyone?”

Allison looks back at herself in the mirror and stands with her feet apart and her shoulders level, tilting her head up a bit. “I didn’t think I could,” she says, before letting her body relax and staring at her unpainted toenails. “Now I’m not so sure.”

Lydia sighs, putting her phone back in her bag. “Allison,” she starts, waiting until Allison looks up at her again before continuing, “You’re just a person. You know that, right?”

Allison laughs harshly, once, before turning away from Lydia again. The sound reverberates in the small room, and Lydia has to restrain herself from covering her ears at how wrong it sounds. She sits there and lets her palms itch until Allison says, in a low voice, “More like I’m just a girl.”

Lydia stands up abruptly, letting her purse fall to the floor as Allison faces her, eyes wide. “Have you ever stopped to consider that that’s not such a bad thing, Allison?” she says, and it comes out too quickly, like a snap—she can tell by the way Allison is looking at her as though she’s just been struck. Lydia relaxes her shoulders, lets her hands fall open at her sides, and edges toward her, pleadingly. “You are amazing, Allison. You’re talented and kind and strong, and you’re a girl.” She clears her throat and looks Allison in the eye, enunciating her last sentence. “Don’t let other people convince you that what you are is something to be ashamed of.”

Allison holds Lydia’s eye contact, crossing her arms over her nearly bare chest and sticking out her chin. “I guess I’m just scared of not being allowed to have what I want,” she says, glancing down before meeting Lydia’s eyes again.

Lydia frowns in confusion. “If somebody won’t let you have what you want just because you’re a girl, then take it,” she shrugs, adding, “Don’t ever let a guy tell you what you can or can’t have.” If they’re going to talk in generalizations, she might as well try to subtly get at what the hell Allison is talking about. Probably Scott.

Allison snorts and looks back down at her feet. “Maybe it’s just not that simple, Lyd.”

Lydia throws her hands up. “Maybe it is!” Her voice squeaks on the last word, and she fights the blush she can feel rising in her cheeks. She plants her hands on her hips.

Allison, because she is incredibly rude, laughs. She lets her hands fall back down to her sides and quirks an eyebrow at Lydia before asking, “Why do you always fight me?”

Maybe it’s because Lydia wants to one-up Allison in the heat of embarrassment, and maybe it’s because the fourteen-word response has been bubbling on her tongue for days—for what feels like months, years—but she knows she didn’t plan it beforehand when she draws herself up to her full height, looks Allison in the eye, and unfalteringly tells her,

“Like I said. Sometimes we have to fight for the things that we want.”

Lydia doesn’t know how the space between them vanishes, only that it suddenly does, and then Allison is kissing her like they’re the only people left in the world.

Allison threads her fingers through Lydia’s hair again, resting her thumbs on her cheeks and tipping her head down to kiss her. Lydia’s still in heels and Allison’s barefoot, but she has to stand on the tips of her toes to meet her in the middle. She wraps her hands around Allison’s waist and pulls herself against her, relishing how the softness of Allison’s body against hers makes it feel like their kiss is shooting all the way down from her lips to her straining feet. It’s like what happened all those weeks ago in Allison’s bedroom, except dialed up to eleven, because Lydia has wanted this for so long, and even though she’s used to getting what she wants, she is still completely unprepared for getting things she never thought she could have.

Allison skips right past tentative and meets Lydia somewhere between desperate and careless, their mouths opening and tongues sliding together on the third or fourth kiss. Allison bites Lydia’s lip again and Lydia moans into her mouth when she kisses back, because fuck it, they’re both going to a dance tomorrow night with boys as dates and this might be now or never.

Suddenly, though, Allison is pulling away, and Lydia has to bodily stifle the whiny No that’s milliseconds from escaping her lips.

Luckily, Allison doesn’t let go of her face, or take Lydia’s hands off of her, just pulls away enough to look Lydia in the eye and whisper, all dimples, “This is what you were talking about, right?”

Because that was eight words, Lydia just looks at her like she’s literally never been more annoyed in her whole entire life, and because Allison just gets her, she takes it as the very affectionate gesture it is and laughs. Lydia kisses the dimple in Allison’s left cheek, because apparently there is a God out there somewhere, praise be to Her, and that’s a thing she can do now. Allison winds her arms around her neck as Lydia kisses her way down her cheek and jaw. When she kisses the spot where Allison’s jaw meets her neck, Allison shivers a little and one hand grabs the hair at the back of Lydia’s neck. Allison bites out an “Oh my God,” and Lydia raises an eyebrow. Good to know.

As Lydia works on sucking a mark into that spot—Allison can just wear her hair down tomorrow, fuck it—and Allison’s breathing gets heavier and the grasp she has on Lydia’s neck gets tighter, Lydia lets her hands move to Allison’s sides. She rubs circles into the spot above Allison’s hip with her thumb and tries not to let the anxiety pooling in her gut over Allison’s last three words get the best of her.

Allison must have some way of reading her mind, because just as Lydia’s about to break away and say something, Allison swallows and gasps out, “We’re in the dressing room of a Macy’s.”

Lydia smiles at the out, licking at the red-purple mark on Allison’s skin one last time before looking up at her. “I’m fine with it if you are,” she tells her, like this is not the most potentially life-changing proposition she’ll ever make in her life.

Lydia waits for the doe eyes to come back, for Allison to just giggle and put a shirt on and shrug it off—because sometimes best friends kiss, and this was just one of those times, and it doesn’t have to mean anything if she doesn’t want it to. Lydia waits for Allison to make an excuse and leave, to tell her she’ll see her tomorrow. Lydia waits for Allison to leave her behind. It’s probably what Lydia would do, if she was in her shoes.

Allison Argent is a surprise, though, and she doesn’t do any of those things. She squares her shoulders, looks Lydia in the eye, and smiles, with eyes like warm steel and a blush creeping up from her chest—before saying, “Yeah. Yes.”

It’s the end of the conversation, both because it’s an even number of words and because Allison has suddenly crowded Lydia against the bench side of the stall and threaded her fingers through Lydia’s, clasping their hands together. She kisses Lydia again, starting out sweetly before opening her mouth and sucking at her tongue, using their intertwined hands to guide Lydia’s fingers back to her hips. The bench comes up against the backs of Lydia’s knees and she sinks down onto it, pulling Allison—who hasn’t so much as hesitated in kissing her, meaning this was probably her plan all along—down with her. Allison straddles her lap, putting one knee on either side of Lydia’s hips and pulling her up to her mouth by the collar of her dress. If it was possible to not-awkwardly die in the middle of foreplay in a Macy’s dressing room, Lydia thinks, she could die happy right now.

Lydia has not been ignoring—most likely could not ignore it if she tried—that Allison is only wearing her bra and underwear. Up until now, she’s just taken her time running her fingers over Allison’s torso, appreciating the smooth curves of her stomach, but now Allison’s ass is in her lap and her tongue is in her mouth and Lydia needs more, now, so she goes for broke and moves her hand up to the left cup of Allison’s bra. Allison honest-to-God groans into Lydia’s mouth before she even does anything, so when Lydia squeezes her breast through the soft grey fabric it’s not shocking that Allison kisses her more fiercely, grinding into her lap like it’s the only thing she can think to do anymore. Lydia quickly moves to take the bra off altogether, because attempting to focus on a singular goal seems like the only reasonable distraction from the way Allison is rubbing up determinedly against her hip bone. They break apart briefly so that Lydia can unclasp the bra and Allison can shrug out of the thing, and Allison looks at Lydia and swallows, biting into her lower lip as she smiles. Her entire chest and face are flushed, and her long dark hair is mussed completely on one side. Her eyes are bright and blown out and her lips are kiss-swollen, and Lydia doesn’t even remember deciding to say it, but she does, and she’s glad it’s an even number of words.

It comes out like a breath. “You are so beautiful.”

Allison lets her smile dissolve into a full-on grin before kissing Lydia again, this time working her way down to suck a mark onto her collarbone. Lydia would point out that that’s just rude, because Allison knows the green dress is strapless, but she doesn’t really know how to say anything anymore in the first place and can’t be bothered to count the words. She can hear her own breaths coming out louder and shorter over the soft sound of Allison marking her skin, and she briefly remembers exactly how public this is. She muses, for a moment, on the idea of getting caught, and figures she actually likes it more than she dreads it, if the wetness between her legs is any indication. Lydia smirks a little, because Allison is on the same page, if the way she’s riding her thigh is any indication.

Lydia starts massaging Allison’s breasts again, both because she wants to see her reaction and because if this is actually some awesome gay fantasy dream, she’d like to wake up after the good part is over. Allison groans against Lydia’s skin, and Lydia has to fight back a smile as she moves her right hand down to waistband of Allison’s underwear.

Allison pulls away from Lydia’s chest with a pop and catches her wrist with her hand. Allison places her hand down next to them on the bench and shifts herself off of Lydia’s lap a bit. She’s still hovering over her, knees nearly hitting the dressing room wall and face just inches away, but Lydia doesn’t know how to interpret this. She’s terrified she’d overstepped her bounds or made Allison uncomfortable. Lydia is milliseconds away from choking out an apology, but then Allison smiles and the moment passes completely as she leans down by Lydia’s right ear and whispers, “You first.”

You don’t have to have Lydia’s IQ in order to get that, so Lydia puts both of her hands on the bench and waits for Allison to do—whatever she wants, actually. Allison does what she wants, that’s just how she works, that’s why being obsessed with order and in love with her at the same time is so damn stressful, but here…Lydia is more than prepared to give Allison whatever she’s willing to take, and the concentration-crinkle forming between Allison’s eyebrows seems indicative of the same. Allison places both hands firmly around Lydia’s thighs, raking up the hem of her dress as she does, and kisses her again. As Allison’s hand travels further up Lydia’s thigh, Lydia knows her kissing gets more sloppy and desperate—hungry, even—but she’s way out of fucks to give. Lydia realizes she’s still fully clothed as Allison’s right hand is dipping underneath the satin waistband of her panties, and that’s all kinds of hot in a way she doesn’t even want to try to understand.

Allison starts by simply working her hand over the wet folds of Lydia’s labia, giving her something to grind up against. Lydia takes the opportunity, working her hips down onto the bench and Allison’s hand as they continue to kiss. By now, Lydia’s hands have settled in Allison’s hair, and she tightens her grip as one of Allison’s fingers just barely hits her clit, letting out a nasally whine. Allison smiles against her mouth and Lydia bites her lip hard in response, because this seems like a more than acceptable time to let her bitch flag fly. Allison puts her lips next to Lydia’s ear again and asks, “What do you want?”

In response, Lydia pulls Allison’s lips down to meet hers again, biting and sucking at her mouth before gasping out “More,” into the air between them.

For once in her goddamn life, Allison doesn’t surprise Lydia. Instead, she slowly slips one finger into her, making sure she’s fine before adding another. Allison teases Lydia clit with her thumb the entire time, and it’s all Lydia can do to just hold on to Allison for dear life and let the sensations wash over her.

Allison is kissing her chest again, sucking a matching hickey onto her left collarbone, and the combined feeling of Allison’s tongue and teeth against her skin along with her slender fingers working inside of her are making Lydia breathe hard enough to worry about being heard. She feels combustible, like every part of her is lit up all at once; and she can picture the neurons in her brain firing, radiating pleasure from the top of her head to the tips of her toes. She opens her eyes a bit just to admire it all—assure herself that it’s at least somewhat real—the way that Allison’s chest is still flushed bright red and the pale skin of her arm is contrasting so nicely against the red fabric of Lydia’s dress as it disappears between her legs. As she glances down, Lydia notices that Allison’s other hand is actually working furiously between her own legs—that Allison is touching herself at the same time she’s touching Lydia, and it’s pretty much game over from there.

Lydia has definitely never felt this good in her entire life, at least not in this entire-body sort of way. It’s all she can do to brush a hand against Allison’s cheek and breathe out the other girl’s name before she comes, her whole body rocking into Allison’s hand. She has to reach up with a free hand to cover her own mouth as a groan escapes her lips and vibrates against her fingers. Allison reaches up to move her hand away and kisses her through it instead, lets the noise stay in the space between them. Lydia feels limp and satisfied, like she’s just been deflated and filled up again, and she smiles as Allison hums a moan into her mouth before kissing her harder and then going still altogether. Lydia cups her face in her hands and lets their kisses get lazier, softer, before Allison slowly pulls away and looks up at her with a goofy grin. Because Lydia is a sap—a sap who just maybe definitely had the best sex of her life—she smiles back.

Allison moves her hands from between the two of them and just sort of holds them limply in front of her, clearly perplexed as to how to clean up in the confined space. She shrugs, as if agreeing to something with herself, and then moves to wipe them on the ruffled silver dress that that dude had told her to wear. Lydia scoffs out a disbelieving laugh, and Allison just quirks an eyebrow up at her in response.

“What?” she says, like she isn’t the picture of innocence the other 99 percent of the time, “I really didn’t like this one.”


They get a few looks from the sales consultants as they exit the dressing room, because they’re both sporting fresh hickeys and Allison has a terrible case of sex hair, but Lydia blows 400 bucks on her green dress and Allison’s maroon one and it shuts everyone up long enough for a quick exit.

They stop for a second when they get into Lydia’s car, and then they both break down laughing at the same time—adrenaline and nerves and awkwardness crashing down around them. Lydia slumps down in her seat and checks the damage to her chest in the mirror while Allison sorts out her hair. When the silence gets too heavy, Allison shifts a little in her seat before leaning an elbow on the center console and looking at Lydia. She’s propped her chin in her hand and is tilting her head again, looking very “curious owl” for someone who just made two people come at once.

“So,” she starts, and then she closes her mouth, like she didn’t really think the next part of this sentence through. Lydia waits patiently, and in a few seconds Allison adds, “What do you want this to mean?”

“Um,” Lydia scrunches her eyebrows up, honestly surprised at Allison’s choice of words. “Isn’t that kind of a two-person decision?”

Allison shrugs. “Yeah, but, I don’t know.” She turns to face the front of the car and pulls her knees up to her chest, wrapping her arms around her legs. She’s determinedly looking out the window and not at Lydia when she says, “I’m fine with whatever.”

Allison turns her head toward Lydia and shoots her a wan smile. “I’m just glad I got to be with you,” she says to the dashboard, before turning her head back to face the front. In a much quieter voice she adds, “even if it was only once,” and Lydia is pretty sure she can clearly hear her own heart rip in half.

All Lydia can think to say is, “Allison,” and it comes out half-broken and weird, like she’s calling her by a different name entirely. Allison just turns to face her and pastes on that half-watt smile again, clearly trying to seem cool with whatever ludicrous rejection she’s expecting from Lydia. It’s ridiculous in a way that practically hits Lydia in the gut, because she’s never been as sure about anything as she is about the way she feels about Allison—not the molecular buildup of water or the quadratic formula or even the strength in even numbers—and the nonsensical mess that is her life had never seemed more concrete than it did in that dressing room. The absurdity of it all hits her like a freight train, and she actually barks out a laugh, even though she knows it’s uncouth and almost awkward to the point of cruelty to do something like that in this situation. Allison is already returning her face to its steely, guarded default, and Lydia knows she will say absolutely anything to prevent that from happening.

“I’m sorry,” she blurts out, “it’s just—I don’t think you even understand how badly I wanted to do that—or how badly I want to keep doing it. Repeatedly. For as long as humanly possible.” Now Allison looks mildly alarmed, which is a step up, but not altogether encouraging. Lydia barrels on, because a little while ago, now or never got her laid, and she believes in the power of twos.

“I mean, I want to do other stuff in between, too, even if it’s just stupid stuff like studying or shopping. I wanna do your hair and pick out your outfits and make fun of you when you cry during movies, and I want to eat shitty food with you and go out in the woods whenever you go into weirdo huntress mode, and just—I don’t know, yeah,” she finishes lamely, gesturing vaguely with her right hand. “All of that.”

Allison is biting her lip and clearly trying not to smile. She’s moved to sitting on her legs and she’s looking at Lydia like she’s eight feet tall, and Lydia wants kiss the crap out of her again to make her chest stop aching, but she wants Allison to respond even more.

Allison ducks her head down a little and looks up at Lydia through her eyelashes, breaking out into a full-on grin. “Lydia Martin,” she says, her words edged in teasing, “Are you asking me to be your girlfriend?”

Lydia smiles back, because she’s basically powerless to do anything else, and just replies, “I guess I am.”

Because Allison is a little shit, she leans back against the seat and fake-considers it for a second before tilting her head towards Lydia again. “I guess I accept, then,” she half-giggles, and Lydia is stupidly grateful that she doesn’t have to pretend to be embarrassed or ashamed anymore at how happy she is to lean over the console and kiss the grin right off of Allison’s face.

Lydia maintains a steady 46 mph the entire way home, even though she’s holding Allison’s hand and stealing kisses from her at red lights the whole time.


Allison couldn’t care less about Jackson’s feelings, but Lydia at least respects Stiles enough not to dump him completely without at least 24 hours’ notice, so they show up to the dance with heterosexual dates in tow. They haven’t had much chance to talk since the night before, beyond texting, so Lydia is happy to be able to steal a glance at Allison as they walk in. Old mall-dwelling perverts be damned, the maroon dress looks amazing against her skin, and her hair is pooling in soft curls around her neck and down her back. It hits Lydia like a ton of bricks (for about the seven hundredth time since it happened) that Allison Argent is her girlfriend now, and it takes every ounce of willpower she has to smile and nod at whatever Stiles is saying instead of climbing to the top of the bleachers and outing them as loudly as possible.

Lydia has never been quiet about her self-esteem—she’s a damn good-looking person, and proud of herself for feeling that way—but Allison is another story altogether, and she can’t help feeling proud of herself for landing her. As a general rule, Lydia tries not to get too ahead of herself, but she can’t help imagining her and Allison plastered across the Senior Superlative yearbook page for Best-Looking Couple. She accidentally makes eye contact with Jackson during these musings and full-on smirks, because he might have been able to land her the yearbook page too, but he would never eat ice cream with her or paint her nails. Or make her come so hard she felt like her toenails were going to vibrate off of her feet.

It helps to remember stuff like that when Jackson looks at her like she was certifiable, as he is doing right now.

The dance is pretty good for a Beacon Hills party: they’ve sprung for a live band and fruit punch that doesn’t taste like strawberry sewage, and the faculty is just as drunk as half the students. In combination, these things made for a pretty good time. Lydia dances to some fast songs with Stiles and makes idle conversation with him (his favorite topic is her, which is easy enough) by the punch bowl, keeping a vigilant eye on Allison and Jackson throughout the night.

After a little while, Jackson makes a speedy exit from the gym just as a slow song comes on. Lydia is sitting at a table with Stiles and looking at Allison, who is now picking her cuticles by the bleachers. Something in the back row of the bleachers catches Lydia’s eye, and she notices Scott—Scott, who is not supposed to be here—sitting and watching Allison moonily as well. Scott stands up, and Lydia is suddenly filled with all-consuming anxiety at the prospect of him approaching Allison, maybe asking her to dance. Lydia is supposed to be the one who can do that now, damn it. Plus, Scott still had beautiful eyes and flawless skin and a heart made of literal solid gold, and the teeny tiny part of Lydia that’s insecure worries about how Allison maybe still feels about him. Mostly because she wouldn’t even blame the girl if she still loved him.

All of these thoughts kind of collide together at once like electron particles, so Lydia doesn’t hear whatever rant Stiles is throwing at her about why she needs to dance with him to this song. It’s a valiant attempt, she’s sure—the kid could probably write her unauthorized biography—but she has a better dance partner in mind, so just as Stiles is yelling something about the Nobel Prize, she mutters, “I have a girlfriend,” and hands him her Solo cup of punch before getting up and heading toward the back of the gym. She’s pretty sure it actually shuts up Stiles for an entire minute, which is an award-winning feat all its own.

Lydia gets to Allison before Scott does, because she’s better at walking in heels than he is at walking in general. Allison lights up completely when she sees Lydia walking towards her, face breaking into a grin. When she sees that Lydia is still wearing a serious and determined expression, the crinkle pops up between her eyebrows.

“Don’t frown, Lydia, someone could be falling in love with your smile,” Allison says as Lydia comes up next to her.

“Let’s dance,” Lydia replies, because Scott is walking up to them and she’s been waiting to be brave enough to say it all evening anyway.

The crinkle deepens. “Now? Here?”

Lydia isn’t shocked, but it hurts nonetheless. “I mean, I get it if you don’t want to—whatever. Everyone in school is really cool about it, though, I’m really only worried about my parents, and we can always just pretend that we’re just dancing as friends, so I thought—“

“Lydia,” Allison cuts her off at the same exact time Scott walks up to her and says, “Allison.”

 “Scott!” Allison replies, and the secretly nerdy part of Lydia’s brain shouts out, Rocky!

“I’ve been looking everywhere for you,” Scott tells her, and he makes it sound like he means that on a universal soulmate level. Lydia is torn between wanting to stroke his hair and wanting to knee him in the groin.

Allison just gives him her patented cute-and-confused smile and says, “I’ve been standing here for a while.”

Scott looks adorably embarrassed, putting one hand on the back of his neck and squinting like he’s in physical pain at how dorky he sounds. “Right, yeah,” he stutters, and then blurts out, “You look incredible.”

Lydia is patient, but she’s not that patient, and she can remember being frustrated by the slow conversations between these two before she’d ever even admitted to herself that she was jealous. She clears her throat, and Scott blinks at her like he’s just now noticing she’s been there this whole time. Again, Lydia is caught between annoyance and heartbreaking sympathy.

“Uh, thanks,” Allison says, in an attempt to cut the tension. “Scott, I have something to tell you,” she starts, glancing at Lydia.

“Me too!” Scott replies, smiling at her like he’s Charlie Bucket and she’s a fucking golden ticket. It’s so saccharine it actually hurts Lydia’s teeth a little, and she can’t help but feel grateful that the Allison and Scott are broken up, because it means they don’t get the chance to die in each other’s arms due to diabetes-related complications.

“Um,” Allison begins, and then she seems to give up on words entirely, because she just grabs Lydia’s hand and laces her fingers with hers and hopes that Scott will get the picture. Lydia, to her credit, manages to mask her surprise behind a sympathetic smile, because she really does like Scott. She wants him to be as happy as she gets to be, right now, holding Allison’s hand in a crowded room, and she has the dignity to be a little bit sorry for him—for the world, actually—that only one Allison Argent exists. Lydia makes a mental note to spend her next 11:11 wishing for Scott to find someone who will make him break out his doofy puppy-dog grin on a regular basis. Karma is important.

It does take Scott a second, because he’s Scott, but after assessing their clasped hands and semi-apologetic faces, Scott’s face blips from “processing” to “installation complete” and his eyebrows shoot up as he says, “Oh. Oh.

“Yeah,” Allison replies with a shrug, which is better than anything Lydia could’ve come up with. They stand there, hands clasped and maybe just a little bit sweaty, while Scott does an endearingly terrible job of pretending to play it cool. After a few more seconds of gaping-mouthed silence, he manages to pull his face into a smile that’s painfully sincere, dimples and all.

“I’m really happy for you guys,” he tells them like it’s a revelation, and maybe it is, because he doesn’t even sound like he’s faking it.

“Thanks, Scott,” Lydia says, beaming, and Allison’s eyes are shining, and it’s probably as perfect a moment as they could have hoped for.

It’s really no surprise, of course, when Scott walks by them and uses patting Lydia on the shoulder as an excuse to subtly lean into her ear and whisper, “Please don’t hurt her,” because Lydia would have done the same thing in anybody else’s shoes. She nods.

After he leaves, Allison blows out a breath from her lips and turns to Lydia, giddy smile back in place. She squeezes their hands and says, “So, about that dance…”

They make their way to the middle of the dance floor together, because they’re both done hiding, in every sense of the word. And maybe Lydia’s parents will throw a bitch fit about how they’re concerned for the “safety” of their gay daughter, and maybe Allison’s parents won’t ever let Lydia sleep over without them leaving the door open and both feet on the floor, but they can save those concerns for another day.

Right now, Lydia wraps her arms around Allison’s waist (because she’d have to lean up on her tiptoes to get her neck) and Allison wraps her around Lydia’s neck, and they sway to the beat of the song. The lights in the gym are reflecting beautifully in Allison’s eyes, and her cheeks are flushed in a way that Lydia has learned means she’s deliriously happy, and she’s smiling bright and wide. When the song ends and Lydia leans in to kiss her before the crowd really starts moving, Allison leans down to meet her, and then it’s out there for the whole school to see. To the credit of Beacon Hills High, nobody is weird except for Stiles and Scott, who unsuccessfully try to start a slow clap before they’re escorted out by Coach. Lydia can hardly stop smiling or laughing for the entire night after that—she feels light and weightless and whole all at once, and Allison’s fingers are still there in between hers, keeping her anchored to the ground.

When they walk off of the dance floor to get some punch, Danny gives her a high-five.

In another life, Lydia might be worried about why Jackson hasn’t come back inside for the past hour, or why Allison’s family had hated Scott so much, or why Scott had made Jackson ask Allison to this dance in the first place. She knows that, eventually, she has to tell Allison about her OCD, and maybe Allison will have other stuff to tell her in return, but she also knows that she feels like she can do anything with Allison by her side, even if one day it means putting on an odd number of accessories or even jumping out of a plane.

Lydia knows that she has her entire life to worry about things—always has, since she was a kid—so she does her best to square her shoulders, down her punch, and ask her girlfriend for another dance.

They can worry later. Together.