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Coal Mining Love

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    The Jungles buzzes with the electronic hum of yet another dub step song, its beat merging with the green and blue neon flashings lights located over the bar.  Every third beat, the blue beams sweep over Lydia’s entire field of vision, and the steady rhythm of music and lights give her a trance like calm.  She slips between sweat drenched bodies, twisting and turning from each at the last moment to avoid a collision with practiced ease.  Almost no one looks graceful fighting the crowds around a bar, but damned if Lydia Martin didn’t try.  

    One more drink, and she’ll be perfect.  The club is slowly working its magic, and it won’t be long now until she loses track of time all together -- the whole point of this little exercise.  Lydia could never be as fantastically dull as drinking away her problems, but distractions, that’s a whole other matter.  And right now, there are about four shirtless and sweaty potential distractions in her immediate line of sight alone. If Allison was here she’d probably disapprove of a wild romp with a stranger, but Allison isn’t here.

    Allison isn’t anywhere anymore.

     She tips the rest of her drink back and crushes on an ice cube between her teeth, before placing her cup on the bar and sauntering towards the dance floor.  She feels the music rattle her chest the closer she gets to the speakers, and by the time her shoes hit the tiled center,  she’s incorporated the beat into her gate --  her hips swinging in time to the rhythm.  It’s a sight, her red mane flying all around as she shakes her head to the music, rouge strands finding their way to the corners her mouth where they stick to her lip gloss before she haphazardly flings them back to the fray with one hand.   

    Lydia Martin’s made herself available, now it’s a matter of waiting for distraction number one to approach.  

    It does’t take long, but he’s all hot breath and hands as he pushes against her.  Instant turn off.  Disappointing on the dance floor means disappointing in bed.  She unwinds from his arms without looking back at his face.

    “Am I that bad a dancing partner?”  The voice speaking is familiar.  Lydia whips her head around to face blue eyes and curls.  

    Fuck. What perfectly horrible luck.  

    Tonight was supposed to be a break from anything and everything supernatural related. That included all her supposed “friends” and their bizarre “let’s deal with it by not dealing with it” attitude, and it sure as hell included actual werewolves.

    “Is there a reason you’re grinding on my backside, Isaac Lahey? Or can I assume this is a tragic case of mistaken identity.”

    “We’re in a club, Lydia Martin,” he replies, putting emphasis on her name before letting his mouth go slack.  He lifts one eyebrow when she doesn’t respond, and his expression seems to say that she’s being thick.  

    “W-well,” she half says, half stutters, “could you do it somewhere else?”  

    “Why?” he asks. His matter of fact tone is really getting on her nerves.

    “Why?” she repeats. “How about because I’m sick of werewolves, foxes, and evil spirits,  or better yet, how about because I said so.”

    “It’s nice to see you too, Lydia.”

    “Did Scott and Kira send you? Wait, no, it was Stiles, wasn’t it? Oh god,” she moans.  The music seems too loud now. It’s engulfing her and she can’t tell if it’s the beat or her own heart making her chest jump. The strobe lights are beginning to hurt her eyes, and she uses her clutch to block their glare.  “I said I’d be fine, right? I just need some time.”

    “I know, they know, but . . . it’s been almost two weeks, you know. . .”

    If Lydia had felt better, she would have pointed out how stupid Isaac sounded, but instead, she finds herself walking off the dance floor, throwing the words “I’m not ready to see them” over her shoulder.  


    The drive home is strangely short, and she wonders how far her mind drifted during the ride.  She keeps her eyes focused on her lap and hesitates before taking the keys out of the ignition.  She’s worried she won’t see her house when she looks up.  

    She’s been doing that a lot more lately. Ending up in strange places.  She hasn’t brought it up with the group for multiple reasons. One reason being she’s been avoiding them since before it happened, and the other, slightly more important reason, (in her opinion) is that she hasn’t found any dead bodies.  No need to cause the group to worry when there’s nothing to support it.

    But maybe it is something that eventually needs to be discussed because she’s done it again.  

    This time Lydia is parked in front of the Argent’s old home. Allison’s last home as a normal teenage girl. Before werewolves, and hunters, and kanimas, and banshees.  When Lydia’s only fear was that Allison would take the title of most popular girl in Beacon Hills. When Allison’s only worry was being the new girl.

    When Lydia had a best friend named Allison.

    Car head lights pull up behind her, and a figure gets out to walk towards her car.  The name escapes Lydia’s mouth before she processes who’s really at her car window.

    “Allison?”  

    The vulnerability in her own voice makes Lydia cringe, and the pain that seems to fill the Sheriff’s eyes makes her feel even worse.  She can’t tell if she’s grateful or not that he chooses to ignore her slip up.  His lips are tight like he’s holding back something he’s not even sure how to express.

     “I know you kids-” he interrupts himself to sigh and crouches down so he can look her in the eyes, “I know you’re going through things, a lot of things, but you can’t come here like this, Lydia.  It’s scaring the family that lives here now.”

    Her face flushes, and she hides behind her hair.

    “I haven’t been here long,” she says, “I just left the Jungle around twelve thirty.”

    The Sheriff makes another pained face, and Lydia’s really beginning to get annoyed at the amount of difficulty this man seems to be having around her.

    “Lydia,” he says in a soft voice, “it’s four in the morning.”

    She whips her head to face him and opens her mouth as if to argue, but nothing comes out. She just stares at him with wide eyes.

    “Come on,” he continues, “let me give you a lift home and we can get your car tomorrow.”

    “No, I’m fine, I’m fine. I’m going home,” the words tumbling out of her mouth feel thick and foreign. She starts her car and whispers “please don’t tell Stiles about this”.  She’s almost positive the Sheriff didn’t hear her, but then a warm hand pats her shoulder.

    “I won’t tell Stiles,” he says.

 


************

 

   “Lydia”

    This voice is soft and sweet like honeysuckle.  It doesn’t scream or cry like the others.  It never asks for help.

    “Lydia”

    It never demands. It only ever says her name, pulling on the syllables until there’s a tickle on the back of her neck.

    “Lydia”

    And it hurts more than anything she’s ever experienced, because no matter how hard Lydia tries to respond, Allison never hears her when she answers.
    

 

    “Lydia!” a real voice shouts from her left.  She slams her locker shut, and turns to face Kira who’s practically bouncing down the hallway towards her with a bewildered looking Malia in tow.  

    “I heard about this weekend,” the kitsune says.  Lydia’s heart starts racing and she’s sure Malia can hear it, but decides to play it cool anyway.     

    “And?” Lydia asks with a raised eyebrow.

    “And,” Kira continues seemingly unfazed by the banshees flippant air, “Next time you go to the Jungle, you should totally tell me! Malia’s been teaching me the moves.”

    “The moves?” she asks, covering her relief with a questioning tone.  It’s the club Kira’s referring to and not Lydia’s late night time loss.

    “She’s talking about dancing,” Malia says. She’s eyeing Lydia in this cautious and pity filled way that’s really getting under her skin.  

    “Well,” Lydia drawls out while turning from the two girls, “A feral were-coyote isn’t the first one I’d go to for dance help, but I guess it’s not stranger than anything else in this town.  Let me know how the lessons go.”

    “I’m not feral,” Malia calls out to Lydia’s  retreating figure. She turns to Kira and says it again.  “I’m not feral.”

    Kira smiles and doesn’t mention the muffled “anymore” Malia tacks onto the end.

    It’s Scott who approaches Lydia in the library first.  She just assumed it would be Stiles since it was his girlfriend (kinda? she’s actually not sure what they are) that she called feral.

    “I guess Kira told you I was mean,” she says. Scott’s eyes look tired and his mouth is tense just like the Sheriff’s was and when he looks at her, she can almost feel the pity rolling off him. Just like Malia.  Is this how she affects others now? Lydia Martin, just a hollow shell of tragedy and pain held together by other people’s pity?  

    “Well, I’m not apologizing,” she says, raising her chin to look at Scott. “She was feral at some point.”

    “Kira didn’t say anything,” he says. “I was at the other end of the hallway, and  I overheard.”

    Lydia rolls her eyes and mutters under her breath “werewolves”.  

Scott shrugs, and continues, “Anyway, you weren’t that mean. And it was a great deflector.”  She narrows her eyes at his accusation. And since when did Scott McCall even know what deflection was outside of lacrosse?

    “And just why would I need to deflect?”

He shrugs again. This whole ‘easy-going-werewolf’ act was really starting to get on her nerves.

    “I dunno. Probably that you don’t want to hang out with them, right? That you’re still not ready.”  He talked to Isaac. Of course, he talked to Isaac. He probably sent Isaac out to check on her in the first place.  Why had she thought it must have been Stiles?  That’s something to examine later.  Or maybe not. Lydia doesn’t have much free time to spend on her own emotions anyway.

    “Look McCall,” she says.  He raises his eyebrow at the use of his last name. “I get that you’re all ‘I’m an Alpha now’ and you think it’s your responsibility to keep us all safe, but there’s no big bad at the moment. I’m pretty sure I can go to a mostly gay club without you sending an escort to watch me.”

    “Wow, you’re, like,  really good at deflecting. I think you even give Stiles a run for his money.”

Lydia puts her pen down and closes her notebook. Studying doesn’t make sense when you’re talking with a True Alpha.

    “That’s because Stiles only knows how to deflect by drawing attention to himself. I prefer a more sophisticated approach.”

She packs her things a little to quickly into her bag to be nonchalant, and has to put effort into not cringing when she realizes her mistake.  It totally looks like she’s running away from Scott. Even if that is what she was doing (she is), Lydia doesn’t want him to know, but it’s too late now judging from his crestfallen face.

    “Lydia” he says.  She stops struggling with a folder but she doesn’t look up from her bag.  She can tell from his tone he's about to be blunt. “I saw you walking last thursday.”  She rolls her eyes and stands up to leave.

     “I walk everyday, Scott. Get to the point.”

    “In your pajamas? At 2 in the morning?”

She turns to face him, lips pursed. With heels, she can almost meet him eye to eye.

    “What were you doing out at two in the morning?” she shoots back.

He opens his mouth but ends up sighing instead of speaking. He leans his head back and smacks a hand over his forehead to drag down his face. He looks at her through his splayed fingers.

    “Lydia, it’s been really hard for all of us. We need each other now more than ever.  She wouldn’t want this. For you to be going through it alone. Al-”

    “Don’t.” Her voice is quiet. She’s knows the only way he’ll hear her is through his wolf senses. “Please don’t.”  She has no idea what she’s trying to tell him so she decides to stick with the same thing she told Isaac. “I’m not ready. I wasn’t ready.”

    “No one was ready!”  His is voice is a shocking contrast to her hushed confession.  It rings sharp and loud in the nearly empty library.  This is exactly what she doesn’t need.  Lydia uses the librarian’s scolding to sneak away, ignoring the prying eyes of Greenberg and the other few students remaining in the library.  She’s practically through the door when she hears it. So low that it almost doesn’t register, except it does, and Lydia’s been around enough werewolves to know exactly what it is.

    Scott McCall just growled at her.
    

************


    “Dude, did you yell at Lydia?”  Stiles voice is a hushed combination of awe and concern.  A mixture that sounds grating on Scott’s ears.

    “What?”

    “Yesterday, in the library. Greenberg had detention. He said he heard you and her talking and then he heard you yell.”

    “I didn’t yell.”

    “Okay, he heard you speak very loudly, like super loud. Like top of your lungs loud, which was actually pretty much the definition of yelling last time I checked.  Hello! Scott!”  He leans forward to wave his hands in the Alpha’s face.  “We can’t have a werewolf with loose control going around yelling at girls.  What’s going on?”

    “Nothing’s going on.”

Stiles glares over his turkey sandwich and angrily flaps a half in Scott’s face.  “I may not be a werewolf,”  he says with food in his mouth, “but I can still tell when you’re lying.”  Scott watches a piece of turkey fly out as he talks.  “No one's okay. It’s only been a couple of months since everything happened. . . ”  Stiles gets quiet after that, and before long, Scott can smell the guilt clinging to him like spiderwebs.

    “Did you know Lydia’s been zoning out and wandering around again?”

Stiles’s head shoots up from his lunch, and the guilt Scott could smell drifts away. Concern is the primary scent now.

    “For how long?” he asks.

    “I don’t know, but I saw her in the woods Thursday night. I followed her until she got home. She won’t talk about it.”  Scott says.

    “Is that why you yelled at her?”  

    “She’s been avoiding us.”

    “Is that why you yelled at her?”

    “I think she’s hiding something.”

    “Is that why you yelled at her?”

    “Stiles, if you ask me that one more time-” he’s cut off by Stiles.

    “Huh, the girls are getting a school lunch today.”  He nods in the direction of the cafeteria line. “Even Lydia’s with them. Kinda weird.”

    

    Lydia keeps a firm grip on Malia’s arm, preventing her from leaving the line, while Kira stands awkwardly beside them.  Lydia needs her more as visual shield right now which is just as well since the kitsune’s attempts at being nonchalant are terrible.

    “Tell me what they’re saying,” Lydia mutters under her breath. Malia frowns.

    “This is stupid.  Just go talk to them.”

    “This,” Lydia corrects, “is necessary.  Now what are they saying?”  Malia huffs and closes her eyes to focus.

    “No!” says Lydia, “Don’t make it obvious that you’re listening in!”

    “Look, do you want to know what they’re saying or not?”

    “It’s okay, Lydia,”  Kira interjects.  “That’s why I’m here. So they can’t see Malia concentrating.  I’ll just pretend to talk to her.”
Kira stands in a semi-profile to face Lydia just barely blocking Malia’s face.  Lydia sighs and instead of admitting defeat, flips her hair like the discussion never happened.  She can’t even wait a full ten seconds before she’s pursing her lips and demanding to know if Scott and Stiles are discussing her.

    “Wait, why would they be talking about you?” Kira asks. “Is something wrong?”

    “Of course not.” Lydia swallows the guilt she feels at the kitsune’s worried tone. “I’m fine. I may have walked around a few times after dark unawares but I still have a 4.0, and there were no dead bodies, so clearly it’s nothing too serious.”  She flips her hair again to avoid eye contact with Kira.

    “Why didn’t you tell us?”

    “I didn’t tell anyone,” she says firmly. “I was seen. And now I need to know if they’re planning an quaint intervention type thing, which honestly is the last thing I have time to-”

    “Be quiet,” Malia interrupts. “I can’t hear them over you two.”

Lydia rolls her eyes but holds her tongue. Still though, they can’t just stand around like idiots.  She turns to Kira and moves her mouth like she’s talking, but no words come out.  Kira seems to be baffled by the whole exchange until Lydia widens her eyes and silently laughs while leaning in.  She elbows Kira in the ribs gently and whispers “act like it’s a conversation”.
   

 

 “What do you think they’re talking about?” Stiles says while watching Lydia laugh with Kira.     

    “I don’t know.”

He glares at Scott over his milk carton, takes an angry swig, then swallows loudly.  “Well, use your little werewolf powers and find out,” he says before biting into his sandwich. Scott frowns.

    “I don’t know, dude,” he says. “It feels weird. Like maybe they’re talking about girl stuff.”  Stiles almost snorts out another sip from his milk.  He wipes at his mouth with one of his sleeves.

    “Oh, like you don’t already know when every single one of them is one their period thanks to your super nose. What’s more girl stuff after that?” he says.  Scott’s face scrunches into an even deeper frown.  

    “Dude. . .”

    “Yeah, you’re right. Too much. I’m sorry” says Stiles, his hands held up in a placating manner. “I just meant it could be important. You said Lydia might have done this more than once and she’s not saying anything to us about it, right?”  He turns to look at the three girls before he continues speaking. “Maybe she’s saying something to them. . .”
Scott scratches his neck, and leans forward onto the table. “Fine,” he says, “but it still feels weird.”  

He’s quiet for awhile before he looks back up at Stiles in confusion.     

    “What?” asks Stiles, his body lurching forward with the energy of the word.

    “They’re not saying anything,” Scott says.

    “What? No. Listen harder. I can see Lydia and Kira talking.”

    “I know, but they’re not saying anything.”

 

    “So?” asks Lydia while turning to the werecoyote.  Malia huffs and grabs both of them by the arm to pull them out of line.

    “Hey, excuse you, paws off! And just where are we going?” Lydia says.

    “I told you it was stupid. Now we’re going to sit down at the table.” Malia answers.

    “To do what?” Lydia demands.

    “Talk.”

    “Oh no,” Lydia laughs while jerking her arm free, “I’m not sitting anywhere to talk until you tell me what they were talking about.”  Kira is silent through out the exchange, but Lydia can  still feel her eyes hugging her in concern.  Malia doesn’t seem to care and just rolls hers.    

    “Look, they’re just worried about you. Worried enough to try listening to our conversation,” Malia says and Lydia can pick out more than a small amount of annoyance in her tone.

    The werecoyote could at least try to hide it.

    Before Lydia can sink too deep into her thoughts, Malia opens her mouth again, “Also, Scott can smell when we’re on our periods.”

Kira and Lydia turn to her, each of their faces an interesting combination of shock and betrayal.

    “Seriously?” says Kira.
 

 

    “I think they’ve might have been listening to us. . .” says Scott.

    “What?” says Stiles. “Oh my god, do you think they heard the period thing?”  Scott turns to him with a look that can only be interpreted as ‘dude, seriously?’ before Stiles keeps talking. “Because I feel like that could very easily be taken out of context. Like waaaaaay out of context. And-” he interrupts himself to gasp, “oh my god, they’re walking towards us.”  He snaps his mouth shut only to open it a second later to shove almost half of his turkey sandwich behind his teeth.  “Sorwy ‘ude, yar gunna haft to tawk to dem. Ma mauwfs fuhl” he manages to say despite all the food crammed in his mouth.
    

     “Coward” says Scott, “I’m mad that I even understood you.”
 

Stiles just shrugs, and waves to the approaching girls, still trying to chew the massive amount of sandwich in his mouth.
     

    Lydia is the first to reach the table.  She slams down her notebook with enough ferocity to  make both boys jump at the sound.  Stiles nearly chokes on the reminder of his sandwich.

    “Alright,” she says. “let’s get this over with.  Go ahead, say what you need to say.”  She stands there with her hands on hips, daring one of them to speak.  Scott looks over to Stiles, but the human is putting on a magnificent performance of being interested in his milk carton.  It’s clear Scott’s on his own in this one.

    “What should we be saying?” he asks slowly.  

Stiles watches Scott from the side of his eye, shaking his head at the Alpha’s words.  Kira actually cringes, and Malia just snorts.  Lydia narrows her eyes, and tenses her body.  She’s not sure if Scotts playing dumb or really is this stupid.  She decides she doesn’t care.    

    “This was a waste of time,” she says and turns to walk away.  Stiles delivers a solid kick to Scott’s shin as he scrambles after Lydia, ignoring Scott’s grunt of pain and Malia’s raised eyebrow.  

    “Lydia, wait!” he calls out. “Come back. Scott’s an ass.  He’s sorry he yelled at you.”

    “You yelled at her?” asks Kira turning from Lydia to look at Scott.  The shock is clear in her voice.

    “I didn’t yell at her,” Scott says. “I just. . . raised my voice? A little?”

Lydia feels her shoulders relax ever so slightly.  This is not the conversation she was expecting to have, but it’s definitely the one she prefers.  

    “That was definitely a yell,” she says. “But I’m willing to forgive you.”  Her confidence is returning in almost crushing waves.  This is how Lydia Martin should always feel. In control. She inspects her nail bed with an uninterested eye while taking a seat at the table.  Stiles waits for Malia and Kira to sit before he returns to his seat next to the Alpha.  Lydia is sitting directly across from Scott, and raises her gaze slowly to make eye contact.

    “The growl though. . .” she says, pausing for effect, “was a little unexpected.”   Scott’s eyes go wide as his mouth goes slack, and Lydia isn’t sure how to read his expression.  

    Is he shocked that he growled?

    Maybe embarrassed that she heard him?  

    She doesn’t dwell on the option that his expression can easily be read as pissed off.  She also doesn’t dwell on the look of confusion that ripples across Malia’s face at Scott’s reaction.
    When Lydia climbs out of her head and back into the conversation, Stiles is in the middle of  a firm lecture.  

    “I mean, really?” he says. “You’re an Alpha, Scott.  An Alpha, who until very recently I might add, couldn’t control his shift thanks to a ritual sacrifice.  Deaton said things would be different because of it.  We all have to be careful.  You have to pay attention to-”

Scott cuts him off.    

    “What I have to pay attention to is my pack and their well being,” he says while quickly looking over to Lydia.

    “Don’t look over here” Lydia says while holding a hand to her chest.  “My well being is doing just fine on it’s own.”

    Stiles puts his head in his hands, and mutters “Well, this is going just great.”

Chapter Text

    Sometimes when Lydia can’t fall asleep, she pretends to be Allison.  She imagines frigid fingers reaching through the veil of her mind, slipping down her throat, and winding themselves around her heart.  She thinks this is probably the closest experience to having darkness in your heart.  She doesn’t like that phrase though.  It’s too visual.  It implies that the scars can be seen when Lydia knows it’s the exact opposite.  They’re felt.   Allison would talk about it as a heaviness.  A sinking feeling that if acknowledged, wrapped itself around you, slowly changing your center of balance until you lost all buoyancy.  Let it drag you too deep, and you lose your sense of direction.  
    
    Lydia knows Allison never lost hers.  
    
    She has been thinking a lot about Allison being dead, but she still can’t think about the night of her death.  She can’t allow herself to consider all the missed opportunities.  Can’t allow herself to imagine how she could have made a difference.  
    
    So she thinks about the things Allison gave them before she left.  Like the silver arrows, the only reason they had a fighting chance.  The only thing that gave them hope.  
    
    Lydia wants to believe that Allison didn’t know what would happen when she fought the Nogitsune.  But Lydia knows better, and what she wants to believe is irrelevant to the legacy Allison left behind.  The truth is Allison knew she would die the moment she saw Lydia’s message on the car window.
    
    Lydia knows this.
    
    She knows because she’d heard Allison’s soft ‘I’m sorry’ in the corners of her mind long before Scott and Stiles found her in the basement.  She’d felt the nervous thrill of the hunter’s determination battle the panic of her self-preservation hours before she’d felt the blade rip through her best friend’s body.
    
    Every now and then it bothers her that Allison’s voice is louder when she’s around the pack.  Lydia might even take it personally, but she reminds herself that she’s not the only one who had a strong connection to Allison.  She wonders if it’s an attempt to reach out to the others.  To reach out to Scott.  She wonders how much you know when you’re dead.  I mean, she’s hearing Allison inside her head, but does that mean Allison’s really there? Poking around under her brain’s wrinkles?  Exploring all her recorded history?
    
    Peter had done that.  
    
    It’s nerve racking having other people in your head.      
    
    She thinks the strangest part, by far, is the dreams.  The way her insecurities mesh with Allison’s, how she remembers things that aren’t hers to remember.  She has a private window into the secret life of Allison Argent, and it pains Lydia to know her best friend better in death then she did in life.  Every person has an interior world that even a best friend doesn’t know is there.
    
    Allison’s is slippery and almost impossible to keep foot in without sinking.  The girl’s happy moments seem to lead right into despair.  Scott’s face smiles but then his teeth come out, and all of a sudden, Allison’s mother is there, just as fierce in her humanity as Scott’s wolf.  Lydia feels small and useless in this moments, unsure how Allison led such a duel existence.  
    
    She wishes she had asked her about it.
    
    Lydia’s interior world is dark.  It is filled with things she needs to keep locked away.  Experiences and people she wants to forget ever happened. Peter is in there.  
    
    Stiles is in there too, or at least his body is.
    
    Lydia has done a miraculous job of separating the two.  
    
    She wonders if she would have told Allison what happened if the hunter had survived.  She likes to think she would’ve.  If Allison really is in her head though, she already knows.
    
    Knows about the acidic breath on the back of the Lydia’s neck.  The rough tongue on the side of her face.  The hands that left bruises on her hips and inner thighs.
    
    Lydia is grateful that none of the wolves ever mentioned her scent when they found her.  She knows that Scott wanted too; she saw it in his eyes and the tightness of his jaw.      
    
    She knows thats why he’s so desperate to keep tabs on her.  She knows he thinks it’s because of the rape that she’s pulled away from the pack.  Lydia wishes it was.
    
    She feels cowardly to admit it, but Allison is the main reason she’s distanced herself.  Lydia doesn’t want them know she’s been hearing her at all.  She couldn’t handle the questions they’d ask.  Couldn’t handle not having the answers.
    
    So it’s strictly out of a sense of duty that she goes with them to Mexico.
    
    It’s what Allison would have done.
    
    What she doesn’t count on is being pulled back into the flow of the pack’s hero complex when they return from Mexico.  She supposes it’s the only option she has now that Kate Argent’s back on the scene.  But even though she still feels slightly out of place in the pack, it’s a warm feeling.  Like sleeping in your parent’s room when they’re not home.  No one says anything when she rejoins pack meetings.  Stiles just smiles and slides over to make room for her on Derek’s couch.  It’s nice to be a apart of something again even if there are things she doesn’t want to tell them.      
    
    So she’s not sure why she decides to check out Shawn’s house on her own.  Something calls to her, and the strangest part is that this voice doesn’t feel dead.  But it is familiar in way she can’t place, and it’s extremely compelling.  Lydia tells herself she’s going there of her own free will.  She considers it a reward that the only cute cop in Beacon Hills shows up to assist her.      

    Jordan Parrish might just be worth finding all those dead bodies in the basement.
    
    At first, Scott is too preoccupied with his new beta to even notice the change in Lydia’s scent.  Malia’s already asked her about it with a sly grin on her face that looks all too human and knowing for a girl who spent eight years as a coyote.  Lydia tells her it’s just for fun.  She tells this to herself as well.  Malia must have told Kira because the kitsune’s been smiling at her every time Lydia checks her phone.  And if Kira knows, it’s a given that Scott does too.  
    
    The way he looks at her now makes Lydia nervous.  She’s not surprised when he corners her after a pack meeting.
    
    “Are you okay?” Scott asks, his voice tight and controlled.  Lydia smiles and shakes her head.
    
    “Are any of us okay?” she asks back.  The corner of Scott’s mouth twitches like he’s going to smile but can’t muster the energy.
    
    “I guess you’re right,” he says, “but do you think you’re ready?”  She’s genuinely intrigued now.
    
    “Ready for what?”
    
    “To date,” he says.  Lydia focuses her eyes on him.  He has this unreadable expression on his face again.  
    
    He can’t be referencing what she thinks he is.
    
    “Why wouldn’t I be ready?” she says.  “Just because my best friend and ex-boyfriend both died less than three months ago?”  Scott winches at her flippant mention of Allison’s death but she pushes on.  “You know the best cure for sadness, Scott?  A distraction.  Something to take your mind off the pain.”  
    
    “Lydia,” he says while gently pulling her by the arm to a room upstairs out of earshot of the other wolves.  Stiles watches them walk away, a confused look on his face.  She doesn’t like where this conversation seems to be headed.
    
    “You never talk about it,” Scott says.  Lydia really wants to play dumb, but that role feels beneath her now.
    
    “There’s nothing to talk about.  It happened. It wasn’t really Stiles. End of story.”
    
    “Lydia,” Scott growls, “I can tell when you’re lying, remember?”  His grip is starting to feel painful so she jerks her arm free.
    
    “Then don’t ask questions you know I can’t answer truthfully.”  She keeps eye contact with him even though every nerve in her body is screaming to look away.
    
    “Can’t? Or won’t?”
    
    “To you,” she says, “there should be no difference between the two.”  She knows he’s listening to the erratic beating of her heart.  She hopes he’s ignoring the fear that she can feel building under her skin.  It has nothing to do with Scott personally, but Lydia’s been having a hard time whenever boys get too close to her lately (unless the boy’s name is Jordan Parrish).  
    
    “You smell terrified,” he says.  “Am I scaring you?” he asks while taking a step back to give her more room.  
    
    This is so embarrassing.  Why couldn’t he just keep his super senses to himself?
    
    “Does it even matter what I say?  Clearly you know the answer already,” she says.
    
    Lydia storms past him and practically runs down the stairs.  She doesn’t even stop to say goodbye to the rest of the pack.

 

 

                                                                                       *********************************

 


      That night she has a dream.  She’s Allison and she knows this because the tips of hair that spill over her shoulders are a rich mahogany instead of strawberry blond.  She’s talking with Scott, and his eyes are so gentle.  He holds Allison like she’s a priceless piece of fine china from the Ming Dynasty, and something in the banshee is very hurt that Scott has never treated her this carefully.  Lydia isn’t delusional, she’s knows that certain touches and looks are for lovers only.  But in this moment, she feels that if Scott were to drop Allison, he would save her broken pieces wrapped in velvet until the day he had to explain to his grandchildren why he had a box of broken glass hidden under his bed.  
    
    And this makes her sad because Lydia’s been dropped so many times that people don’t even bother to sweep up her broken pieces anymore.
    
    It’s strange being Allison and Lydia at the same time.  She can’t control what she’s doing in the dream.  She feels more like an outside observer stuck in Allison’s point of view.  She’s lying down on Allison’s bed surrounded by throw pillows.  Scott’s lips are soft, and it tickles as he moves them down her neck and chest.  Her arms wrap around his shoulders and bring him closer to her body.  She closes her eyes to take in the sensation of his taunt body pressing her back against the mattress.
    
    “I knew you wanted this,” he mumbles against her neck, his teeth grazing slightly over sensitive skin.  She pulls him closer, not noticing the slow change in her surroundings because her eyes are still closed.  She begins to feel it though.  The soft give of the mattress is slowly turning hard and cold.
    
    “Knew you wouldn’t fight back,” he says and the words cause a panic in her.  She opens her eyes to see dark mildew covered walls and rusty bars.  
    
    Oh god. Not here. She doesn’t want Allison to see this.  To experience this.
    
    The hand that seconds ago had been tenderly tangled in her hair now twists and tugs until she’s sure strands of it are being pulled out.  The boy pinning her against the bars rises his head, and she braces herself to look into the black irises of the Nogitsune.  Instead, she’s looking into the red eyes of an Alpha.  
    
    Why is Scott here?
    
    Is she still Allison?  
    
    No, she’s Lydia now because she can make out strawberry blond strands of hair hanging limp between Scott’s splayed fingers.  He smirks and lazily shakes them off his hand.  She opens her mouth, and suddenly, his inside her, pushing his tongue against hers to swallow her scream.  She pushes at him with all her strength, but he doesn’t stop until she tastes blood in her mouth.  He bit her tongue.
    
    “Don’t scream yet,” he says, wiping her blood from the corner of his mouth, “That’s for later.”
    
    She wakes with the force of a woman fighting for her life.  Her limbs tangling in her sheets as she struggles to throw herself off the bed.  Why had she dreamt that?  
    
    Logically, Lydia can excuse it.  Allison loved and trusted Scott.  Lydia loves and trusts Stiles (as a friend she reminds herself).  It’s not ridiculous to assume that in the cross over of the two girls’ interior spaces, there’d be some bleeding through of strong attachments.  But it’s more than Scott playing the role of a Nogitsune possessed Stiles that bothers her.  
    
    It’s the feeling that, for the first time since she’s known what she is, Lydia Martin was about to scream her own death.  

    It’s too early to get up, but Lydia doesn’t care.  She can’t go back to asleep.  Her mom is out of town (again) so no one will question why she’s up and taking a shower at three thirty in the morning.  She turns the water as hot as it will go before stepping under.  She knows this is kind of wrong.  Her delicate skin really shouldn’t be beaten with scalding water, but she’s so cold.  And no matter how hard she tries, she can’t get rid of the feeling from the freezing metal bars digging into her back.  The hot water just serves as a reminder to how cold she feels.
    
    She doesn’t want to cry. She doesn’t feel like crying. It won’t help anything. It won’t make her understand the dream.  Won’t get rid of the dread coiling in her stomach and twisting up her throat.  She’s furious when she feels the first tears snake down her cheek.  The water is too hot, but she still doesn’t want to step out from under the spray because even though her body is finally warm, her heart feels even colder than before.  
    
    “GOD DAMMIT!” she yells, and presses her forehead against the tile.  It’s hard to see, and her breath keeps hitching, and she can’t even fucking breathe without shaking.  Then it hits her. It’s not just tears sneaking out, she’s fucking crying.  No, scratch that.  Sobbing. She’s sobbing like the hysterical fucking naked mess that she is. 

    Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
    
    She turns the water off and steps out onto her pink bathmat.  She manages to wrap a towel around herself before she looks up at her bathroom mirror.  She can’t help but scream when she sees it.

    
    Malia is surprisingly the first were-creature on the scene.  It would be a very sweet and bonding moment if Lydia hadn’t been so fucking upset that she screamed in the first place.  Malia must have been with Stiles to get here that quick.  The Martin and Stilinski houses aren’t that far apart.
    
    “Are you okay?” she demands.  “I don’t smell blood. Was someone here?”
    
    She can’t even answer Malia, because now Stiles is texting and calling her at the same time.  She sees the text ‘Malia heard you scream. I’m on the way over’ as she answers the phone.
    
    “Don’t come over,” she says, “Malia’s already here, and I’m fine.  It was just a nightmare.  I’m really sorry.”  She turns to Malia while she’s talking, hoping to kill two birds with one stone and get the werecoyote out of her house, but to her horror, Malia has left where she was just sitting on the bed and is walking towards her bathroom.  These stupid creatures and their stupid super noses.  Of course she’d follow it to the place where Lydia’s fear smelled the strongest.  
    
    “Nope,” says Stiles, “too late, I’m on the way.  Scott might get there before me.”
    
    “Scott?” she says weakly while walking towards the bathroom that Malia had yet to exit.  “Why do we need Scott to come over?  In fact, why are any of you coming over? I told you it was just a nightmare.”  There are so many things going wrong right now, Lydia might explode.  She almost collides into Malia who’s standing in front of her bathroom mirror.

    “Look Lydia,” Stiles says.  It startles her.  She forgot she was on the phone.

    He continues speaking, “You’re a banshee. Even if it was a nightmare, you screamed.  I’m sorry, but that requires looking into whether you like it or not.”  Before Lydia can respond, Malia grabs the phone from her.
    
    “She’s lying,” the werecoyote says, “it wasn’t just a nightmare. Get here over now, Stiles.”  Then she hangs up and hands the phone back to Lydia.  Malia looks like she really wants to say something, but instead, she guides Lydia back to the bed and makes her sit down.
    
    “I’m going to go get you a glass of milk,” Malia says.  Lydia looks up in surprise.
    
    “Milk?” she questions.  Malia nods.
    
    “Stiles says warm milk makes you sleep, so regular milk should calm you down.”  She turns to leave but Lydia calls out to her.
    
    “Could I have water instead, please?”  she asks while trying not to smile.  Malia’s very cute in her sincerity.  Maybe Lydia’s beginning to understand what Stiles sees in her after all.   Malia nods at her request and turns to leave again calling over her shoulder.

    “You should put something other than a towel on.  The Scott and Stiles are outside.”
    
    Lydia prays that Malia didn’t notice her heart rate spike over the word ‘Scott’ and dresses faster than she ever thought possible.  She needs to calm down, but the unfairness of it all makes her want to break down again.  She’d just sat back down on the bed when Stiles and Scott burst through her door with Malia trailing behind.  Stiles swarms her looking for injuries until Malia bats him away.  Scott just looks around the room, probably using his wolf nose to get all the different scents placed.
    
    “I told you she was physically fine,” says the werecoyote as she hands Lydia a glass of water.

    “Yeah,” says Stiles, “well so did Lydia and you said she was lying, so forgive me if I want to check myself.”  He lets out a shaky breath and sits down on the bed next to Lydia while running a hand through his hair.  He’s leg is bouncing so fast that the bed jiggles.  “So,” he continues, “what happened?”  
    
    “I had a night-”
    
    “Yeah, I think we covered the nightmare part, Lydia” Stiles says, “I mean after that.”  She glares at him.

    “I took a shower, and then I got out.”

    “The bathroom reeks of fear,” says Scott, “but I didn’t smell anything out of place.”

    “That’s because it’s already faded, but I made Lydia take a picture first,” Malia says.  She’s probably very proud of herself.  “Lydia, show them the photo,” she continues. “The creepy message that was written on your mirror.”  The room is quiet.

    “There was a message on your mirror?” Scott asks.  Lydia swallows.  She really doesn’t want to tell them.  Maybe it’s selfish, but she wanted this connection to be her secret.  But there’s no way to explain the situation without telling them the whole story.    

    “First, I want you to know something, and you can’t be mad I didn’t tell you,” she says looking between Stiles and Scott.  

    “Well good thing I’m sitting,” says Stiles, “Cause this is probably gonna big and shitty like everything else we deal with.  Scotty, if I was you, I’d take a seat.”  Lydia nods because it’s a good idea.  Scott definitely shouldn’t be standing when she says this.  She motions for him to sit down on her bed on the other side of Stiles.  She waits until Scott’s seated to blurt out her confession.
    
    “I’ve being hearing Allison.”

Stiles drops his head into his hands.  Scott doesn’t do anything.  Lydia gets up to pace.

    “At first, it was just my name here and there, but it’s escalated now.  I. . . I think she’s actually in my mind,” she pauses to look at them, “almost like Peter was.”  
    
    “For how long?” asks Scott.  He’s not looking at her.

    “Not that lon-”

    “For how long, Lydia?”  he says in a growl.  Stiles jumps next to him, and lifts his head from his hands.

    “Dude,” says Stiles, “eyes! You’re eyes are red, you need to calm down!”  Scott snarls at him and stands up to point a finger at Lydia.

    “For. How. Long.” the Alpha says firmly while advancing towards Lydia.  She’s sputtering to come up with a response that won’t piss him off more but she knows she can’t lie.  She’ll stick to generalities.
        
    “A m-month?” she stutters “Or two. . .”  She can literally see the muscles in Scott’s face contorting.  

    Suddenly Malia is in front of her, claws out and fangs bared, acting as a shield.

    “Don’t even think about it,” the werecoyote snarls at Scott, and Lydia wonders just want kind of scent Malia caught off her and the Alpha.  She doesn’t have long to think about it because she’s having to cover her ears from the volume of Scott’s roar.  When she looks up, he’s completely wolfed out and breathing heavy.  Malia looks nervous, but stands her ground.  Lydia’s fucking terrified.  Stiles slips in front of Malia, and slowly puts his hands up.
    
    “Scott? Buddy?” he asks, “You in there?”  Scott watches him with narrowed eyes but nods his head.  “Okay,” Stiles continues, “thats good. We’re off to a great start.”  He inches closes to the werewolf with his hands still extended.

    “What are you going to do, Stiles? Pet him?” Lydia says sharply.  Stiles looks over his shoulder and scoffs.
    
    “Of course not,” he says. “I’m going to calm him. . . with friendship. . .”  He turns back to Scott.  “Isn’t that right buddy?”

    “Stiles,” Scott growls, “I’m a werewolf, not a dog.  Stop calling me buddy.”  

    “Yeah, but I call you ‘buddy’ whenever you’re doing something stupid.  It’s like my favorite inside joke with myself.”
    
    “Stiles!” says Lydia. “Calling him stupid definitely isn’t going to calm him down!”  Lydia can barely breath, and she’s feeling light headed.

    “Yeah, no calling him stupid,” Malia says, “It’s definitely making him angrier every time someone says stupid. I can smell it.”

    “Oh my god!”  Stiles yells while dropping his hands and turning to face the girls, “Stop saying it then!”  He turns back to Scott.  “Scotty, you need to get a hold of yourself.  This isn’t you, not really.  We came here to help Lydia, remember?  Not kill her.”  

White spots are beginning to dance in Lydia’s field of vision, and although she can still hear everyone, they all sound just a little bit far away.

    “I wasn’t going to kill her,” Scott says, the shock clear in voice.  He lets his features relax back into his human face.  “You thought I was going to kill you?”  He looks broken.  The question’s addressed to Lydia.  She knows she can’t answer it truthfully because it would crush Scott.  And she can’t lie to him because he’d know it was a lie.  And since her silence is pretty much the same as telling the truth, she does the next best thing.

    She faints.

Chapter Text

     Lydia wakes on her bed, and despite the comfort of her mattress, a small part of her is irritated that she’s been moved. Rule number one if someone faints: leave them where they are unless you’re a trained medic.  She can hear Stiles, Scott, and Malia talking in hushed tones.  Malia must have showed them the photo of the mirror while she was out.  She keeps her eyes closed and listens.
    
    “It’s definitely Allison,” says Scott.  His voice is hoarse.  “We used the same method to communicate when we couldn’t see each other.”  

    “You wrote on each other’s bathroom mirrors?” asks Malia.

    “Car windows,” he says, “You could only see the words if you breathed onto them.”

    “So the words appeared from the steam of Lydia’s shower. . .” says Stiles.  “Do you think it has something to do the mumbo jumbo she wrote in Malia’s notes?”

    “I don’t know, dude,” Scott says, “Kira said it was some sort of code that requires a key. I mean, it’s Lydia we’re talking about.  Anything’s possible. . .”
    
    “Okay,” Stiles continues, “lets get all the pieces together.  Lydia’s been hearing Allison for the last two months.  She writes a code we can’t crack.  Then she has a nightmare, takes a shower, sees Allison’s extremely unhelpful and cryptic note on the mirror, and it makes her scream.”
    
    “So what does it mean?” asks Malia.  Stiles sighs loudly.
    
    “I have no idea,” he says, “I mean the message is about as vague as you get.”  Lydia hears Stiles’s jeans rustle as he stands.  The noise is followed by little electronic clicking sounds. He’s opening Lydia’s phone, probably to bring up the photo. “Lydia, it’s happening. Be careful” he reads before tossing the phone onto the bed.  “What’s happening?”

    “Stiles,” Lydia groans while slowly opening her eyes.  Everyone turns to her.  “Don’t throw my phone,” she says.

    “Seriously?” he snaps. “That’s the first thing you say?  No, ‘I have a theory’, or ‘I know what’s going on here guys’?”   Lydia sits up slowly, and stretches.  All eyes are on her except Scott’s.  Good. Let him feel guilty.

    “What?” she says, “How should I know?  I’m just as lost as everyone else.”

    “Maybe we need more clues,” Malia says. “What was your nightmare about? Do you think it’s related?”  Stiles looks at Malia, clearly impressed.
    
    “That’s a good idea,” he says.

No, that’s a terrible idea, thinks Lydia, but she can’t say that out loud.  She’d rather die then explain her dream to the boy who’s body caused it and the boy who starred in it.

    “I don’t want to talk about it,” she says.  Stiles balks at her words, his body lurching up with the force that he uses to raise both hands above his head.

    “Oh my god! Lydia! Give us something!”  He throws his head back while he talks.  Stiles can’t hear her heart rate increasing, and he can’t smell her fear, but Scott and Malia exchange knowing looks.

    “Stiles,” says Scott as he puts a hand on the human’s shoulder, “she doesn’t want to talk about it with us.”  The Alpha looks towards Malia and she nods back before he turns back to Stiles. “Why don’t you and I go home for now and let the girls talk some.”

    “What?” cries Stiles. “No!  This is too important.  And Lydia won’t talk to Malia.”  He says flinging a hand in her direction.  The banshee’s head shoots up at his words.

    “Excuse you?” she says, “I’ll talk to Malia.  In fact, I’d rather talk to her than either one of you right now.” That comes out a little harsher than she intended, but the damage is done.  Scott flinches, and Stiles looks like he’s been slapped.  Malia just sighs and moves behind both the boys to gently push them out of the room.

    “Sorry,” the werecoyote says with a shrug, and closes the door before they can answer her.  She stands a minute at the door, presumably waiting until she’s out of earshot even to Alphas.  She turns slowly back to Lydia, and just watches her.  Lydia knows she’s listening to her slowing heart rate, scenting the air for her receding fear, and all around figuring out the answers before Lydia can say anything.

    “You had a nightmare about Scott,” Malia says.  It’s not a question.  “Don’t worry,” she pushes on, “He won’t figure it out.  He’ll think you’re still scared from his outburst earlier.”  Lydia’s holding her head between her hands.  She can feel the beginning of a headache building.  She tries to laugh but the sound gets trapped in her nose and comes out more like a snort.  

    “Is that what we’re calling it?  He literally went transformed Alpha on us. . .  I don’t know about you, but supernatural powers or not, I don’t like to excuse abusive behavior.”

    “You felt threatened,” says Malia. Again, it’s not a question.  Lydia takes her hands away from her face to look at Malia.

    “Didn’t you?”

Malia shakes her head, “No, but I knew he wasn’t trying to threaten us.  Look, it’s kinda hard to explain,” she says,  “It’s like when I was coyote and I’d come across a really fresh dead deer, like super prime meat, and there’d only be some stupid ferret, or a maybe a fox around at worst that I had to worry about, and I’d feel so lucky.  Then a mountain lion would show up.”

    “Okay. . .” Lydia says slowly as she widens her eyes. Malia huffs and rolls hers.

    “You don’t get it,” she says sharply,  “It’s the difference between something wanting to threaten you and something wanting to scare you away.  See, the mountain lion knew it could take me, the ferret, and the fox, all at the same time if it needed to, and still win.  All it had to do was remind us to be scared.”  Lydia nods because she feels like Malia wants her too.  The coyote continues, “Scott’s the mountain lion.”

    “Uh-huh,” Lydia says, “So. . . in this example, I’m a dead deer that Scott wants for himself?”

    “No, you’re the ferret,” Malia says, “Or the fox, you’re choice. Obviously, I’m the coyote because it’s my story.  Allison is the dead deer Scott wants.”  Lydia can see that Malia instantly regrets her choice of words from the way her eyes bug.  “Oh god,” she says, “I didn’t mean it like that. . . Fuck.”

    “It’s okay,” Lydia says, but the words feel muffled in her mouth.  It doesn’t matter though she realizes, because Malia isn’t even listening.  She’s too busy biting a nail and mumbling.  Lydia taps her on the shoulder to get the werecoyote’s attention.  Malia turns to her.

    “Really, it’s okay,” Lydia repeats.  “I understand what you’re saying.  Scott was jealous I hid a connection to Allison.  It triggered some sort of Alpha reaction.”  Malia lets out a huge sigh and nods.  “Is that normal though?” Lydia continues, “I mean for werewolves who’ve mastered their shift to get that. . . primal?”  

Malia shrugs before she speaks, “Who knows? I was just a coyote up until six months ago, you know.  This is all still pretty new to me.”  Lydia can’t help but smile.  “Maybe you should ask that Deacan guy.”

    “Deaton?” says Lydia.

    “Yeah, him.” says Malia.  “Maybe you could talk to him about your dream too.  It probably means something.”  Lydia looks at Malia.  Like really looks at her.  The girl plays a great dumb card, but Lydia’s beginning to notice that you’d have to be blind not to see the sage wisdom twinkling in the corner of her eyes and mouth.   

    “Yeah,” Lydia nods.  “See you at school tomorrow?”

    “You mean today?  It’s almost 4:30 in the morning,”  Malia says as she makes her way over to Lydia’s window and opens it.  “But I’ll be there.” The werecoyote flashes a toothy grin before she disappears over the sill.


     
                                                                                              ***********


    
    Lydia has had a lot of think about.  The dream, the code, the key to crack the code, the message on the mirror and now Scott’s weird jealous issues.  It’s quickly becoming too much to handle.  So when the key to break the code is Allison’s name, Lydia pretty much loses it.  Kira and Malia stay with her at the lake house all weekend while she plays the record over and over.  She tells them that she’s looking for the other keys (and maybe part of her is) but Lydia knows why she can’t take the needle off the record.  

    In one of these grooves, she’d heard her.  

    Not just in her head, but in her ears like normal people.  She’d heard Allison, and she’d sit here all fucking year if it meant she could hear her like that one more time.  She knows she looks pathetic.  She knows she looks insane.  And she couldn’t care less.

     Kira slowly moves the needle off the record while Malia gently tugs Lydia away, but neither one of them say a word.  She appreciates that.  Lydia doesn’t think she can form words right now.  Malia sniffs and breaks the silence.

    “You need to rest.  I can smell your exhaustion from here.”

Lydia turns to look at her, and nods slowly.  Sleep might be okay.  She can always try again when she wakes up.  The kitsune and werecoyote exchange looks before Malia starts to the gather their things, and Kira pulls out her car keys.  Now Lydia’s confused. She clears her throat before she speaks.  

    “What are you doing?”  Her voice sounds terrible.

    “Oh, you’re not sleeping here,” says Malia.  “We want you to actually rest.”

    “We think that you’ll be able to sleep better in your own home,” Kira says,  “You know, no spooky record players to get in the way.”  Lydia can tell she’s trying really hard to keep her voice light and soothing.  Like she’s talking to a child.

    “But. . .  I have to find the other keys,” Lydia says.

    “They’re not here,” says Malia.  “We can keep looking after you’ve slept, but not here.”

    All three of them get into the car without talking.  Kira’s driving with Malia next to her in the passenger seat. Lydia’s in the back with her eyes closed, head propped against the window.  She’s thankful that both girls ignore the tears sliding down her cheeks even though she’s sure their salty scent has filled the car.  She’s just the tiniest bit relieved to be out of the lake house.  It scares her to think how long she might have stayed if Malia and Kira hadn’t been with her.  

    When she gets home, her house feels too big and too empty, and even though she’s exhausted, she doesn’t want to sleep.  She aimlessly wanders from room to room, acting like a specter in her own home.  During her third mindless lap around the kitchen, she gets an idea.  Lydia retrieves her phone from the sweater she’d thrown on the couch.  The blue glow of the screen flickers in her eyes as she sweeps over her contact list.  What time is it?  Almost ten thirty?  He’ll still be awake.

    She waits, not even realizing she’s holding her breath until he answer on the fifth ring.

    “Lydia?”  She tries to steady her breathing before she talks, but it proves useless.  When she speaks, the words come out rushed and shaky.

    “I don’t think I can be alone right now.”

    “Are you okay? Lydia, are you in trouble?” he asks

    “No. . . yes. . . I don’t know,” she says looking around the empty house, “Please, will you just come over.”

    “Lydia, you sound like you haven’t in slept days.  I think you might be better just getting a good’s night rest.”

    “I can’t sleep!” she yells in a sharp high-pitched voice.  “Please. . .” she continues in a softer tone, “please, just come over.”  The other line is quiet, and for a minute Lydia worries she said too much. That he’ll just hang up and years from now, he’ll tell his friends about that one time he hooked up with a crazy chick.

    “I’m heading out now,” he says and relief floods her in awesome waves.  He continues, “Lydia, listen to me, it’s going to be okay.  I promise. We’ll figure it out, okay?”  She nods, but then remembers he can’t see her, so she clears her throat and replies.

    “Thank you.”

    She forgets that Jordan lives near the coast so it takes him almost twenty minutes to reach her house.  She’s about to call him again when there’s a knock on her door.  She scrambles off the couch, dropping her phone in the process, and runs to the door.

    He’s not in his uniform which is funny she realizes because she’s never seen him wear anything else.  Jordan Parrish seems like the type of man that would sleep in his uniform.  His eyes smile, but not his mouth, when she steps back to allow him entrance into her home.

    “As pleased as I am that you’re this excited to see me,” he begins, “The cop in me is really mad you just opened your door at eleven o’clock at night without even checking to see who was knocking.”

    “But I was expecting you,” she says with a hand on her hip.

    “It’s Beacon Hills, Lydia,” he says, “Unexpected things happen here more often than not.”

    “You mean like calling you’re boyfriend over, and then having him lecture you on opening doors?”  She gets all the way into the kitchen to get a glass of water when she realizes what she said.  Boyfriend?  Oh fuck. She drinks almost half the glass of water before she turns around. What did it matter.  Distraction.  Boyfriend.  Who cares what you call them?  Any boy about to to go upstairs with Lydia Martin should feel blessed.  She walks past him and gets halfway up her stairs before she turns to face him.

    “This would be the part where you follow me up the stairs,” she says, a smirk creeping into the corners of mouth despite her tired appearance “and I really hope you won’t need this type of direction once we’re in my room.”

    That night Lydia falls asleep feeling safe.  His arms are warm and hold her at just the right strength while she drifts to sleep.  She’d woken many nights to Jackson’s uncomfortably tight embrace, and Aiden had simple draped his arms over her for fear of squeezing to hard in his sleep (which was sweet in its own way).  But she can’t deny how good it feels to find her just right.

    She dreams of Allison that night. No surprise there.  But what does surprise her is that for the first time since Allison’s death, Lydia’s with her instead of experiencing the dream through the hunter’s eyes.  They are running down a hallway together.  Lydia doesn’t know where; it’s not familiar at all.  Maybe it’s a landscape from Allison’s world.  Allison’s hand is balled in the sleeve of Lydia’s jacket, forcing her to run as fast as the trained hunter.  They turn a corner, then another, and suddenly Allison is pulling them into a supply closet of some sort.  It’s dark, but Lydia’s eyes adjust fast.  Something about this makes Lydia believe this really is Allison.  Her Allison.  There’s so much she wants to say.  So much she needs to tell her.  She opens her mouth, but Allison quickly clamps her hand over it.  Allison shakes her head, and raise her free hand to put a finger over her lips in the universal sign for ‘quiet’.  Her eyes are wide as she signs it, and Lydia can feel Allison’s racing pulse in the hand over her mouth.  Allison uncovers Lydia’s mouth at the same time that she lowers her finger from her own.  She walks to the door and presses her ear against it before slowly leaning back.  She turns to Lydia and mouths the words, “Someone else is here”.

    She gasps awake to Jordan gently saying her name.  He’s sitting up and holding her.  He sounds calm, but when Lydia meets his eyes, she recognizes the dilated pupils of someone in panic mode.
    
    “Lydia,” he’s saying, “you’re having a nightmare.  Can you hear me? Lydia?”  She nods, still too shaken to use words.  She can’t really remember what she was dreaming, but her heart feels like it’s going to explode, and her entire body is thumping in time with it.  

    “What was I doing?” she asks feeling embarrassed and curious at the same time.

    “I’m not sure,” he says with his arms still around her.  “I just felt like I needed to wake you.”


    Lydia’s pissed to find out Jordan Parrish is on the dead pool. And not because it feels like he’s hiding something, but because for the first time in her life, Lydia thought she was dating a normal guy.  She just can’t seem get away from supernatural boyfriends.  He does seem genuinely shocked when she and Stiles tell him is on the hit list though.  Maybe he doesn’t even know what he is; Lydia had’t known she was a banshee until Peter bit her.  The thought gives her enough comfort to not break the relationship off.  The pack is not entirely thrilled about that decision.

    Or more precisely, Scott.
    
    But surprisingly, he mentions nothing.  She figures he’s waiting until she’s less shaken by Meredith’s death.  She doesn’t point out how long that will take.  The banshee’s suicide was more than a shock to her;  Lydia feels solely responsible.  And nothing Stiles mumbled when he hugged her can change that.  Parrish is strangely silent about it all when she confesses the guilt on her mind.  He regards her with tender eyes and a tight jaw before pulling her into a crushing embrace.  It’s more comforting and grounding than any words she imagines him saying.  It’s also the first night in her life that Lydia Martin shares her bed with a boy, and all they do is sleep.  

    She finds a dreamless solace in his arms that night.

                                                                                                  ****************

 

    Lydia’s biggest fear never comes true.  She’d been terrified that finding the other two keys would cut her connection to Allison.  Thanks god that does not happen.  The pack decides that the mirror message had to be referring to the dead pool.  Lydia agrees to a certain extent.  But she also feels that Allison wouldn’t be that vague if she was warning them about assassins and a dead pool.  There is something in that message meant only for Lydia, something Allison doesn’t want the others to know.  She just has to figure out what.


    Parrish reminds her of a blanket.  He is warm and soft and soothing, and ever ready to wrap himself around her; mind, body, and soul.  It’s a part of their schedule now that whenever her mom is out of town, Jordan stays with Lydia at her house.  She never has nightmares when he’s in bed with her, but she also never dreams about Allison.  It’s a bittersweet conundrum.  He never asks her about the nights she moves to a different room to sleep.  And to return the favor, Lydia never dwells on her suspicions as to why she finds such restful sleep in his arms.

     Scott is not so kind.  The mystery of Parrish’s supernatural identity plagues him.  He asks Lydia everything he can think of during lunch with her and Stiles.  What are his eating habits?  Has she seen him get hurt? How fast did he heal?  

    “Maybe he’s psychic,” says Stiles, “I mean that wouldn’t give him any super strength or healing powers, right?  He’d seem like a regular guy.  And my dad did mention that Parrish thought Lydia was a psychic at first.”  Scott looks intrigued by this idea.

    “I really don’t even see why this matters,”  Lydia says, “So maybe he’s psychic, and maybe he’s not.  Who cares.”

    “It matters because we don’t know what he is, and you’re sleeping with him.”  Scott says.

    “Tact, Scott, tact,” Stiles mumbles while pulling a hand down his face. “We talked about this remember, buddy?”

    “You talked about this?  As in you discussed my relationship with Jordan, which has nothing to do with either one of you, behind my back?”
    
    “What?” says Stiles quickly.  “No. . . not really. . . kinda.  Maybe just a little bit?”  He holds up a hand in front his face and pinches his pointer finger and thumb together leaving nothing but a tiny gap between them. “Like only this much, I swear.”

    “Oh my god,” she laughs while standing up, “this is ridiculous.  Call me when we’re actually back to discussing important issues.  Like, oh, say, the Benefactor?  And the dead pool he’s put out that has all of our names on it?  Anyone still care about that?  Our has my bedroom taken priority?”

No one says anything.  She purses her lips.  “Fine,” she says and turns on her heels to walk away.

    “Lydia, wait.”  It’s Scott.  Of the two, she’d prefer to talk to Stiles so she keeps walking.  He catches up fast.  “Lydia, I said wait.”

    “I heard you,” she says.

    “Okay. . .” says Scott.  He looks confused.  “I can explain.  Just. . . can we talk for a second?”

    “Nope,” she answers.
    
    “No. . . we can’t talk?” he asks.

    “That’s right.  I’ve got test in A.P. biology that I need to study for.”  She’s walking faster and refusing to make eye contact.  Scott increase his pace to match hers.  She wonders why Stiles isn’t running to catch up to them.  She’s not nervous around Scott (she’s not), it’s just easier to talk to him when someone else is there.

    “Lydia, you have 4.0 in A.P. biology.  What could you possible need to study?”

    She almost looks at him when she speaks but decides at the last second that her words will sting more if she keeps avoiding eye contact.  She looks up to the ceiling instead and tilts her head in a mocking manner before saying  “The fact that you’d think that is the very reason you don’t have a 4.0 in anything, Scott.”

    The hallway blurs in front of her and Lydia is genuinely confused and momentarily horrified.  Is she about to faint?  When her vision settles, she’s in an empty classroom.  It takes her less than a second to piece together what happened.  She turns to Scott, enraged, and rips her wrist out of his hand.  

    “Don’t you ever manhandle me again, Scott McCall,” she says fiercely through clenched teeth, and moves to push past towards the door.  He whips her around by the same wrist she just freed.

    “Then stop walking away from me,” he says.  

He can’t be aware of the pressure he’s putting on her wrist.  She looks down at her hand and he follows her line of sight.  It’s so fleeting that Lydia’s not even sure it happened in the first place, but for a split second, it feels like Scott squeezes down harder before he releases his hold.  She curbs the impulse to cradle her now throbbing wrist.  Instead, she puts both hands on her hips.

    “What do you want to talk about, Scott?”

He shifts nervously from one foot to the other.  Whatever aggression she thought she perceived earlier is gone.  In it’s place is just Scott.  Her stupid friend who’s terrible at bringing up difficult topics.  What had Stiles said? No tact.  She’s positive now that he didn’t mean to use that much force a moment ago.  Scott would never purposely hurt her.     

    “I wasn’t trying to be mean,” he says, “it’s just, you’ve got a history with your boyfriends.”  Lydia raises an eyebrow.  “Oh come on, Lydia, it’s a clear pattern.  Jackson was the kanima.  Aiden was in the Alpha pack.”

    “You can’t build a pattern of two points, Scott.”

    “Which is why you need to be careful around Parrish.  We don’t know what he is or who’s side he’s on.  He could be dangerous, Lydia.”  She can tell this conversation will keep going in circles unless she tells Scott what he wants to hear.

    “Fine,” she says. “I’ll be careful.”  He lets out a big sigh, and nods gratefully.
    
    “Good, good.”  he starts to leave the classroom but stops.  Lydia almost runs into him.  She steps back so Scott can turn to face her.

    “Are you. . .”  he says but stops, “I mean. . . have you heard. . .” he stops again and sighs.  He seems to be having a mental debate of some kind.  Good thing for him that Lydia’s a genius and can figure out where he’s trying to say.

    “Am I still hearing Allison?”

He looks up, and nods.

    “Sometimes. . . ”  she says quietly, “She’ll call out my name.”

    “Can you hear her now?”  

She can, very loudly, in fact, but it doesn’t matter.  She can tell where Scott is going with this.

    “I can’t communicate with her.  I’ve tried.  It only works in dreams, and then it’s only messy and strange bits of unfinished images that we exchange.”

    “But you’ve done it before? In dreams?”

    “Not reliably,” she reinforces.  

Scott’s eyes seem far away when he looks back at her.  “If I could just talk to her one more time. . .” he lets the statement drift between them unfinished.  Lydia nods.  She understands.  She’d sat in a room for almost forty-eight hours listening to a single record with the same hope and desolation that Scott carries in his voice now.  

    “Me too,” she says, “me too.”    
    

Chapter Text

Lydia wears a denim shirt with long sleeves that extend well beyond her fingers to school as a jacket. It’s a sloppy look, she’ll admit, but she doesn’t have another shirt that hides her wrist.  The outfit is only salvaged thanks to her favorite lavender skirt.  She stands at her locker, gingerly picking up textbook after textbook to put in her bag.  She can hear Stiles laughing, and looks up to see him and Scott walking towards her.  They both seem to be in strangely good moods.

    “Lydia Martin!” Stiles greets, his face overtaken by the grin he’s sporting.  “How are you? What, don’t answer that.  I’ll tell you: You’re happy, because today, I’m buying you lunch.”   She closes her locker, and slightly winces when she uses her injured wrist to lift her book-bag over her shoulder.  
    
    “Why don’t you buy it for your girlfriend instead,” she says, “I brought my lunch today.”  Stiles’s grin falters ever so slightly, but he rebounds fast and keeps smiling.  He throws an arm around her casually and steers her towards the lunch room.  

    Someone is full of himself today.

    “Come on, Lydia” he says, “I’m trying to apologize for the awkwardness of yesterday here.  Let me buy you a famous Beacon Hills High mystery meatloaf.  You’ll grow to love the rubber texture, I promise.”  Lydia smiles despite herself.  Stiles can be very charming in a spastic way when he wants to be.

    “How about we settle for a Vitamin Water,” she says.

    “Deal,” agrees Stiles before unwinding his arm from her shoulders and heading towards the vending machine.

    “Kiwi-strawberry!” she calls out to his back.  

    “I know!” he calls back, flipping a hand dismissively over his shoulder.  Lydia doesn’t think about how happy it makes her that he remembers her favorite flavor.  She looks up at Scott who’s standing there smirking at her.

    “What?” she demands.

    “Nothing,” he laughs with a shrug, “you just seem happy, is all.”  She tilts her head at him and narrows her eyes.  “It’s a nice change,” he continues.

    “Yeah, well,” she mutters under her breath, “don’t get too used to it.”  

Scott turns and Lydia follows his gaze to see Malia and Kira walking towards them from across the room.  Malia looks tired, but Kira seems to have endless energy.  She bounds up to Scott who  barely has time to catch her before she plants a kiss squarely on his lips.  Malia snorts, and turns to Lydia.
    
    “Guess they worked things out,” the werecoyote says.  “Good thing too. I was tired of smelling all that anxiety.”  Kira blushes and makes Scott put her down.

    “Where should we sit?” asks the kitsune.  

    “There’s a free table near the back,” says Stiles as he walks up and hands Lydia her kiwi-strawberry vitamin water.

    It’s weird.  They practically just discovered the existence of the dead pool and the Benefactor, but everyone seems so calm.  So happy.  Lydia wonders if they’ve really come that far.  If the presence of danger is the only thing that makes them feel safe now.  She’d read about post traumatic stress disorder in soldiers.  One of the more common symptoms was hyper-vigilance.  This overwhelming fear that danger was around every corner.  Some soldiers couldn’t even stand being back home where it was safe.  As if the fact that there was no danger to react too only made them feel worse.  According to the article, that was why so many returning soldiers immediately put their names back in the hat to go back to the wars.  Lydia can relate.  There is something bizarrely soothing in the knowledge that her life is actually in danger now.  She’d tuned out just long enough to be confused when she comes back to the conversation.  Kira is talking

    “So I said she’d be better off asking Lydia.”  Everyone laughs.

Was that even a joke? She supposes she could’ve missed the set up, but Lydia Martin doesn’t enjoy humor that uses her name as the punchline.  She flips her hair over her shoulder, and crosses her legs.  The heels she wore today are digging into her ankles.  That’s why you don’t buy cheap shoes, no matter how cute they are, she thinks regrettably.  She forgets about her wrist and tries to use her hurt hand to open her vitamin water.  She can’t stop the hiss of pain that leaves her mouth.  Malia’s sitting next to her and turns to look at Lydia with her brows furrowed.  

    “I smell pain,” she says.

    “Really?” asks Lydia, a condescending tint to her tone, as she holds out her water.  “Can someone open this?”   Stiles makes a face, but holds out his hand to take the bottle.  She doesn’t have time react when, instead off taking the bottle, he takes her hand and gently pushes her sleeve up to expose her bruised wrist.

    “Holy shit! Lydia!”  says Stiles,  “What the hell happened?”  

    “Nothing happened,” she says tightly while pulling her wrist out of Stiles’s gentle grip.  She darts her eyes over to Scott.  She’s curious to see what his reaction to the bruise will be.  He frowns, and his face scrunches like he smells something foul.

    “Nothing?” repeats Stiles, “Nothing happened? Lydia, there are four sets of perfect finger imprints around your wrist.  Are you telling me that there’s a Nothing out there going around trying to crush wrists?  Are we in the Never Ending Story now?”   Lydia rolls her eyes, but Stiles keeps going, “These look like strong hands, don’t they?”  He quotes, looking down at his hands. “Yeah, strong enough to pulverize your wrist bones!” he says while flinging them up into the air over his head.

    “It doesn’t look that bad, Stiles,” says Scott as he opens the forgotten vitamin water and hands it Lydia.  “I mean, if someone had been trying to crush her wrist, they’d probably be crushed, right?”  He’s talking to Stiles but looking right at her.

    “And the strangest comment of the day goes to Scott,” says Stiles.  “Thanks buddy,” he finish as he slaps the werewolf on the back.  Scott’s still watching Lydia.  Does he think she’s going to say he it was him?  Lydia shrugs and flips her hair over her shoulder.

    “Whatever,” she says making eye contact with Scott.  “It’s nothing I can’t handle.”

She’s about to take a sip of vitamin water when she hears it.  

    “LYDIA”

 Allison’s so loud that Lydia drops the open bottle into her lap.  She stands with a screech as the liquid pours onto her skirt and down her legs.

    “Whoa,” says Stiles,  “That’s a Lydia Martin first.”

Kira gets up to get her more napkins.  Malia looks at her in confusion.

    “Why did you do that?”  she asks.  Lydia turns to the werecoyote abruptly, still in the middle of shaking off the vitamin water that had yet to soak into the cloth of her skirt.

    “Sweetheart, do I look the kind of person to do that for fun?”  

    “No. . .” says Malia.

    “Exactly,”  Lydia snaps,  “So let’s not ask stupid questions.”  She looks down at the pinkish stain setting into her favorite lavender skirt.  “Great, there goes the only redeeming factor of this outfit.”  Kira returns with two handfuls of paper towels and holds them out for Lydia.  She grabs both and furiously starts wiping down her legs.  “Gross,” she mutters, “it’s sticky now.”

    “You should wash your legs in the bathroom,” says Kira, “I’ll take you book bag to Econ and tell Coach you’ll be there later.”  

    “Thanks,” says Lydia. She grabs her purse off the table, and heads out the cafeteria towards the restrooms just as the bell rings to end lunchtime.  She stays longer than she needs to in the bathroom.  The next bell has already rung signaling that she’s now late to class, but she doesn’t make any moves to leave.  She’s holding herself up by the sink and staring at her reflection with vacant eyes.  
    
    That one had really taken her by surprise.  Allison’s never been that loud before.  Lydia lets out a deep sigh and wets a paper towel to wipe down her legs.  The movement exposes her bruised wrist, and she stops to inspect it.  Under the fluorescent lights, she can tell why Stiles was so concerned.  It looks terrible.  She hadn’t really paid it any mind this morning aside from making sure it wasn’t visible.  Now she finds herself turning it this way and that way, memorizing every tone in the discoloration.  There’s blue, and purple, and dark grays and even some greenish yellows.  God, it really looks terrible.  She walks out the bathroom door and straight into Malia.

    “Jesus!” she exclaims, “What are you doing?
    
    “Waiting for you,” Malia answers.

    “Obviously,” says Lydia,  “But why?”  Malia is staring at her wrist.  Lydia adjusts her purse to hide how uncomfortable she is under the werecoyote’s intense scrutiny.

    “How did it happen?”

    Lydia opens her mouth to reply ‘mind your own business’ when a door opens down the hallway, and Scott comes rushing out.  He curls the corners of his lips upwards at the two girls as he passes.  The smile brings out his uneven jawline.

    “I have to pee, but Coach’s wondering where you both are,” he says before dashing into the boys bathroom.  Lydia rolls her eyes and grabs Malia by the arm to lead her back to class.

    “Sorry, Coach,” says Lydia as they walk into the classroom.  “Girl stuff,” she finishes with a smile.  Malia quickly looks at Lydia then back at Coach Finstock and nods.

    “The period,” the werecoyote adds.  Stiles groans from his seat near the back.  Lydia widens her eyes and tightens her smile.

    “Okay. . .” Coach Finstock says as he furrows his brow.  “I didn’t know you girls weren’t here yet, but uh, thanks for sharing. . .”  He claps his hands, “Now, why don’t you both take a seat back there with the groaning Stilinski and we’ll get back to todays lesson - that is - if you don’t have any other girl things to discuss.”  

    “No, just the period,” says Malia.  Stiles groans again.  Lydia’s already hightailing it to the seat in front of Stiles in the back.  Malia takes the seat next to him.  Coach Finstock scratches his head while he opens and closes his mouth a couple of times.  Then he gives his head a slow shake and turns back to the board muttering something along the lines of having to admire the honesty.

    Scott walks back in the room a moment later and takes his seat behind Kira.  He looks around, probably smelling some residual embarrassment from both her and Stiles about Malia’s definition of girl stuff.  He looks back at them with a smile tugging at his lips, but still clearly confused.  “What happened?” he mouths.  Stiles shakes his head with his brows lowered and mouth turned downward, motioning for Scott to turn back around and drop it with his hand (a very bizarre and complex motion).  He looks like an idiot.
    
     Lydia tries to stop her smile, but she can’t.  She ends up putting the back of her hand to her mouth and turning her head the opposite direction to compensate.  Thank god she left her hair down today.  It helps obscure her mirthful face.  She can see the entire classroom reflected in the window.  She watches Stiles lean over and whisper something to Malia.  The werecoyote seems to blanch, her lips dropping downwards as her brow winkles.  Stiles must be explaining how there’s more to girl stuff than ‘the period’.  Lydia also studies the reflection of Scott and Kira, who’s sitting in front of him, her arm stretched back to hold his hand.  Lydia can’t imagine it’s a comfortable position for the kitsune.  She turns back to the front of the classroom, briefly making eye contact with Malia who still looks slightly pale.  Malia mouthes “I’m so sorry” but Lydia only shakes her head, her eyes crinkling around the corners as her one side of her mouth curls up, as if to say “don’t worry about it”.  She trains her eyes back to the front of the room and tries listening to Coach, but he’s off on a rant that has nothing to do with economics.  Lydia decides her time is better spent doodling and turns to a fresh sheet in her notebook.  Every now and then, she stops to look up, a creeping sensation working its way up her spine.  

    Someone’s watching her.

    She bits her lip and turns to look out the window again, letting her hair act as a natural shield to block the view of her face.  She studies the reflection of the class, but no one’s looking at her.  Everyone seems to be absorbed in one task or another, and still, she can’t shake the feeling that she’s being observed.  She stops drawing and surveys the classroom, even turning to look at the last couple of rows behind her.  Stiles raises an eyebrow at her, but she ignores him.  Now, Scott is regarding her with his brows pulled to together.  “What?” he mouths.  Lydia mouths back “Someone’s watching me”.  If she hadn’t been on edge already from the sensation of prying eyes, she knows she would have missed the impassive expression on Scott’s face before he pulls his brows together in confusion.  Something in Lydia reacts without thinking and she mouths the words “I’m probably being paranoid” before she returns to doodling.  She continues to ignore Stiles as he tries to get her attention.  

    A piece of paper hits her arm and bounces onto her desk.  She opens it and looks at it for only a second before she turns around and narrows her eyes at Stiles.  “No,” she whispers.  He widens his eyes, tears off another corner of his paper, jots something down , and throws it at Lydia.  She opens it with fast fingers, her mouth already tight-lipped.  She screws her eyes shut and rubs the sides of her forehead when she sees his scrawled “why not”.  She’ll ignore him.  It’s the only way to get him to drop it.  He starts to push against her desk with his foot.  She shouldn’t have sat in front of him.  
    
    “Stop it,” she hisses, and scoots her desk up.  Stiles tries to scoot his desk up too but it makes a terrible screeching noise that immediately draws the attention of everyone in class.  

    “Stilinski,” says Coach Finstock, “why does it always have to be you?”  His eyes are drawn together in a disbelieving expression.

    “That’s what I’d like to know too, Coach” says Stiles as he leans back into his seat, defeated, rubbing at his mouth with the palm of his hand.

    When the bell rings, Lydia is the first one out of the classroom.  She doesn’t wait for any of the others and heads straight to her locker.  So she’s a little surprised to find Scott already there.  
    Werewolves.  
    
    He steps back to allow her access and stands there watching her, tugging on his book bag strap absentmindedly with the hand holding it to his shoulder.  He waits until she puts her A.P. biology book away to speak.

    “I just want to say I’m sorry.  Like so sorry.”  He’s following her down the hallway now, his longer legs easily keeping pace with her heeled strides.  “I had no idea I grabbed you that hard yesterday.”

    “Apparently,” she says, her tone clipped.
    
    “Lydia, I’m really sorry,” he says.  She spares a quick glance in his direction, and decides that, yes, he is sorry.  However, she rolls her eyes at what he has to say next.  “And if you could maybe, just, keep it between us, for now that is. . . I’d really appreciate it.”  She looks at him with pursed lips before walking into her next class.  He follows her in and takes a seat.  Lydia raises her eyebrows at him.

    “Scott,” she says, “This is A.P. Biology.  I think you might be a little confused by the lesson.”

    “Lydia, please,” he groans.  She taps her foot and looks up while biting her lip before releasing a sigh.

    “Fine, it’s a secret, but you owe me,” she says, “Big time.”

    “Anything,” Scott swears as he stands up to leave.  He barely makes it out of the classroom before the bell rings.  

    Lydia can’t concentrate throughout the lesson.  She keeps thinking back to Finstock’s class.  Something is bothering her about it, but she can’t figure out what.  It’s not that someone (or something) was watching her or Stiles pestering her the entire time trying to find out what happened to her wrist, or even Malia’s misguided attempt at girl talk in front of the whole class.  It’s something about Coach’s response when they got into class.  Why is it striking her as odd?  He’d said he didn’t realize they weren’t in class yet.  No surprise there, Coach almost never takes roll on time, so why can’t she stop thinking about it?  Then it hits her.  Scott said Coach Finstock wondered what was keeping her and Malia, but according to Coach, he didn’t even know they were gone.  

    Scott lied to them.  

    Scott had lied, but more importantly, he’d done it without the werecoyote catching a single scent or sign of it.


**********


    Lydia doesn’t want Jordan to see the bruise so she doesn’t tell him that her mom goes out of town that weekend.  She’s slightly nervous about sleeping in the house on her own though.  Her mom has had to wake her up multiple times in the last couple of weeks thanks to nightmares and sleepwalking.  She locks all the doors and windows before she crawls in bed, hoping it will be enough to keep her sleeping body inside the house.

    She opens her eyes to a clearing surrounded by trees.  She’s barefoot and the damp grass feels soft between her toes.  The sun is out, giving the massive oaks surrounding her an orange glow.

    “Isn’t it pretty?”

    Lydia spins to face the  familiar voice, and her throat catches.  It’s Allison.

    “These are the woods behind the house we lived in when I was eight,” she says while walking towards one of the trees.  She puts a hand to its bark.  “I only had a couple of friends, but I was so mad when I found out we were moving again. I hid one of my favorite toys out here.  I can’t remember which tree it was though. I wanted someone to find it, to remember I’d been there.”  She turns to Lydia, her eyes glossy and her mouth taunt.  “Kids are silly.”  Lydia puts a hand over her mouth.  It’s really Allison.  

    “I’d remember you,” Lydia says.  Her voice is a whisper behind her palm.  Allison smiles.

    “I know.”

    The hunter sits down and motions for Lydia to join her, waiting with the side of her face pressed against her knees.  Lydia walks over and falls numbly to the ground, clumsily folding her legs underneath her when she hits the earth.  She’s trying hard not to let the tears she feels building in the corners of her eyes squirm out.

    “I miss you,” she says turning to Allison.  “I miss you so much.”  Her voice breaks and cracks halfway through the words.  

The hunter squeezes her eyes shut and tightens her lips, tilting her head up before she can answer.

    “God,” she half laughs, half sobs, “I miss you too.”  She turns back to Lydia with a wan smile.  “Sorry I dragged you out here,” she continues, “but it was the first safe place I could think of.”  
    
    Lydia shrugs.  She could care less where she was.  She’s with Allison.  She looks at the hunter and notices a bodily weariness that seems to surpass even the most seasoned of soldiers.

    “Have you ever seen a white room in your sleep?” she ask Lydia.  “It has white tiles and columns, and endless rows of lights.”  It sounds very familiar to her.  “I went there with Scott and Stiles when we did the ritual.”  Allison finishes.  She’s pulling up the grass by her feet.

    “Not in my sleep, but I think I’ve been there,” says Lydia.  A part of her wants to reach out and calm Allison’s frantic fingers as they dance over the blades of grass.

    “Have you? For sure?”

    “I was there with Scott. . . when we had to enter Stiles’s mind.”

Allison stops torturing the grass and sighs deeply.  She drops her head between her knees before jerking it back up to run her hands through her hair and down her neck.  She gets the strands of grass that were stuck between her fingers in her hair.

    “Do you remember Deaton talking about the doors to our mind?  How they would be open after the ritual?”  Allison asks.  Lydia nods.  “You need to close your door, Lydia.”  

    “But I wasn’t a part of the sacrifice.”

Allison shakes her head before she speaks,  “The sacrifice is what gave us darkness, but the room is what opens the doors.  It’s crossing into a different plane of existence, a larger one, that makes us vulnerable.”

    “So I’ll have spirits in my head?”  Lydia asks with a sly grin.  “Doesn’t sound so different from what I deal with now, honestly.”  Allison tries to laugh, but it doesn’t sound heartfelt. The noise comes off more as a stressed huff to Lydia’s ears.

    “I’m not worried about spirits,” says the hunter.  She takes a deep breath and runs her hands through her hair again.  “You need to be careful, Lydia.  He’s learning how to use the doors.”

    “Who?”

Allison opens her mouth to answer, but the loudest noise Lydia’s ever heard comes out instead.  It sounds like. . . a car horn?  

    She opens her eyes in time to see a blue jeep swerve around her.  It’s raining, and she’s shaking from the dropping temperature.  She looks down and sees that she’s barefoot and wearing only the tee-shirt she wore to bed.  The jeep pulls off to the side of the road, it’s hazard lights flashing, and the angriest looking Stiles she’s seen since he was possessed jumps out of the driver’s seat.

    “Get in the car, Lydia,” he says.  

    She looks around at her surroundings slowly before nodding and making her way over to the passenger door that Stiles holds open for her.  He uses more force than necessary to close it.  Once he’s inside the vehicle, he just sits there, motionless, hands gripping the steering wheel until his knuckles turn white.  Lydia sits with her hands tucked between her legs for warmth and stares down into her lap trying not to shiver.  Stiles quickly swipes a hand across both eyes and addresses her.  

    “There’s a hoodie in the back.  Put it on.”  

    She does, and immediately, warmth starts to creep back into her bones.  He looks at her.  His mouth is drawn tight, his eyes drooping with the weight of his brow.  He looks at her, but he doesn’t say anything.  With a shake of his head, he puts the jeep into drive and slowly pulls back onto the road.  It’s a long silence filled drive back to her house.

    He parks in the street, and Lydia’s vaguely wonders why he won’t pull up the driveway to drop her off.  When he turns off the car, she understands.  He’s going to come inside the house with her.  She winces when she steps out of the jeep.  Her feet are probably bruised, if not bleeding, from her night walk to god knows where without any shoes.  The front door to her house is open.  She guesses sleepwalkers aren’t concerned with security.  

    “Wait here,” says Stiles as he enters the house.  He’s probably doing a sweep through to make sure no one (and no thing) got into the house in her absence.  He returns a couple minutes later, nodding that it’s safe.  She wonders up the stairs and into her room with Stiles trailing behind her.  She sits down her bed and pulls a foot into her lap for inspection.  Now that she’s inside, Lydia can see that her feet are actually much worse than she originally thought.  There are probably five thorns in one of her big toes alone.  She stands up to find the tweezers, and Stiles looks at her like she has two heads.

    “Lydia,” he says, “if you don’t sit back down right this second, I might just kill you.”   

    “I need tweezers, Stiles.”

    “Then I’ll get them,” he says, “Where are they?”  She points to the bathroom, and he disappears and returns a second later to place the metallic pink set of tweezers in her open hand.  He goes back into the bathroom and walks out with every first aid item he seemed able to find.

    “Thank you,” she says softly.  Neither of them say a word as she pulls the splinters and thorns from her feet.  Stiles sits in her desk chair, his leg shaking furiously.  He’s using a fist to support his head and cover his mouth at the same time.  His eyes are puffy and red and trained on the growing pile of bloody tissues at Lydia’s side.

    “Jesus, Lydia,” he finally says.  She looks up.  His eyes are shiny, and the corners of his mouth turn down as he bites his lip.  It takes her a minute to realize that Stiles is crying.  He quickly swipes at his eyes, and clears his throat.  “You should take an ibuprofen before you go to bed.  Those are gonna hurt like hell tomorrow,” he nods towards her feet.  She manages a small smile despite the pain in her feet.

Chapter Text

    It takes Lydia almost a thirty minutes to removes all the debris from her injured feet.  She leans back to admire her work.  It’s definitely a clumsy job, but it will have to do.  Her feet look too big and slightly clubbed shaped from the amount of bandaids and gauze now wrapped around them.  Stiles hasn’t said a word since he brought her the ibuprofen.  He’s still sitting in her desk chair, his head cradled between his slightly shaking hands while both elbows rest on his knees.  He nearly jumps out of his skin when his phone rings.  He looks down at the screen then back at her as he quickly stands.

    “It’s Scott, shit,” he says, “I forgot to call him after I found you. He’s probably out there still looking.”  He answers the phone and walks into the hallway.

    So it wasn’t by chance that Stiles had found her.  The group had been out looking for her.  She needs more information, so she hobbles over to the door and sits down.  Her feet hurt too much to stand.  She can just make out Stiles’s muffled voice from down the hallway.  

    “I found her, half naked, walking down the middle of the road,” he says.  She looks down at herself and realizes she’s still not wearing any pants.  Dear god.  “I almost fucking hit her with my car, Scott,” he continues in a shaky voice.  “Yeah, tell everyone that we found her.  I need to call my dad and let him know too.”  She hears him sigh as the sounds of his footsteps get closer to her room.  She tries to scramble back to the bed before he opens the door, but she’s only half way there when he walks back into the room.  Stiles shakes his head.

    “There a reason you’re on the floor, and not the bed?” he asks  

Lydia presses her lips together before she answers.  “Change of scenery?” she offers.  Stiles walks over, helps her stand, and practically carries her back to the bed.

    “Stay,” he says when he puts her on the mattress.  “I need to call the station, let them know you’re okay.”  She picks at the loose threads of her comforter.  Why did everyone already know about her sleepwalking?  
    
    She decides to ask him before he calls.  

    Stiles sits back down at her desk chair and lets out a deep breath.  His back is hunched, and he’s tapping a closed fist to his mouth.  He won’t look at her.  One of his legs bounces so fast, Lydia’s afraid it might fly off.

    “Parrish saw your front door wide open on his midnight round tonight,” he says and swallows thickly, “He went in, but couldn’t find you. Couldn’t find traces of a fight even.  You were just gone.”  He’s holding his head with both hands now and still not looking at her.  “We thought. . . with the dead pool.  . .”  He takes a deep breath and wipes at his eyes.  “We didn’t know if we’d find you.”  He doesn’t need to say ‘alive’ - probably can’t even if he wanted too.  

    The room falls into a hushed quiet, and Lydia doesn’t have a clue as to how to break it.  What do you say to your friend who spent hours looking for you because they thought you’d been taken by assassins?  She guesses that ‘sorry’ might not cut it.  Thankfully Stiles is the first to speak, and it’s a change of topic (kinda).

    “I need to call Parrish,”  he says,  “let him know you’re alright.”  He’s already walking towards her bedroom door.  If she wasn’t so exhausted, she’d offer to call, but instead she just nods and crawls under her covers.  
    
    “Stiles,” she says in a low whisper, “I’m glad it was you who found me.”  

He pauses at her door, the only indication that he heard her at all, before he walks out the room.


                                                                                                         *************


    Lydia tries not to be sad when she awakes to an empty room in the morning.  It’s stupid to think that Stiles would have stayed over anyway.  She gets up, thankful for the painkillers she’d taken before bed.  It still hurts to walk, but she can tell she’d have been crippled without them.  She takes a bath instead of a shower and spends almost ten minutes working the tangles and twigs out of her hair.  She’ll have to re-do the bandaging on her feet, but feeling clean is worth it.  She wraps a large towel around her body, and does the same to her hair with a smaller one, twisting and winding until it sits on top of her head like a python.  She takes more ibuprofen, and sits down to re-bandage her injured feet.  When she’s done, she changes into a lavender robe and hobbles her way downstairs.  She hadn’t thought about how difficult the stairs would be to maneuver though.  She gives up half way and sits on a step to scoot the reminder, careful to keep the soles of her feet from touching each step as she goes down.  She stands gingerly when she gets to the bottom.  It’s challenging, but still much easier than having to balance on the steps.  She uses the wall to help support her weight and works her way down the hallway to the kitchen.  But she stops when she walks past the living room.  

    There’s a Stiles sprawled out on her couch, mouth slack in deep sleep with one hand behind his head and the other resting on his stomach.  She ignores the tiny flutterings in her stomach and clears her throat.

    “One more minute, Dad,” he mumbles while turning his back to her.

    “Stiles,” she says, and even though her tone is gentle, her voice is sharp in the still morning.  He immediately flies up.
    
    “Lydia!” he says sounding surprised,  “What are you doing in,” he continues while looking around, “your own house. . . right, last night. . . stayed over. . .”  He trails off, the sleep still heavy in his voice as he rubs his eyes.

    Lydia quickly turns into the kitchen to hide the smile creeping up the corner of her lips and offers to make coffee.  She hears Stiles yawn and shuffle into the kitchen after her.

    “Please,” he says in answer to the coffee.  He’s sitting down at the kitchen table when he remembers her feet.  “Wait, what the hell?  You’re hurt,” he says as he stands.  “Sit down, I’ll make the coffee.”  He steers her towards the seat he vacated.  

    It’s a complicated process, she realizes, having to explain to someone else how you make and take your coffee.  Finally, she and Stiles both have their cups cooling in front of them.  Hers, mostly black with a splash of almond milk and a drop of honey, and his, a cameral colored monstrosity of whole milk with nearly two heaping spoonfuls of sugar.

    “Stiles,” she says.  He looks up from his cup.  She wants to ask him about the door to his mind, but it’s an awkward topic filled with potential land-mines.  She’s unsure how to begin so she decides to just blurt it out.  

    “Did you ever close the door to your mind?”  

He chokes on the sip of coffee in his mouth.  He has to cough a couple of times before he can answer.  “I don’t know,” he says.  “I just try not to think about it.”  He gives her a strange look. “Why?”

    “Last night,” she says, her voice drifting, “I talked with Allison.”  Stiles puts his coffee cup down.  “She said my door was open.  That I needed to close it.”  She keeps her eyes on the kitchen table, only looking up when she sees him move to get his phone from his pocket.

    “What are you doing?” she says.

    “Calling Scott.”

Her body moves before she can rationalize it, snatching Stiles’s phone from his hand.  He looks at her in surprise, his eyes wide.

    “Lydia,” he says her name slowly, “I can’t call without my phone.”

    “I don’t want you to tell Scott.”  

It seems impossible, but Stiles’s eyes get even wider.

    “Okay,” he says, “and why is that?”

    “It’s not good for him,” she lies.  She’s never been more thankful that Stiles is just a human.  “Promise me you won’t tell him.”

    “Lydia, he’s a werewolf.  He’ll know if I lie.”

    “You don’t have to lie,” she urges, “just don’t tell him.”  He looks extremely skeptical.  “Please Stiles,” she says while holding out his phone.  He sighs but nods as he takes the phone from her outstretched hand.  “I’ll tell him eventually,” she continues, “I just want more time to figure some things out before I worry him.”  

    They sit in awkward silence until Stile’s phone rings, startling both of them.

    “It’s Malia,” he says,  “I need to take it.”

    “Right,” Lydia nods.  “I should to call Jordan anyway.”



                                                                                                           **************


    
    All Lydia can think about the entire day is what Allison said in her dream.  He’s learning how to use the doors.  The words run around her head until she’s dizzy.  When combined with Allison’s urging to be careful, Lydia draws the only plausibly conclusion:  someone wants access to her mind.  

    Her first thought is Peter, but she can’t find enough evidence to support it.  Peter is creepy, no doubt, but he’s also smart, and although going through someone’s mind is a clever thing to do, she doesn’t think he would be sloppy about it.  There also the the fact that’s he’s been in her mind before so he’d be a recognizable presence.  She decides it can’t be Peter.

    Her second thought is Jordan Parrish, and although there’s not a lot of evidence to support it, there’s not enough to rule him out either.  The fact that he’s on the dead pool but his supernatural identity is unknown doesn’t sit well with her.  Also, knowing she doesn’t dream when he’s around does little to help his case.  

    She feels guilty for even considering her third thought, but she can’t stop it now.  It’s even worse when she thinks of all the evidence to support it.  There’s a lot.  First, his connection to Lydia.  He’s also been to the ‘white room’ as Allison calls it.  He’s familiar enough with her to move (slightly) undetected throughout her mental space.  Would know what areas to avoid, more specifically.  And then there’s his strange behavior as of late.  The slight lack of control.  

    The more she thinks about it, the sicker she starts to feel.  

    But Scott wouldn’t do that to her.  She knows him.  Trusts him.  He couldn’t use that against her.  It’s not in his nature.  What would he even be gaining from her mind that’d be worth it?  Lydia doubts it’s anything much to do with her.  When the next thought occurs to her, the banshee’s heart stops.

    Allison.

    He’d be gaining a connection to Allison.

    She’s supposed to meet with everyone later this evening, but now Lydia wishes she had more time to prepare before facing Scott.  She doesn’t want to appear on edge around him.  And what if he asks her about Allison again?  She could only use deflectors for so long.  She decides the best thing to do is not think about it.  The less energy she puts into the idea, the less energy she’ll have to use to hide it.  She reminds herself that she’s not positive it’s him, anyway.  Parrish might even be psychic for god’s sake.  And who knows what kind of doors you could open with that ability.

    She doesn’t mean to get sentimental, but seeing the way the pack looks at her, the fear of almost losing her not completely gone from any of their eyes, makes her own eyes water in return.  When Scott pulls her into a crushing hug and doesn’t let go, she forgets all about her earlier trepidation towards him.  His hug is warm and she can feel his care and worry pour over her.  It takes Stiles clearing his throat for Scott to finally release her.  The Alpha looks mildly embarrassed, but shrugs it off with a quick ‘I’m glad you’re not dead’.

    “Beautifully put, buddy,” says Stiles as he slaps Scott on the back.  “Simply poetic.  Inspiring even.”

    “Don’t be dick, dude,” says Scott with one corner of his mouth sneaking up in a grin.

    “Me?” says Stiles, a hand held to his chest dramatically, “I’d never.  Now,” he continues, “let’s get down to business.”  Lydia sighs.  She thought tonight would just be a pack hangout, not a pack meeting.  Her eyes widen in surprise she sees what Stiles considers business.  He sets nearly a full handle of whiskey on the table.  Everyone just stares at it.  Scott finally breaks the silence.

    “Dude, that’s a lot of whiskey.”

    “Well, it’s a celebration tonight and we’ve got one werewolf, one werecoyote, and one kitsune,” says Stiles,  “and I don’t know how much a kitsune drinks.”

    “Not that much,” says Kira, her eyes still as wide as dinner plates at the amount of alcohol.  Scott chuckles and walks into his kitchen to get glasses for everyone.  

    “Who needs a chaser?” he calls out.  Both Kira and Malia’s hands go up.  Scott raises an eyebrow in Lydia’s direction.

    “What? It’s just whiskey,” she says with a shrug.  

    “Atta girl!” cries Stiles.  “Who knew Lydia Martin didn’t need chasers!”  She glares at him over the glass Scott just placed in front of her.  Stiles smirks and unscrews the cap to pour the first round.  When everyone has about a finger’s worth of amber liquid in their glass, he looks around the table.  “So,” he says, “what do we cheers to first?”

    “Well that one’s obvious,” snorts Malia.  She turns to Lydia and holds up her glass.  “Cheers to Lydia being alive!”

    “I’ll drink to that,” says the banshee and hastily tips her glass back.  The alcohol burns, but it also feels warm going down her throat.  It’s not a bad sensation if you can get past the taste.

    “Now just the were-critters, so us humans can be sure they’ll stay on our level,” says Stiles with a wink in Lydia’s direction.

    “Dude, that’s not fair,” whines Scott but he extends his glass anyway.

    “What’s not fair is your little werewolf metabolism,” Stiles says while refilling it.  “So drink up and get shitty like the rest of us normal people.”

    Four ‘human’ shots and seven ‘were’ shots later, shitty doesn’t even begin to cover how drunk the pack is.  Poor Kira found out the hard way that being a kitsune doesn’t allow her to metabolism alcohol as fast as a werewolf (or coyote).  Scott is helping her up the stairs to his bathroom.

    “I feel jus’ terrible,” slurs Stiles, “Right there, thaz my fault.”  He flings an arm at Kira and Scott’s retreating figures.  “Who knew kitsune’s can’t drink as much as werewolves?  Not  me, thaz for sure.”  

     “I wanna go running in the woods,” says Malia abruptly.  She’s got this look on her face like she’s just invented the concept.  Lydia can’t help but burst out laughing at the werecoyote’s declaration.  Stiles simply nods in a drunken stupor as if it were a valid suggestion.

    “What’s so funny?” asks Scott as he comes down the stairs.

    “Apparently, me,” answer Malia while narrowing her eyes at Lydia who’s trying to contain her mirth.

    “I’m sorry,” she gasps in between her laughter, “it’s just, of course you wanna go running in the woods, you’re a coyote!”  She makes herself start laughing all over again.

    “That actually sounds kinda fun,” says Scott.  Lydia laughs even harder.  Her stomach is starting to hurt from it.

    “Please stop,” she pleads, “I’m in pain.”

    “I don’t smell any pain,” says Malia and it must be one of the funniest things Lydia’s ever heard (or maybe she’s just wasted, but whatever) because her laughter mutates into an even higher-pitched series of wheezes and groans.  

    “Wow, you’re wasted, aren’t you?” says Scott and this too must be hilarious because Lydia covers her mouth and laughs even harder in response while nodding her head.

    “Yep,” she says, letting her lips pop on the ‘p’ sound.

    “You’re not gonna drive home, right?”  Scott continues.  Lydia tilts her head like the thought just occurred to her.  She smacks her lips and starts riffling through her purse.  “Lydia, you’re not driving,” Scott says more firmly.  She waves him away.

    “Not trying to drive,” she mumbles before finding what she was looking for with an ‘A ha!’.  She holds her phone up for Scott to see.  

    “See? No-o keys,” she says with a small hiccup. Stiles watches her silently, his eyes focusing and refocusing on her in way that only drunk people can accomplish.

    “Who you gonna call?” he asks.  Stiles’s eyes get wide after he says it, and he quickly answers his own question.  “Ghostbusters!”  Lydia ignores him and starts to clumsily scroll through her phone.  “But really, who you gonna call?”

    “Jordan,” she says.

    “Deputy Parrish?” says Scott.  She nods.

    “He’ll co-ome get me,”  she says with another small hiccup.  Stiles sits straight up at her words, already looking a little less drunk at the mention of cops.  He and Scott exchange a quick glance.  Stiles eases the phone from her grip.  He doesn’t have to try hard to get it away from her.

    “Calling a cop to give you a lift home when you’re drunk and underage probably isn’t the best idea, Lydia,” says Stiles while putting her phone down on the table.

    “But he’s my bo-oyfriend,” she says while reaching out to her phone.

    “And he’s also a cop,” says Stiles while scooting it out of her reach.  She keeps reaching for it until she ends up resting her head down on the table in defeat with both arms still stretched out in front of her.

    “Whatever,” she concedes.  She honestly hadn’t meant to get this drunk.  It just sorta happened.  “So whadda I do?”  She looks up but keeps her chin on the table.  “Am I stuck?”  Stiles bursts into laughter.

    “To the table?” he wheezes.  Lydia rolls her eyes and sits up, not dignifying his question with a response.

    “She means stuck at Scott’s,” says Malia, and her need to clarify makes Stiles laugh even harder.  “Why does everyone keep laughing at me?”

    “It’s not you, sweethea-art,” says Lydia.  “We’re drunk.  Tha-at’s what drunk people do.”  It’s been a long time since Lydia was drunk.  These hiccups are really throwing her off.  They all hear a toilet flush upstairs.

    “I should go up and check on Kira,” says Scott as he turns to the stairs.

    “Tell her I’m sorry!” Stiles yells.

    “Jesus,” says Malia while rubbing her ears, “she probably heard you.”

    “Now tha-at,” hiccups Lydia, pointing a confident finger at Malia, “was funny.”

    Scott and Malia sober up within hours of when they stop drinking, and Lydia’s never been more jealous that she’s not a werewolf.  It’s almost twelve thirty, and Kira has to be home by one so Scott offers to drive her, Malia, and Stiles home in the kitsune’s car.  

    “I’ll drop you guys off first,” he says, looking at Stiles and Malia, “Then Kira and the car, and I’ll just run back home.”

    “What about me?” asks Lydia.

    “Just wait here,” says Scott as he walks out the door.  He closes it before he can hear her response.

    The idea of spending the night on Scott’s couch is not appealing at all. She’s really hoping that she’ll be sober enough to drive home when he gets back, but Lydia doubts that’s a real possibility.  She gives it a valiant effort though.  She’s on her third glass of water by the time Scott gets back to the house.  He watches her chug the reminder of what’s in the glass before he speaks.

    “Trying to sober up?”  he asks and she nods while she swallows the mouthful of water.

    “Trying would be the key word,”  she says.  “I feel bad about Kira though.”

    “She’ll be fine,” says Scott as he sits on down on the couch next her.  “And at least now we know how much a kitsune can drink.”

    “Always looking at the bright side,” she says and Scott shrugs.

    “Someone has too.”  he says with a yawn.  “Do you want the bed and I’ll take the couch?”  

    Lydia’s quiet as she weighs her options.  The prospect of sleeping in a Scott’s bed makes her nervous because who knows when those sheets were last washed?  But, at the same time, couches aren’t very comfortable.  This sucks.  She realizes she’s been quiet for a long time and is about to tell him to just choose which ever one he wants when he says something she never thought she’d hear Scott McCall say.

    “Or we could both sleep in the bed.”

    It almost sounds like a challenge.  Like he knows she won’t accept.  And maybe because she’s drunk or maybe because Lydia Martin never backs down from a challenge, she shrugs and says “Why not”.  She waits until they’re both midway up the stairs before turning to him and adding “but we’re not doing anything”.  Scott turns to looks at her, his mouth slack in surprise.

    “I wasn’t suggesting we should,” he says, and Lydia can’t tell if he’s lying or not.  She wishes she had super senses. “I just know how much that couch sucks,”  he finishes.
    
    She stands awkwardly in his room as he knocks some clothes off his bed onto the floor.  He grabs a tee-shirt from the pile and holds it out to her.  

    “It’s clean, I promise,” he says.

    “Something for the bottom,” she says and he digs around in the pile again before holding out a pair of boxers.  Lydia frowns. “You don’t have basketball shorts or something like that?”

    “I don’t play basketball,” he says, and Lydia narrows her eyes while snatching the clothing out of his hand.

    Once she’s in the bathroom, the reality of the situation hits her.  She’s about to put on Scott McCall’s tee-shirt and boxers then crawl in bed next to him. Fuck, this feels weird. 

    She looks absurd in Scott’s clothes.  His shirt keeps slipping down on one shoulder but if she fixes it, the neckline sags at an unforgivably indecent level.  She decides she doesn’t like v-neck shirts.  At least the boxers fit, but where they fall on her thighs creates the most unpleasing lines on her legs.  She feels short. When she walks into the room, Scott is already under the covers his back towards the her.  She knows he can’t be asleep already, but she doesn’t say a word when she quietly creeps into the unoccupied side of the bed.  She gingerly settles under the covers, making sure to keep her back to him, and not let their bodies touch.  

    It’s not so bad after she gets over the initial shock of being in Scott’s bed.  It’s a nice bed.  Large enough to accommodate them both with some wiggle room, and very soft.  It smells like Scott too.  It seems strange to her that she would even recognize it because she’s never thought much about what Scott’s scent would be if she could smell it.  But right now, she’s surrounded by it.  A deep woodsy, almost sweet, musk-like scent that reminds her of dirt after a fresh rain mixed with pine and the smallest hint of honeysuckle.  

    She feels him turn over in the bed, probably to lie on his back.  He wouldn’t be so bold as to turn her direction.  She feels him shift again, and now she can’t be sure what direction he’s facing.  His touch is so light that she almost doesn’t feel it - just a ghosting sensation of fingertips down her arm.  When he reaches her hand, the touch becomes a reality, and his fingers intwine with hers.  He uses their clasped hands to drag her closer, pressing her back against his chest while his other arm snakes around her in a fierce hold.  And although it’s an intimate position, he seems to be proving she’s really there rather than anything of a sexual nature.  As if to remind them both that she’s still alive.  He tucks his head into the curve of her neck and she feels how her hair moves in time with his breaths.  She drifts asleep to the rhythm of his breathing.

    She doesn’t realize she’s dreaming.  She’s sitting with Allison in the school cafeteria  picking over some sushi.  Lydia, Allison is saying, but Lydia isn’t paying attention.  She’s worried about this sushi.  It looks like it might be going bad.  Someone pokes her in the side, and she turns to glare at her boyfriend, Jackson.  She’s about to point out that he could’ve gotten food on her designer sweater when she’s swept with a sudden wave of nervousness.  Everything feels so familiar, like she’s re-living a memory.  Lydia, Allison keeps saying and her voice is starting to sound frantic.

    “What?”  Lydia snaps, and suddenly it’s just her and Allison.  They’re outside in these weird woods that she’s never seen before.  She looks at Allison, her eyes blown wide in horror.  “Where are we?”  She’s beginning to panic.  Allison seems confused.

    “Lydia, we talked here last time,” she says, “remember?”

    “Last time?” Lydia echoes, still looking around the change of scenery in bewilderment.  Allison furrows her brows and narrows her eyes.

    “Lydia, where are you?”

    “I’m in the woods with you.”  

Allison is quiet a long time.  She simply stares at Lydia, a strange emotion playing in her eyes until it dims leaving nothing but apparent desolation in it’s wake. “No, you’re sleeping,” she says, her voice low and filled with the same unnamable emotion that had flickered in her eyes.  “This is a dream.”  Lydia turns to face her friend fully with eyebrows drawn together and lips pursed in confusion.  Allison looks utterly and completely devastated.

     “Lydia,” she says, her body sagging to the earth as if dragged down with an unseen weight, “I told you to be careful.”  She curls into herself, and hides her face with her hands.  Lydia doesn’t understand what’s going on at all but she feels like she should say something.

    “I’ll be careful.”

Allison makes a strangled noise that sounds like a whine.  When she looks up at Lydia, her eyes are red and tears are already running down her cheeks.  “It’s too late,” she says.  Her voice shakes and quivers.   “I should have told you it was him sooner. I- I didn’t think it would happen so fast.  I didn’t w-want to admit he was capable of it.”  Allison wipes at her eyes, but the tears won’t stop.  She runs both hands through her hair and holds them at her neck.   “And now it’s too late. . .” she continues,  “Scott’s lost to his darkness and you’re going to get hurt.”

Chapter Text

      Lydia opens her eyes to an unfamiliar room in unfamiliar clothes.  She can’t remember anything about the previous night so she assumes that one of her expeditions got a little too intense at the Jungle before she found a suitable distraction.  But she went to their place?  Even drunk, it doesn’t seem like her.  She throws the covers off her.  Plaid boxers?  And since when did Lydia Martin wear boxers to bed?  This was getting stranger by the second.  Her head is throbbing so she sits up as gently as possible.  The jolt of pain in her neck takes her off guard.  Jesus, how much did she drink last night?  She’s never had body pains from a hang over before.  She can hear the sound of a shower running somewhere but she ignores it for now so she can focus on finding her real clothes.  She spies her dress folded neatly next to the bed.  Thank god.  She sees a book-bag next to the bed when she leans over to pick up the dress.  It looks an awful lot like Scott’s book bag.  She looks around the room slowly, her grogginess wearing off.  Dear god, it was Scott’s book bag.  This is Scott’s room.  

    Why the fuck was she waking up in Scott’s room wearing Scott’s clothes?

    She changes faster than she’s ever changed in her life.  It takes her less than thirty seconds to get the dress over her head and strap both heels to her feet.  She needs to get out of here but first she has to find her purse.  A quick scan of his room tells her it’s not in there.  She creeps past the bathroom and hurries down the stairs as quietly as she can before scurrying into the kitchen.  Thankfully, her purse is sitting right there on the table.  She grabs it and turns to creep back to the front door.  She’s interrupted by Scott’s laughter.

    “You look ridiculous sneaking around in heels,”  he says.

 He stands at the top of the stairs wearing only sweat pants, rubbing a towel through his short hair.  She spins to face him and marches up the stairs with her mouth in a tight line.  He looks taken aback.  Nervous almost.

    “Why was I in your bed wearing your clothes?”  she demands.

    “Because you didn’t want to sleep in your dress?”  

Lydia narrows her eyes and curls her upper lip in very impressive imitation of a snarl.  

    “You know that’s not what I mean,”  she grinds out while stalking closer to him.  Scott puts both hands out in front of him, palms facing Lydia, in the universal gesture for ‘calm down’.

    “Lydia, you were drunk. I couldn’t let you drive home, but nothing happened, I swear,” he says.  “Don’t you remember?”

    “Obviously not!” she says in a tight voice.  Her head is still pounding, and she rubs at her temples in distress.  Scott is strangely silent for a minute.  He watches her pace the hallway several times before he speaks.

    “Do you remember anything from last night?”  An emotion she can’t place flashes through his eyes with his question.  She sighs and leans against the wall.  

    Lydia closes her eyes and tries to think.  It’s on the tip of her tongue.  A name or place or emotion- something begging to be remembered - except she can’t.  It hurts her head when she tries.

    “No,” she says finally.  She bites her lip and crinkles her brow.  “I don’t remember it at all.”

    The next day is Monday which means she’ll have to face Kira.  Even though Scott assured her that nothing happened and that it didn’t even need to be mentioned, it’s a dirty feeling sleeping in a bed with a friend’s boyfriend.  Especially when you already have a super attractive and nice boyfriend named Jordan Parrish.  Lydia tries not to think about it.  There are too many questions she can’t answer if she does.  Stiles is the first to greet her Monday morning.

    “Saturday was fun,” he says, and although its an innocent enough comment, Lydia feels his eyes study her.  Like she’s some ancient artifact covered in hieroglyphics that holds the key to everlasting life or something.  Scott must have told Stiles she slept over, even though the werewolf promised he wouldn’t breath a word of it.  She’s about to drag Stiles into the nearest classroom and beg him to keep his talkative little mouth shut when he continues speaking.  “Look, you’re not mad at me about it, are you?”  

    The sentence throws her. Why would she be mad at Stiles?  She decides to ask him.  He looks extremely confused.

    “You know, for telling Scott the thing you didn’t want me to tell?”  She tilts her head, and bites her lips.  What the hell is he talking about?  “I was super drunk,” Stiles continues, “and Scott’s my best friend, and I’m terrible at keeping secrets from him even when I’m sober.  That’s not a good excuse, but anyway, I’m really sorry.  I know you wanted more time before he found out.”

Something about what he says sounds eerily familiar, but she can’t place it to any specific memory.  Her head starts throbbing when she attempts to figure it out.  She stumbles a little bit and has to grab onto her locker to keep standing.  Stiles’s hands immediately steady her.

    “Whoa,” he says, “Lydia, are you okay?”  She nods, not trusting her voice, while holding her hand up to her head.  “Are you sure?” he continues, “Because you don’t look okay.”  

She wants to ask what she told him - what thing had she not wanted Scott to know - but she can see Malia and Kira walking towards them.  There’s no time.  She clears her throat.

    “I’m fine, Stiles,” she says while stepping out of his supportive hold, “Really, I’m okay.”  She can see in his eyes that he doesn’t believe her, but he nods anyway.

    The rest of the day is a blur to Lydia.  She knows she’s not paying attention to any of her classes, but she can’t rope her mind into focusing.  She can’t stop thinking about Stiles at her locker this morning, but the more she thinks about it, the more her head hurts.  It’s really beginning to upset her.  Another disturbing detail is that she hasn’t heard Allison all day.  And she can’t remember any dreams from Sunday night which is unusual because she hadn’t been in bed with Parrish then.  And her fucking neck won’t stop aching.

     Lydia feels like she’s coming apart at the seams.

    

    Jordan comes over that night at her request.  She needs someone to hold her.  To keep her together.  She’s rougher than she’s ever been with him before, maybe even rougher than she was with Aiden.  She pulls and scratches at his body in a near frenzy to forget herself.  If Jordan feels overwhelmed, he doesn't say anything.

    They lie on her bed in contemplative silence.  Lydia rests on her stomach, and Jordan’s on his side, running his fingertips up and down her back in slow, soothing, figure eights.  He dances his fingers up her neck and into her hair, before suddenly sitting up.
    
    “Lydia, what happened to your neck?” he says.  For a moment, she’s extremely confused, but then she realizes what he’s talking about.

    “Those are old,” she says.  About three months old to be exact.  She’d been moderately upset when she first found the little crescent-shaped scars on the back of her neck from her trip into Stiles’s mind.

    “No, these aren’t old,” he says and he’s moving her hair to the side to better inspect them.  “They look pretty fresh actually.”

    “What?” she says.  She’s starting to get a headache now, and her mind is doing that thing again, begging her to remember something - anything.  “Show me,” she continues, “take a  picture with my phone.”  He does, and then hands it to her.  Lydia stares in shock at the screen.  

    Parrish is right.  There are fresh crescent-shaped claw marks on the back of her neck.

    “I’m sorry,” she mumbles, feeling light headed.  “I think I need to call Stiles.”

    “Stiles?” Jordan asks as if she’d said the wrong name by mistake.  She nods in trance-like manner.  Her body feels heavy, and her head is throbbing again.

    “Yeah, I need to call Stiles.”   She doesn’t notice Jordan as he gets dressed with a sigh but she lifts her head up when he kisses her on the forehead.

    “Call Stiles.  It’s a good idea,” he says softly before walking out of her room.



    Stiles answers on the seventh ring.  

    “Hello?” he says, slightly out of breath.  Lydia can hear a muffled female voice in the background.  He must be with Malia.  “Lydia?” he prompts.

    “What did I ask you not to tell Scott?”

    “Hold on,” he says, and she listens to the sound of Malia’s voice getting farther away.  She hears what sounds like a door close, and then Stiles speaks again.  “Is this a trick question?”  She can hear the uncertainty in his voice.

    “Stiles, this is important.  What exactly did I not want Scott to know?”

    “You don’t remember?” he asks.

    “Would I be asking you if I did?” she snaps.  Stiles is quiet, and she wishes she could see what type of face he was making.

    “You had a dream where you talked with Allison.”

Lydia sits down on her bed.  She’d talked with Allison?  Why didn’t she remember that?

    “What did we talk about?” she says.  

    “Lydia, are you okay?”

    “What did I say we talked about?” she says urgently.
 
    “Allison was warning you, but Lydia, you don’t sound okay.”  

She’s not okay, she thinks.  Not by a long shot.

    “Warning me about what?”  she says, her voice frantic, “Stiles stop giving me pieces and just say the whole story!”

    “I don’t know, Lydia!” says Stiles loudly.  “All you said was that Allison told you to close the door to your mind and you didn’t want me to tell Scott about it.”

Lydia feels sick to her stomach.  It’s all so familiar, but she can’t remember a damn thing.

    “Lydia, what’s wrong?  What’s going on?” he demands.  She ignores the question.

    “Stiles, I need you to go somewhere with me tomorrow instead of school,”  she says, “and Scott can’t know.”

    “Sure,” he says, his voice flooded with worry.  “Of course I can do that.”

    Lydia hangs up without saying goodbye.  She stumbles into her bathroom and starts to fill up her bathtub with warm water.  She crawls into the comfort of the bath and wraps her arms around herself.  She’s almost positive she knows what’s going on, but she doesn’t want to believe it.  She can’t believe it.
    
    Stiles meets Lydia at her house around eight o’clock in the morning.  He looks terribly nervous, and it’s clear he didn’t sleep well the night before.  Huge dark bags hang under his eyes, and his skin looks pale and waxy.  He almost looks as bad as Lydia.  Almost.

    “So, where are we going for today’s field trip?” he asks with a false cheerfulness.  Lydia’s always been able to hear through his facade.

    “I need to talk with Peter,” she says.  She doesn’t want to see his face as she gives her answer so she walks around acting like she's looking for her purse instead.

    “Peter?” he says, and she doesn’t even need to see him to tell what he looks like.  She can hear the sour expression in his voice.

    “Yes, Peter.  I need his. . .”  she pauses.  Wisdom isn’t the right word, and knowledge seems to fall short as well.  “Expertise,” she finishes.

    “Lydia!  The dude’s a homicidal manic with a power complex!  What could he possible be an expert on?”  

She shrugs as she answers “werewolves, among other things,”  before she turns to face Stiles.  “Look,” she continues, “I can handle Peter.  You don’t have to come with me, but I’d feel better,” she’d almost said safer, “if you did.”  Stiles looks like he wants to argue but, thankfully, says nothing and simply shakes his head slowly.


    She doesn’t say anything throughout the drive to Peter’s, and Stiles doesn’t ask anything.  Lydia’s relieved his reading the atmosphere so well.  They slowly walk up to the elevator, and Stiles punches in the number for Peter’s floor.  Peter opens the door to his apartment before either one of them can knock.  

    “Aren’t children supposed to be in school right about now?” he greets.  God, he’s such a creep.  Lydia rolls her eyes and pushes past him into the apartment.

    “Aren’t you supposed to be dead,” Stiles shoots back before stepping into the apartment after her.  Peter flicks his eyes over to the boy a moment before curving the corners of his mouth.  It looks more like a sneer than a smile.  Lydia can’t help but still get nervous when ever she’s around him.  A side product of being mentally used by him for so long she guesses.

    “Don’t you ever think of any new jokes, Stilinski?” asks Peter.

    “You’re not worth it,” Stiles says with a shrug.  Lydia interrupts them both before it develops into a pissing contest.

    “I need information about an Alpha’s ability to replace memories,” she says.  Stiles turn to her in shock, and Peter simply narrows his eyes.

    “Has someone been inside that pretty little head of yours again, Lydia Martin?”  Peter asks, his eyebrows scrunching to match his narrow gaze.  She flips her hair over her shoulder and shifts in her heels.

    “I just think it’s a process we should know more about,” she lies.  

    “Interesting,” says Peter, “Very interesting.”

    “What?” says Stiles.  “What’s interesting?” he asks while looking back and forth between the werewolf and banshee.

    “Nothing, really,” says Peter, his eyes glinting like he has an exciting secret, “except that Lydia is the second person to say that to me in the last week.”  Her heart skips a beat.  She can’t bring herself to ask the question she knows she needs to ask. Thank god Stiles is with her.

    “Who else said it?”  he says.

    “Who do you think?” answers Peter, his tone sounding annoyed that Stiles even had to ask.

    “Scott,” whispers Lydia.  Peter turns to her, a genuine smile that makes his eyes twinkle spread across his face.

    “It seems our little True Alpha isn’t as innocent as he’d like us all to believe,”  he says.  Lydia stumbles over to sit down on his couch.  She can’t believe this is happening.  She rubs a hand on the back of her neck, feeling the the raised skin on the new set of scabs.

    “Wait,” says Stiles, “You’re saying Scott asked you about memory manipulation?”

Peter isn’t listening to him.  He’s staring at Lydia as she massages her neck.  The smile is gone from his face, and he’s beginning to look like a strange combination of intrigued and concerned.

    “Lydia,” Peter says, “let me see your neck.”  She looks up in surprise and quickly drops her hand from her neck back into her lap while shaking her head ‘no’.  Peter starts to advance towards her until Stiles blocks his path by stepping in front of him.

    “Easy partner,” he says, but Peter shoves him out of the way.

    “Move Stilinski.  This is more important than you could ever guess,”  he says while crouching down to make eye contact with Lydia.  “Let me see the back of your neck.  I promise I won’t hurt you.”  

    It’s disturbing to see worry in Peter’s eyes directed at her for multiple reasons.  It’s the only reason she concedes and tilts her head down to expose her neck.  Stiles creeps up behind Peter to stare over his shoulder.  The werewolf gently scoops up her hair to move it to the side, and Lydia can hear Stiles’s sharp intake of breath.  Peter just sighs before dropping her hair back to her neck, signaling his inspection is done.  She lifts her head back up to face them.  Stiles looks like he’s about to have a panic attack.  Lydia really hopes he doesn’t.

    “Is your neck sore?” asks Peter.  She nods.  “Headaches?” he continues, and she nods again.  He lets out another sigh before he stands and starts pacing.  He’s muttering something Lydia can’t hear when he stops and looks at her.

    “How much don’t you remember?”  Peter asks her.  She opens and closes her mouth a couple of times before she answers.

    “I have no idea,” she says.  Peter nods as if he was expecting that response.
    
    “Can someone please tell me what’s going on?”  says Stiles, his panic not well concealed in his voice.  

    “Your Alpha has decided there are things Lydia doesn’t need to know,”  says Peter without taking his eyes off of her, but the annoyed quality is back in his voice due to Stiles’s interruption.  “And he’s taken them,”  he finishes.

    “Scott wouldn’t do that,” says Stiles immediately.  Lydia looks at him, but he continues, “Lydia, Scott wouldn’t do something like that to you, you know that.”  She feels her heart drop.  

    “Actually, she doesn’t know anything,” Peter points out,  “because Scott made sure she didn’t.”

    “This is ridiculous,” says Stiles, “Peter’s a liar, we’ve always known that.  Come on, Lydia.  We’re leaving.”

    “I promise I’m not lying, if it makes you feel any better,” he offers,  “Not when the truth is this . . . juicy.”  Peter wiggles a suggestive eyebrow at Lydia that she chooses to ignore.  When Stiles reaches for her arm, she moves it out of his range.

    “I don’t want to leave yet,” she says shooting him a look before turning back to Peter.   She directs her next question towards him.  “Can you retrieve them?  My memories?”  Stiles’s eyes nearly pop out of his head with the force he uses to widen them at her words.

    “Are you serious?”  he says as he flings his arms up to grab his head with his hands.  “You’re asking Peter to go back in your mind? Are you crazy?”  Lydia ignores him.

    “Can you?” she asks Peter again.  The werewolf sighs, and sits down in the chair opposite her.

    “Lydia, as much as I sympathize with having something as precious as memory stolen from you,” he says,  “it’s a bad idea.”

    “Why? You did it for Isaac,” she says.

    “I didn’t care about hurting Isaac,” says Peter while rolling his eyes, “Anyway, this is a very different situation.  The Alphas who took his memory had a lot of practice - they knew what they were doing.  They weren’t sloppy.  I could do a lot of damage to your mind trying to recover the work of a first-timer.  It’s not worth the risk,” he says putting a hand to his forehead like he’s thinking, “Yeah, you’re better off trying to repair the damage his already caused,”  he finishes while nodding his head as if agreeing with himself.  

    “Okay,” says Stiles with a clap, “And we’re done here, yeah?”  He turns to Lydia and points while speaking, “You asked your question.” He turns to Peter and does the same motion, “And you answered no can do, thank god.  So now we’re leaving.”  This time Lydia lets him take her arm to lead her to the door.  She refuses to acknowledge Peter on the way out despite the feeling of his eyes following her the entire time.  

    She doesn’t even flinch as Peter calls out “Best of luck little banshee!” before Stiles closes the door.  
    
    The elevator ride seems stupidly long, and Stiles is doing that nervous thing where he repetitively smacks one hand against the palm of the other.  It’s really annoying.

    “Stiles,” she says, looking at his hands pointedly.  He furrows his brow and turns his mouth down while following her eyes to his moving hands.  Realization seems to light up his face, and he makes a small ‘o’ sound while slowing, and then finally, stopping, the nervous movement. He puts his hands in his pockets instead.  He doesn’t say anything until they’re in the car and pulling out of the apartment complex.

    “I know what you’re thinking, Lydia,” he says.  She looks at him from the passenger seat with narrowing eyes, her lips already pursed.  “Okay, obviously not exactly what you’re thinking,” he amends, “But hear me out.”  She sighs and crosses her arms, turning back towards the window.  Stiles must take it as a sign that she’s willing to listen because he continues talking.  “You got an answer, and you’re relieved because things make sense, but what if Peter was counting on that?  What if he planned on you to come to him for advice?”

    “Stiles,” she says.  She’s holding a hand to her forehead like she’s tired and watching him from the side of her eye. “if you’ve got a point, will you just make it?”  He grips the steering wheel harder, and clenches his jaw.  She can see his beyond irritated.  

    “Lydia! For fuck’s sake, it’s Peter!”  he practically yells.  “Peter who bit Scott.  Peter who bit you.  Peter who killed his niece, tried to make Scott kill us, made you bring him back from the dead by controlling your mind.  He’s never been honest with us once!  He’s probably trying to worm his way back inside your head!”  He stops his fulmination, and sighs.  When he continues, it’s in a much softer tone “He refused to bring back your memories. . . how do we even know it wasn’t Peter who did this to you in the first place?  He could be using you again to get to Scott, Lydia.  You said yourself that you can’t remember anything.”

    Lydia is very quiet after Stiles speaks.  What he says hurts and not because he doesn’t believe her (although that had stung), but because he raises a valid point.  She has no reason to trust Peter. In fact, she has every reason to distrust Peter.  And if there was any way to weaken Scott, it was by taking away the trust of his closest friends.  It makes sense, but it doesn’t feel right.  Lydia groans and rubs at her temples, the self-doubt already heavy on her tired mind.

    Stiles pulls up into her driveway.  She’s about to open the door and get out when she turns to face him.

    “Stiles, plea-”  he cuts her with a wave of his hand.

    “Don’t tell Scott, I know,” he says, “I won’t.”  

    Lydia nods and steps out of the blue jeep.  She walks numbly up to her front door, and goes inside the house.  Once the door closes, she immediately slumps back against it and slides to the floor.  She leans her head back and takes a deep breath.  She can do this.  She’s stronger than this. This is okay.  This is manageable.  Someone, either Scott or Peter, has been rummaging around her mind, but it’s totally okay.  Lydia Martin has people and voices in her mind all the time, how much could one more hurt?  

    She realizes she’s holding her breath and takes another deep breath to compensate.  She stands on shaky legs and walks down the hallway towards the staircase.  She needs rest.  She’ll take a nap, and when she wakes up, she’ll have a clearer head (so to speak) to think about her situation.  She does not expect to see Scott waiting for her in her room.  His quick reflexives are the only thing that keeps her body from sagging to the floor.  

    She’s not fainting, not really.  It’s more like all the energy just left her body.

    “Jesus, are you okay, Lydia?” he saying but she’s not listening.  She’s focused on his left hand that’s holding something suspiciously similar to her phone.  So she’d left it at home; she knew it was strange no one had called her when she wasn’t in school.  The real question is, had Scott gone though it?  

    He helps her to back to her feet with his free hand.  He’s about to step back when his face flashes an unreadable emotion.  It makes Lydia uncomfortable so she takes a small step back.
    
    “Why are you in my room?” she demands.

    “You and Stiles weren’t in class and wouldn’t answer my texts.  I was worried,” he says in a distracted manner as if something else is bothering him.  He’s not looking at her when he talks, but rather, her phone, gripped tightly in his hand.  When he looks up, it’s with the same unreadable emotion from before, his nose slightly scrunched.  

    “Why do you smell like Peter?” he asks.  

    Oh fuck.  Lydia’s heart starts pounding.  She hates werewolves and all their stupid super senses.  It’s not even that she can’t lie, it’s that she can’t even hide how fucking nervous the question makes her.

    “That’s weird,” she lies anyway.  

    If he confronts her, she’ll blame it on nerves.  If he questions that, she’ll bring up sleeping together.  That would shut him up, she’s sure.  She means to side-step around Scott and get to her phone that he tossed behind him onto the bed, but he stops her.  He stands directly in front of her blocking her path.  He’s already forming wrinkles between his eyebrows from the intensity of his lowing brow.

    “It’s not weird to smell like someone you’ve been around,” he says with narrowing eyes, “Why were you and Stiles around Peter?”  Lydia takes a step back, unsure how to proceed.  She needs to reach her phone so she tries to keep a light tone.

    “Really Scott?”  she says, “We’ve been over this. I’m a big girl, remember?  I can handle myself around one ex-Alpha werewolf.”  She attempts to move past him, but Scott stops her again, this time by grabbing her wrist non to gently.  She doesn’t fight his grip like she did in the classroom.  She doesn’t want a repeat of the bruise.

     “What?”  she says.  Scott moves his other hand to capture a portion of her hair and bring it under his nose.  He looks at her as he smells it.

    “Why was he touching your hair?”  His eyes begin to darken.  Watching it happen reminds Lydia of a house under a street lamp when the last light inside has been turned off for bed, and all you can make out in the faint glow is how many windows the home has instead of the life happening inside it.  

    It makes her want to cry.  

    Instead, she cooly removes her hand from his grip and plucks her hair from his fingers.  She wants to take a step back, but something in her feels like she shouldn’t give Scott any ground right now.  She needs to get to her phone.  She’s wearing one of her shorter pairs of heels today, and she sorely misses the extra height when she raises her eyes to meet Scott’s.  Be cool.  Be calm.  Be Lydia Martin.

     She stands with her hands on her hips, and she tries very hard to look at him and not her phone as she says, “Is there a reason you’re still in my room now that you know I’m fine?”   

    She expects him to sputter at her words.  To be confused or embarrassed.  She expects all sorts of awkward shuffling and handwringing as he figures out a suitable response.  She does not expect him to smile.  And this smile looks wrong on him.  The corners of his mouth are too tight, and his eyebrows are raised like she’s said something funny, or worse, stupid.  

    “Do you want your phone Lydia?” he asks.  She doesn’t say anything so he continues, “Here, I’ll get it for you.”  Lydia’s heart is beating so fast it hurts as she watches him walk over to her bed and pick up her phone.  She watches in silence as he crushes the technology in his hand. She closes her eyes and focuses on breathing.  

    “Oh dude, my bad,” she hears him say.  She can still make out the smile in his voice.  “I guess I owe you a new phone.”  

    Be cool.  Be calm.  Be Lydia Martin.  She opens her eyes to look at Scott.  He’s sitting on her bed next to her crushed phone.  She’s still standing close to her bedroom door.  If she’s going to make it, she can’t give away any signs.

    “Well,” she drawls out, pretending to study a chip in her lavender nail polish, before she looks up at him with a tight smile.  “That’s obvious isn’t it.  You can’t just go around smashing a girl’s phone,” she says with a roll of her eyes.  “Anyway,” she continues, “as you can see, I just got home, and I’m thirsty, so I’d like to get a glass of water - that is if you don’t want to comment on my smell some more.”  

    Scott looks at her with what almost feels like grief before his mouth tightens and he quickly shrugs.

    “Do what you want Lydia,” he says.

    She’s very conscious of keeping a normal speed as she walks out her bedroom door.  She walks down the hallway, reminding herself to breath.  She’ll need air in her lungs in a second. When her feet hit the first step of the stairs, she breaks into a run.  She can see her front door getting closer and closer.  She ignores the telltale sounds of chase behind her.  Can’t even think about it when she’s this close to the door.  

    She almost makes it too.

    Her body slams against the wood of the door hard.  It feels like Scott didn’t hold back at all.  She opens her mouth to let out a scream, but he quickly covers it with one of his hands.

    “What did you say to Stiles?” he’s saying. “How much did you tell him?”  Lydia can barely hear him over the ringing in her ears and the pounding of her own heart.  She feels like she’s about to faint but she pushes back against the feeling.  “It’s okay” he’s saying, “I can fix this. We’ll be okay.”  Her hands are trapped from where she braced herself for impact against the door so she tries shaking her head to dislodge his hand from her mouth but his grip on her face is unrelenting.  He pulls her head down and moves her hair to expose her neck.

    “Hold still,” he says.  She won’t though.  Not for this.  She struggles fiercely until Scott slams her back into the door again.  She’s only limp for a second, but it’s long enough.  She feels his claws pierce the still healing skin on the back of her neck, and then everything goes black.

    She opens her eyes and she’s in Deaton’s office surrounding by the pack.  Stiles has a hand covering his mouth looking like he’s had at least six panic attacks.  Scott looks like he’s been dealing with all six of Stiles’s panic attacks, his face tight and tired looking.

    “Lydia?” says Deaton, “Lydia, can you hear me?”  She nods.  “Do you remember what happened to you?”  She shakes her head.  Why are her neck and back so sore?  Deaton looks over to the rest of the pack.  Stiles steps forward taking the hand from his mouth to nervously wring his hands together while he talks.

    “You were attacked by Peter,” Stiles says while not looking at her.  “God, I knew I shouldn’t have just dropped you off after that.  The way Peter was watching you. . . I knew something was up.”

    “Attacked me?”  Lydia says, and it hurts to speak.  Her throat is extremely sore like she’d tried to scream but couldn’t.

    “Malia smelled blood.  Stiles found you crumpled at your front door,” says Scott, “Your neck was bleeding.”

    “Bleeding?”  she repeats.  Why does she feel like she knows something about this?  She looks at Stiles.  “You found me?” she asks.  He nods.  This all feels terrible wrong but she can’t explain why.  “We saw Peter?” she says.  Stiles drops his shoulders.

    “He’s playing with your memory, Lydia,”  Stiles sounds broken.  “Earlier you thought it was Scott.”

    Her head is hurting way too much to be having this conversation now.  Everything that comes out of their mouths feels confusing and wrong but she has no memories to back her up mental accusation.  The end result is crazy making and Lydia Martin is not crazy.  

    “No more questions,” she says, “I want to go home and sleep.”  She can figure this out.  This is okay.  This is manageable.  She’s Lydia Martin, a recognized genius.  

    She will figure this out if it kills her.

Chapter Text

      Lydia sits up from the metal table with the help of Stiles.  She moves slowly, more aware of the pain in her back now that she’s sitting up.  Malia is making a terrible face, like the smell of Lydia’s discomfort is overwhelming to her.  Kira is eerily silent and watches Lydia’s attempt to stand with watery eyes.  The kitsune reaches out to her when the banshee stumbles, but it’s Stiles  who keeps her from crumpling to the floor.

    “I’m going to be sick,” says Lydia.  Deaton quickly hands her a trashcan, but otherwise, no one moves.  She glares at them all from over the rim of the trashcan.  “I said I’m going to be sick,” she snaps.  She can barely contain her irritation when Scott and Stiles exchange a wide-eyed look with Deaton before the vet nods at them.  

    Does she need permission to be alone now?  She wants to vomit in peace for god’s sake.

    “It’s okay, Lydia” says Deaton, “We’ll be just outside the door if you need us.”

    “Great,” she says while holding a hand to her throbbing head.  She tries to wait until the door closes to allow her first set of heaves.  She can still hear them over the sound of her retching.

    “Dude, she needs to go the hospital,” says Stiles,  “Throwing up like that is really not good after a head injury.  I’m pretty sure it’s actually really, really bad.  Like extremely bad.”

    “Stiles is right,” says Deaton, “It could be a sign of a severe concussion.”

Lydia groans into the trashcan.  A visit to the hospital is the last thing she wants to deal with right now.  Aside from the obnoxious and constant attention from nurses and doctors and the not so fond memories from her last stay, her family has absolutely no money to cover a hospital visit.  The idea of increasing her debt is not appealing in the slightest.

    “Maybe we can have my mom check her out first,” says Scott,  “She’d know if it’s something serious enough for a hospital stay.”  

    Lydia relaxes the tiniest bit when she hears what he says.  She’s much prefer a visit with Melissa over checking-in to the hospital.  She’s also relieved that she only threw up once.  It means the concussion probably isn’t as severe as the pack fears.  She uses the chair next to her to stand up, already feeling less dizzy.  That’s a good sign too.  

    She’s not prepared at all when she almost falls against the door.  She grabs the handle and uses it to keep her body from hitting the wood at the last second.  The quick save results in Lydia throwing the door wide open and careening into Scott’s back.  He must have used his wolf reflexes to spin around and steady her because she doesn’t see him move, but his hands are on her shoulders now, holding her up.

    “Why are you always up and running around after an injury?”  Stiles says with a frantic edge to his voice as he watches her sway in Scott’s hold.  He’s gesturing wildly with his hands.  “I mean seriously!  It’s like we have to strap you down to a gurney to make sure you actually rest!”  Lydia rolls her eyes.

    “Stiles,” she says,  “I’m fine.”

    “Fine?” he repeats, “Lydia, you just fell out a door!” She winces at the volume of his voice.

    “Okay, let’s not yell at her,” says Kira as she widens her eyes,  “It’s probably not a good idea to yell at someone you suspect has head trauma.”  Lydia forces a smile in Kira’s direction despite the pounding of her back and head.  Scott talks next.

    “Can you stand?” he asks her.  She whips her head to face him, her eyes narrowing with a sharp glint.  Unfortunately, the quick movement makes her dizzy again.  When she speaks, the fierceness of her tone is undermined by her vertigo.

    “Of course I can stand.”

    “Don’t let her go,” says Malia, “She’ll sink like a stone.”  Lydia quickly turns her head to glare at the werecoyote, and, jesus, she really needs to stop whipping her head around to face people.  She leans into Scott’s grip more, her balance almost completely gone now.

    “It’s okay,” he says softly,  “I’ve got you.  You’re okay.”  

    There’s something familiar about these words coming from Scott, and she brushes away the unexplainable panic she experiences when he says them.  She doesn’t have time for that right now.  Scott shifts from holding her by the shoulders to put an arm around her waist.  Then he leans down and scoops her up in one fluid motion.  The movement makes her head spin, but she’s relieved to be off her feet.

    “Who’s driving us to the hospital?” asks Scott while looking straight at Stiles.

    Lydia’s positive she can stand and walk on her own once the three of them reach the hospital, but Stiles and Scott will hear none of it.  They won’t let her out of the car unless she allows herself to be carried.  It’s extremely embarrassing.  She keeps her eyes closed with a hand covering them for extra protection.  She can’t stand to see the look on anyone’s face as the Alpha carries her into the hospital.  She opens her eyes when she hears Melissa.

    “Oh my god.  Lydia?”  

    “It’s just a slight concussion” Lydia answers while Melissa steers the teenagers into an empty examination room.  She feels ridiculous talking while Scott holds her like a princess.

    “Slight my ass, she’s got a severe concussion.”  says Stiles as he takes a seat.  He’s tapping a foot and rubbing at his mouth with the back of his hand.  Lydia just rolls her eyes.  

    “No, I don’t.” she says,  “I only threw up once, and if you could please tell your son to put me down, I’d prove that I can stand on my own,” she says as politely as she can.  Scott makes a scrunched face, and shakes his head like Lydia just said she could fly.  
    
    “Scott,” says Melissa, “Honey, I’m gonna need to see her walk anyway.  You can put her down now.”

    He seems hesitant to release her, but does as his mother asks.  He stays close though, hovering near Lydia with clear concern as if he expects her to crash to the floor the moment he gets too far away to catch her.  She proves his concern unneeded by stepping out of his range on steady legs.  Lydia turns to give both boys a victorious smile.

    “I told you I could walk on my own,”  she says.

    Melissa asks her to sit on the examination table and runs through the concussion indicators.  After she administers a light test to Lydia’s eyes, she seems satisfied.

    “Well, you’ve got a concussion,” Melissa says, “but it's not a a very bad one.  The only thing we’d do here that you can't do at home is keep you under observation, but I don't think you need it.  Just let me clean up the cuts on the back of your neck, and you guys will be done, okay?”  

    Lydia can almost see the tension leaving the room.  Scott leans back against the wall and takes a deep breath before exhaling loudly.  Stiles slows down the frantic tapping of his foot, and drops his hands from his head where he’d been running them through his hair practically non-stop.  

     Sometimes it stresses Lydia out of how much the boys seems to care about her.  She thinks it has something to do with her being a banshee.  As if that makes her more vulnerable to danger than the rest of the them (okay, it probably does, but totally not the issue at hand).  Anyway, the point is, Lydia normally wouldn’t mind feeling watched over, but the way the pack keeps tabs on her now makes her slightly uncomfortable.  Like it’s more for their benefit and safety than hers.  She tries to not think about it because when she does, she can’t shake the feeling that she’s a canary for a coal mine.  Just sitting in a cage and waiting to see if the carbon monoxide levels are enough to kill her.  

    It’s a shitty feeling, especially since mine canaries almost always die.

    At least she’s not dead yet, she thinks.  And even if she can’t exactly remember it, she’s proud to have survived another attack from Peter.  How many does that make it now?  Three, if you counted the whole hiding in her head while he was dead thing (which she does, completely).  Of course Scott and Stiles go to Peter’s apartment after the hospital visit, but the ex-Alpha is no where to be found.  The knowledge that Peter is unaccounted for and on the loose doesn’t stress her out as much as she expects.  Maybe it’s that hyper-vigilance thing again.  It’s hard to avoid in a town like Beacon Hills.  They’re all soldiers on the frontline here.  Peter’s attack is proof enough of that.

    The first day of her recovery, Lydia figures she doesn’t hear Allison because the hunter is letting her rest.  The same goes for not being able to remember her dreams.  However, by the third day, Lydia begins to worry that Allison isn’t just being silent.  Her worst fear becomes a reality when the banshee spends all of the fourth and fifth day searching for Allison but can’t find a single trace of the hunter in her head.  

    Allison is simply gone, and Lydia loses her best friend a second time.

 
                                                                                                           ********


    She hears people talking, but they sound far away.  It’s familiar but unrecognizable voices like a past life bleeding over into a child’s unformed psyche.  She feels drawn to them.  Can’t stop herself from searching for them.  She follows the talking down a dark hallway filled with mildew and rusty pipes.  She’s never seen it before but it feels like a bad place, somewhere she doesn’t want to be.  She needs to hear to this conversation though.  She continues down the hallway, walking with her hands against the wall.  She knows she’s getting closer, but it’s hard to hold onto the original two voices in the midst of all the others now emerging from the hallway.  She ignores the wheezing intakes of breath and sharp gasps to focus on the steady rhythm of the distant conversation. The farther she walks down, the darker it gets until the only light seems to be coming from in-between the rusty bars that block her path of actually seeing the talkers.   She presses her face against the barred door and listens.

    “Don’t touch me,” she hears a woman say.  The voice sounds fiercely strong.  “Don’t ever touch me again.”

    “Allison,” pleads the voice of a man.  Something about this voice curdles her stomach.  “It’s okay. Everything’s okay now.”  

    “NO!”  the woman says, “No, Scott, nothing is okay.  How could you do this?”

Allison.  Scott.  She wonders why she can’t remember what these names mean to her.

    “Allison, listen to me!” the man called Scott says.  “I’m going to save everyone.  I’m going to stop this - the assassins, the dead pool - no one else will get hurt.  No one else will die. I promise.”

    “I don’t care about the dead pool, I care about my best friend.” The woman’s voice is hoarse but carries a undeniable power.  Hearing the woman called Allison speak is gut-wrenching. “Just let me talk her, please. I know I can help.”

    “Help?” says the man, “You’re reason she’s hurting in the first place! She was going insane from having you trapped in her mind.”

    She was not!” says the woman.  “You did that, Scott!  You’ve practically broken her mind to reach me!”

    “YOU LEFT ME!”  

It’s quiet for a long time after the man yells.  She’s terrified that the conversation is over, meaning she won’t get to hear the woman called Allison speak again.

    “I died to protect her, Scott,” the woman says softly.  Relief makes her legs give out when she hears the Allison woman speak again.  She sits pressed against the bars, desperate not to miss a word as the woman continues to talk. “I made a choice, and I don’t regret it.  I just didn’t know I was leaving her too soon.  I thought you would protect her.”  

    “I am protecting her!  Why can no one understand that?  Do you think she wants to remember every detail of every terrible thing that’s happened to her?  You think she wants her night with Stiles’s body memorized?”

    “Scott.”  The woman says sounding desolate.

    “She’s been trying to forget that part of the kidnapping for 3 months, and she finally has because I helped her do it.”  

The man’s voice is extremely abrasive sounding.  Like someone’s shoving steel wool into her ears.

     “Allison, things won’t have to change for her.  She can stay the same.  She deserves to have happy moments more than anyone!”

    “You can’t take away parts of a person to keep them from changing, Scott.  It won’t make her happy.  She’s going to come apart.  I can feel it.”

    “Then I’ll take care of her, Allison.  If it ever happens, I swear to god, I’ll be there for her.”  She hears the woman start to cry while the man speaks.  “Allison, I need you.  ” The woman cries harder.

    “Stop it.  Please Scott, just stop. . . stop it now before it’s too late.  You’re sinking,” the woman says,  “You’re losing your sense of direction and if you don’t realize it soon you’ll never find your way back.”

    This conversation is making her very sad, but it’s nothing compared to the heartbreak she experiences when it ends.  She waits with bated breath for a long time for either of the two voices to speak again, but only silence greets her.  She tries not to panic, but she wants to scream and cry.  

    What if she never hears the Allison woman again?

    The thought forces her mouth open and she begins to call out to the woman.  Shrieking the words through the barred door.  She attempts to squeeze her body through the rusty bars but her frame won’t allow it.  She stops when a male voice calls back to her.  

    “You’re going to hurt yourself screaming like that.”  

    It’s not the man called Scott, but a different male voice.  It’s just as familiar as the first two voices, except she doesn’t feel drawn to this one.  This voice sounds hollow and fake.  She doesn’t know why but she feels like she has to get away.  She throws herself back against the wall and away from the blocked doorway.  She stands up and begins moving as quickly down the hallway as she can without making a sound.  She keeps following the hallway until she finds herself in a circular shaped room with condensation covered gray walls.  

    She’s been here before.  She remembers it.

     It’s the same room where the oni switched sides.  The realization turns her stomach for reasons she can’t place.  This room and the hollow voice are connected.  She knows she needs to get out of here. She quickly leaves the room and keeps going down the hallway, but she can’t shake the feeling that the hallway is just as bad as the circular shaped room.  She reaches a dead end and rests her head against the rusty bars in frustration.  

    “You’re getting weak banshee,”  says the same hollow and fake voice from before, “are the voices taking their toll?”

    She turns to face the source of the voice.  It’s a boy with dark circles under his eyes and a pale waxy complexion like the moon.  He walks down the hallway towards her at a disturbing speed, his eyes never once leaving hers.  She can barely make out his black pupils in the faint light, but she doesn’t miss the cold curiosity glinting in his eyes.  The way he regards her makes her feel like a lab rat.  Not human and only useful for testing purposes.  

    She thinks she knows this boy.  His name is on the tip of her tongue trying to work its way out.  It’s the same name that the Allison woman and the man called Scott had mentioned earlier.  She remembers it was strange.  What was it again?  S something.

    “Stiles?” she says.  The boy stops walking towards her and curls his lips to show his white teeth while tilting his head.  The smile feels taunting like he knows something she doesn’t.     

    “Not quite,” says the boy with a small shake of his head.

    Lydia wakes up with a jolt, the same as she has every day since Peter attacked her.  She doesn’t know why, but she knows she hasn’t been sleeping well since Allison disappeared from her mind.  Every morning she wakes up feeling more and more exhausted.   She can feel it in the sluggish sagging of her limbs when she first attempts to sit up. It feels like she’s been maneuvering a overgrown hedge maze at night, stumbling through briars in the more wild areas that snag at her clothing to pull her into the thorny walls.  The more you struggle, the more snagged your clothing becomes until you remember that you even if you happen to free yourself, you’re still lost in a maze of briar patches.  It’s the kind of physical and mental exhaustion that makes you question your own self worth, and right now, Lydia Martin feel worthless.  

    The worst part is not knowing what memories she’s lost.  She can barely tell where the gaps in her memory are.  Everything just feels different.  She knows that sleep has become a necessary evil.  Something her body needs but her mind fears.  She never remembers what she dreams about when she wakes up.  It’s a terrible blow because she gets the idea that she was close to mastering her banshee benefits in the dream world before Peter made a playground of her mind.  

    She hates not knowing what she’s forgotten.  It’s a crushing loss to someone as disciplined in their thoughts as Lydia.  

    She isn’t stupid.  She’s aware that she uses compartmentalization to overcome traumatic experiences.  She knows her interior world is a dark space, but it was dark by her own volition.  A tomb of people and situations that she’d locked away by choice. She used to know what was in there, but now she’s not so sure.  It’s a horribly nerve-wracking experience to have someone force repression on your mind.  Like getting lost in a zoo at night and you know none of the enclosures are secure but you’re unable to remember which animals the zoo had to begin with.  You keep asking yourself ‘will I meet a bear or a tiger while I walk this path?’  She gets reactions to people and places that she can’t connect to a single memory.  Just vague impressions that leave her feeling dazed and out of place.

    It’s become a serious problem around Stiles, and she knows he’s picking up on it.

    It makes her feel like total shit because the last thing she wants to do is make Stiles feel guilty about having been possessed.  She knows it wasn’t his fault that the Nogitsune took him over, used her to steal the oni, and then killed her best friend.  She’d worked so hard over the last three months to look at Stiles and not see Allison’s death play over and over in her mind (compartmentalizing was good for some things).  Whatever Peter had done to her, it definitely loosened the mental control she’d practiced for the careful separation of the Nogitsune and Stiles. She finds herself nervous whenever he makes sudden movements now (which is all the time honestly - the boy’s a total spazz).  Little things that used to endear him to her now make her want to take a step back.  It bothers Lydia because she’s not sure why she’s taking a step back in the first place.  The Nogitsune-possessed Stiles was scary, but she doesn’t remember him ever hurting her - he just kidnapped her and used her to hurt others.  

    And then it bothers her some more because something about the words ‘he just kidnapped her’ feels like a lie.  

    It’s terribly bizarre feeling.

    She keeps her distance from the pack until she can sort what’s real.  In the mean time, she collects Meredith’s things from Eichen House.  She thinks of the banshee almost as much as she thinks of Allison.  The two dead bodies she didn’t just find, but helped cause.  If she had tried harder to keep Allison from following her, if she’d used more restraint when she talked with Meredith, maybe one of them would still be alive right now.

     Maybe.  

    She feels stupid talking to a record player, but she wants to reach out - to feel like she’s trying somehow.  Even though the record is silent, she speaks as though Meredith were there.  She’s not sure how much control she over her powers now that her mind has been played with, but she hopes the silence doesn’t mean that Meredith can’t hear her.  She wants to believe she’s still a functioning banshee.   And she must be because when Lydia turns the record off, she hears it.  Barely a whisper, but loud enough to raise her curiosity.  She listens harder.  

    It tells her there’s a infection.  It tells her someone will die.

    She’s so relieved to find her mother is safe in the school that she forgets for a moment that her original fear was directed towards the pack.  She remembers as she lets her mother go from a hug and her stomach drops.  She feels ill and starts to hear a ringing sound in her ears.  Where is her pack?  She runs through the school, desperate to find them.  Her heart is pounding so fast, her whole body throbs like the skin of a drum.  She can’t breathe but she doesn’t stop running until she smacks face first into Malia.  Lydia grabs the werecoyote by the shoulders to steady herself.  When she sees that it’s Malia, she pulls her into a hug before Lydia realizes what’s she’s doing.  She lets go when the girl doesn’t return her hug at all.  When the banshee meets her eyes, she’s taken back by the blank expression on Malia’s face.  The werecoyote stares at her with dull puffy eyes before stepping around Lydia and walking away without saying a word.  
    
    “Lydia!” someone calls out to her.  She turns around to see Kira and Scott walking towards her.  She scans the surrounding crowd for Stiles, and her heart stops.  He isn’t there.  Her hands start to shake, but she doesn’t notice because she’s too busy battling the sea of people to reach Scott.

    “Stiles,” she says loudly.  Her voice cracks in the middle of his name.  “Where’s Stiles?”

    “I’m okay,” says a hoarse voice from her left.  Lydia turns to face him.  There’s a splattering of blood across his face.  It’s smeared and dried in places like he tried to wipe it off but realized he couldn’t.

    “Is it yours?” she asks reaching a hand out to his face, but not letting herself make contact. Now that he’s closer, she can tell it isn’t his blood, but it doesn’t change the amount of relief she experiences when Stiles shakes his head ‘no’ in confirmation.

    “The assassin’s,”  he says and wipes at his cheek with palm of his hand.  Lydia nods, knowing she’ll get the full story later.  Everyone seems to be in shock right now.  

    She’s just glad to see them all alive.

    Stiles’s eyes are focused on the end of the hallway.  Lydia follows his line of sight just in time to see Malia disappear behind the blue double doors of the school.  Stiles’s lips are tight and his eyes are glazed.  His complexion doesn’t look that good either.

    “Did she get hurt?” asks Lydia.

    “Yeah,” says Stiles.  His voice is soft, and he keeps his eyes on the door, maybe hoping that Malia will walk back into the school. “By me.”  

    “Malia saw her name on the dead pool.” Scott says in a quiet voice.  “Her full name.”


                                                                                                      **********


    A storm shakes and howls outside the Martin household on Tuesday night.  Lydia finds the weather morbidly appropriate as she mulls over what happened the last couple of days.  Malia won’t answer any of the packs texts or calls.  She hadn’t even show up to school the following Monday.  Lydia had been entirely lost on how to comfort Stiles about it because one part of her thinks the werecoyote should have been told about her Hale heritage long ago, and the other part of her that says it doesn’t matter is still jumpy around Stiles.  She’d never been more relieved to have Kira around.  The kitsune’s awkward attempts at comfort made Lydia’s effort seem worthy of an Oscar.  No one had picked up on the banshee’s lack-luster act.  

    She’s more bothered by Malia leaving the group than she expected to be.  She hadn’t been crazy about the excessive PDA Stiles and Malia showed, but she was really starting to care for the girl.  Her blunt way of speaking had been refreshing.  Lydia is beyond exhausted by people who handle her like she’s an explosive waiting to go off.  Malia had never treated her like that.  If anything, the werecoyote had been brutally honest with and about her.  And as difficult as it was to adjust to the girl’s behavior, it had been nice.  No one seemed to think Lydia could handle the truth except for Malia.  The realization makes her feel even guiltier.  

    Malia had always been so open with her and the rest of the pack, of course it was a huge betrayal to find out they’d all been hiding the werecoyote’s real identity.

    Lydia’s so absorbed in her thoughts that she misses the sound of her window opening.  She nearly screams when a tight voice says her name from behind her.  She turns slowly in the seat at her desk, terrified to see who just came into her room through her window.  

    She really needs to start locking it.

    She gasps as she takes in the sight of a soaking wet Malia.

    “I really hate all of you.  I never want to see any of you again,” the werecoyote says to Lydia, meeting her eyes with a unforgiving glare, “but I have to tell to you something before I leave.”  

Lydia nods, too stunned to speak.  Malia hates her.  She’d figured as much but it’s akin to slap to hear the words said out loud.

    “That day Stiles and I found you by your front door, Peter’s smell wasn’t the strongest scent I noticed,”  Lydia’s heart starts to race.  She feels like she’s knows what Malia is going to say but she can’t explain how.  “Scott’s scent was a lot stronger on you.  I asked him about it later, but he said I didn’t understand scenting techniques.  That if I did, I’d know it’s only natural for you to smell more like your Alpha then Peter.”

    “Why are you telling me this?” asks Lydia. She tries but fails to keep the panic from her voice.  She sounds high-pitched and out of breath - a terrible combination to the ears.

    “Because I don’t trust Scott and Stiles anymore,” says Malia,  “And I don’t think you should either.  They keep things from us.  Important things.”  She walks over to the open window and puts on leg over the sill.  She watches Lydia with a relaxed brow line but a drooping mouth as if the werecoyote was too tired to put in the effort to frown. “If you need help, call me. I’ll answer.”

    “I thought you hate me and never want to see me again,” says Lydia.  

    Malia shrugs and throws the words “Doesn’t mean I want you to get hurt” over her shoulder as she disappears out the window and back into the storm.

    Lydia can tell she won’t be getting good rest this night.  She’s tempted to take a sleeping pill, but the idea of forcibly turning off her mind is unappealing.  There’d been too much of that going on in her head lately.  

    She lets her thoughts spin wild until she falls asleep, not caring where they’ll toss her into the dreamworld.  She probably won’t remember it anyway.

Chapter Text

     Lydia wanders the school grounds rubbing her arms with her hands to ward off the bitter chill in the air.  When she’d chosen this dress to wear to winter formal, she hadn’t thought she’d be walking the lacrosse field looking for her ex-boyfriend.

    “Jackson,” she calls out.  

    The lights surrounding the field turn on, but it’s the only response she receives.

     She can barely make out a silhouette walking towards her.  She almost calls out Jackson’s name again, but something stops her.  A feeling or sensation that she knows it’s not him.  This feels familiar but she doesn’t know how.  

    She turns to run back into the school, and thank god, she makes it.  The idea that hundreds of people are in the same building immediately calms her.  She rests against the blue doors to catch her breath.  She’s checking her shoes for mud when she notices a red stain on her leg.

    That’s weird.

    She follows the stain up and realizes to her horror that it’s also all over her champagne colored dress.  It’s a thick, warm substance, and it coats her hands when she tries to wipe at it.  She keeps trying to clean it away until she realizes what’s coating her hands.  

    It’s blood.  

    She’s covered in blood.

    Lydia staggers to the floor, a sudden crippling pain in her side.  She looks down and sees a bleeding bite wound.   She needs help.  She uses the lockers to help her stand and pulls herself down the hallway hoping to meet stragglers of the winter formal.  She hears the sounds of someone writing on chalkboard.  She follows it to an open classroom door.  A boy about her age with short, shaggy brown hair wearing a gray tee-shirt with khaki pants is writing a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols on the board in a nearly frantic manner.  It’s unnerving to watch so Lydia clears her throat.  She keeps pressure on her injured side with both hands and waits for the curious boy to turn to her.  The boy stops writing but stays facing the board.  He puts the chalk down delicately.  

    She wonders what he looks like.  She wishes he would turn around.

    “I need help,” she says.  The boy still makes no moves to face her.  He would appear frozen if not for the steady drumming of his fingers on his left hand against the board.  It’s beginning to make her nervous.  “Hello,” she tries.

    “Hello banshee,”  he says.

    His tone is flat, mocking almost, but above all else, it sounds empty.  This boy is hollow, merely the shell of a human, and on the verge of cracking and showing the void beneath that taints his voice.  Electricity floods her body, giving her legs the strength to propel her body back out the door despite her injured state.  She stumbles into the lockers before using them to help her get away down the hall.

    “Are you going to run?” he says, and he sounds so much closer.  She moves faster and keeps looking straight ahead.  She never wants to know what face this voice wears.  

    She can’t ever know.

“Oh. you poor little thing,” he says, and he must be right behind her because she can feel his words tickling the base of her neck.  “Do you really think you can run away?”  

    She uses her fear to run faster, the pain in her side completely forgotten.  What’s important now is to get away.   To never see who’s chasing her.  She ignores the sound of his laughter  reverberating off the lockers and focuses on the blue doors of the school.  

    “You think you’ll be safe outside?” he says close enough to throw an arm around her and drag her back against him.  “You think there aren’t monster waiting for you out there?” he breaths into her ear.  She closes her eyes as his arms tighten around her.  She feels him maneuver them so that she’s caged against the lockers.  

    “Look at me,” he says softly into her neck.  She squeezes her eyes shut harder and bites her lip to ignore the hand using too much pressure as it slides up her inner thigh.  The hand around her waist moves and then her chin is grabbed, forcing her to face forward.  “Lydia, look at me,” the boy says louder this time, “there’s no meaning if you’re not looking.”  

    She opens her eyes when the grip on her chin becomes unbearable and meets the blackened irises of a sickly and pale human-shell of a boy.  He’s distracted by her plain misery, seemingly studying her face as if to record every wrinkle of horror to his memory.  She uses the momentary pause to stomp on his foot and brings up her right knee with all of her strength between his legs.  Then she runs down the hallway and out the blue doors into a white room with the brightest lights she’s ever seen.  She hears talking, but she doesn't see any one in the room with her.  She follows the sounds past the stump of a old tree and through another set of grandly large doors.

    Now she’s in bed, and someone’s holding her in commandingly firm arms. She doesn’t feel threatened, but she doesn’t feel safe either.  A caged feeling works it’s way around her.  The arms are like bars, and she has the urge to break free.  She moves to sit up, but the grasp around her waist tightens and she’s pulled back against a warm chest.  Her stomach churns as a hand slips under her shirt, fingers ghosting over the skin covering her ribs.  

    She’s scared.  What if it’s the hollow boy from the school holding her?

    She feels a mouth close over the junction of her neck and her free hand winds its way up to rest in the hair of the boy holding her.  It feels thicker than the other boy’s hair looked.  The hand under her shirt trails up higher than decent and Lydia finds herself mumbling the words, “I thought I said we weren’t going to do anything”.  She feels the lips on her neck curl into a smile before another kiss is left on her shoulder.
    
    “We’re not doing anything,” a deep voice says.  It’s warm and familiar but it doesn’t ease her building fear.   

     Her body moves to face the voice on it’s own accord.  She sees brown eyes staring back at her from a tan face surrounded by short black hair.  This is not the boy from the school.  She calms a little at the realization, but not much.  Her body leans into kiss him.  It feels like she has no control over herself.  As if she’s jetted outside her own form as an observer rather than an active participant.

    “You’re right,” she says while climbing on top of the boy holding her,  “we’re not doing anything.”  It feels like she’s reciting lines from a play she’s preformed instead of a lived experience.  “Nothing’s happening,”  she mumbles against his neck.

    Is this a lived experienced?

    She can’t actually be sure.  But the panic and fear she feels as an outside observer, despite any pleasure of her physical body, is terribly real.  It’s a horrible feeling, but at least this boy is not hollow like the one in the school.  Even when his eyes glow red, and she feels claws on the back of her neck, she’s thankful it’s a wave of regret and sorrow that envelopes her instead of an empty void.
 

****************


    Lydia wakes up in the graveyard a solid mile’s walk from her house.  She can tell she’s been digging with her hands from the thick layer of grass and dirt under her polished nails.  Her fingers are throbbing from their irregular use as shovels.  She doesn’t need to see where she was digging.  She already knows the grave she’d visited in her sleep.  There’s no other reason for her to be in this graveyard except to see Allison.  She hurries home, acutely aware of her lack of pants and the dropping temperature (she should start wearing pants to bed).  Of course, she has no idea what she dreamt about, but she knows her nocturnal activities are taking on a life of their own.  She’s split in half, and she can’t deny it any longer.  The only thing getting on her nerves now is the increasingly long walks home.

    Why couldn’t she at least sleep-drive some of the time?    

    Lydia waits until her mom gets back into town to break the news of her broken cellphone.   She tries to ease into the topic by letting her mom have a glass wine (or three but who’s counting) before bringing up the phone.  Of course she’ll leave out that it was broken during the attack she can’t remember by Peter.  Her mother doesn’t need to know every detail of her life. But Lydia’s stomach still flops when she sees the disappointment in her mother’s face.  She wanted to ask about Meredith too, but Lydia can’t bring up the photo she found now.  Not when her mom’s wearing that face.  An unsettling mixture of concern and regret.  

    It’s convenient that Lydia has a lake-house to escape too.

    She spends more time there than anywhere else.  Sneaking away from the pack and her mother whenever she finds a chance.  There’s solace near the water.  Something she can’t find the right words to describe, but being around it simply calms her.  She doesn’t sleep walk when she stays at the lake-house either.  It’s a good place.  She keeps it to herself for the most part.  

    That means no pack.  No Parrish.  Only Lydia.  

    She wants a quiet place.  There’s too much chaos in her mind to constantly listen to others talk.  She needs to re-order her internal space.  She needs to put a possessed Stiles and crazed Peter back in her vault.  She might need to put Allison in there with them.  Losing the hunter a second time is proving to be more than the banshee can handle if her night walks are any indiction.  And then there’s Scott.

    She doesn’t know how to feel about him anymore.

    She turns Malia’s warning this way and that in her mind.  Looks at it from all different possible angles and perspectives.  It gives her a headache.  She knows she won’t be able to hide her trepidation around Scott, so she avoids the pack altogether (again).  However, she does send everyone a text with her new phone number.  She figures it’s the least she could do.  She worries about Stiles.  He doesn’t look like he’s sleeping well whenever she catches glimpses of him at school.  She wants to ask him about it, but talking to Stiles almost always involves talking with Scott.  She decides to ignore it for now.  Just like she ignores the texts messages Scott sends her nearly everyday since she got a new phone.  It’s a simple variation of the same idea in every text: come back, we miss you, let us help, and so on, and so on.  She wonders every time if she’s reading too much into it when the words chill her spine, that maybe it’s really a genuine message of love and care on behalf of the pack.  Then she remembers Malia’s warning, and everything takes on another meaning.  She suffocates in the potential duplicity until she decides everything will feel better if she just pretends there’s no reason to not trust Scott.  

    He’s her friend. Her Alpha.  The protector to Beacon Hill.  One of good guys if not the good guy.  But sometimes, Lydia wishes she didn’t need a mantra to convince herself to feel okay around Scott.

    At least she has Jordan Parrish.

    Since her phone got smashed, Lydia had been visiting Parrish at his work when she wanted to makes plans. Now that she has a phone again, she finds she misses being able to swing by the police station without an excuse.  Today she uses the reason “I made you lunch” to visit Jordan at work.  It’s just pasta salad, left-over from the dinner she fixed her mother last night, and she tells him that over the phone, but Jordan sounds happy that she thought of him anyway.  It makes Lydia feel good.  Parrish is probably the only person that makes her feel safe, and she wants to hold on to that as long as she can.

    When she doesn’t sleep at the lake house, she shares a bed with Parrish like she is tonight.  Sleep in his arms is like falling asleep on the beach in the sun.  She’s not sure how, but she knows she doesn’t dream anything bad.  Parrish seems to ward off her nightmares.  She wakes up for the first time since the attack actually feeling rested.  Her mom leaves for out of town again, so Parrish stays over with her.  Lydia gets an entire week of splendid, beautiful, restful, sleep.

    She almost feels whole for the first time in three weeks.  She isn’t jumpy.  Her hair shines a bright auburn under the sun.  The bags under her eyes have shrunk at least three sizes.  And to top it all off, her skin looks smooth as milk.  She feels fabulous, and more importantly, she feels like being generous.  She’ll pay the pack a visit during lunch today.  She’d like to check in with Stiles (and Scott) any way.

    The table looks depressing from yards away.  No one is talking.  No one is smiling.  Stiles looks like he’s lost at least five pounds and he doesn’t have the weight to spare it in the first place.  He looks gaunt and frail as he pushes the mashed potatoes around absentmindedly on his lunch tray.  Scott focuses on cutting up his meatloaf with disturbing concentration, never taking his eyes off his tray.  Kira slowly chews a bite of sandwich that Lydia’s sure she saw the kitsune take almost a whole two minutes ago.  All in all, it’s the saddest looking lunch table Lydia’s ever encountered.  She’s about to turn around to walk away when Stiles looks up and sees her.  Lydia forces the corners of mouth up into a tight smile and takes a seat next to Kira across from him.  The kitsune looks elated to have another person at the table.  She swallows her bite of sandwich and grins at Lydia.

    “Welcome back,” Kira says.  If anyone else had said it, Lydia would be extremely annoyed but there’s something about Kira’s tone that feels genuine.  Maybe the kitsune really missed her.  Or maybe she was just sick of being around a depressed Scott and Stiles by herself.

    “Did I miss much?” asks Lydia while opening her carrots and hummus.  Scott and Stiles exchange a quick side-eye they think the banshee won’t see.

    “Not really,” says Stiles.

    “‘Not really’ as in nothing happened,” says Lydia.  She tilts her head while narrowing her eyes.  “Or ‘not really’ as in you don’t want to tell me?”  she finishes with pursed lips.  Scott sighs and stops cutting his meatloaf to look at her.

    “‘Not really’ as in we had a plan to find the Benefactor, and it totally failed,”  he says in a obviously defeated tone.
    
    “Not totally,” Kira reminds him.  “We know the Benefactor knows when someone dies without photographic evidence.  That’s better than nothing.”

    “Knows when someone dies?” says Lydia.  Her eyes drift around the table, finally settling on Scott.  He shrugs as if to say it’s only a theory.  “Like a banshee?” continues Lydia.  Stiles answers her this time.

    “We can’t rule out the possibility that the Benefactor’s supernatural,” he says,  “And I don’t know about you guys, but I can’t think of another creature that would know if someone was playing dead other than a banshee.”

    “A psychic,” says Scott immediately.  “A psychic would know.”  

    Lydia sighs.  If Parrish becomes the center of conversation again, she’s going to leave.  Thankfully, Scott doesn’t offer any names as a suspect.

    “So we’re possibly dealing with a banshee or a psychic.  Fuckin’ great,” says Stiles.  “How would either one benefit from taking out all the other supernatural beings in Beacon Hills?”  

    “Inferiority complex?” offers Lydia while inspecting her nails.  “Someone wants to be the biggest bad in all of Beacon Hills.”

    “Well, they’re gonna have one hell of a fucking disappointment when I figure out who they are,” says Scott as he returns to carving his meatloaf into mush.  Lydia watches him as he meticulously massacre the already pathetic excuse for food.

    “Are you actually going to eat that?” she says.  Scott looks up from his tray, his eyes questioning like he’s not sure if Lydia’s talking to him.  “I don’t think you’d have to even chew it at this point.”  He looks down at his food at her words, and his face flushes.

    “I didn’t realize I’d done that,” he mumbles while putting his plastic knife and fork down on the table.  She studies Scott while he seems lost in embarrassment.  Despite the receding flush of his cheeks, he appears sallow-looking.  The fluorescent glare of the lights shine off the puffy bags under his eyes while he looks down, and Lydia can’t help but think he seems as worn out as Stiles, if not more.  

    What happened while she was gone?

    Instead of asking, she flips her curled hair over her shoulder and takes a bite of carrot.  She watches Stiles sigh and push his lunch away while he sags back against his seat.  He’s drumming the fingers of his left hand against the table.  Lydia can’t take her eyes off the movement.  It’s reminding her of something she can’t place.  Not deja-vu, but not quite far enough away from it either.  

    It makes her increasingly nervous.

    “Stiles,” she says and looks at his moving hand from under her narrowing eyebrows.  He sucks in air through his teeth, and puts both hands in his lap.  Lydia can’t hear the sound anymore, but she knows he’s still tapping the fingers against the palm of his hand.  She’ll have to ignore it.  She’ll seem strange if she doesn’t.  Instead, she turns to Kira to ask about the kitsune’s mother.

    “She’s doing a lot better already,” Kira says.  “Even though she doesn’t heal as fast as she used too, I’m pretty sure she’s healing fast enough to still confuse the doctors.  I’ll be going up to visit her again soon.”  She takes a bite of sandwich after she speaks and bounces ever so slightly in her seat.  It’s good to see that hard times can’t keep the kitsune down for long.  Kira gives off the impression she’d been waiting for Lydia to return and improve the melancholy mood that seemed to hang over the pack (or what was left of it anyway).  Lydia doesn’t have to try hard to upturn the corners of her lips this time, and a natural smile works its way onto the banshee face for Kira.
     
    The lunch bell rings, and the room becomes chaos as a flurry of students rush to the trashcans.  The only sound that can be heard over the bell is the slapping of trays against the metal cans with a scattering of a few rebel yells from the braver seniors.  The trash stampede is one of the many reason that Lydia always brings her lunch to school.  She can feel Scott watching her as she walks out of the cafeteria.  The eyes of an Alpha have a very distinct presence when they are focused on you. She ignores it for now.  If he wants to talk to her, he’ll find a way.  She honestly can’t remember the last time just her and Scott talked; it must have been a long time ago.  Kira and Stiles are always around nowadays, but you won’t catch Lydia complaining.  After Malia’s warning, Lydia’s been a little weirded out by Scott so buffer-zones are always appreciated.  Her phone buzzes when she gets to her locker.  She doesn’t even have to check caller-id to know it’s Scott.

    “Hello,” she answers in a tired voice.

    “Are you going to Coach’s class?” asks Scott.  

    It’s such a mundane and simple question that her answer slips out before she can stop herself.  “Probably not,” she says followed by prompt foot-stomping because she knows what Scott is about to ask her.

    “Me neither,” he says, “Kira and Stiles are staying behind, but I thought we could go and get a decent lunch somewhere.”

    “We just had lunch, Scott,” she says.

    “No one at that table was really eating,” His tone sounds bitter and heavy, something she’s not used to hearing in Scott.  “Food is the greatest deflector, now come out to lunch with me and help me find topics we can deflect back to our food.”   Lydia sighs for multiple reason.  One being she really didn’t want to go anywhere with Scott, but also, she’s realizing he wants to have a serious conversation.  She’s more intrigued than she’s worried, but she’s still pretty worried.  

    Curiosity wins, but that’s okay, because Lydia Martin is no cat.
     
    “My car or your bike?” she asks as she walks outside the parking lot.  She doesn’t hear him hang up over the roar of an engine.  She turns to glare at the rude biker who violently flew over and parked so close to her that she had to hold her skirt down from the rushing wind.  She’s still holding the phone up to her ear when the biker dismounts and pulls of his helmet to reveal a grinning Scott.

    “My bike,” he says.

    Lydia rolls her eyes, but slips in behind him any way.
    

***********


    It’s just a fast food place not even a quarter mile from the Beacon Hills High.  Lydia thinks calling it decent food might have been a stretch, but she enjoys the burger more than her carrot sticks.  Scott is eating obscenely.  Ketchup drips out his mouth on to his chin, and he doesn’t even notice.  Lydia’s about to tell him how embarrassing his eating habits are when she’s struck by how much the ketchup resembles blood as it drips out his mouth.  Her heart starts to pound, and she doesn't know why.  

    “How can you eat like that?” she says unable to hide the disgust in her voice.  He stops to look at her.

    “How am I eating?”

    “Like an animal.” She wanted to say monster, but that feels to close to the truth.

    “You mean like a monster?” he says as he puts his burger down.  Maybe animal was too close to the truth as well.  She worries she made him angry but realizes from his drooping eyebrows and slack jaw that he’s only sad.  He pushes the burger away from him.

    “Try the fries” she says while pushing hers towards him, “I promise you’ll look civilized eating them.”  He’s about to reach for one when Lydia stops him.  “But first, you need to clean your mouth.” She holds out a napkin for him.  “You’ve got blood all over it.”  Scott’s eyes go wide and all the color drains from his face.  Lydia doesn’t understand his reaction until she realizes what she just said.  Her hand remains stretched between them still holding the napkin as an offering.

    “I meant ketchup,” she says in a rushed voice.  “There’s ketchup all over you mouth.”  

    She can’t control the pounding of her heart.  The strange rush of a dream-like deja-vu that makes her head hurt.  He’ll be able to sense her discomfort in a moment if she can’t get it under control.  He takes a deep breath before accepting the offered napkin and cleaning his mouth of the offending red substance.  Neither of them speak for a long time.  Lydia’s positive she’ll have to be the one to break the silence so she can’t tell if she’s proud or disappointed that Scott speaks first.

    “I have more teeth,” he says while clutching the red stained napkin in his fist.  Lydia’s not sure where he’s going with this so she simply nods.  “I noticed it when I couldn’t control my shift from the infection,” he says, “And now, I’m dreaming about it.”  Lydia’s eyes light up at the word dreaming.  She misses that activity.

    “What kind of dreams?”  She leans forward as she speaks, creating the air of comrades discussing a conspiracy.  “Good ones? Bad ones? Nightmares?”

    “Nightmares,” Scott says.  “It’s like all these stupid nightmares about being an Alpha.”  

That sounds more serious than she thought it would be.

    “Have you told Stiles about it yet?”  She keeps her voice quiet.  Somehow the answer to this question is very important to her.

    “No, I don’t know if I should.  He has so much going on right now.”  Scott sighs after his words and rubs his neck with his free hand.  Lydia feels her heart constrict.  Something is beginning to bug her.

    “What about Kira?”  She prompts.

    “I don’t want to scare her away.  We just started going out like not even three weeks ago.”   

    So Lydia is the only person Scott want to know about this.  Poor Kira needing to be sheltered and poor Stiles having his little heart broken by a coyote. Good thing steady fucking Lydia is around.  Not like she’s been through anything difficult lately.

    Yeah, this really bothers her.

    “So why are you telling me?”  she says.  “I mean, you won’t tell Stiles because he’s had a tough time, and you won’t tell Kira because you don’t want her to have a tough time, so instead you’re telling me?”  She’s trying to keep her voice under a whisper.  “The girl who just lost her memories?  The girl who was attacked by Peter last week?”  She can feel her face flushing, but she doesn’t care.  “The girl who wakes up every morning and has to convince herself that she’s not crazy for hearing voices in her head?  And then actually goes insane when I can’t hear them anymore?  You’re telling me?”  she finish by slamming a hand on her chest.  Scott probably zoned out half way through her little speech, but she feels better having said it.  He stares at her with a intense but unreadable emotion.

    “You can’t hear anymore?” he asks.

    “It seems I’m not much of a banshee these days,”  she says with a roll of her eyes.

    “For how long have you not been hearing?”  Now it’s Scott turn to lean in towards Lydia like a conspirator.

    “I can hear sometimes, okay,” she says,  “When it’s really important,  I can make it count.”  She stops to sigh and puts her head on the table.  “It just, I have this feeling that I was really close to figuring everything out.  Like I was on the cusp of understanding all my abilities before Peter stole my memories.”  

    She doesn’t lift her head up from the table but she peeks an eye out to observe Scott.  He shifts in his seat like he noticed glass in his pants.  The hand still holding the ketchup napkin is squeezed into a superhuman first.  If he’s not careful using that much strength, claws will come out.  All of a sudden, Scott drops the napkin, but Lydia doesn’t miss the extra bright red now added to the napkin, nor does she miss the angry red crescents already healing on Scott’s palm.

    “Let’s get back to class,” she says as she lifts her head from the table,  “This is boring.  I’d rather be in A.P. Biology.”

    She won’t bring up the guilt she thought she saw in Scott’s eyes.  She can’t. Not until she has all the pieces.  She’d made that mistake last time.  Even if she can’t remember what happened last time her memories were stolen, she knows she’s not stupid enough to blow her own cover.   She must have told the wrong person her theory.

     This time Lydia won’t tell a soul until she has absolute proof.

Chapter Text

    Lydia’s going to talk with Peter today.  She has it all planned out.  It starts with sending a text to the pack letting them know she won’t be at school.  She tells them she’s helping her mom get the lake house ready for an open house that afternoon.  The fact that the lake house actually has an open house today only strengthens her alibi.  She leaves her car at her house and walks to the bus station.  Lydia gets off about three blocks away from Peter’s apartment and gets out her cellphone to call him.  She still finds it strange that he has a cellphone, but she figures it’s no stranger than him living in a high-rise apartment.

    “Hello,” he answers in a brisk tone.  He must not have her new number, or else she’s sure he would have greeted her by name.  Peter knows how much she hates hearing him say her name, and he would never miss an opportunity.  She takes a deep breath before she speaks.

    “Peter,” she says tightly.  

    “Lydia Martin,” he drawls.  “What an unexpected yet pleasurable surprise.”

    “Where are you right now?” she says ignoring his flirty tone.  She’s pulling on a loose thread of her pale pink dress.  It won’t come off no matter how hard she pulls on it so she tightens her white jacket and zips it up to cover the loose thread.  

    “In my apartment,” he says sounding slightly confused, “Why? Where are you?”  

Lydia looks around the corner where she stands.  There’s a bookstore, a coffee shop, and a pizza place.

    “Do you know the coffee shop next to the bookstore on Beacon Rd?”  She looks down at her sea-foam colored heels while she talks.  The shoes match very nicely with her baby pink dress.  And they have four inch heels.  Extra height is always a plus when meeting with overly flirtatious and potentially aggressive werewolves.

    “That’s less than three blocks from my apartment.  What are you doing less than three blocks from my apartment?”

    “How long will it take you to meet me here?” she says.  She tries her hardest to keep any shaking out of her voice.  She refuses to look weak in front of Peter.

    “Ten minutes,” he says, “And am I safe in assuming that this isn’t a coffee date? If it is, believe me, I’m flattered but-”

    “Just meet me here,” she cuts him off and quickly hangs up.  This is already feeling like a bad idea, but she needs answers.  She’d spent all last night going back and forth on the issue.  Peter is dangerous. Peter can’t be trusted.  Peter openly admits to manipulating people.  But, on the other hand, she knows Peter.  Knows he’s a liar.  Knows he’s only out for himself.  In other words, she knows what Peter is capable of - Lydia can’t say the same about Scott.  
    

    Still though, she’s relieved to be meeting Peter in a public space.  She’s not stupid enough to march up to his apartment by herself when there’s the possibility that it’s him meddling in her mind.

    She orders a black coffee and adds a drop of honey with a splash of half and half.  She tries not to let it bother her that the coffee shop doesn’t carry almond milk, but she misses the nutty flavor it would have added to her drink.  Lydia finds a table outside near the corner of the shop and sits down to wait.  After a couple of minutes, she gets bored.  She really should have brought a book with her.  Lydia checks the time.  Nine forty-three.  She’s has time to run into the bookstore before Peter gets here.  She busies herself in the archaic latin section, hoping to find a book she already doesn’t own.   She’s scanning through a potential buy when a deep but nasally voice speaks to her a little to close for comfort.

    “Dead languages? Really, Lydia?” says Peter from behind her.  “You don’t want to be the stereotypical banshee, do you?”  Lydia rolls her eyes and slams the book closed.

    “That wasn’t ten minutes,” she says as she turns to face him.  

    Peter simply shrugs and answers, “I walk fast.”

    She waits outside at the table she’d sat at earlier.  Peter walks out of the coffee shop holding a steaming cup.  She’s curious to know what Peter drinks, but it’s not the tone she wants to set for their conversation, so she doesn’t ask.

    “I need to retrieve some memories,” she says once he’s seated across from her.  Peter rolls his head back along with his eyes.

    “Lydia, I already told you I’m not going to do that,” he says.  

    “I don’t want you too,” she says quickly, “but I know you know other ways of getting them back.”  She honestly hadn’t remember she’d asked him to retrieve her memories already, but she’s not surprised since she remembers Stiles told her they saw Peter the day of her attack.  “You gave me Talia’s claws once to look for the memories she’d stolen from you.  How did you know banshee’s could do that?” she questions.  Peter sighs.

    “I don’t know anything about banshees and stolen memories, Lydia.  I wanted you to talk with my dead sister and find out what she’d taken from me.”

    “So it was just banshee powers,” says Lydia, “Without anyone dead to talk, I’m just useless?”  Peter narrows his eyes and scoots his seat closer to the table.

    “You’re not useless,” he says, his lips curling downward as if the idea left a bitter taste in his mouth.  “Why do you need these memories back anyway?  I thought you going to just move past it.”

    “Have you ever tried moving past something you can’t see?” Lydia snaps.  “It doesn’t really work.”  She wishes she hadn’t braided her hair today.  Now would be the perfect time to flip it.  Instead, she changes the direction of her crossed legs.  Peter puts down his drink very slowly.  He watches her with almost bored eyes, but she knows him better than that.  He’s cataloguing her right now.  Taking notice of every burst capillary under her skin.  The tiny crows feet around her eyes.  The chipped nail polish on her right hand.  Even the loose thread on her dress that she tried to hide under her jacket when she was on the phone.  She knows he’s seeing it all, and it drives her crazy.

    “It’s happened more than once,” he says,  “And you have no idea what you’re missing, do you?”  

    The hair on the back of her neck bristles at his words, and Lydia starts to gather her things. “If you’re not going to tell me anything useful, then I’m leaving now,” she says as she stands.  Peter reaches out a hand and gently places it on her arm.

    “Lydia, please, sit back down,” he says,  “I apologize for my. . .  lack of tact.”  She narrows her eyes at him while removing Peter’s hand from her arm, but returns to her seat across from him.  “Stiles and Scott paid me a visit last week,” Peter continues,  “Of course, I was unavailable at the time, but I have a feeling these two topics are related.”

    “I was attacked after Stiles and I spoke with you.  Obviously, I can’t remember by who,” says Lydia.  “The boys are convinced it was you though.”  She really wishes she had loose hair to flip.  Recrossing her legs is not as satisfying an action.

    “The boys are convinced,” echoes Peter as he sinks back further into his seat.  He lowers his head and raises both eyebrows, a smile curling up his face.  “Well, aren’t you brave, having coffee with your alleged attacker.”  Lydia takes a sip of her drink, and shrugs.

    “Not really alleged at this point.  You have attacked me before,” she says, “but I don’t think it was you this time.”  She watches her coffee cup as she slowly spins it on the table top.  “It’s something Malia said to me.”  Peter looks immediately more interested.  He sits up straighter in his seat.  “What do you know about scenting techniques?”  He looks taken back and mildly irritated.

    “Scenting techniques?”  he says,  “Who cares? Why?”

    God, it gets frustrating fast talking with Peter.

    “Say, for instance,” Lydia begins while trying very hard not to roll her eyes, “that you smell more like your Alpha after an attack than your alleged attacker?”  

    Peter leans forward again as he says, “Malia said that?”  Lydia nods.

    “She even asked Scott, but he said she didn’t understand scents,”  she says.

    Peter is quiet.  He takes a sip of his mystery drink and stares over her head into seemingly nothing.  He puts his drink down and sighs while rubbing a hand over his eyes.  Then he sits back in his seat, rests his head on his interlocked hands, and fixes Lydia with the most serious look she thinks she’s ever seen on Peter’s face.  The strangest part is there’s nothing threatening about it.

    “You need to talk to Deaton, and only to Deaton, about getting these memories back,” he says.  His eyes never once leave hers as he speaks, “The safety of your entire little pack might depend on it.  Yours definitely does.”  

    Lydia can’t stop her hands from shaking the entire ride back to the bus stop near her house.  Instead of resisting the nervous movement, she gives in and starts clicking her thumb and pointer-finger nails together in a rapid rhythm.  It feels better than having shaking hands.  She needs to see Deaton, today preferable.  She walks as fast as she can without running from the bus stop to her house.  She’s getting better at speed walking since she’s taken so many midnight walks without proper clothing.  Not that she couldn’t run in these heels if she wanted too - she’s done it before - but her life isn’t in danger (yet) and running in heels leaves nasty blisters.  

    She gets inside and is pleased to see that her mother has already left for the open house.  It’ll be a better conversation explaining why Lydia missed it rather than why she’s purposely not going.  She gets her car keys from her room and heads back downstairs.  She’s about to open the door to leave when a thought occurs to her.  Malia had been able to smell Peter.  If she saw were-creatures from the pack, would they smell Peter on her now?  She’s going to Deaton’s though, not back to school.  It’s only eleven seventeen.  Everyone should still be in class.  She opens the door, stares at her car, then closes the door without walking through it.  She turns back around, walks down the hallway, and then up the stairs to her room.  Bathing never makes a situation worse.  She can afford to shower before she sees Deaton.

    A clean and wonderful smelling Lydia sits in her car wearing her favorite lavender skirt.  Thank god it didn’t stain when she spilled pink vitamin water on it.  Her shower didn’t take that long especially since she left her hair down afterwards.  She checks her phone.  Noon.  Three hours before school’s out.  She can definitely work with that time frame.  She wonders how she’s going to bring up the topic with Deaton.  She could be honest but just leave out the part about Scott.  She doesn’t want the Druid to know she thinks it’s the True Alpha.  Not yet at least.  

    It occurs to her while she’s parking that she should’ve brought Prada along.  

    She ignores the curious glances from the other patrons lining the waiting room.  Who are they to judge her anyway?  She could be picking up a pet, for all they know.  Besides, she’s not the one using a Druid as a vet.  She flips her hair over her shoulder and pretends to sign her name on the sign-in sheet at the front desk.  She takes a seat near the door and waits for Deaton to walk into the room.  She doesn’t wait long.  

    Deaton walks the owner of black lab out into the lobby.  He checks the sign-in sheet before he looks across the waiting room.  He pauses, clearly confused, when he sees Lydia.  

    “Ms. Martin,” he says.  His tone is professional, but his eyes are wide and seem to be asking her if there’s a supernatural crisis.  “That’s right, you need to pick up some medication,” he says when Lydia gives him no indication either way.   He turns to the other clients and smiles apologetically.  “This will only take a moment,” he says.  Lydia follows Deaton through the mountain ash doorway and into an examination room.

    “Is everything okay?” he asks when he closes the door.  She knows he’s under a time constraint so she doesn’t waste a moment.

    “I need to retrieve my memories,” says Lydia,  “It’s affecting my abilities to hear what I need to hear.  I can’t be a useless banshee.  It’s unbecoming.”

    “Well, I suppose we could put you under the same way we did Isaac,” he says as he leans against the metal table behind him, “But it’ll be harder.  We knew what to look for with Isaac.  What questions to ask.  I’m afraid with you, it’ll be looking for a needle in a haystack.”  She’d been anticipating this response.

    “You just have to reach the below the conscious mind though, right?” she says, “Get access to the actual imprinted memories.  Couldn’t any trance like state do it?”

    “Technically, but there’s so much beneath the conscious mind, it would be overwhelming without a guide, or even an idea, of what’s been removed.  It would take hours.”   

Lydia starts to bite her thumb nail before she remembers she has on nail polish.  The colored flakes tastes bitter in her mouth.    

    “I have to know,” she says not looking at Deaton, “I have to be able to remember.”  She looks up at him.  “I can’t help anyone if I don’t remember.”  Lydia ignores the pained expression that momentarily flashes across Deaton’s face.

    “There’s a rare strain of wolfsbane called Northern Wild Monkshood.  I’m not sure how much it will affect you since you’re technically not a werewolf, but you were bitten by one,” he says while walking over to a metal cabinet.  “It was cultivated by the Druids and used long ago to help newly turned wolves gain understanding and control of the primal force they carried inside them.”  He holds out a tiny jar filled with a greenish blue dust.  “Unfortunately, I’ll be of no help to you if you choose to do this.  It’s a struggle that takes place in the individual’s mind.  Unlike like the trance hypnosis we did for Isaac, you won’t be able hear us once you fall asleep.”
    
    “What does it do?” she says while taking the jar from his outstretched hand.

    “It traps you inside your own mind,” he says quietly, “The practice died out when not enough of the wolves could find a way back out.”

    “They died?”  She lets more wonder than fear into her voice.

    “They just never woke up,” says Deaton.  “I won’t sugarcoat this, Lydia.  It’s extremely dangerous.  Quite frankly, I’m not sure it’s worth the risk.”

    “It is,” she says quickly, “It has to be.  I’m supposed to be able to help people, not just watch them die.”  She grips the jar tightly in her hand.  “How does it work?  Do I drink it?”  Deaton nods.  

    “I suppose you could mix a teaspoon in with some boiling water.  It might even taste good,” he says with a small smile.  Lydia tries to smile back, but her lips only twitch up for a moment.

    “If the pack knows I’m doing this, they’ll try to stop me.”

    “They probably should,” says Deaton.

    “I have to do this.”  She shakes her head with her words and bites her lip.  She’s not looking at Deaton, but she can still feel him looking at her.  “If I don’t do this, if I never find out, terrible things will happen.”  She looks up at him.  “I can feel it.  We’re in danger.  We need a working banshee.”  

Deaton’s face tightens, and he sighs while turning away from her to close the open cabinet door.

    “I can give you four hours,” he says still not facing her,  “If your not back by then, I’m sending someone in after you.”

    Lydia sits on her purple comforter leaning back against the headboard of her bed with her legs crossed as she holds the vial of blue dust up to the lights.  It sparkles under the yellow glow of her overhead light.  She always found it strange how beautiful wolfsbane could be in any form.  Delicate purple and blue flowers that peak out from under hoods made of petals, giving the appearance of a frightened, yet inquisitive child.  From the side, the flowers remind her of moth wings  - the petals curled at such an angle that flight seems inevitable.  As if it’s by chance that she ever happens to spy them resting on the stems.  Lydia’s always had a soft spot for beautifully dangerous things.  Her cup of poison tea sits cooling on the nightstand next to her.  She turns to look at it, her stomach already knotting into itself.  Deaton had explained in depth what she would be facing, and Lydia knows her own mind well enough to be afraid.  

    He’d described three separate levels, or planes of existence (Lydia isn’t sure how literal Deaton meant his description to be).  The first is more like a dream than the other two.  It will hold her emotions - good and bad.  What she’ll encounter there could be version of the truth or a memory, but Deaton warned her not to trust what she sees in this first state.  It will prey on her fears.  The more power she gives to the experience, the stronger her fear becomes.  If you don’t return from you mind, chances are you never made it past your fears in the first plane.  

    The second state is more of a wandering place.  You’ll meet the people you keep in your heart, and again, it’ll be both good and bad.  But this plane is less about emotion, and more about understanding.  It’s a trickster existence.  She’ll encounter both dreams and memories on the path, and each will try to convince her that it is the truth that she seeks.  Making the decision to call the wrong one her truth could also leave her trapped.  

    The third state can only be reached if you successfully identify your truth in the second plane.  Everything in the third existence is real.  It’s where the imprinted memories will be if you’d like to think of it in a biological manner.   Like a vault where the soul stores all it’s important documents.  Character defining moments and situations that shaped you into who you are today and who you’ll be tomorrow.  This is where Lydia has to go.  She must get there if she ever wants to remember.  To say the task is daunting doesn’t quite capture the appropriate level of panic raging beneath her skin.  But if she can do this, if she pulls it off - she’ll be able to hear Allison again.  She’ll be able to hear Meredith.  She’ll be able to help people instead of just finding their bodies.  

    She could help Scott.  She doesn’t know what’s happening to him, but it doesn't sound good.  She almost regrets not telling Deaton about the Alpha’s new teeth, but there wasn’t enough time.  It’s up to her now.  Lydia can, and will, do this.  For her.  For Allison.  For Scott.  For everyone.  

    She will solve this and save them all.

    She picks up the warm mug, and downs the entire contents in two gulps.  It has a flowery sweet taste with an acidic residue that burns slightly when it hits her stomach.   She doesn’t know how long it will take to kick in, so she texts Deaton immediately saying “Start your fours hours now.”   She lies down on her bed  but keeps her eyes open.  Now it’s a waiting game to feel the Monkshood’s effects.  Just as she begins to worry that it won’t work on banshees, Lydia notices her hands and feet are starting to tingle.  Her last thought is the muddled realization that Deaton never explained how she’d know if she’d moved through a level.

 
                                                                                           ********************


    Lydia opens her eyes to bright lights.  She’s lying on a hard uneven surface.  She sits up and looks around at her surroundings.  She’s in the white room again.  That means the hard surface she’s sitting can only be the stump of the nemeton.  She looks down and sees the endless rings of the dead tree stretch out around her.  She’s careful not to get a splinter as she climbs down.  The room is larger than she remembers.  It looks like she could walk for hours without reaching any one of the four walls.  There are two sets of grand doors on opposite walls. Neither one feels particularly inviting, but she hears mumbled voices coming from only one of them.  Lydia decides that is the door she must go through.

    She runs as fast as she can towards it, trying not to panic when the door seems to be getting further away with every step she takes.  She pauses to catch her breath then breaks out into a run once more.  She has to be getting closer even if it looks like the door is the same distance off because the nemeton is getting further away.  She turns around to check the stumps location when she stops to breath again.  It’s much further away than it was in the beginning, but when she looks at the set of doors, they seem even further away than before.  

    She has an idea.

    Lydia stays facing the nemeton and walks backwards.  She doesn’t look behind her to check her progress.  She only watches the nemeton get further and further away.  She’s so focused on the stomp that she almost misses the movement on the far side of the room behind it.  Someone else is in the room with her, but she can’t tell who.  She walks a little faster just in case it’s someone she doesn’t want to see.  She can tell they’re walking towards her but they seem to be having the same problem that she was.  She increases her pace again.  She’s not prepared for the roar that echos across the almost empty room.  It hurts her ears, and makes her vision blur for a second.  
    
    That was Scott’s roar.  

    Lydia can’t see him clearly, but she knows it’s Scott on the other side of the room.  She’s a little surprised that she’s encountering him before Peter.  This was supposed to be her emotions and fears right?  Was she really that scared of Scott?  She doesn’t feel scared right now, but she also doesn’t want to stop before she reaches the set of doors.  He’s making better use of his time and energy than she did.  In fact, he’s already reached the nemeton.  She sees him a little clearer now.  From what she can make out, he’s untransformed (she hadn’t been sure at first because of the roar) but his eyes are the dark red of an Alpha.  Lydia’s back hits a solid surface, and she uses her hands to confirm it’s the door without turning around.

    She tries to open it, but it feels jammed.  She watches Scott’s disturbingly fast progress through the white room.  He’s about half way between the nemeton and the door she’s pressed up against.  She pushes with her back as hard as she can against the door, but it doesn’t budge.  She’s beginning to get scared now.  Especially since Scott’s gotten close enough for her to see specks of blood across his face.  She ignores the red dripping off his hands, and starts throwing her back against the door as hard as she can.  The door gives a little, but not enough to comfort her.

    “It’s not real,” she says as she intensifies her efforts with the door, “It’s not real, it’s not real, it’s not real.”

    She screams when Scott collides right into her.  The extra force blows the doors wide open behind her, and she tumbles backwards through them.

    Lydia lands hard on her back, her head smacking against what feels like concrete.  She sits up to cradle her throbbing cranium and notices Scott is no where to be found. Thank God.  She can’t tell where she is now though.  Everything is dark, pitch black almost.  She can barely make out her own hand when she holds it in front of her.  This will not do.  She needs some sort of light source.  

    Hell, even a fucking candle would work.

    She sees a faint flicker in the blackness to her right, reminding her of the way fire first licks at a newly waxed wick.  Curious.  Lydia shrugs to no one and reaches for the now glowing candlestick beside her.  She holds it in her hands, testing the strength of the wax and making it a reality in her mind.  This has potential.  

    Lydia blows the candle out and closes her eyes.  She concentrates on the image of a crystal chandler that shines just as bright and warm as a noon day’s sun shimmering in the blackness over her head.  When she opens her eyes, she can clearly see the blown out candle in her hands, wisps of smoke still drifting from burnt wick.  She wants to laugh.  The precision she’d used to make every detail in the grand light fixture seems ludicrous now that she’s able to see the chandler in person.  Are her taste really so gaudy?  The entire situation fills her body with endless mirth until she shakes and finally, concedes to her need for chortling.  Her head still hurts from her fall, but Lydia doesn’t care one little bit.  She feels fucking fabulous.  It’s the fabulous feeling that drives the gravity of her situation home, and it hits her hard.  It’s her own mental world that Lydia’s finally controlling.

    How long had it been since she was anything but a lost and simpering child inside her own mind?  

    The thought gives her shivers so she imagines her favorite grey coat settling on her shoulders.    She smirks when she feels it’s weight and slips her arms inside the familiar warmth.  The light from the chandler is nice, but it only illuminates what immediately surrounds her.  As far as she can tell, it’s nothing but white concrete floors.  Maybe it’s a hallway.  She visualizes rows of lighting similar to what a school might use.  She can instantly tell it’s not a hallway from the portion the lights show.  It’s much too wide.  She keeps imaging rows and rows of lights until she realizes she’s back in the white room again. She stops the lights at the nemeton.  If she’s remembering correctly, she’s about half way to one of the walls with a door. She turns around so that her back faces the stump and looks at the darkness now in front of her.  Instead of imagining more lights, she closes her eyes and slowly extends her hands.  She tells herself her hands will be stopped by a white wall with a grand set of black doors on it.  She nearly screams in glee when her hands hit a solid surface, and she opens her eyes to a large black door.  Well, it obviously didn’t matter how long she’d been out of practice with her mental control.  It’s nearly flawless now.  

    Clearly, Lydia Martin’s still a force to be feared inside of her own mind.

Chapter Text

      Lydia tries to push open the door, but it’s stuck again.  She sighs and turns around to face the nemeton.  Maybe she should try the doors on the other side of the room.  She closes her eyes and imagines the lights extending past the tree stump to the other wall.  She’s not surprised to see her mental trick worked, but she’s caught off guard by the figure now illuminated at the opposite side of the room.  It’s difficult to make out all their features, but the mahogany hair and the crossbow clutched in their hands leaves no room for doubt in Lydia’s mind.

    “Allison!” she yells across the white room.  The figure waves wildly at her and starts to run across the barren space.  Lydia runs as fast as she can to meet the hunter.  Her throat catches when she sees a blur moving behind Allison.

    It almost looks like some sort of animal.

    The movement occurs so fast that for a long five seconds, Lydia has no idea what happened.  It’s not until Scott stands to face her, blood splattered across his face and red dripping off his mouth and claws that she puts two and two together.

    Lydia screams, never breaking pace in her effort to reach the fallen hunter.  She skids past Scott, and slides into the red liquid leaking from her best friend’s side.

    “Oh no. Oh no no no no,” She mutters while gently lifting Allison’s head into her lap.  “Allison, no, you’re okay.  This isn’t real.”  The hunter coughs in the banshee’s arms, her eyes lazily searching for Lydia’s with an unfocused glaze.  

    “This is real, Lydia,” says Scott.  His eyes are red as he stares down at her.  “Allison is dead.”  Lydia ignores him, and continues whispering to the dying hunter.

    “Allison, you’re okay.  I’m here,”  She closes her eyes and curls around Allison’s body, shielding the hunter from Scott’s eyes. “This isn’t real.  This can’t be real.”  Lydia squeezes Allison harder.   “This isn’t what happened.”  The girl in her ams sputters, and Lydia feels wet droplets land on her face.  She runs her hands through Allison’s hair, trying to calm the dying girl.  Lydia feels the body seize and then relax in her arms while her hands still work through the hunter’s hair.  She opens her eyes, but what she sees causes her to scream and push the body from her lap.

    It’s not Allison.  

    It’s a blank-eyed and milk-skinned girl with strawberry blond hair in a champagne colored party dress.

    Lydia scrambles to put space between herself and her own dead body.  She hadn’t cared that she was sitting in blood when it was Allison, but the realization that she’s coated in her own bodily fluids causes her hands to begin to shake.  She can’t stand up in the slippery liquid that covers the white floor.  She tries and falls back into the red mess instantly.  There’s simply no traction in the thick wet substance.  She crawls on her hands and knees towards the nemeton.  She looks over shoulder and sees that the body is gone.

    Why is there still blood everywhere if the body is gone?

    The air rushes from her lungs at the sudden draining pain in her side.  Lydia looks down at herself.  She’s wearing the same champagne colored dress with the exact same wound as her dead doppelgänger.  Her limbs no longer carry the strength to keep her in a kneeling position, and she crashes to the floor.  Lydia can feel her life leaking out the gaping hole in her side.  She’s dying.  

    Lydia’s not supposed to die.  Not here, and not like this.

    She clenches her jaw and pushes against the floor with all her strength until she’s back in a kneeling position.  She will reach the nemeton.

    “I’m impressed, little banshee,” says a sickeningly familiar voice.

    “Go away, Peter,” she snarls through her teeth.  She listens to his designer shoes click across the concrete as he walks towards her.

    “I’m afraid it doesn’t work like that,” he says, “See, you have to make me go away.”  He crouches down next to her, and sweeps the hair from her face.  Lydia jerks back from his touch.  He makes a ‘tsk’ sound through his teeth and grabs her chin.  “You’re dying, Lydia.”  He looks at the nemeton then back at her.  It’s distance of at least fifty feet to get to the tree stump.  “I don’t think you’ll be able to reach it.  Do you?”  She breathes hard, her body shaking with the effort it takes to keep her up on her hands and knees.  She ignores the hand holding her chin and closes her eyes.  

    She will do this.

    Lydia imagines the tree stump right in front of her.  She tells herself that if she can extend one arm, she’ll be able to touch the rough bark.  She lifts a shaking hand and reaches out blindly.   She catches herself on the side of the nemeton before she falls on her face.

    “Very impressive,” says Peter.  His voice sounds muffled like he’s much further away.

    Lydia opens her eyes and pulls herself up to side of the nemeton to find she is alone in the white room once more.  She stays seated for a long time, resting her head on the damp surface of the stump.  Her legs and arms are weak from the adrenaline still coursing through her veins, but at least she’s no longer covered in blood and dying.  She takes a deep breath and pulls herself into a sitting position on the stump.  She’s beginning to understand how this stage might reflect her emotions and fears.  Lydia’s almost embarrassed that she’d thought it’d be easy.  Almost.

    She stands once her limps stop shaking and surveys the room.  She needs to try the other door.  She’s familiar with the logic of the white room now, so she closes her eyes and walks towards the opposite wall with her hands outstretched.  It seems she walks for only a second before her hands meet a solid surface.  She opens her eyes and before her is the another grand set of doors.  She pushes against it gently and can tell from its give that she’ll easily be able to open the doors.  She turns to look behind her one last time out of curiosity and sees the nemeton is a football field’s length away.  How strange, but if she can leave this room, she doesn’t care.  
    
    Lydia pushes the doors open and is about to walk through when someone calls her name in a hushed whisper.  She turns around again, slowly.  She sees them clear as day despite the distance they stand on the nemeton.  

    Allison and Stiles.  

    “Lydia,” says Allison.  Her voice trembles over the banshee’s name. “It’s not your fault.  I swear it’s not your fault.”  Lydia takes a step towards them.  She doesn’t like how close Stiles is standing to the hunter - slightly behind but to the side of Allison.  She can’t see his whole body and it makes her nervous.

    “Allison,” she says,  “Let me help.  I can help.”  

    Allison shakes her head and says, “Please don’t watch.  Please, Lydia.”

    “Watch what?” says Lydia, her voice cracking in her panic.  “Allison!  Watch what?”

    Stiles curls his lips and shows his white teeth in a bastardization of a smile.  “This,” he says and suddenly a blade is protruding from the hunter’s stomach.

    “ALLISON!”  screams Lydia as she runs to the girl collapsing in a pool of blood.

    Unbelievably strong arms catch her around the waist, and she feels a hand grip her throat.

    “Uh-uh,” says Stiles as he tightens his hold on her throat.  “I think you’ve helped enough for one day, don’t you?”  She pulls violently against his hold and tries kicking her legs back into his, but he doesn’t budge.  Are human boys really this strong?

    “Stiles! Let me go!” she yells.  He chuckles into the curve of her neck before resting his chin on it.

    “Do you want me to be Stiles, banshee?” he asks softy.  

    The question curdles her blood and she uses all her strength to push against his arms, but there’s no effect.  Not even a flinch on his part.  Human boys definitely aren’t this strong, but a Nogitsune possessed boy is, and he’s forcing her to watch her best friend bleed out right before her eyes.

    “I never could’ve done it on my own,” he says while rubbing a cheek tenderly against hers.  “You were such a great help to me.”  

    “Shut up!” she growls as she intensifies her struggles against the obscenely strong arms around her waist and throat.  “ALLISON!”  Her throat is raw not only from her screams, but from the now crushing grip around it.  Is he trying to kill her?  Lydia’s so fucking mad, she does the only thing she has left to do.  She whips her head to the side and spits in Stiles’s surprised face.  She uses his shock to explode from his arms and runs to the gasping hunter.  

    She skids on her knees and lifts Allison into her arms.  The hunter reaches a hand to Lydia’s face, and wipes away a tear the banshee didn’t even know was there.

    “It was going to be one of us,” says Allison as she keeps her hand resting on Lydia’s cheek.  “I knew when I saw your warning it was going to be one of us.”  She stops to cough, and blood trickles down the side of her mouth.  “I’m so glad it wasn’t you.  I know it’s selfish, but I wouldn’t have been able to go on without you.”  Lydia can’t stop crying now even though both of Allison eyes are completely dry.

    “But what about me?”  she says as her voice trembles.  “Allison, I haven’t been able to go on either.  I need you.  You’re my best friend.”  Lydia can barely say the words above a whisper.

    Allison tries to smile, but looks more like a grimace.  The pain must be getting worse.

    “Lydia,” she says,  “I promise we’ll always be best friends, okay?”  Her voice sounds hoarse like every word is taking too much effort get out of her mouth.  “But you’ve got to keep going.  It doesn’t end for you her-”  Allison mouth goes slack and the rest of the word just comes out as air.  The hunter’s last release of breath.  Then the body is simply gone from the banshee’s arms.

    Lydia screams.  The walls of the room shake and rumble from the force she uses to project the sound out of her lungs.  She collapses against the cold concrete where Allison’s body was moments ago. It’s all she can do to keep breathing.  She ignores the slow and steady clapping coming from behind her.

    “Now that was a scream,” laughs a hollow voice. Lydia doesn’t turn to face the possessed Stiles, but she does address him.  

    “Why are you still here?”  

    She hears him walking closer to her.  Soon she can see his dirty shoes in front of her even without lifting up her head or eyes from the barren concrete beneath her defeated form.  He couches down in front her, a disturbingly sincere smile on his face.

    “That was heart-wrenching,” he says,  “Not my cup of tea, but whew,”  He frames his face with the palm of his hands before clapping them together. “Stiles would have loved it.  It had everything you want when a best friend dies.”

    “Why are you still here?” she repeats as she tries hard to keep the sobs from working their way out of her throat.  The Nogitsune Stiles sits down next to her.

    “I wonder. . .” he says.  “Probably because you’re still afraid.”  Lydia raises her head to look at him.  He still has her spit on his left cheek.  He continues talking when they make eye contact, “What are you still scared of, hmmm?  I mean your best friend is already dead and gone.  A noble sacrifice on her part.  Maybe you wish it was you?”

    “I don’t wish I was dead.”

    “Oh Lydia, that’s cute,”  he says,  “Do you really believe that?  Then why are you still here? Why are we still talking? This is your mind, right?”  She ignores him so he continues, “I don’t believe you.  Not for one second.  You’re a banshee with a death wish.”

    “This isn’t real” she mutters to herself.

    “You’re right.  It’s not real, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.  Doesn’t mean I’m not here right now.”  He crawls closer to her.

    “Go away,” she says.

    “I will,” he says with a toothy grin.  “I promise the moment you’re not scared of me, I’ll be gone.”

    “I’m not scared of you,” she says.

    “But you’re shaking,” he informs her with a tilt of his head.  “And I can taste the pain you give off in the air.”

    “You’re not real,” she says in a stronger voice.  He covers his face with a hand and laughs softly before slamming the hand down in front of her.  Lydia jumps at the noise.

    “But that’s the best part,” he says with wide eyes, “I don’t have to be real to scare you, banshee.  Don’t you understand?”  He laughs again and Lydia has to curb every impulse in her body not to reach out and slap him.  “I’ll give you a hint.  You’re still here because you haven’t admitted something.”

    “And what would that be?”

    “I can’t tell you the answer,” he says flatly, “I already gave you a big hint.”

    “Allison death wasn’t my fault,” she says quickly.  She won’t play this game with him of all people.  “I tried to warn her.  She didn’t listen.  And you killed her.”

    “Did I?”  His tone is flat again.  Uninterested almost.  

    “You killed her,” she repeats the words in a firm tone as if she’s speaking to a disobedient child.

    “But she wasn’t there for me,” he nearly sings,  “She was there for you, banshee.”

    “I didn’t kill her.”  Her voice stays strong.

    “It wasn’t by your hands, you’re right about that,”  he chuckles and shakes a finger at her as if to say she’s the naughty child now.

    “I didn’t kill Allison!”  She yells it louder than she would have liked.  Lydia realizes her voice also shook during the declaration which isn’t good either.

    “She died for you though,”  He says the words softy.  He turns to face her with a drooping brow, his lips curved down and pulled taunt between his teeth.  He holds both hands under his chin while he stares at her, and it’s awful how much he looks like her Stiles.  
    
    She wouldn’t be able to take it if it was her Stiles.  

    He continues in a somber voice, all previous glee and gloating having dissipated from his tone,  “Such a heroic death she died.”  

Lydia is quiet a moment.  Not because she doesn’t know what to say (she’s never been at a loss for words, ever,) but because the response she has - the one she has every time she revisits Allison’s death in her thoughts- is almost too much to say out loud.  She feels it so powerfully in every bone, nerve, muscle, and synapsis of her body that it never occurred to her she might have to say it out loud one day.  

    And to be quite honest, she wishes she had a better audience.

    “I would have done the same for her,” Lydia says.  She tries to keep the emotion from her words, but its overwhelming, the amount of grief she feels tumbling into her voice as she speaks, “I would have died to keep her safe.”  The weight of the her grief forces her down to the floor, and she keeps a cheek pressed against the cold concrete.  She would’ve done anything to protect Allison.

    “Then maybe you should.  What use are you to the pack with or without your maddening voices anyway?  You couldn’t save Allison.  You couldn’t save Meredith.  Honestly, I’m not seeing any real potential.”  He creeps much closer during the conversation.  She’s not surprised when a hand trails through her hair.  “I can end it for you, banshee.  Right now.  It’s the least I could do.”  She starts to pull away from him but he wraps an arm around her shoulders and brings her closer.  “You won’t ever have to worry about failing someone again.”  

    The arms around her shoulders move up until two hands are gripping her throat.  He doesn’t hold back either.  Within seconds, Lydia’s vision is blurring and she can’t take breaths.  She wants to fight back, she does, but there’s so much truth in his cruel words.  She failed everyone.  She killed Allison.  She killed Meredith.  She doesn’t understand how Scott and Stiles still look at her.   She’s useless. Pathetic.  All she does is scream and cry and find dead bodies if she’s not already the one responsible for the death itself.

    She deserves to die.

    It’s so faint, that Lydia almost doesn’t hear it at first.  The noise is just a tickle in the back of her head.  Then it grows and swarms until all she can hear is the fierce tone of Allison whispering in her mind.

    Lydia, you’re stronger than this.  Lydia, god dammit, do something. Don’t let it end like this.  I swear to god, I’ll never forgive you if you don’t fight back right now.

    Lydia still can’t breath, but she doesn’t need too.  She closes her eyes and focus on the sensation of metal between her hands.  She feels the cold steel in her grip and imagines the metal sliding to a point.  When she’s positive her thoughts are a reality in her hand, she brings both arms up and behind her.  There’s a choking sound, and then the grip around her throat weakens and drops away all together.  She crawls forward coughing, only turning around to face her attacker once she’s caught her breath.  The boy wearing Stiles’s face lies on his side, hands tightly clasped around the knife protruding from his neck.  

    Lydia stands and runs as fast as she can to open door in front of her.  She slams it closed the second she’s through it. She leans head first against the door, catching her breath from her near death experience.  She can already tell without turning around that she’s no longer in the white room. The lighting is way too natural.  She turns around only to pulled into two slender but surprisingly strong arms.  Her face is pressed against someone’s neck, but she feels the long hair tickling her cheek, and when she looks out the corner of her eye, she can see some mahogany strands simmering in the sun.      

    Allison takes a deep breath, and lets Lydia go.  It’s clear that Allison’s been crying.  Her eyes are red and puffy, and her cheeks are still flushed.  She looks at Lydia with her mouth in a tight line until she breaks into mixture of laughter and crying.  The hunter tries to compose herself, but she’s doing a real shit job, and finally, appears to give up the facade.  She hits Lydia hard on the shoulder with a closed fist and turns away from the banshee like she can’t even look at her.

    “Don’t ever fucking scare me like that again!”  says Allison.  “I know I’m already dead, but you almost fucking killed me again.  God!”  She runs her hands through her hair before she turns to Lydia and gives a teary-eyed smile.  “Welcome to level Two, Lydia.  I’m your dead best friend, Allison, and I’ll be your guide.”

    “You’re my guide?” asks Lydia.  She tries to keep her tone neutral but she’s positive some hopefulness just snuck in there.  Is this her mind’s idea of Allison? Or (dare she even think it) is this really Allison?  

    Her Allison.

    “Technically, I’m making myself your guide,” Allison shrugs with shy smile.  “Truthfully, I just want to hang out with you.  You’re a hard girl to get a hold of in your own mind.”  It’s clear  Allison wanted her words to be taken as a joke, but the hunter drops her shoulders at the truth in the statement.  She continues in a less playful tone, “I’m proud of you, Lydia.  I’ll admit, I was super pissed when I realized you were doing something this dangerous, but I’m proud of you.”

    “I’ve been here before,” says Lydia as she looks around.  “I don’t remember how, but I know I’ve been here.”  Allison’s lips curl up and she nudges Lydia with her shoulder.

    “I showed you this place in a dream,” says the hunter, “Come on, we should get moving.”

    “In a dream,” repeats Lydia slowly.  She looks around the sunny forest again before turning to face Allison.  “You’re really her, aren’t you? I mean, you’re Allison, not my mind’s version of Allison.”  The hunter grabs the banshee’s hand and starts to pull her down a path in the woods.

    “I’m the only real person you’ll meet down here,” Allison says as she starts a fast pace.  Lydia has to run to keep up with her.

    “But I haven’t heard you in weeks,” says Lydia,  “I thought you were gone.”

    “Trapped,” corrects Allison, “Not gone.  Whatever drug you took to do this trance thing loosened all you mental doors and dividers.  It was easy for me to get out.”

    “You were trapped in my mind?”

    “Locked in a room that only one person had access to,”  she spits the words out as if taking too long to say them will leave a bitter taste in her mouth.

    “Was it Scott?” asks Lydia.  Allison stops walking and turns to face her.

    “That’s not important now,” says the hunter, “What we need to do is get you to the deepest level of your mind, and we need to hurry.”  She turns and starts pulling Lydia even faster down the forest path.  “Deaton said you only get four hours before he sends someone in after you.  Who do you think the Druid will choose?”

    “Stiles, obviously,” Lydia says.  Allison raises an eyebrow and grins at her.  “Oh please,” continues Lydia, “I had to go into his mind, it’s only fair he return the favor.”  

    Allison smiles and shakes her head.  “Whatever you say. You really are the best at deflection though,” she says.

    “I get a lot of practice,” says Lydia with a shrug as she steps over a branch.

    “So they’ll send in Stiles, that’s good,” says Allison, “The only problem is Stiles can’t enter your mind on his own.”

    “What do you mean?” asks Lydia.

    “Think about it. Did you enter Stiles’s mind on your own?”

    “No,” says Lydia with wide eyes, “No, I had to go with Scott. Since he’s the one who actually bridges the two minds together.”

    “Exactly,” says Allison.  “If we don’t get to your memories before Scott and Stiles show up, things are gonna be much harder.”    

    Lydia lets the hunter continue to drag her through the forest, but she’s beginning to feel like they might be going the wrong direction.  The same way she would walk towards the black doors in the white room, but they got further away with every forward step she took.

    “Allison,” she says, “Where are we going?”

    “I don’t know.  I’m just trying to get us out of these woods and back to something more familiar to you.”

    “Stop a minute.”  Lydia’s tone is curious.  “I want to try something.  Keep holding my hand, but close your eyes, okay?”  Allison sighs, but does as the banshee asks.  Lydia focus on a hallway with light blue lockers and bright fluorescent lights.  “Okay,” she says, “you can open your eyes now.”   Allison is silent as she takes in her surroundings.

    “You took us to school?”  The disbelief is clear in her voice.

    “I have a lot of bad memories tied to this place,” says Lydia, “But I’ve got some great ones too.  It’s where we first met, you know.”  Allison rolls her eyes, but smiles anyway.

    “Like I’d forget that,” the hunter says.


    The two girls walk down the abandoned hallway in silence.  Every now and then, a light flickers overhead, but for the most part, the bulbs stay constant.  Lydia trails a hand over the open lockers as she walks.  She’s not sure what she should be doing now.  Getting to her inner mind, of course, but how?  So far, everything Deaton explained has been a little off to Lydia.  But she guesses she can’t really blame the Druid.  It’s her mind that’s calling the shots.  But his wording of the experience bugs her.  She has to follow her truth.  What the hell does that even mean?  How will she know when she finds it? The whole point of this little exercise was to figure out what’s real anyway, and she won’t know that answer until she reaches the last level.  It feels like a catch 22.  

    Lydia’s completely absorbed in her thoughts when Allison flings an arm in front of her, forcing the banshee to come to a stop.  Allison turns to Lydia and puts a finger over her mouth.  She motions for Lydia to follow her into a classroom, and then closes the door as quietly as possible once both girls are inside the room.  She keeps her hands pressed against the door.

    “Did you hear that?” Allison asks in a whisper without turning to face Lydia.  The hunter is peering through the only small window on the classroom door.

    “Hear what?”

    “Foot steps,” says Allison, “Like someone’s tip-toeing down the hall.”  Lydia shakes her head, and wraps her arms around herself.

    “Who is it?” she asks in hushed tone.

    “I don’t know,” Allison says, “I can’t see anything through this stupidly tiny window.”  All of a sudden, Allison jerks back from the door.  She turns to Lydia with wide eyes.  “There’s definitely someone out there.”  The two girls creep back form the door, trying to put as much distance between themselves and the hallway as possible.  “If something happens,” continues Allison, “stay behind me.”  

    Lydia rolls her eyes. “That makes no sense,” she says, “It’s my mind, so, no.  I’m in front. Besides, I’m not watching you die again.”   Lydia shakes her arms and then her legs quickly before rolling her neck.  “I’ve done that too many times already.”  

    Allison watches Lydia continue to prepare for some sort of physical altercation.  Allison has to turn her head to the side so Lydia won’t notice the smile sneaking up the hunter’s face.  Of course, the banshee does anyway.

    “Why are you smiling?” says Lydia.

    “Nothing,” Allison says with a slight laugh as she shakes her head.  She looks down at the ground then back up at Lydia.  “Nothing, it’s just, you look adorable preparing for battle like that.”  Lydia stops mid stretch, and lets her arms drop back to her sides as she narrows her eyes.      
    
    Adorable really isn’t the vibe she’s going after here.

    “Sorry we’re not all trained badasses like you,” Lydia mumbles.  Allison smacks her on the back.

    “Don’t worry about.  That’s why I’m here.”

    The jovial mood dissipates when they hear movement outside the room.  True to her word, Lydia steps in front of Allison as both girls watch the door knob turn with bated breath.  The door swings open to reveal a girl in black boots wearing a leather jacket over a white tee with skinny jeans.  Her eyes are fierce and she’s clutching a crossbow.
    
    Lydia and Allison speak at exactly the same time, the confusion clear in both of their voices, “Allison?” says Lydia while the hunter next to her whispers, "It's me?"

Chapter Text

    There are two different Allisons.  The original Allison, the one that walked the forest and hall with the banshee, stands unmoving behind her, and the new Allison stands in the doorway, blocking their exit with a raised crossbow.  They’re wearing nearly identical outfits.  

    “Lydia,” says the second Allison standing in the doorway,  “Get out of here.  This is a dangerous place.”  She moves her crossbow ever so slightly and Lydia can tell that she’s lined up the first Allison in the bow’s crosshairs.

    “Wait,” Lydia says quickly while putting her hands up.

    “Lydia, move,” says the new Allison,  “She only wants to hurt you.”  She closes one eye while she speaks and tilts her head slightly.  Lydia knows that look.  She’s about to fire her bow.  

    Well, fuck.

    The Allison standing behind Lydia pushes the banshee to the side and rolls forward right as an arrow embeds itself in the wall in the exact the space the girls’ two heads perviously occupied.  Lydia catches herself on her hands and knees and looks up in time to see one Allison fling themselves into the other, knocking them both to the ground.  Each girl has a grip on the crossbow, and they tumbling over the floor trying to shake the other loose.  Lydia has no idea who’s who until she realizes that the first Allison she met wore brown boots that were taller than this new Allison’s blackish gray combat boots. It’s the familiar Allison wearing the brown boots that calls out to her.

    “Go!” she says, “Lydia, keep moving.  You have to keep moving!”

    “I’m not leaving you!” Lydia says back as she knots her hands in her hair.  What can she do?  What should she be doing?

    The Allison who called out manages to pull the crossbow from the other’s grasp and immediately throws it across the room.  Her counterpart takes advantage of the opening the throwing motion exposes and lunges forward so that her head smacks into the underside of the other hunter’s jaw.  It’s the familiar Allison that got hurt.  Lydia’s hands start to shake. The Allison wearing the dark brown shoes reaches up to her injured mouth for only a second, but that’s all it takes for the other hunter to stand and deliver a solid kick to the kneeling Allison’s face.  Lydia watches with wide eyes as the first Allison skids backwards across the classroom floor.  The Allison that still stands wipes at her face with the back of an arm, and walks over to retrieve her thrown crossbow, her black boots barely making a squeak on the tile floor.  Lydia knows she can’t let the hunter reach it, and thank god, the banshee has the upper hand in proximity to the fallen weapon.

    Lydia springs forward and latches onto the edge of the bow.  She swipes the bow back towards her and catches the running feet of the advancing hunter.  Lydia uses the forward momentum of her own body to surge up and slams the bow that she holds with both hands into Allison’s throat.  The hunter stumbles back and coughs, but Lydia had been hoping it would put her down.  The Allison that was kicked still lies on the ground behind them both, softy groaning as if waking from a dream.   Lydia has to protect her.  She moves so that she stands between the two Allisons, and puts her hands out in front of her,  silently watching the Allison that is still standing and rubbing at the irritated skin of her neck.

    “Give me the bow, Lydia,”  she says.  Her voice sounds slightly raw but unbroken - it never wavers.  The last time Lydia remembers hearing Allison use this tone was after the hunter’s mother had died, and Gerard coiled round her heart and into her mind like a poison.  
    
    This Allison means business.

    “I won’t let you hurt her,” Lydia says.

    “You don’t understand,” Allison says, “That’s not me, Lydia. I’m me.” She holds a hand up to her chest with her words.  “Would I let you do something this dangerous?  You have to go back now.  You can’t continue.”  She takes a step forward.  “Now give me the bow.”

    Lydia shakes her head slowly as she says, “No.”

    “Give me the bow,” the hunter repeats while taking another step forward.

    “Why can’t I continue?” asks Lydia.  She’s walking in a slow semi-circle to maintain her distance from the approaching Allison.  “Tell me why, and I’ll give you the bow.”

    “Lydia,” says Allison as she puts a hand in her hair and another to rest behind her back. “Are you serious?  You know better than anyone the things you hide from yourself are the things that should stay hidden.  Why would you need to put yourself through that?”

    Lydia looks down at the bow in her hand, and then back at the Allison in front of her.  She tightens her grip on the wood in her hand as she speaks, “I know you think you’re protecting me.  And you are, in a way.”  She can feel her heart pounding.  Lydia can’t believe she’s going to do this.  And she really hopes she’s right.  “But I don’t need your protection.  Not for this,” she says, “And the real Allison would know that.”  

    Lydia breaks the bow over her knee.  

    Allison lunges forward at the sound of the snapping wood, wielding a chinese dagger in the hand that was previously resting behind her back.  Lydia catches the hunter’s wrist before the blade can sink into her shoulder, but it does nick the skin.

    “You don’t know what you need protection from,” Allison snarls as the two girls struggle with the blade.  The hunter has Lydia pinned but most of Allison’s strength is going into her arms to push the blade farther into the banshee’s shoulder.  Lydia bucks and frees a leg that she promptly uses to kick Allison in the chest and off of her.  

    Allison’s chest is heaving as she sits up, and she’s sporting a bloody mark on her white tee from where Lydia’s high heel connected with her breastplate.  When she speaks again, her words come out in a rush of air.  “What do you even know, Lydia?  What can you even do other then find your dead friends?”  The condescending and bitter tone in her best friends voice is brutal on Lydia’s ears.  Like some one’s pouring water from the Arctic Ocean into her ear canal.  Her head starts to hurt.  She needs to stand up, but it’s Allison.  

    Lydia’s not prepared to fight the hunter like this.

    Allison stands up and walks towards the banshee, her black combat boots barely making a sound as she crosses the space between them.  She crouches down in front of Lydia and rest both elbows on her knees.  Lydia takes a deep breath.

    “You’ve never been a very good fighter, have you?” the hunter says with one side of her lips curling into the bitchiest smirk Lydia’s ever seen.

    “That’s why she has me,” says a voice as a classroom chair smacks across the face of the crouching Allison.  The hunter goes down hard.  

    Suddenly hands are dragging Lydia up from the floor and Allison, the real Allison, is asking if she’s okay.  

    Lydia nods, not trusting her words.  She looks down at the other Allison who’s completely knocked out on the class room floor.

    “Can we do that?” she asks, motioning towards the passed out Allison, “What if it’s cheating or something?”

    “Hell if I know,” says Allison,  “Or care,” she continues, “But I’m not waiting around to see if she wakes up.  Let’s go.”

    The two girls head into the hall way, and Lydia closes the door to the classroom behind them.  She quickly imagines a key in her hands, then locks the door.

    “Just in case,” she says as she turns to follow Allison.  The hunter nods at Lydia’s good thinking as the banshee runs to catch up.  When she reaches Allison, she sees the red mixed in with her hair at her temple.  “You’re bleeding,” she says at the same time as she notices the hunter’s split lip.

    “I know,” says Allison.  She tries to smile with her words but it must put to much stress on her lips because she stops and quickly puts a hand to her mouth. “God, it’s hurts too,” she continues, “I thought I was already dead, how am I getting hurt.”  Allison turns to Lydia and her eyes get wide.  “Fuck, you’re hurt too.”
 
    Lydia follows her line of sight to the red stain on her left shoulder. “What?” she says, “No this is fine. I’ve been getting hurt the whole time, but it’s just goes away.”  Allison just stares at her.  “Seriously, it’s about to go away,” continues Lydia.

     They keep walking down the hallway, neither one of them talking.  Finally Allison sighs and stops.  Lydia turns to the hunter with her eyebrows raised as to say ‘spit it out’.  Allison rolls her eyes in response.

    “Okay, well, this is clearly different,” says Allison as she runs her hands through her hair and lets them rest on the back of her neck.  “This isn’t going away. Look, there’s more blood now,” she says as she lifts a hand from her neck to gestures towards Lydia’s shoulder.

    “Huh,” says Lydia as she looks down at the small but growing red on her clothing, “You’re right.”

    “Does it hurt?”

    “No,” says Lydia, still mesmerized by the blood on her, “Not really.”

    “Then we should keep moving” says Allison, “It’s just one more reason to hurry up and get you to final stage.”  She pushes the girl next to her forward, and Lydia turns with narrowing eyes at the hunter.  

    “For your information,” says Lydia, “You’re the one who made us stop in the first place.”

    “And now I’m making us go.” says Allison,  “Come on.”  She links arms with the banshee and starts to walk.  Lydia purses her lips and lowers both of her eyebrows, but she lets herself be led down the hallway by the hunter anyway.  Lydia’s thankful that Allison never mentions how tightly she’s holding onto the other girl’s arm.  

    “I think I’m understanding what Deaton meant” says Lydia.  Allison looks at her from the side of her eye.  “The whole follow my truth thing,” the banshee continues, “I have to remember what I’ve forgotten, but everything is gonna try to convince me that I won’t be able to handle it.”  She tilts her head while she talks, her lips still pursed and her eyebrows still lowered.  “But that’s not my truth.  I know I can do this,” she says while turning to the side to face Allison. “I don’t care what I find out as long as I can help people again.  As long as I can help myself.”  

    Allison doesn’t say a word but simply leans more into the other girl.  She breaks the silence after a minute.  “Just for the record,” Allison says, “You handled yourself pretty damn well in that fight.”  

    Lydia brings her shoulders up and curls her lips in a satisfied grin, her eyes practically twinkling in her glee. “I did, didn’t I?” she says while flipping her long hair.


*********


    “I think we’re wasting time in the school,” says Allison.

    The girls had been wandering the halls of the multiple story building for a solid thirteen minutes if Lydia had to guess.

    “You’re right,” she says, “So I guess the real question is. . . where should we be?”  Lydia lets her voice drift at the end of her question and absentmindedly chews on her lip.

    “Okay,” says Allison, “Let’s think.”  She’s pacing and holding her hair back against her neck with both hands. She turns to face Lydia.  “What if there’s a connection we’re missing between the you and the location?” she says while taking her hands from her hair to hold out at her sides.  “I mean why would you just think to come here first?”

    “I told you,” says Lydia, “It’s where I met you.”  She says the last word slowly, feeling her tongue form the sounds as clearly as her mind forms her next idea.  “It makes me think of you.” She spins in her heels to face Allison.  “What if that’s it?  Deaton said I have to meet the people I hold in my heart.  What if I can only meet them where I remember them most?”    Allison stops pacing and drops her hands to her side.

    “It would explain how we got here in the first place and why the school is practically dead now that we’ve meet the crazy version of me.”  Allison shakes her head.  “I hope you don’t really see me as that. . . intense,” she continues as she bites a lip.

    “Oh please,” says Lydia. “Why do you think I made you my best friend in the first place?”  Lydia continues as she walks over to Allison and holds out her hand.  “Same deal as before.  Close your eyes and don’t let go.”  

    She waits till the hunter has a firm grip on her hand to take a deep breath.  This time will be tricky.  She doesn’t have a picture of where she’s going. She’s actually not sure where she’s going.  But Lydia feels something telling her to just close her eyes and go.  

    Allison is the first to speak when both girls open their eyes.

    “We’re still in the school,” she says while turning to Lydia. “Did it not work?”

    “I don’t know,” says Lydia.  “I wasn’t really thinking of a specific place. . .”  Lydia’s voice slows down and fades away as she catches sight of a red ball of yarn rolling down the school’s hallway towards her and Allison.  She lets go of the hunter’s hand and turns to follow the yarn as it rolls past her.

    “Lydia?” Allison says.  “Where are you going?”

    “You don’t see it?”  the banshee says as she increases her pace to keep up with steadily rolling red ball of string.

    “See what?”

    “The yarn,” Lydia says,  “The red yarn.”

Allison looks around the hallway then turns back to Lydia with one eyebrow raised and a smile playing in the corner of her lips.

    “No,” says the hunter, “I don’t see anything.”

    The ball of yarn is rolling faster and faster away from Lydia.  She’s nearly running down the hall to keep up.  Suddenly, it stops in front of a classroom door, and Lydia can see that the string extends under the wood.  It’s connected to something behind the closed door.  She puts a hand of the door knob.  Allison is running down the hallway towards her.  The hunter has lost her smile, and her eyes are narrowed.

    “Lydia,” Allison says, “Wait for me.  Don’t open the door yet.”

    Lydia hears her, but she doesn’t process the words.  She wants to know what’s behind this door.  Where is the red yarn taking her and why is it so familiar?  She throws the door to the classroom open.

    It’s a room with slate blue walls covered in news articles and pictures.  Red, yellow, and green yarn is tangled across the walls, connecting certain scraps of paper with others.  She knows this room.

    “Allison,” she says,  “It’s Stiles’s room.”  She waits for the girl to answer her, but there’s nothing.  “Allison?” she says while turning around to look for the hunter.  Instead of a school hallway, Lydia sees the Stilinski’s hall behind her.  She’s not in the school at all anymore.

    Shit.  She’d lost Allison.

    Lydia walks over to the red ball of yarn that’s sitting in the middle of the room.  She picks it up and plays with the yarn’s frayed end as she surveys the room.

    “Don’t unravel that,” a familiar voice says from the hallway,  “It took me forever to get it into an actual ball shape.”  Lydia turns around and holds out the ball of yarn to Stiles.  He takes it from her hands as he walks past her to sit on his bed.  He’s tossing the yarn back and forth between his two hands, his eyes never leaving the red blur.  “So I guess we need to talk, huh?” says Stiles without looking at Lydia.

    “I guess so,” she says.  Stiles flops back on to his bed and stares at his ceiling with a long sigh.

    “I can’t believe you’re doing this,” he says with his arms stretched back in a firm clasp over his head.  The ball of yarn sits forgotten next to his side.

    “I have to do this,” Lydia says.  Stiles looks at her from the side of his eye and snorts.

    “No,” he says, “No, you really don’t.”  He covers his eyes with his right hand.  “Lydia,” he groans, “It’s going to change things.  Everything.”

    “Only for me,” she says as she walks over to sit on the bed next to him.  Stiles raises his hand from his eyes to peek at her as she folds her legs underneath her body.

    “It’s going to change everything for everyone,” he says once she’s situated on the bed.  “It’s going to change us.”

    “Us?” says Lydia.  Stiles huffs and sits up, turning his back to her.

    “Yes, us,” he says as he rushes from the bed in a flurry of limbs.  He’s standing now, holding his head with both hands.  “You don’t even remember it, and you’re still acting strange around me.”  He starts to move his fingers through his hair.  “Once you remember, you’ll never look at me the same way again.”

    “Remember what?” she says.  Her mouth has a hard time forming the words.

    “I can’t tell you,” he says, “And if I could, I wouldn’t.”  He drops his hands from his head, and sits next to her on the bed.  “You don’t have to remember.  We can find others ways to help you hear the voices without remembering.”

    “Stiles,” she says, “I want to remember.”  

    “Why?” he says.  His voice quivers like the string of Allison’s crossbow after the hunter fires an arrow.  “Why do you want to know something that can only hurt you?”

    “I’m not afraid of getting hurt,” she says softly, “But I’m terrified of not knowing.”  Stiles shakes his head at her words.

    “You always have to have control, don’t you?” he says,  “Even if means losing what you have now, it’ll be worth it to you.  As long as Lydia Martin’s calling the shots, we’ll all be fine.  Is that what you think?”  His tone builds up to a harsh crescendo.  “You think you’re the Alpha now?”  

    Lydia stands up from the bed at Stiles accusation.

    “I think I know what’s best for me.  I don’t need anyone to make my decisions,” she says while looking down at the still sitting boy, “Not you, and certainly, not Scott.”  She turns to walk out the door but Stiles grabs her by the arm.  Lydia’s whips her head around, her eyes narrowed at his audacity.  “Let go,” she says.  Stiles shakes his head, and pulls her closer.  His grip on her upper arm is extremely painful.

    “You’re going to end up all alone, Lydia,” he says, “No one will believe you even if you do manage to recover what you’ve lost.  You think I’ll trust you more than Scott?”  Lydia tries jerking her arm free again, but Stiles hold on her is unrelenting.  “Why would anyone believe you over a True Alpha?  You’re only useful when we need to find a dead body.”

    “We’re about to put her powers to use if you don’t let her go right now,” says a cold voice from the hallway.  Lydia looks over her shoulder at Allison.  The hunter’s mouth is set in a firm line, and her eyes are flashing a dangerous warning to the boy holding the banshee by the arm.

    “Allison,” says Stiles, “Of course you brought her to hide behind.”  He drops his hand from Lydia’s arm with his words and steps back with a shrug.  “Well, I guess you two should get back to it then.”  He keeps his eyes blank as he speaks, “You’ve got a lot of lives to ruin.”

    Lydia turns from him without saying a word and the two girls walk through the bedroom door.  Once they get outside the Stilinski home, Allison whips around to face her.  She’ s clearly irritated with the banshee.

    “I told you to wait!” says the hunter, “What if I hadn’t found you?  Lydia, this is a dangerous place.  We’ve already established that you can get hurt in it.”

    “Please don’t lecture me,” says Lydia, “Everyone I meet keeps lecturing me.”  Allison opens her mouth, but before she can talk, both girls are distracted by a low animalistic cry.  

    The hunter’s eyes grow wide.

    “Was that a howl?” she says.  Lydia nods quickly.  “It sounded close by,” continues Allison,  “We can’t stay here.  Lydia, we need to go now.”  Lydia nods again and holds out her hand for the hunter to grab.  She closes her eyes, and thinks of going anyway but where she is now.

    Lydia’s shocked to find herself in the burnt Hale house when she opens her eyes.  Allison immediately tightens her grip on Lydia’s hand.  Of course he was in her heart.  Deaton had said she’d encounter the good and the bad.  Lydia had been naive to think she wouldn’t meet him again.

    “Peter,” says Allison.  Her lips are in a tight line.

    “Of course,” says Lydia, “Peter.”  She pronounces his name sharp and fast.  Like a fly she mistakenly drank with her sip of soda and now she’s got to spit it out.

    “Do hold the praise, ladies,” says a silky voice from the shadows behind them.  Allison spins around and drags Lydia behind her as Peter’s form slowly emerges in the faint light.  “Relax, hunter,” he says, “I’m not here to fight.  Unlike you apparently.”  He curls his mouth up and he lowers his chin while watching Allison with clearly inquisitive eyes.  “Who knew you were capable of such viciousness towards your dear little banshee.”

    This time Lydia squeezes Allison’s hand.  She steps forward to stand equal with the hunter, then leans over and says “He’s baiting you.  Ignore it.”  

    Allison whips her head to face Lydia.  “I know he’s baiting me,” she says,  “But it’s Peter.  I hate Peter.”  Lydia rolls her eyes as Allison shrugs her hand away and takes a step forward.  “You know that wasn’t really me,” She says to the werewolf, “Just like I know you’re not really Peter.”  Allison raises her chin with her words, as if daring Peter to prove her wrong.

    Peter sucks in air through his teeth with ‘tsk’ sound and shakes his head.  He looks up at the two girls, his eyes glinting like polished blades.  “You both keep making the same mistake,” he says.  His tone carries way too much satisfaction.  “Just because I’m not me, doesn’t mean I’m not real.  In a sense, I’m much more real to Lydia than the Peter you know.”  He takes a step forward with his words.  His eyes are pinned to Lydia.  “Isn’t that right, Lydia Martin?”  

    Lydia raises an eyebrow.  She wants to shut him up, but she’s not sure how to do it.  Peter flicks his eyes over to Allison.

    “The fact is, sweetheart,” he says, “It might be an unflattering portrait, but the vicious hunter in the school was a much you as anything else.  Every interaction Lydia’s ever had with you has gone into that mental construct which would include your. . .” He waves his hand as if it well help him find the right words.  “Not so ideal personality trait of nearly killing your friends under the guidance of crazed relatives.”  

    Allison narrows her eyes, but Lydia speaks before the hunter has a chance to respond.

    “You’re trying to distract us,” she says.  Peter looks confused.

    “From what?” he says, “This burnt down house?”  He looks around at the ruins of his home.  “I’d like to be distracted from it, honestly.”

    “You don’t want me to reach my memories.”

    “Oh, that,” Peter says.  He lowers his brow and tightens his lips as if he’s thinking.  Then he says,  “Honestly, I could care less about it.  Remember.  Don’t remember.  Handle it.  Don’t handle it.”  He shrugs with his words,  “Die.  Don’t die.  It doesn’t have much to do with me.”

    “He could want you trapped,” Allison says to Lydia.

    “Except if I wanted that,” says Peter,  “I’d just fight you.  And I promise I’d do a lot more damage than a teenage girl with a dagger.”  He’s looking right at Lydia’s injured shoulder as he speaks.  “Lucky for you, I have no interest in the situation either way.”

    “I think you’re lying,” says Lydia.  She takes a step towards him with her words.  She tilts her head and narrows her eyes.  “You want me to remember.”  Lydia purses her lips with her words,  “Somehow, it’s going to benefit you and that’s why you don’t want to stop us.”

    “My, my, my,” says Peter, “Aren’t we getting clever?”  He’s smiling but his mouth seems to be too taunt for the expression to be a genuine one.  He appears to give up on it all together and allows the smile to drift into a sneer.  “Is it still worth going through knowing that you’ll be helping me?”  His eyes seem to light up as he speaks, “Who knows?  I could already be planning the death of someone close to you.  Then you would have helped kill three people.”

    Lydia’s heart sinks into her stomach.  She won’t let anyone else die.  Allison must have noticed the banshee’s deflation because she reaches out a hand to rest on Lydia’s shoulder.

    “If he’s not going to try to stop us,” says Allison, “Then let’s leave now.”  

    Lydia nods. The girls ignore Peter’s laughter as they walk out the crumbling door of the Hale house.



********


    “You look nervous,” says Lydia. The two have been walking for about five minutes now through the Beacon Hills woods.  Allison stops fidgeting with her jacket’s zipper and looks at Lydia.

    “I’m not nervous,” she says and goes back to zipping and unzipping her jacket.

    “Allison,” says Lydia.

    “Okay,” says the hunter as she drops her hands from her clothing.  “I’m just weirded out by Peter.  I know we’re doing the right thing, but knowing Peter wants you to remember. . .  ”  She lets her statement settle unfinished between them.

    “Don’t worry.  It’s just another tactic,” Lydia says, “You and Stiles warned me against remembering because I trust you.  I don’t trust Peter, so any warning he could gave instantly loses credit.”

    “So he said he wants you to remember so you won’t want to remember anymore?”

    “Exactly,” says the banshee,  “I mean who would want advice from their worst enemy anyway?” She finishes with a flip of her hair.

    The woods are strangely silent, but Lydia supposes wildlife isn’t necessary in a dreamscape.  The sun is beginning to set and the leaves in the trees take on a red hue in the receding light.  The forest surrounding Beacon Hills isn’t an inviting place in the real world so Lydia’s less than thrilled about being in it at this exact moment.  She can’t help but think about the howl they heard outside Stiles’s house.

    “Do you think that was Peter howling?” she ask Allison.  

    The hunter looks at Lydia with her eyebrows drawn together. “Do you?” Allison says.

    Lydia sighs before she answers, “No, I wish it had been though.”  She runs a hand through her hair quickly before she continues speaking, “I guess that means we have to meet my version of Scott.”  She chews her lip and stares at the forest floor as she walks.

    “I just hope it was your version of Scott,” says Allison.

    “We haven’t been here for more than four hours, have we?”

    Allison lifts her shoulders in a shrug. “I don’t know.  Time works differently in the mind,” she says.  “I wish I had my crossbow.”

    Lydia closes her eyes and imagines the hunter’s bow in her hands.  She waits until the wood feels solid in her grasp to open her eyes and hold out the crossbow to Allison.

    “Here,” Lydia says, “I’ll feel better if you’ve got your bow too.”

    Allison reaches out for the weapon when a roar rips through the silence of the woods.  The limbs of the surrounding trees shake, and both girls have to cover their ears from the deafening sound.  The crossbow falls to the ground between them.

    “Arrows,” says Allison as she grabs the weapon from the forest floor.  “Quick, I need arrows.”  

    Lydia tries to nod, but her whole body is quivering so the movement comes off more as a jerky head shake.  She closes her eyes and imagines silver tipped arrows in a black bundle.  Lydia hands them to Allison, the arrows clinking together in her shivering hands.  She wraps her arms around herself and looks around the forest as Allison loads an arrow onto the crossbow.

    “I don’t see anything,” says Lydia in a hushed tone.

    “I can’t see anything either,” says Allison.  The girls stand back to back and turn in a slow circle to sweep their eyes over the darkening woods.  “We’re losing the light too,” continues the hunter,  “This isn’t good.  He sounded really close.”

    “I am close,” says a gravel filled voice.  It rumbles out from the tree line and wraps around Lydia until her spine curls in and up with fear.  Allison turns to face the voice that called out, her crossbow extended.  

    “Come out, Scott,” the hunter says.

    “So you can shoot me?” he says.  “You think it’ll hit?”

    “Get behind me, Lydia,” says Allison.  “And stay close.”

    Lydia clutches onto the hunter’s jacket. “This is a bad idea,” she mumbles, “This doesn’t feel right.”  She watches as two red eyes appear next to a tree only fifty feet away from her and Allison.  It’s hard to see in the fading light, but Lydia’s positive he’s not transformed yet.

    “You should listen to Lydia,” says Scott as he takes a step forward.  “Don’t try to fight me, Allison.”

    The hunter lets her arrow fly towards his head instead of responding to his words.  Scott catches and snaps the arrow in half with one clawed hand.  When he looks up at the two girls, his face no longer contains the smooth lines of humanity.  Lydia barely sees him move, but suddenly Scott is no longer there and Allison is down on one knee.  The banshee watches red drip down the arm that Allison uses to keep her body supported.

    “NO!” Lydia screams as she collapses next to the hunter.  Her eyes are already blurring from her tears.  “Allison,” she says.

    “It’s okay, I’m not hurt that bad,” says Allison through clenched teeth.  She’s clutching her shoulder but Lydia can see the fresh gash under the hunter’s hand. It looks worse than the hunter is letting on. “I can’t run though,” continues Allison, “You need to go, Lydia.  Please go.”

    “I told you,” says the banshee, “I’m not leaving you.”

    “I’m already dead, Lydia!”  Allison tone is sharp, and it cuts through Lydia.  “Please, just go.”  The hunter won’t look at her.   “I’ll never talk to you again if you don’t leave now.”

    “You’re lying,” says Lydia.  She ignores the sound of footsteps closing in behind her.  If she can just get Allison up, she knows they’ll be okay.  She’ll imagine them somewhere else, and then she’ll imagine a first aid kit, and everything will be fine.  

    “Lydia, go!”  says Allison as she pushes the banshee’s approaching hand away from her.

    “She’s not going anywhere,” says Scott.  Lydia can tell he’s standing directly behind her when he talks.  She looks over her shoulder at the Alpha towering above her.  Her eyes are stuck on the blood coating his claws.

    “You attacked her,” Lydia says with wide eyes, “You really attacked her.”  Scott crouches down in front of her and lifts a bloody hand to wipe the away the tears sneaking down Lydia’s cheek.  She can feel the red streak he leaves on her face as he draws his hand back.

    “To protect you,” he says, “All she’s done is hurt you.  First she left you, and now she’s leading you on some wild goose chase.

    “I want my memories back,” says Lydia.  Scott curls his lips at her.  His face looks awful wearing the sneer.

    “Sounds like something you should bring up with the real me,” he says with a small shrug,  “Too bad, I’m about to make sure you never get that chance.”

    “Get away from her!” says Allison.

     Scott ignores the hunter completely.  His eyes are focused on Lydia with unwavering intent.  Lydia feels the dread coiling in her stomach as claws skim over her side.  The feeling swells and pushes up her throat until she’s forced to give the emotion a sound.  The scream tears out of her throat with the force of a hurricane.  Lydia feels dazed in its wake.  

    She’s about to die in her own mind.  How does that even work?

    “Lydia!” a boy’s hoarse voice yells out.  She turns in time to see Stiles skidding over the earth in his attempt to reach her.  

    “Scott, for fuck’s sake, do something!” Stiles says.  His voice cracks during his frantic talking.

    Lydia wonders why he thinks this Scott will listen to him when a blur crashes into the werewolf crouched in front of her.   The Alpha tumbles across the forest floor before looking up with narrowing eyes at the intruder who dared to attack him.  She can see the surprise in his glare when he’s staring at his own face.  Lydia is silent as she watches the two fully transformed Scotts circle one another.  She doesn’t even say anything when Stiles pulls her up from the ground and into his arms.  Lydia looks over at Allison who’s still clutching her bleeding shoulder.  

    The hunter’s face is practically frozen in horror - her eyes wide and her mouth hanging open as she watches the two werewolves fight.   They didn’t make it in time.  

    The real Scott is in Lydia’s mind.
   

Chapter Text

    Stiles’s arms are the only thing keeping Lydia from crumbling to the ground.  It’s too much.  Everything that’s happening is too much.  She tears her eyes away from the two fighting Scotts and looks at Allison.  The hunter looks pale.  Is she still losing blood?

    “Allison,” she says to the boy holding her.  “Take me to Allison.”  Stiles nods and helps her over to the kneeling girl.  Lydia allows herself to fall to the forest floor once she reaches the hunter.  “Let me see your shoulder,” she says.  Allison’s breathing hard and her teeth are still clenched, but she moves her hand for Lydia to inspect the gash.  “You need stitches,” continues the banshee.

    “Just imagine a needle and thread,” says the hunter, “And I can do it myself.”  

    Stiles hasn’t said a word.  He’s watching Allison with a strange look in his eyes.

    “Are you really Allison?” he finally asks.  Allison pauses in the middle of threading the needle with shaking hands and narrows her eyes at Stiles as her eyebrows draw together in a smoldering look.

    “Oh my god,” he says, “You really are Allison.”

    “Stiles!” yells Scott.  “Get them out of here!”

    “What about you?” Stiles yells back immediately, his arms held out wide with the question.

    “I’m kinda busy with me right now,” says the Alpha as he dodges a swipe from his enraged counterpart.

    “Right,” says Stiles, “Right. Okay. Getting out of here.”  He looks around the dark forest as he speaks,  “Get them to where?”

    “Uhhh,” grunts Scott as he’s knocked to the ground,  “Stiles! I don’t care where, just go somewhere.  Anywhere!”  he says as pushes himself back to his feet.  “This is really hard!”

    “Stiles,” says Lydia as she grabs Allison’s hand, “Give me your hand and close your eyes.”

    “What?” he says.

    “Give me your hand and close your eyes!”  she repeats.  Stiles holds out his right hand, and Lydia grabs it.  

    Anywhere but here.  They need to go anywhere but here.

    Lydia’s stomach churns when she opens her eyes.  She hadn’t meant to go this place.  Why did she take them to this place?   She hates this place.

    “Lydia,” Stiles says her name slowly,  “Is there a reason you took us to the tunnels of Oak Creek?”

    “I don’t know,” she says, “I didn’t mean too.”

    “I can’t see the needle anymore,” says Allison.  Her voice sounds tense like she’s trying too hard to keep a normal tone.  Lydia hopes it’s the tunnel, and not the hunter’s injury, that causes the change in her voice.

    “Hold on,” Lydia says.  She imagines a flashlight and turns it on for Allison, pointing it at needle in her hands.

    “Thanks,” says the hunter as she resumes her threading.  It’s taking a long time.

    “Do you want me to thread it?” says Lydia.  

    Allison stops to shoot her a fierce glare.  “I’ve got it,” she says as she resumes her struggle with the needle and thread.  Stiles sits quietly with a hand covering his mouth.  He’s staring at Allison’s bleeding shoulder.

    “Did the other Scott do that?” he says after a moment with his hand still covering his mouth.  Allison nods without taking her eyes off her hands.  “Does it hurt?”  She looks up at him.

    “Of course it hurts,” the hunter says,  “What kind of question is that?”

    “I just - I don’t know,” says Stiles,  “We’re in Lydia’s mind, I thought it might not be real. . . or something like that,” he finishes in a quiet voice.

    “It’s real,” says Lydia as she shows Stiles her own wound.  Thankfully, it stopped bleeding a long time ago.

    “Scott did that too?”

    “Allison,” says Lydia, “The other Allison,” she continues when Stiles’s eyes dart over to the hunter.

    Stiles closes the hand over his mouth into a fist and bumps it against his lips repetitively.  The three settle into silence - the only sound is the steady dripping of the rusty pipes that surround them.  Allison’s managed to thread the needle and is now slowly working her jacket off her injured shoulder.  She rolls up the sleeve of her white tee, now stained red, and pushes the needle through her already abused flesh.  Stiles sucks in his breath as he watches her and eventually has to turn away.  Lydia keeps the light steady for the hunter and doesn’t say a word as Allison sews up the torn skin.  She waits until the hunter ties the loose ends of the thread together to speak.

    “Do you think I’ll still be able to reach my memories?” she asks Allison, “I mean after everything that’s happened, I’m still not sure how to get there,” the banshee continues, “I thought I’d just be there after I met the last person.”  

    Allison closes her eyes and leans back against the dirty wall. “I don’t know how it works, Lydia,” she says, “Maybe Scott wasn’t the last person. . .”  Her voice is tired sounding.  

    Lydia bites her lip.  “If he’s not the last person,” she says, “Then we really need to be careful in these tunnels.”

    “Why?” says Stiles.  His tone isn’t challenging, more like extreme curiosity.  

    Allison lifts her head from the wall and opens her eyes wide.  “You don’t mean . . .” she doesn’t need to finish the statement for Lydia to gather the question.  The banshee chews her lip even harder.

    “I don’t know,” she says with her lips still between her teeth, “But we met Peter.  It wouldn’t be a stretch.”

    “Who are you taking about?” Stiles says quickly.  His eyes dance back and forth between the two girls, and Lydia can tell he already knows the answer to his question from the panic that rides his voice.  She stands up.  “Where are you going?” he says.

    “I can’t let him find you two,” says Lydia, “I won’t watch anyone else get hurt.”  She’s talking to Stiles, but her eyes stay on Allison.  

    “No, no, no,” says Stiles, “This is a terrible idea.  Scott would kill me if I let you wander off.  Do you know how long we’ve been looking for you?”

    “Do you know who’s fault it is that we’re in this mess in the first place?” says Allison.  Her tone is anguished as if the words hurt her physically to say.  

    “Allison,” says Lydia.  She doesn’t want to Stiles to know.  At least, not until she’s gotten her memories back.  

    “Peter’s?” says Stiles.  Allison laughs, but the sound is humorless.  The hunter lets her head drop into her hands.  “Why is that funny?  We know Peter did this.”  Stiles turns to Lydia and continues, “He attacked you in broad daylight.”

    “It doesn’t matter how it happened,” says Lydia, “The only way to end it now, is to remember what was taken from me.  And I have to meet the last person in my heart to get there.”

    “I’m going with you,” says Stiles as he stands up.

    “No,” she says, “I don’t want you too.  I have to do this alone.”

    “Lydia, please,” he says, “It’s dangerous to go alone.  What if something happens to you?”

    “I was alone with the Nogitsune for almost 12 hours before anyone found me,” she says, “I think I can handle his mental representation.”  

    Allison’s head shoots up from her hands at Lydia’s words.

    “Maybe Stiles is right,” says the hunter, “Maybe you shouldn’t go alone. I can move soon if you wait.”  Her eyes contain an emotion that Lydia can’t quite place.  It’s something close to sympathy.  Allison knows something, that’s for sure.

    “No, you can’t.  You’re exhausted,” says Lydia, “And I’m tired of waiting. I have to know now.  I’m sick of being trapped inside my own mind.”  She turns to leave when Stiles reaches out and grabs her hand gently.

    “Lydia,” he says, “I swear to god, if anything happens to you. . .”  She squeezes his hand back and then softly pulls away from his grasp.

    “I know,” she says, “You’ll go crazy. . . or something like that.  I’ll be extra safe, okay?”  Stiles flops back against the wall and sinks to the floor next to Allison.  He puts a hand back over his mouth and watches the banshee with glossy eyes as his right leg shakes non-stop.

    “You have to be safe,” he says from behind his hand.

    “I will, I promise,” Lydia says before she turns back around to walk down the hallway.  

    She needs to find the trickster fast.  The sooner she meets him, the sooner she can end this.  

    Lydia winds down the maze like hallways trying to find anything that seems remotely familiar.  She knows she’s been here before, but the details are all fuzzy.  She reaches a dead end and sighs.  This is taking far too long.  She lets her head rest against the bars blocking her path but turns around when she hears a noise down the hall.  She sees the lanky form of a boy’s shadow making its way towards her.  The figure waits until she can see him, and not just his shadow, to speak.

    “Did you miss me, banshee?” says the thing wearing Stiles’s face.  “Coming all this way just to find me.  I’m flattered.”

    “You know why I’m here,” she says.  She makes sure none of her fear reaches her voice.

    “I do,” he says while curling his lips to show his teeth.  “You need to remember some things.”  She’d been expecting this answer.  Lydia had figured the Nogitsune might go the same route as Peter.

    “You can’t stop me,” she says with her head held high.  “It doesn’t matter what you say.  It won’t change my mind.”  

    “Stop you?” he says as he leans against the wall with his shoulder.  “I don’t want to stop you.  I want to help you.”

    “I don’t see how you could,” says Lydia.  

    The empty creature’s black eyes shine obscenely in the dark hallway, and his smile grows even wider.

    “I could show you,” he says as he pushes off the wall.  “I could show you exactly what you’ve forgotten about me.”  He starts to walk towards her.  

    Lydia puts a hand behind her back and imagines cold steel forming into a blade in the palm of her hand.  She’ll be ready this time.  He won’t take her by surprise.  He stops about five feet away from reaching her.

    “What’s that behind your back, banshee?”

    Well, shit.  She hadn’t planned on that.  Lydia decides to play dumb.

    “What are you talking about?” she says as she slips the blade into the band of her skirt and brings both hands in front of her.  He lowers his eyebrows and tilts his head down.  The bags under his eyes seem ridiculously large at this angle.

    “Are you going to fight back?” he says as his eyes study her.  “That’s not part of the memory, you know.”  

    Lydia doesn’t like the tone he’s using.  It sounds lewd.  She also doesn’t appreciate how exposed she feels under his intense gaze.  She’s had suspicions about what happened between the Nogitsune and her.  It was hard not too given the bizarre bodily reactions she’d been having around Stiles as of late.  And when that feeling combined with the sympathetic look in Allison’s eyes before she left to find the trickster, Lydia had known, without a trace of doubt in her mind, what kind of memories she was about to face.  Only, this wasn’t going the way she’d planned.  But that’s okay.  She’s a genius, and a genius always has more than one plan knocking around their head anyway.  Lydia makes the knife hidden in her skirt disappear and steps forward to close the remaining distance between the hollow boy and herself.  

    She didn’t want to use this plan, but she’ll do what’s necessary.

    “Well then,” she says.  Her is voice low, husky almost.  Lydia knows that boys love it when she talks in this tone.  Even supernatural ones.  “What did I do instead?”  She dances a hand up the impostor’s shirt and lets her fingers play with the collar of his gray tee.  He watches her hand from the corner of his eye and keeps very still as if it were a snake wound round his body that the slightest of movements could provoke into biting.  She brings her face closer to rest in the curve of his neck and wraps her other arm around his shoulders.  If this is going to work, she needs him to actually participate.  

    “Something like this?” she says as she presses closes to his body, her lips brushing against the skin of his throat with her words.  She feels arms wrap around her waist.  

    Good.  He’s buying it.

    “No,” he says, “No, but I like this too.”  His voice rumbles from his mouth and she feels the vibration from where he’s nuzzling the side of her cheek.  He walks her back until she feels the cold metal bars digging into her back.  She bites down the panic the sensation causes in her body.  She’s starting to remember what really happened down here.  Lydia holds back a shudder in response to the stale breath on her neck.  It’s not going to happen the same way, she tells herself.

    This is different.  She’s in control now.  

    Lydia brings her arms up from his shoulders and works her hands into his hair.  Then she tilts his head down to meet hers and brushes her lips against his - quick and fleeting - just a tease of a kiss.  She wonders if he’ll take the bait

    He does.  Aggressively.

    The hollow boy wearing Stiles’s face covers her lips with his own, his tongue already pushing hers back so that he can explore every bump, nook, and cavern of her mouth.  It’s a violating feeling even without the memory to back it up.  She struggles to keep her heart beat in check and pushes her tongue back against his violently.  She needs him distracted.  Lydia moves her hands from his hair and drags her nails down his back to pull him closer in what she hopes is a fierce combination of pressure and pain.  The arms wrapped around her waist slip up until he coils both hands into her hair, using his tight grasp to keep her head from moving during the kiss.

    It’s got to be now.  If this is going to work, she has to do it now.   Lydia continues the slow motion of her hands up and down the void boy’s back.  She wraps one leg around his and then the other, bringing her head up to be level with his and leaning in to deepen the kiss.

    This boy is her prey.  She is about to devour him.  

    She lets it happen slowly at first - just in case he starts to notice.  When his tongue begins to move sluggishly against hers, she tilts his head back even further and coats the inside of his mouth with her poison.  When the hands tangled in her hair start to weaken, she unwinds from his body and pulls her lips away.   The boy wearing Stiles’s face stares at her with a slack mouth and drooping eyelids as he fumbles backwards against a filthy wall.   He can’t even hold his head up once he’s sitting down, let alone talk.  

    She feels amazing.  

    She can’t help but start giggling, covering her mouth like she’s in school and doesn’t want the teacher to know it’s her laughing.  This is incredible. This is great.  Lydia haults her glee the moment she hears a low rumble.  

    Did it not work?

    She looks down at the body but it’s still unmoving.  Even his eyes are glazed in appearance.  She’s still very close, inspecting his face for signs of life, when a low voice speaks to her from somewhere behind, nearly making her fall onto the paralyzed boy beneath her.

    “Are you done?”

     She catches herself with her arms against the wall and quickly stands up to face whoever called out from the dark down the hall.  It kinda sounded like Scott.  

    “Scott?” she says as she takes a step forward.  She doesn’t want to be closer to him but she needs more space behind her to put down a circle of mountain ash that doesn’t include the paralyzed Nogitsune.  She moves her hands as little as possible as she distributes the dust and continues talking,  “I can’t see you.  Why don’t you come into the light?”  She steps back inside the circle.   She hears footsteps for a long time before she can make out Scott’s form.  His shoulders are slumped and his head hangs low.  His eyes, although red, seem tired, and the lines around them are prominent even in the shadows.  He looks like total shit.  And he’s practically dripping in red.  That’s pretty fucking disturbing.

    “What’d you do to him?” Scott asks as he motions towards the body behind her.  
        
    “Kanima venom,” she says as she wraps her arms around herself.  “Is all that yours?”  Her eyes imply through their stare that she’s asking about the blood.

    Scott looks down and sighs.  “No,” he says as he looks back,  “Or yes,” he continues while scrunching his nose and eyes,  “But, I guess, not really me?  The other me?”  

    “What happened?”  Lydia says.  

    Scott’s eyes sink an even deeper red as he says  “I don’t want to talk about it.”  He looks down at his bloody hands again, and then back to her.   Lydia lets a out a breath she didn’t realize she was holding when she sees his eyes are back to his human honey brown.

    “Did you find Allison and Stiles?” she asks.

    “Yeah,” says Scott as he steps closer to her,  “They’re waiting for us back at the tunnel’s entrance,”  He reaches a hand out to her, but stops, his face falling quickly into tight lips and sagging brows.  “Mountain ash?”  His tone is soft, weak, and shaken like a fledging sparrow that off leapt off the highest branch only to realize it’s wings weren’t strong enough to carry it un-tumbled to the ground.

    “For protection,” Lydia says and her voice sinks down low, conveying in tone what she won’t say in words.  

    “From me,” Scott says, his shoulders slumped to an impossible degree.   He looks to the side instead of at her.  “You think you need protection from me.”

    She shrugs slightly and says, “There are lots of things I need protection from down here.”  Lydia flips her hair over her shoulder, and watches him from under hooded eyelids.  She’s tired.  It takes a lot to fight your own mind, but she’s so close to finishing it.  She can’t stop now.  

    “What will we do once we’re all together?”

    Scott looks up from where he’s been trying to wipe the blood off his claws and onto his dirty shirt.  It’s not really working - the red stains have probably already dried under his nails.  “What do you mean?” he says, “We’ll go back.  What else would we do?”

    “Back the way we came?”  she says.

    Scott nods, his eyes once more focused on his bloodied hands.  

    Lydia rolls her eyes and shakes her head.  “No,” she says.  

    Scott abruptly raises his head to look at her.  “What?”

    “I said, no,” Lydia repeats, “I’m not going back that way.”

    “You can’t be serious,” he says while taking a step forward,  “Lydia, tell me you’re not serious.”

    “I’m completely serious,” she says.  

    Scott sinks down into a crouching position with a  long groan following her words.  He holds his head in his hands and rests his elbows on his knees.

    “Why won’t you just listen to me?” he says softly.

    “Why won’t you listen to me?” she shoots back.  “I just want to know what’ve I’ve forgotten.  I want to help people again.”

    “There are other ways to get back your abilities back,” he says while still holding his head.  His eyes are covered by his hands.  “I talked with Deaton.  He says it’s probably the journey through the mind that restores a banshee’s hearing, not the recovered memories.  You don’t need them.”

    “I don’t care,” Lydia says as she crosses her arms in front of her.  Scott sighs and seems to sink even deeper into his already hunched form.  “I want what’s mine,” she continues, “I want my memories.”

    “You don’t need them,” he says.  He drops both hands from his eyes but keeps his stare directed at the floor.  He lets one hand dangle off his knee and the other moves to his temple.  She watches his clawed fingers run through his hair, but she can’t see what color his eyes are yet.  He’ll have to look up for her to tell that.

    Lydia shifts from one foot to the other and lets her arms drop to her side. She bites her lip and looks at the mildew covered walls beside her.  The pipes are still leaking their sick combination of moisture and mold, and the steady drip, drip, dripping is beginning to sound intolerable to Lydia’s ears.

    “Scott,” she says his name so quietly that the sound gets caught up in the water droplets plunking into the puddle under the slimly pipes.  She’s not sure he heard her until the werewolf looks up from his crouched position, his eyes burning like embers in a dying fire.  Lydia feels trapped in his red stare.  “I want my memories,” she says and she’s immediately proud how little her voice shook during the declaration.  Scott unbends his legs and stands to his full height, his shoulders straightening out from their previously sloped angle.

    “And I said you don’t need them,” he says as he attempts to take a step toward her.  He must have forgotten about her circle of mountain ash though, because he stumbles and has to catch himself against the wall when he gets too close to the repellant.  Lydia would have missed the small snarl if they were further apart.  “Will you please get out of there?” he says.  She can almost feel the anger he’s biting back with his words.

    “Why are you getting so mad?” Lydia asks.  She makes sure to soften her tone.  She’s not trying to provoke him.  But she wants to know.  She can feel the curiosity bubbling inside her as if her bones already knew and were quivering with anticipation, waiting for her muscles, nerves, and skin to acknowledge the answer.

    “I’m not getting mad.”  Scott all but growls the words as his hand balls into a fist.  He leans more of his body into the arm braced against the wall.   “I’m just frustrated.  You don’t trust me, and you won’t listen to me.”  Lydia sees little fractures in the bricks emerging from behind his fist.  

    “Okay then,” she says a little faster and higher pitched then she would have preferred,  “Fine, go ahead.  Say what you need to say.”  She manages to slow down her words.  “I’ll try to listen.”

    “You need to trust me on this,” he says,  “We have to stick together.  All of us,”  He stares at the wall as he speaks - the fine cracks in the bricks becoming more pronounced with every word.  “We can’t splinter just because we lost Allison.”  He appears lost for a moment in his speech, and his eyes look sideways at the wall behind his hand.  His voice is low and rough with a strange emotion when he continues,  “Everything I’ve done was to protect the pack.  To protect you.”   Lydia can’t name the feeling that laces his words until she watches Scott’s face draw into itself, his eyes narrowing and his lips tightening.  

    Her gut knots as she realizes that Scott looks and sounds extremely guilty.

    She’s not surprised.  Lydia knew it was going to be Scott, but some how, the moment still leaves her feeling cold and hollow.  The sound of the drip, drip, dripping of the rusty pipes ripples inside her, and she suppresses the urge to cover her ears to against the intruding noise.  Her mind is running amuck - images and sensations rush like cockroaches from the light to find their proper place in the darken gaps of her memory.  Finally, all the fractured pieces come together and the wriggling puzzle of her mind shows it’s raw and mangled form.  The sudden knowledge of the entire truth hits harder than she expected.  

    And it hurts like fuck.  She holds her head and sinks to her knees.

    “Lydia,” Scott says.  His voice sounds questioning, but she interrupts him before he can say any more.

    “I’m fine,”  she says while making sure not to look at him.  Her words are heavy, and it feels like she might choke over them.  “Sorry, I guess this place is taking its toll on me.”  She licks her lips and focuses on steadying her heart beat.  “You’re right though,” she says as she smoothes her hair back,  “We should go now.  There’s still a dead-pool out there.  If what Deaton said is true then I’m more helpful awake.  Why don’t you bring Allison and Stiles over here.”  

    “It’ll be faster if we both just go to them,” he says.  He’s watching her closely, the corner of his mouth barley downturned.  Does he suspect she lied?  Technically it wasn’t even a lie - she just left out that she’d already remembered everything.

    “I’m feeling pretty drained, to be honest,” she says, “You should go get them.”  

    Lydia’s not leaving this circle for anything.

    Scott sighs and leans against the wall to slide down to the floor.  He sits just outside the mountain ash and rests his head back on the moldy wall as his shoulders sag.  He keeps his eyes trained on the ceiling, and his voice sounds lifeless dragging out of his mouth when he speaks.  “It’s in the scent, Lydia,” he says,  “Not the heartbeat.  I tell when people lie by paying attention to their scent.”

    Fucking werewolves.  She hates them all.  

    They sit in silence for a good three minutes before Scott breaks it.  

    “How much do you remember?” he says in the same lifeless tone.  His eyes never leave the ceiling.

    “Everything. . .”  Her words are small and frail in the musty tunnel.

    Scott closes his eyes, and drops his head between his crossed arms.  “God, Lydia,” he says, but this time his voice is thick and gravelly sounding,  “I didn’t mean t-”

    “Don’t,” she says with a jerk of her head.  She keeps her lips pursed after she speaks and turns to face the opposite wall.  “We’re not talking about this now.  Right now, we’re going home, and we’re stopping the dead-pool.  That’s what’s important,” she continues, “That no one else dies.  No one else gets hurt.”

    “If I’d known it would affect your hearing, I never,” he says quickly, “You have to believe me.”

    “I don’t care,” she says as she whips her head to face him, “And I said we’re not discussing this now.”  She cups a hand around her mouth and yells, “Allison! Stiles!”  Scott cringes and covers his ears at her harsh screech.

    “What the fuck, Lydia?”  he snarls.  

    She shrugs at him and says, “You won’t go get them.” She takes another deep breath to yell when a hand clamps over her mouth.  She looks at Scott with wide eyes.  

    He broke the mountain ash that easily?

    “It hurts my ears,” Scott snaps, “Don’t do it again.”  He removes his hand from her mouth after his warning.

    “I don’t give a shit,” she says in a rush of air, “Don’t touch me again.”  She’s breathing heavy, and her chest feels too tight.
    
    He raises an eyebrow at her and narrows his red eyes.  “You know I’m being nice,” he says, “You get that I don’t have to be, right?”

    “What I get,” she says while trying to steady her breathing, “Is that our names are still on a hit-list for supernatural creatures.  I’m not an idiot, Scott.  I know we need to keep the pack together if we have any chance of winning.”  Her breath evens out, and she flips her hair over her shoulder all the while never taking her eyes off the werewolf next to her.  “I won’t tell anyone it was you,” she says. “If that’s what’s freaking you out.  I’ll just pretend I never remembered a thing.”  Lydia waits for to Scott to visibly relax before she continues, “For now that it is.  We’ll need to talk after everything is taken care of.  Until then, I expect you to keep your distance.”

    “Lydia,” Scott says and his eyes seem to engulf hers in endless waves of grief.  “You can’t take her away from me.”  He reaches for her with a clawed hand but he pauses before making contact with her retreating form, and turns to look down the hallway.  

    That’s when Lydia sees them too.  

    A heavy breathing Stiles is supporting a recovering Allison as the two shamble down the dirty hallway towards the banshee and the werewolf.  Lydia’s relief is palpable until she remembers she must pretend it wasn’t Scott who ruined her mind.  She quickly relaxes her body.  She observes that Scott does a decent job of hiding his disappointment at the interruption.  He quickly shifts his eyes back to a warm brown, puts his claws away, and stands with a tight smile.

    “Let me help you up,” he says to Lydia.  

    It would be strange for her to refuse Scott’s hand.  Stiles might wonder why.  Lydia congratulates herself as she takes his offered hand unflinchingly - or so she thought - but the banshee notices Allison’s eyes narrow ever so slightly at the interaction.  At least Stiles is too preoccupied by the paralyzed boy who shares his face behind them to see any oddness in the gesture.

    “Is that?” says Stiles as he unwinds from Allison who’s now leaning against the wall.  He walks forward about five feet before he pulls back again.  “Oh my god, it is!”  he says as he throws both hands above his head.  He holds the pose a moment and simply stares at the prone form.  Then he lowers one hand to cover his mouth and says, “What happened?  Why is he just lying there like that?”
    
    “Kanima venom,” answers Scott.  Stiles looks up at the Alpha, his eyebrows pulled together in clear confusion.

    “How’d. . .” he says slowly while turning back to the body, “How’d you manage that?  There doesn’t even look like there was a struggle.”  

    Scott draws his eyebrows together, his mouth opening and closing a couple of times, before he says, “I don’t know.”  He turns to Lydia with narrowed eyes.  “How did you manage that?”  Stiles follows the werewolf’s line of sight to Lydia and widens his eyes as his mouth goes slack  as if the thought never occurred to him that it had been the banshee who took the Nogitsune down.

    Lydia curls her lips, and pulls her shoulders up into a shrug as she steps past the boys to reach Allison.  “Who knows?” she says, “Feminine charms, I guess.”

    “Feminine charms,” Stiles repeats as he tilts his chin up, “Right, okay. Right, that makes sense,” he nods slowly then suddenly he stops.  “Wait,” he continues as he spins around to look at Lydia who’s now standing near Allison,  “What does that mean?”  

    Lydia rolls her eyes as she slips an arm under Allison and helps the hunter from the wall.  “It means I made my saliva into kanima venom,” she says.  “Everybody hold hands.”

    “Ohhhh,” says Stiles while nodding his head quickly.  “Of course, I see.”  Suddenly, his face drops again - his eyes wide.  “Wait,” he says,  “Does that mean your mouth was on him?”

    “No, Stiles,” says Lydia,  “I just spit on him from across the hall.”  If she rolls her eyes any harder, she’s afraid they’ll roll out her head.  “Of course my mouth was on him.  I kissed him.  Everyone ready?”

    “No,” says Stiles, “I’m not ready.  You kissed him?  What are you? Some old Hollywood femme fatal?”  he asks with his hands hold out towards her.

    “I like femme fatals,” says Lydia with a small tilt of her head.  Stiles lurches forward at her words.

    “Oh my god, Lydia!”  he says, “That’s not the point at all.  You can’t just go around kissing the enemy.”  He turns to Scott and holds out his hand, waving the werewolf towards him.  “Scott, back me up, buddy.”  Scott looks between the two of them then shakes his head slowly.

    “I’m not sure what you’re talking about, but . . ” says the werewolf as he turns to look at the paralyzed trickster behind him.  “He is knocked out.  Like completely lifeless.”

    “Well, that’s not the point either,” says Stiles as he throws both hands into the air,  “What I’m trying to say is,” he pauses then turns to Scott, “Wait, you don’t know what a femme fatal is?    You’ve never watched a detective movie?  God man, how do you live?”

    “It’s called Film Noir, Stiles,” says Lydia, her voice stretched thin in her exasperation,  “Now, is everyone ready?”  Lydia doesn’t wait for a response and closes her eyes to imagine the white room.  

    The change happens so fast that her stomach swirls.

    When Lydia opens her eyes, the four of them are standing on the nemeton in the sterile room.  The hunter pulls away, and the banshee turns to watch her with drooping eyes and tightly drawn lips.  Allison curls one corner of her mouth in a doleful smile as she shrugs.

    “At least we kinda get to say goodbye this time.”  The hunter always had the worst timing with her so-called jokes.  Lydia chews her lips before she can answer.

    “Yeah,” the banshee says, “At least we get that.”  

    The two girls stare at one another until Stiles clears his throat and Allison turns to him.  “Hang in there, Stiles,” she says as she claps him on the back.  You’d almost think Allison wasn’t still in pain.

    “I will,” he says while raising his eyebrows as his voice goes up in what sounds like confusion.
    
    Scott takes the smallest step forward, and Allison’s eyes dart over to him.  She watches Scott from behind stern eyes with her lips caught between her teeth.  The entire look translates into an unreadable expression as the hunter shakes her head at the werewolf.

    Scott doesn’t say anything and slowly steps back.  

    Stiles fidgets with his shirt sleeve before turning to Lydia.  “So,” he says,  “How do we do this?”

    “I think,” Lydia says, her voice drifting all around them, “We just wake up.”

    Lydia feels fuzzy then lightheaded, and when the blinding light leaves her eyes, she can see Deaton’s slumped form resting in a chair at the foot of her bed.  She feels shifting next to her, and a sleepy eyed Stiles sits up beside her followed by Scott.

    “We made it,” she says - the wonder clear in her rough voice.  Deaton opens his eyes at the sound of her voice, and stretches in the chair.  He seems unable to contain the smile on his face as he looks at Lydia.

    “Welcome back to the world of the living, Miss Martin.  We’ve missed you,”  Deaton says,  “It’ll be nice to have a functioning banshee back in our midst.”

    Lydia rubs her shoulders and turns the vet as she says,  “How long was I out?”  Deaton looks down at his watch.

    “Just under nine hours,” he says.

    “We’re in there for five hours?” Stiles says.  “Holy shit. . .”

    “The mind does strange things with time, doesn’t it?” Deaton says as he stands from the chair.

    “Did anything happen while we were gone?” asks Scott.

    “Not that I’m aware of,” replies the vet,  “But time isn’t necessarily on our side anymore.”

    “We don’t need time,” says Lydia, “We need answers.  And I think I know where to get them.”  She stands from her bed and walks over to her closet to grab a sweater.  

    “Where are you going?” asks Stiles.

    “To the lake house,” she says, “I’ll call you when I figure it out.”  
    
    “Figure what out?” says Stiles as Lydia searches her purse for her car keys.  When she finds them, she looks up at Stiles.

    “I don’t know yet,” she says while jingling the keys in her hand.  Lydia chews her lip and stares at the moving keys before she continues, “That’s why I’m going there.”

Chapter Text

     Lydia sits on the couch of her lake house with her arms crossed and her legs folded underneath her.  Her eyes are closed and she taps a finger idly against her arm.  It’s true she felt the lake house calling her, but Lydia knows the reason she followed it was to be alone.  Her mind needs some re-ordering now that she remembers everything.  

    She starts with Stiles.

    Lydia goes through the familiar mental motions of extracting the boy from the Nogitsune.  This time she knows exactly where to break the connections.  It’s so much easier when she has the real memory to block out.  She pushes the acidic breath and bruising hands down into an inky blackness to sit with a feral Peter.  Lydia will deal with these two demons later.

    There’s a girl she must bring out of the darkness before the banshee can move on.  Lydia pulls her memories of Allison back into her heart like a greedy child.  She remembers the dreams they walked together and places them gently in the corner of her mind next her memories of the hunter when she was still alive.  It doesn't hurt as much to think about Allison, so Lydia wants every moment she has with hunter to stay in the lighted area of her mind.

    Next is Scott.  Fuckin’ Scott.   

    She realizes her insult is sickeningly apt.  Lydia opens her eyes and unfolds her arms to run her hands through her messy hair.  She shifts forward on the couch then throws her body back against it and looks up at the ceiling.  She can’t believe she fucked Scott.  He saw her naked.  She saw him.  Jesus, this is not okay.  Thinking about it hurts.  She’d been really drunk too, but she remembers it.  Remembers it was his idea.  The no strings attached agreement they shared.  The betrayal when it wasn’t Lydia’s name he sighed.  

    Lydia stands up to pace.

    She’s not stupid.  She knows Scott loves Allison.  That he’ll always love Allison.  But he’d been so tender with the banshee - holding her like she was a fragile glass figurine of some kind.  It reminded her of the dreams she’d have of Allison’s more intimate memories with the werewolf.  Lydia wanted to feel that.  To feel someone truly hold her as if her existence was a fleeting miracle.  She’d suppressed the gnawing feeling in her stomach to relish the care Scott showed.  She’d allowed herself to relax, to be lulled, and that’s when she’d heard it.  Whispered into her neck as if he hoped her skin would swallow the words and transform the strawberry blond banshee into the dark brunette hunter.  It hurt in the moment, and it hurts now to know that Scott was never thinking of the real girl beneath him.  

    And as if that wasn’t enough of an insult, he had the nerve to steal her memories right after he slept with her and called her Allison.  

    The more Lydia thinks about, the more upset she gets.  How much of the event was premeditated?  

    She told Stiles about Allison’s warning to close her mind’s door on Saturday morning, and Stiles told Scott about it sometime during the drunkenness of Saturday evening before Lydia stayed over Saturday night.  Scott had to have planned that evening to go into her mind according to the time frame.  Is that why he wanted to fuck in the first place?  For access to the memory?  And if all that’s true (she’s positive it is), does that mean he only slept with her because he knew she wouldn’t remember it afterwards?

    Lydia has to stop her pacing and sit back down.  She feels sick.  Scott used her on all fronts - mind and body - to reach Allison.   

    What a fucking asshole.  

    And then there was the actual attack when he’d slammed her into a door and left her bleeding from the rough claws he used on her neck to exact more of her mind.  Something’s happening to the True Alpha.  And even though she really hates him right now, Lydia is worried about what it all means.  And then there’s the new teeth he has when he transform.  Yeah, there’s definitely something going on with Scott McCall.  But Lydia can’t focus on that problem until the dead-pool is taken care of so she stands up from the couch again.  

    It’s time to figure out why the lake house called her.  

    Everything happens fast when Lydia starts exploring the boat house.  She finds out she’s not the only member of her family who had an ill-effect on Meredith Walker.   Lydia had only finished what her grandmother started.  And her grandmother might not even be dead.  

    Lovely.  

    She’s with Stiles at the Sheriffs station looking for how Lorraine might have faked her death when Jordan shows up in the nude and covered in ashes.  Lydia allows herself to feel the tiniest bit of fear as she watches the the naked Deputy pummel the other cop.  Just what kind of supernatural is he?  She really doesn’t want to see Scott, but the werewolf needs to know about Parrish surviving after he was burned alive.  She’ll make it worth her while, and kill to birds with one stone.  Lydia tells Scott and Derek about what she discovered at the lake house after they speak with Parrish.  When Lydia tells them Lorraine’s story, she can only hide so much of her guilt over Meredith’s death.  It ends up spilling out almost every other word.  It seems the Martins always had an ill-effect on the Walker child.  Lydia’s also aware of the parallel between the deaths of Maddie and Allison, but this, she carefully keeps away from her words and tone.  

    How she feels about her own failures isn’t important right now.  

    Lydia feels Scott’s eyes on her the entire time.  It’s terrible.  She’s extremely relieved that Derek doesn’t have any of his wolf abilities anymore (even though that kinda makes her feel like a bad person).  What it means is she doesn’t have to control her heart rate or her emotions around him.  Derek’s just as easy to fool as Stiles now.  The only supernatural creature in the room who can notice her scent and heartbeat is Scott, so she tries to flood him with all the hurt and betrayal she can get her hands on.  She wants the scent of her anger to crawl inside the Alpha and nest like fire-ants.  Scott should know how much she despises him now.  How painful it is to even look at him.  Lydia watches Scott shift his weight and recross his arms as he turns from her to ask Derek a question.  The True Alpha looks uncomfortable.  Good.  
 
    Parrish is the first leave.  He quickly gives an excuse of changing for work, but Lydia’s positive he needs time to process everything they just told him.  Finding out your town had werewolves, banshees, and kanimas on top of realizing you can’t be burned is probably a lot to come to terms with in one day.  Lydia quickly begins to gather her things and retrieves her keys from her purse.  She’s trying to walk out the door with Parrish when Scott calls out her.  Lydia stops and sighs.

    Again, what an asshole.

    Scott knows she can’t ignore him in front of Derek.  It would look weird.  She turns to face the Alpha, her lips pursed and her eyebrows raised.

    “Yes?” she says in a pointed tone.  She can still be a bitch though.  No one (especially Derek) will think twice about Lydia Martin’s bitchiness.

    “Wait for me,” says Scott, “I just need to grab my helmet, and then I’ll walk you to your car.”

    That doesn’t sound like a good idea to her.

    “I told Stiles to meet me at my house in ten minutes,” she says, “I don’t really have time to waste.”  

    “I was supposed to be at the bonfire ten minutes ago,” Scott says,  “I won’t waste your time for long.”
    
    Lydia sighs, and flips her ponytail behind her back.  “Whatever,” she says,  “Just make it quick.”  

    Derek looks over his shoulder at Lydia as she speaks, and she can just make out his lips curling up into amused grin before he realizes she’s watching him.  He turns back to the dishes in his sink and doesn’t turn around again.   The banshee spins in her heels and marches to the door.  She walks through it without waiting for Scott.  The werewolf runs to catch the closing door.  The moment they get outside Derek’s building, Scott whips to face her.

    “Stop it,” he says.  His eyes are narrowed and his shoulders seem tense.

    “Stop what,” she says as she continues walking past him towards her car.

    “You know exactly what I’m talking about,” he says while increasing his pace to keep up with her.  Lydia moves fast in heels.

    “Really?” she asks with a tilt of her head.  She uses the most condescending tone she has in her arsenal.

    “Lydia, stop it,” Scott says.  His tone is quickly losing its human shades.  “You smell terrible, and you’re doing it on purpose.”

    Lydia curls her lips up as she laughs, “Then maybe I should take a shower.”

    “It’s not funny,” he growls,  “I can barely breath around you.”

    Lydia stops her march towards her car and turns to face the werewolf following her.  “Good,” she says with her hands on her hips,  “The feeling’s mutual.”  His mouth tightens into a firm line at her words and he looks to the side as he inhales and exhales loudly through his nose.  “Did you really think I’d be fine after what you did?” Lydia says as her eyes narrow.  “You honestly think I’d want to be around you?  I’m here for the pack, Scott.  Not you.”

    “Lydia, I said I’m sorry.”

    “Oooh,” she says while throwing her hands in the air, “You said sorry?  That changes everything,” She turns to continue her stomp towards the car as she says through clenched teeth, “Like it never even fucking happened.”

    “What do you want me to say?”  Scott’s voice is loud and carries a terribly concealed presence of raging desperation.  She doesn’t need to face him to know what expression he’s wearing.  She already sees it perfectly in her mind - wide eyes, flaring nostrils and an open mouth shooting out angry puffs of breath.

    “Nothing!” she says without turning around to face him and using the same volume he had, “I want you to leave me alone!”  She’s finally at her car door.  Thank god.  Lydia opens the door and gets in without ever looking back at the werewolf.  She closes it with a hearty slam.  She’s not surprised as she drives away to see in her rearview mirror that Scott still stands dumbly next to his motorcycle, gripping his helmet tightly in his hands.

    Lydia pulls into her driveway, and bites her lips to stop a smile as she sees Stiles already sitting on her front porch staring at his phone.  He looks up at her as she steps out of the car.

    “You’re four minutes, eleven seconds, and 98 centi-seconds late,” he says as he holds up his phone.  

    “Centi-seconds? Really, Stiles?”

    “I got bored so I timed you,”  he says with a shrug as he slips his phone back into his pocket.  “But seriously? Why would anyone need to count to a one hundredth of a second?”  Lydia looks at him from the corner of her eye as she unlocks the front door.

    “Sports,” she says, “And you should know that since you’re on the lacrosse team.”

    “Key word on. It’s Coach’s job to hold the stopwatch,” he says as he walks through the door, “I’m just the pretty little number he times.”  

     Lydia’s never been more relieved to be around Stiles and his stupid sense of humor in her whole life.  He makes things seem normal.

    It takes them less time than Lydia expects to crack Lorraine’s code.  It’s refreshing to be getting things done.  To actually be solving problems.  Unfortunately, the names on this new list lead them to Eichen House where another traumatic near death experience awaits them.  As if she really needed more of those.  She sees Parrish kill to defend her, and she watches the man who killed her grandmother die.  Lydia hopes these are okay things to witness.   She won’t think about Stiles getting hit hard in the face or the delicate needle that pierced the skin of her neck.

    Then she finds out that Meredith isn’t dead, and she battles a confusion combination of anger and relief.  It’s nice to know she didn’t drive a fellow banshee to suicide, and even better to find out her own abilities are still in functioning order.  She’d been concerned when she still couldn’t hear the other banshee after Lydia recovered her memories, but now it makes sense because the girl was never dead.  The anger takes longer to settle in and boils to the surface only after Meredith won’t talk once they reach the police station.  

    It’s not the silence that’s pissing her off - it’s the inhuman knowing that Meredith wants to talk, but won’t.

    She can feel something in the other banshee.  A sadness almost.  It ebbs and flows like a tide, washing over and pulling away from Lydia in a constant motion.  It doesn’t feel like the emotions of a killer.  And certainly not a Benefactor to the dead pool.  There is no cruel girl inside of Meredith.  Her energy is driven, but not with hate.  Not with revenge.  Lydia’s never encountered a ‘bad guy’ with this type of feeling.  They’re missing something.  An important piece of information.  If she could just get Meredith to talk.

    Her anger turns to rage when the other banshee will only talk to Peter.  How did Meredith know him?  Did Peter Hale just make a habit out of knowing all the banshees in Beacon Hills?  She has to choke down her hate towards the werewolf.  She can’t let him know how much he gets to her.  She comforts herself with the knowledge that her hate is well placed.  Peter corrupts and rots the air around him.  He can’t seem to lose the echo of death.  Lydia doesn’t know if it’s his own - sticking to him like the muddy earth that first covered him when he came back.  Or the bloody deaths of others, past and future, that had crawled to rest underneath his claws.   

    Lydia waits behind the one way mirror and watches Meredith.  Sheriff Stilinski stands next to her.  She takes a deep breath when Peter walks into the room with Meredith.  This is going to be a shit show. She can feel it already.

    Lydia’s heart stops and resumes it’s thumping in an overwhelmingly powerful surge all through her body as she watches Peter fling the table that separates him from Meredith.  She knows what he’s about to do, and she’s not going to make it in time to stop him.  Lydia throws open the door to the interrogation room.  She doesn’t want to see this done to another person.  This kind of mental violation.  But she’s too late.  Peter has his claws dug into Meredith’s neck and both are stuck in the bizarre limbo until the werewolf finds what he needs.   Meredith opens her mouth, and a soft but rushing voice whispers into the room.  Lydia hears every damn word.  She doesn’t know how because her ears don’t recognize the words as any known language.  But her mind translates every hushed and jumbled mutter from Meredith.  Like a secret code made for the two banshees alone.  It’s terrible to hear what happened to Meredith Walker.  Lydia had Peter in her head once, but he was sane (for Peter) at the time.  She imagines having a stark raving mad Peter Hale broadcast into your mind non-stop for god knows how long is a completely different experience.  Her heart aches for the girl.  

    Lydia slumps into her bed the moment she gets home.  It feels like she hasn’t slept in twenty-four hours, but her mind rejects any potential sleep.  She has thinking to do.  They’d done it.  It’s over.  Peter was the (unknowing) Benefactor and the dead-pool is officially stopped thanks to Malia and Stiles, but something keeps crawling up her throat and clawing for release.  A panic or dread that she can’t tie to any single idea.  She’s unsettled.  Why does she still feel this need when the dead-pool is over?  She shouldn’t have this horrible scratching in her throat.  This isn’t good. No, this is extremely and breathtakingly bad.  

    What the hell is about to happen?

    Lydia gets up from her bed and searches her nightstand for the bottle of Advil she keeps in the table’s draw.  She finds it, but it’s empty.  Useless.  She tosses it on her bed and walks to her bathroom.  The ibuprofen bottle she locates on the counter is also empty.  Is this a joke?  Lydia throws the bottle into the trash.  At least she doesn’t need to change before heading to the store.  She slips back into her heels and grabs her purse off her bed.

    The lights in the CVS hurt her eyes.  She walks down the medicine aisle in long fast strides, stopping only to swipe an Advil bottle from the shelf.  Thank god there’s no line for check out.  She pays the elderly woman behind the counter and walks out the door.  Lydia opens the door to her car and closes it behind her with an unnecessary slam.  The sound echos in her head painfully.  She claws at the medicine’s packaging and angrily unscrews the cap to the bottle before she pops two pills into her mouth and takes a gulp from her water bottle.  The banshee sighs deeply then starts her car and pulls out of the parking space.   The neon light on her dashboard tell it’s eight minutes to midnight.  If she drives fast, she’ll be back home before it turns twelve.  

    Lydia parks the car, and checks her time. 12:11.  What the hell?  Why did it take her so long to get home.  She looks up quickly.  This isn’t her driveway.  It’s a parking lot.  The moment her eyes catch sight of the building she’s parked in front of, her body moves on its own.  She gets out the door and walks to the building.  The need is strong and it drives her limbs to carry her up the flight of stairs.  She knows what’s about to happen, but she doesn’t want to stop herself.

    Lydia waits until Derek opens the door to his loft to scream.  She feels immediate relief when the sound leaves her mouth.  Derek closes his eyes as if that will block out the shrill and piercing noise.  When Lydia closes her mouth, Derek opens his eyes.  He watches the banshee as his body relaxes, and although he is noticeably tired looking, he doesn’t seem surprised to see her.  

    “Lydia,” he says with a step back from the door to allow her entrance.  Braeden rolls her eyes and walks away to put her gun back by the bed.  The mercenary pulls a tee-shirt from a draw and slips it over her head.  Lydia feels bad that she woke them up like this.  Derek motions for her to sit down on the couch and walks into the kitchen.  Braeden sits down next to Lydia on the couch, and props her head up with one hand as she regards the banshee.

    “We’ve been wondering when this would happen,” says the mercenary with a yawn.  “I told Derek it’d probably be in the middle of the night.”  She folds her legs underneath her, and curls her lips up as she leans her head back.  “I wouldn’t have minded being wrong this one time.”  Derek walks backs into the room with a glass of water and holds it out to Lydia.

    “For your throat,” he offers.  She’s still in a slight daze so Lydia simply nods and takes the glass from him gingerly.  She sips the water and clears her throat.

    “I’m sorry,” she says.  Her voice is raspy and low from the scream.  

    “Don’t be,” he says, “You’re a banshee.  It’s what you do.” Derek raises his shoulders and lets them drop down in a shrug as he sits next to Braeden.

    “But I was kinda aware of what I was doing this time,” says Lydia,  “So it’s pretty much my fault.”  Braeden tilts her side slightly.

    “That’s a good sign,” says the mercenary as she unfolds her legs and sits closer to Derek, “Right?”  He looks up from his folded hands at her words and turns to Braeden.  Then he looks at Lydia.

    “Maybe it is good,” he says, “I don’t know much about banshees, but if you’re close to controlling it, we could have an advantage.”

    “I hope I’m more than close,” says Lydia,  “I can feel something building - something big.  It’s going to happen on the next full moon.”

    “That’s in two days,” Derek says.

    “I know.” The banshees uses a small voice.  She stares at the glass clutched in her hands.

    “Have you told Scott?” asks Derek.

    “Scott isn’t the one I see dying,” Lydia says as she looks up at the former werewolf.  She stands up and walks to put her glass of water on the kitchen countertop.  She braces herself against the side of the counter with both hands, and bends a knee as she leans forward.  “I don’t know,” she continues, “Maybe I’m not even close to controlling it.  I kept seeing a Berserker die too.  I don’t know what it means.”  Lydia pulls back from the counter and runs her hands through her hair.

    “But Kate’s involved,” says Braeden, “That part’s for sure.”  Lydia turns around to nod at the mercenary as she wraps her arms around herself.   

    “Lydia,” Derek says as he stands up from the couch, “You’ve helped a lot already.  We know the when and the who now.  And we’ve got two days to figure out the where.  We’ve been in tighter situations with less time.”  Lydia’s positive not many people handle talking about their own death this way.  Derek is a good guy.  She tries to smile, but she can tell her mouth stretches tighter instead of curling up like she intends.  Lydia gives up on the expression and sighs.

    “I’m gonna go,” she says, “I have school tomorrow, but I’ll call you if I think of anything else.”  She turns to walk towards the door.  “Sorry again for waking you up,” says the banshee as she exits the loft.

    This time, Lydia changes into pajamas before climbing into bed.  She feels her body hum with relief when her mind doesn’t fight the drowsiness that settles over it.  Lydia is ready for sleep.  

    She walks the hallways of the school quietly.  She feels a warm presence calling her, and she increases her pace, eager to answer the familiar call.  Lydia opens the door to the lunchroom and sees Allison sitting with Jackson at the table furtherest from the door.  The  hunter waves her over, and Lydia takes a seat next to her.  Jackson snorts and looks mildly offended.

    “You’re not going to sit next to your boyfriend?” he asks.  Lydia ignores him except to glare and then turns to face Allison.

    “Is it safe to talk?” she asks the hunter.  Allison scans the lunchroom and then looks at Lydia and shrugs.

    “Maybe,” Allison says, “I don’t see him any where.”
    
    “I’m worried,” says the banshee, “We stopped the dead-pool, but I still feel death almost everywhere.  When I look at Derek.  When I think of the pack.”

    “Derek Hale?” says Jackson.  “What are doing looking at that loser?”

    “Shut up,” Lydia snaps as she looks up at the lacrosse captain.  “This is a dream. You’re not real, Jackson.”  She turns to face the hunter again.  “I don’t know what to do,” she continues,  “And now there’s this thing with Scott.  I know it’s related.”

    “What about Scott?” asks Allison.  Her eyes narrow with her question, and Lydia can see the hunter visibly tense.

    “He said something about having more teeth when he transforms. I think I’m the only one he told,”  Lydia says as she chews her lip.  

    “More teeth?”  

    Lydia nods to the question. “Like he’s getting deeper into the transformation.  Becoming more of a werewolf,” she says.

    Allison sits back in her seat with her lips pulled taunt. “That doesn’t sound good,” says the hunter.

    “And I’ve got until the night after tomorrow to figure it all out,” Lydia says,  “Whatever’s going to happen will happen on the full moon.”

    “I’d talk to Deaton,” says Allison, “He’s got to know something about werewolf biology and behavior that can help you out.”

    “I know,” says Lydia with a sigh, “I’m gonna see him after school tomorrow.  I just hope it’s Scott’s day off.”

    Allison doubles over in her seat.

    “Are you okay?” asks Lydia with wide eyes.

    “Yeah, I’m fine,” says the hunter through clenched teeth as she wraps both arms around her stomach.  “It takes a lot of energy to maintain myself in this field.  I think I’m still recovering from being trapped.”

    “I’m sorry.”

    Allison practically snorts at Lydia’s words.  “Don’t say sorry.  It wasn’t you,” she says while slowly sitting up straight.  “I probably need to go though,” she continues, “I don’t know what happens if I lose all my energy here.”  

    Lydia nods and bites her lip.  It never gets easier to say goodbye to the hunter.  The banshee manages to get out the words, “See you around”.  Allison crinkles her eyes and curls her lips into smile.

    “In your dreams,” Allison says as she stands up from the table.  Lydia shakes her head as she watches Allison walk out the lunchroom doors.  The hunter’s jokes are still not funny.  She stares at the now vacant seat to her side for a long time before she blinks.

    When she opens her eyes, the banshee is in dark and unfamiliar bedroom.  It takes her a long time to figure out where she is, but the tee-shirt and boxers she’s wearing tell her it’s got be Scott’s room.  She’s still dreaming then.  Lydia sits up in the bed and swings her legs over the side.  The shifting must have disturbed her bedmate, because a groggy sounding voice speaks to her from the other side of the bed.

    “What are you doing?”

    It’s just a dream.  This isn’t the real Scott talking to her.  She doesn’t need to be scared.  She really doesn’t, but Lydia can’t stop the pounding of her heart.

    “Nothing,” she says, “Go back to sleep.”  She stands up from the bed.

    “Where are you going?” he says while he pushes himself up into a sitting position.

    “Just go back to sleep.”  She turns away from the bed, but a hand reaches out, and gently holds her by the wrist.

    “Allison,” says Scott, “We don’t have to keep secrets anymore.”  

    Lydia whips her head to face the werewolf holding her wrist before she jerks her hand free.  Did he really just call her Allison?  The banshee opens her mouth to curse out the dream Scott, but hair ends up caught in her mouth.  She sputters and uses a hand to pull the lock out from between her lips.  She pauses when she can tell even in the dark room that her hair is much shorter and darker than it should be.  Lydia rushes into the bathroom across the hallway and stares at her reflection.  Allison’s face stares back at her.  This is strange.  She leans closer to the mirror and tries imagining her own face looking back at her, but it doesn’t work.  Apparently, Lydia’s mind is dead-set on her being Allison for this dream.  She pushes away from the sink only to realize she’s in the school bathroom now.

    God, dreams are weird, but at least she’s not wearing Scott’s clothes anymore.  

    Lydia walks out into the hallway.  The school feels different than it did moments ago when she was with Allison.  There’s a stale tension in the halls, and Lydia can feel the emptiness of the building echoing through her skin.

    “Allison?”

    Her heart jumps at the voice.  She thought she was alone.  Lydia takes a deep breath before she turns to face the speaker.  Scott stands not twenty feet away in all his transformed glory.  She can see his teeth poking out from between his lips, and his eyes seem to carry a mixture of relief and caution in their red depths.  She doesn’t say anything as he steps closer.

    “Thank god,” he continues as he closes the gab between them, “I was starting to think you were gone.”  He stops before he completely reaches her and relaxes his face back into its human form.  “Are you still not talking to me?”  he says without looking at her.  Instead he stares down at his hands.  

    This is still dream Scott, right?

    Lydia clears her throat.  “What are you doing here,” she says.  Allison’s voice sounds much deeper then Lydia’s used to hearing.  It’s weird how voices change when you’re making the vibrations behind them.  Scott sighs and lets his shoulders sink low before he answers.

    “Please don’t be mad.  I had to see you,” he says.  “Especially after what happened tonight.”  

    “What happened tonight?”

    “I’m not even really sure,” Scott says as he shifts from foot to foot.  “We were fighting a group of hunters.  There were so many of them.”  Lydia’s stomach starts to flip.  This doesn’t sound like a dream version of Scott.  “I was so mad,” the werewolf continues, “I’d been pissed off all day anyway.  Lydia hasn’t talked to me since we got back from her mind, and she was making things difficult at Derek’s.”

     Lydia’s stomach stops flipping and simply drops.  She’s talking with the real Scott McCall.  

    “What happened tonight, Scott?” she repeats as she suppresses the urge to take a step back from him.  Allison would stand her ground.

    He twists his hands in front of him and turns to face the lockers.  He closes one with his foot and sighs.  “I don’t know,” he says.  “I felt uncontrollable. I. . .”  Scott stops and lowers his head.  “I think I almost killed someone.  If Stiles and Malia hadn’t shut down the dead-pool. . .”  He looks up at her.  “Something’s happening to me, Allison.”

    “Do you think it has anything to do with the new teeth you have when you transform?”

    Scott lowers his eyebrows and his lips protrude in what appears to be confusion.  “Did Lydia tell you about that?”  He watches her with narrowing eyes before he sinks down to the floor and cradles his head.  “Dammit,” he says, “I knew it was too good to be true.  You’re not really Allison.”  Lydia takes a step back.  Does he know its her?  “Allison still isn’t talking to me,” he continues, mostly talking to himself now, before he looks up from his hands at her.  “You’re not even real.”  

    So he thinks this is her mind’s version of Allison.  

    What a lucky break.

    “I’m fucking sick of this,” Scott growls as he stands back up, “I just needed to see to her.  The real her.”  He slams a hand against a locker, and looks at her over his shoulder as his face morphs into the wolf.   His brow hoods his eyes under the harsh planes of the beast emerging as his mouth opens wider and hangs lower to accommodate his sharpening teeth.

    What was his anchor and why wasn’t he using it?  Then it occurs to her.

    “Scott,” Lydia says, “Are you still trying to use Allison as your anchor?”

    “What?”  he says in a voice that’s deeper than she’s ever heard him use.

    Oh fuck.  Lydia forgot she’s supposed to be a version of Allison right now.  

    Scott straightens out his shoulders as he turns his entire body to face her. “What did you just say?”  He takes a step forward and narrows his eyes.  Lydia takes a step back and angles her body so that the open hallway is behind her instead of the lockers.  He tilts his head, and fixes her with a blank stare as he clenches a clawed hand.  “You’re not Allison at all,” he says, “You’re Lydia.”

    She can feel her heart pumping her blood through her veins.  She knows Scott can hear its coursing path.

    “Why do you look like her?” he says.  It doesn’t seem possible, but his tone is even rougher and lower than before.  His teeth appear to be elongating.  This isn’t good.

    “Scott, you need to calm down.”  

    “I’m trying to,” he says, but he doesn’t seem to be trying very hard.  The words sound guttural and almost half-eaten through his fangs.  She watches as his claws lengthen.

    “Seriously, Scott,” she says.  Allison’s voice sounds strange this high and panicky.  “You need to stop.  Like right now. Stop.”

    “Uuhng,” he groans as he grabs his head with his clawed hands.  “Stop talking.  Stop using her voice.”

    “I can’t help it,” says Lydia in a rushed tone, and she can’t keep her fear out of Allison’s voice.  

    “Then get away from me,” he snarls from between his hands.  

    Lydia’s anger swells and breaks over her - obliterating the previous tremors of cold fear as the wave’s overwhelming and all-consuming nature burns white hot throughout her body.  
    
    How dare he say that to her.

    “This is my mind!”  Lydia hurts her throat with the volume she uses, and the sound of Allison’s voice rings down the hallway.  Lydia takes a deep breath and continues at a normal volume,  “I told you to stay away from me.  To leave me alone.”  Her rage empowers her and she takes a step forward with her words.  “How about you get the hell out of my mind, Scott.”  Lydia spits his name using Allison’s fiercest tone.  

    The werewolf doesn’t move for a good minute aside from the heaving of his chest as he breathes.  Finally, he drops his hands from his head, and lifts his chin to look her in the eyes.  She stares at the boy in front of her.  He’s not standing up straight - his shoulders and back are hunched and his arms hang slightly bent at his sides.  The posture is enough to make her wary, but it’s Scott’s face that bothers her.  He looks different somehow.  The harsh lines of the wolf seem sharper and rougher.  Even his skin looks tougher.  And it’s dark gray.  Lydia can’t believe that this is really the True Alpha.  He reminds her of a fully transformed Alpha Peter.  Or maybe even the Demon Wolf.  

    Either way, Scott looks fucking terrifying.  

    Lydia realizes she shouldn’t have stepped closer during her rant.  They’re not even an arm’s length away from each other.  But Scott doesn’t move.  He stares at her, his chest still heaving under the strain of his breath.  The Alpha’s doing something, but she doesn't know what.  His eyes seem to run up and down and all the way through her at the same time.  She watches him right back, never taking her eyes off his.  She’s aware staring into the eyes of an Alpha might seem disrespectful, but this is her mind.  She’s not going to back down.  She can’t tell if the dark red eyes are narrowed but his brow wrinkles like he’s scrunching his nose.  The speed he uses to propel his body could be faster than light for all that Lydia sees of it.  He vanishes from her field of vision and then hands grab her arms from behind to twist the limbs against her back.  It hurts more from the unexpected nature of the grip and less from the force he uses to twist them.  He walks her forward until the two reach the lockers, and then he lets her arms go.  She lowers them slowly, unsure how to react to this.  When nothing happens, she attempts to turn around to look at him.  One hand pushes the turning shoulder back against the lockers and the other slams to the right of her head.  Lydia feels the rumbling vibration before she hears the growl.  He doesn’t want her to move - she’s gathered that much - but otherwise, Lydia doesn’t understand any of the werewolf’s motives.  

    Okay, think logically.  
    
    If Scott’s physical transformation is any indication, he’s becoming more of werewolf, and the change has something to do with being an Alpha.  Lydia remembers Malia’s story about the deer and the mountain lion.  If Scott perceived a challenge to his authority or right as an Alpha, he might respond with aggression but not a true threat.  He must have interpreted her stare as a challenge (it totally was).  

    Is that what’s happening here?  

    “I know you miss her,” Lydia says.  She uses a calm but whispered tone.  It makes Allison’s voice extremely soothing.  “I know, Scott.  I miss her too.   But you can’t do this.”  

    He doesn’t say anything but leans into her to inhale deeply.  Is he even listening to her?  He takes another deep breath of her scent.  Lydia wonders what she must smell like.  Allison?  Or maybe a strange mixture of her and Allison’s scents together.  The banshee keeps trying to imagine her own body, but she remains stuck in the hunter’s form.  Her mind better know what it’s doing, or so help her god.  She feels something wet on her neck, and with dawning horror, Lydia realizes that Scott is licking her.  She must have smelled like Allison.

    “Scott,” she says, “I know a part of you can still hear me.  You have more control than this. Use it. ”  He completely ignores her words and continues the wet trails up her neck with his tongue.  

    This is unacceptable.

    “Find another anchor!” she screams as she pushes against the lockers with all her strength, forcing her body back into his. Lydia can hear the friction of two voices in her words as a blinding light flashes all around her.  When her eyes adjust, she can see strawberry blond strands of hair in the corner of her sight.  The banshee looks like herself again.

     Scott lies on his back a few feet away, still clutching his head between his hands to avoid the bright flash of light.  She knows he’s still transformed because the hands that cover his eyes are clawed, but his skin has returned to it’s normal tan instead of the bizarre dark gray tone it was a moment ago.  Lydia breathes hard, her chest aching from the speed of her breaths.  She leans back against the lockers and puts both hands over her heart as if she could slow it’s rapid beating through sheer will-power.  She watches the werewolf on the ground in front of her.

    “I told Meredith that you weren’t a monster.  That you were different.” Lydia says softly,  “Prove me right, Scott.”

    The claws covering the werewolf’s eyes slide back into human fingernails, and Scott moves one hand so he can slide his arm up to completely hide the top half of his face.  He holds the arm in place with his other hand and takes a deep, but shaky, breath.  He holds the inhale for a long time and then lets the air escape in a rushed and wet sounding exhale.  Lydia takes a step towards him and sees a small trail of wetness sneaking down the Alpha’s cheek from under his arm.  

    Scott’s crying.

    “Are you sure I’m not?”  he says,  “I feel like a monster.”  His voice is quietly raw and exposed in its choking confession.  He sounds emptied.  Barren.  A desolate waste of a boy as if everything had been shattered inside of him and he’s simply a husk housing the broken pieces.

    “You miss her,” says Lydia as she crunches down next to him, “And you’d do anything to see her again.  I understand. I really do,”  She stops to collect her breath and wipe at the moisture building in the corners of her eye, “Everyday I miss Allison so much I can’t breath. And I thought talking with her in dreams would help, but it’s so much worse.”  Lydia looks up at the ceiling with her words,  “Because she’s still gone in the morning.  It’s like I lose her again every time I wake up.  So. . . I stopped wanting to wake up. . .”  Scott moves the arm from his face to look at Lydia.  The banshee sits next to him with her legs folded and her arms wrapped around her.  “I’m not as strong as Allison,” she says as she squeezes her eyes closed against the burning tears,  “All I can think about is how it should’ve been me.”

    “Lydia,” says Scott as he sits up from the floor.  She shakes her head and opens her eyes to look at him.

    “I should’ve been the one to die, not Allison,” the banshee says.  Scott’s eyebrows pull together and his lips tighten into a line.

    “Don’t say that,” he says,  “Please, Lydia, you can’t think that.”

    “Why?” she half sobs, half laughs as she covers her face with her hands, “It’s true.  I know you think it too.”  The emotion in her tone is overwhelming, and it forces her voice into a whisper.  She doesn’t want to look at Scott right now.  She doesn’t want to see what kind of face he’s making.  She hears the sound of clothes shifting and feels arms gently pull her into Scott’s chest.  The tender hug makes her cry even harder.

    “That’s not true,” Scott says in a choked voice,  “I miss her, but I’ve never wished that.  Not for one second.”  

    “You’re lying,” says Lydia, her voice muffled against his shirt.  “I know you wish I was Allison.  How could you use me like that otherwise?  Like I’m just some tool to channel her.”  The arms holding her slack the smallest bit, and Lydia uses the opportunity to push out of Scott’s hug.  She turns around so that she doesn’t have to see him.  “You’re not the only one she left behind.  If I could change it, I would.  If I could keep her with me always, I would.  Don’t you understand that?”  She wipes at her eyes again and leans her head back to take a deep breath.  It’s difficult to breath right now.  “But I can’t abuse what I have, Scott,” she says,  “You can’t abuse what I have. It’s not fair to me.  To Allison.  We owe her so much more than that.  Honor her memory and be the werewolf she died for.  Don’t let your grief turn you into another Peter.”

    The two sit in silence; the only sound is the occasional sniff from Scott.  Lydia looks over her shoulder at the Alpha.  His head rests in between his arms that are crossed over his knees.  His back is hunched and his shoulders are completely slumped.  A tremor runs through his body every now and then - probably a result of his attempts to suppress his crying.  He must feel Lydia’s eyes on him because he raises his head and looks up at her.  The skin around his eyes is still blotchy and puffy but he’s not crying anymore.  He sniffs loudly again and wipes at his nose with the back of his hand.  

    “Why?”  Lydia says, finally breaking the silence.  “I mean I know for Allison, but. . .”

    “It wasn’t for Allison,” he says, “At least, not at first.”  Scott looks down at the tile floor and clears his throat before continuing.  “I wanted to help,” he says while never taking his eyes off the floor, “I saw how much pain you were in.  From Allison, from Stiles.  And you wouldn’t talk about it. So when I realized I’d found your door. . . I just wanted to check on you.”

    “You did a little more than that, Scott,” she says.  

    The werewolf sighs.  

    “So,” continues Lydia, “How’d you go from checking on me to stealing from me?”

    “Peter heard me talking to Stiles at Derek’s about you.  About how worried I was,” he says, “He told me I didn’t need to wonder, that as an Alpha, I could just see for myself what was happening.”

    “He showed you how to use your claws,” says Lydia.  Her voice is quiet.

    “But I didn’t want to,” he says quickly,  “I was fine just using the doors until, well. . . You were going to close them.”  

    “And you couldn’t lose her again,” she says as she closes her eyes and puts her head in her hands,  “So you invaded my mind and took her from me.”

    “Lydia,” he says.  She moves her hands and looks at him.

    “And then you did it again because I found out. . .”  she says.
    
    “I didn’t know it would hurt you,” he says,  “I was just so frustrated.  You just kept pulling away from me.  Shutting me out.”

    “I shut everyone out,” she says.

    “I know,” he continues, “And it drove me crazy.  How could I let that happen?  We’d just lost Allison, I couldn’t let us splinter anymore.”

    “That’s what loss does.  It’s cuts and slices until you either put yourself back together despite the pain or redefine the shattered pieces as a new you.”

    “I didn’t want that for you.  I didn’t want you to have to change,” he says as he looks up at her, “I wanted to protect you.”

    “You can’t protect people from life, Scott.”

    The werewolf snorts. “You said exactly like my mom when she found the money,” he says as he shakes his head.

    “What money?” asks Lydia.  Scott’s eyes widen and his mouth goes slack.

    “I forget we never told you,” he says as he looks down at this hands,  “Stiles and I found the money Garret collected from the Benefactor.  I’m giving it back to Derek tomorrow though.”

    Lydia nods.  She’s not that surprised.

    “That’s the right thing to do,” she says as she runs her hands through her hair.  That reminds her.  “I went to see Derek tonight,” Lydia says, “And I screamed.  It’s not over, Scott.  What ever’s happening isn’t even close to done.  I feel death all around me.  Everywhere I turn.  It’s inescapable.”

    The werewolf sighs and lies back down on the floor.  Lydia does the same.  They lie on the cold tile an arms length apart not saying a word.  They stay like that until a strange beeping sound echos through the hallway.

    Lydia wakes up to the blares of her alarm clock.   She sits up and quickly turns the machine off.  She has enough to do today without thinking about her conversation with Scott.  The school day rushes by in a blur.  Before she knows it, she’s in economics.  Malia sits with her and Kira.  Apparently, a near death experience is enough to get Stiles and the were-coyote back together.  Thankfully, Scott isn’t in class.  Talking in her sleep was one thing, but Lydia’s not ready to face him in the real world.  

    The banshee can’t concentrate on anything around her.  Kira notices, and attempts to sooth Lydia’s rattled nerves, but it has no effect.  They can’t feel what Lydia does.  The death hanging all around them.  She’d already screamed for Derek, and now her throat is tickling every time she looks at Kira.  This isn’t okay.  Lunch and A.P. Biology go even slower than economics.  Lydia’s head pounds as the voices increase their volume.  She excuses herself from class and runs to the restroom.  She splashes the cold (and probably poorly filtered) water onto her face.  The banshee can’t take all the different voices whispering to her right now.  They’re too loud and she’s tired of hearing her friends’ names in the hushed cries.  However, she pays attention when she hears a familiar voice.  Allison.

    “Deaton,” says the hunter,  “Get to Eichen House now, Lydia.”

    The banshee walks out the bathroom and down the hallway towards the parking lot.  Saving lives is more important than school.  Besides, she has a 4.0 gpa so she can afford to miss a couple of classes.  Lydia drives ten miles over the speed limit and reaches Eichen House in record time.  She doesn’t even stop to give her name to the orderlies.  Deaton isn’t dead yet, but he’s in danger.  She can feel it.

    Her heart sinks when she sees his prone form lying on the bed.  What happened to him?  She tells the doctors not to move him and holds his hand.  She can feel him - his consciousness hums to her from under his skin.  Does he know she’s here?  Can Deaton hear her?  Lydia decides it doesn’t matter if he can or not, because she is going to make him hear her.  She grips his hand tighter in hers and closes her eyes.  She calls to him from her mind - pulls on the humming vibration of his thoughts until the frequency combines with hers.

    “Alan,” she says,  “Alan, I know you can hear me.  It’s time to wake up.”  There’s no answer so she tries again even louder.  “Deaton, where ever you are only has power over you if you give up.  Don’t give up.”  She feels his hand twitch in hers.  “That’s right.  You’re strong, Deaton.  Use that strength and come home.”  His hand grips hers tighter.  “Come home, Alan.  We need you.  Wake up.”
         
    The vet gasps awake as his eyes fly open.  The doctors don’t say a word as the banshee helps the Druid to his feet.  He fills her in on the details of his sleep as they ride back to the vet’s.  What the strange man known as Valeck had showed him about the temple.

    “The same one where we found Derek?” she asks.  

    Deaton nods as he rests his head against the car window.  He’s probably drained from whatever mental battle he just went through.  “You should be proud of yourself, Lydia,” he says,  “You’ve told us the who, the when, and the where in less than twenty-four hours.”
 
    Lydia shakes her head and says, “You found out the where.”  

    “And I would have been trapped there forever if you hadn’t called me back,” he says, “You’re an extremely powerful banshee, Miss Martin.  Don’t ever forget that.”

Chapter Text

    Lydia groans as she slowly becomes aware of her surroundings.  Her head is pounding and she holds a hand to it as she sits up from the concrete floor.  She’s in the school’s basement, and she’s not alone.  Lydia can hear the muffled pacing of the Berserker that attacked her down the hallway.  

    It could have killed her, but it didn’t.  It wants her here.  She stands up and looks around.  Her purse is gone.  And her phone.  Lydia sighs and leans against the wall.  She feels slightly dizzy, but the feeling is overpowered by the sinking weight in her chest.  A terrible knowing that keeps her balanced.  

    All the pieces fall into place at once.  Kate.  Peter.  Scott.

    Lydia had been thinking about her conversation with Scott ever since he and Kira had been taken.  What he’d said about Peter bothers her but doesn’t surprise her.  The older werewolf had planted the idea of memory manipulation in Scott’s head.  The banshee’s sure of it.  The True Alpha could never have thought to do it on his own.  So even though it wasn’t actually Peter who’d played with her mind this time, it was still pretty much his fault (go figure).  She remembers the words her mind’s version of Peter had sneered at her and Allison - “Is it still worth remembering knowing that you’ll be helping me? I could already be planning the death of someone close to you.  Then you would have helped kill three people”.  

    How could knowing that it’s Scott who’d hurt her help Peter?  Then it occurs to her.  Peter had little to no loyalty.  What if he’d expected Lydia to renounce the pack after she found out what Scott did?  Lydia knows that she can feel the death of the people she cares about much stronger than those she doesn’t.  Had Peter wanted her disconnect from Scott?

    Her stomach drops.  

    Of course he had.  And since she didn’t pull away from the Alpha as much as Peter wanted, he’d sent a Berserker to keep her occupied.  He wants her far away from whatever’s happening in Mexico.  It gets harder for her to breath.  She’d been confused as to way she kept seeing a Berserker die.  Now she understands.

    It’s not just a Berserker.  It’s Scott.  

    Peter used Kate, and now he’s planning to use everyone else to help him kill the True Alpha.  

    The sound of the door opening catches her attention, and Lydia hides behind a corner.  She listens to the Berserker’s stomping and holds her breath.  There’s a thumping sound, like a body hitting the floor, and then the Berserker’s footsteps recede down the hall.  She pokes her head out and sees a kid lying on the ground.  She knows she’s seen him around Liam before.  Mason.

    She gently puts a hand to his forehead to check his wound and he gasps awake.  The horror of the Berserker still shines in his eyes.  

    “There was a guy, huge, with a bone mask or something,” he says as his eyes meet hers.  Lydia nods.

    “I know,” she says.  She watches as Mason pats his pockets.

    “My phone is gone,” he says.

    “I think that’s the point,” she answers as she looks down the hall.  They can’t stay here.  The voices whisper of a death in the hall.  She can’t tell whose it is though.  She looks at the boy next to her.  Poor kid.  Berserkers are a rough way to meet the supernatural world hiding beneath Beacon Hills’ suburban facade.  

    Lydia feels a shooting pain in her chest below her heart.  She has to use the wall to steady herself against the paralyzing sensation.
      
    Kira.  

    The banshee feels the kitsune’s life force fluttering in the back of her mind.  And Kira’s not the only one.  Derek’s presence grows stronger in her mind as well.  They’re both dying.  How cold they both already be dying?  Lydia bites her lip until it almost bleeds.  

    Why?  

    Why couldn’t she ever save her friends?  Won’t point was there in being a powerful banshee if she couldn’t save the people she loved?  

    Lydia wipes at her eyes with a jerky hand.  Crying won’t change anything.  No matter how many tears she lets out, she’ll still be in the basement with a Berserker hell bent on not letting her leave.  The only thing that can change anything now is action.  Her action.

    “We need to get past it,” she says to Mason.

    “But he’s blocking the only exit,” Mason says.

    “I know,” she says, “But we have to try to get past it.”

    “Why do you keep calling him an it?”  Mason asks - his voice low in his fear.

    “Because it’s not human,” she answers as she steps out from behind the corner to look down the hallway.  She has to get to a phone.  She has to tell Stiles about Scott.  Suddenly, Lydia stops and takes a choked breath.  She braces herself against the wall as all the air rushes out of her.  

    She just felt Derek die.

    She leans her head back and closes her eyes.  Be strong.  There are still others she can save.  She worries about Kira.  She can’t feel the kitsune anymore at all.  She opens her eyes and pushes off of the wall.  She has to keep trying.  

    “We’re going to fight it,” Lydia says as she looks over her shoulder at Mason.  Then she turns back around to look over the objects in the basement.  Her eyes skim over the hallway until they settle on a bin of baseball bats.  She picks out the metal one.  Stiles would be proud of her choice of weapon.

    “With a baseball bat?” says Mason, “Lydia, are you serious?”

    “Completely,” she says a she admires the bat and tests its weight in her hands, “Look, I’m trying to save my friends from dying,” She looks up at him with her words.  “Liam, your best friend, is with them.”  She cracks her neck and starts walking down the hall towards the Berserker staring at them.  “And yes, I’m going to use a baseball bat.”

    She takes pause when Mason runs past her with a loud cry.  What a good friend.  Liam is lucky to have him.  She cringes as she watches the boy’s body fly back from the Berserkers strike.  At least Mason manages to connect a couple of times before he’s tossed back.  She’s up next.  Lydia swings the bat as hard as she can, but like Mason, she only gets two hits in before the beast throws her back.  She can feel the energy in the hallway change when she hits the floor.  They must have really pissed it off because the creature starts to stomp towards them.  The death humming in the back of her mind gets louder.  

    What’s about to happen?

    She hears some one shout, “Excuse me, catch!” Lydia watches with wide eyes as Sheriff Stilinski tosses a land mine into the Berserker’s hand.  She and Mason barely have time to get behind the corner before the explosion goes off.

    Well, that’s definitely one way to take down a Berserker.

    Lydia coughs as the dust and debris settles.  She helps Mason up, and the two poke their heads around the corner.  She watches as the Sheriff picks up the bone mask lying on the floor.

    “Not so tough now,” the Sheriff mumbles, “You kids okay?”  God bless the Stilinski family.

    “It was after me,” Lydia says as she stares at the skull in the Sheriff’s hands, “It wanted me to stay in Beacon Hills. I think this is all . . . some sort of distraction.”  

    “Because you knew,” says the Sheriff slowly, “They’re trying to kill someone.”    

    Mason looks back and forth between Lydia and the Sheriff.  “Kill who?” he asks.
 
    Lydia chews her lip. “Scott,” she says softly.  She keeps staring at the pile of dust and bones.

    The Sheriff puts a hand on her and Mason’s shoulder to gently guide them out of the basement.  “Alright,” he says, “Let’s get out of here.”

    Mason looks over his shoulder one last time at the remainders of the Berserker as the three of them walk away.

    “What was that thing?” he says.
    
    Lydia raises her eyebrows and pulls her lips between her teeth before she shakes her head.  “It’s a long story,” she says, “And one you should probably get from Liam.”

    She sees her purse lying on the stairs along with her phone.  She picks them both up and opens her phone.  Great, only about 20 missed calls from Stiles.  She really wants to call him back.  She needs to know what’s happening.  She’d felt Derek die, but now his presence is completely gone from her mind, just like Kira’s earlier.  She honestly can’t tell what it means.  The Sheriff waits until Mason steps to the side to call his mom, and then the police officer turns to Lydia.

    “They were already in the temple when I talked to Stiles,” he says, “I tried to call back but there was no answer.”  He stops talking and runs a hand down his face.  “Lydia, I don’t know how it works, but. . .” He pauses again to lick his lips and shifts from one foot to the other before he continues, “You can’t feel Stiles, can you?”

    She looks up at the Sheriff.  His mouth is set in a taunt line, and his eyes seem to hold a deep searching terror.

    “Stiles is alive,” she says.  The Sheriff lets out a deep sigh and bends over to put his hands on his knees as if he’s catching his breath.

    “Oh thank god,” he says while still leaning on his knees, “I’m going to kill that kid when he gets home.”

    Lydia wants to smile at him, but when she starts to curl her mouth, the muscles of her face contort into a choking grimace.  She brings a hand up to cover mouth, but the sob escapes her lips before she can stop it.  The Sheriff looks up at her.

    “I hate this,” she says in a quiet voice from behind her hand.  “I hate being a useless banshee.  This time was supposed to be different.”  She drops her hand from her mouth and runs it though her hair as she bites her lip.  “I wasn’t going to let anyone die.  And now I can’t sense Derek or Kira, and I have no idea what it means.”  She ignores the tears trickling down her cheeks.  She feels the Sheriff’s sympathy blanket her as he pulls her into a strong hug.  “What if Scott dies?”  She can barely say the words.

    “Hey now,” he says softly,  “Hey, it’s okay.”  

    “I can’t,” she says in a ragged voice, “I can’t lose anyone else.”

    “You won’t, Lydia,” he says as he pulls back to look at her face.  “Trust them.  All we can do is trust them.  They’ll find a way.”

    She nods and hastily wipes at her eyes as Mason walks back over to them.  She doesn’t say anything back to the Sheriff.  There’s nothing to say.  

    All they can do now is wait and see.

    Lydia sits on her bed and stares at her phone as she chews a fingernail.  She needs it to ring.  She can’t stand not knowing.  She should be there with them.  Please ring.  She flops backwards onto her pillow.  What can she do?  There must be something she can do.  She closes her eyes and stretches her mind as far as it will go.  Where are the voices?  After the raging storm her mind’s been the last two days, this oppressing quiet is unnerving.  She keeps searching and searching for a hushed whisper.  Any voice will do at this point.  Just give her something.  Anything.  Lydia feels her eyes water again, and she sits up with an angry rush of breath.  She doesn't want to cry anymore.  She stands up and starts to pace her room.  She looks back at her phone on the bed.  Please ring.

    She watches through blurry eyes as her phone screen lights up.  Lydia nearly falls in her attempt to reach it.  She doesn’t even see who’s calling before she answers.

    “Is it over?” she says into the phone.

    “It’s over,” says Stiles.  He sounds exhausted.  Lydia sinks into the bed and tries to steady her breathing.  

    “And everyone?”  She can’t bring herself to form the entire idea.

    “We’re all still here.  Everyone is alive,” he says.  Lydia doesn’t try to stop her tears this time.  Her body starts to shake from the emotional release.  She lets out a shaky breath into the phone.  “Are you okay?” continues Stiles.

    “I’m fine,” she says in a choppy voice.  Stiles is quiet as she regulates her breathing.  “I’m fine,” she repeats in a stronger voice.

    “We’re on the way home now,” he says,  “Probably about four hours away at most.”

    “Okay,” she says as she wipes at her eyes, “I guess. . . drive safe.”

    “Yeah, don’t worry,” he says,  “We didn’t just fight our way out of an Aztec Temple to die in a car crash.”

    “Stiles,” she says as she rolls her eyes.  Did he have to use the d-word?  “I’ll just talk to you when you get back in town.”

    “Alright,” he says, “Talk to you lat-”  he stops and she can hear someone else saying something, but she can’t make out who.  “Hey, hold on,” Stiles says, “Scott wants to talk you.”

    Lydia looks up her at ceiling then back at her lap.  “Okay,” she says after she takes a deep breath, “Put him on.”  She listens to the shuffling as the phone is passed to Scott.

    “I just wanted to say thanks,” the Alpha says.

    “I didn’t do anything,” she says.  

    “Yeah, you did.  Stiles told me,” he says, “Deaton would be in a coma and we’d all be dead if it wasn’t for you.”

    “Oh, that,” she says as she lies back on her bed.

    “Yeah, that,” Scott says.  She can practically hear him rolling his eyes.  “Anyway, what are you doing later today?”

    “I don’t know,” she says, “Probably convincing myself that we’re all safe.  For now at least.  Never seems to last that long in Beacon Hills.”

    “Well, come over to Derek’s when we get back and convince all of us.”

    “Scott, I’m glad you’re alive, but I’m still mad at you,” she says, “I’m not going.”

    “What?” he says,  “I can’t hear you.  You’re breaking up.  I’ll just see you at Derek’s.”

    “No,” she says as she sits up, “I’m not going.”

    “There’s no reception out here.  We’ll see you at Derek’s.”

    “Scott,” she says but a dial tone is her only answer.

    Lydia purses her lips and puts her phone down.  Scott could totally hear her - the reception was fine.  She puts her phone on her night stand and stands up from the bed.  She doesn’t want to go, but she doesn’t have a choice.  Everyone’s expecting her now.  Lydia sighs and rubs at her neck.  The motion brings her nose close to her armpit, and she quickly drops her hand from her neck.  

    She definitely needs to shower before she sees anyone with super senses.



    Lydia can already hear the chatter of the pack as she walks up to Derek’s door.  Sounds like everyone got here before her.  Derek opens the door before she can knock.  Her face moves into a natural smile at the sight of him.

    “I’ve never been happier to be wrong,” Lydia says as she steps inside the loft.

    “Well, you were kinda right,” he says as his lips curl up to mimic her grin, “I did die.  I just didn’t stay dead.”

    Stiles saunters up behind him and throws an arm around Derek’s shoulders.

    “Ole sour wolf here is back to his regular abnormal self,”  Stiles says as he slaps Derek on the back, “And furry than ever, I might add.”

    Derek turns and raises an eyebrow as he stares at the human’s arm draped over his shoulder.  Stiles quickly removes it.

    “Yep, definitely the same old Derek,” he says with a nod of his head.

    Behind Stiles, Lydia can see Kira and Malia sitting on the couch.  They’re in the middle of a conversation, but the were-creatures take pause to wave at her.  Lydia waves back.  She feels tears building in the corner of her eyes.  Knowing everyone’s still alive and actually being able to see them all alive are two very different things.  The banshee can’t help that she’s having an emotional reaction.  She quickly swipes the tears away with a curled finger, and flips her hair over her shoulder.  Derek is polite enough to not bring up the salty scent emitting from Lydia, but Stiles immediately takes notice of her wiping at her eyes.

    “Whoa,” he says, “Are you crying?”

    Derek turns to Stiles and jabs him with an elbow while widening his eyes.

    “I meant, whoa, you’re not crying,” Stiles says as he rubs the spot where Derek’s elbow hit his arm.  “Ow, dude,” he says while looking back at the werewolf, “One day back as a werewolf, and you’re already violent.”  

    Derek lifts one corner of his mouth and shrugs before turning back to Lydia.  “There’s pizza in the kitchen if you haven’t eaten,” he says before he walks away.

    God bless Derek.  Pizza sounds amazing right now.

    Lydia walks into the kitchen and sees Braeden and Scott standing next the open pizza box.  The Alpha is piling slices onto a paper plate that Lydia’s positive is about bend from the amount of grease and cheese.  Her heels click against the concrete floors causing both of them turn around and see who’s walking towards them.  The mercenary smirks when she sees it’s Lydia.

    “Nice to see you in the daylight,” she says as the banshee walks over to the counter.  

    Lydia shrugs as she reaches for a paper plate.  “I felt like changing things up,” she says while putting a large slice of pepperoni pizza on her plate.  She can feel Scott watching her.  She takes a bite of pizza and turns to face him as she chews.  He looks pretty bad to be honest.  The Alpha has dark circles under his eyes, and if she’s not mistaken, there are flecks of dirt in his hair.  He must not have showered yet.  Good to know before he tries to initiate a hug.

    “Wanna talk outside?” he says before taking a massive bite of cheese pizza.  

    Lydia sighs.  “Can I finish this slice first?” she says.  

    Scott swallows and clears his throat.  “Totally,” he answers.  The two stand in slightly awkward silence as they eat the reminder of the pizza in their hands.  Braeden looks between them and shakes her head.

    “Talk here,” the mercenary says as she turns from two teenagers, “I’m going back in the main room anyway.”

    Lydia takes the last bite of her pizza and watches Braeden walk away.  She wishes the mercenary wasn’t so good at reading the atmosphere.  Now it’s even more awkward between her and Scott.

    “So,” he says as he stares at his plate.

    “So,” says Lydia while inspecting her nails.  She hates that she let herself bite them earlier.

    “Do you really have to tell everyone?” he says.

    She looks up from her nails and stares hard at his face.  “Are you serious?” she says,  “Of course I have to tell them.”

    “Why?”

    “Because I don’t like hiding things.  It’s stupid when everyone around me can tell with one sniff that I’m lying.”

    “Stiles can’t tell.”

    She puts her plate down.  “Is that why you don’t want me to say anything? Because of Stiles?”

    Scott rubs his neck and sighs.  “It’s gonna upset him.”

    “It should upset him.  What you did was awful,” she says as she puts her hands on her hips.  “Scott, this isn’t going to go away.  I told you I’d pretend it wasn’t you until we stopped the dead-pool.  Honestly, you should be thanking me for not telling everyone already.”

    Scott rolls his eyes.  “Come on, Lydia,” he says in a tight voice.  “Just wait a little longer.”

    “Oh sure,” she says in a mocking tone, “When would it be convenient for you to let them know that you physically invaded my mind twice?”

    Scott opens his mouth, but suddenly closes it, and turns to look behind them with wide eyes.  Lydia follows his line of sight.  Stiles stands with a blank face in the kitchen door.

    “Dude, how long have you been there?” asks the werewolf with a rush of air.  Stiles doesn’t answer him and stares at the Alpha with an increasingly darkening expression.  

    “Long enough,” he says.  Stiles seems to bite out the words.  Lydia runs both hands through her hair.  This isn’t how she wanted him to find out.

    “Dude, I can explain,” Scott says as he drops his plate to the counter.  A slice of cheese pizza tumbles off onto the countertop.  Stiles narrows his eyes and moves his head forward as his mouth drops open.

    “You seriously attacked her?” he says,  “Are you fucking kidding me?”  He walks over to stand next to Lydia and across from Scott.

    “Dude, just let me explain,” says the Alpha.  His voice sounds panicked.

    “You gave her a concussion,” says Stiles slowly.  His hands are clenched into fists at his side, and not a single body part on him is moving.  Lydia’s never seen Stiles so still.  “I found her bleeding and unconscious. . .”

    “I didn’t mean too,”  Scott says,  “I’d never hurt her on purpose, Stiles.  I swear.”

    Lydia practically hears Stiles snap.  

    “You son of a bitch,” he snarls as he lunges at Scott.  His fist connects with the Alpha’s nose, and a sickening crack echoes throughout the kitchen.  Scott puts a hand to his face and pulls it back to look at the smear of blood across his palm.  No one in the room moves for a solid three seconds, and then chaos breaks loose.  The werewolf tackles Stiles and both boys hit the ground hard in a blur of swinging fists.  

    “Scott, stop!” Lydia yells as she watches the boys pummel one another.  A human verses an Alpha is not a fair fight.  Stiles stops trying to land a hit on Scott and starts covering his head with his arms to protect himself from the werewolf’s fists.

    Derek and Malia run into the kitchen.  The older werewolf grabs Scott by his shirt collar and yanks him off of Stiles while Malia holds the human back as he resumes his attempts to land another blow on the Alpha.

    “What the fuck is going on?” demands Derek.  He struggles to keep hold of Scott.  Stiles wipes at his face with back of his hand and stops fighting against Malia’s arms.   His eyes flick over to Lydia, and when she’s sure no one else but Stiles is looking at her, she shakes her head quickly.  Please no.  Not like this.  

    She wants the truth to come out, but not like this.

    No one says a word.  The sound of Stiles’s panting breath fills the room until he pats at Malia’s arm around his shoulder to let her know it’s safe to release him.  Stiles dusts off his shirt once he’s free, but stays seated on the floor.  

    “I don’t know,” he says as his top lip curls into a sneer, “Ask Scott.”  His words come out huffed and he stares at the Alpha still being held by Derek.

    “He fucking punched me in the face,” growls Scott as he resumes his struggle against Derek’s arms.

    “Your face pissed me off,” says Stiles,  “So I hit it.  Big deal. It’s not like I gave you a concussion.”  His words visible incite the Alpha, and Derek face’s contorts from the effort it takes to hold Scott back.

    “Scott. . .” says Kira from the kitchen door way.  Braeden stands behind her watching the tense exchange.  The Alpha stills when he hears his name from the kitsune.  Kira walks forward and stands in front of him to block his view of Stiles.

    “Can I let you go now?” says Derek.  Scott nods as he stares at Kira.  “Are you sure?” continues Derek.

    “I’m fine,” says Scott.  His voice sounds calmer, but he still looks tense.  He wipes a hand across his face when he’s released.  The blood’s wet under his nose but Lydia can tell the broken cartilage has already healed itself.  Stiles’s black eye will not heal as quickly.

    “I’m going home,” says Lydia. Stiles jerks his head to face her.

    “Lydia, wait,” he says as he stands up.  Malia stops him from walking towards the banshee by putting a hand on his shoulder.  Lydia doesn’t even want to think about what the were-coyote can sense coming from her, Scott, and Stiles.

    Derek nods at her.  “I’ll walk you out,” he says as he steps around Scott and Kira.  

    Lydia ignores the Alpha’s eyes as they trail after her retreating form.  Derek is quiet until they reach the parking lot.

    “Are you going to tell me what happened in there?” he says.

    “They fought,” she says in a blank voice while searching through her purse for her car keys.  The werewolf sighs.

    “About what?”

    Lydia bites her lip.  She can’t find her car keys.  She puts her purse on the trunk of her car and opens it wide.

    “Lydia,” says Derek, “About what?”

    “Nothing,” she says as she starts pulling items from her purse.  Her phone.  Her wallet.  Sunglasses.  An old grocery list.  Three tubes of lipstick.

    “That was a hell of a fight about nothing,” he says.  Lydia leans her head back and closes her eyes.  Where are her keys?

    “It’s personal, okay?”

    “Not anymore,” says Derek, “Not after an Alpha attacks one of his own like that.”

    Lydia opens her eyes and shakes her head before looking at Derek.  “Then talk to Scott and Stiles,” she says while turning back to her purse, “Right now, I just want to go home.”

    Derek watches her continue her search for the keys with his lips in firm line.

    “Lydia,” he says in a soft tone, “I wasn’t talking about Scott attacking Stiles.”  She immediately stops the movement of her hands in her purse.  She licks her lips and runs a hand though her loose hair before turning to face Derek.

    “You were listening to us,” she says.  The werewolf nods.  Lydia takes a deep breath and looks away from Derek.  She can feel her eyes start to burn from how hard she’s holding back her tears.  “I was going to tell everyone,” she says, “But not like this. I don’t want it to come out like this.”

    “I won’t tell anyone,” says Derek in the same soft tone, “But you need to tell me everything.”

    Lydia puts the back of her hand to her mouth and nods.

    “Okay, okay.  But not now,” she says, “Please Derek.  I want to go home.  Just let me go home.”  She hates how whiney her voice is right now.  She sounds pathetic.  Lydia wipes away a tear that managed to escape and shoves her hands back into her purse.  Where the fuck are her keys?  She hears Derek sigh.

    “You haven’t checked the front pocket yet,” he says.

    Lydia stops and purses her lips before opening the front pocket of her bag.  She grabs the car keys from it and wipes at her eyes again.  She needs to get home before she starts full on crying.

    “I’ll talk to you later,” the banshee says as she gets into her car and slams the door.  

    Lydia grabs her phone when she stops at the first red light.  It’s been ringing non-stop since she got in the car.  She doesn’t need to check to see who it is - she knows it’s Stiles from the ringtone.

    “Stiles, stop calling me,” she says when she picks up,  “I don’t want to talk about it right now.”

    “Tough shit,” he says, “I’m on the way over.”  

    Lydia wants to scream she’s so frustrated.  “No,” she says, “Don’t you dare.”

    “Too late,” he says, “Look in your rearview mirror.”

    Lydia does one better and turns around to look behind her.  Stiles’s blue jeep is the only car behind hers at the stop light.  She can see his hand tapping frantically on the steering wheel.  She clenches her jaw and turns back to face the traffic light.

    “God dammit, Stiles,” she says as the light turns green.  
    
    “I’ll see you at your house,” he says before he hangs up.  

    Lydia throws her phone onto the passenger’s seat.  She could kill Stiles she’s so fucking pissed.  She parks her car in the driveway and gets out, slamming the door as hard as she can behind her.  Stiles parks the jeep on the street and exits the car as angrily as Lydia had.

    “Why didn’t you tell me?” he says in a harsh voice.  “Why’d you let me think it was Peter?”

    “You’re mad at me?  Is this a joke?” she asks in an incredulous tone as she raises a hand to her chest.  “I told you it was Scott when we were at Peter’s.  You didn’t believe me.”  She points at him with her words then whirls around and stomps towards her front door.

    “You never said it was Scott,” says Stiles as he follows her inside.  “Peter said it was Scott.”

    Lydia whips around to face him.  “What’s the difference, Stiles?” she says.

    He opens his mouth wide and his eyes wider as he holds out his hands.
 
    “Seriously?” he says, “The difference is I don’t trust Peter.  I trust you.”  

    “No,” says Lydia with a shake of her head,  “You trust Scott.  That’s why you didn’t believe it.”  She walks away and throws her purse and sweater onto the couch.  She turns to look at him and she can’t help the tears that trickle down her cheek.  This is such bullshit.  All she wants is to be alone.  “It wouldn’t have mattered if you heard it from me first,” she says,  “I know you, Stiles. You had to hear it from Scott’s own mouth to believe it.”

    Stiles drops his hands to his side.  He doesn’t say anything.  The truth in her words must have hit him hard.  Lydia turns from him and walks into her kitchen.  She gets a plastic sandwich bag out from a draw and fills it with ice.  She walks back into the living room and holds it out to Stiles.

    “Put this on your eye before it swells,” she says.  

    He takes the offered bag slowly from her hand and presses it against his black eye.  Lydia sits next to her thrown purse on the couch and leans her head back as she puts a hand over her eyes to block out the overhead light.  She can feel her temples throbbing.  The ringing of her phone startles her, and Lydia grabs the technology with her right hand to see who’s calling.  It’s Scott.  She turns her phone off and tosses it back into her purse.

    “Who was that?” asks Stiles.  

    He sounds closer so it doesn’t surprise her when she feels the couch cushion next to her sink down.  Before she can answer, Stiles’s phone starts to ring.  Lydia lifts the hand covering her eyes from her face and watches him reach into his pocket to retrieve the cellphone.  He just stares at the screen before shaking his head and putting it back in his pocket unanswered.

    “Probably the same person who just called you,” she says to his earlier question.  Stiles adjust the bag of ice over his eye and sighs as he leans his head back like Lydia.  “You shouldn’t have punched him,” she continues, “You know you can’t win against him in a fight.”

    “Yeah, well,” he mutters, “We can’t all be Alpha werewolves.”

    “Thank god,” says Lydia,  “One’s enough.”

    Stiles phones rings again and this time the teen silences it before putting it back in his pocket.

    “Does he have brain damage from my punch or something?” says Stiles, “Why in the hell does he think I’ll answer if he keeps calling?”

    Lydia turns to look him with her eyebrows raised.  “Really, Stiles?” she says, “You just called me non-stop until I answered.”  

    The sound of an engine cutting off outside draws her attention.  She stands up from the couch and walks over to the window.

    “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” she says as she peers through the glass.  

    “What?” says Stiles, but Lydia doesn’t answer him.  She’s too busy running upstairs to her room to grab a purple pouch from her dresser.  She almost falls she runs back down the stairs so fast.  She reaches her front door and grabs a handful of gray dust from the pouch to spread across entry way.  Stiles sits up as he watches her work and says,  “Scott’s outside, isn’t he?”  Lydia nods as she races to the other door in the kitchen and repeats the process.  Stiles puts down the bag of ice and stands from the couch to walk to the front door.

    “What are you doing?” says Lydia in a high-pitched voice.

    “I’m going to tell him to fuck off,” he says as he opens the door.
    
    The Alpha stands with his back to them and his hands in his pockets.  Scott turns around at the sound of the door and cringes when he sees Stiles.

    “Oh my god, Stiles,” says the werewolf, “Your eye. . . Dude, I’m so sorry.”

    “Well, I’m not sorry about your nose,” says Stiles, “I wish it was still broken.  What do you want?”

    “Can we talk?” ask the Alpha.

    “We’re talking now,” Stiles says, “What do you want?”

    Scott takes a hand from his pocket and rubs his neck as he shifts from one foot to the other.  “I want to talk to both of you,” he says as he drops his hand from his neck and puts it back in his pocket.  

    Lydia walks up behind Stiles and peers over his shoulder at Scott. “Fine,” she says, “We’ll come outside.”  She pushes past Stiles with her words and walks onto the front porch.  Scott watches her exit and his eyes linger on the mountain ash she steps over to reach him.  He looks back at Lydia, and she can see his jaw clench.  Stiles follows her outside and closes the door behind him.  Scott sits down on the step leading to the little concrete porch and puts his head in his hands.

    “I know you don’t believe me,” he says, “But I’m so sorry.”

    “For what?” says Stiles, “My black eye or leaving Lydia unconscious and bleeding on her front porch?”

    “Stiles,” says Lydia in a quiet voice.  They shouldn’t provoke the werewolf.

    Scott lifts his head to look at the human.  “Both,” he says in a controlled voice despite his hands that are now clenched into fists.  “I made a mistake,” he says,  “I’m really sorry.”

    Stiles’s eyes go wide, and he lurches forward as he gives a humorless laugh.  “A mistake?” he says with his arms stretched wide, “Scott, a mistake is forgetting to do your homework or leaving the car window down when it rains.  No,” he shakes his head as he talks drops his arms to his side, “You didn’t make a mistake, buddy.  You fucked up.”

    Lydia watches Scott’s fist tighten.  The Alpha stares at the ground a moment before he abruptly stands up and looks at Stiles.  Lydia feels the need to intervene.

    “Derek knows it was you too,” she says quickly and Scott turns from Stiles to face her.  “He overheard us talking about it,” the banshee continues,  “He won’t tell anyone, but he wants an explanation, Scott.  Soon.”  

    Scott stares at her as his brow creases and his mouth curls on one side to release winded huff.  His shoulders drop sharply as his chin lowers.  He sits back down slowly on the step and takes a deep breath.

    “Is there an explanation?” Stiles voice is sharp,  “Or I’m hoping for too much here?”

    “What do you want me to say, Stiles?” snaps Scott as he looks over his shoulder at the human, “That I was possessed?”

    Stiles’s face is unreadable as he stares back at the werewolf.  

    “Scott,” says Lydia in low tone as she shakes her head from side to side, but the Alpha ignores her completely.

    “We can’t all blame an evil spirit when we fuck up.”  The words shoot from his mouth and Lydia watches as the bullets find their mark in the human boy.  Stiles’s face twists.

    “So now we’re gonna talk about it?  After months of pretending like there wasn’t problem?” says Stiles as he takes a step towards the sitting werewolf.  “Are fucking kidding me, Scott?  Do you know-”  He stops to shake his head and smacks his right hand into the palm of his left repetitively as he starts to pace.  “Eight,” he says without looking at Scott, “I tried to talk to you eight fucking separate times about what happened.”   

    Scott stands back up, and turns to face Stiles with narrowing eyes.

    “You think I wanted to comfort you?” he says,  “I could barely look at you.”

    “Stop it,” says Lydia, “Both of you, stop it.”
    
    “No,” says Stiles, “No, this is good, right, buddy?”  He spits out the word.     “I think now’s a good time to stop pretending.”

   

   

Chapter Text

       Stiles steps closer to the werewolf, and Lydia’s forced to take a step back to keep from standing between them.  She shakes with every inhale of breath.  She’s watching a train de-rail as if a bomb were on the tracks, and she can see where the shrapnel will embed itself.  Into ghosts.  Into Allison.  Into her.  The boys will hack at every exposed wound until there’s nothing left in any of them but the infected scars of war.  Loss.  Grief.  And the ever present gnawing of not knowing.  How could they have done better?  What could they have changed to effect the outcome?  Lydia knows these are outlawed questions in her own mind.  She can’t imagine the mental gymnastics Stiles must go through to avoid them.  And she’s quite aware of the effect Allison’s death has had on Scott.

    “Stop it,” she says, “I mean it.  We can’t do this.”

    “Stiles is right,” says Scott, his eyes never leaving the human.  “We should all have an honest conversation.”  His tone doesn’t match his words - it’s too sharp and biting - and he’s breathing hard as he stares at Stiles.  “You said you tried to talk about it, but you never said sorry.  Not once,” he says as a hand cuts through the air and points at Stiles,  “All you did was complain about how terrible you felt.”

    “Because I knew!” Stiles says,  “I may not have all your little werewolf powers, but I knew.  I saw you how looked at me. I mean for fuck’s sake, you avoided me for weeks!”  

    Lydia looks at Scott.  She hadn’t known he’d done that.  

    “I only saw you at school and pack meetings,” continues Stiles, “And even then, you barely even talked to me.”  He puts a hand to his head and runs it though his hair as he leans against the porch railing.  “How do you say sorry for something like that?  How could I even fucking begin?”

    “You could have tried,” says the werewolf,  “But what did you do instead?  Nothing.  You just hung around reeking of guilt expecting everyone to coddle you. ”

    Stiles lets a hollow laugh.  “And I guess cause you’re an Alpha, you have the get out of jail free card, right?” he snaps.   “I mean, you feel no remorse what so ever over what happened in Mexico.  That wasn’t you at all, right. buddy?”  He takes a deep breath.  “That was all Kate’s doing.  You’d never almost kill your friends, but not Stiles,”  the human says as he narrows his eyes and shakes his head,  “Nooooo, Stiles wanted to get possessed.”  His voice raises to a piercing crescendo.  “He made the conscious decision to hurt the ones he loves!”

    “Watch it,” says Scott as he tilts his head low.  His hands are clenched so tightly that Lydia can see the veins in his arm.

    “What are you gonna do, Scott? Erase my memories?”  Stiles shoots back.  “Maybe Derek’s too?  I may have been possessed, but at least I don’t pretend I’m not responsible for what happened.”  

    “You don’t even know what you’re responsible for,” snarls Scott.

    Stiles turns around to face the yard instead of the banshee and werewolf behind him.  “I know what I did, Scott.  And no amount of sorries will fucking change it.”  He puts both hands to his head and leans his elbows on the railing.  “Fuck, how am I supposed to say sorry when I can’t even forgive myself?”

    “I don’t give a shit about your guilt, Stiles,” the werewolf says,  “I’ve been smelling it for months.”

    “So what do you want me to do?” says Stiles as he whips around to face Scott.  He flings both arms out and steps back from the rail.  “Am I just supposed to stay alone, hating myself for what happened, and never show my face to anyone again?”

    “Maybe!”  Scott roars.

    “You’d love that, wouldn’t you?” Stiles says, his face contorting into an unrecognizable sneer.  “And then you could go back into your fantasy world with Kira and I’ll go back into mine with Malia, and we’ll both keep pretending that Allison never even fucking existed.”

    The werewolf moves fast and presses Stiles against the side of the house in the nanosecond that Lydia blinks.

    “Don’t you say her name to me,” he snarls, “You have no idea what it was to lose her.”  

    “You’re right, I don’t!”  Stiles bites back, “I only know what’s like to be the one responsible for her death.  Say it, Scott! Just fucking say it!”

    Lydia can feel the dread building under her skin.  This is escalating too fast.  Something’s about to happen.   The werewolf snarls as he pulls Stiles forward by his collar with clawed hands and smashes the human back against the wall.  

    “I killed Allison!” says Stiles in a choked tone.  Whether from emotion or the force of Scott’s slam, Lydia can’t be sure.

    The Alpha’s eyes turn a deep and bloody hue as his teeth sharpen to points.  Lydia can barely breath as she watches the exchange.  The pounding of her heart is painful, and the whispers have started in her mind.  The hushed voices chant to her, growing louder with every syllable.    

    “You think that’s all you did?”

    “Scott,” says Lydia,  “Don’t.”

    “Go ahead,” the werewolf says, ignoring Lydia’s frantic words as he tightens his grip on Stiles shirt.  The fabric has holes from his claws. “Ask Lydia.  Ask what you did to her,” he growls.

    “Scott, shut up!” she yells.  Stiles looks at her with his mouth open and his eyes trembling.

    “I hurt you?” he says.  His voice is small.  Lydia shakes her head.  She can’t breath at all.  This isn’t supposed to happen.  He was never supposed to know.

    “You raped her,” Scott snarls as he slams Stiles back against the wall again, “And then you killed Allison.”  The skin of his face tenses as his human features disappear behind the wolf.  He narrows his eyes and lets out a deep growl.  Stiles stares at Lydia with his mouth slack then he mashes his lips between his teeth and looks down at the clawed hands gripping his collar.  He doesn't move expect for the rapid movement of his chest.   Stiles closes his eyes and takes a deep breath before looking back at the Alpha.

    “THEN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!”  Stiles shakes from the force he use to scream the words into Scott’s face.  The human’s eyes are blown wide and his breath is ragged.

    Lydia watches as Scott swings a clawed hand back, and then her body moves on it’s own.  She takes the purple pouch still clutched in her hand and shoves it into the Alpha’s face, smearing the dust into his eyes, nose, and snarling mouth.  Scott stumbles back from Stiles and reaches the same swinging hand up to wipe at his face, but the Alpha slumps to the ground before he can make contact.  He stares up at Lydia as he blinks against the gray particles clinging to his eyes.  She watches as the time between his blinks gets longer and longer, and then he doesn’t open his eyes again.

    “Help me get him inside,” she says to Stiles.  

    Stiles doesn’t move.  He stands with his back still pressed against the side of the house, his chest rising and falling rapidly with every inhale and exhale.

    “Stiles,” says Lydia.  He turns his head to look at her.  “I need your help to get him inside,” she says.  He nods slowly and steps away from the wall.  “Get his legs,” she continues while slipping her arms under Scott’s.  She clears the line of mountain ash with her foot, and starts to drag the Alpha over the threshold.  Stiles grabs the werewolf’s limp legs and pushes him through the door.  Once they get him inside, Lydia lets him drop from her arms and walks back to close the door.  She keeps her hand on the wood and stares at the grained design under her palm. She leans into the door and closes her eyes as she moves her other hand from the door knob to rest at her side.  Lydia licks her lips and takes a deep breath before she pushes off of the door and looks at Stiles.  She covers the distance between them in three steps and raises her hand back swiftly.  The sound of the slap echoes and the palm of her hand burns from where the skin bites into Stiles’s cheek.  Stiles doesn’t say anything.  He doesn’t even turn back to face her following the strike.  He simply sinks to the ground next to Scott and puts his head in his hands.

    “Don’t ever fucking do something like that again.”  Lydia can barely say the words.  Her voice trembles like the rest of her body.  “You said I can’t die. That you would literally lose your mind if I did.”  She can’t see.  Her eyes are blurred from the strain of tears pushing at them.  “Well, what about me, Stiles? If I lose you. . .”  She looks around as she talks and runs her hands through her hair then crouches next to him.  “If I lose you too,”  she stops and bites her lip.

    “Lydia.”  His voice is a whisper.  A hoarse plea.

    “I’m a banshee,” she says in a quietly fierce tone without looking at him,  “I know when someone wants to die.”  She curls into herself.  “I could hear you, Stiles.  I heard you in my mind begging for it to end.”

    Neither of them move or speak.  Time stretches and flattens around her - the quiet weaving into her bones.  Broken.  They’re all so broken.  Every single one of them.  Stripped of their obligations to one another.  The soldier facade ripped off their faces.  They sit naked in the festering silence surrounded by the oozing puss of their cutting failures. The house hums with words unsaid.  The room’s energy prickles on her neck and Lydia tightens the arms wrapped around her.  How long had they been this way?  Was it a slow decline - the growing gap between the masks and the faces underneath until there was enough space for rot to crawl inside?  Or had it happened suddenly - like the blade that pierced through Allison -  and it wasn’t until the bandage was removed that they could all see the putrid flesh beneath the gauze?    

    They weren’t supposed to splinter from one another in their grief, so instead they’d splintered their selves into unrecognizable pieces hoping no one would notice.  And the worse part is that no one had.  Scott hid his battle against the darkness.  Stiles hid his death wish.  Lydia hid her everything.

    “I don’t,” says Stiles before he stops to wipe at his eyes and clear his throat.  “I don’t have the right to ask for forgiveness.  I don’t deserve to be here.  Why did you stop him?”

    “Shut up, Stiles,” she says as she stands up and walks into the kitchen.  She wets a paper towel and walks back over to the passed out Scott.  She looks over she shoulder at Stiles where he’s still slumped against the floor.  “Put more ice on your eye, god dammit,” she says as she turns away to wipe the gray dust off Scott’s face.  She gently sweeps the wet cloth over his eyes and when she’s satisfied that he’ll be able to open them without any pain, she moves down to his nose to clear his nostrils.  After that, she wipes his mouth clean.  Now they have to wait for the Alpha to wake up.

    Stiles hasn’t come back into the room, yet.  Getting ice doesn’t take that long.  Lydia walks into the kitchen and sees Stiles leaning over with his head on the counter.  She walks past him and gets another bag out to fill with ice.  She clears her throat and holds it out to him.  He doesn’t move.

    “Stiles,” she says, “Take the bag of ice.”

    He lifts his head from the counter.  His eyes are red, and the circles under them seem to puff out from his already blotchy skin.  She never wanted to have the conversation so knows she’s about to have.
    
    “How can you look at me?” he says is a desolate voice.  “How can you be so nice to me?’

    “It wasn’t you, Stiles,” she says in the gentlest tone she can muster.  “You didn’t kill Allison.  You never hurt me.  It was all the Nogitsune.”
     
    He drops his head back to counter.

    “If I had’t been weak though,” he says.  She can hear the tears in voice.  “If I’d closed my door.”

    “That’s bullshit!” snaps Lydia as she slams a ice bag on the counter.  “Does that mean I should have been able to keep Scott out of my mind?  Open doors are open doors.  We can’t control what comes through them.  We can only fight back.  And you did, Stiles.  That’s why you’re still here.  Your strength of will and heart is the only reason you made it back.”

    “Lydia,” he groans, “Lydia, I’m so fucking sorry.”

    “Stop,” she says.  “You can’t apologize for something you didn’t do, so just please stop. I know it looked like your body.  I know it sounded like your voice, but that wasn’t you at all.  Not even a shard remained of who you used to be.  It was a demon, Stiles.  A empty shell that fed of pain and strife.  And it only makes it harder for me when you try to take ownership of it.  I need you to be separate from the demon.  That’s the only way it’ll work, do you understand?”

    He gives a shaky nod without looking at her.

    “And I swear to god, Stiles, if I ever hear you asking for death again, I’ll kill you with my bare hands.”  He’s still not looking at her and his breathing is escalating.  Dear god, is he having a panic attack.
    “Stiles,” she says, “Look at me.”  He shakes his head and lets out a wheezy breath.  Lydia walk closer and crouches down with her hands on the counter to be eye-level with Stiles.
    
    “Stiles, look at me,” she says.  He turns his face to stare into hers. “You have to steady your breath,” she says.  He gives a choppy nod and takes a deep breath, but it immediately shoots back out.  He’s hyperventilating now.  “I’m sorry,” says Lydia in a rushed voice.  She waits for Stiles to take a shallow inhale and then she reaches out both hands to grabs his face.  She presses her lips against his before he can exhale and slides her tongue inside his mouth.  For a long time, Stiles does nothing, then she feels his gentle hands in her hair and he slowly works his tongue against hers.  It’s a long and lazy kiss.  Lydia pulls away but keeps her hands cupping his cheeks.  She presses her forehead against his and closes her eyes.

    “Did it work?” she say with eyes still closed.  She feels him nod against her, and the hands that were in her hair lower to her waist as Stiles pulls her into a hug.  He has his face pressed against her neck, and Lydia can feel the tears that leak from the boy’s eyes.  He tightens his hold as Lydia wraps her arms around him.  

    “You don’t want to die, Stiles,” she says.  “You’re so much stronger than that.”

    “Everything’s changed,” he mumbles against her.  “I don’t even know what we are anymore.  You, me, and Scott.   It’s all fucked up now.”

    “I know,” she says, “I know, but we have to try to fix it.  We owe it too Allison.  All she wanted was for us to keep living.  We have too, Stiles.  No matter what.”

    “Why did he attack you?” asks Stiles as he slowly pulls out of Lydia’s arms.

    She leans her head back and licks her lips.  “It’s a long story, but I’ll try to make it quick,” she says as wipe away the moisture in the corner of her eyes.  “Scott found my door, and wanted to check on me, but instead he found Allison.  So he started visiting her in my mind, and Allison warned me that it wasn’t a heathy thing for either of us. When Scott found out I knew, he used what Peter taught him to steal the memory from me.  And then, when I found out it was Scott who’d stolen my memories, he did it again. End of Story.”

    “End of Story?” spits Stiles in bitter tone, “No fucking way. I want to know what going’s on with Scott, and don’t lie to me.”

    “What do you mean?”
    
    “I mean his loss of control,” he says as he gestures with his hands,  “It’s been happening more and more.  And every time more of the wolf comes out.  He’s being a real fucking asshole, but it’s still Scott.  He’s my best friend, Lydia,  and I know I hate him right now, but that doesn't mean I don’t still care about him.”

    Lydia stands up from the ground and puts her hands on the counter to lean forward.

    “He misses Allison, Stiles,” she says quietly as she loses the battle against her tears.  “She was still his anchor when she dead.  I think,” she stops and takes a deep breath,  “I think he thought that she could still be his anchor if he was able to see her from time to time.  Through me, of course.  Grief is a powerful emotion.  We do things we never thought ourselves capable of because of it.”
    
    Lydia turns when she hears a shifting sound in the front room.  She gets a glass of water and walks into foyer.  Scott sits with his head in his hands.

    “Scott,” she says, “I have a glass of water if you want it.”

    He doesn’t look at her but extends a hand for the glass anyway.  He drinks it all in two gulps, and places the glass gently on the ground next to him.  Then he replaces the hand back over his face and doesn't move again.

    “It Stiles alive?”  

    Lydia can barely hear Scott, the words are whispered so low and quiet.

    “He is,” says Lydia.

    “I don’t.  . .” says Scott, “I don’t remember what happened.  Just the urge to kill.”  The Alpha shrinks into himself.  “I wanted to kill Stiles.”

    “Do you remember what you said before you tried to kill him?”

    Scott’s hands drop from his face and he looks up Lydia.

    “What did I do?”  he sounds devastated.

    Stiles steps out from the kitchen with the new ice bag over his black eye.  He stares at the Alpha with his lips tight.  He looks down at the floor, licks his lips, and then looks back at Scott.

    “You told me what happened between Lydia and the Nogitsune in the Oak Creek tunnels.”  

    “And you said he killed Allison which we all know isn’t true,”  she looks to Stiles pointedly with her words.

    Scott’s eyes go wide and he groans as he drops his head back to the safety of his hands.  “What the fuck is wrong with me?” he says.  

    “We need to talk with Derek and Deaton, Scott,” says Lydia.  “Whatever’s going on didn’t stop after the dead-pool and it didn’t stop after Mexico.  There’s something else happening here.  We need to figure it out.”

    “No,” says Scott with his hands still wrapped around his head.  “I know what’s going on.  I’m losing to it. Everyday it gets harder.”

    “What gets harder?” says Stiles.  He sounds less angry now.  His voice is mostly tired and  sad.

    “This heaviness in my chest,”  says Scott.  “Like a darkness that pulls me down into parts of my mind I never wanted to see.”

    “Scott,” says Lydia, “It’s related to your loss of control and the deepening transformations.  It has to be.”

    “Deepen transformations?”

    Lydia looks from Stiles and then to Scott.  She nods at the werewolf.

    “When I transform now,” sighs the Alpha, “I have more teeth.”

    “Like more werewolf fangs?” says Stiles.  Lydia nods for Scott.

    “And then there’s the other one,” she says.  Both boys turn to her quickly.

    “What other one?” asks Scott with wide eyes.

    “Do you not remember?” she says,  “It happened twice as far as I know.”

    “What?” says Stiles, his impatience not well concealed in his words.  Lydia stays facing Scott.

    “You’re skin turns dark gray.  Your teeth and claws get longer.  Even your face looks sharper than your regular transformation.  And I’ve never heard you talk in that form.  Only growl.”

    “When?”

    “I wasn’t there,” says Lydia,  “but the way you described your fight with the dead-pool hunters, when you almost killed one, I think that was the more than your regular wolf.  And then when you found out it wasn’t Allison, but me, you were talking to. . . You transformed into it again.”

    “Did I hurt you?” Scott asks.

    “No,” Lydia shakes her head, “But only because we were in my mind.  I could defend myself, and I did.”

    Scott curls back into himself.

    “How is this happening?” he says in broken tone,  “All I wanted was to keep us together.  To keep the pack protected.  For Allison’s death not to change us.”

    Stiles sighs and walks closer to the crumpled werewolf on the floor.  He sits next to Scott.

    “Maybe that’s the problem,” says Stiles,  “No one wanted to talk about.  No one wanted to deal with it, so we all pretended like it never happened.  You can’t take the blame for how we all pulled away, Scott.  Although it’s totally and completely your fault for how shitty you handled it.”

    Scott raises his head to look at Stiles.

    “I wanted to know what was happening with Lydia just as bad as you did,” continues the human,  “but I’d never hurt her to get the information.”

    “I didn’t hurt her to get the information,” Scott says as he stares at his feet.  “I hurt her to keep Allison.  And I hurt Allison too.”

    “Well, yeah,” says Stiles, “I imagine she was pretty pissed when she realized what you did.”

    “No, not even that,” says Scott as he shakes his head,  “I locked her away in Lydia’s mind.  A place where I knew Lydia couldn’t reach because I’d already taken the memories that would get her there.”

    Lydia stares at her hands while the boys talk.  She knows all of this already, and it’s a bit more than painful to listen to it said out loud.  But maybe it’s a good thing.  She doesn't hear the hushed cries anymore.  Things have settled down in her mind.  There’s no more dread crawling up her spine.  She can see the situation for what it is now.

    Just three battered teenagers blown wide open following a tornado of grief - the harsh winds still blowing through the shattered remains of their crumbling souls.

    “We all miss Allison,” says Lydia.  “Maybe we should talk about it now.  She can’t become a taboo person to speak about.  I won’t allow it.”

    Stiles and Scott both nod, but neither looks up from the floor or makes any attempt to start the conversation.  Lydia rolls her eyes and lays back on the floor.

    “Fine,” she says as she stares at the ceiling,  “I’ll go first.  Allison was my best friend.  I felt threaten when she first showed up, but she won me over.” The banshee curls her lips despite the somber mood.  “The same way she won everyone over, I guess,” she continues with a shrug,  “Allison was just so nice.  And she cared.  And she forgive mistakes.  She was pretty much perfect.”  Lydia sits up and runs her hands through her hair.   “Then there was her strength - emotional - physical - mental.  She went through so much, and she changed, but never her core.”  Lydia shakes her head, “No,  Allison was Allison until the very end.”  She rests her head on her knees and wraps her arms around her legs.  “After she died, everything hurt.  Anything that reminded me of her.  I couldn’t stand it.  So I made Allison into a shadow.”  Lydia closes her eyes and takes a deep breath.  “I wanted her to stay in the dark where I couldn’t see what I’d lost.”

    Neither of the boys say a word.  Lydia looks over her shoulder at them.

    “I’m serious,” she says, “We have to talk about this.”

    Stiles shakes his head and covers his mouth with a fist.  Scott just sighs.

    “I don’t think this is gonna work,” says the werewolf.

    “You haven’t even tried, Scott,” says Lydia.

    “I can’t,” he says as he looks up at her with a red glare.  Stiles scoots slightly back when he sees the werewolf’s eye color.

    “At least try,” says Lydia, her tone gently coaxing.

    “I can’t,” he says in a louder voice.  “I can’t even think about her.  All I see is her face.  Her lips moving but I didn’t hear what she said.  The smell of her blood as I held her.  So thick and covering me. I smelled like her death for weeks.”  He says while he grabs his head, “And I was supposed to fucking protect her. . .   I was supposed to keep her safe.”  

    “Scott. . .” says Stiles.  His voice is rough and weak sounding.  “You did everything you could, man.   I mean, you saved Lydia, you saved me,” He stops and wipes at his mouth.  “Allison was. . . she was proud of you, dude.  She wanted to fight alongside you.” He takes a deep breath and continues, “And you know what, if it wasn’t for her, we never would have a had a fucking chance of winning.  She figured out that embedding the oni with silver would kill them.  We’d all be dead if it wasn’t for that.”

    “Like her.  Dead like her,” Scott says from between his hands,  “She saved everyone but herself,”  He grips his head harder and speaks through clenched teeth, “How can that comfort me?”  He drops his hands from his head and puts them on his knees.  He stares at his hands as he says, “I told her to stay out of it.  If she’d just listened to me.”  

    “If she’d listened to you,” Lydia says  “We’d all be dead, just like Stiles said.”  Lydia shakes her shoulders, lowers her head, and says,  “Scott, there was no stopping her.  She was determined,” the words almost sound chuckled.  She raises head and puts a hand in her hair,  “I even told her not to look for me.”

    They fall back into a strange silence.  No one looks angry anymore, but no one looks okay either.  One conversation can’t fix everything.  Lydia knows that.  She sniffs and wipes at her nose with the back of her hand.  She’s sure that her mascara is streaked down her cheeks from how many times she’s rubbed at her eyes.

    “Now what?” she says.  

    Stiles shrugs.  Scott sighs and he stands up slowly to dust the remaining mountain ash from his shirt.

    “I’m going to talk with Derek,” he says, “See what he knows about the new teeth and,” His shoulders drop as he shakes his head, “ And whatever else it going on with me.”

    “Good,” nods Lydia  “Tomorrow I’ll talk to Deaton.  He’s got to know something too.”

    The werewolf nods back slowly and turns to the door.  He opens it and starts to walk through before he stops and looks at back at Lydia and Stiles.

    “I am really sorry.  For everything I did.  Everything I said,”  He bites his lip and fixes his eyes on Stiles.  “You’re my best friend, dude.  I know you’d never. . .” He shakes his head again, “I’m so fucking sorry.”  Stiles nods before Scott turns back around walks out the door, closing it behind him.
    
    Stiles lets out a giant breath.

    “Well, I guess that went better than I expected,” he says,  “I mean, I’m still alive so that’s a plus.”  Lydia lowers her eyebrows and narrows her eyes at him.  “Too soon?” he says.  She stares at him.  “Yeah, you’re right.  Too soon,” he says as he rolls his shoulders.  “Aw fuck, Lydia,” he says with a deep sigh while running his hands down his face,  “I’m sorry.  I know you said not to apologize, but,”  He turns to her, “You know I would I never hurt you.  Ever.”

    “I know, Stiles,” she says.

    “Ever,” he says as he scoots closer to her.

    “I know.”  She puts a hand on his cheek.  “Trust me, I know.”  She slips her hand from his cheek to his neck and pulls him into a tight hug.  He squeezes her back.

    “Can I kiss you?” he says into her hair.  Lydia bites her lips to stop her grin and shakes her head against his.

    “Those are for panic attacks only,” she says.  He pulls her closer and she feels his lips curl into a smile on her shoulder.

    “I need to get them more often,” he mumbles.



    Lydia passes out when she gets into bed.  She doesn’t even dream she’s so exhausted.  Her alarm wakes her up at nine thirty.  She’s supposed to meet Derek for coffee at ten fifteen.  Lydia braids her hair and chooses an outfit that will go nicely with her lavender skirt.  She hadn’t worn it since she got the stain out.  She slips aquamarine heels onto her feet and grabs her pink sweater, just in case it’s chilly.  Winter was finally creeping into Beacon Hills.
    
    She gets to the coffee shop at ten ten and is pleased to see Derek already there sitting at a table.  What a punctual werewolf.  She nods to him as she gets in line to order her drink.  She realizes the store even carries almond milk.  Today might just be a good day after all. She sits down with Derek and adds honey to her coffee.  She looks at the drink he’s sipping as she stirs hers.

    “What did you get?” she asks.

    Derek puts the drink down as he says, “Espresso with milk and sugar.”

    Lydia eyes the large cup.  “How many shots?” she says.

    “Two,” he answers.

    “So basically, coffee flavored milk,” says Lydia as she messes with her braid.  “God, you and Stiles need to learn how to drink coffee properly.”

    Derek raises an eyebrow.  “How do you take your coffee?” he says before he takes another sip of his monstrosity.   

    “Black with a dash of almond milk and drop of honey.”

    Derek almost spits out his sip.

    “What?” she says as he wipes his mouth.

    “Nothing.”

    “Oh no,” she says, “That was definitely something.  What?”

    “It’s probably just a coincidence,” says Derek.

    “What’s probably a coincidence?” she snaps.  Lydia hates when people play coy.  
    
    Derek sighs as he looks at her drink.  “Peter takes his coffee like that too.”

    Lydia almost crushes the drink in her hand.  Thank god she never asked Peter what he was drinking when they last met.  She’d never live it down if he found out they had something in common.

    “Well, he won’t be getting any almond milk in Eichen House,” she says with a tilt off her head before she talks another sip of her drink.  She’s not going to let Peter ruin her favorite drink.  Derek curls his lips and lets out a laugh while he shakes his head.

    “Nope,” he says,  “I doubt they’ll even give him coffee.”

    Lydia puts the drink down and taps her nails against the table before she realizes what she’s doing. She quickly curls the offending fingers into a fist and puts the hand in her lap.  She leans her head into her other hand, and clears her throat.

    “Scott talked with you yesterday?” she says as she looks out the window.   She sees Derek’s reflection nod.  “What do you think?” she continues, “About the new teeth and all that?”

    Derek sighs and leans back in his chair as he puts down his coffee.  He looks at Lydia with sagging features and sloped shoulders.  “He needs a new anchor.  Alphas carry a lot more pressure than regular wolves,” says Derek as he folds his hands on the table in front of him.  “Scott’s so new to it.  He hasn’t been properly trained to handle the extra urges.  And he’s already made a beta, so his instincts are even stronger now.”

    “So what does that mean?” she says as she turns to face the werewolf.

    “It means he’s at risk,” says Derek, “Every time he transforms.”

    “Of losing to his wolf,” says Lydia in a low voice.  Derek shakes his head and pulls his hands apart.

    “No, an Alpha always has more control than that,” he says as he rubs at his temples,  “He’s in danger of losing to the actual Alpha energy itself.   Even True Alphas can get corrupted.”

    Lydia closes her eyes.  “The darkness around his heart,” she says,  “He said he was losing to it.”

    “He is, and he’ll continue too as long as he has an unstable anchor,”  Derek says before he stops to take a sip of his drink.  “I can help him as much as I can,” he continues, “But it’s up to Scott.”

    “And you said all this to him?” she says as she slowly spins her coffee cup.

    “Believe me,” he says,  “It was a long conversation.”

    Lydia tries to smile, but even she can tell it’s a pathetic attempt at the expression.  “Thanks, Derek,” she says,  “I should get going though.  Deaton has an appointment at twelve.  I wanted to see him before then.”  The werewolf watches her as she gets her keys from her sweater pocket.

    “Lydia,” he says.  She looks up at him, her eyebrows raised as she waits for him to continue.  He looks torn for a moment - his hand hovering just above the table.  Then he reaches out and places it over Lydia’s.  “If anything like this ever happens again, with anyone,” he says as he gently grips her hand,  “Tell me.  You can always tell me.  That’s what a pack is for.”

    This time Lydia genuinely smiles.  She can feel her eyes wrinkle and everything as her lips sneak up.  She nods at the werewolf and slips her hand out from under his.

    “You’re a good guy, Derek,” she says as she picks up her coffee and stands.  “Don’t ever change, okay?”

    “Don’t worry,” he says, “Who in their right mind would change from this?” He finishes as he motions towards himself with a small smirk.

    Lydia’s still smiling when she gets into her car.  She parks outside Deaton’s and opens the door to the vet’s.  She sighs with relief when she sees that she’s the only one in the waiting room.  The bell attached to the door jingles and Deaton pokes his head out to see who walked into his establishment.

    “Lydia,” he greets,  “Welcome.  What can I help you with today?” he says as he steps out of his office and raises the wooded counter to allow Lydia to walk back.  “Or I’m a safe in assuming this about Scott?”  

    “Have you talked to him yet?” she asks.

    “He was here earlier this morning,” says the Druid, “He was. . . very concerned to put it lightly.”

    “Then don’t put it lightly,” Lydia says.  “What’s your take?”

    “I imagine the same as Derek’s,” he says as he leans back against the counter and folds his arms,  “Although I’m afraid I can’t think of anything that will help Scott learn how to control it any better.  You see, it’s nearly impossible for a person not change after that type of scaring to the heart.”

    “Losing Allison?” says Lydia.

    “That certainly didn’t help,” says Deaton, “But the darkness brings about a change all its own.  It’s something that must be constantly managed by the individual.”

    “And if he doesn’t?”

    Deaton raises both eyebrows.  “It won’t be pretty,” he say as she shakes his head,  “Scott’s a powerful Alpha.  That type of power takes it’s toll on a person.  As a strong banshee yourself, I’m sure you can relate.  The temptation to abuse what you’ve been given is always proportional to the power behind it.”

    Lydia bites her lip.  She knows exactly what Deaton is talking about.  “There’s really nothing?” she says.  “Not an herb or a spell or something like that?”

    Deaton sighs and tightens his mouth as he looks at her.  “I’m sorry, Lydia,” he says,  “I know it’s not what you want to hear, but this one’s entirely up to Scott.”

    She takes a deep breath and lets her shoulders drop.

    “Can I at least get some more mountain ash and mistletoe?” she says with a sigh.  “I used my entire pouch yesterday.”

    “Of course,” says Deaton as he steps towards his metal cabinet.  He opens the doors and begins moving bottles and vials around the shelf as he searches for the gray dust.  Lydia watches as his brow winkles and his lips turn down.  “That’s strange,” he says.

    “What?” she says.  She has a bad feeling building in the pit of her stomach.

    “Nothing really,” says Deaton, “I just though I left the Northern Wild Monkshood on this shelf.”

    Lydia steps forward.  “That’s what I took, right?”  Deaton nods without turning around.  “And you can’t find it now?”

    The Druid doesn’t answer her as he deepens his search, pushing items this way and that to expose the back of the cabinet.  He finally stills his hands and sighs before he turns around and looks at her.

    “No,” he says in a low voice, “I can’t find it.”

    “Was Scott alone in here?” Lydia asks.  Her voice rises in her need to know.

    “For a moment but,” the vet stops and tilts his head, “He knows how dangerous it is, I don’t think-”  Lydia cuts him off.

    “What time did you see Scott?” she says as she digs through her purse for her phone.

    “Eight,” says Deaton, “He opened the shop with me.”  

    Lydia’s not even listening to him anymore - she’s too busy dialing Scott.  There’s no answer.

    “He’s not picking up,” she says as she looks back up at Deaton.  “What does he know about the Monkshood?  Does he know what it was originally created for?”

     Deaton nods as he takes off his white vet’s coat. “We should leave now,”  he says, “I’ll drive.”

    Once in the car, Lydia can barely contain herself.  She taps a foot and chews on her fingernail.  How were they going to go this without Scott?  They need him to connect the two minds.  She voices her concern out loud.

    “I’ve been thinking about that,” says Deaton, “And I think I have a solution.  You.”  

    “Me?  I’m not a werewolf.  I don’t even have claws,” she says.

    “After you called me back form my coma, I started researching as much I could about banshees,” he says, “Nothing solid really, but something did stand out.  In at least two different accounts, I read about an ability that the Druids referred to as ‘Treading’ - specifically, a banshees power to walk the mind of those hovering on the border of life and death.”

    “Sleep. . .” says Lydia slowly.  Deaton nods.

    “Very few banshee’s were ever able to do it.”  

    “Was that how you heard me?” she says.

    “I think so, but I want you to do more than make Scott hear you,” he says,  “I want you to find his door.”
    
    Lydia slumps back into the car seat.

    “I have to go into Scott’s mind?”
    
    “If it comes to that,” says Deaton,  “Yes.”

    He parks the car in Scott’s driveway, and Lydia’s out the door before he can even take the keys out of the ignition.  She races to the front door and throws it open.

    “Scott!” she calls out as she runs up the flight of stairs.  She burst into his room and stops dead in her tracks.  She hears Deaton walk up behind her but she doesn’t turn around.  She can’t take her eyes of the sleeping boy on the bed and the mug spilling a purplish liquid on the comforter next to him.  “Oh Scott,” she says as she slowly walks towards the bed.  “When do you think he took it?” she asks without looking at Deaton.  The vet walks up beside her and picks  the mug up from the bed.

    “It’s cold, and the powder is starting to turn gelatinous,” he says as he stares into the cup.  “Probably two hours at the most.”

    “So we give him another two,” she says as sits down on the floor.

    “At most,” says Deaton.

    “Will I have to be asleep to reach him?”  she asks.

    “I’d think so.  I brought a sedative just in case,” he says.  

    Lydia nods slowly as she licks her lips.  “Come on, Scott,” she mumbles,  “Please don’t make me do this.”   She leans her forehead against the side of the bed and close her eyes.  She flies back from the bed when a loud gasp emerges from the werewolf.  Deaton narrows his eyes and steps forward.

    “Scott,” he says.  Lydia watches as Scott’s eyes shoot open and he throws himself from the bed onto the floor as he has a coughing fit.  “Scott,” says the Druid again,  “Can you hear me?”

    The werewolf nods despite the spasms sill racking his body.  Lydia stands up slowly and stares at the Scott.  Why had he woken so violently?

    “Get him some water,” says Deaton as he crouches next to the Alpha.  Lydia runs downstairs and fills up a glass before racing back up the steps.  She gives the glass to Deaton who hands it to Scott.  He drinks the entire serving in nearly one sip.  Scott passes the glass back to Deaton and flops onto his back as he catches his breath.

    “When did you take the Monkshood?” asks the vet.

    “Nine,” says Scott in a ragged tone.  His chest is still heaving from his earlier coughs.  Deaton looks down at his watch.

    “Only three hours?” he says,  “I think you just set a record.”

    Scott starts to laugh as he rolls onto his stomach and pushes himself up into a kneeling position.

    “I am an Alpha after all,” says the werewolf as he stares at his hands.  He runs them over his face then flexes his fingers.

    “Are you okay?” asks Lydia.  She hasn’t moved since she handed Deaton the water.  Scott looks over his shoulder at her as if he didn’t realize she was there.

    “I’m fine,” he says, “Great, actually.  I feel amazing.”

    Lydia purses her lips while he talks.

    “You faced it then?” she says, “The darkness?”  Scott stands up and turns to face her as he rubs his shoulders.

    “Obviously,” he says, “Or I wouldn’t be here, would I?”

    Deaton claps him on the back.  “Well, I’m impressed,” he says, “Three hours is an amazing time.”

    “Yeah, it really is,” says Lydia, her eyes never leaving Scott,  “Unbelievable almost.”

    “What can I say?” Scott says with a shrug,  “I guess the darkness is no match against a True Alpha.”

    “I guess not,” she says quietly.


    Scott seems like a completely different person.  He smiles.  He laughs.  He even manages to make Stiles laugh.  It should make her happy, but Lydia can’t ignore the gnawing sensation in the center of her chest whenever she’s around him.  Like she’s missing something.  How did he travel his mind so fast?  It’s not her jealously (she hopes) at how quickly he did it, but something feels wrong about the entire situation.  She can’t help but be uncomfortable whenever she’s around him.  Lydia sits next to Malia at lunch and pretends not to notice Stiles and the were-coyote playing footsie under the table.  She turns to Kira instead, but the kitsune is busy giggling at something Scott just whispered into her ear.   How can everyone go back to normal so fast?  Was there something wrong with her?  Why did she still feel like complete and utter devastation was waiting for her around the corner?  Lydia stands up from the table abruptly.

    “Everything okay?” she hears Scott ask.  Lydia nods as she swipes her hair from her face.

    “Yeah,” she says, “I just remembered I have biology homework to finish.”  That’s not a lie.  Lydia’s been slacking in her classes ever so slightly the last week.

    “What are you doing tonight?” Stiles says.  

    “Hanging out with Parrish,” she says as she gathers her binder and puts it in her book bag,  “I want to go through the bestiary with him.  See if anything fits, I guess.”

    “You should invite him to the next pack meeting,” says Scott.  Lydia looks up at him.  The offer seems genuine enough, but the way he’s looking at her feels strange.

    “Sure,” she says, “Sure, I’ll do that.”  She swings her book bag over her shoulder and nods to the pack.  “See you guys tomorrow,” she says as she turns to walk out of the cafeteria.

    Parrish stays late at Lydia’s but he doesn’t sleep over.

    “I forgot my uniform,” he offers in an apologetic tone as he slips back into his pants.  Lydia sighs from where she’s lying on the bed and rolls over to watch him get dressed.

    “It’s fine,” she says,  “But next time, don’t forget it.  My house is closer to the station anyway.”  She examines a nail as she continues,  “It’s silly for you to drive all that way.”

    Parrish’s mouth turns upward and he leans over her to kiss her forehead.

    “I wish I could stay too, Lydia,” he says as he pulls back from her.  Lydia purses her lips.  She doesn’t know why, but she really doesn’t want him to leave tonight.

    “What if you called in sick?”

    Parrish shakes his head but his smile grows wider.  “Lucky for Beacon Hills, I take my job more serious than that,” he says.  Lydia rolls her eyes, and turns away from him.

    “Will you lock the door on your way out?” she says.

    “I wouldn’t dream of doing anything else,” he says as pulls his shirt over his head.  He’s such a cop.  Sometimes it gets on her nerves.  Lydia waits until she hears his car turn on to get out of bed.  She puts her pink robe on and walks downstairs to make sure the door is locked.  Of course, it is.  He said he would.  Next she checks the door in the kitchen, and when she’s satisfied every single door is locked she goes back to her room.  She unlocks and then re-locks both her bedroom windows, just to be safe, before she walks into her bathroom, leaving the door open behind her.  

    She turns the water on and waits for it to warm as she combs her hair.  Lydia steps under the spray of the shower and takes a deep breath.  The water feels good, but it doesn’t rinse off the  jittery feeling that’s humming under her skin.  She makes it hotter and closes her eyes.  The near scalding water immediately relaxes her muscles, and Lydia lazily works shampoo into her hair.  She turns the water off after she conditions her hair and wraps a pink towel around herself.  She leans into her mirror to inspect the blood vessels under her eye when a movement in her room catches her attention.  Lydia whips around to face her room and she heart skips a beat as she takes in the boy sitting on her bed.  Watching her.

    “Scott,” she says in an quiet voice,  “What are. . . How did you?” she sputters over the question she wants to ask as she pulls the towel tighter around her form.  She reaches for the robe resting on the knob behind her and slips it over the towel, drawing the belt tightly over her waist.

    “You forgot to lock the guest bedroom window,” he says as he stares at her.  “Pretty dangerous, don’t you think? Don’t worry, I locked it.”

    “Stop staring at me,” she says as she crosses her arms,  “It’s making me uncomfortable.”

    Scott shrugs.  “I’ve already seen you naked,” he points out but closes his eyes anyway.  He leans back on the bed and he folds his arms behind his head.

    “What are you doing in my room?” she says as she clenches her jaw.

    “I was just thinking of you,” he says,  “You know, wondering how you’re doing.”

    “I’m doing fine,” she bites out slowly.

    “Are you?” he says,  “That’s good.  That’s really good, Lydia.” He nods his head slightly with the words.  “So,” He sits up and stretches, his eyes still closed, and continues, “You’re not nervous or anything like that around me.”

    “Why would  I be nervous?” She keeps her voice blank and uninterested.
    
    “I don’t know,” Scott shrugs.  She’s getting really sick of him shrugging.  “You’ve just smelled kinda nervous to me lately.  Like it’s me that’s upsetting you or something.”

    “I’m upset you’re in my room, but other than that,” Lydia smacks her lips and shakes her head.  “Nothing.”

    Scott laughs, the corners of his mouth curling up to show his dimples.  He opens his eyes and looks at her.

    “Are you sure?” he says, his smile in his words.  “Cause I could have sworn you’ve been treating me differently since I got back from my mind.”

    Lydia’s skin prickles.  She hears the faintest whispers.  She can’t understand them, but she feels their chill in her bones.

    “How’d you do it so fast?” she says - her eyes never leaving his.  His lips widen to show teeth with his smile before he looks down and shakes his head.  He licks his lips then looks up at Lydia, the grin still tugging on one corner of his mouth.

    “You wanna know how I did it?”  She nods as the voices become louder in her head.  “I won when I fought him,” he says, “That’s how.”

    Lydia’s heart stops for beat.  When it resumes, she takes a step back.

    “Who are you?” she whispers.

    “I’m still Scott, Lydia,” he says as he stands up from the bed,  “I just the better, smarter, and stronger Scott.”

    “You’re his darkness,” she says.  

    Scott scrunches his face.  “No. What?” he says, “Come on, Lydia.  That’s so cliche.  You’re a genius, right?  Figure it out.”  He walks towards her and reaches out a hand to hold onto one her wet strands of hair.  “I kinda thought you already knew,” he continues as he lazily twirls the strand around his finger,  “And to be honest, my feelings are like, a little bit hurt.”  He lets go of her hair and looks into her eyes.  Lydia watches the smallest bit of red begin to trickle into Scott’s eyes.  “A smart banshee like you,” he says,  “should always recognize her Alpha.”

    “I don’t. . . I don’t understand,” she says as she shakes her head, “If you killed him, he would have stayed asleep.  A part couldn’t have come back.”

    “I beat him, but I didn’t kill him,” says Scott, “I trapped him.  Just like he trapped Allison.  Kinda fitting, don’t you think?  He deserves it for using you like that.”  He puts a hand to her cheek tenderly.  “I promise you,” he says  “that if I were to fuck you, I’d be thinking of you the entire time.”

    Lydia jerks back from his touch violently.

    Scott chuckles and his shoulders shake.   “I don’t know,” he says in a tone of soft laughter, “Maybe I do I have a little darkness, but it’s all under my control, you see?  Things’ll be fine.  It’ll be great.”

    “Why are you here?” she says as she straightens out her back.

    “To reassure you,” he says with a shrug, “Or something like that.  Stiles is happy.  I’m happy.  Just get with the program.”

    “I’ll keep that in mind,” she says tightly, “Now please leave.”

    Scott sighs and looks down before his head shoots back up.  “No problem,” he shrugs as he walks past her to the door.  She wants to rip his arms off so he can never shrug again.  “See you at school tomorrow,” he says without turning around and continues walking into the guest bedroom.  Lydia waits until she hears the window close to walk across the hall and lock it.  She walks into the guest bedroom, but when she reaches for the light switch, hands grab her and cover her mouth.  She’s held against a firm chest and she can feel claws on the hand covering her mouth.  

    “I just felt like I should give you fair warning,” Scott says next to her ear.  She can tell besides the claws that he’s wolfed out because the words sound mushed between his fangs,  “If you tell anyone what I told you tonight,  I’ll take you entire mind from you.  Okay?”  Lydia nods against the hand.  He lets her go, and the window’s open before she can process his movement out of it.  She slowly walks to the open window and closes it.  She locks it then sinks to the floor and leans her head back against the windowsill.

    This is going to be a nightmare.

Chapter Text

    It takes Lydia a long time to fall asleep following her disturbing run in with Scott.  Her mind charges after images, like an injured bull following the matador and his every slinging spears.  The barbed edges dig into her and drag her back into her rage.  Why had he felt the need to expose himself to her?  A game was getting set up, and Lydia hates playing when she doesn’t know the rules.  This new Scott was unpredictable, but not out of control - a bizarre combination.   But then again, Derek had said that an Alpha always has more control.  What did it mean for a Alpha energy to overtake it’s host?  What should she be looking out for?  And what happens to an Alpha that doesn’t have an anchor?  These are questions she desperately needs the answers too.

    When she finally falls asleep, Lydia doesn’t let herself walk her dreams for long.  She finds her door and goes into the white room.  It’s just as large as she remembers it but this time, there are three sets of black doors all on the same wall.  One of the doors is cracked open ever so slightly.  Lydia stares at them as she takes a seat on the nemeton.

    Deaton had called it “treading”.  Lydia thinks more of it as spying, but it doesn’t matter.  She’s going to do it anyway.  She wants to talk with Allison first though.

    Lydia closes her eyes and lays back on the stump.  She starts to think of the hunter.  The way Allison smiled with only half her mouth when she was embarrassed. How she liked to hide behind her hair when she asked a difficult question.  And how Lydia could always tell before she brought up a hard topic because the hunter would hold her neck with both hands.  Lydia surrounds herself with these memories until she hears a familiar voice.

    “You’ve never called me before,” says Allison as she walks closer to the nemeton.  Lydia opens her eyes and sits up to face the hunter.

    “I wasn’t sure how to until now,” she says,  “Are you feeling better? From being trapped, I mean?”  Allison nods as she takes a seat next to Lydia.  “It’s not draining to meet here though, is it?”  The banshee continues, “If it is, I won’t do it again.”  Allison shakes her head.

    “No,” she says, “This is fine.  This is a separate space, not connected to any one person.  I could come here on my own, if I wanted.” Allison shrugs.

    “Please don’t shrug,” says Lydia,  “I’m sick of shrugs.”  Allison turns to face her, her mouth quirking up in one corner as she lets out a sound similar to a laugh.

    “You’re sick of shrugs?”

    “Shrugs.  Alphas. And anything else Scott for that matter,”  Lydia says.  Allison smacks her lips as she nods her head.

    “Hard times?” she says.  Lydia stares at her with blank eyes.


    “You wouldn’t believe,” the banshee says as she swipes her hair over her shoulder.  “Have you ever heard of a werewolf succumbing to it’s Alpha nature?”

    “Hmm,” says Allison as she rests her head on her knees,  “You mean like Peter after he was burned?”

    “No,” says Lydia,  “Not like losing control.  Something different than that.  I don’t know how to explain it.”

    Allison narrows her eyes and lifts her head.  “Like Deucalion?”

     Lydia turns her head to face the hunter.  “Yeah,” says the banshee,  “Kinda, but without the pack killing.”

    “Lydia,” says Allison, “Are you kidding?”

    “Why would I joke about something like that?”

    “And you’re talking about Scott?”  Lydia nods to the hunter’s question.  “What the hell happened?” says Allison.

    “He took the Monkshood - the same strand of wolfsbane that I used, but he came back different,” muses Lydia as she checks the tips of her hair for split ends.  She drops her hair from her hands and rests her head on her interlocked fingers.  “I’m the only one who noticed it, I think. . .  He threatened me so I wouldn’t tell anyone.”

    “What are you gonna do?”

    “Tell Derek and Deaton, of course,” says Lydia,  “I can’t let the pack fall apart like this, and a pack needs an Alpha.  A good Alpha.”

    “No,” says Allison, “I mean, what are you gonna do?  You can’t fight Scott.”

    “I don’t need to fight him,” says Lydia,  “I just need to find him and free him.”

    “How?”

    Lydia grins and lays back down on the nemeton.  Allison follows suit.  

    “I wonder,” says Lydia as she turns her head to face the hunter,  “Did you know that I’m an incredibly powerful banshee?”  

    Allison smiles at her.  “I’m not surprised,” she says.

    “There’s this thing called Treading.  Only a select few banshees have ever been able to do it,” says Lydia,  “Basically, it means I can enter the mind of anyone who’s asleep.”

    “But their door has to be open,” says Allison.  Her eyebrows lower and turn the statement into a question.

    “You see, that’s what I thought at first,”  continues Lydia,  “But that wouldn’t make sense.  Scott can travel through open doors, and as far as I know, he’s not a banshee.  So I started thinking about it - doors - I mean,” she says,  “And suddenly. . .”  Lydia sits up and gestures to the three black doors on the wall across from her and Allison.  “Malia.  Kira.  Stiles.”  She points at a different door with each name.  Allison sits up and stares straight ahead.

    “Oh my god,” the hunter says,  “How do you know who’s who?”

    “I can hear them,” says Lydia as she slides off the tree stump.  She walks to the first and leans her ear against it.  “This is Malia’s,” she says, “I know because the wind is blowing through the trees and she’s running with it.  Branches snapping under her paws as she tears after something.”

    “You hear all that?”

    Lydia nods as she moves to the next door.  “Kira,” she says,  “I hear the sound of blades clinking against bone.  She’s fighting a Berserker.”  She pulls back and turns to look at Allison behind her.  “The cracked door is Stiles’s, of course.  He still hasn’t closed it yet.”

    “Lydia, that’s amazing.”

    “I know,” she says, “But I’m a little worried about Scott’s door.  Something tells me he’ll know if I find it now.  I want to wait till I have a solid game plan.”

    Allison chews her lips and runs her hands through her hair.  She sighs and lets her hands rest on the back of her neck.

    “What?” says Lydia.

    “I just want you to be careful,” says Allison without looking at Lydia,  “Scott, he’s a good guy at heart, but,” she stops and bites her lips again,  “There’s a lot he never talks about.  If he’s really different - darker - then. . . Just be careful, Lydia.  Please.”

    “Of course I’ll be careful,” she says as she rolls her eyes, “What do you think I’m gonna do?  Just barge into his mind with guns blazing?  Please, Allison, you know me better than that.”

    Allison shakes her head, her hands never leaving the back of her neck.  “And I know Scott better than you do,” she says,  “Trust me.  If he’s made the first move, then he already has a plan.”

    “You think he’s planning on me entering his mind?”

    “Anything’s possible,” says the hunter,  “He’s not stupid, Lydia.  He just chooses to look gullible.”

    Lydia wakes up and slams a hand down on her alarm clock.  She doesn’t want to go to school today, but she has a test in economics and a review for a test coming up in A.P. Biology.  She might be smart, but even geniuses know not to skip a review day.  She feeds Prada before she takes her morning shower and picks out her power outfit for the day.  She’ll need all the strength she can get her hands on today.  She doesn’t like how her conversation with Allison went.  The banshee was hoping she had the heads up on Scott.  It’s unsettles her to think she might be playing into his hand.  She steps outside her house at seven forty-four and gets to the school before eight.  She see Stiles parking his jeep on the far end of the lot.  She calls out to him and waves.  Her hand drops ever so slightly when she sees Scott get out the passenger side of the jeep.

    “Morning,” says Stiles as he jogs up to her.

    “Why did Scott ride with you?” she says before she can stop the words.  Stiles raises an eyebrow and looks over his shoulder at the Alpha getting his book-bag from the back of the blue jeep.

    “We played video games super late last night.  He didn’t have time to go home this morning.”

    “Is that why he’s wearing that terrible plaid shirt?” says Lydia.  Stiles’s mouth drops open.

    “What do you mean terrible?” he says, “That’s my favorite shirt.”

    “I know,” she says, “I can’t stand it.  You should just let him keep it.”

    “Well, we can’t all pull off,” he says before he stops and stares at her while gesturing to her dress,  “I don’t even know what color that is.  Orangish?”

    “Peach,” she corrects as she flips her hair over her shoulder.  She curled it today.  “I wouldn’t be caught dead in orange.”

    “What are you talking about?” says Scott as he walks up to them.

    “Lydia hates your shirt,” says Stiles.

    “But this is your shirt,” says Scott with a frown as he looks down at the clothing.

    “Not anymore,” Stiles says as he slaps a hand on the werewolf’s back.  “Take good care of it.  And don’t say I never did nothing for ya.”

    Lydia hides her smile behind her curls.  She’s too busy thinking about all the other terrible clothes Stiles has (the kaki pants really need to go) that she misses what Scott is asking her.

    “What?” she says as she turns to the Alpha.

    “I said how’d you sleep?” he repeats.

    “Soundly,” she says while narrowing her eyes and tilting her head.  “How did you sleep?”

    “Same,” says Scott as he flashes his teeth through his smile.

    “I slept great, if anyone wanted to know,” says Stiles,  “Like a baby.”

    “Babies don’t sleep great, Stiles,” she says as the three of them head towards the school building,  “They wake up like every two hours.”

    “We didn’t go to bed until almost four,” says Stiles, “So I pretty much only got two hours of sleep which means I slept exactly like a baby.”  He winks at her with his words.  

    Lydia rolls her eyes and adjust the strap to her book-bag.  It’s crinkling the shoulder of her dress, and this dress is way too fabulous to get wrinkled before first period.  She’s so focused on fixing her dress that she doesn’t see the crack in the sidewalk ahead of her.  Her baby blue heel gets stuck in the treacherous gap and she stumbles.  A firm hand on her elbow keeps her from falling, and Lydia looks over her shoulder to thank whoever helped her.  When she sees that it’s Scott, she purses her lips and pulls her arm away.  He lets her go, but not without a ghost of touch that trails down to her inner wrist.

    “Thanks,” she bites out while increasing her pace to put distance between the Alpha and herself.

    “No problem,” he says with a shrug.  

    Lydia bites her lip to stop the sigh that wants to escape her mouth.  Maybe she’ll count how many times Scott shrugs today.  She turns away from him in time to see Kira waving at them.  The kitsune bounds up to the group, a relaxed looking smile on her face.

    “Ready for the Econ test?” she asks after giving Scott a quick kiss on the lips.  Kira turns to Lydia and Stiles as the werewolf raises a hand to his mouth as if if to wipe away her taste.  He seems to catch himself before he does though, and instead scratches the corner of his lip like it’d been itching.  The kitsune doesn’t see the motion, but Lydia does.

    “Of course,” the banshee answers.

    “I think she was asking us average people,” says Stiles as he looks around the hallway - probably for Malia.

    “You average people use my notes,”  Lydia says in a pointed tone,  “So the answer should still be ‘of course’.”  

    “I think I’m gonna do pretty good,” says Kira, “I studied some last night anyway.”

    “Shudied wawt?” says Malia with a bagel clutched between her teeth as she walks up behind Kira.

    Stiles turns to face her with his eyes the size of an owl’s.  “The Econ test,” he says,  “The one I reminded you about yesterday.”  He flaps his hands and arms at her while he speaks.  He may as well be hooting.  “The one you have to pass!”

    Malia rips the bagel from her mouth.  “That’s today?” she says.  Stiles nods slowly.  “Oh shit,” she continues “I haven’t looked over Lydia’s notes yet.”  She drops her bag to the floor and squats to rifle through it to find the notes. She pulls out a tattered notebook and lets out a deep sigh.  “Thank god I have them with me,” says the were-coyote as she clutches the notes to her chest.

    Lydia is beyond distracted in first period.  All she can think about is Scott almost wiping off Kira’s kiss.  What did that mean?  Honestly, Lydia had been hoping the Kira might be his next anchor.  He was always on such good behavior for the kitsune.  It would work perfectly.  It’s kinda her plan - or was - now she’s not sure.  She’d imagined phase one as finding an anchor, phase two as taking said anchor into Scott’s mind, and phase three as releasing Scott with the aforementioned anchor hence building an even stronger bond that would keep the Alpha off the darker paths until he learned to anchor himself.  But the whole plan kinds falls apart if Kira can’t be his anchor.  And the weird part is that he hasn’t even mention Allison.  Not once.  Lydia doesn’t think he’s trying to use the hunter as an anchor anymore.  So the question becomes - what could Scott even use now?  She misses the bell ringing.  It’s not until the teacher taps her shoulder that Lydia realizes she’s the only student left in the room.  She flushes as she gathers her things and hurries from the classroom.

    Lydia needs to watch Kira and Scott together.  She needs to figure out what’s going on between them.  Have they even slept together yet?  A girls night is beginning to feel necessary to get all the details she needs.  Having Malia there will be good too.  The guys will understand.  There’s nothing suspicious about it.  Girls enjoy time without boys around (sometimes).
    
    Lydia brings it up with Malia and Kira on the way to the lunch room.

    “A girls night?” ask Malia.  Her confusion is clear in her tone.

    “I think that sounds fun,” says Kira.  “You know, talk about things we can’t really say in front of the guys.”

    “Like what?” says Malia.

    “Just trust us,” snaps Lydia,  “You’ll like it.  So I’ll pick us up tonight at eight.  And wear something fun.  We’re going dancing.”  Lydia can see Kira’s eyes light up.

    “I love dancing,” says Malia.

    “See?” says Lydia, “Trust us.  It’s gonna be a blast.”

    The girls walk over to the table near the back that already seats Scott and Stiles.  Lydia lets Kira and Malia choose their seats before she takes hers.  Malia sits across from Stiles and Kira sits across from Scott.  No surprises there, but it does leave her in an uncomfortable situation of having to take the only remaining chair.  And it’s right next to Scott.  Lovely.  She sits down and scoots the chair over just enough to make her feel better but not enough to gain anyone’s attention.  The school’s serving sloppy-joes, and in the hands of Scott, the word sloppy seems to fall embarrassingly short of the mess the werewolf’s creating.

    “Jesus, Scott,” says Stiles, “Maybe you wanna slow down there?  It’s the supposed to be sandwich that’s sloppy, not the eater.”

    Scott shoves the last bite of the mangled sandwich into his mouth and shrugs.  That makes it two times today (she’s counting).

    “The faster you eat, the less time you have to make a mess,” he says.  Stiles shakes his head with closed eyes as his lips crumple in like he has to shut his mouth to keep Scott’s words from infiltrating him.

    “No,” he says as he opens his eyes and stares at the sauce dripping between Scott’s hands,  “I pretty sure you just make a bigger mess faster.  Here, dude.  Please,” he says as he holds out his napkins.

    Scott wipes his face and his hands then looks around the table with a wry smile that seems to dare anyone to tell him there’s still food on his person.  He cleaned his hands immaculately, but his face still shows signs of his greasy escapade.

    “You missed some on your right cheek,” says Lydia with her best ‘you’re beneath me’ smirk as she props her head up on a hand.  

    Scott’s eyes are unflinchingly steady as he stares at her and his lips twist between his teeth before reemerging in a feral sneer more befitting Peter than the True Alpha.  Lydia curbs the impulse to lean back from him as he says, “Then why don’t you help clean it off for me, Lydia?”  

    Is the pack really not paying attention?  Or is she only one who can hear and see the vile contortion on Scott.  Either way, Lydia’s over it.

    “I actually have better things to do with my time then help a sub-human attempt to eat,” she says as she packs up the lunch she’d just started to put on the table.  She feels Scott’s eyes crawl over her as she leaves, but she never turns around.

    Economics is a little heated, and not from the test.  Lydia can tell her outburst had an effect on Scott.  His lips are tighter than a virgin’s legs at a her first frat-party and the wrinkles of his brow are so pronounced that a bird could land on them.  Lydia does her best not to let her happiness of his ruffled state show.  She finishes the test in under twenty minutes.  It was multiple choice - the bare minimum of remembrance is required to pass it.  Lydia stands and walks her test up to Coach.

    “Can I go to the library to research for my A.P. Biology test?” she asks him as she hands over the paper.  Coach waves her away with his hand mumbling something like “Yeah, sure.  Go be you.”  

    Lydia grabs her purse and book-bag then takes large strides out the door.  Her heels click down the hallway.  It’s a sound that reminds Lydia of power, and she revels in it.  She chooses a seat near the back of the library behind a cluster of shelves.  It’s quieter here and she can let her mind wander.  Scott’s starting a dangerous game.  He’s Mr. Charming True Alpha in front of the pack now, but if it’s just Lydia - only her there or only her paying attention - he’ll let it slip out in quick biting ways.  The pattern is familiar and it takes Lydia a moment to figure it out, but then it clicks.  She hadn’t realized it because Scott’s doing it so maliciously now, but it’s not all that different from her relationship with the Alpha before his change.  When for some reason, he thought it appropriate to only tell Lydia about his new teeth.  As if no one else could handle seeing his darkness.  It’s almost the same with his grief over Allison.  He’d showed the banshee an ugly side he didn’t want any one else to see.  What does it mean though?  Why was Scott, regular or Dark (or whatever the fuck you call it -  she prefers asshole) coming to her, and only her, to talk about his secrets?    Why wouldn’t he talk with Kira?  Or Stiles for that matter?  She’s absorbed in her thoughts, but she’s attune to the energies surrounding her, and when she feels them shift, she looks up.  She sees Scott walking towards her as he passes the end of the last bookshelf.  He puts his foot down harder than what seems he might have meant too because he flinches and quickly leans against the bookshelf.  He puts his foot down gingerly this time and pushes off the wooded frame to walk towards Lydia’s table.   He takes a seat across from her and puts his book-bag in the chair next to him.  He fumbles through the open bag a moment before he pulls out a book and starts to read.  Lydia stares at him with a mouth so wide she worries she may have hurt her jaw.

    “What-” She starts in a loud tone, but Scott is quick to hush her.  

    “This is a library,” he whispers to her as his eyes pull together in a mockery of indignation.

    Lydia glowers at him as she continues in a softer voice through clenched teeth,  “What are you doing here?”

    He holds up his book “Call of the Wild” then drops it back down and continues reading.  

    “Why are you sitting here?” she says just as venomously quiet as she did before.  Scott puts the book down and looks at her.

    “We’re friends, aren’t we?” he says,  “Why wouldn’t I sit with you in the library?”

    Lydia closes her binder and leans forward.  “I know you’re game, Scott, and I have no interest in playing,” she says,  “So just stay away from unless we’re with the pack.”

    Scott looks around the library then back at Lydia as a smile pushes his lips up into boyish grin.  “Lydia,” he says,  “You are pack.  An Alpha has the right to see any one of his pack members, you know?  Totally regardless of who else is around.”

    She releases a puff of air through her nose as she slams her binder into her book-bag. “Seriously, what do want, Scott?” she says loudly.

    The werewolf is quiet as he closes his book and stares at the cover with vacant eyes.  He sighs and rolls his neck before he looks a Lydia.  He leans closer so he doesn’t have to raise his voice to be heard.

    “It’s not a game, Lydia,” he says.  She pulls back to look at him.  His face is stoically blank like the decision he’d made was actually made centuries ago and chiseled into stone with every passing year.  “I promise, I don’t want to play games with you.”

    A crippling knowing starts to wrap around her body - her bones ache from the weight of the knowledge.  It makes sense.  It’s all starting to make sense.

    She looks up at Scott and lets her head wobble from side to side like a new-born baby giraffe.  She doesn’t know how else to convey the deep soul resounding ‘no’ without shattering the windows (not too mention the silence) of the library.  

    “I can’t do it,” she hisses when she regains her composure.  She starts to fling her purse and book-bag over her shoulder.  Scott’s hand snaps out and firmly grabs her wrist preventing her from standing.

    “Think of all the good you’d be doing,” he says,  “All the people you’d be helping.”

    “Who?” she says,  “You?  Sorry, but I could care less about helping you right now.”  He tightens his grip on her and pulls so she has to fully sit back down

    “Of course you’d be helping me gain control,” he says as he rubs his thumb over her bruising skin,  “But you’d also be protecting Kira, Stiles, Malia, Liam. Everyone.”

    “Protecting them from you?”

    “From an Alpha without an anchor,” he says as he leans closer to her,  “I mean really, how long do you think I’ll last?”  He removes his hand from her wrist and sucks in air through his teeth.  “Look at that,” he says as he regards the purple fingerprints forming around Lydia’s wrist,  “Like things like that shouldn’t be happening.”

    “I can’t be your anchor, Scott,” she says as she stares at her wrist,  “Not when you’re like this.”

    He laughs, and it’s a mean, biting, skin stinging chuckle.  “Come on, Lydia,” he says through his snickers,  “How is this any different from Aiden?  I know how you like your guys.”

    “Fuck off,” she snarls as she stands quickly from the table.

    “Just think about it, okay?” he calls out after her.

    Lydia stops, and twirls back around to march towards Scott.

    “Why?” she says in a high-pitched voice as she holds her arms out,  “Why does it have to be me?”

    “You understand me,” he says,  “You understand the pressure I’m under.  You understand the things I’ve lost.  That we’ve both lost.”

    “Kira would understand if you talked to her.”

    “I don’t want her to understand.  She doesn’t need to know how much I’ve changed,” he says as he slings his book bag over his shoulder and stands up to face her.  “It would make her sad.”

    Lydia’s brow crumples into frown lines as she scoffs.  “Oh, but cheating on her,” says the banshee,  “That wouldn’t make Kira sad at all.  Your priorities are all fucked up, Scott.”

    “Seriously though,” he says as he follows her out the library door, “How would it be any different from last time?”

    “Last time?”  Lydia tilts her head towards him but keeps her eyes focused on the hallway in front of her.  “You mean when I was drunk and you took advantage of me?  I fucked up.  It was a huge mistake.  Believe me, it’ll never happen again.”  

    The bell rings during her words and Lydia watches as Stiles, Kira, and Malia shuffle out of economics.  The were-coyote looks dazed.

    “This conversation isn’t over,” says Scott as he adjusts his book-bag and raises his chin to catch Stiles’s attention.

    “Yes, it is,” Lydia says through closed teeth while she smiles at the approaching pack.

    “How’d you finish the test so quickly?” says Stiles,  “Lydia I can understand, but you?”   

    Scott shrugs in response (that’s three).  “I studied,” says the werewolf.

    “I don’t think it was that bad,” says Kira,  “Number eleven was a trick question though, right?” the kitsune continues as she turns to Lydia.

    “Trick question?” Malia says,  “No, Coach can’t do that.  It wouldn’t be fair.”

    Lydia folds her lips between her teeth as she looks at Malia.  “Oh, sweetheart,” she says,  “Teachers are never fair.”  She wants to say life isn’t fair, but she won’t take her bad mood out on the were-coyote.

    Lydia catches herself chewing her fingernails four times during A.P. Biology.  She’s going to ruin her nail polish if she doesn’t get the habit under control.  She wishes she hadn’t planned a girls night for tonight.  It’s going to be awkward around Kira.  Lydia takes a fast shower when she gets home and stretches out on her bed to let her hair dry.  She’s going to braid her hair tonight so she won’t blow dry it.  She wants the natural bounce.  She closes her eyes and lets out guttural wheeze.  Today sucked.  Maybe she’ll take a nap before she picks up Kira and Malia.  That might help.  Right as she’s about to drift off, her phone rings causing Lydia to fly up from the bed.  

    That startled her.  She answers the phone without attempting to hide her irritation.

    “What?” she says.

    “Whoa, are you okay?”  The voice belongs to Malia.  Lydia runs a hand through her wet hair.  It seems taking her bad mood out on Malia is unavoidable.  Now she feels like a bad person.  Great.

    “Yeah, sorry, I was about to fall asleep,” the banshee says.

    “Want me to let you go?”

    “No, it’s fine,” says Lydia,  “A nap will probably just make me more tired anyway.  What’s up?”  She stands up from the bed and walks to her closet.  She’ll go ahead and choose an outfit for tonight.  It’s something to do anyway.

    “I was hoping I could come over now,” Malia says.  Lydia pulls the phone back from her ear to check the time.

    “It’s only six,” Lydia answers once the phone is back to her head.

    “I know but I want to talk to you before we see Kira.  It’s kinda really important.”

    Lydia turns away from her closet and sits back on the bed.  This makes her uncomfortable.  What could Malia possible need to discuss about Kira with the banshee?  Unless. . . maybe Malia overheard something at school today.  Lydia lets out another cross between a sigh and a groan.

    “Sure,” she says,  “Come on over.”

    “Sweet,” Malia says,  “I’ll see you in a second.”  

    Lydia hangs up with a frown.  Surely the were-coyote had meant to say a minute, and not a second.  She nearly throws her phone in fright at the tapping on her window.  Lydia stomps over and unlocks it.  She steps back once it’s open to let Malia can crawl inside.

    “Were you calling from my backyard?” she asks the were-coyote.

    “Yeah, I figured you’d say yes.”

    Lydia rolls her eyes as she sits back on her bed.  “So,” she says,  “What’s this important conversation about?”  

    Please don’t say Scott.  Please be about anything but Scott.

    “Lesbians,” says Malia.  Lydia almost chokes.

    “What?” she says.

    “You know, girls that like girls.”

    “No, I know what lesbians are,” Lydia snaps,  “I mean what about them?”

    “Do you think I could be one?”  Malia stares at Lydia with an earnest confusion shining in her eyes as she speaks.  “Like, how would I know if I was?”

    “I don’t know,” Lydia says in a carefully thoughtful voice,  “You’d find women attractive, I guess. . .”

    “I do!” she says as she leans forward onto her knees,  “I really do, but I like Stiles too.”

    “Well, how do you feel about Stiles?”

    “He’s warm and familiar,” says Malia, “I know he cares about me.  And I’m comfortable with him, but sometimes I can’t help it.  I think about her.  She’s just so lovable and cute at the same time.  Like a fucking bunny,”  the were-coyote growls as she flicks a piece of lint of Lydia’s bed, “And I’ve never thought about bunnies without wanting to eat them before.  That has to mean something, right?”

    “Wait,” says Lydia, “Are we talking about someone in particular?”  Malia stares at her feet and nods her head.  “Who?” continues Lydia.

    “Kira,” says Malia softly.

    “But Kira’s with Scott,” says Lydia before she can stop herself.  

    Malia snorts and rolls her eyes at the banshee’s words.  “Oh please,” she says as she regards Lydia with placid eyes,  “We both know that relationship’s about to come crumbling down.”

    Lydia stares back at Malia.  “What makes you say that?” she says in a guarded tone.

    “Because I know what you and Scott were talking about in the hallway.”

    Lydia rubs her temples and lies back on her bed.  Of course Malia overheard them.  This is Lydia’s life - nothing ever goes smoothly in it.

    “If you heard us,” she says, “Then you should also know that I said it was never going to happen again.”

    “Whatever,” says the were-coyote, “I don’t care that you fucked Scott once when you were drunk.  Look, the problem isn’t you - it’s Scott.  He wants you.  Like real bad if his scent is any indication.”

    “Oh my god,” says Lydia as she puts her hands over her ears, “Please stop.”

    “Seriously,” continues Malia, “It’s almost unbearable being around the two of you.”

    “This is so fucked up,” moans the banshee,  “You haven’t told anyone, right?”

    “Don’t be so dramatic.  It’s not that bad, Lydia.”

    “You don’t understand,” she says as she sits up to face the Malia.  “Look, I’m going to tell you something, okay?”  she continues as she curls into herself like an improperly dried sunflower,  “And it’s a really fucking big deal, so yes, I’m being dramatic about it.”  Malia crosses her legs and puts her hands in her lap - the picture of polite but desperately hungry for gossip.  “Remember before Mexico when Peter stole my memories?”

    Malia’s face flattens at the mention of her father, and she nods slowly.

    “Well,” says Lydia as she smacks her lips together,  “It wasn’t Peter.  I just pretended it was so the pack wouldn’t fall apart.”

    “Why would the pack fall apart if it wasn’t Peter?”

    “Because it was Scott who did it.”

    Malia covers her mouth and sinks back into the bed.  She moves her hand and tilts her chin down to look at Lydia.

    “I knew it,” says the were-coyote,  “I knew something was weird.  Holy fuckin’ shit. . .”

    “So can you understand why I’m not so thrilled about his interest now?”   Lydia wants to continue her confession and say something along the lines of ‘plus he came back all fucked up from his mind’ but that probably isn’t a good idea.  She settles for a deep sigh instead and leans back next to Malia on the bed.  “Stiles knows it was Scott,” she continues,  “You don’t have to hide it from him, but Kira has no idea.”

    “That explains his fight with Scott,” Malia says under her breath,  “Stiles wouldn’t say much about it. But. . .”  The were-coyote stops and chews her lip as her eyebrows pull together like there was a magnet in the middle of her forehead.  “Isn’t Kira the one who needs to know the most?  I mean, she is Scott’s girlfriend - for now at least.  She deserves to know.”

    “I don’t know,” says Lydia, “I don’t want her to get hurt.”

    Malia groans.  “You people really need to stop this secret keeping thing.  It’s not protecting anyone,” she says,  “You honestly think it’ll hurt her more than being the last person to find out something about her own boyfriend?  God,  it’s just like Peter being my dad.  I can handle that.  What I can’t handle is having my entire pack lie to me about something.”

    “Fuck, I have to tell her, don’t I?” says Lydia.

    “Tonight,” answers Malia,  “You have to tell her tonight or I’ll do it for you.”

    Christ, this girls’ night is getting super complicated.

    “Fine,” Lydia says,  “I’ll tell her tonight.  Just let me do it.  It’s something of a delicate nature, so I want to be careful how I tell her.”

    An hour and a half later, Malia sits shotgun as Lydia drives them to pick up Kira.  The girl runs to the car, and practically dives into the backseat.

    “Go, go!” says Kira as she waves her hand.

    “What? Are we kidnapping you or something?” Lydia says as she puts the car from park into reverse and backs out into the street.

    “Saving me more like it,” says the kitsune while tossing her head back against the seat,  “My mom was in a talkative mood and it seems like all she wanted to talk about was my night habits. . . and whether or not they included Scott.”

    “Oh my god, she was giving you the sex talk?”  asks Lydia.

    “I tried telling her it wasn’t necessary,” Kira says,  “That it’s starting to look like it’ll never be necessary.”

    Malia turns around in her seat and peers at the kitsune through the gap between the seat and the headrest.  “You haven’t slept with him yet?” says the were-coyote.

    Kira blanches as her shoulders jump up.  “No!” she says in a borderline whine.  “We tried but, you know, Kate showed up, and then Scott was a Berserker,”  She bobs her head with her words like she’s feeling them out as she says them,  “I haven’t seen him that much since Mexico.”

    Malia turns to look at Lydia but the banshee responds to the probing eyes by rolling her own and then licking her lips.

    “So you feel like he’s been distant lately?” says Lydia as she glares at Malia as if to say ‘I’ve got it, back off’.  “You guys seem all over each other at school,” continues Lydia.

    “I don’t know,” says Kira as she looks out the window.  She fiddles with her phone then shoves it into her purse and scoots forward in her seat.  The kitsune leans towards the two girls up front and puts her hands on the back of their seats to keep her body from swaying as Lydia turns the car.  “I get this feeling sometimes,” Kira continues,  “Like he’s not being completely honest with me somehow.  That probably makes me sound super paranoid, doesn’t it?”

    “No, not at all,” Lydia says - her eyes never once leaving the road.  “Guys are never completely honest when it comes to girls.  Especially to themselves.  If I had a dollar for every guy who told me he was a beast in the sheets and convinced himself it was true,”  She laughs and has to pull some loose strands of hair off her lips gloss.  “Let’s just say I’d have a lot of money.”

    “I feel that way about Stiles,” says Malia, “Not the beast in the sheets part - he never said he was - but sometimes, even after the whole Peter thing, I’ll still catch a whiff of a lie.  I can’t ever  place it though.  It feels buried.”

    Lydia wonders if Malia is talking about Stiles’s complicated relationship to death.  She can definitely imagine that being something that Stiles wouldn’t want the were-coyote to know.

    “But it’s doesn’t exactly feel like a lie,” says Kira,  “It’s more like, he’s hiding something?  But about himself?”  Kira puffs out her lips with a large exhale.  “I don’t know what I’m trying to say.”  She leans into her legs, her hair flopping over her neck as she bends her back. “Sometimes I just worry that I don’t really know Scott,” she mumbles into her leggings,  “That he doesn’t want me to know him.”  

    Malia looks at Lydia with a good impression of a cat having caught it’s mouse.  Lydia sucks her teeth and rolls her shoulders as she tilts her head to the side and delivers her fiercest runway sneer at the were-coyote.

    “Well,” says Lydia as her eyes flick off Malia and back to the road.  “If that was the case, he probably just wants to look flawless in front of you.  You know, never let you see his bad side so to speak.”  Lydia taps her fingers on the steering wheel until she notices the hand movement and curls them tightly around the leather.

    “That’s not what a relationship is about,” says Kira as she sits back up,  “He should know that.  You have to see and accept everything in a person.  It doesn’t matter if it’s ugly or bad.  We all have things like that.”

    “So you’d accept them?  If Scott showed you his ugly side?”

    “Of course,” says Kira it seems without thinking,  “I mean you’d have to, right?  Besides he already tried to kill me when he was a Berserker.  That’s pretty ug-”  Kira stops and stares at the two girls listening to her.  Her face seems to cloud as if a brand new thought just occurred to her.  “You know something,” she says as her eyes go wide and pace the space between Lydia and Malia,  “Oh my god.  You do know something.  What do you know? Wait. . . ” she stops herself again and looks down at her hands.  She takes a deep breath.  “Is it about Allison?” she continues.

    Lydia nearly swerves the car before she pulls into the Jungle’s packing lot.  She doesn’t say anything and parks the car in the first open spot.

    “It was about Allison,” says Malia with wonder in her voice as she watches Lydia fumble with the car keys.  “How was it about Allison?  You never said anything about that.”

    “It wasn’t about Allison, okay?” Lydia snaps, “It just became about her later.”

    “What happened?” says Kira, her eyes are back to pacing the gap between Malia and Lydia.  “Tell me what you’re talking about.”

    Lydia leans her head back and covers her eyes.  So much for handling this delicate situation with care.  Lydia opens her mouth to reply, but she hears Malia’s voice before the banshee can let out hers.

    “It’s wasn’t Peter who hurt Lydia,” blurts the were-coyote,  “It was Scott.”

    “God dammit, Malia!”  Lydia smacks the other girl on the arm, “I said to let me say it!  You don’t just blurt shit like that out.”

    “Wait. . . it was Scott?” says Kira slowly,  “Scott attacked you and stole your memories?”  The kitsune slumps back in her seat.  “And it was about Allison?  I don’t. . .” she trails off then looks up at Lydia and Malia.  Kira’s stare is like a bird of prey’s - calculatingly indifferent.  “Make me understand,” she says.

    Lydia’s sick of repeating this story so she’s actually quite thankful when Malia cuts her off again.

    “I understand,” says the were-coyote, “I think I know exactly how it happened now.  It started when you heard Allison, right?  That night you screamed.”

    Lydia nods and bites her upper lip before slowly letting it pop out from her teeth.

    “I didn’t realize it at the time,” says the banshee, “But Scott had learned to use open doors in the mind.  He was using me to talk with Allison in my dreams.”

    “And things got ugly when you found out,” Kira says.  Her eyes are slowly losing their frigid layer.  “Because Scott still needs her,” she says and her voice flutters like a moth’s wings under a streetlamp.  “God, I should have known.  He never talked about her with me.  Ever.”

    “If it’s any consolation, none of us ever talked about it,” says Lydia, “It was a mistake.  We owed her so much more than that, and we fucked up.”

    “He always seemed so sad whenever he thought I wasn’t looking,” says Kira,  “Oh my god.  I’m gonna have to talk to him at some point.  Oh my god.  What will I say?”

    “Say you need space,” Malia says, “That worked with Stiles.”

    “But he’ll want to know why,” says Lydia as she brings a fingernail to her teeth.

    “Can’t I just tell him the truth?  That I know what happened and I need time to think about all of it.”

    “Of course,” says Lydia a little to fast,  “Of course, you can.  You’re right.  The truth is always best.”  Malia stares at the banshee with a wrinkled brow before she opens the car door.

    “Well, are we gonna sit in the car all night?” says the were-coyote, “Or are we gonna dance?”

    “Dance, definitely,” says Kira as she opens her car door,  “I’ve got a lot of energy to burn right now.”
    

    It’s early so the Jungle isn’t packed yet and Lydia finds them a booth near the front.  She offers to watch everyone’s purses so Malia and Kira can dance.  Honestly, she needs a moment to herself.  How mad is Scott gonna be when he finds out she told Kira?  She calls a waiter over and orders a vodka tonic with extra lemon.  She holds out her fake ID as she leans forward onto the table to push her cleavage out.  The guy doesn’t even read it - his eyes are too busy staring at her chest - and he hands it back to her with a smile.

    “Vodka tonic extra lemon coming right up,” he says before he walks away.  She was lucky that she got a straight waiter this time although her fake always works here even if her sex appeal doesn’t.  

    She needs that drink.  Her hands are trembling and it’s really fucking annoying.  Is she that scared of Scott?  She hadn’t thought she was, but Lydia can’t stop the squeezing python in her chest.  She looks out into the dancing crowd, searching for Malia and Kira.  She sees them dancing together near the center of the floor.  They are extremely close - the were-coyote guiding the kitsune’s thrashing movements with her steady hands.  Lydia rest her head on her interlocked fingers as she watches them.  They would make the hottest couple ever, she’ll give them that.  Malia leans into Kira and says something into her ear that makes Kira bite her lip and look down as a smile creeps onto her face.  Malia unwinds from the other girl and walks off the dance floor towards Lydia.

    “What did you just say to her?” Lydia calls out when Malia is close enough to hear her.

    “I said she was adorable like a bunny, and that I’d be right back,” says the were-coyote as she takes a seat.

    “Seducing someone else’s girlfriend while you have a boyfriend?  Scandalous,” laughs Lydia.

     “Whatever,” Malia snorts,  “You only get one life and I spent too much of mine trapped as a coyote.”

    “So why’d you leave the dance floor then?”

    Malia watches the waiter walk over and give Lydia her drink.  She waits for him to leave before she answers the banshee’s question with one of her own.

    “Are you scared of Scott finding out you told Kira?”

    Lydia eyes Malia as she lazily stirs the drink.  “Of course not,” she says flatly.

    “Well, sorry to break it to you,” says Malia, “But you smell terrified.”

    Lydia takes a sip of her drink and places it delicately back on the table top.

    “What do you want me to say?”  says Lydia in a quiet and calm tone as she leans forward.  “He’s an Alpha werewolf without an anchor whose having control issues, and I just possible gave his girlfriend a reason to break up with him,” she hisses before she settles back in her seat and fixes the wrinkles in her dress, “Yes, I’m scared, okay?”

    Malia looks over her shoulder at Kira still dancing.  “You think she’ll break up with him?  Really?” asks the were-coyote.

    “I don’t know,” says Lydia after she takes another long sip from her drink.  “For your sake, I hope she does.  You two look good together.”

    “I just,” says Malia as she watches Kira, “I don’t know, I just feel drawn to her. And I really want to know how she kisses.”  The coyote licks her lips as she stands back up.  “Anyway,” she says while smacking a hand against the table, “Don’t worry about Scott.  I won’t let him do anything stupid.”

    “Wait, Malia,” Lydia says and waits for the girl to turn back to her.  “Does Stiles not care?  If you kiss other people?”

    “We sleep together cause it’s fun.  And I care about him.  He was the first person I truly cared about, but we both know we’re not in love,” Malia says with a toothy smile,  “I guess you could call it an open relationship?”  Malia turns around without waiting for Lydia to respond and worms her way back onto the dance floor next to Kira.

    Interesting.  The information Malia shared gets logged away for further contemplation by the banshee as Lydia finishes her drink.  She only lets herself have two drinks the entire night - she wants to be able to drive home when the time comes.  She loses track of Malia and Kira once she enters the dance space - too caught up in the motions of her own body to care about watching them anymore.  Lydia has energy to burn off too.  She’s deep in the rhythm of the obnoxiously  loud music when a pair of hands grab her shoulders.  Lydia opens her eyes to Malia grinning like a wild cat.

    “I did it,” says the were-coyote,  “I kissed Kira.”

    “That was fast,” says Lydia as she avoids a collision with the grinding bodies next to her. “Where is she now?”

    “Waiting for us at the table,” says Malia as she tugs on Lydia’s arm, “Come on, you go first.  I’ll be right behind you.”

    Lydia can see Kira is still flushed when she gets closer to the table.  The kitsune keeps licking her lips.

    “What flavor lip gloss?” asks Lydia as she takes a seat.

    “Oh, I’m not wearing lip gloss,” says Kira as her blush intensifies.

    “I know,” says Lydia as she leans across the table,  “I meant Malia’s.”

    Kira’s face cracks and her cheeks push out to make room for the giant smile on her face. “It tastes like mint,” she says as she gives her lips one final swipe.  “Is it bad if I think she’s a better kisser than Scott?”

    “Only for Scott,” says Lydia,  “So have you decided what you’re gonna do?”

    “I don’t know,” says Kira,  “The more I think about it, the more I feel like he only likes me because I’ve never seen his bad side.  I think things are gonna change, whether I want them too or not, once he finds out I know.”

    “Yeah, actually,” says Lydia as she reaches for her purse,  “That makes a lot of sense.  When are you gonna talk with him?”

    “We’re supposed to go on a date tomorrow,” Kira says, “Our second attempt at our first date.  The first one was ruined by Kate, and I’m about to ruin the next one.”

    “Call me after you talk with him.  Let me know how it goes,” says Lydia as she watches Malia fight the crowd to reach their table.

    “Are we ready?” asks Malia.  Kira and Lydia nod as they stand from the table.  The drive home is quiet, but it’s the comfortable type of silence - something Lydia’s hasn’t had the grace to experience for a long time.  It feels nice.  She drops Kira off first and then Malia.
The coyote turns to her as she opens the car door.

    “Did she say anything about me?”

    Lydia pushes Malia out of the car with tired smile as she says, “Yeah, you’re a good kisser.  Better than Scott.  Congratulations.”

    “I like girls’ nights,” says Malia as she bends over to speak through the window,  “Thanks, Lydia.”

    The banshee waves her away so she can reverse her car and get home.  She’s exhausted.  The night was fun, but tomorrow’s gonna be a shit show.  She can feel it already.  All she wants is a good nights rest so she can handle whatever’s gonna happen.  She parks her car and unlocks her front door with a yawn before pulling her heels off her feet and tossing them into the corner.  She shambles up the stairs and starts wiggling the zipper of her dress down before she opens the door to her room.  Lydia immediately notices that one of her windows is open - the same one she unlocked for Malia.  Jesus Christ, she forgot to lock it before she left.  She re-zips her dress and pads cautiously into the room.  First she opens her bathroom door.  Nothing.  Next she whips her closet door open.  Still nothing.  Lydia bites her lips and treads softly over to her bed.  She crouches down and takes a deep breath before she flips up her bed skirt and peers under her bed.  Nothing.  She sits up with a sigh and closes her eyes.

    Where the fuck is he?

    “Did you really just look under your bed for me?”

    Lydia nearly breaks her neck she spins her head so fast to face Scott.  He’s standing in her bedroom doorway.

    “Where the fuck were you?” she says as she attempts to keep her fear from making her voice tremble.

    “In the kitchen.  Waiting for you like a normal person,” he says as he steps into the room,  “You honestly thought I was hiding in your room?”

    “A normal person wouldn’t crawl through my window just because it’s unlocked at one in the morning,” she says as she pulls the hair-tie from her braid and runs her fingers through her hair.  “So yes, I thought you were hiding in my room. . . Scott,” she says in a ragged tone as she puts a hand to her forehead,  “Why are you here?”

    “I don’t know,” he says “I guess I just wanted to see you before I went to bed.  How was your girls’ night?”
 
    “It was great.  I’m exhausted.  I want to go to bed now,” she says without looking at him.

    “I won’t stay long,” he says as he walks over to her desk.  He pulls out the chair and turns it to face Lydia before he sits down in it.  He looks over his shoulder at the arrangement of knick-knacks behind him on the desk.  His eyes snake over bracelets, perfume bottles, a hair brush, and some pens before he settles on the crumpled purple pouch.  He picks it up and turns back to face her.   “Looks like you’re out of mountain ash,” he says.

    “I’m getting more tomorrow,” Lydia says.

    “Don’t even bother,” says Scott as he tosses the pouch back behind him.  “It doesn’t even affect me anymore.”

    “You seemed pretty affected when I shoved it in your face,” she says without looking at him.  She’s resting her head on her bed.  She hears Scott shift in his seat.

    “That was the mistletoe,” he says,  “And if you’re that worried about it, you should just get Deaton to give you some wolfsbane.”

    Lydia lifts her head from the bed and stares at Scott.  He looks as exhausted as her.  He’s slumped in the chair and supporting his head with one of his hands.  His eyes are closed, but his brow is tumbling down like the relaxed and natural state of his expression is now one of deep concentration.

    “Are you okay?” she says.  Scott opens his eyes and regards her with mild surprise hiding in the corner of his pupils.

    “Are you worried about me?”

    “Maybe,” she says as she stretches her back,  “Then again maybe not.  I could just be worried about myself, you know.”

    Scott curls his lips up, bringing out the dimple on the his left cheek, as he shakes his head and drops his shoulders into a chuckle.  He leans his head back and puts an arm over his face.

    “Oh man,” he says as his laughter recedes,  “I don’t know,” he continues with his face still covered,  “I thought it’d be easier, I guess.”

    “What?” says Lydia.

    “This,” he says as he uses a hand to gesture between them,  “Us.”

    “Seriously?” she says,  “Why would you ever think that?  We weren’t on good terms before you took the Monkshood, and all you’ve done since you got back is threaten me.”

    “What?” he says as he moves his arm and sits up straight,  “I never threatened you.”

    Lydia’s eyes go wide like over inflated beach balls.  “Are you fucking kidding me?” she says, “Scott, you totally threatened me the last time you snuck over.”

    He tilts his head up and lets his mouth hang slack as his eyes squeeze together like he was staring into a supernova.  “I did?” he says, “Huh. . . I did.  I remember now.  That was just a stressful day in general though.  I didn’t mean it.  It’s like I said, I don’t have the best control right now.”

    “Then stop coming over here,” she snaps,  “I’m sick of it.  You can’t tell someone you don’t have control and then constantly expose them to your lack of it.”

    “Lydia,” he says,  “I don’t want to fight with you.”

    “Cause you know you’d lose,” she mumbles as she puts her head back on the bed.  She really wants to crawl in to it.

    “Verbally, I might,” he says,  “But if you want to fight, I promise it’ll quickly move past words.”

    She points a finger at him without lifting her head.  “That was a threat,” she says.

    “Whatever,” he says as he stands up from the chair.  “Look, I just wanted to make sure you didn’t do anything stupid tonight.”

    “Stupid?” she keeps her voice as flat and stagnate as scummy pond water on a summer’s day with no wind.  Lydia’s gotten much better at keeping her emotions out of her words, but her heart rate is a different matter.  She can slow it when it starts to race, but she hasn’t figured out how to stop it from galloping in the first place.

    “Yeah, stupid,” he says,  “Like talking about something I told you not to.”

    “I didn’t tell anyone about your personality one-eighty,” she says,  “So don’t worry.”

    “What did you tell them?”

    “Nothing,” she says,  “I didn’t say anything.”

    “No, you said something,” he says as he stares at her,  “Your scent wouldn’t be spiking and you wouldn’t be trying to slow your heart beat if you’d said nothing.”

    “Scott, go home,” she moans as she lets one of her hands creep under her mattress, “I can’t do this right now.”  She feels around on the box spring until her fingers recognize the thin paper of an envelope.  She crumples it into her hand and folds both hands in her lap

    “Just tell me what you did,” he says as he crouches next to her, “I promise I won’t get mad.”

    “Oooh my god,” she huffs as she flings her head back from the bed,  “Go home, McCall. I’m serious.”

    “So am I,” he says, “If you want me to leave, you need to tell me what you said to Malia and Kira.”  

    Lydia quietly tears open the envelope while he’s speaking, dumps the powder from it into her hand, and then closes her hand into a fist.  She stares at the folded hands in her lap, and licks her lips before she looks up at Scott.  Even crouching, he seems imposing.  She’s sick of it.

    “Fine,” she says,  “Kira and Malia know it wasn’t Peter who attacked me.  I was going to tell them anyway.  Last night just made sense to get it over with.”  She grips her fist tighter around the powder in her hand.

    “That’s all you said?”

    “That’s all I said.”

    Scott stands up and walks back over to the chair before taking a seat.  He curves his spine to lean on his knees and puts a fist over his mouth.  He shifts his eyes off the floor and onto Lydia - watching her through bored but predatory eyes, like a shark trying to decide of it’ll blindly follow it’s instinct and bite something even though the thing doesn't resemble a fish at all.

    “Is she going to break up with me?”

    “I don’t know,” says Lydia,  “She might ask for space.”

    Scott sits back in the chair and flings the hand from his mouth to tap his fingers on the armrest.  He pulls one corner of his top lip into his mouths and chews it.  Lydia can’t be sure, but it almost looks like he drew a bit of blood.  Werewolves heal too fast in her opinion.  He stands abruptly and walks towards the window.

    “What are you doing?” Lydia says in high-pitched almost squeal.

    Scott turns to face her as he starts to straddle the windowsill.  “Leaving,” he says,  “Like I said I would.”

    “Are you okay?” she continues in the same panicked tone.  Something just feels wrong, and she can’t pinpoint what.

    Scott closes his eyes and leans his head against the side of the window.  “Yeah, I’m good,” he says but his voice sounds like its been through a grinder.  She looks at his hands.  No claws.  That’s good.  “I just need to go now,” he says.

    “Where?” she says.  Her voice is hushed - the way you’d speak to a friend while you’re both hiding during a game of hide-and-seek.

    He puts a hand over his already closed eyes.  “Anywhere but here,” he says.

    Lydia stands up and begins to cautiously shuffle towards the werewolf.  “Scott, are you okay?”

    “I’m fine!” he snarls as he drops his hand and opens his red eyes to glare at her.  Lydia stops her forward shuffle.  “Just stay back!  I can’t stand how you smell,” he continues as he swings his leg back over the windowsill so he can stand up in the room.  “So fucking terrified,” he says as he starts to walk towards her,  “It smelled so bitter at first, it almost burnt my nose, and now. . .”  He stops walking towards Lydia and watches her with red eyes that seem to hold an obscene wave of conflicting emotions - grief tosses joy and sorrow swallows them both before power washes up in the surf.  “And now I think it’s grown on me. It almost smells sweet.  Like coffee and honey,”  He takes a small step towards her and inhales through his nose. “I’m starting to like the smell of your fear, Lydia.”

    She raises her closed fist to her chest, clutching it tighter, but ready to let the dust fly in his face if he takes one step closer, the adrenaline building in her nerves like a trapeze artist the the first time they jump in front of a crowd.

    “I’m glad you have wolfsbane,” he says as he steps back towards the window. “Get more from Deaton tomorrow.”  

    Scott swings both legs over the sill and Lydia never hears him hit the ground, but she sees a form slip between the trees lining her backyard.  She opens her fist and lets the wolfsbane swirl out of her grasp as she turns her hand over.

    At least she didn’t have to use it.

Chapter Text

    Lydia sits on the nemeton stump in the white room and stares at the open set of doors across from her.  The doors aren’t cracked like Stiles’s were - these doors are wide open - a silent invitation to Scott’s mind.  Lydia doesn’t like that.   The longer she stares at the black doors, the more she is convinced that Scott wants her in his mind.  It’s a wiggling feeling - one that crawls up her spine and down her throat and chews her from the inside out.  She wishes she knew what it meant.  The only thing Lydia does know is that she has to free Scott from where ever he’s trapped and that means finding him first.  She stands up from the stump and walks towards the open door.  She can’t hear anything from it.  Strange and extremely unsettling.  The banshee puts both hands over her mouth and inhales - holding her breath for as long as she can - until she lets it flow out of her in a slow current.  She wipes her face and lowers her hands to her side as she walks through the dark doorway.

    It’s more than quiet on the other side.  The silence is thick like molasses and it coats the inside of Lydia’s mouth when she breathes.  Everything is muted.  She’s in the forest, but she can’t tell what time of day it is; the colors of the trees and the dirt seem off as if a painter only had hues and tones of black and blue to create the nature that surrounds her.  It’s disorienting.  She doesn’t want to stay here, but she can’t wander blindly through this world.  She needs to stay off the grind of Scott’s conscious mind.  She closes her eyes and concentrates on the stretching her mind across the dreamscape.  She feels two energies humming in the back of her head - one much stronger than the other.  Neither one is close to her (thank god).  The Scott she’s looking for has to be the weaker energy.  Lydia focuses on the trembling vibration and once she can feel her body quiver with the foreign frequency, she allows herself to follow it.  It leads her from the woods and into downtown Beacon Hills.  When Lydia sees the bank, she breaks into a run.  She’s never been here before, but she’d heard about it from Allison.  This is where the Boyd and Cora were kept.  Where Erica died.  

    Lydia pulls the boards off the door using her leg as a brace against the door frame.  She puts all her strength into tearing off the last one - the nail had been slightly bent - and she tumbles backwards with her own momentum once the board is free.  She tosses the useless piece of wood to the side and quickly rights herself to crawl through the now exposed door.  She walks a past a closest that she recognizes from one of Allison’s dreams.  That means the vault should be one hallway up on her left.  The pull of Scott’s energy is much stronger now that she’s so close.  Lydia puts both hands against the door of the vault and whispers against the metal.

    “Scott?”

    He doesn’t answer her.  

    “Scott,” she says again, louder this time.  “It’s Lydia.  Answer me.”

    “Go away,” a muffled voice finally responds.  

    She leans her head against the vault door and balls the hand resting on it into a fist.

    “I’m going to get you out,” she says.

    “Go away,” he says again.  His voice is haggard sounding through the walls that separate them.

    “Stop telling me to go away,” she says,  “I’m here to help you.”

    “No, you’re not,” he says.  “If you wanted to help, you’d let me stay asleep.”

    “What are you talking about Scott?”

    “I lost.  That’s what I’m taking about,” he says.  His voice sounds closer like maybe he’s moved to sit next to the the door.  “I couldn’t control it, and I lost.  It’s better for everyone if I just never wake up.”

    Does he not know?  

    “Scott, you woke up,” she says with her forehead resting on the vault door.  She can here shifting inside, and when he speaks, his voice is no longer muffled.  

    “What do you mean I woke up?” he says,  “I’m here.  I’ve been here.”

    “I know,” she says, “And I don’t know how, but a part of you still came back.  The same part you lost to when you fought.  I have a plan, but you have to be free for it to work.  And you’ll have to fight.”

    “I can’t,” says Scott.

    “Yes, you can,” she says,  “This is your mind Scott.  You can control it.”

    “No,” he says, “I mean I can’t fight.  Something’s different.”

    “What do you mean something’s different?  Different how?”

    “My body’s not healing like it should,” he says, “And it’s hard to breath.  I think I need my inhaler.”  He does sound slightly wheezy now that he mentions it.  

    “But you’re a werewolf,” she says, “Werewolves don’t have asthma.”

    “That’s what I’m trying to tell you,” says Scott, “Somethings different.  I think I’m human right now.”

    Well shit.  That changes things.  She starts to feel lightheaded and tingly.  She recognizes the sensation - Scott’s body is about to wake up.  She doesn’t have much longer to talk.

    “Okay,” says Lydia,  “It’s okay.  We’ll figure this out.  I’ll be back, alright?  I’ll bring an inhaler with me too.”

    Lydia’s back in the white room before she can hear his answer.  She allows herself to gently drift awake.  The sun light creeps through her windows and judging from its stretching rays, it must be around five in the morning.  She sits up in bed and leans her head back against the frame.  She has to talk with Derek and Deaton today.  Consequences or no consequences, they need to know what’s going on with Scott.  She can’t do this on her own.

    Derek answers her text at seven thirteen.  She knew the werewolf wouldn’t be up yet when she sent it at five forty, but she still wishes it hadn’t taken so long for him to respond.  Every second feels too precious to waste.  She calls him and he picks up on the first ring.

    “What’s going on?” he says instead of the customary ‘hello‘ as a greeting.  He sounds worried, but then again, he should be;  Lydia would never call this early if it wasn’t terribly important.

    “You said I should tell you the next time something happens, right?” she says,  “Well, something happened.”   

    “Are you okay?” he says in a rushed tone.

    “I’m fine,” she says, “But I’m not the one in danger.  It’s Scott.  Remember when he took the Monkshood?”

    “Yeah,” Derek says, “What about it?”

    “He lost to his Alpha,” she says,  “He’s been trapped in a vault in his mind.  I found him last night, but. . .”

    “But what?”

    “Have you ever heard of an Alpha splitting from it’s human side?  Mentally, at least. ”
    
    “Lydia, what are you saying?” says Derek,  “You said you found Scott.”

    “I did,” Lydia says loudly,  “But he was practically human.  He needs an inhaler in his own mind, Derek!  Do you know anything about it or not?”

    The other line is quiet for a moment then she hears Derek sigh deeply.  “No,” he says,  “I’ve never heard of anything like that before.”

    Lydia flings herself down onto her bed.

    “Seriously?” she says.

    “I didn’t even think you could come back if you lost,” he says,  “Are you sure he lost?”

    “Derek,” she says, “I’m fucking positive, okay?  Scott isn’t himself right now.”

    “Have you talked to Deaton?”

    “I’m going there soon,” she says, “I just hoped. .  .” she drifts off and rolls over onto her side.  “You really can’t think of anything?” she says.

    “I’m sorry.  I wish I knew something that would help,” says Derek.  
    
    She chews her top lip absentmindedly.  “But,” she mumbles through her teeth,  “Earlier you talked about the dangers of losing to the Alpha energy.  You said even True Alphas could get corrupted.”

    “But that was before he took the Monkshood.  When all he needed as an anchor to keep him stable,” sighs Derek,  “I don’t know what it means now.”

    “He still needs an anchor,” she says as she sits up and folds her legs underneath her.  She switches the phone to her left hand and cradles it between her head and neck.

    “What?” says Derek.

    “I said he needs an anchor.  Even he knows it,”  she says.

    “No, that doesn’t make any sense,” he says, “The last thing an Alpha energy would want is an anchor.  It’s all instinct and primal power.  An anchor would interfere with its ability to harness that power.”

    “But he said. . .” her voice quiets until she’s not even speaking anymore.  What the hell is going on here?  Lydia clears her throat and continues, “He said he needed an anchor.”

    “He told you that?”

    “Yeah,” she says.

    “Let me guess,” says Derek,  “He also said that anchor needed to be you?”

    “Yeah,” she says in a soft voice,  “How did you know?”

    “Shit,” says Derek.  Lydia can hear shuffling through the phone.  It almost sounds like he’s pacing.  “I know because I could smell his interest in you before.  If it’s really Scott’s Alpha energy that won, then he’s lying to you about needing an anchor.  Scott’s not the only one in danger, Lydia.  You need to be extremely careful until this is solved.”

    “Why?” she says,  “Why am I in danger too?”  She thinks she already knows the answer but she needs to hear Derek say it.  She won’t believe it until he says it.

    “You don’t recognize him in this state as your Alpha,” says Derek.  “He knows that, and he wants you to have no choice but to be in his pack.  If you thought you were his anchor, you wouldn’t be able to leave him or the pack.”

    “So what do I do?”

    “Nothing,” he says,  “Don’t do anything.  Let him think you’re fine with being in his pack for now.  Try to treat him like you would normally.  In the mean time, talk to Deaton.  Call me if anything happens and I swear I’ll get there as fast as I can.”

    Lydia hangs up the phone in a state of mild shock.  Nothing made any sense anymore.  She pulls up to Deaton’s office at eight.  The sign says closed, but Lydia knows from the car in the parking lot that Deaton’s inside.  She knocks on the door waits to see the Druid round the corner and open the door for her.

    “Refills?” he says as he steps to the side to allow Lydia to walk into the vets.  She nods and follows Deaton back to his office.  He opens the cabinet for her and then walks out of the office to finish cleaning the examination rooms.

    Lydia runs her hands over the various glass containers inside the cabinet of Deaton’s office.  There are blue powders of wolfsbane next to green moss followed by a purple dust of mistletoe.  Shades of mountain ash ranging from black to gray powders sit beside vials of yellowish to clear looking syrups.  One is probably kanima venom.  Deaton also has white petals (also wolfsbane - species Aconitum reclinatum), yellow petals (Aconitum anthora) and one whole violet blossom so deep in its coloring it almost looks black (but Lydia can’t tell what strand of Aconitum it is).

    “Which ones did you need?” the Druid ask her as he walks back into the office.

    “Mistletoe and wolfsbane,” she says  “Separate though.  I’ll mix them together when I get home.”  She picks up the tiny corked glass bottle half full with a thick clear syrup.  “Kanima venom?” Lydia says as she turns to hold up the bottle for Deaton.  He nods,  “And this is all you have?”

    “Unless you know of another kanima in town,” the vet says as he sits at his desk.  

    “Could you spare any?”

    Deaton raises his head from a file to look at the banshee.  He sets the file down without taking his eyes off her.  He seems intrigued if his expression is any indiction - his eyes wary under his lined brow.

    “Lydia,” he says as he folds his hands over one another on the desk, “As you know, you’re welcome to anything I have, but I must admit, kanima venom is a strange request.”

    “And a powerful weapon,” she adds as she admires the saliva under the lamp.  “If I combined it with a mixture of mistletoe and wolfsbane,” she says as she turns to the face the Druid, “It could even take down a transformed Alpha, right?”

    Deaton stands up slowly from his chair and walks over to Lydia by the cabinet.  He leans his back against the counter and brings his arms up across his chest like a mother hen.  He stares at Lydia with his lips smashed together and angles his head slightly to the left.

    “Perhaps there are some things you’d like to enlighten for me,” he says in a calm and relaxed sounding tone.  Lydia can’t find a trace of disapproval (she searches).  The banshee lets her body release it’s tension.  She puts the vial down and turns around to brace her self against the countertop with her hands.  The banshee lowers her head to the cool granite.

    “It only took Scott three hours to get back from the Monkshood,” she says, “That’s not possible.  Something went wrong, Alan.”  She lifts her head and tilts it to face him.  Her hair hangs in front of her face, and Lydia uses a hand to push it behind her ear, leaving the hand resting on her neck as she continues, “I don’t know how, but he lost to his Alpha.”

    Deaton immediately uncrosses his arms as he lowers his chin.  A weight seems to press his brow upon his eyes.  “Lost?  He wouldn’t be able to return if he lost.”

    “He wasn’t killed.  He was trapped,”  she says as she rights her posture.  

    Deaton shakes his head from side to side as he pushes off the counter.  He starts pacing.  “No, that shouldn’t matter,” he says without looking at her,  “The sole point of the strand was for the wolf to conquer it’s instincts.  Not once it the history of its use has anyone ever returned from a loss.  If his Alpha won, nothing can return.”  

    “Has it ever been tried on a True Alpha?” says Lydia.

    Deaton stops pacing and turns to her.  “No,” he says, “I don’t think it has.”

    “Then we can’t rule it out,” she says, “I know something went wrong, Deaton.  He’s different.  Dangerous even.”

    Deaton rubs his chin with his knuckles before he walks to his cabinet and opens the metal doors.  He searches through his vast collection before he pulls out the blackish blossom she wondered about earlier.   He holds it out to her.

    “Aconitum ferox,” Deaton says as she takes it from his hand.

    “That sounds familiar,” Lydia says as she stares at the delicate construction of the hooded flower.  “Wait,” she says as she looks up at the Druid with enlarging pupils,  “This is Indian Aconite.  The deadliest plant in the world.”

    “It is.  Much stronger than any combination of kanima venom and ordinary wolfsbane,” says Deaton,  “But it would still take three hours at least to kill an Alpha.  That would give us plenty of time to secure Scott and administer Yellow Monkshood.”

    “Aconitum Anthora.  Also known as Healing Wolfsbane,” says Lydia in a soft tone as if she were speaking to herself as she knocks the dark violet blossom against its glass container.  

    The Druid nods again.  He pulls the corners of his mouth into a proud looking smile.    “You’ve done your research,” he says,  “It will counteract any of the Aconite’s effects.”

    “And you’re sure it won’t kill him?” she says.

    “At this point,” says Deaton, “I’d be more concerned about how long it takes to actually effect him.”  Lydia looks up from the dark violet flower and purses her lips at the vet.  “If Scott’s Alpha won and managed to come back despite the Northern Wild Monkshood, I’m afraid we’re quickly moving into uncharted territory,” he continues, “I’ll go through all my records, but I probably won’t find anything helpful, and if I do, it won’t be for a couple of days.  Do you have any estimate of a time frame?”

    Lydia puts the glass bottle in her purse and rubs her temple with her hands.

    “Who knows?” she says,  “Maybe days.  Maybe weeks.  Maybe hours.”  She groans and increases the pressure on her head.  “I can’t read him at all.  He’ll lash out, but it seems measured, almost calculated, when he does.  Like there’s something extremely contained in his loss of control.”  She moves her hands from her temples to cover her eyes.  “God,” she says,  “None of it makes any sense.  He says he needs an anchor, but Derek said he’s lying.  That an anchor would only inhibit the Alpha’s source of primal power, or something like that.”

    “It is perplexing,” says Deaton as he sits at his desk once more and leans his head on his interlocked hands.  

    “And there’s one more thing,” says Lydia,  “Last night I found where Scott was trapped, but he was human.  Almost like the Alpha part of Scott split from the human part of Scott.  Is that possible?”

    “I don’t know about splitting,” says Deaton, “But if the Alpha energy won over Scott, he might not feel worthy of being a werewolf anymore.”

    “So Scott made himself human?”

    “Most likely,” says Deaton,  “The mind is a powerfully brutal place to its owner.  If he lost faith in himself, it follows that he should lose the right to his power.”

    “Soooo,” Lydia says as she slumps into herself,  “I have to free Scott, convince him he deserves his power, and then get him to fight his Alpha again?”  She sighs and runs a hand through her hair.  “That’ll take a long time.  We’re gonna need something to keep him knocked out while I’m in there.”

    “Don’t worry about that,” says Deaton, “I’m a vet, remember?  There’s something here that can keep him asleep.”

    “I don’t know when it’ll happen though,” she says,  “I’ll see him again tonight just to tell him the plan, but I don’t want his conscious mind to know I’m in his head.  I’m not ready to fight yet, and neither is Scott.”

    “It’ll happen whenever you have to use the Indian Aconite.  It’ll have too.  We can’t risk him waking up after an attack like that with just his Alpha in control.”

    “Great,” says Lydia in false tone as she tightens her lips to grimace,  “Since this is essential useless to me until we’re all ready, how about that wolfsbane and mistletoe combination I was taking about early?”  

    Lydia gets into her car and gently sets her purse in the passengers seat, careful not to clink any of the bottles against one another.  She had an arsenal now.  Mountain ash.  Mistletoe. Wolfsbane. Kanima venom (she probably won’t use it, but it’s nice anyway).  And the deadly Indian Aconite.   All in all, Lydia feels amazingly safe right now.  

    She gets home around eleven after stopping by the book shop near Peter’s now vacant apartment.  She’d bought the Latin book she’d been looking at last time as a reward for being -  well - just being actually.  Lydia feels like she’s been through a lot lately.  The book will be a nice treat for her exhausted mind.  She brews a cup of strong coffee, adds a dash of almond milk and a drop of honey, then walks outside to sit and read in the crisp winter charm of early afternoon.  It’s the most peace she’s felt in weeks.  

    “Lydia!”

    Lydia slams her book closed and looks up at the intruder who ruined her first peaceful moment in fucking forever.  It’s Malia.  Of course.

    “Malia,” she groans, “What are you doing here?”

    “Stiles kicked me out, and I didn’t want to go home,” she says as she takes a seat on the bench swing next to Lydia.

    “You could have called,” says Lydia as she scoots over to make room for the other girl.

    “I did,” says the werecoyote, “But you didn’t answer.  I was about to climb up and check on you, but I smelled you down here.  Pretty cool, huh?”  She points to her nose with her words, and continues,  “I’m getting a lot better at it thanks to Derek.”

    Lydia feels her lips tugging into a smile.  “Yeah,” she agrees, “It’s pretty cool.”

    “Did you hear the news?” says Malia as she sniffs at Lydia’s coffee.  Lydia shakes her head.  “This smells really good,” continues the werecoyote, “Can I have a sip?”

    “Yeah, of course,” says Lydia, “But what news?”

    Malia tips the drink back to her lips and her eyes seem to explode instead of widen.  She pulls away from the drink and points at it.  “This is amazing!” she says,  “What did you do to it?”

    “It’s almond milk and honey,” Lydia says in an irritated tone,  “Malia, what news?”

    “Oh, that,” says Malia before she stops talking to take another sip of Lydia’s coffee.  “Scott and Kira broke up,” she says with liquid still in her mouth.  Malia puts a hand to her chin to stop a dribble of coffee from escaping.

    “What?”  says Lydia.  She stands up so fast that she knocks the coffee cup out of Malia’s hands.  She whips around to face the still sitting girl.  “Why?  What happened?  I thought she was just going to ask for a break.”

    Malia stares at the shattered coffee mug and it’s liquid gold leaking all around from it’s jagged edges.

    “Oh my god,” says Lydia,  “We can make more coffee.”

    “Let’s do that,” says Malia, “And then I’ll tell you everything I know.”

    Once both girls are seated at the kitchen table with identical cups of steaming coffee, Lydia clears her throat.

    “So, what happened?” she says.

    “Kira did ask for a break,”  Malia says,  “She said she needed time to figure out how she felt about everything.  Scott got all sad and mopey, and kept telling her that he was different now.  That he wouldn’t keep anything from her anymore, so she asked him about Allison.”  Malia stops to watch Lydia as if she’s worried the name will upset her.

    “Go on,” says Lydia.

    “He wouldn’t talk about her though, or he couldn’t talk about her, I don’t know which.”

    “Was he angry?”

    “No,” says Malia, “He wasn’t angry, but she got angry.  Super pissed angry.”

    “So she broke up with him?”

    “Yeah,” Malia says, “She’ll probably regret it in a couple of days, but she’s pretty pissed off right now.”

    “Has anyone talked to Scott yet?” Lydia says.

    Malia rolls her eyes.  “Duh,” she says, “Why do you think Stiles kicked me out?  They’re hanging out now.  I listened outside the window for a while.”  She takes a sip of coffee and closes her eyes.  “This is so freaking good.”

    The werecoyote’s reaction inspires Lydia to take a sip of her own drink.

    “So,” says the banshee as she puts her cup down, “Should we maybe call Kira?  See how she’s doing?”

    “I’ll text her and tell her to come over,” says Malia as she pulls her phone from her pocket.

    Fifteen minutes later there’s a small knock on the door.  Lydia gets up to let the kitsune inside the home.

    “Coffee?” the banshee offers when they reach the kitchen.

    “No thanks,” says Kira as she takes a seat across from Malia.  She lets her purse fall on the floor and puts her head down on the table.  “I’m such an idiot,” she groans.

    Lydia takes her seat next to Kira and puts a hand on her shoulder.

    “It was the heat of the moment,” the banshee says,  “Scott will understand.  You can talk to him tomorrow about not really wanting to break up.”

    “What?” says Kira as she lifts her head,  “No, that was smart.  I want to stay broken up.”

    “Then why are you an idiot?”

    “For even considering giving him a second chance,”  she says as she balls her hands, “but I wanted to believe him.  He said he wouldn’t hide anything from me anymore.  I got my hopes up, and it hurt.  It hurt way more than it needed too.”  She exhales in a guff sigh and brings her hands up to rub at her face.  “I knew he’d never talk to me about Allison,” she says,  “I knew, but I asked anyway.  That’s why I’m an idiot.  I should’ve just broken up with him in the first place.”   Kira leans back in her chair and reaches into her purse on the floor to withdraw her phone.  She stares at the blank screen a moment before tossing it onto the table next to her.  “God,” she continues,  “This sucks.  I still want to be his friend, just not his girlfriend.  Do you think he hates me now?”

    “Sweetheart, the only one he should be hating right now is himself,” says Lydia,  “Let’s face it - he blew it.  You said yourself that relationships are built on mutual honesty, and I don’t think Scott can even be honest with himself.”

    “Yeah,” Malia says,  “You guys never had a chance.  It’s a good thing it ended before you slept with him.”

    Kira lets her head plummet onto the table.  Lydia bares her teeth and holds up her hands while she mouthes “Are you stupid?” at the werecoyote.

    “I think Malia’s trying to say it’s better to end things before they get too complicated,” says the banshee, “You’ll definitely have a better foundation for friendship that way.”

    The conversation meanders like a swinging wreaking ball through Kira’s emotional junkyard.  Malia and Lydia take turns as the driver, smashing through the kitsune’s self-blame and doubt.  Scott had it coming they tell her - it’s simply bad timing that Kira got pulled along for the ride.

    “He never processed anything after Oak Creek,” says Lydia, “Anything. . . I thought he’d at least been talking to Stiles, but no, of course not.”  She pauses and takes a sip of her coffee.  “Honestly, as far as I’m concerned, you dodged the bullet on this one.   Scott won’t be okay until he deals with Allison’s death.”

    “That will be a long time from the looks of it,” says Kira as she leans into her elbows that rest on the kitchen table,  “I think he’s in the denial stage or something.”

    “Why?” asks Lydia, “What did he say exactly when you brought her up?”

    “He just shrugged and said ‘she’s dead, what more is there to know’,” says Kira, “I couldn’t really tell how he meant it since it made me so mad.”

    Lydia sits back and pulls her top lip into her teeth.  His words seem too dismissive - what does it mean?  She withdraws from the conversation after a time, her mind too preoccupied with speculations on Scott’s behavior.  She startles when Kira puts a hand on her shoulder.

    “Did you hear me?” asks the kitsune.  

    “Sorry,” Lydia replies,  “What’d you say?”

    “We’re hungry,” says Malia, “We want to get lunch.”

    “Do you want to come?” says Kira.

    Lydia shakes her head, and says, “No, I shouldn’t.  I need to get started on some homework.”

    She does at least attempt her A.P. biology homework once the girls leave, but the banshee can’t stay focused on it.  She’s extremely disturbed right now.  Her mind has been forced to process too much about Scott today, and she still can’t shake the feeling that she should probably check with him about the break up before the werewolf comes to her.  She’ll go over to see him at Stiles’s house.  That way, even if Scott is mad at her, he can’t do anything about it.  

    She opens the door to the Stilinski household and walks inside as per Stiles’s text instructions.  She can her talking and the sound of game controllers clicking away as she pads up the stairs.

    “Hey Lydia,” greets Liam as she ascends the final step.  She looks up quickly at the boy who’s waiting for her to pass.

    “Liam,” she says with a slight nod of her head,  “How’s Mason?”

    “He’s good,” he says as he swings his arms, “Real good.”  He looks past her down the stairs.

    “Are you trying to get by?” she says.  

    Liam blushes and stops swinging his arms.  “Uh. . . yeah,” he says while looking down at his feet,  “I was gonna get sodas.  Want one?”

    “No,” she smiles, “I’m fine.”  He starts to walk past her but Lydia stops him with a delicate hand.  “And next time,” she says, “You don’t have to wait for me to walk up the stairs to go down them.”  He nods as the blush intensifies on his face.

    Lydia walks into Stiles’s room right as Scott wins in whatever game they’re playing.  The werewolf whoops and throws his arms in the air while Stiles tosses his controller behind him.

    “Dude,” whines Stiles, “You keep using your wolfy reflexes.  It’s not fair.”

    “I promise I won’t this time,” says Scott,  “Come on.  Pick up the sticks, dude.”

    “You said that last time,” says the human as he turns to retrieve his controller.  His eyes catch Lydia’s and he nods to her.  “Tell him to stop cheating,” he says.  

    “I don’t think he’ll listen,” she says as she hangs her purse on the back of the desk chair and goes to sit on the bed behind the two boys propped against its side to face the television.  Scott turns around to look her and sniffs before he turns back to face the screen.

    “How’s Kira?” he asks.

    “She’s okay,” Lydia says as she curls her hands to check her manicure.  “She and Malia are at lunch or something like that.”  She doesn’t miss the side-eye that Scott exchanges with Stiles.  The human fidgets with his shirt sleeve and re-crosses his legs in his lap.

    “They’ve been hanging out a lot lately, huh?” says Stiles.

    “I guess,” she answers indifferently.  Liam walks in the room with three sodas before she can say anything else.  He takes a seat next to her after he passes out the cans.  Scott wins the racing game again.

    “Dammit dude!” yells Stiles.  “I’m not playing with you anymore.”  He passes the controller back to Liam.  “Here.  Have fun.”  He shoos the younger boy off the bed and onto the floor to take the vacated seat next to Lydia.  

    “Don’t hold it against me, Stiles,” says the Alpha, his eyes never leaving the t.v. screen, “I got broken up with today.”

    “Yeah,” scoffs the human,  “And you’re real torn up about it too.”

    “I told you, dude,” says Scott as he passes the lead car, “There’s nothing I can do.  I want her in the pack.  Resisting the break up would just make things awkward.”

    “How long did you guys go out?” asks Liam as he struggles to get his car around a sharp turn.

    “I don’t know,” says Scott, “A month?”  He clears the finish line with his words.

    “It was a month and a half,” corrects Lydia as she rolls her eyes.

    Scott turns around to face her briefly before he swivels back to look at Liam.  “A month and a half,” he repeats to the younger werewolf.  He puts the controller down and stretches his arms back then curves in his spine before letting it spring into proper posture.  “Another race?”  he asks as he picks up the game controller.

    Liam shakes his head.  “I don’t know,” he says, “You’ve pretty much won the last thirty.”

  

    “Come on,” says Scott, “You could totally beat me if you tried.”

    “I think it’s worse when I try,” says Liam as he puts the controller down and moves it to the side.

    “Just try harder,” urges Scott as he nudges the forsaken controller back towards Liam.

    “He doesn’t want too, Scott,” says Lydia.  

    The Alpha ignores her and continues talking to his beta.  “One more game,” he says in a tone that doesn’t encourage discussion.  Liam eye’s travel back and forth between Lydia and Scott until he drops his head and picks up the controller.

    “One more game,” the younger werewolf concedes.

    It doesn’t take long for Scott get to take the lead again.  Lydia rolls her eyes when he wins.  This is ridiculous.

    “Let me try,” she says.  Liam gratefully passes the controller back to her.

    “The black Camaro,” says Stiles, “Choose the black Camaro.”

    She hunches forward while she waits for the flag to fly.  Scott immediately takes the lead, but his turns are messy.  Lydia creeps up on him with every bend in the track.  She passes him on the third lap.   There are only four laps in the race, so if she can keep this up, she’ll win.  Lydia’s tongue pokes out from between her teeth as she leans her body with the movements of the car on the screen.  Scott’s coming up behind her, but there’s a sharp turn ahead.  Lydia slows down slightly and uses the drag feature to clear the jutting wall.  Scott’s car is going too fast.  When he attempts to drag, it fishtails into the concrete.  Lydia stands with a shriek as she races through the finish line.

    “I won!” she says, “Oh my god, I totally won!”

    “How did you do that?” Liam says in near amazement.

    Lydia sits back down and flips her hair over her shoulder.  “Fast reflexes are nice,” she says,  “But so is having a basic understanding of velocity.”  

    “You won by using physics?” asks Stiles, “Are you serious?”

    “All race car drivers win by using physics, Stiles,” she says, “It’s the reason they’re the winners.”  She leans forward to put the controller down next to Scott on the floor as she shoots the werewolf a smug smile.  Scott’s eyes sink low in response and he takes a large gulp of his soda as he turns away from her.  She wonders what normal Scott would do (aside from not beating his friends thirty times in a row in the first place).  She bets he’d be impressed that she won.  This Scott is visible displeased to have been beaten.  Serves him right.

    “I should probably get going,” says Liam as he stands up,  “Finish up some homework.”  He looks at Stiles expectantly.  

    “Why are you looking at me?” asks the human.

    “Cause you said you’d give me a ride home if I let you borrow my game,” answers Liam.

    “Ahhh,” nods Stiles, “I did say that.  Alright.”  He smacks his leg and stands from the bed.  “Let’s go.”

    Lydia stands up to retrieve her purse but Stiles gives her a funny look.
    
    “What?” she says, “You’re leaving.  Why would I stay in an empty house?”

    “You’ve only been here for twenty minutes,” says Stiles,  “Just wait for me.  Scott’s staying too. It’ll take like ten minutes max.”

    “Yeah,” says Scott as he turns around to watch her,  “Just wait with me.”

    Lydia looks between the two boys and purses her lips.  “Sure,” she says in a tight voice as  she sits back down on the bed,  “I’ll wait.  Why not, right?”  She smoothes out her dress as she speaks.  She can’t help but take a deep breath as Liam and Stiles walk out of the room.

    Scott waits until the sound of the front door slamming rings throughout the house before he stands up and stretches with a groan.  Lydia watches him as her muscles constrict, like a viper waiting to attack.  

    “What are you doing?” she says.

    Scott looks at her as his eyebrow creeps up over his right eye pulling the corner of his lip with it.  “Stretching?” he says as he flops his arms down to his side.  “What are you doing?” he continues,  “At Stiles’s, I mean.  I thought you’d avoid me.”

    “I’m being proactive,” she says as she studies her nails.  She sets her hands down her in lap and smacks her lips together as she raises her head to look him in the eyes.  “I figure I check in now, I can spare myself a drop in later,”  she says with a small shrug.

    “Maybe,” says Scott,  “It might still happen though.  We can’t really talk here.”

    “See, the funny thing is,” says Lydia,  “I’m not trying to talk to you, because as far as I’m concerned, we don’t have anything to talk about.”

    “Sure we do,” he says as he sits on the bed next to her.  “Kira and I broke up - for starters.”

    “That doesn’t have anything to do with me,” she says as she flips her hair over her shoulder.

    “Lydia,” he scolds, “Don’t play dumb.  You’re better than that now.”

    “I’m not playing anything,” she corrects, “How Kira reacts to your lies has nothing to do with me.”

    “You told her I was lying,” he points out.

    “She was going to find out sometime.  I just softened the blow,” she says as she scoots over slightly to put more space between them.  “You might think about thanking me,” she continues, “I know she still wants to be friends.  If it’d gone on any longer, she’d have left the pack for good.”

    “You’re good,” Scott says with a shake of his head before he angles his body to face her completely.  “Anyone else would just admit defeat, but not you.  Not Lydia Martin.  I admire that.  I really do.”  He reaches a hand up as if he was going to twirl a lock of her hair around his finger, but Lydia pulls back gently before he makes contact.  Scott slowly closes his open hand and drops it back to his lap.  “Even though,” he continues, “I really wish you weren’t trying to fight me right now.”

    “You’re not leaving me any choice,” she says.

    “But I am,” he says,  “This whole time, I’ve done nothing but give you choices.”  He runs a hand through his hair and sighs deeply.  “You just keep choosing the wrong ones.  I don’t get it.”

    “You don’t get it because you’re not Scott,” she says,  “Not the Scott I know.  He would never use fear to lead his pack.  Ever.”

    He looks at her from behind his hand that still sits on his temple.  “Then maybe it’s time that changed,” he says as he drops his hand from his face.  “Respect is earned, Lydia.  Every Alpha knows that.”

    “Fear isn’t respect,” she says as she meets his eyes,  “And a True Alpha would know that.”  The ‘t’ sounds crisp like biting into a refrigerated apple - the cold seeps in with every syllable.

    “A True Alpha?” Scott laughs.  “How many of those do you know?”  His body shudders from the force of his chuckles as he moves a hand down the back of his neck.  “Just me, right?”

    Lydia pushes her lips out and tilts her gaze up as she turns from him.  He laughs harder and covers his mouth with a hand before he composes himself and then rubs the hand across his eyes.  His body jerks like one more silent ripple of mirth shot through him and then he folds his legs underneath him on the bed while he clears his throat.  Even though she’s not facing Scott, Lydia can feel his eyes - a serious and stoic Spartan-like glint at work - as he focuses on her.
    
    “Deaton’s been researching about banshees lately,” he says, “I got to say, it’s pretty interesting stuff.  He seems very proud of you.”  She creeps her head back so she can see Scott from the corner of her eye.  “He says you’re an extremely powerful banshee - maybe even stronger than all the others recorded before you.  That be cool, wouldn’t it?”

    “I’m sure a banshee who surpasses all others could manage to hide her abilities from record keepers,” she says in a flat voice.

    “Even better,” shrugs Scott, “No one knows what you’re capable of then.  Not even you.  It must be a powerful feeling.”    

    Lydia stands up from the bed and turns around to face the True Alpha behind her.

    “You mean like a True Alpha?  Just say what you mean to say, Scott,” she says in a lagged tone, “I can’t stand when people act like they’re talking about others when it’s really all about them.”

    “It’s about us,” he says as he stands up abruptly, “How many times are you gonna make me explain it?”  

    “What?” she snaps, “That you need an anchor? I told you it can’t be me.”  She grinds the words out at him as she lodges her hands in her hair and starts to pace.  “If you’re worried I’ll leave, just relax, alright?  I’m not leaving the pack.  I couldn’t.”  The werewolf watches her pace with an increasingly irritated pull on his face.  “But there’s no us, Scott,” she continues as she pulls on her hair, her eyes still focused in her traveling feet,  “There never will be an us.”

    The world spins and blurs in front of her eyes as one of the hands still tangled in her hair is ripped from her head by Scott’s clawed grasp.  When her vision settles, she’s staring into two searingly red eyes.

    “You see, that’s the problem.  There’s definitely an us,” he snarls as he lets go of her wrist,  “I’m your Alpha.  You’re in my pack.  And you don’t respect me.”

    “Like you said, respect is earned,” says Lydia as she rubs her wrist.

    “And you undermine me,” he continues, “Challenge me - openly I should add.”

    “One video game doesn’t constitute a challenge.”

    “Lydia, shut up,”  he snaps, “This is a problem.  I can’t have open defiance against me in my own pack.  Especially not from one of the strongest banshees in centuries.  It looks bad.”

    “Then be a werewolf worthy of leading us,” she spits through gritted teeth.  “I don’t care about your image, I care about the pack.  We can’t take another close call.  Everyone’s stretched too thin.”

    “You think I don’t know that?” he says as he grabs his head, “That’s why it’s so important that you just shut up and act happy like everyone else.”  He lowers his arms and points a clawed finger in her direction.  “You’re a huge influence on the rest of the pact,” he says,  “Whether I like it or not, they need you.  Think about the greater good.”

    “Oh, I am,” Lydia says, “Don’t worry, that’s one thing I’ll never lose sight of.”  She walks over to her purse and takes it from the back of chair.  She swings the purse over her shoulder and turns back to face Scott.  “I won’t make any more waves,” she says, “So just calm down, and stay out of my house, McCall.”

    He takes a step forward and opens his mouth sharply as if to speak, but he stops.  He gives his attention to the window and seems to listen intently.  Hiss shoulders sag and he retracts his claws as he curls his hands into fists.  

    “Stiles is home,” he says as the red fades from his irises.  

    Scott stares at her and grinds his jaw while the sound of the front door opening and closing rings through out Stiles’s room.  Lydia ignores the obnoxiously detached eyes of the Alpha and sits in the chair previously used to hold her purse.  She crosses her legs and once more hangs her purse off the back of the chair.  Stiles walks into the room as Scott takes a seat back on the bed.  It’s a strange atmosphere to be sure - the room is quiet and still, almost stunted feeling in it’s abrupt calm.  But Stiles might not notice these things since he wasn’t in the crackling tension of it earlier like Lydia was.  She finds the transition, how quickly Scott can flip between the two dueling natures, beyond nauseating.

    “Alright,” says Stiles as he walks over to his Xbox,  “Liam told me all about this game.  It’s a first person shooter, which we all know I rule at and you absolutely suck at, so I’ve got a good chance of beating you.”

    “Bring it,” smiles Scott as he leans forward to pick up the controller.  His attention now solely on the game

    The sounds of the gunfight are penetratingly loud when the battle first begins.  It’s not until Lydia gives up trying to mentally block out the ringing shots that the vicious repetition fills her body and starts to have a near cathartic affect.  Oddly enough, the blaring noise allows her clarity of mind as if all other potential distractions were erased in the sound-wave's mad frenzy to reach her ear.   Her thoughts would make her laugh out loud if she weren’t in the presence of Scott.  The True Alpha can’t view her as anything but a tool.  An item in his stockpile to be used.  The greater good.  Harmony within the pack.  All it means is that he needs a herald of death.  Of danger.  He’s gotten used to carrying around his little canary.  If Lydia threatens to fly away, Scott will clip her wings.
    
    She waits until Stiles wins the first round to say goodbye.

    “Whaaaat?” says Stiles, “You’re leaving?”

    “Sorry,” says Lydia as she stands and slings her purse over her arm, “I want to finish my homework before Jordan comes over.”

    “Why don’t you just do it after he leaves?” says Scott as he watches her from the corner of his eye; his head stays facing the t.v. screen.

    “Because he isn’t leaving until the morning when I have school and he has work,” she says in a pointed tone as she retrieves her keys from her bag.  “I’ll see you both tomorrow,” she continues as she walks out the bedroom door, “Try not to stay up so late this time.”

    Lydia finishes her A.P. biology homework right as Jordan knocks on her door.  She closes her binder and walks over to the front door before she looks through the peephole.  She opens the door and smiles as she lets Jordan inside.

    “I checked this time,” she says in a smug tone as she tangles her arms around him.  He chuckles as he unwinds her from his body.

    “The cop in me is very proud,” he says,  “The boyfriend though - a little irritated he had to wait.”  Lydia hits his arm as Jordan’s grin spreads across his face like room temperature jam on hot toast.  He tries to laugh again, but she’s quick to silence him with her mouth.  She presses close against him and works her hands through his cropped hair with gentle force.  She waits for him to lean into her before she pulls back and breaks the kiss.  Her smug look has returned.

    “Why don’t we skip the books tonight,” she says.  He simply nods.

    Lydia lies with her head resting on Jordan’s chest, her hand splayed over his ribcage.  She can feel every steady breath in her finger tips as he inhales and her cheeks pulses in time with his heart.  It’s a warm, peaceful feeling to experience the rhythm of Jordan’s life.  She hates that she’s about to disrupt it.

    “Jordan,” she says, “Are you awake?”  He nods and shifts so that he can stretch his arm around to hold her.  “Are you really awake?” she continues as she snuggles into his hug.

    “Yes, I’m awake,” he says in a thick voice - sleep still clinging to his words like honey on a child’s face.

    “I need your help,” she says.  That perks him up, and he scoots so that he’s sitting instead of lying down.  Lydia pushes herself up to face him.  “I have to do something.  It’s probably stupid and it’s definitely dangerous, but. . .” She sighs and purses her lips.  “I’m the only one who can do anything about it, so I have too,” she says.

    “Lydia, I really don’t like that introduction,” he says.

    “Well, I don’t like what I have to do,” she says as she moves her hands through her tangled hair.  “Look, Scott’s not okay.  I don’t know how to explain it.  All I know is that I have to free the real Scott from his mind.”

    “The real Scott?”

    “Just listen to me,” she says, “Tomorrow, while I’m in school, I want you to talk to Deaton.  Let him know there’s a good chance it’ll happen that night.  He’ll fill you on what’s going to happen and how to be ready.”  She traces her lip with a polished thumbnail.  “I’ll talk to Stiles,” she continues, “At school, I’ll tell him.  I can’t let this go on any longer.”  

    Jordan reaches out and gently pulls Lydia back into leaning against his chest.

    “Alright,” he says softly and evenly, “That’s what we’ll do then.  I promise.”  He drapes one arm across her waist while the other idly plays with her hair in a soothing motion.  It doesn’t take long for her to sink into sleep’s warm embrace.  Lydia allows herself to dream when she does.  

    Fields of the most decadent shade of gold stretch to her right - the wheat richer seeming than her entire jewelry collection.  A teal sky dips into the curve of the land scape and if she follows the bend, she’s at a cliff.  It overlooks a rocky, foamy explosion of sea and land.  The scape is one that sings to her in languages she’s never heard before, but she loves them all the same.  Such happy words.  Such serene acceptance.  She finds a path that winds down the bluff, and here, to her great delight, she finds a walkable beach shore.   She stands in the surf and lets the sand pull away under her toes.  She’s never heard such a peaceful place.  She closes her eyes and listens to the gentle rhythmic hums that surround her.  They neither call to her nor warn her away;  they simply are, and they always will be.  These aren’t landscapes that she’s ever seen; she knows that.  It feels archaic, yet newborn.  An ancient force given fresh life.  Everything about it is refreshing and rejuvenating.  She knows it’s Parrish’s dreamworld.  She figures it’s probably unintentional on his part that he projects it to her, but it still feels like a gift.  Like the last thing he thought of before falling asleep was how to keep her safe.  She spends the night looking for seashells and trying to learn the words of the songs that drift to shore.

    The next morning, Lydia waits by her car in the school parking lot.  If Scott didn’t ride with Stiles today, then nows the time to talk.  She takes a deep breath as she watches the blue jeep pull into the parking lot.  Stiles gets out, and she counts to ten while she waits.  The passenger door never opens; no Scott today.  She starts walking towards Stiles in a near sprinting pace.  He raises both eyebrows and tilts his head back.

    “Did,” he stutters, “Did I do something?  You look really pissed off.”

    Lydia grabs his arm and makes him walk with her.

    “I need to talk to you,” she says, “You didn’t do anything.”

    “Oh jesus, thank god,” he says,  “For a minute there-”

    “This is really important, Stiles,” she interrupts, “So just trust me, and don’t interrupt me.  Got it?”  The playful look drops from his face and he nods at her.  “Scott didn’t really come back from his mind - only a part of him did.  Tonight, I’m going into his mind and freeing him.  I need you to let Derek know without Scott finding out.  Can you do that?”

    “Yeah,” he says in a quiet voice, “Yeah, no problem.  But what do you mean only a part came back?  Like he split?”

Lydia turns around to watch the parking lot for Scott’s motorcycle as she answers.  She won’t be caught unawares.

    “Mentally, he did,” she says,  “And this one’s a total asshole.”

    Stiles rubs his neck as his eyes sink into a puzzled expression.  “So. . . are you saying that this Scott is the evil Scott? And you have to rescue the good Scott?”  He bites his lips for a moment.  “Huh,” he says as he move his hand from his neck to rub as his chin,  “I totally believe you though.  And, honestly, it even makes sense.  I can’t tell if I’m really disappointed or really impressed that we’ve actually reached this level.”

    She rolls her eyes and shoves him through their linked arms.  “Just tell Derek,” she says as she snakes her arm out of his, “I’ll see you at lunch.”

    Third period comes and ends far to quickly for Lydia’s liking.  She trudges down the hallway.  She sees Kira walking just ahead of her and calls out.  The kitsune turns around to wait for the banshee to reach her.

    “How are you and Scott?” Lydia says once the girls continue their trek.

    “Okay, I guess,” says Kira,  “We talked this morning some, as friends,” she says quickly, “Just as friends.  So hopefully it won’t be too awkward at lunch. . .”  She sighs, “And Econ.  And everywhere else.”

    “That’s promising,” she says as she looks around, “Hey, what do you have planned tonight?” Lydia continues,  “I mean if I called last minute or something, would you be available?”

    “I guess so,” Kira answers slowly, “But you know it’s a Monday, right?”

    “Look, I’m not even sure if I’ll have to call,” says the banshee, “But if I do, it’s important, and you have to pick up.”

    “Okay, I will,” the kitsune says,  “Is everything okay?”

    “I don’t know, but don’t tell anyone,” Lydia says as she splits from Kira right before they reach the lunch room.

    “Where are you going?”

    “I need to research some things in the library.”

    Lydia makes it half way to the library before her phone buzzes.  She checks to see a text from Stiles reading, “Where aren’t you at lunch?”  She quickly sends back “I didn’t want to see Scott,” and puts her phone away only for it to immediately buzz again.

    “Stiles,” she mumbles as she fishes it out again.  She stops walking when she sees it.  “Well, that’s a problem because Scott isn’t here either,” the message reads.

    “Shit,” she says as she turns to head the opposite direction.  She needs to know if his motorcycle is still in the lot.  If Scott left, he might have gone to see Deaton, and that would equal a fucking catastrophe.  She rushes out of the building and down the stairs before she hangs left and breaks into a run towards the parking lot.  She clears the first row of cars, and slows down to a trot when she spies the lime green bike parked on the far side of the lot.  She changes directions and heads towards her car.  She sits in the drivers seat with the door open and her feet still on the concrete as she texts Stiles that Scott’s has to be at school somewhere.

    He texts back, “Where are you?  I’ll help you look.”

    Lydia answer him and drops her phone in her lap.  She taps her hands against her knees as she waits for Stiles to meet her at the car.  Her phone screen lights up again, and Lydia sighs.  Why does he keep texting?

    “I’m right next to the woods on the right side,” it reads, “I think I hear something.”

    Lydia stands straight up and closes her car door.  What is he doing?  She calls Stiles as she starts to run to the area he described.   He doesn’t answer.

    “Come on, Stiles,” she says, “Don’t be stupid.”  

    She keeps calling him as she frantically clears the parking lot and reaches the edge of the trees.  She steadies her breath and calls him again.  Still no answer, but she can hear his ringtone coming from about fifty yards to her left.  Lydia follows the sound into the forest until she can see Stiles’s phone sitting on a tree log.  She jumps when her phone buzzes next to her ear.  She pulls it down from the side of her face quickly.  It’s from a text from Malia, and Lydia nearly loses her breath when she reads the message.  

    It says,  “Stiles can’t find his phone.  He wanted me to tell you.”

    She slowly puts her phone away in her purse and digs her hand around until she can feel a glass vial.  Honestly she can’t believe she fell for this.  It’s practically the oldest trick in the book.    Lydia listens to the woods around her.  Nothing, not a bird or insect, makes a sound.  Everything is still, and she knows exactly what that means.

    There’s a predator nearby.
    
    

Chapter Text

    “Scott,” she says in a whisper as she slinks her arms around herself.  There’s no response.  Maybe she can get out of the woods before he reaches her.  She clutches the glass bottle tightly in her right hand and takes a small step backwards.  

    “I wouldn’t run if I was you, Lydia,” he calls out to her.  She can’t tell where his voice is coming from; it sounds muffled through the trees.  

    “I won’t run if you come out,” she says as she fights to keep her trembles from reaching her voice.  She uncorks the vial as she talks and dumps some of the syrupy fluid onto her fingers.

    “Are you sure about that?” he says,  “It’s hard to fight against your instincts.”

    “I won’t run,” she says in a stronger tone.  She turns to face the crunching leaves to her left and squeezes her arms around her form as hard as she can as a crouched figure comes into view.

    “What are your instincts telling you right now?” he says.  “And I don’t mean your fear, I can smell that.  I mean your gut.”
    
    “Scott,” she says.

    “What is it saying?” he continues as he stands up properly, “Or the voices? How about those?  I want to know.”   Scott tilts his head and flicks a piece of bark out from under his claw.  “Tell me,” he says as he looks up from his hands at her.

    Lydia shakes her head slowly.

    “No?” Scott asks, “You’re not gonna tell me?”

    She stares at him and doesn’t answer.  

    “It’s fine, I guess,” he says as he begins to walk towards her.  “I know what’s gonna happen.  I’m the one about do it, anyway,” he shrugs.

    Lydia takes a step back.  “Lydia,” he chides as he halts his advance, “You said you wouldn’t run.”

    “Don’t do this, Scott,” she says,  “Don’t come any closer.”

    She knows he won’t listen; she just hopes what she planned will work before he can inflict any real damage.  She waits until he takes another two steps before she takes a small one back.  She’s counting on the clawed hand that flies out to grab her arm.  Lydia lets Scott pull her to him and then she reaches out both hands to scratch down the sides of his neck.  He roars and the claws holding her arm dig into her flesh.  He starts to stumble and tears his claws out to hold onto his bleeding neck.  She hopes its still potent; ideally she’d have used a blade to get it deep in the blood stream.  At least she kept her nails long.

    “What the fuck did you scratch me with, you bitch,” he snarls as he sinks to his knees.  

    Lydia walks backwards as she puts a hand over the deep set of gashes on her arm.  “A personal mixture,” she says through clenched teeth, “Wolfsbane, mistletoe, and kanima venom.  I made it just for you.”

    “Shit,” he grunts as he leans forward on one arm.  He clenches his eyes shut as his body spasms in pain.  “Oh fuck,” he gasps as his head drops down onto the ground.  

    He digs his hands into the dirt underneath him and twists his back.  Lydia tries to make herself take a step back, but she can’t take her eyes off his squirming form - let alone move.  She wishes she brought the Indian Aconite with her, but she didn’t think he’d be so bold as to attack at school.  She knows she should be running, but her legs feel like lead.  Her brain finally takes control over her nerves, and Lydia moves a frantic hand around in her purse to find her phone.  She has to call Malia.  Or Derek.  Anyone really.  She pauses in her search when she stops hearing the shuffling grunts of Scott.  She looks up and sees him pushing his body into a kneeling position - a drastic change from his earlier thrashing, sprawled form.  He spits a black tar-like substance from his mouth and wipes the back of his hand across his face as he tilts his head up to view Lydia.  The wolf has pushed the plans of Scott’s face into severely pronounced lines of promised brutality.  His teeth protrude jagged and drip the same black he spit.  The feral red of the Alpha’s eyes seem to have transcended into a near-black maroon. Lydia’s hand is stilled by the boy that corrupts her gaze.

    “Don’t,” Scott snarls.  His voice is mixture of grunts and guttural growls.  “I’ve already processed the kanima venom.  I could reach you before you call for help.”

    “I have more,” she says in a voice stronger than she feels.

    “You should have used all of it then,” he says as he pulls himself to his feet using a low hanging tree branch.  “Given yourself a chance,” he continues before he pauses to spit more black onto the ground.  

    “Scott, you said yourself, I’m an important influence on the pack,” she says as she takes a small step back,  “If you hurt me, they’ll abandon you.  You can’t come back from it.”

    “Don’t worry about that,” he says as he lumbers towards her.  He looks unsteady on his feet, swaying like a drunk after last call, but he still moves fast.  For every step Lydia takes back, Scott seems to gain three towards her.  “I have a plan that will make everyone happy.”   

    The werewolf reaches out to her with extended claws, and Lydia swings her purse to block the approaching grasp.  Scott snarls as his claws tear through the leather and flings the useless item behind him.  He lunges and grabs Lydia by her injured arm.  The banshee lets out a pained gasp at the pressure exerted on her wound from the Alpha’s grip.  She twists in his unrelenting hold to swing a hand with her still poisoned nails at his face.  Scott catches her hand by the wrist before her nails can tear into his cheek.  He squeezes her injured arm, and Lydia gnashes her teeth as she kicks at him with a stiletto heel.  She uses enough force for the heel to stab into his thigh, and the Alpha roars as he tosses her to the ground to pull the shoe from his leg.  She doesn’t look back and pushes herself up to break into a barefoot run.  She doesn’t get more than twenty feet away before he slams into her from behind.  They tumble to the ground, and Scott furiously covers her mouth before the banshee can scream.

    “You can scratch me again if you want,” he pants, “But I swear I’ll kill you before it takes effect.”

    It’s nearly impossible to breath under Scott’s weight and though the hand covering her mouth.  She reaches up and tries to pull his hand away, but he tightens his grip on her face.  Her jaw begins to ache from the force he uses against her.  She stills her hands and looks the Alpha directly in the eyes, desperately trying to convey her lack of air.  She feels his other hand slip under her head and then lower to her neck where his claws tap against her skin.  Her eyes bulge at the implication, and she tries to shake him loose, but he’s too strong.  

    “Shhhhh,” Scott soothes,  “It’s okay.  When you wake up, things will be better.  This will all just seem like a bad dream.”

    Lydia stills when she feels tears creep down her cheek;  she hadn’t realized she was crying until now.  She can’t handle another mental invasion.  She’d rather die instead of returning to the limbo of being a foreigner in her own mind.  He said he’d kill her if she scratched him - she hopes he was telling the truth.  Lydia closes her eyes and starts to lift an arm up to reach for his face when a sound cuts through her despair and halts her death wish.  It’s a howl - sharp and high-pitched- unlike the deep howl of a wolf.  Malia is close.  Scott looks up sharply, and Lydia takes advantage of his momentary distraction to slip her mouth from under his hand.  She screams.  Scott snarls  and grabs her once more by the face - cutting the piercing sound short.  His claws dig into the skin of her cheeks, but Lydia ignores the pain as she struggles to remove his form from her own.

    “I FOUND THEM!”

    Lydia tilts her head back to see who found them.  Black converse and leggings greet her eyes.  Kira.  She can’t see all of the kitsune, but Lydia can tell from the position of Kira’s angled feet that the girl is in fight mode.  Malia appears in a crouch, already transformed, next to the kitsune.  

    “Get the fuck off her,” snarls the werecoyote in a rough voice.

    “You think you can make me?”  Scott says as he tightens his grip on Lydia’s face.  “You and Kira against me?  I don’t think so.”

    “And me,” a gruff voice says.  Scott has to turn around to see the speaker, but Lydia can see the half transformed face of Derek over the Alpha’s shoulder.  He grabs Scott by the neck, throwing him off Lydia and into a tree, before he pulls the banshee up from the ground.  The moment she’s balanced, Lydia runs to stand by Malia and Kira.  She watches as Scott coughs up more black and leans back against the tree.

    “I was distracted,” the Alpha coughs, “You planned that.”

    “You’re not the only one with plans,” Derek says as he flashes his teeth at the enraged True Alpha.  The two werewolves stare at one another and move in a slow circle, each trying to maintain a steady distance from the other.

    “We need to call Deaton,” Lydia says.  It hurts when she speaks from the cuts on her face.

    “Stiles already did,” says Malia, but her eyes never leave the two werewolves in front of them,  “They should be here any minute now.  We need to keep Scott occupied until they show up.”

    Scott lunges at Derek, and the older werewolf drops to the ground to avoid the Alpha’s claws.  He swipes at Scott’s feet and almost manages to connect, but Scott jumps at the last second.  Derek rolls to his feet to evade a kick and uses a tree branch to swing his body back into Scott’s.  The Alpha stumbles back, coming close to where the three girls stand, and Kira steps forward with her blade poised.  Scott turns just in time to block her strike with his claws, giving Derek the opportunity to rack his claws across the Alpha’s back.  Scott whips around with a snarl, his full attention back on the older werewolf.

    “Lydia!”  

    The banshee looks over her shoulder to see Stiles and Deaton running towards the group full speed.  She must look like a death itself because Stiles stops before he reaches her and covers his mouth.  He stands still as Deaton gently pushes past him to cup Lydia’s chin.  The vet says nothing as he tilts her head to the side to inspect the cuts and bruises on her face and neck.

    “My arm,” she says softly and Deaton turns his attention to said appendage.  The Druid sighs deeply before he looks up from her arm.

    “It will need stitches,”  he says.  Lydia nods; she’d figured it would.  Deaton walks around her to get a better view of the fighting wolves.  Derek looks tired, but he’s uninjured, at least.  Scott is bleeding, but his energy is unchanging.  He continues his attacks relentlessly, putting Derek purely on the defensive.  

    “Scott,” says the Druid in a commanding tone.  The werewolf stops his advance towards Derek and faces the vet.  Derek takes a deep breath and leans back against a tree, taking complete advantage of the moment to rest. “Is this really what you want?” Deaton continues.

    “Is there another option?” the Alpha growls.

    “Stop fighting, and let us help you,” offers Deaton.  

    Scott narrows his eyes and tilts his head.  “You think I’m stupid?” he says,  “You think I’ll willingly let myself be locked up so you can free that fucking sorry excuse of an Alpha?”

    “I think you don’t really want to lose your pack,” Deaton says.

    “I can make another one,” Scott says as he starts walking towards the Druid.  Lydia watches as Deaton’s shoulders slope in defeat.  The vet flicks his wrist and his weapon of choice, a electric metal rod, extends to the leaf covered ground.  The second he has his weapon out, Scott charges with a roar.  Suddenly, the sound of a gunshot echos throughout the forest, and Scott stops mid-charge to drop to his knees.  He puts a hand over his shoulder and onto his back before bringing the hand in front of his face to see black staining his clawed fingertips.  Parrish steps out from behind a tree as he puts his pistil back into its holster.

    “Wha-what’s this?”  Scott slurs as his face returns to it’s humanoid features.  He looks up at Deaton with his mouth open and slack.  

    “A bullet composed of Indian Aconite,” says the Druid,  “You going to experience a numbing sensation before the pain sets in.  Then you’re going to lose consciousness.”

    “You’re killing me?” asks Scott in a weak voice as he struggles to stay upright.  

    “No,” says Deaton,  “We’re saving you.”

    Scott slumps face forward onto the earth.  No one moves.  Everyone watches the True Alpha as if in a trance.  Lydia shifts from one leg to the other, and her movement breaks the silent spell.

    “Well, that was fucking terrifying,” Stiles says, “Are we sure he’s passed out?”  Malia picks up a pinecone in response to Stiles’s concern and chucks it the True Alpha.  It bounces off Scott’s head and onto the forest floor next to him without the werewolf making a single movement.

    “I think he’s really passed out,” says the werecoyote.

    Deaton walks over to the sprawled True Alpha and lifts an eyelid to peer into Scott’s eye.   He lets the lid close and looks up at everyone to nod.  Derek sinks down to sit back against the tree and closes his eyes.  His chest is still rapidly raising and falling as he catches his breath from  his fight with the Alpha.  Parrish walks across the clearing and stands next to Lydia.

    “Now what?”  the deputy asks.

    “Now,” says Deaton as he stands slowly, “We secure him and administer yellow monkshood while I set up a ketamine IV drip.  It’ll keep him sedated as he heals.  Stiles, I’d like you to take Lydia to the hospital while Parrish, Derek, and I transport Scott back to the clinic.”  

    “What about us?” asks Kira as she gestures towards Malia and herself.

    “Follow us in your car,” Deaton says, “A kitsune and werecoyote would be a big help if he wakes up.”

    “I need my shoes and my bag,” says Lydia as she carefully walks across the pine needled ground to retrieve her almost forgotten footwear and ruined purse.  She slides back into her heels gingerly.  Jordan is right behind her, and when Lydia titters, he’s fast to steady her.  

    “Where’s your jeep?” he asks.

    “Other side of the parking lot,”  Stiles answers as he points through the trees.

    Jordan nods and picks Lydia up.  “You’re adrenaline is wearing off,” he says to her,  “You’re going to be in a lot of pain in a minute.”  He starts walking back to the parking lot, his eyes set firmly above Lydia as if seeing her was too painful.

    “Tell me something I don’t know,” she says as she closes her eyes and leans into his arms.

    “Is that blood on your heel?” Stiles asks in a rush of air as he follows behind them, his keys jingling nervously in his hand.

    “Yeah,” Lydia answers with her eyes still closed, “I stabbed Scott with it.”

    “Holy shit,” says Stiles, “You fought an Alpha with a shoe?”

    Lydia opens her eyes to look at him.  “I couldn’t find a baseball bat,”  she says as a smile works its way onto her face despite her pain.  Jordan briefly looks down at her and shakes his head, but her smile is contagious and his face cracks into a brief grin.  

    “You might have actually killed him if you had a bat,” Jordan says.  “I can’t believe you fought him alone.”  

    “I did what I had to do,” Lydia shrugs, and quickly regrets her decision to do so, as it sends a shock wave of pain down her injured arm.  “How’d you know anyway?” she continues,  “That I was fighting him, I mean.  Everyone just started showing up.”    

    “That’d be Stiles,” says Jordan as he nods towards the teen to his side.  Lydia looks at him.

    “You never answered Malia’s text,”  Stiles says,  “Plus you weren’t in lunch and neither was Scott.  I called Derek and Deaton immediately.”

    Parrish tenderly lowers Lydia into the jeep and buckles her into the seat.  “I’ll see you later,” he says before leaning forward to kiss her forehead.  Stiles is already in the driver’s seat with the keys in the ignition when Parrish closes the door.  The car starts and pulls away from the school.  She shifts and hisses as the seatbelt grazes a cut on her neck.  Stiles watches her from the side of his eye and tightens his grip on the steering wheel.  The atmosphere is strangely tense.  It’s making Lydia uncomfortable.

    “Are you okay?” she says.

    “What?” he snaps, “Why are you asking me that?  Are you okay?”

    “I’m okay,” she says.  The light ahead turns red and the jeep crawls to a stop.  Stiles drops his hands from the steering wheel as if it had seared his skin.  He looks out the window and covers his mouth as he leans back against the headrest.  He doesn’t say anything the entire red light.  His grip returns to the steering wheel just as tightly as before when the green finally appears, and the tires give an anguished whine as the jeep lurches forward into motion.

    “Was he trying to kill you?”

    “I don’t know. I don’t think so,” she says as she turns to face the passenger window.

    “You could’t tell?”

    “I don’t know.”  Her voice is loud in the confined space.  “I couldn’t hear anything,” she continues in a softer tone, “Not even a whisper.  The voices are never that quiet.  It was like they were listening instead of trying to be heard.  He said he had a plan.  I don’t know what it was.”  

    “A plan?”  Stiles scoffs,  “I don’t see how attacking you is a good plan.”

    “Neither do I,” she says as she chews her thumbnail,  “It doesn’t make sense.  Especially for it to happen during school.  Scott’s smarter than that.”

    “Maybe Good Scott got all the brains,” he says.

    “No,” she says from around her thumbnail,  “He’s not dumb.  But he definitely wants us to think he is.”  She accidentally bites skin along with her nail, and Lydia draws back sharply.  Shit.  It’s bleeding too.  She grips her thumb tightly in a fist and puts both hands in her lap.  “What is he playing at?” she mumbles from between her teeth.

    “What?” says Stiles.

    “He’s setting us up,” she answers, “I know we’re playing right into his hand.  I just don’t know how yet.”  She turns to face Stiles.  “It means something that the voices were silent.  I felt dread all over - like something beyond death was possible. . . I don’t want to go into his mind.”  Stiles says nothing as he parks the jeep.  She waits for him to look at her before she speaks again.  “I feel like I’m not coming back.”

    Stiles puts his head against the steering wheel.  He stays that way a long minute before he lets out a deep breath.  Lydia watches as he his shoulders begin to tremble, and he puts his arms over his resting head.

    “Lydia, please,” he begs, “Please, don’t say that.”  His voice sounds heavy and raw in its emotion, and it grips Lydia’s heart until it’s a challenge to breath.  She wipes at her eyes, but her hand does nothing to prevent the scalding tears building in the corners.  She sniffs and covers them with both hands as she attempts a trembled breath.  

    “We’re going to make it through this,” Stiles says,  “All of us.”

    “Right,” she says as she lowers her hands and throws her head back against the seat.  “Of course, we will.  Just like always.”  Her voice quivers.

    “I’m serious, Lydia,” he snaps, “You’re not going to die, so stop it.”

    “Why?”  she says as she whips to face him,  “Because you care about me?  That doesn’t matter anymore.  Scott cared about Allison.  I cared about Aiden.  This is our life now, Stiles.  Don’t delude yourself into thinking otherwise.”  

    He looks blown apart by her words - his eyes blank and his mouth crumpled inward.  He fumbles to pull the keys from the ignition and ends up dropping them to the car floor.  He leans back in his seat, abandoning the keys, and stares straight ahead out the windshield.   He sniffs a couple of times, but otherwise, he doesn’t move or make a sound.

    “Stiles?” she says in a soft tone as she puts a hand on his limp arm.  He doesn’t acknowledge her touch.  “Stiles, I’m sorry.  But I’m worried,” she confesses,  “I know I have to do this, but I’m really scared.”  Lydia’s voice flutters over the last word.  Stiles’s shoulders drop even lower and he bows his head.

    “No, Lydia, I’m sorry,” he says,  “I know you’re scared.  Shit, I’m scared too.  Fucking terrified, honestly.  But, please, just let me keep my delusion, okay?”  His tone wavers and cracks.  “It’s the only thing keeping me sane.”

    “Okay,” she says softly as she retracts her hand from his arm,  “Okay, I promise I’ll come back.”

    “You swear?” says Stiles without looking at her.

    “I swear,” she says.

    “Okay. . .  I’m really trusting you on that,” he pauses and looks at her before he leans over to retrieve the fallen keys.   “We should get you into the hospital,” he says.

    Only the gashes on her arm need stitches; the cuts on her face and neck are simply sterilized.  Melissa is silent during the entire process.  Stiles sits awkwardly in the corner chair, looking anywhere but at the nurse and patient.  Melissa closes the lid to the box of gauze loudly, making the boy lurch in his chair.

    “Is anyone going to tell me what happened?” she finally snaps.  Neither teen answers her.  “Look, I know Deaton and Parrish went to the school.  I’ve been calling Scott’s cellphone    all afternoon, but he’s not answering.  What happened?  Is Scott okay?  Who or what attacked everyone?”

    “Scott did,” says Stiles as he slumps forward in his seat.

    “Excuse you?”  Melissa says in a near offended tone.  

    “Scott’s not himself right now,”  Lydia supplies.

    “What do you mean not himself?”  Again, neither teen makes a move to speak.  She looks between them quickly.  “What happened to Scott?” she snaps loudly,  “Stiles, skip the bullshit and tell me what happened to my son.”  

    “He kinda separated, mentally, at least,” says Stiles as he rubs at his mouth.  “The good Scott is trapped somewhere in his mind.”  He brings his hands together with his words and cups them as he stares into the shape his fingers make.  “We’re sending Lydia in after him, but. . . it’s dangerous.”  He stops and rubs a hand across his face again,  “Pretty much, right now, we’re dealing with Scott’s evil twin - except without the twin part.”

    Melissa turns to Lydia, and the banshee can feel the nurses eyes pour over her wounds.  She reaches out a hand and tilts Lydia’s head up to view the bruising around her jaw.

    “Scott really did this?” she asks in a whisper.  Lydia nods into her hand, and Melissa slowly pulls her hand back from the banshee’s face.  The nurse clears her throat and looks down as she covers her mouth.  “Well,” she says thickly,  “Will you be able to-”  Melissa stops and swallows as she looks back up at Lydia and Stiles.  She moves her hand off her mouth to hold the base of her throat.  “I mean,” she continues after licking her lips,  “Can you fix him?  Make him whole again?”

    “We’re going to try,” says Lydia.
    
    It’s a silent ride back over to the clinic.  Lydia stares out the window, watching trees whip by the car in a greenish brown blur.  Stiles had made her promise to return safe, and the swear leaves a bitter taste in her mouth even now.  She can’t tell him about the scratching in her throat.  Or the cacophony of simpering voices that have slowly been building in her mind since she left the hospital.  Lydia Martin. Lydia Martin. Lydia Martin. They chant her name until the words lose all meaning to the banshee.  She knows it’s a warning more than an omen - they know something she doesn’t.  If she had more time, Lydia could ask them.  As it is now, she’s already worried there won’t be enough time to free the real Scott before his body wakes up.  They’re rushing into this with no information and a bare-boned plan.  It’s really no wonder that she wants to scream.  Malia is waiting outside when the jeep pulls into the clinic parking.  She waits for Lydia and Stiles to get out of the car before she speaks.

    “He was awake, but he’s back asleep now,” the werecoyote says,  “All he could do was speak though.  Deaton upped the ketamine so everything’s ready.”

    “Did he already give him the yellow monkshood?” asks Lydia.

    Malia nods as she wipes at her nose.  Lydia runs her hands through her hair and takes a deep breath.

    “Alright then,” she says as she looks between Stiles and Malia,  “Let’s do this.”

    The three of them walk into the clinic to the furtherest room in the back.  Scott is strapped to a table, an IV drip hooked to his arm.  The bubbles gurgle up the clear liquid as the medication trickles into his blood stream.  There’s another table and IV bag.  Lydia stares at the space she’s expected to occupy next to the werewolf.  Her stomach flips and twists as she dances her fingers over the needle that will soon pierce her arm.  Deaton walks up behind her.

    “Are you ready?” he says.

    “That doesn’t really matter, does it?” says Lydia.  “It has to be now.”
    
    She climbs up onto the metal table and holds out her arm.  Deaton wipes the inside of her elbow with an alcohol swab and feeds the needle into her vain.  It pulls against her skin when the Druid connects the port to the IV tubing.  He reaches up and slowly twists the opening on the bottom of the hanging bag to allow the solution to trickle down.  Lydia lays back against the table and chews her bottom lip.

    “How long until I fall asleep?” she asks.

    “It depends on the person, but I’d say anywhere from five to ten minutes,” answers the vet as he takes a step back.  

    The room slowly fills with the rest of the pack.  Parrish and Stiles stand on either side of Lydia while Malia and Kira lean against the wall behind her.  No one says a word, and the silence of the room swells around the banshee in a cold current.

    “It’s not a funeral yet, guys” she says.  Parrish reaches out and envelopes her hand in his, rubbing a thumb comfortingly against the erratic pulse of her wrist.

    “There won’t be any funerals,” he says gently.

    Lydia turns her head away from his words, and catches Stiles as he does the same along with a small sniff.  She wants to say something, but all the potential words jumble into mush on her tongue.  Lydia yawns instead.  She turns back to face Parrish and squeezes his hand in a fierce grip.  She looks around the room at the solum faces waiting for her to fall asleep.  The last thing she sees between the fluttering of her eyelids is Stiles’s tight lips and wrinkled brow.

    Lydia opens her eyes to the white room and a single set of garishly large, open onyx doors.  She imagines an inhaler in her hands, and once she feels it as a reality, she walks towards the doorway and takes a deep breath before crossing over into it’s world.  It’s the same muted scenery that greeted her last time.  A dark hued forest of forced silence.  She knows where to go this time and makes quick work of finding the main road.  The boarded door to the bank still has the small opening she tore in her previous visit, and Lydia slips through the moldy wood.  She runs until she reaches the vault door.

    “Scott!” she says,  “I’m back.  Can you hear me?”

    “I hear you,” he replies though the door.

    “We need to get you out,” she continues as she pulls at the vault door.

    “You need to the combination,” he says.

    “The combination?”

    “To open the vault door,” Scott says.  “It’s 2-5-5-4-7-6-6.”

    “Wait, you know the combination?” she says as she furiously spins the dial to enter the numbers he called out.

    “Of course,” he answers, “I’m the one that locked it.”  

    Lydia enters the last number as he speaks, and spins the door handle until a loud click fills the air.  She stands back as the door is pushed open from the inside.  She holds out Scott’s inhaler as he tumbles into the hallway.  He accepts the offering and puts it in his pocket as he looks around the abandoned bank with obviously wary eyes.

    “What do you mean you locked it?” she says,  “I thought you were trapped.”

    “Trapped?” says Scott as he turns back to face her.  “I was hiding.  This is the only place I could think of that would keep a werewolf out.”

    “You mean you weren’t trapped here by the other you?”

    “No,”  he answers in slow tone, “Why did you think that?”

    “Because that’s what I told her,” a voice answers from the dark edges of the hall.

    Lydia feels her stomach drop to her toes.  She knew they’d been missing an important piece of the puzzle.  The human Scott steps in front of her quickly, blocking her view of the figure beginning to emerge from the far side of the hall.

    “You can’t fight him as a human,” she whispers.

    “It doesn’t matter,” says Scott, “He’s not getting to you.  I won’t let that happen.”

    “Dude, I’m not after her,” the werewolf calls out, “At least, not right this second.  I did wanna thank you though, Lydia.  He wouldn’t tell me the combination, and it was kinda a big problem.  This little transition won’t be permanent until I get rid of him.”  He points a clawed finger at his human counterpart.

    Lydia slides her hand into Scott’s and takes a step forward to stand by his side.  She squeezes his hand tightly, and the boy returns her grip.  She can see the other Scott clearly now - his face already angled into barbaric inhuman lines.  

    “Then this is between you and me,” says the human boy,  “I’ll fight, but leave Lydia out of it.”

    “It’s between all of us,” the Alpha corrects, “But I’ll deal with you first.”

    Scott tries to untangle his hand from Lydia’s as he takes a small step towards the werewolf, but the banshee tightens her hold and pulls him back to her.

    “I don’t like this,” she says,  “You don’t even have a weapon.  You can’t fight him like this.”

    “What choice do we have?” he says as he turns to face her.

    “I don’t know, but not this,” she says,  “This will end in tragedy.  Trust me, Scott.  We can’t fight him now.”   The human bites his lip as he stares at their connected hands.  Lydia can feel the tension ringing off his palms into her skin.  “Please,” she says softly.

    “I have to try,” he says as he slips his hand out of hers.  Scott angles his body so that Lydia is directly behind him and addresses her from over his shoulder.  “I want you to run when I say so.  Get back to the white room.  You’ll stand a chance in there if I don’t make it.”

    “No, no,”  she says as she grabs her head with her hands.  “Scott, there’s no chance of you winning right now!  If we-”

    “Lydia, please,” Scott interrupts her in a heatedly pained tone.  “One of us can make it back.”  He cracks his neck and turns back to look at the Alpha werewolf standing almost fifty feet away.  “I’ve fucked up so many times, especially with you, I wanna do the right thing.  Just let me actually protect you this one time.  Please.”

    “Fine then,” she bites out harshly as she takes a small step back.  “Just give me the word.”  Her body fills with a white hot energy that hums and tingle beneath her skin and gathers to clump in her legs and feet.  

    “Now,” says Scott as he shifts his body into a defensive posture - shoulders down, legs apart, and arms up.

    Lydia turns on her feet and does an Olympian’s best sprint down the hallway.  Adrenaline is really quite amazing.  Scott told her to leave him.  What an idiot.  As if Lydia was even capable of that.  She reaches the partially boarded door and crawls half way out to reach for a piece of the torn off wood.  She looks at in briefly to confirm it was the last board removed; the one with the protruding and slightly bent nail.  It is.  Lydia turns to run, and her adrenaline fueled body surges forward at maximum speed.  She can hear the sounds of fighting as she clears a corner.  She pushes even harder with her legs and her feet slap painfully against the marble floors.  She can see them now.  The human boy is moving slow and it looks like his shoulder has a nasty open gash - the sleeve of his shirt in tatters.  Scott manages to dodge a left-hook from a clawed hand but he’s so much slower than his other self, that he’s caught from under the jaw with a right uppercut.  The moment Scott stumbles, the Alpha has him by the neck and backed against the vault door.  The human boy already looks only semi-conscious.  Lydia guesses he wouldn’t still be standing if it wasn’t for the clawed grip around his throat.  She swings the nailed plank with all her strength at the back of the Alpha’s head, jumping slightly to combine the momentum of her body into the force of her swing.  The ensuing crack echoes and bounces back into her hand.  The board splinters in her grasp as the werewolf drops the human Scott to the ground.  The boy rolls onto his stomach to cough violently as his Alpha counterpoint slowly raises both hands to hold the back of his head.  The werewolf turns away from the wall to face the banshee.

    “You fucked up, Lydia,”  he says in calm tone.  “You should done what he said and run for it.  But I won’t lie - it’s good to know that it’s not just me you never listen to.”

    “I don’t get you,” Lydia says in between erratic breaths,  “What do you want from this?  The pack will never accept you as an Alpha after this.  Ever.”

    The werewolf curls his lips into a feral grin.  “Won’t they?” he says,  “I think a tragedy is exactly what they need to bring them together.”

    “Not if it’s one you caused,” she snaps.

    “You right, I caused it, but their Scott didn’t,” he says as he walks closer to her.  “And without you around to tell them, they can’t see the difference between the two.”  Lydia takes a step back as he approaches.  “I was gonna do it in the woods.  Mess with your head just a little to dampen your abilities, but keep you alive.  Everyone would have found me holding you as I cried, and they’d just assume it was their Scott.  I’d tell them I was him, too- that I couldn’t stand seeing you get hurt and broke free to save you.  Isn’t that cute?”

    “It didn’t work,” she says in stoic tone.

    “No, it didn’t,” he agrees, “They found us too fast.  So I’m really sad, whether you believe me or not, that this is the plan I have to go with.  But the pack needs you, Lydia - if not as a physical presence - then as a noble cause.  I’ll tell them how brave you were.  How you sacrificed yourself for me.”

    “You don’t deserve them, and they’ll figure it out fast,” she says.  “We don’t follow Scott because he’s powerful.  We follow him because he’s our friend.  Because we care about him, and he cares about us.  That’s why we’re in his pack.  And you’ll never understand that.  You’ll never be half the Alpha that Scott was - that he is.”

    “We’ll see about that,” the werewolf shrugs.  He lunges for her and grabs her throat.  Lydia scratches at his hand, but he squeezes her windpipe hard  She starts to see spots and the edges of her vision dull.  She tries reaching for his face, but her limps have no energy.  She’s about to close her eyes when a reverberating and blaring roar rips through the hallway.  

    Except the sound didn’t come from the werewolf choking her.

    “Let go of Lydia.  Now,” a deep, rumbling voice growls.  

    The hand around her throat slackens and then withdraws altogether as the werewolf turns around to face the speaker.  Lydia immediately gulps in air and steps away from her would-be killer.   She steadies herself against the wall and looks up to see the other Scott, healed and transformed, as he stands up from the floor.   

    Maybe they have a chance of winning after all.  

    “You think you can beat me just because you’ve got your powers back?” sneers the werewolf,  “I beat you before, I can beat you again.”

    “I wasn’t fighting for the right reasons before,” says Scott.  He flicks his eyes over to Lydia briefly.  “It’s different this time.  I won’t lose.”     

Chapter Text

    Lydia leans back against the vault door and rubs her sore neck.  Her head feels too heavy and it hurts to breath, but at least she’s still alive.  She watches the two Scotts in front of her.  The fighting has a shrinking effect on the room;  the once intimidatingly large and vaulting open space feels like a a cramped school bathroom stall.  She shoves her body into the corner closest, but it doesn’t put enough distance between the werewolves and her.  She’ll have to stay on guard if she doesn’t want to become part of the melee.  The two Alpha’s collide in a rush of snarls and swinging claws.  It’s difficult to follow their movements with her eyes; the effort makes her dizzy.  At first, she tries telling them apart by their clothing, but she can’t always get a good-enough look at their shoulders to see who wears the torn shirt (and they move so fast).  She decides it’ll be easier to tell them apart by their fighting styles.  One Scott fights like an injured animal - loud, uncontrolled, and vicious movements that force the other Scott to maintain a distance.  The True Alpha, the one Lydia rescued, swings punches instead of claws.  He doesn’t appear to be concerned about the feral attacks he fends off;  his focus seems to be more on form than content.  He wants to tire his other self out, she realizes.  And it might be working.  The berserk Alpha’s lunges slow down, and he can’t cover as much ground with his jumps.  He’s panting hard while the other Scott has only now started to breath heavy.  Both parties have yet to injure the other though; it’d be naive to think either one has the upper hand.

    There’s a festering, gnawing sensation in her ribcage like a ball of maggots about to burst.  It wiggles in furious bouts with the wild beats of her heart until she’s forced to put a hand to her chest to calm them both.  And then there are the whispers.  Creeping up her back.  Crawling through her fingers.  Getting caught in her hair even.  She has to shake them out, and when she does, they tumble onto her shoulders with a delicate cry like the ringing of small church bells.  She feels like cheese cloth.  A strung out flimsy, permeable substance.  The voices press against the delicate cloth of her skin, threatening to tear through her sense of self.

    Lydia’s forced to scramble out of the corner and further down the wall as the fight expands in her direction.  She realizes she should’ve gone left, not right, but it’s too late now.  She wants to reach the door to the hallway, but she’ll have to circle around the room to get there if she’s to avoid the battle.  A loud roar pulls her attention back to the werewolves, and she sees the animal-like Scott pulling back bloody claws as the other Scott stumbles slightly.  The attacking Scott takes advantage of the other’s stumble and leaps forward, but the feral fighting style works against the werewolf using it.  His unthinking attacks have left his face vulnerable, and the injured Scott is quick to plant his fist squarely in the Alpha’s face.  He flies backwards against the wall, and Lydia feels the tremors of the impact in the soles of her feet.  She uses the opportunity to crawl down the wall to the other corner.  Now she’s only two corners away from the hallway door.  She watches as the Alpha pushes himself up from the floor using the wall, a stream of blood trickling from his nose and his bottom lip.  He doesn’t waste a second as he throws himself off the wall and charges at the True Alpha, but the other Scott is ready.  He sidesteps the thoughtless attack and racks his claws across the other’s back.  The feral werewolf spins to face his attacker in a rage, but Scott avoids the clumsy claws by ducking and weaving.  Then he takes a fast step forward and uppercuts his snarling opponent.  The berserk Alpha is thrown back against the wall once more.  

    The fight slowly creeps back around towards Lydia, and she runs down the length of the wall to gain more space from it.  One more corner, and she can make a run for the door.  Lydia moves with her back pressed against the wall to keep an eye on the two werewolves.  The fight stays near the wall opposite her for the most part; every now and then it swells to the middle of the room, but the True Alpha is quick to push his other self back to the wall.  Lydia knows he’s keeping the fighting as far away from her as possible.  She’s reached the other corner now and stands with her back lodged into the ninety degree angle, her eyes trained on the door to the hallway.  She bends her legs and pushes off from the corner, sprinting towards the hall.  She’ll be close to the fighting for a moment, but if she moves fast, she’ll be out the door before they even notice.  She’s not watching them anymore, too focused on clearing the room to care, that she doesn’t see the fight has changed directions.  She hears Scott’s sharp cry of “Lydia, Stop!” but it’s too late.  She feels an arm wrap around her waist and swing her away from the door as her mouth is covered by a red and dripping, clawed hand.  Lydia can smell the metallic scent of blood from under the nails gripping her face.

    “And now we’re almost back were we started,” pants the werewolf holding her,  “Except, this time, we both know I’ll rip her throat out if you take one fucking step closer.  So let’s talk.”  He slides his hand down from her mouth and rests it on the hollow of her neck as he speaks.  “You might be stronger than me now, but that same strength can also be taken advantage of,” he says as he shifts the arm around Lydia’s waist.  He starts slowly digging his claws into her side, and Lydia bites her lip to keep a pained gasp from escaping her mouth.  “She’s playing tough,” he continues, “But we both know what it feels like to have claws in your side.  The pain is unbelievable.”  He pushes his claws deeper into her obliques, and Lydia nearly gags from the burning, throbbing sensation.  It’s hard to think properly when her mind is flooded with pain signals.  If only she had a weapon.

    “Stop it!” says Scott as his face twists to bare his teeth.  The smell of her agony is probably overwhelming to him.  “Don’t hurt her!”

    “See? In one second, all your power is lost,” says the monster holding her, “That’s what happens when you fight for someone other than yourself.  It’s a weakness, Scott.”  

    The Alpha twists his claws in her side, and Lydia can’t stop the scream that rips from her throat.  She needs something to defend herself.  Lydia desperately wishes she had the Indian Aconite with her.  She closes her eyes and focuses on anything but her pain.  She opens her eyes in shock when she notices something in her left pocket.  It feels delicate and slender.

    “You can’t protect everyone,” the werewolf continues with a snarl,  “I thought you knew that by now.”

    “Don’t listen to him, Scott,”  Lydia screeches despite the bile threatening to creep up her throat.  The pain is making her sick to her stomach.  “Only monsters fight for themselves!” she yells before her mouth is covered by the Alpha’s bloody hand once more.  He laughs as he squeezes her cheeks together.  

    “Haven’t you ever read a fairytale, Lydia?” he says,  “That’s what we are.  Every single one of us.   Banshees.  Werewolves.  We’re always the monster.”

    “You’re wrong,” she manages to say despite the grip on her face.

    “Oh yeah?” he says, “What about Meredith?  You never told anyone what she said.  But I  know, and so does he.”  He stops to look up at Scott, and continues,  “We found out during your dreams.  She heard something, right?  Something that made her decide it was time to launch the dead-pool.”

    “My scream,” she says in a slow hoarse voice.

    “That’s right.  Your scream reminded her that the world was full of monsters,” the Alpha continues, “Monsters just like us.”  He twists the claws in her side then roughly removes them from the wound.  Lydia immediately begins to feel the hot blood trickling down her side onto her right leg.  The pain is overwhelming, but she forces herself to stay focused.  She has to reach her pocket without alerting the werewolf holding her.

    “We don’t hurt people,” says Scott.  He seems to be filled with a restless tension as he eyes the wound on Lydia’s side.  He lifts his stare back to her face and the bloody set of claws resting around her neck.  She can see how much he hates this powerless feeling.  “We protect them.  We’re not the monsters.”

    “You couldn’t protect Stiles,” the Alpha continues as Lydia struggles against him,  “You couldn’t protect Allison.  Or Aiden.”  The werewolf stops to look down at the injured girl trapped in his arms before he looks back up at Scott and grins.  “Hell man, you can’t even keep Lydia safe from yourself.  You sound like a pretty shit Alpha to me.”

    “It’s true,” says Scott.  He stares at Lydia’s tear-streaked face.  She tries to direct his field of vision to her hand that’s creeping towards her pocket, but he lifts his gaze back up to regard the warped version of himself.  Lydia slips a hand into her left pocket.  It’s a needle - she can feel it clearly.  She slowly works the plastic top off the glass syringe that appeared in her pocket.

    “I’ve been a shit Alpha,” continues Scott,  “And I hurt Lydia.  And you know why?  Because I thought I could do everything on my own.  I thought I had to.  I forgot where a True Alpha gets his real strength.”  

    “Dude, is this a lecture on the power of friendship?  Cause I have to say, that is probably the lamest thing ever,” says the werewolf to his better self.  “And I think you’re forgetting that I am you, or, I was you.  Either way, I know you better than that.  I know how you think, and more importantly, I know what you think.”  He tilts his chin to watch the banshee as he continues,  “Do you think Lydia would fight for you if she knew how you really thought of her?”  Lydia shakes her head under his hand.  “Oh?” he says as he watches her struggle.  “You want to say something?”  The Alpha uncovers her mouth.  

    Lydia takes a hissing deep breath before she speaks, and the sudden intake of air aggravates her injury.  

    “I know how he thinks about me.  And I know how you think about me.  It’s the exact same as almost every boy in Beacon Hills,” she says in a pained, dry tone. “I’m a tool for profit.  A notch in the headboard.  Sometimes it’s to climb the social hierarchy.  Or maybe it’s to channel the dead.  I’m a very useful object for others.  Like a little canary, right?”  She clenches her teeth against a wave of nausea and grips the needle tighter in her hand.  

    Scott looks slightly shocked. “Is that really what you think?  You think I see you that way?” he asks in a disbelievingly sounding tone.

    “You did see me that way,” she says, “You’re past actions made that perfectly clear, but that isn’t the point.  The point is, I know all that already, and I chose to stay anyway.  Because I believe that we do good things.  We help people.  Our pack makes a difference here.”

    She stares at Scott with her words, completely ignoring the werewolf that holds her.  She hopes he understood the hidden meaning in her message.  Scott matches her stare evenly.  The banshee puts everything she can into her eyes.  She’s ready, she wants them to show.  Whatever happens, she’s ready.  The True Alpha nods briefly before he turns his full attention back to his tainted other half.      

    “You say all my power is lost,”  Scott says slowly,  “But I say, you’ve severely underestimated the strength of my pack.”

    Lydia stabs the syringe through her pocket into the Alpha’s arm that holds her and pushes down to inject the fluid into the werewolf.   The Alpha howls and throws her to the ground. Scott’s already charging forward and slams into the disoriented werewolf to toss him back to the opposite wall.  The Alpha tries to stand up but his legs shake, and he collapses back to the floor.  Scott ignores the injured the wolf and pulls Lydia up from the ground.  He puts a hand over her side, and Lydia hisses at the pressure on her wound.  She looks down to see her blood seeping out from between Scott’s fingers.  She feels lightheaded at first, and then the sensation overtakes her in a wave of dizziness.  She stumbles and leans into Scott.

    “I need to sit down,” she says through clenched teeth.  He gently lowers her back to the floor and squats in front of her.  He seems hypnotized by the blood poring down her side and pooling next to her.  “How bad is it?” she asks even though she knows the answer.  Scott lifts the tattered bottom portion of her shirt up to look at the injury.  It hurts to have the soaked fabric pulled back from the wound.  The sound of laughter halts Scott’s hand, and he whips around to face his other half.

    “Oh, it’s bad, dude,” chuckles the werewolf sitting against the wall.  He stops to spit blood from his mouth before he continues,  “I made sure to go deep.”

    “Shut the fuck up,” Scott snarls as he stands from the ground.

    “I told you that you couldn’t protect her.”  The werewolf continues talking despite Scott’s warning, and he stares at the banshee with a lazy, blood-splattered grin,  “From the smell of it, I’d guess she’s lost at least two pints of blood already.”

    Lydia stares at the growing pool of red around her.  She’s extremely dizzy, and the room feels freezing.  It’s getting harder to form coherent thoughts.

    “He’s right,” she mumbles,  “I think I’m going into shock.”

    “Lydia, it’ll be okay,” says Scott as he crouches back in front of her,  “You’re going to be okay.  We’re gonna get you home, alright?”

    “You really think that?” garbles the dying werewolf,  “Jesus, man.  You’re even dumber than I thought.  She’s dying.”  He coughs the words up along with more blood before he sinks back against the wall.  “She won’t make it back, I promise that.  Looks like we both lost in the end, huh, dude?”  His eyes slip closed as he speaks and his head keeps lulling forward, his chin bumping against his chest before he gathers the strength to lean it back onto the wall.

    “Ignore him, Scott,” she says softly as she struggles to stay focused on his face, “All he has left is words.”  The sharp plans and protruding brow of the wolf staring down at her sculpt into a recognizable and tender worry. “Get me up and back to the white room,” she continues.  His brown eyes are glazed in a wet sheen, but he nods without another word and slips his arms under Lydia’s knees and shoulders.  She hisses, her body in revolt, and digs her nails into the arms gently lifting her at the onslaught of sharp needling pain that erupts from her side.  Scott briefly glances over his shoulder before he looks down at the banshee.

    “What about him?” he asks with an undeniable snarl to his words.

    “Leave him,” she answers, “He’s dying anyway.  That was Indian Aconite I injected.”  
    
    She closes her eyes with her words.  Speaking is taking too much energy right now.  She’d rather conserve it for more important functions like making sure her heart beats.  Her breathing sounds raspy, and every breath leaves her wishing she’d taken in more air.  She tries to focus on the things she can.  Like the sound of Scott’s jeans as he runs or rhythm of his heart thumping erratically under his ribs.  There’s another sound she’s listening too, but she’s not sure what it is.  It reverberates in her body - a small splattered sound that she can’t tie to any material.  If she had to guess, maybe water?  Her side and middle is very warm now, the pain having settled enough for her to think objectively.  She is cold, but her midsection is warm because the blood that escapes onto her is hot and fresh.  The sound.  The tiny dropping splatters that echo up her spine.  She knows what this sound is now.  Her blood.  Slipping and splashing out of her.  Onto the floor.  Onto Scott.  He runs at a unfathomable speed, and though she knows it’s necessary to save her life, she’d rather sit down and have a quick rest.  Come to think of it, she doesn’t really have to be sit down to sleep.  She can take a tiny nap right here, right now.  Scott will be none the wiser, and then they’ll reach the white room, and everything will be perfect.

    “Lydia!” he snaps loudly.  His volume and tone force her eyes open.  “Look at me.  Keep your eyes open, okay?  Focus on my voice.”

    He looks blurry to her, but she attempts his request.  Her eyes keep trying to focus on the rushing background instead of Scott - it takes serious effort to stay on his face. He said to focus on his voice.  She thinks she could do that, but there’s one problem - he’s not speaking.

    “Talk,” she says in a hoarse and strained tone.  She lets her head roll against her chest with her words.  She’s tired of holding it up as he runs.

    “We’re getting you home,” he says, “And things will be different when you wake up, I swear to god, Lydia.  We’ll be okay now.  We’ll talk about everything.  About Allison.  About how I treated you.  There won’t be any secrets - from anyone.  I’ll be the Alpha you believe in, that everyone deserves.  I swear, so please, please, stay with me.  Don’t close your eyes.”

    “I know you will,” she says as she settles deeper into into herself,  “You mean good, you just lost it for a bit.”  Her eyelids are terribly heavy, and Lydia can’t help but let them sink down to her cheeks.  “The combination.  That spelled her name, didn’t it?  She’s always kept you human - one way or another.”

    “Hey, hey,” says Scott,  “Open your eyes, Lydia.”

    “I’m sorry,” she says, “I just need a little nap, I think.”

    “No, Lydia,” he says as he shakes her gently, “We’re almost there.  Once we clear the forest, we’re in the white room.”

    “Hmmm, that’s nice,” she nods,  “Tell Stiles not to be mad, okay?”

    “Stiles?”

    “I promised him I’d be back.  He’ll be so mad,” she mumbles.  Her arms are too heavy to keep up; they slip down her side to hang limp under Scott’s hold. “Don’t let him hate me, okay?  I couldn’t stand him hating me,” she says softly, “I wanted to keep our promise.”

    Scott says something, but Lydia can’t hear him.  It’s not muffled; his voice just never reaches her ears.

    Things feel different.  Her side is no longer aching and warm.  Also, Scott’s hold is gone; she now sits on freezing cold ground in the dark.  She can’t see anything, but she can feel a slime under her hands.  Lydia stands slowly, her feet slipping in the strange substance underneath her.  It reminds her of freshman year when she volunteered to help clean the stream behind Beacon Hills High.   It’s the same slippery sensation of wading through polluted chemical sludge water.  Where the hell is she?

    “Scott?” she says to the dark.  She moves carefully in the inky substance, her arms stretched out in front of her.  “Scott? Can you hear me?”

    “Lydia?” a voice answers her, but it’s not Scott.

    “Aiden?  Is that you?”  She looks around with her words, but she can’t make out a single shape around her.  “Where are you?” she says.

    “Keep talking,” Aiden says, “I’m close.”

    “What are you doing in Scott’s mind?” she says.  A hand brushes against her arm and Lydia steps into Aiden’s embrace.  His hug is cold, but she relishes the contact.  She wishes she could see him.  He pulls away slowly.

    “This isn’t Scott’s mind, Lydia,”  he says softly.  “This is the Veil.”

    “The Veil?”

    “What’s the last thing you remember?”

    “I was with Scott,” she says, “I was hurt, but we were almost home.  I should be waking up at Deaton’s any minute now.”

    “I don’t think you’re going to wake up, Lydia. Not if you’re here already.”  Aiden’s voice sounds tender and hollowed with regret.  “This space only exists for the dead.”

    “Look, I can’t stand talking in the dark,” she says quickly,  “Hold on while I get us some light.”  She chooses not to address Aiden’s last statement, and instead focuses on the feeling of her hands gripping a metal flashlight. The light flickers a moment in her shaking grasp before the  technology illuminates the blackness around her and Aiden.  His eyes are wide in the shine.

    “How did you do that?” he asks in a bewildered tone.

    “I just think about it and it appears,” she says as she looks around the open space.  It looks and feels like a void.  A giant room of thick, insulating nothing.  “You called this place the Veil,” she continues,  “What is it?  A threshold of some kind?”

    “I think it’s more like a waiting room,” he says,  “I’ve seen people move past it, but I don’t know where they go.”

    “Why are you still here?”

    Aiden looks down with a small smile as he shakes his head.  “You’ll probably think I’m stupid,” he says, “But I’m waiting to see Ethan.” He looks back up at Lydia.  “I don’t want him to be alone in this place.  Even for a second.”

    “That’s the furtherest thing from stupid, Aiden,” she says in a small voice,  “The absolute, furtherest thing.”

    “How is he doing?  He’s never been on his own before, you know.”

    “I don’t know,” she says, “He left Beacon Hills after you. . . well, died.  I think there were too many memories for him to stay.”

    “We were barely there a year,” replies Aiden as his head pulls back into his neck and a frown twists a swirl onto his chin.

    “Time is irrelevant to memories.  You changed during your stay in Beacon Hills.  That’s what he remembers.  I think a lot of us wished we could leave after everything happened.”  Lydia lets her voice fade into a soft whisper.  

    Time really doesn’t matter to memories.  She’d only known Allison a fraction of her life compared to the rest of her existence in Beacon Hills.  There are plenty of memories without the hunter for almost every part of town.  For instance, her first date with Jackson had been at the mall, but that’s not what Lydia thinks about when she drives past the looming structure.  She remembers dress shopping freshman year with an angry Allison for the Formal.   When the girl’s irrational kindness finally faltered under the weight of Lydia’s perceived betrayal (although Scott had totally kissed Lydia back in Coach’s office).  

    “Are you okay?” asks Aiden.

    “Just remembering some things,” Lydia replies,  “Anyway, I think Ethan will be okay, wherever he is.  You set a good example.”

    “I thought I was one of the bad guys,” Aiden corrects with a lazy smile.

    “But we can change.  You did, right?”

    “You think I changed?”

    “You definitely didn’t die a bad guy,” she says,  “I’d say you came to your better senses.”

    “Good,” he says, “That’s good.  I’d hate to think I died without getting Lydia Martin’s approval.”

    Lydia is silent following his declaration.  She tugs her lips between her teeth and stares at the flashlight in her hands.  She’s seriously dead.  Just like Aiden.  Just like Allison.  She’ll never see her pack again.  The thought pushes against her throat until she’s forced to choke back a small quivering breath.  Not yet.  She can’t handle that thought now.  It’ll have to wait.  Anyway, who says you have to process your death right away?

    “Have you seen Allison?” she asks Aiden.

    He shakes his head.  “You’re the first person I’ve talked too.  Like I said, I’ve seen people pass through, but no one stays very long.”

    “I need to find her.  How did the others get out of the Veil?”

    “I don’t know,” he says, “They just left.”  

    “Well then, I guess, this is goodbye?”

    “Who knows,” Aiden says with a shrug,  “Maybe I’ll see you on the other side sometime.”

    “Wherever that is,” Lydia says.  She angles the flashlight so she can see Aiden’s face without blinding him with the shining beam.  “Take care, Aiden,” she says as she wraps her arms round his neck for a final hug.  

    “Good luck, Lydia,” he mumbles into her hair.  She won’t turn around to look back at him once she breaks the hug; she refuses to watch Aiden’s lonely form become part of the darkness once more.

    There’s no meaning to having a flashlight without another person to catch the shine.  The beam of light illuminates nothing except the velvet darkness that surrounds her.  She gets tired of watching her own feet, and eventually turns the flashlight off to continue her journey in the comfort of the pitch black void.  It’s extremely boring.  There’s absolutely nothing but nothing to distract her, and it’s getting harder to ignore her thoughts.  She died.  She’s dead.  She forgot to see her mom off before she went out of town.  And she was supposed to call her dad back this week.  Then there’s the broken promise to Stiles.  She’s leaving so many people without saying goodbye.  The nothing feels thicker as it settles onto her.  What will happen to the pack?  They’ll be sitting ducks without her.  If her powers were a little bit more developed, she would have seen this coming.  Well, she did see this coming, just not in time to stop it.   Like always.  Seeing a death, but never preventing it.  She’d been so prepared for the possibility of her own demise that she’s appalled at her willful denial of the present state.  A banshee should handle death gracefully.  Or something like that.   A powerful banshee.  Yeah, right.  If she’s so powerful, then why is she dead?  Especially since it was a mental death in someone else’s mind.  There’s gotta be a loophole for that somewhere.  If Lydia can find her door, then she might be able to wake up (hopefully).  She needs to talk to Allison.  She needs to get the fuck out of the Veil.  She almost misses the faint melody in her despair.  It’s familiar and warm feeling despite the void attempting to overtake her.  She knows this song.  She’s heard it in dreams before.  Lydia hums along and mumbles the words she can remember, each pronunciation leaving a gritty grain of sand from the seashore where she learned it.  The louder the song, the lighter the nothing feels.  It’s impossible to say whether the darkness is dimming, but the idea of light doesn’t seem so foreign a concept.  Almost as if the nothing were dispersing in slow waves.  She sings at the top of her lungs with the music, and soon, the velvet black that surrounded her appears as a fine mist that recedes in one final, rolling tide.  It’s absence reveals a white tile floor.  The white room.  This is interesting.

    Lydia looks around until she sees the nemeton stump.  She makes her way towards it and sits on the rough surface.  The banshee closes her eyes, and thinks of Allison.  She hopes this will still work now that she’s dead.  

    “Lydia.”  The hunters voice is low and strained sounding.  Lydia opens her eyes to Allison’s hunched form standing at the foot of the stump.  The hunter raises her chin to meet the banshee’s stare.  The first thing Lydia notices is how awful Allison looks.  Her eyes are red and sunken into her skull like she rubbed them for five hours straight.  Even her skin is sallow and blotchy.

    “Are you okay?” Lydia asks.  The question seems to make Allison irate.

    “Oh yeah, I’m fucking great,” she snaps, “You know, aside from the whole my-best-friend-just-fucking-died thing.”  The hunter stops to rub her nose and sniffs as she turns to Lydia.   “I’ve been looking for you everywhere in the Veil.  I didn’t think you’d remember to call me.”

    “Of course I’d remember, I’m a genius,”  says Lydia.  Allison sits next to her on the stump, but neither girl makes a move to continue the conversation.  Lydia digs a fingernail into the rotten wood to gather the splinters into her palm.   It leaves a grimy residue on her fingertips that she wipes onto her skirt.  Allison shifts to cross her legs and rest her elbows on her knees.  She curls into herself like a mouse with it’s last crumb before winter.  Lydia averts her eyes from the hunter’s shrunken form; something about the position feels too personal to watch.

    “I’m sorry,” mumbles Allison in a water logged sounding voice.  She keeps her head down so that her hair barricades her from Lydia’s view.  “I’m so sorry, Lydia.”

    “Why are you apologizing?”

    “Because!”  Allison says as her head shoots up from her knees.  “This wasn’t supposed to happen!  I wanted to help you.  I wanted to keep you safe.  That’s the only reason I stayed here.”

    “What are you talking about?  What do you mean stayed here?”     

    “I was supposed to leave a long time ago, but I didn’t, and it’s all my fault.  I just missed you.  I was so happy when I found your door.  I should have left after Scott found me, but I didn’t, and I’m so sorry.  Don’t you see?  It’s all my fault, Lydia.  None of this would have happened if I hadn’t stayed.”  

    “Allison,” Lydia interjects.

    “No,” she says, “You have no idea what you mean to me.  I was lost in the Veil until I heard you.  You were calling for me.  I followed your voice until I found the white room.  I’d been in the darkness for so long.  I thought everyone had forgotten about me.  I was about to forget about me.  And then I heard you.  You made me remember who I was.  I didn’t want you to be alone.  I know you.  You don’t talk about important things.  You bottle them up.  You’ve played tough for so long that people don’t even know it’s a front.  I thought I could help you.”

    “You did help me,” she says but Allison shakes her head.

    “I put you in danger, and now, you’re dead.”

    “Stop it!” says Lydia in a high-pitched whine.  “What the hell is wrong with us? All we do is argue over who gets to take the blame for what.  I’ve tried to convince myself that your death wasn’t my fault, but I can’t, and now you’re telling me that my death is yours?”

    “I was killed by the oni, Lydia.  I don’t see how that’s your fault at all.  I made the choice to fight.”

    “Then so did I,” Lydia says.  “I made the choice to fight against Scott.  I knew what could happen, and I did it anyway.  Because I believe in protecting what I love.  That’s the same reason why you fought, isn’t it?”  Allison says nothing and turns her face away.  “Isn’t it?” Lydia repeats fiercely.

    “Yes,” huffs Allison.

    “There you go.  I love the pack.  You love the pack. We both fought for it.  We both died.  So let’s stop arguing over who caused who’s death.”

    Allison’s cheeks tense and pinch until a begrudged looking smile smears across her face.  “I really hate your logic sometimes,” the hunter says as she moves a tussle of hair behind her ear.    Lydia shrugs and continues to poke at the rotten stump with a dirty fingernail.  “By the way, how’d you get out of the Veil?” asks Allison.  Lydia stills her hand and looks at the girl next to her.  “I mean, I was practically stuck there,” continues Allison, “I only found my way out once I could hear you.”

    “There was a song,” says Lydia, “I’ve heard it before in dreams, I think.  When I sang along with it, the Veil just kinda disappeared around me.”

    “A song?  That’s weird.”

    “Yeah, but it makes sense,” corrects Lydia, “I’ve been thinking about it, and it has something to do with banshees.  Woman used to sing for the dying and the dead.  Banshee lore emerged when a woman would sing for the death before it had even been announced.  Now think about this: You’re a banshee who’s supposed to sing a warning but you don’t even know the tune anymore, much less the words or the language.  Wouldn’t it make you scream too?”

    “And you said you’ve heard it in dreams before?”

    Lydia nods as she fishes moss out from under her fingernails.  “Plus some others,” she says,  “All ancient sounding.  I mean, I can’t even identify the languages, but I remember the sounds.  I have one stuck in my head right now.”

    “Sing it,” Allison says.

    “You know I’m not a good singer, right?”

    “It doesn’t matter,” she says, “If you can’t stop thinking about it, it might mean something.  Sing it.”

    Lydia tucks a fray of hair behind her ear and clears her throat.  She starts out by humming a low, wandering note then carries the sound up her throat until her mouth opens to release a slow cry.  She can feel the words bubbling up through her blood in a frenzy, and her tongue has a near fit in the effort to recreate them. It’s a somber, searching song.  One that calls her very soul to the surface.  Lydia closes her eyes and raises her voice until the melody swells and fills the entirety of the white room.  She feels Allison place a hand on her shoulder.

    “Don’t stop singing,” says the hunter, “Something is happening.”

    Lydia sings even louder.  The song rolls from the banshee like the salty waters of the shore that first showed her the words.  She can taste the sea as she begins the next verse.  The words are foreign to her lips, but she pronounces each with a delicate grace, as if the sounds had been there along, nestled beneath her tongue.  The air tingles and shivers around them with a crackling energy until Lydia’s curiosity forces her to open her eyes.  The sight she sees stills the song in her throat.  Doors, hundreds of them, now line the walls of the white room.

    “They started appearing while you were singing,” says Allison in a mystified sounding tone,  “One by one, they just popped up.”

    “There are so many,” Lydia says, “Why are there so many?”   Her voice is soft but high-pitched in her confusion.  She stands up from the stump and folds her arms as she stares at the doors.

    “I think,” says Allison slowly, “I think you might have just called the doors of every person in Beacon Hills.”

    “Oh my god, that’s it!” shouts Lydia as she turns to face the hunter.  “Allison, you’re a genius!”

    “You need all the doors in Beacon Hills?”

    “I’m so glad you made me sing. I knew the songs were important somehow.  I could just feel it,” Lydia says as she walks away from the stump towards the wall of doors.  “My door has to be here somewhere.”

    “But,” Allison says then stops.  She runs her hands through her hair and drops her shoulders.  “Lydia, our doors disappear once we die.”

    “Well, maybe I’m really dead, and maybe I’m not.”

    Allison’s lips scrunch together and her eyebrows sliver up.

    “What I mean is,” says Lydia, “I died in Scott’s mind, right?  What if there’s a lag time for my body to die?  What if I’m just stuck sleeping for a while?”

    “You mean what if you’re in a coma?”

    “Exactly,” says the banshee.  “I can do things in my sleep, even in other people’s mind.  I imagined the needle of Indian Aconite when I fought Scott in his head.  And then when I was in the Veil, I made a flashlight.  If I was dead, wouldn’t I lose those powers for good?”

    Allison is quiet, and her body posture is pensive.  She shakes her head.  “I don’t know how powerful banshees can be, but the song and the doors thing was super impressive.”

    “See?” Lydia gloats.  “This could be my real test.  If I’m a powerful banshee, I should be able to find my door and wake up.”

    “So, we have to check hundreds of doors?  That’s impossible.  By the time we actually find yours, it could be too late.”

    “I know, I know,” Lydia says as she bites her thumb nail.  “Lemme think real quick.”

    “What about other songs?”

    “That’s what I’m trying to think of, but nothing is coming to mind.”

    Lydia paces back and forth in front of the row of doors.  She rubs her hands together, pausing every now and then to smack her palms with a clap.  Allison is still and watches Lydia’s nervous movements with a tight mouth.  The banshee takes a deep breath and leans against the door closest to her.  She’s about to say something, but stops and narrows her eyes as she presses an ear against the wood of the door.

    “What?” says Allison, but Lydia shushes her with a held up hand.  She moves to the next door and does the same thing.  She cups her ear to door after door, slowly moving down the wall.

    “Lydia, what?” says Allison.

    “They’re humming,” she says,  “Every door is humming, but they all sound different.”

    “Like different notes?”  Lydia nods without turning to face Allison.  “Hum one,” continues the hunter.  Lydia puts her ear to a door and listens a moment before she clears her throat.  She hums softly in the same tune and waits for her sound to merge with the door’s.  The two notes combine and flutter then the door seems to get brighter.

    “The door’s responding to it’s note,” Allison says.

    “Okay,” says Lydia,  “That’s cool and all, but how is it helping me?”

    Allison rolls her eyes.  “We need to find your note and it’ll light your door.”

    “My note?” says Lydia as she walks away from the doors back towards Allison.  “I don’t have a note.  All the songs, all the melodies.  I heard them a far away place.  None of them are mine, Allison.”

    “Well, what’s yours?” implores the hunter.  “There must be a sound that you relate too.  One that’s only yours.”

    “There is one thing,” Lydia says, “But it’s a long shot.  And probably stupid.  And definitely loud.”

    “Do it,” Allison says.

    Lydia takes a deep breath then opens her mouth to force a piercing screech from her throat.  The scream overtakes the room, and even the doors quake in it’s fierce crescendo.  Allison covers her ears, but her eyes stay wide as she watches the doors for the tiniest flickering of light.

    “Over there!” shouts the hunter.  “I saw one light up!”  She runs over to the door and motions for Lydia.

    “Do you think this is it?” asks the banshee.

    “Listen and find out,” Allison says.  Lydia leans forward and puts her ear to the wood.  Her face is stoic as she listens then she pulls back gently with a growing grin.

    “It’s my scream,” she says softly,  “I hear it.  It’s my door.”  She turns and grabs Allison by the shoulders.  “ALLISON, IT’S MY DOOR!” she cries as she pulls the hunter in a strong hug.  “We found it!  We found it!”  Lydia gently removes herself from the hunters form and lowers her chin.  “Why aren’t you happy?”

    “I’m happy, I’m happy,” says Allison, but her voice shakes over the words.

    “Allison, what’s wrong?”

    “Nothings wrong, you’re going home.  I’m so happy for you.”  Allison turns away from Lydia as she speaks and wipes at her eyes.

    “Allison. . . I’ll come visit.  I swear I will.  I know how this place works now.”

    Allison laughs and shakes her head as she sniffles.  “I won’t be here,” she says.  “I’m leaving once you get home.  I’ve wasted too much time on this plane anyway.”

    “What? No,” says Lydia.

    “I told you,” the hunter says with a thick voice, “I only stayed to keep you safe.  I should’ve moved on a long time ago.”

    “But I still need you,” Lydia says,  “Allison, everything I’ve done, I’ve done with your help.”

    “That’s not true, Lydia,” says Allison,  “That’s not true at all, and you know it.  You got yourself out of the Veil.  You figured out how to control your powers in dreams.  You’re one badass banshee, Lydia.”

    “But you’re my best friend.”

    “I’ll always be your best friend, no matter what.”

    Lydia is silent as she stares at her feet.  She furiously wipes at the corners of her eyes until she gives up trying to stop her tears.

    “So this is it?” she asks.  “I have to say goodbye now?”  Her voice cracks and her shoulders shake.  “I don’t think I can.”

    Allison’s eyes shimmer under the salty water of her tears.  “We don’t have to say goodbye,” the hunter says in a breathy tone as she wipes at her eyes.  “We could say until next time.”  

    Lydia tries to nod, but the motion is lost as she sinks to her knees and covers her mouth.  The tears roll fat and wet down her cheeks and trickle over her fingers that desperately try to keep her sobs from breaking loose.  She squeezes her eyes shut and lowers her hands from her mouth.  Then Lydia stands up slowly and opens her eyes to look at Allison.  

    “Unti-” a sob interrupts her, but the banshee takes a deep breath and tries again.  “Until next time, Allison.”

    “Until next time, Lydia.”

    The hunter pulls Lydia into a fearsome hug.  The two girls squeeze one another until Lydia’s sides and arms ache, but the banshee ignores the pain and pulls Allison closer.

    “I love you,” Lydia mumbles into her best friend’s hair.

    “I love you too.”

    “I’ll always remember you.  Always,” says Lydia.

    “I know,” says Allison in barely a whisper.

    Lydia jerks out of Allison’s arms with a sudden and angry grunt.  “God dammit,” she snaps,  “I hate this.  I hate it.”  Her teeth gnash with her words.  “I’m gonna lose you again.  I can’t fucking stand it!”  She starts to pace and angrily runs a hand through her loose hair.  “God dammit.  If I don’t leave now. . . If I don’t leave-”  Lydia stops pacing and looks at Allison.  “Can’t I just go with you?”

    “No!” says Allison in a clearly outraged tone.  “No, you cannot go with me.  Open the door, Lydia.”

     “I can’t leave you again.”

    “You’re not leaving me,” says the hunter, “You’re going home.  Now go!”  She pushes Lydia forward with significant force.  The banshee stumbles into the door, and whips her head back to glare at Allison.  Any harsh words about Allison’s brute strength die on Lydia’s tongue when she sees the hunter’s face.  Her eyes are rimmed red and leaking while her top lip twitches and her bottom lip puckers.  Allison’s battle face.  When she’s waging war against the chokehold of her own grief to maintain composure.  Lydia imagines her face would look exactly the same if she checked in a mirror now.   “When you get back,” says Allison, “Tell everyone I said. . .”  She  stops, as if searching for the right words, then continues softly,  “Good luck, okay?”

    Lydia sniffs and quickly wipes her eyes before she huffs, “Since when have we ever had good luck?  Maybe we should look for a leprechaun.”  Allison laughs, but Lydia can tell it’s not heartfelt.  This is terribly awkward.  How do you say goodbye to a dead best friend?  There’s probably not a non-heart-wrenching way to go about it.  “Look,” says Lydia as she flips her hair over her shoulder.  The gesture cause Allison to draw her head back in a genuine smile, and Lydia continues,  “I’m going to say this because I don’t know what else to say and because I feel like I have to say something.  So.  Here it goes.”  She draws out the ‘s’ sound too long and then smacks her lips together as she tilts her head to the side. “Thanks for. . being my friend.  My best friend.  Regardless of my status in the social hierarchy,” she pauses here to sigh,  “I’d never really had good friends.  I had boyfriends.  And I had me.  And I thought that was enough until I met you. . . And I’ll miss you everyday.”

    “Lydia.”  Allison voice is raw and feeble sounding.

    “So that’s it,” the banshee says in a clipped tone,  “I won’t say goodbye, I’ll say thank you.  And you better not say goodbye either.”  

    Allison closes her eyes and covers her mouth right as her battle face collapses into a tear-filled grimace.  Her trembling shoulders sink low as she cries, and she drops her hands from her mouth to move the hair from her face.  She looks at Lydia from the sides of her eye before she sighs and straightens her shoulders to completely face the banshee.   “I’m glad we were best friends too,” she says as a tremor runs through her voice,  “Thank you, Lydia.”

    Lydia licks her lips as she nods and turns to the door behind her.  This is it.  It either works, or it doesn’t.  Her chin quivers as she mashes her lips together, but she manages to keep her arm from shaking as she reaches for the door’s handle.  It’s hot to the touch at first, but then it’s like holding an ember.  Lydia overrides her body’s orders to let go of the burning metal and wraps her other hand around the door handle, pushing with all her strength.  It feels like the handle is searing her to the bone.

    “Open, god damn you!” she screams as she slams her shoulder into the wood.  There’s a loud creaking groan and then the strangest sensation of falling without moving.  Her hands burn. The air that touches them invokes a deep aching pain from her bones.  It almost smells like charred flesh too.  There are wisps of it clinging to her.  She bites her lip instead of crying out when she feels the damage.  Lydia takes a deep breath and exhales through her nose as she closes her eyes.  Everything hurts now, not just her hands.  The air in her lungs feels like needles, and her limbs throb.  She feels compressed - almost like a wearing a wet suit that’s two sizes too small.  She ignores the pain and concentrates on where she is, or better yet, where she wants to be.  Her eyes are closed for along time without any sort of mental picture coming to mind.  It’s really obnoxious, and right before she gives up altogether, she hears a voice.  It kinda sounds like Derek.  Or maybe Deaton?  She follows the faint voice until she hears it more clearly.

    “Not much we can do in these circumstances,” the voice finishes.  She must have caught the tail-end of a conversation.

    “No!” says another extremely loud voice.  “No! That’s fucking bullshit!”  It’s Stiles.  “What about adrenaline or something like that?  I know you’ve got something like that here.  Why the fuck aren’t you using it?  Scott, do something.  Make him - make him do something!”  

    “Stiles,” says a pained sounding voice, maybe Deaton’s.

    “Why won’t someone fucking do something?!” Stiles yells,  “She’s dying!”  

    “She’s not dying, Stiles,” says a rough voice that definitely belongs to Scott, “She’s already dead  She’s already dead and it’s all my fault.”  He sounds empty.

    “Oh god, oh jesus,” Stiles says,  “Oh fuck.  Oh fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck!”

    She can’t see Stiles, but she can hear his labored breathing in between his furious words.  He sounds like he’s about to pass out.  She wants to wake up and tell him it’s okay.  That she made it back, just like she promised.  She keeps walking towards the disembodied conversation.

    “This isn’t real,” he mumbles,  “This can’t be happening.  Oh my god.  That’s it.  This is a dream.”  He sounds frenzied.  “This is dream, and I’ll wake up and Lydia won’t be dead and I’m waking up . . . now.”  Lydia hears what sounds like a slap.  “Okay, now I’m waking up.”  Another loud noise.  “This is me waking up.  Wake up, Stiles.  WAKE UP.”

    “Stiles, stop!  This isn’t a dream,” says Derek.  His words are followed by what sounds like a small struggle.  “Look, count my fingers.  Count them!”

    “Get your fucking hand out of my face,” Stiles snarls,  “What the fuck is wrong with you people?  How can you- how can you just stand there?”

    “What else do you want us to do?” asks Malia quietly.  Stiles lets out a hitched rush of air similar to a sob.  The sound rips through Lydia.  She can imagine Stiles perfectly;  his mouth still open from his hard breathing with a hand covering one side of his face as his eyes stay straight and vacant.  He’s about to fall apart.  

    “I don’t know,” Stiles chokes out,  “I don’t know.  Oh god,  I don’t know what to do.”

    “Someone needs to call Deputy Parrish” says Deaton.

    Lydia starts to run towards the voices, pushing with her legs as hard as she can. She can’t tell if she’s even moving, but the pack sounds louder than before.  She lowers her head and bites her lip as she surges forward.  Something in the air changes, and there’s that weird sensation of falling without moving again, except, this time, Lydia hits something when she lands.  It knocks the air out of her lungs.

    “Did you hear that?” says Malia.  

    Stiles sniffs and asks, “hear what?”

    “I thought I heard something,” she says.

    Lydia’s chest hurts and her head feels like an overblown ballon about to burst.  Even her eyes ache behind her lids.  She’s in so much pain, that she almost doesn’t register the hand hovering over her mouth.

    “HOLY SHIT!” says Malia.  “I feel breath!”

    “What?” says Stiles.

    Something heavy and warm rests against Lydia’s chest for a moment.  She’d complain about the weight if her throat wasn’t on fire.

    “Her heart is beating!  I can hear it!”  cries Malia with her ear still pressed to Lydia’s chest.

    “Are you certain?” asks Deaton.

    “I’m positive,” Malia says,  “She’s alive, guys!  Lydia’s fucking alive!”

    Suddenly, hands are all over her.  Testing her pulse at the wrist.  Checking her pulse at the neck.  It’s not until Deaton has the nerve to pry one of her eyelids back that Lydia groans.

    “Did she- did she just groan?” asks Stiles,  “Dear god, please tell me she just groaned.”

    “That was, indeed, a groan,” answers Deaton as he pries her other eye open.  “Miss Martin?  Lydia?  Can you hear me?”

    “Y-yes,” Lydia croaks.

    “O-oh my god,” Stiles says in a shaking voice, “I think I’m gonna be sick.”

    “Scott, call your mother,” Deaton says without taking his eyes off Lydia,  “Let her know we’ll be needing her medical expertise after all.”

Chapter Text

    Blackness.  Swirling, swelling, stifling blackness.  It creeps over her irises and slithers into her ears.  It floods her mouth and chokes down her throat as the inky substances wraps her up and swallows her whole.  This is hell.  This is death.  This is heaven.  This is life.  Everything and nothing begins and ends here.

    Lydia opens her eyes for the second time.  The glare of the fluorescent hospital lights bite into her tender gaze creating a shocking contrast to the dream from which she woke.  The Veil.  She can almost feel it clinging to her sweaty skin.  The sterile room does little to calm her nerves, and Lydia finds herself unable to curb the panic rising under her skin.  She sits up quickly and turns to the arm where she can feel the IV port sticking out of her.  She needs to get out of here.  She can’t be alone with the nothing this close.  She reaches for the port without a thought and rips the needle from her skin before tossing the scratchy blanket from her legs.  She’s not sure where she’s going, but she knows she has to go.  Lydia flings herself off the bed to stand on wobbly legs.  She almost falls, but manages to stay upright with the help of the side table.

    “Hey, whoa,” says an alarmed sounding voice to her left,  “Lydia, what are you doing?”

    She titters on her feet at the surprise of being spoken to and whips her head back to face the source.  Derek sits in the flimsy plastic chair in the right corner of the tiny white room.  His posture seems to suggest he’d been there awhile, and he raises an eyebrow at her as she continues to stare without answering his question.

    “I- I’m not sure,” she says slowly, “I think. .  . I thought I was alone.”  The knot in her chest loosens and she takes a deep breath as she leans more onto the side table.  

    “Melissa said you need to take it easy when you wake up,” he says,  “You probably shouldn’t be standing.”

    Lydia nods dumbly and moves back to sit on the bed.  Derek is quiet as she situates herself.  She knows he can smell the blood from were she tore out her IV, but to her relief, the werewolf doesn’t bring it up.  She watches as he fishes his phone out of his pocket, his thumb searching for the right keys while he texts.
    
    “Did she say when I can go home?”

    “Tomorrow morning at the earliest,” he answers as he looks up from his phone.  

    “Oh,” she says softly.  There’s a loose thread on her bedsheets that she keeps winding and unwinding around her pinky.   The repetitive motion helps her not shake.

    “How do you feel?” Derek’s voice sounds gentle as if he feared startling her.  He puts his cell away while waiting for her answer.  Lydia looks up at him from her pointless activity then turns her attention back to her thread-wrapped pinky with a small shrug.

    “Lucky,” she answers,  “And tired.  Extremely tired.”

    “Why don’t you go back to sleep then?” he offers,  “I bet your body needs the rest.”  

    Lydia jerks her hand and snaps the thread from the sheet.  “No,” she says,  “I’m tired of sleeping and dreaming.”  She shakes the thread from her fingers and runs a hand through her tangled hair as she leans back with a sigh.  “So, how’d you get shouldered with this babysitting gig?” she asks while gesturing around the hospital room.

    “I wasn’t shouldered with anything,” Derek says as he sits up straighter the chair,  “I wanted to be here.  I thought you might need someone to talk to when you woke up.  Someone who understands what you went through.”  

    That catches her attention, and she sits back up slowly.  

    “What do you remember about it?” says Lydia,  “I mean, what was it like for you?”

    “Honestly?” he asks. She nods quickly.  “It was comforting,” he says,  “Not necessarily peaceful, but calm.”

    “Did you remember seeing anything?”

    “There was nothing to see,” he says,  “It was total darkness.  The densest black I’ve ever seen.”

    “The Veil,” Lydia mumbles.

    “The what?”

    “The Veil,” she repeats,  “It’s a threshold.  The first place the dead encounter.  You can get lost in it.”

    “Were you lost?”

    “I don’t know. . . maybe,” she says while staring at her folded hands.  “It wasn’t terrible, but I’d never describe it as comforting.”

    “You were there for much longer than I was,” Derek says.  Lydia looks up from her hands.

    “How long?”

    “I don’t know if I should-”

    “How long?” she interrupts in a desperate tone.

    “Thirty minutes,” he says, “You didn’t have a heart beat for almost thirty minutes.”

    “Wha-what?” she whispers,  “How did I. . .  I shouldn’t be alive.”

    “Let’s just be thankful you are,” says Melissa from the doorway.  “Lydia, honey,” continues the nurse as she walks in the room,  “The IV is extremely important for you right now.  I’m going to hook you back up, okay?  Leave it in this time.”  Lydia nods and extends her arm for the needle.  “You’re pretty famous at the hospital right now,” Melissa continues as she feeds the port under Lydia’s skin.  “Everyone wants a peak at the miracle girl’s chart.  But don’t worry, I won’t let them,” she finishes with a wink.

    “Thank you,” says Lydia.

    “You know, Stiles is down the hall.  If you want, I can let you know when he wakes up,”  Melissa says as she adjusts the drip on the IV.

    “Stiles?” Lydia shouts as she whips her head to face Derek.  She can feel her heart lapse in its beat.  “What happened to Stiles?”

    The werewolf looks mildly put out as he directs his eyes towards Melissa.  “I actually hadn’t gotten around to telling her about that yet,” he says to the nurse in a clearly irritated tone.

    “Tell me now,” Lydia demands.

    “He’ll be fine, sweetheart,” Melissa interjects quickly, “He’s just under observation for a concussion.”

    “What happened?”

    “He fainted when you woke up,” answers Derek.  Lydia can tell the werewolf is trying not smile as he speaks.  “The shock was too much for him. He hit his head when he fell.”

    “That’s not funny,” the banshee says softly.

    “No,” Derek says as he clears his throat,  “No, it’s not.  You’re right.”

    “Well, he’ll be completely fine by tomorrow in any case.  But I’m a little behind on my rounds,” begins Melissa, “So, if you don’t need anything else. . .”  The nurse lets the sentence hang uncompleted as she watches Lydia.

    “I’m fine,” says the banshee.

    “Good,” nods Melissa, “Very good.  Keep that IV in, Lydia, I’m serious.”  She points with her words before turning out the door.  The room falls into quiet as Melissa leaves, and Lydia lets her eyes drop back to her lap in the silence.

    Thirty minutes.  That seems rather unbelievable.
    
    Before Lydia can get lost in her thoughts, the sound of running catches her attention.  Someone is headed her way.  She waits with her eyes trained on the door, and tries to keep her heart from skipping.  Who could it be?  Scott?  The banshee closes her eyes as the racing footsteps draw nearer.  

    “Lydia?” says an out of breath voice once the footsteps stop.  Her eyes fly open at the sound.

    “Jordan,” she answers in a relieved tone.  The cop stands in the doorway, a hesitance about his posture as he shifts from one foot to the other.

    “Are you,” he fumbles with his words,  “I mean, do you feel okay?”

    Lydia opens her mouth to answer but she can’t find the right words.  She ends up letting her mouth hang open, and instead, releases a sigh.  Derek stands with a stretch and clears his throat.

    “I should get going,” the werewolf says as he walks towards to the door.  He pauses for a brief moment to look back at Lydia.  “Deaton wants to talk to you once you’re feeling better,” he says,  “I told him it would be a couple of days.”  

    She nods in understanding as he turns back around.  Jordan steps to the side to allow Derek room to pass, but puts a hand on his shoulder before the werewolf can clear the doorframe.

    “Thank you for texting me,” Jordan says.  Derek simply smiles with a shake of his head as if to say ‘of course’ and walks from the room.

    “Are you still on duty?” Lydia asks as she looks for another the loose thread on the hospital blanket.

    “Unfortunately, yeah,” says Jordan.

    “So you can’t stay?”

    “Not for more than an hour.”

    “That’s okay, I guess.”

    Lydia scoots over and pats the space next to her on the bed.  She closes her eyes as she feels Jordan settle next to her and leans against his shoulder.  The arm that wraps around her is warm and comforting.  She doesn’t mean to fall asleep; it just sorta happens.

    When she opens her eyes, she’s alone in the room once more.  There’s a slight chill to the air, and further inspection shows that the window is open.  Strange.  Lydia stands gingerly and walks over to close it.  Her fingers tremble over the sill, whether from the cold or her nerves, she can’t be sure.  

    “I can’t believe you’re alive.”

    Lydia stills her hand and looks over her shoulder.  The hospital room is dark, and she can barely make out the figure sitting on the edge of her bed.  However, she recognizes the voice instantly.

    “I’m not ready to see you yet, Scott.”  The figure shrugs in response to her statement.

    “How’d you get back?  Another one of your mysterious powers?”  His words have a bite to them.

    “Please leave.”

    He stands from the bed, but walks towards her instead of the door.  Moonlight washes in through the glass and illuminates his darkened features allowing her to see the transformed angles of the Alpha.  

    “I’ll leave,” he says,  “After I finish what I started.  How many times do you think you can overcome death?”  He flashes a feral grin.  “I bet it was a fluke you made it back the first time.”

    She can’t step back any further; her back is already against the open window.  The claws that tenderly stroke her cheek feel mocking in nature, and the Alpha moves his hand down to palm her throat.   His thumb is rough over her erratic pulse.  

    “I love this smell,” he mumbles as he pushes his face into the crook of her neck.  “I think I’ll always love it.”

    Lydia jerks awake hard causing the IV to pinch the already sore skin of her arm.  She looks around the room wildly.  The window is closed, and more importantly, there’s no True Alpha anywhere to be seen.  A dream.  She was having a dream.  Well, more like a nightmare, but she supposes that’s to be expected. Honestly, this is the exact reason she hadn’t wanted to fall asleep in the first place.  Lydia uses the rolling IV to help her stand from the bed.  Melissa said Stiles was down the hall.  Maybe she’ll go bother him.

    The hallway is quiet as Lydia tip toes from her room.  The only sound is the creaky rolling of the IV stand’s wheels that she pulls behind her.  Stiles is sleeping when she finds his room.  He looks so peaceful - it makes her a bit jealous.  She walks to his bed and crawls onto the only free spot near his feet.  He shifts at the slight jostling, but doesn’t wake up.  Lydia folds her legs underneath herself and rests her head on one of her hands as she stares at the sleeping boy.  There’s a bluish bruise on the side of his forehead, probably from his fall.  What an idiot.  

    “Stiles,” she whispers.  He grunts and turns over, his feet knocking against her legs as he moves.  “Stiles,” she says again, but louder this time.

    “What?” he groans back at her.

    “Wake up.”

    “No,” he says as he shoves his face deeper into his pillow.

    “Stiles, come on.”

    “Oh my god, Lydia, what do you wa-”  He stops mid-sentence as his eyes fly open.  “Lydia!”  He practically shouts her name as he sits up in bed.

    “Hey,” she greets as she leans back to avoid his flailing form.  She doesn’t get very far though because Stiles reaches out and pulls her forward against him, his arms wrapping almost uncomfortable tight around her torso.  She’s still for moment, then lifts her arms to return the hug.  She squeezes her eyes against the moisture threatening to escape.  

    “You’re real,” Stiles says,  “You’re really here.”  She nods against his shoulder.  “I thought,” he continues with a swallow,  “I thought I’d never get to do this again.”

    “Me too,” she whispers as she loses the battle against her tears.  Lydia pulls him closer, trying to use his physical presence to drive away her needle like thoughts; the sharp fragments of never seeing someone a loved one again.  She fails miserably.  “She left me, Stiles.  She said she had to go.”  The words are a jumbled, sobbing confession.  “And now I’ll never see her again.  Ever.  Not even in dreams.  She’s gone.  Allison’s really gone.”

    Stiles says nothing and moves his hand from Lydia’s back to run soothingly through her hair.  She cries harder at his sincerity to calm her and hides her face by pressing it against his shirt. It’s too fucking much.  She can’t handle this anymore.  This life style - whatever it is - she’s done with it.  She’s tired of losing things like her mind.  Of losing people.  Over and over.   She’s sick of being used without her permission.  Her subconscious overflows with new nightmares.  Of velvet darkness.  Of True Alphas.  She’s never been more exhausted in her entire life and yet the idea of sleep sends an electric jolt through her - mind, body, and soul.  It’s simply out of the question.

    She’s not sure how long she stays pressed to Stiles, but when she gently pulls back to wipe the remnants of her grief away, the first thing she notices is how disgustingly tear soaked the boy’s teeshirt has become.  
    
    “Oh gross, Stiles, I’m sorry,” she says in a voice still raw from her earlier sobbing.  He follows her line of sight and looks down at the mess on his shirt before giving her a small shrug.

    “Could be worse,” he says,  “It could be snot.”

    “It’s not snot,” she says as she wipes at her nose self consciously.

    “It snot?” he asks slowly.  

    Lydia feels her lip twitch at the awful pun, and she drops her head down to hide the briefest flash of a smile.  “I think I seriously hate you,” she says with a small shake of her head.

    “Did you just smile?  Did I just make you smile?  Am I the first to get you to smile?”

    “God,  you’re so lame,” she says, “Go back to sleep.  I’m sorry I woke you.”  She starts to stand up, but Stiles stops her with a delicate grasp on her arm.

    “Wait,” he says,  “You can’t sleep, right?”

    She stares at the fingers holding her wrist before sucking in air through her teeth and jerking her hand free of Stiles gentle grip.  

    “I can sleep, thank you,” Lydia snaps.

    “Then why did you wake me up at,” he stops and reaches for his cell phone on the side table,  “Three fifty-four a.m.,” he continues after reading the screen.  

    “I said I can sleep,” she corrects,  “Not that I want to sleep.  There’s a major difference.”

    “Nightmares?” he asks.

    “Something like that.”

    “Want to stay here?”

    “Yeah.”

    “Want me to stay up with you?”

    “Yeah.”

    “Want to watch t.v.?”

    “Yeah.”

    “Alright,” he smacks his hands together with his words,  “Let’s see what hospital t.v. looks like at four in the morning.”  He leans over and grabs the remote from the side table before scooting over to make room for Lydia.  It’s a little bit more than a tight squeeze, and she ends up on her side to keep from falling off the tiny bed.  Stiles waits for her to get situated then turns on the television, its flickering lights casting a bluish glow over the room.  “Friends is on,”  he sighs,  “I guess that’s better than nothing.”

    “Hmmm,” the banshee agrees.  

    Melissa doesn’t seem surprised to find them together in the morning.  “I see you felt well enough to travel,” she greets to Lydia as she places two breakfast trays down on the table.  

    The banshee nods as she reaches forward to pick up a piece of stale toast.  “Will I be able to go home today?” she questions while attempting to tear the toast in half.  It crumbles under her fingers.

    “You’re mom wants you to stay here until she gets back home,” answers the nurse without looking up from her chart.  “She took the earliest flight she could this morning so hopefully sometime this afternoon.”

    “You called my mom?” Lydia asks in frail tone.

    Melissa drops the chart to her side and puts a hand on her hip.  “Lydia, sweetheart, you died.”  She makes a show of pronouncing the last word.  “Of course I called your mom.”

    Lydia loses her hunger and puts the toast back on the tray at a tortoise’s pace. “Right, of course,” she mumbles back.  The crumbs have gotten stuck under her nails and are becoming increasingly annoying.  She pushes them further into her skin with every attempt to dig them out.  It’s maddening.  She flings her hands down into her lap and squeezes them to fists.  “Have you seen Scott?” slips out of Lydia’s mouth before she can register what she’s asking.

    Melissa stops writing and sets the chart and pen down on the edge of the bed.  She sighs and pulls her hair back into a ponytail.  “No,” she finally answers once the hairstyle is complete.  “He was home when I got off work, but he wouldn’t come out of his room.”  

    “Did he say anything?”

    “No, he didn’t,” she says with a another deep sigh.  “Why, sweetheart?  Is there something you want me to pass along?”

    “Oh, no.  Not really,” she says softly,  “I guess just tell him see you at school.”

    “Well, school’s still a couple days off for you at least, but I’ll let him know.”  Melissa picks up the clipboard and pen, and gives Lydia a weary smile before she heads out the door.

    Stiles is still asleep; he only drifted off about an hour ago.  She decides to be kind and let him continue his rest.  She delicately climbs from the bed and picks up her tray.  It’ll be easier to eat in her own bed anyway.  Once back in her room, she forces herself to eat the hospital’s pathetic excuse of a fruit salad - dry cantaloupe with canned grapefruit and oranges.  The only non-gag worthy portion of the bland and cold breakfast.  It’s beyond depressing.  How do they expect anyone to feel better in this terrible place if this is the food patient’s are forced to consume?  Lydia pushes the tray away from her and leans back against the headboard.  She better get discharged before lunch.  Not eating is bad for her skin.  So is not sleeping, she reminds herself, but that thought is quickly squashed.  She’d rather have blotchy skin than nightmares.  Especially nightmares about Scott.  Because it wasn’t technically his fault, what happened, right?  Scott, her friend and her Alpha, wasn’t the one to kill her.  It was his darkness, or something like that.  Like Stiles and the Nogitsune.  Except the Nogitsune was an external thing, an entity, that had nothing to do with Stiles beyond the possession.  Scott was simply fractured.  In other words, it may not have been the Scott she’s familiar with, but it was still a part of the real Scott that wanted her dead.  That succeeded in killing her.

    Lydia wishes she hadn’t eaten the fruit salad.  The banshee barely manages to grab the trashcan in time before she regurgitates the freshly chewed food.  The after taste leaves a bitter, burning sensation in her throat.

    Surprisingly, her mom says little to nothing when she arrives at the hospital.  To the untrained eye, it might seem like she doesn’t care, but Lydia can tell her mother is in shock.  She has a dull, dazed look in her eyes that only softens slightly once she gets Lydia home and cozy with a steaming mug of hot chocolate.

    “You used to love hot chocolate,”  her mother says in quiet voice,  “When you were little.”

    “I still love hot chocolate,” Lydia corrects as she takes a sip of the rich drink.

    “Hmmm, but now you drink coffee too.  And drive.  And have boyfriends over.  You’re growing up so fast.”  Natalie turns to look at her daughter with a tight smile that immediately morphs into a shaking grimace as if she’s fighting back against wanting to cry.  “I have to see you grow older.  I can’t,” she stops and covers her mouth,  “Lydia, I can’t ever get a call like that again.  I talked with your dad yesterday-”

    “You haven’t talked to dad in months,”  Lydia interjects.

    “I talked with your dad,” her mother repeats, “And we think it’s best that once this semester finishes up, you stay with him for awhile.”

    “You want me to leave Beacon Hills?”

    “Just for a little while, honey.  Put some distance between you and everything that’s happened.”  

    “But. . . my friends,” she says in a high-pitched voice,  “They need me.  Mom, I can’t leave.”

    Natalie reaches forward and puts her hand over Lydia’s.  The banshee can feel her mother’s panicked pulse through the hold.  “Honey, I love you,” she says,  “And I know you’re working hard to do good, but you are so important to me, to your father.”  She grips her daughter’s hand tightly as she speaks,  “I’m sorry, Lydia.  This is the only way we know how to protect you.  This town, it’s too dangerous.  I can’t lose you.”  Lydia has to wonder just how much her mother knows about the underbelly of Beacon Hills.

    She misses three days of school between her hospital visit and her at-home recovery.  All in all, it’s not that bad, but three days of material is still a lot to miss in an A.P. class.  Thank god she was already a chapter ahead in Biology.  Lydia spies Kira, Malia, and Stiles huddled together in deep conversation near the front of the parking lot.  She waits a millisecond as her eyes search for signs of Scott in the mass of students before making her way towards the group.  Kira is the first to notice her presence.

    “Lydia!” the kitsune says as her cheeks bunch to make room for a grin.  Kira pulls the banshee in for a hug.  “I’m so glad you’re okay,” she finishes as she stands back.

    “I took notes for you in Coach’s class,” Malia says with pride evident in her tone.  

    “And so did I,” adds Kira,  “I think everything gets covered between the two of us.”

    “Thanks,” Lydia says as she adjusts her book-bag.  The left strap digging into her shoulder is extremely uncomfortable.  

    “Something is different,” says Malia as she stares at Lydia fidget.  “You seem. . . shorter.”

    The banshee feels her face heat.  “I’m not wearing heels today,” she says in a terse voice.  “I didn’t think anyone would notice.”

    “Well, it’s pretty noticeable,” continues the were-coyote,  “You lost about three inches.”  Stiles closes his eyes and mashes his lips behind Malia.

    “I like those shoes a lot though.” Kira sounds too rushed when she speaks, but the gesture is sweet nonetheless.  “Boots are like the new heels, anyway, right?”

    “Nothing will ever replace the heel, sweetheart,” Lydia says as she flips her hair over her shoulder,  “But you’re right, these are fabulous boots.”

    “I’m fucking freezing,” Stiles says as he cups his hands in front of his mouth to warm them.  “If the shoe talk is done, can we go inside now?”

    “What about Scott?” Lydia asks.  “Aren’t we waiting for him?”  Kira and Stiles look at one another while Malia suddenly becomes interested in her sleeve.  “What?”  Lydia snaps after no one makes a move to answer her.

    “Scott hasn’t actually been back to school since the attack,”  Kira says as she runs a hand over her arm in a nervous fashion.

    “And he won’t answer his phone either,”  says Stiles.

    “Are you serious?”  Lydia’s eyes sink low, and her mouth curls into a snarl.  “He’s going to avoid me?”  Her pitch reaches a piercing level on the last word.  “Ooohhh nooo,” she says, her tone dropping back down to a deep rumble,  “That is not how this is going to happen.  If anyone gets to avoid anyone, it should be me avoiding him!”  She turns from the group with a huff and starts stomping back towards the parking lot.

    “Lydia, wait! Come back.  What are you doing?”  Stiles calls out in a desperate sounding voice.

    “I’m getting Scott!” she calls back in a near rabid tone without turning around.

    It’s a cold rage that settles over her in the car.  The fucking nerve.  How dare he?  After all her sleepless nights and practicing her smile so it doesn’t look strained and forcing herself to forget how claws felt in her side.  If she can put that much effort into appearing normal, the least Scott could do is fucking show up to school.  Lydia parks crooked in the McCall driveway and opens her car door with so much force, it bounces back at her.  She can see Scott’s bike in the open garage.

    “Get out here, McCall!” She yells as she marches up to the front door.  “I know you can hear me!”  Before she can slam her fist against the door, it opens to reveal a seriously pissed off looking Scott.  She manages to stop her fist before it makes contact with his chest. The werewolf looks over her, not at her, and his mouth and brow are crumpled inward.

    “I think the whole neighbor can hear you,” he says through clenched teeth.  Lydia rolls her eyes, and angrily pushes past him into the house.

    “Why weren’t you at school?” she demands.

    “I thought you wouldn’t want to see me.”

    “Bullshit!” she snaps,  “That’s a cop out and you know it.”

    Scott drops his head down and runs both hands over his face as he leans back against the door.  “Lydia, please,” he says, “I don’t feel like fighting right now.”

    “Then come to school, and there’ll be nothing to fight about,”  she continues in a less violent tone,  “Scott, you can’t avoid your own pack.”

    He drops his hands from his face and lifts his chin to look at her.  “That’s pretty priceless coming from you, you know. . .”

    “We’re not talking about me,” she corrects, “I showed up to school today.”

    “Look, I’ll go tomorrow, alright?”  he huffs as he opens the door and begins guiding her towards it.  “Just go back.  You’ll only be twenty minutes late if you leave now.”

    Lydia looks between Scott and the open door.  “Why are you acting like this?”

    “I’m not acting like anything.”

    “Yes, you are,” she says fiercely, “You’re acting like an asshole.”

    “No, I’m not!”  Scott responds in just as fierce a tone.  Lydia reacts before she can think and takes a jerky step back.  Scott’s face freezes, then slacks altogether, the raw expression slumping off his face the same way an overburdened tree limb buckles to drop its snow.  He turns away from the banshee.  

    “God dammit,” he says quietly,  “This is exactly what I wanted to avoid.”

    “What?”

    “Scaring you,” he says with a sigh.

    “I’m not scared,”  she replies quickly.

    “You’re shaking,” he points out.  

    Lydia looks down at the quivering hands by her side before lifting her arms up to fold over her chest.  “I’m cold,” she lies as she tilts her head up, “It’s winter.  Sue me.”

    “Lydia,” he groans, “It’s not that I don’t appreciate what you’re doing, but really, you don’t have to.  You’re not ready to be around me yet.  I get it, it’s okay.  I was expecting this.”

    “I’m not ready to be around you?”  She questions in an incredulous tone.  “Listen, Scott. Go to school.  Don’t go to school. I don’t care anymore, but let’s get one thing straight - this time, I’m not the one avoiding the situation.  If you can’t handle being around me or the pack, fine, but you don’t get to make it my fault.”

    “I’m not making it your fault!  I know it’s my fault.  I know everything is my fault,”  he says as he walks over to sit on the stairs.   
    
    “So what are you gonna do?” she counters.  “Avoid us the rest of your life?”

    Every part of Scott’s body seems to sag with some unseen burden, and for one small second, Lydia fears he’ll be squished flat.

    “I’m not trying to bully you,” she continues in a less hostile tone,  “I just want things to go back to normal.”

    “Normal?” he says without looking up.  “Like before werewolves and banshees?  Or before Allison?  I don’t even know what normal is anymore.”

    “Talking is normal,” she says.
    
    “I don’t want to talk,” he says,  “Lydia, please just go, okay?”

    “Fine,” she snaps,  “I’ll leave.”  

    She turns out the door and slams it behind her, but her anger keeps her on the front porch.  She feels her jaw seize as she grinds her teeth.  This whole situation is total and complete bullshit.  She whips around to face the closed door and lifts a foot to kick it.

    “Asshole!” she yells as her shoe makes contact with the door.

    “Um, Lydia?”  The banshee looks over her shoulder to see a tired looking Melissa standing behind her.  “Could you maybe not kick my front door?” the nurse says.  Lydia drops her head to hide the blood flooding her cheeks.

    “I’m sorry,” she says, “But your son’s an idiot.”

    “Well, I’ve known that for forever, and I still manage not to take it out on my front door,”  says Melissa as she steps around Lydia.  “Shouldn’t you be in school?”  she continues.

    “That’s why I’m here,” Lydia says,  “Scott hasn’t been all week, apparently.”

    “Ahhh,” Melissa responds in a knowing tone,  “He’ll be there tomorrow.  I already talked with him about it yesterday.”

    “What?  Why didn’t he just tell me that?”

    “Sweetheart,” Melissa says as she turns back to face Lydia,  “Normally, I try to stay far away from the problems between you kids, but let me give you some advice this one time.  Scott - he’s a lot like his father - and oh god, I hope he didn’t hear that,” she says as she looks over her should at the door.  “Okay, I think we’re good.  Anyway, owning up to a mistake for guys like him, it doesn’t come easy.  They pretty much torture themselves with guilt so the more forgiving you are, the harder they’ll be on themselves.  Just be patient.  Eventually he’ll come around, I promise.”

    Lydia makes it back to school just in time for second period, but she can’t focus on taking notes at all.  All she can think about is what Melissa said.  Poor guilt-ridden Scott. Why does it feel like she’s getting the short end of the stick?  She died for christ’s sake, and no one was tip-toeing around her.  She’s still angry when the lunch-bell sounds.  Stiles and Malia are already sitting when Lydia walks into the cafeteria.  She slings her book-bag off her shoulder and lets it smack onto the table hard.

    “I’m guessing your talk with Scott didn’t go so good,” Stiles says.  Lydia narrows her eyes at the comment.

    “Oh? You talked with Scott?” asks Kira as she walks up behind the banshee.

    “Kind of,” Lydia says in a heated tone as she digs through her bag for her lunch.

    “And?” says Malia.

    “And he’s an idiot,” she answers.

    “Well, obviously,” Stiles says, “Anything else?”

    “No, he barely talked to me,”  Lydia sighs as she takes a seat at the table.

    “Maybe you should try talking to him,” says Kira to Stiles as she sits beside Lydia.  “You know, man to man?”

    “I don’t see any men here,” says Lydia under her breath.’s

    “Whoa! Ouch!” Stiles exclaims,  “I mean, it’s true, but you didn’t have to say it.”  Lydia shrugs.  “And besides,” he continues, “I don’t think he’ll want to talk to me either.”

    “Why?”

    “I maybe might have told him that I never wanted to see him again. . . ever.”

    “What?”  Lydia says while almost dropping her yogurt.  “Why the hell would you tell him that?!”

    “I- seriously?”  Stiles stutters,  “You were dead!  He killed you!  How was I supposed to know you’d come back to life?”

    “Okay,” says Lydia as she rubs her temples,  “This is making more sense now.  No wonder he wanted to avoid us.  You have to talk to him, Stiles.”

    “And say what exactly?” he questions.  “Sorry I said I never wanted to see you again?”

    “Um, for starters, yeah,” Lydia says,  “Do you even know how much that hurt him?  Did you learn nothing from this past year?  What if he’d said that to you after your possession?”

    “But he wasn’t possessed!” Stiles snaps.  “It was all Scott!”  

    The table is extremely quiet following his outburst.  Lydia stares at her yogurt with a dull expression.  She can feel the tension creeping up her back and digging into shoulders.  It’s not fair.  Why does everyone get to throw a fit about what happened except her?

    “I know that,” Lydia says in a subdued voice,  “But I think we all have a side to ourselves that we never want in control.  So maybe it was all Scott, but it wasn’t our Scott, and it certainly wasn’t the Scott that’s sitting at home freaking out cause his best friend disowned him.  And if I can understand that, then there’s no excuse for you not to, Stiles.”

    The boy opens and closes his mouth a couple of times before he sighs and leans back in his chair.

    “Well, fuck,” he says while staring at the ceiling,  “When you say it like that. . . I feel like a total asshole.”

    “You’re both assholes,” Lydia corrects as she takes a bite of yogurt.  

    The rest of lunch passes the group by quietly.  Lydia’s relieved when the bell rings and rushes from the table to the hall.   She can feel someone hovering behind her as she closes her locker.  She turns expecting to see a remorseful Stiles so she’s a little startled to find Malia watching her with a pensive expression.

    “Can I talk with you?” says the were-coyote.

    “Uh, sure,” she says after a moment of hesitation.

    “Have you really forgiven Scott?”

    The question catches Lydia off guard, and she stares at Malia without attempting to answer her for a solid ten seconds.  

    “I know you don’t like people in your business,” continues Malia,  “But about what you said at lunch, it’s true, but it doesn’t make what happened okay.  You don’t have to force yourself to forgive him, especially not right away.  That could do more harm than good.”  

    Lydia crosses her arms and lowers her chin while her brain short circuits in an attempt to find words other than ‘I’m not forcing anything’.  That phrase reeks of denial (which she’s totally not in, but denying being in denial never helps one’s case).  She decides a simple ‘thank you’ will suffice.  So the banshee gets beyond irritated when her realizes her mouth is already moving.

    “I didn’t force myself to forgive Scott,” Lydia blurts, “Just think of it more as oil for the gears.  The pack needs to move forward and we can’t as long there’s a perceived problem.  I don’t see what the big deal is anyway.  I didn’t stay dead.”   Lydia can tell her little speech sounds rushed and unnatural.  She waits for Malia to call her on it, but the were-coyote simply drops her shoulders with a sigh and starts walking towards the classroom.  “Wait,” Lydia says as she reaches for Malia’s arm.

    “You don’t have to talk to me about it,” the were-coyote says without turning around, “I’m not trying to press.”  

    “I know,” Lydia snaps,  “Just, would you wait?”  Malia stops and turns to face the banshee.  “I’m sorry, okay?”  Lydia continues,  “It’s just. . . I really can’t answer it.  I know I don’t have forgive him right away, but it feels like. . . it feels like if I don’t do it now, I’ll never be able to.”

    “You’ll still have to talk to him about it at some point,”  Malia says, “Oiling only works if there’s no sand in the gears.”

    “What do you even know about gears,” says Lydia under her breath.

    “I know that’s why Stiles couldn’t start the lawn mower,” the were-creature shrugs.  “It worked after we cleaned it.”

    Lydia chews the corner of her lip as they walk into Coach’s class.  It pisses her off, but Malia’s right.  She needs to have a real conversation with Scott, but what does that even mean?  She can’t just talk about him killing her - it’s bigger than that.  It’s their entire relationship after Allison’s death.  How he treated her.  How he used her.  His entitlement to her.  Are all Alpha’s like this?  She had thought Scott lacked the bizarre, primal, and predatory nature that Peter had so gleefully embodied of the role.  But, apparently, that’s not even possible. The True Alpha may have a firm hand over the role’s madness, but it’s still there, waiting for him to slip.  When Lydia compares the experiences, she almost prefers dealing with the older werewolf; at least it comes as no surprise with Peter.  But this dynamic between her and Scott - it curdles the yogurt in her stomach.  Her blood gets hot and simmers in her veins.  If she were at home, she’d hold ice cubes in her hands with bruising force until the ill-fated crystal formations had melted away down the sink.   Then she’d slowly uncurl her freezing fists to rub icy fingers on her temples in hopes of holding back the blossoming headache she now faces.  But she’s not at home, she’s at school, and she’d rather die of an overheated head then put that sludge from the faucets on her face.  The headache wouldn’t bother her so much if her heart and lungs weren’t about to burst, but she can’t have all three happening at the same time.  She does the only thing she can think of and puts her head down on the desk.  The fake wood grain is a little cool to the touch, but it does nothing for her burning head.  She gets so hot she can barely breath.  Jesus christ, is she about to die?  Suddenly, Lydia knows what’s happening.  This is a panic attack.  She focuses on taking deeper, slower breaths.  She tries to feel the air moving through her lungs.  It kinda works, but it’s hard to concentrate over the sound of her shotgun heart.  Every beat rattles her body and echoes painfully in her ears.  Jesus christ, how does Stiles do this on a regular basis?  A few more attempts at steadying her breath, and Lydia no longer feels like she’s about to die.  She sits up slowly before opening her eyes.  The first thing she notices is the quiet of the classroom.  The second thing she notices makes her feel like an idiot for not noticing first - the classroom is completely empty.  She doesn’t even stop to check if Stiles and the others are still behind her.  She grabs her bag and dashes from the room into the hall.  Where it’s even quieter.  Where the fuck are all the students?  Has she gone crazy?  She puts her head in her hands and presses against her eyeballs hard through the thin veil of skin covering them.  A rough, raw, rumbling  sounds claws through her panic and into her mind.  Her eyes fly open as she hears it.  A growl.  Maybe she actually passed out during her panic attack, and this is a dream.  That must be it.  Because there’s no way in hell there’s actually a Berserker standing in front of her.  And a short one at that.  She remembers them being a lot taller.  True to its nature, the creature attacks without preface, and Lydia finds herself falling down to avoid its wild swing.  The Berserker lifts a bone clawed fist to bring down on the crouching banshee.  Lydia peaks through her arms at the the creature to see a figure standing next to it.   
    
    “Allison?”  

    She manages to say the name right before the expected impact.  Except the blow never comes.  And when she lowers her arms, she’s sitting in the middle of the hallway while students nervously move around her for class change.

    “Lydia!”  It’s Stiles.  She looks over her shoulder to see him frantically making his way towards her through the teeming mass of teenagers.  “Are you okay?” he continues once he reaches her and extends his hand to help her to her feet.  Lydia dusts herself off once she’s upright, but keeps her head down to avoid the curious stares of the students around her.

    “I’m okay,” she says.

    “What happened? You hauled ass out of Coach’s class.”

    “It felt a little stuffy in there.”

    “So you ran out to sit in the middle of the hall?” he says with wide eyes.  Lydia glares at him as she tosses her hair over her shoulder.        

    “I fell on the way to bathroom, okay?” she says quickly.  Lydia can tell he doesn’t believe her, but thankfully, Stiles doesn’t press the issue.  “Anyway,” she continues,  “I can’t concentrate on class right now.  I think I’m gonna just head home.”

    “Are you sure you’re okay?”

    “Stiles, I’m fine,” she says,  “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

    Once she gets in her car, she knows she’s not going home.  She needs to talk to Deaton.  About everything.  She’d been avoiding it since she got out of the hospital.  In her defense, a conversation about how one managed to come back from the dead is extremely stressful.  The Animal Clinic parking lot is nearly empty when she arrives.  Good.  At least she won’t have to wait long to talk to him.  Deaton’s standing behind the front desk as she walks inside.

    “Good afternoon, Lydia,” he greets without looking up from his paper work.

    “Afternoon,” she says.

    “Not a good one?”

    “No, just an afternoon,” she says as she walks behind the desk to stand next to the vet.  “Derek said you wanted to talk with me?”

    Deaton puts down his pen and smiles at her.  “I did,” he says,  “Why don’t we go to my office?”

    Lydia sits quietly in the chair opposite Deaton’s desk as the Druid moves about the room.

    “Would you like something to drink?” he asks over his shoulder.  “Maybe some tea or a water?”

    “I’m fine, thank you,” she says.

    “Well, I hope you don’t mind if I make some tea,” he continues.
    
    Lydia shakes her head and says, “of course not.”

    Once the Druid is seated with a steaming mug of Earl Grey in front of him, he seems to turn his full attention to Lydia.

    “How are you feeling?”

    She opens her mouth to answer, but Deaton cuts her off.

    “And answer honestly, please.”

    “Out of place,” she says in a soft tone.  He nods as if he expected this response.

    “Any nightmares?”

    “Some,” she says,  “Or a lot, actually.  Almost every night probably.”

    Deaton sits back in his chair and takes a sip from his mug.  He watches out the window with a wrinkled brow and crumpled lips before he sets the mug down.

    “Lydia,” the Druid says,  “Do you know why I wanted to talk to you?”

    “You need to know how I got back,” she says.     

    “Well, that would be nice,” he agrees, “But it’s not the only reason I wanted to speak with you.  What you did is considered crossing over.”

    Something about his tone causes a slithering feeling in her stomach.  She thinks she knows where this is going.

    “And it will leave a mark,” he continues,  “The same mark left on Scott, Stiles, and Allison.”

    Lydia can feel her hands start to tingle as if she’d slipped on gloves made of ice.  She folds her hands in her lap to conserve heat and stares dully at them.  She’d known this was a possibility, but hearing it out loud is an entirely different experience.  

    “But it will be harder for you.  Much harder,” says Deaton.  “You already had a strong connection to the other side.  The mark will act as a lightening rod, drawing and amplifying all the darkness you encounter.  You have to keep this in mind as your powers grow.  Banshees are mysterious beings.  There’s very little recorded about them in Druid records.  What we know is based in folklore and entirely unreliable.  To be quite honest, I have no idea how the darkness will affect you.”
    
    She doesn’t say a word, doesn’t even breath.  Darkness.  Is that why she dreams of the Veil night after night?  And is it really so bad?  Some things can only exist in the dark.  Like light.  How could one even recognize it without its velvet silhouette?  

    “Lydia?”  Deaton’s curious voice cuts through her mental shroud.  
    
    “Sorry,” she says,  “I was thinking.”

    “You have a lot to think about, I’d imagine.”  She nods at Deaton’s eloquent understatement.

    When Lydia gets home, she’s relieved to have the house to herself.  Her mother’s been rather clingy as of late, acting as the girl’s shadow in the sun of her near death.  It’s to be expected, and all the more reason to treasure the brief moment of solitude.  She sits in silence on her bed as Prada sleeps on her folded legs.  Her thoughts wrap into themselves like a silk cocoon, hiding her questions from their potential questioning and leaving her in a quiet void she welcomes with unrestrained euphoria.  The peace breaks as a single thought unmoors itself from her mind’s dock and drifts in the bumbling tide to the forefront for immediate attention.  And what an unpleasant train of thought it is.  The semester ends in less than a month, and she’ll be leaving Beacon Hills for Glendale before the beginning of the holidays.   The paperwork for her transfer has already been completed; she’ll be finishing her junior year at Glendale High School.  She needs to tell the pack soon, but after everything that’s happened, she doesn’t have the heart to break the news.  It’s not her choice, but she’s still leaving them.  

    The very thing she promised she’d never do.  

    And now there’s this whole darkness in the heart thing which, honestly speaking, doesn’t feel all that different from her previous world view.  It’s not like  Lydia Martin hadn’t experienced nightmares before.  The panic attack is new, but Lydia’s certain she handled it for the most part.  The Berserker though.  She worries slightly about that.  The image feels coded, like a visual metaphor, but she can’t grasp the meaning.  And she’s great at metaphors.  

    Lydia hears a door open downstairs, and soon her mother’s concerned sounding voice caterwauls through the previously silent sanctuary.   

    “Sweetheart?  I thought you were going to school today.”  The voice calls from the stairwell.  Lydia can hear the click of heels as her mother climbs.  “Everything okay, honey?  Nothing happened, did it?”  Natalia’s face, pinched with worry, pokes around Lydia’s bedroom door.   

    “No, nothing happened,”  Lydia says,  “I guess I was little ahead of myself going back.  I expected things to be perfect when I returned, and that’s  . . . probably really stupid of me.”

    Natalia pushes the door open and walks in to sit next to Lydia on the bed.  Prada lifts his head at the intrusion, but settles back to sleep quickly.

    “Oh no, sweetie, that’s not stupid,”  her mother corrects in a soft voice,  “That’s human.”

    “If it’s human, then why am I the only one doing it?  It’s just, I don’t get it. Why everyone else gets to be so mad.  I’ve told them I’m fine.  I am fine.  It should be up to me. I’m the one that almost died.”

    “Who is everyone?”

    “Everyone!”  Lydia snaps.  Prada jumps from her lap at the sharp sound.  “Stiles. Scott. You. Dad.  God, even Malia!  If I can get over it, why can’t everyone else?”  

    “Are you over it?  If you really are, Lydia, then it’s great and it’s a blessing.  But speaking as your mother, I don’t think you are.  I think you want to be, and I think you’ve perfected the art of acting as if you are.  And I don’t think Beacon  Hills is where you’ll heal.  But I’ll tell you what I’m not over - what I’ll never be over -  finding out my daughter was legally dead.  And yes, I am very, very mad about it.  I’m not mad at you, at all.  What I’m mad at is this God forsaken town that’s done nothing but torture my baby and then forced her to act like it’s okay. I don’t know what you’re protecting here, Lydia, but it’s not worth your sanity.”

    “I’m protecting my sanity!  You think moving me to a different place will suddenly fix everything?”

    “I’m not going to fight with you about this.  You’re not staying in Beacon Hills.  It’s not up for discussion.”

    “Pretty convenient though, huh?”  Lydia scoffs.  “You get to pass off the crazy daughter under the guise of a caring mother.”  

    Natalia is silent after the banshee’s biting words.  She stands slowly and walks to the door with shuffling steps.  “That’s a very cruel outlook,” she says softly,  “And I hope you don’t really believe it.”  Natalia closes the door quietly as she leaves.

    Shame rushes Lydia like a reservoir sweeping out a broken dam.  The feeling overtakes her and she can scarcely draw a breath without gulping mouthfuls of panic.  Why had she said that?  Cruel doesn’t even begin to capture the accusation she’d thrown at her mom.   She flops down on her side and curls into herself before falling into a restless sleep.

    The next day Scott returns to school.  Lydia’s heels click clack across the linoleum of the cafeteria floor and gain the attention of Malia.  The were-coyote flashes a grin while scooting a stack of books to make room for Lydia at the table.  The banshee attempts to return the warm gesture, but she can feel the tightness of her lips morphing the smile into a grimace.  Stiles and Scott seem to be deep in conversation; it’s only when Kira says her name that the two boys notice her approach.  

    “Back to heels?”  the kitsune’s voice is playful.

    “The boots were a failed experiment,”  Lydia says as she fixes her eyes on Malia.  

    The were-coyote shrugs, and says “They made you look short,” between mouthfuls of turkey sandwich.

    “I am short,”  Lydia corrects as she slings her book-bag off her shoulder.  She takes the open chair next to Kira before turning her attention to Scott.  “Nice to see you back where you belong.”

    “Yeah,” Scott agrees,  “It’s definitely better than getting yelled at again.”

    “I didn’t yell,”  she says as she rolls her eyes.

    “Well, you totally did,”  he says,  “But I probably deserved it.”

    “You did, absolutely, deserve it,”  Lydia says.

    “Yeah. . .”  the Alpha says as he bends his neck to hide his reddening cheeks.

    “If it makes you feel any better, she called me an asshole yesterday,” Stiles says as he slaps a hand onto Scott’s back.

    “And she was rude to me in the hall,”  Malia adds.

    “Excuse you?”  Lydia says as she puts her vitamin water down.  “What is this?  A roast?”

    “Nah, roasts are supposed to be funny,” says Stiles,  “We’re just picking on you.”

    “Well, stop,” she says and flips her curled hair to the side.

    “Anyone have plans for winter break?”  Kira asks.

    “Oooo, that’s right!”  Stiles says,  “We only have two more weeks left!”

    “I might try to see my dad,”  Scott says.  “It’s been awhile.”

    “I’m gonna find a video game where your little werewolf powers won’t give you the upper hand,”  says Stiles.  “Then I’m gonna play it non-stop until I’m the master and watch you cry in defeat.”

    “Dude, I’m not gonna cry.”

    “We’ll see,” Stiles says.

    “What about you, Lydia?  Got any plans?”  Kira asks.

    Now would be the perfect opportunity to tell everyone about the move, but something holds Lydia’s tongue.  Maybe it’s that everyone looks so happy.  That for first time in months, they can act like real teenagers, and talk about stupid, non-life threatening, things.  She doesn’t want to break the spell so soon.

    “I’m gonna visit my dad too,” she says.  “My mom’s been bugging me about it.”

    “Speaking of your mom,” Stiles says,  “I’m pretty sure she hates me.  She’s been giving me the evil eye whenever I see her in the hallway.”

    “She’s just really stressed out right now,”  Lydia lies,  “I wouldn’t pay it much mind.”

    Scott opens his mouth to speak, but the sound of his text tone cuts his words short.  The Alpha shifts in his seat to retrieve his cellphone from his pocket.

    “It’s Derek,” he says,  “He wants to know if we’re all free this weekend.”

    “This weekend?”  Kira says.  “Why?”

    Stiles leans to the side to peek over Scott’s shoulder at the phone screen.  “Camping?”  he says in a confused tone.  “Is he serious?”

    “I hate camping,” Lydia says.

    “No surprise there,”  Stiles says.  Lydia lowers her brow and pushes her lips out as she narrows her eyes at the boy.  “I mean, who doesn’t hate camping,” he amends.

    “I like camping,”  Malia interjects.  “It sounds fun.”

    “Well, you would.  It’s your previous life style but with tents,”  Lydia huffs.

    “And prepared food,”  Stiles adds,  “We’re not eating rabbits.”

    “I don’t eat rabbits. . . anymore,”  Malia says under her breath.

    “So, should I say we’re free?  We’re going camping this weekend?”  Scott says as he stares at his phone.

    “Sounds like it,”  says Kira before she turns to Lydia.  “Oh, and hey, you can break out the boots again.”

    “Oh joy,”  Lydia mumbles.

    Friday afternoon finds Lydia standing in her driveway wearing the notorious boots as she waits for Kira and Malia to pick her up for the trip.  The kitsune’s black civic whips around the corner, and Lydia can hear the thumping dance music before the car pulls into her driveway.  Malia gets out to help load the banshee’s luggage.  

    “You packed three bags?”  the were-coyote asks in an disbelieving voice.

    “One of them is snacks,”  Lydia says as she hops in the backseat.  

    “I’m kinda getting excited,” Kira says.  “It’s a been a long time since we all got together like this.”

    “Mmm,” Lydia agrees,  “I bet that’s Derek’s plan.  Pack bonding or some other sappy thing like that.”

    “You can’t say we don’t need it,”  says Malia.  “It’s been a weird couple of months.”

    “On the couple’s note, how are you and Stiles?” asks the banshee.  She opens up her purse and pulls out a bottle of water.  “The PDA has declined a bit.”

    “Oh, we broke up last week.”

    “What?”  Kira and Lydia yell at the same time.  Malia sinks in her seat and covers her ears.

    “Geez, you don’t have scream,” she says.  “And relax, we’re still friends, obviously.  If anything, we’ve just shrugged off the label.  We’re still doing it. . . sometimes.”

    “I mean, why though?”  Kira says while tapping her hands on the steering wheel.  “If you guys like each other, why break up?”

    “We like other people too,” says the were-coyote with a shrug.

    Lydia almost chokes on a sip of water.  “Stiles likes someone?  Who?”  she blurts out.

    Malia turns around slowly with narrowing eyes to face the banshee.  “If you make me say it, I swear to god I’ll climb back there and scratch out your eyes.”

    “Hey, do I turn up here?”  Kira says in a rushed tone.  

    Malia turns back to the front with a huff.  “No, we stay on this road for another eight miles,” the were-coyote says.

    “Oh, that’s right, I forgot,” laughs the kitsune. Lydia mouths a silent ‘thank you’ to Kira for the much needed distraction before slumping back in her seat.

    The camp ground sits in the middle of a valley surrounded by a lake on one side and the beginning of a mountain’s slope on the other.  The trees are naked - their forgotten clothing litters the ground in a rich mulch of yellow, brown, and red.  Derek, Liam, and Braeden are already setting up the tents when the girls tumble out of the car.  

    “Hey,” Derek greets,  “We need some help with last tent.  And maybe someone could get some firewood?  We need the fire set up before it’s dark if we don’t want to freeze.”

    “I’ll get the fire wood,” offers Lydia.    

    “Thanks, and if you see Scott and Stiles, tell them it doesn’t take that long to get water.  I think they’re by the lake.”

     Lydia nods before she walks into the woods.  Some of the fallen branches are damp from yesterday’s rain, but she finds a good number of dry ones which she holds under her left arm.  She doesn’t pay attention to the direction she’s headed- she simply follows a path of broken sticks, tucking each with care into the growing pile under her arm.  She focuses on her little mission so intensely, she almost misses the whispers that creep through the trees.

    “Talk to her.  It’s Lydia, dude.  She’ll understand.”

    She pauses when she hears her name.

    “I know she’ll understand, but that almost makes it worse.”

    She gently puts the pile of kindling down, and tip toes behind a tree to peek at the two boys sitting by the lake’s edge discussing her.  

    “I mean, I don’t even know what I’d say,”  Scott continues as he tosses a rock into the water.  “I can barely face her as it is.  And I know I can’t avoid her, but. . . uhhhh. . . This fucking sucks, dude.”

    “Well, I’m pretty sure that’s the exact reason why we’re all out here.  You know, work our problems out in nature and all that hippy jazz.”

    “But I don’t think I can solve this in a weekend.  I feel like a monster when I’m around her.  You don’t know what it’s like, man, having all these memories of shit I did.”

    “Oh, I don’t?”  says Stiles.  “Cause I definitely seem to remember planting some bombs and shoving a sword in your gut.  I remember everything that bastard did up until the split.  And you’re right;  it makes me feel like a god damn monster.”

    “You’re not a monster, dude,”  Scott says.

    “Well, neither are you.”

    Scott drops his head and sighs following Stiles declaration.

    “Oh, come on,”  Stiles says in sharp voice.  “I mean, seriously.  What do you want me to say?”

    “I don’t know,” groans Scott.  “I think I felt better when you hated me.  At least that made sense.”

    “You’re an idiot,” Stiles says softly while shaking his head,  “But I understand what you’re saying.  It’s way easier to hate yourself when you think you deserve it.”

    “Right?”  Scott agrees.  “It’s like, how can I forgive myself when everyone is acting like what happened is no big deal?”

    “But that’s Lydia for you.  The Great Pretender.”

    “You think she’s faking it?”

    “That’s putting it kinda harsh, but I think Lydia’s definitely the type to ignore a problem until it goes away.”

    “Dude, that’s what you do.”

    “Exactly,” says Stiles,  “Which means I’m great at recognizing when someone else is doing it.”
    
    Lydia digs her nails into her palms.  Why does no one believe her?  What do they want from her?  Would they prefer she walk around crying all the time?  Is there a set format for how people should handle traumatic events?  She wipes roughly at her eyes before picking the kindling up and creeping back from the lake’s edge.   The banshee weaves through the trees; a tiny sniffle here and there are the only sounds of her movement.  She circles the camp, idly grabbing more dry sticks.  The air she breathes is hostile, the biting cold freezes her throat and nostrils.  Her face feels raw and red when she returns with the kindling.

    “Did you find Scott and Stiles?”  Derek asks without turning from his struggle with the remaining tent pole.

    “No,” Lydia answers,  “I didn’t go to the lake.”

    Malia looks up from her conversation with Kira and Braeden at Lydia’s lie.  Her eyes seem shrewd as she stares at the banshee.  Lydia hardens her gaze and shrugs at the were-coyote before piling the kindling next to the fire pit.  She choses the largest pieces of wood to set in the middle of the pit, and then begins leaning the smaller sticks around the base.  Malia walks over and offers Lydia newspaper and a lighter.  The banshee crumples the paper and tucks it inside the wood formation before lighting the tip.  The two girls sit in silence as the flames catch and consume the kindling.

    “Ooooo, fire!” says Stiles as he and Scott trudge towards the camp.  Each boy carries a bucket of water that sloshes with every step.  Stiles sets his bucket down next to the fire and sits beside Malia and Lydia to warm himself.  

    “Are you seriously not gonna help me right now?”  Derek grinds out from between his teeth as he glares at Stiles.

    “Who? Me?” the human asks as he points to his chest.  “I just got us water, dude.”

    “Yeah, and that shouldn’t have taken thirty minutes,”  the werewolf growls as the tent pole slips from his hands.  “God dammit!”

    Scott moves fast and catches the pole before it can bring the whole tent down.

    “Sorry, dude,” the Alpha says as he rights the tent,  “It was my bad.  I distracted him.”

    “Yeah,” says Stiles,  “And how come I’m the only one you’re yelling at?  Lydia and Malia are just sitting here.”

    “I helped put up the last two tents,”  Malia says,  “And you wouldn’t be warm right now if it wasn’t for Lydia making the fire.”

    “Geez, fine.  I’m the bad guy,”  Stiles huffs.  “No one appreciates what I go through.  The lake was really cold too.”  He scoops a handful of water as he talks and brings it to his lips.

    “Stiles!” Lydia shrieks.  

    He jumps at her volume, spilling his sip of water.  “Oh my god! What?”

    “Have you been drinking the water?”

    “Uh, no,”  he says, “Maybe.  Just a little bit.  Like three sips?  I mean, I got it, and there’s a whole lake more of where it came from.”

    “It’s not for drinking, you idiot!”  Lydia continues.

    “Then what the hell is it for?”

    “The fire,” she says.  “We brought water for drinking - bacteria and parasite free water.”

    “Wait, are you serious?”  Scott asks from over his shoulder.  “We can’t drink from the lake?”

    “Oh my god, no!  What is wrong with you two?”

    Scott turns to Stiles with a clearly panicked expression.  “Dude, we drank a lot of water,” he says,  “Like way more than three sips.”  

    Stiles looks back at Lydia with bulging eyes and a crumpled mouth.  “Are we gonna die?”

    “No,” Derek laughs,  “But you might wish you were dead.  And you’ll definitely wish you brought more toilet paper.”

    The night air is brisk inside the tent, and the chill keeps Lydia from falling back asleep.  Sleepless nights aren’t so bad anymore; at least she’s used to them.  However, the nightmares still bother her and urge her to resist the realm of sleep.  She shares a tent with Malia and Kira, and it’s unpleasantly cramped between the three of them.  The banshee crawls from the her sleeping bag and slips her boots over her socks while grabbing her jacket.  She sees her tiny white puffs of breath in the cold outside as she opens the tent, and the manifestation of her life in water droplets calms her rapid heartbeat.  The fire has long died out, taking its warmth with it, so there’s no point in hanging around the campsite.  Lydia zips her jacket and shoves her hands in the pockets before starting the silent trek to the lake.  Once she clears the line of trees, the moonlight seems to explode over the landscape.  Every rock and ripple in the cold water glows under the moon’s stretched fingers.  

    Derek’s plan seems to have fallen flat on its face.  Lydia’s not sure what he wanted to happen anyway.  Maybe he thought the forest would inspire some deep longing for a pack experience.  And maybe it did inspire those feelings in the were-critters.  Malia certainly seems rejuvenated.  As for the banshee, she feels more isolated than before the trip.  The Great Pretender.  What a terrible thing to call someone.  It’s not her fault Scott still feels guilty.  She can’t fix everything.  And what she can’t fix, she knows a conversation won’t solve.  Even if it could, she has no idea what she’d say to Scott.  Clean the gears, yeah right.  Relationships aren’t machines.  You can’t just replace the broken pieces.  Lydia rubs her nose with her sleeve and stares at the placid water.  A rock to throw would make her feel better.  She searches with one hand for pebbles, gathering the smooth stones beside her in a pile.  Is her relationship with Scott broken?  She squeezes the pebble in her hand before flinging it as hard as she can at the lake’s surface.  The stone plops into the water, the tail of its splash curving up like a dolphin’s fin before disappearing back into the rippled waves.  Her cheeks are cold.  She lifts her hands to warm her face but stills when she feels a wetness.  She recognizes the sensation of water droplets  slipping between her fingers. Rain?  She lifts her head to the stars, but sees nothing.  Lydia looks back down at her lap, momentarily baffled, until she realizes the water comes from her.  How lame.  How pathetic.  She hates crying.  It’s the most useless activity.  Nothing but a weakness.  The banshee fortifies herself with disgust at the emotional display and successfully dries her tears.  She picks up another pebble to throw, but stills when she hears a branch crunch behind her.  Are there bears on this mountain?  Or maybe it’s a cougar?  She rises to her full height and  unzips her jacket to appear larger.  Lydia stands motionless, arms stretched wide, like the wings of a totem pole.  The snapping of dead branches draws closes until she can hear the shuffling steps of an animal at the tree line.  She braces herself for the creature’s approach, but soon the steps take on a slipping dimension, and a recognizable, but muffled, voice mutters a soft string of curse words.

    “Scott?” she calls out to the trees.

    “Ouch!  Yeah, it’s me,” he says.  “Dammit.”

    “What are you doing?”

    “Uh, right now, I’m kinda fallin-”  He interrupts himself with loud crash and tumbles through the tree line.

    Lydia lets her arms drop to her sides and zips her jacket back up before turning towards the lake with a deep sigh.

    “Why are you out here?” she says.

    “I couldn’t sleep.  Then I heard you get up and I’d figured I follow you.”

    “So you’re spying on me?”

    “Talking with someone isn’t spying on them,” he corrects.  “Spying is more like hiding behind a tree when you’re supposed to be gathering wood for the fire.”

    Lydia whips around to face the werewolf, her mouth already open in outrage.  “You knew I was listening earlier?”

    Scott taps his nose as a response and walks past the banshee to sit by the water’s edge.  “I thought you’d try to talk with me if you overheard us.”

    “Well, you were wrong,” she snaps.

    “I guess I was,” he says as he picks up a pebble from Lydia’s pile.  He turns it over in his palm before setting it back down with the others.  “Are we fighting?”

    “Do you think we are?”

    “I don’t know,” he huffs,  “That’s why I’m asking you.”
    
    Lydia sits on the other side of the pebbles and stretches her legs out as she leans her head back to stare at the dark sky.

    “I don’t know either,” she confesses without looking at the boy next to her.  The two teens fall into the surrounding quiet of the forest.  The peaceful calm of the shore starts to grate on the banshee’s nerves, and Lydia chooses the largest stone from the pile to toss into the lake.  The splash shatters the silence into unrecognizable shards.  “Why does everyone think I’m pretending?  And why does everyone only question me?  What about you?  Maybe you’re a big faker too.”  She tilts her head to fire an impertinent side-eye in Scott’s direction.  “But I guess no one cares about that.”

    “Lydia,”  Scott starts, but Lydia cuts him off.    

    “Seriously though!  Don’t you think it’s bizarre?  I mean, we’re doing the exact same thing,” the banshee says.  She slips her legs underneath her and straightens her back as she stares at the water.  The wind creates gentle ripples of the surface of the lake, and she releases a breath she hadn’t been aware she was holding.  “We’ve changed, but we didn’t want too.  I haven’t figured out how yet, but I know I’m different.  And it’s not just my death, you know?  We’ve been slowly changing for a long time now.”  She knocks the pile of pebbles over with her index finger.  “You want to have an honest conversation?”

    “Yes, please,” Scott says.  “I’ll listen to everything you have to say.”

    “But you have to be honest too,” she says.

    “Of course, totally,” he agrees.

    “I don’t know how to feel about anything anymore.  I know our pack wants to help. I know we want to be useful.  But all the beliefs that I died protecting. .  . I don’t believe them anymore.  I don’t think we’re helping.  It feels more like we’re cleaning up after the messes we make.”

    “What are you talking about?  We stopped the dead-pool, didn’t we?  Peter’s locked up, isn’t he?  Have you even thought about how many lives we saved?”

    “Lives that I put in danger in the first place,”  Lydia says.  “Peter would be still dead if I hadn’t brought him back to life, and the dead-pool was put into motion because of my scream.”

    “Those things were beyond your control, and you know it,” says Scott.

    “Exactly,” she says in high-pitched tone.  “Don’t you see?  People like us, Scott, we can’t afford to have our powers be one of the things beyond our control.  How can we help people?  How can we help this town when its biggest threat is our lack of understanding what we are?”

    “You’re over thinking this,”  he says.

    “Am I?”

    “Yes,” he snaps, “You are.  You’re focusing on the unknowns instead of dealing with the facts at hand.”

    “The facts at hand?” she scoffs.  “Oh, do pray tell, Scott.  What are the facts at hand?”

    He rolls his eyes at her mocking tone, and lets out a deep sigh.  “Look, I promised to be honest.  And maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think you’ve lost your trust in the pack.  It’s me, Lydia.  You don’t trust me anymore.  You’re hurt and you’re angry and those feelings are too much for you so it’s easier to just write the whole pack off.”

    “Displacement,” she says.

    “What?”

    “Displacement, Scott,” she sighs,  “It’s the word for the concept you just described.”

    “Okay, so it’s a real thing.  That strengthens my case, right?”  

    “You know what’s funny?”  Lydia says as she rolls a pebble between her hands.  “I thought I had to be okay around you for the good of the pack.  Malia even tried to tell me it was a bad idea. How was I supposed to know the coyote was right?”  She flings the pebble into the lake.  “You remember everything, don’t you?”  Lydia turns with her words to look at the boy next to her.  She curls her legs up to her chest and leans her chin on her knees.

    The question makes Scott visibly uncomfortable.  His back hunches and his limbs tighten while his eyes stay transfixed on the opposite shoreline.

    “Scott?” she says,  “Honest conversation, remember?”

    “Yeah, I remember everything,” he sighs.  “What I said.  What I did.  How I felt.  It’s all here.”  He taps a finger to his temple.

    “Would you be able to forgive you if you were me?”

    “I can barely forgive me as me.”

    “That’s not my question,”  she says.  Her tone is sharp.  She reaches for Scott’s hand and holds it, palm up, in the moonlight.  “When I look at your hand, I remember how it felt squeezing my neck.  I see it dripping my blood.”  She intertwines her fingers with his.  “We used to hold hands like this, and it would calm me.  I knew I had your strength as a friend and an Alpha.  I never imagined a day that power would be turned against me.”  Lydia slips her fingers from his and folds her hands in her lap.  “You’re right, Scott.  I don’t trust you.  I have no idea if I ever will again.”

Chapter Text

    Lydia risks a glance in his direction.  Scott looks pale in the silver light.  His eyes seem weary and his shoulders hang lifeless.

    “Does that make you mad?” she asks.

    “No, of course not,” he says in croaky tone,  “I mean, I knew that already.  I just needed to know that you knew.  But it makes me sad.  Like really fucking sad.”  He picks up a stick that he breaks in half continuously until the parts are too small to break.  He adds the pieces to Lydia’s scattered pebbles.  “You said we’re changing.  It’s true.  I can’t keep pretending I’m the same person I was.  It’s like I can’t hide things from myself when I’m around you, and that does kinda piss me off.  I know it’s not your fault, but. . . I don’t know.  Never mind. ”

    “But what?  I make you feel like a monster?  That’s what you told Stiles today.”

    “Yeah,” he says as he turns to face her,  “You do.  The part of me that did those things - it’s still there.  I feel it every time I see you.  Every time I smell you.  And it takes effort to control it.”

    “Well, congratulations on not acting on your homicidal fantasies,”  she laughs, but the sound feels hollow and empty.  “Jesus Christ, Scott.  What I am I supposed to say to that?  Thank you?  You killed me, and now you want me to apologize for how that makes you feel?”

    “Uhhh,”  he groans loudly.  “God dammit, that’s not what I meant.  Why do you always have to make things a fight?”

    “Then what did you mean?  How was I supposed to interpret it?”  she says.

    “I don’t know!”

    “Whatever, it doesn’t matter anyway,” she says while swinging her hair over her shoulder.  “I’m  moving over the break.  Transferring schools and everything.  So I won’t be around to remind you of your monstrous nature.”

    “What?”  His mouth hangs open after his question.

    “It’s my parents idea - I don’t really have a choice,” Lydia shrugs, “but I’m starting to think it’s for the best.  We could all use a break from each other.  Don’t you think?”

    “You’re seriously moving?”

    “Yep.”

    “When?”

    “I just told you, over the break.”

    “No, I mean, when were you gonna tell us?”

    “When the time felt right.”

    Scott pushes himself up into a slow stand.  He watches Lydia with his back to the moon and his face drowned in darkness, but she doesn’t need moonlight to read his expression.  Lydia imagines stern eyes and a wrinkled brow over frowning lips from the placement and angle of Scott’s feet - left foot forward with the knee slightly bent and the right leg turned out with a soldier’s posture.  

    “You should tell them tomorrow,” he says in a tone that matches her prediction of his tense face.  “If you don’t, I will.”  He turns without waiting for her response and walks back into the woods.

    She doesn’t breathe until she’s sure Scott is out of ear shot, and the air rips in and out of her lungs with heaving gasps when she finally opens her mouth.  Her eyes start to burn and soon her face twists, and the energy building in her limbs becomes overwhelming in its demand.  She gives in to her trembling mind and body with a deep whine that crescendos to a sharp sob.  The banshee presses her face to the dirt and groans at her tears.  She stays unmoving, save for the sobs that force her to chin to twitch, and waits for her tears to dry.  The tension gone from her body, her skin slowly drips to the earth and makes contact like a slug’s kiss.  Her brain feels sluggish as well.  She focuses on her breath and its white trails of moisture.  That’s it.  The only thought that will fit in her mind is her own life force.  The moment she thinks about Scott, or Allison, the white trails disappear, and it’s not until she’s lightheaded that she remembers no trails means she’s not breathing.  But gasping is useless when your lungs are chopping like the shoreline.  Plus it sounds ridiculous.  She sits up and drops her head between her knees.  She has to get control of her heartbeat and breathing before she goes back to camp.  

    Lydia wakes up when she hears Malia open the tent flap.  The banshee probably slept for three hours at the most, but Lydia’s good at living with no sleep.  She sits up and quietly reaches for her bag so as not wake the still sleeping kitsune.  She changes into a blue hoodie and jeans and crawls out the tent with her boots in hand.  Malia turns from the fire she’s building to watch Lydia with a half-smile.  It proves more difficult than Lydia anticipated to put her boots on while standing.  After the struggle, she shambles over to the fire to sit next to the were-coyote.

    “Morning, “ Lydia greets with a small yawn.  The air is chilly, and she scoots closer to the young fire while cupping her hands over her warm breath.

    “Morning,”  Malia returns with a toothy smile.  She places the last log on top of the kindling.  “We’re gonna need more wood for today and tonight.  But this should get us through breakfast at least.”

    “Sure,” Lydia says with a stretch,  “We’ll get some after we eat.”

    It isn’t long after the girls start frying eggs that the two werewolves emerge with groans.  Derek stretches as he exits his tent and plops down barefoot next to Malia.

    “Sunny-side up please,” he says while yawning.

    Scott pokes his head out of his tent and calls out,  “Same, please!”

    Lydia rolls her eyes and hands the were-coyote two more eggs.

    After breakfast, the two girls excuse themselves to gather more firewood.  Lydia keeps with Malia’s pace for the most part - regardless of what direction Lydia walks, she keeps Malia in the corner of her vision.  The silence of the woods seems appropriate, and neither teenager breaks it with idle chatter.  However, it’s a repetitive and dulling task, collecting firewood.  And so what begins as a potential distraction from her chaotic thoughts quickly swerves into extreme annoyance.  Lydia shifts her stance to balance the bundle on her hip while she moves the arm holding it forward.  The new position allows her to bend over to retrieve a stick and pass it to her other hand to be tucked in the bundle, all in one fluid, efficient movement.  The tedious act leads her mind to gray areas.  To areas she only explores at night.  Once there, her thoughts feel muddled and warped.  Always the same, yet unrecognizable in the light of day.  Why should she stop at communicating with the dead?  Her hand stills and hovers over the forest floor.  If she truly has the power she thinks she does, she could easily do more than speak to a spirit.   Nope.  She can’t entertain these thoughts.  She pushes against them with all her might.  All her morality.  And still, the whispers persist.  Soft but incessant.  

    What if there’s a way to see her again for real? After all, what is death but another door to be opened for a banshee?  

    Lydia scoffs and surges her hand forward to grab a broken branch.  She must be going crazy - making up ideas like that in her subconscious.  Or at least she hopes the whispers are from her subconscious.  The thought of the other-side beckoning her with this information is unpleasant.

    She hears the leaves crunching behind her and turns around to show off her kindling-collecting skills to Malia.  Except the were-coyote isn’t there.

    “Malia?”  Lydia asks in a small voice.  The absolute quiet of the woods is the only stifling response.  

    The banshee wastes no time and quietly drops her bundle of sticks to the forest floor.  She knows what it means when the birds won’t chirp.  She hears a low groaning roar as she turns to sprint back towards camp.  She has this sound memorized now.  Berserkers are quite distinct.  She pumps her legs harder at the sound of crashing behind her.  If she runs straight, it’ll catch up in now time.  She needs to change her path and create obstacles.  Lydia grabs the nearest tree branch and uses it to throw her body to the left.  Her adrenaline makes easy work of the creek banks that feed to the lake and soon she finds herself breaking the tree line of the lakeshore.  She turns her back to the water and stares at the woods while catching her breath.  The berserker pushes past a pine tree but stops at the sight of Lydia standing still by the shore.  She can tell it’s waiting - but not for her.  A slender silhouette extracts itself from the shaded trees and stands with an almost lazy posture next to the beast.  Lydia’s heart flutters as brunette hair flashes auburn under the sun.  

    Why does she keep seeing Allison with a berserker?

    The hunter rushes her before the question can be pondered.  Allison grabs her by the shoulders, and Lydia watches as the berserker advances towards them.

    “Let me go!”  the banshee screams as she pushes against the arms holding her, but the hunter’s grip is unyielding.  The berserker marches forward, and Lydia can already feel the boned fist that promises to smash her face.  She doesn’t want to do this, but she doesn’t want to die either.  Lydia reaches into the pocket of her hoodie and pulls out a broken silver tipped arrow.   

    “I’m so sorry, Allison,” she says as she swings the arrow at the hunter’s temple.

    Her attack is stopped short by a stone grip on her wrist.

    “Lydia, stop.”

    Her blood runs cold at the command.   

    “What are you doing?” the voice continues.

    She whips her head to see who dares retrain her, but her anger dissipates at the image of a pale and sleep-deprived boy.

    “Stiles?” she says, “What are you doing?”

    “What am I-” the boy stutters in clear exasperation. “What are you doing?”  he emphasizes his words with a gentle shaking of her wrist.  

    Lydia shifts her gaze from the silver arrow in her captured wrist to the hunter that still holds her.  “I was-” she stops when she catches sight of the clawed hands gripping her shoulders.  Her heart sinks as she raises her eyes to meet the questioning glare of Malia.  Lydia can see Scott  and Kira standing with a shocked expression over the were-coyote’s shoulder.

    “Is that one of Allison’s arrows?”  Stiles continues,  “Lydia, what’s going on?  That, that-” his voice shakes as he increases his volume.  “A fucking silver arrow to the brain would kill her!”

    “Stiles,” Scott calls out, “Let go of her, dude.”

    Lydia says nothing as Stiles’s face scrunches to a heated pinch.  The boy drops her wrist to run both hands through his hair.   He shakes his head slowly between his hands then sits down facing the lake, and although his back faces her, Lydia can feel his eyes, blown wide with fear and anger, still blistering her skin.

    “I’m sorry,”  the banshee says, but the words sound wheezy and air-filled.  She clears her throat and says it again, stronger this time.  

    “It’s okay,” Scott says as he walks towards her with his hands up and visible.  “Everything’s okay, Lydia.  You’re safe.”

    “I think she knows that,”  Malia cuts in sharply.  “Don’t you?” she continues as she lifts her chin at the banshee.  Lydia nods.  The were-coyote studies her in silence, and Lydia has a hard time deciphering any of the emotions that flicker in Malia’s stare.  “So what happened?” she finally says,  “I lost you in the woods, and when I find here, you almost kill me.”      

    “I don’t know.  I didn’t recognize you,”  Lydia says,  “I haven’t been sleeping that great. It’s probably just sleep deprivation.”  

    “Bullshit!” says Stiles as he stands up and turns to face her.  “She’s lying.”

    “About my sleep deprivation?”  

    “What?”  Stiles says, “Okay, I actually didn’t hear what you said, but I assumed it was something about how this has only happened, once so it’s no big deal.”

    “It has only happened once,” Lydia declares.

    Stiles lurches forward as he points a finger at the banshee.  “Lies,” he hisses.  “I saw you in the hallway when you ran out of Coach’s class this week.  She acted like someone was chasing her.”

    “Wait, seriously?” asks Scott while he turns to look at Lydia.

    “I remember that actually,” Kira says in a hesitant tone,  “She just bolted from the room without saying anything.”

    “Have you noticed anything, Malia?”  the Alpha asks.

    “Don’t talk about me like I’m not here,”  Lydia snaps.

    “We just want to help you,” Scott continues,  “That’s all we want to do.”

    “No, it’s not,” she says with her hands on her hips.  “I know what you really care about.  I know why you want to help.  Why won’t you just ask me?”

    Scott’s shoulders melt to his ribcage as he meets Lydia’s determined stare.  When he gives her only silence, she turns her eyes, now tinged with desperation, to Stiles.

    “Please,” she says,  “Just ask me.  Stiles, I’ll seriously lose my mind if you don’t just fucking say it.”  She feels a sickness coil in her stomach as the boy bites his lip and turns away from her.

    “I’ll say it.”  Malia’s voice is unforgiving in its nonchalance.  “Are we at risk?  These visions - will they affect the pack?”

    “Malia,”  Stiles groans as he drops his head back.

    “What?  She said to say it, so I’m saying it,”  the were-coyote shrugs.  “It’s what we’re all thinking anyway, right?  You’re visions usually mean something. I mean, you are a banshee.”

    “That’s right,” Lydia says while dropping her arms to her side.  “I am banshee, which means I know the difference between a warning and stress-induced hallucinations.”

    “That’s not the point, Lydia,”  Scott says,  “We’re a pack, and like it or not, your ‘stress-induced’ behaviors always happen before a crisis.  We can’t keep things from each other.  Not anymore.”

    “Oh my god,” she laughs,  “Are you serious?  This is how its gonna be?  Everyone gets a private life except for me?  No secrets for Lydia.”

    “Lydia, that’s not what-”

    “But it is!” she cuts off Stiles with her words.  “That’s exactly what that means!”  She walks away from the shore with heavy, stomping steps but doesn’t miss the knowing look shared between Scott and Stiles.

    “Wait, where are you going?” Scott calls out as he jogs up behind her.

    “Back to camp to get my cellphone,”  she answers without turning to face him.

    “Why?’

    “So I can tell Jordan to come pick me up.”

    “Lydia, stop.”

    “This was a terrible idea,” she continues without acknowledging Scott.  “I knew I shouldn’t have come. I hate camping.  I’m not ready.”

    “Lydia,” he says again, and she can tell he tries to mask the anger in his voice.  He reaches a hand out to catch her hoodie, but Lydia spins to face him the moment he makes contact, breaking his grip on her clothing.

    “Don’t touch me, McCall,”  she says behind wide eyes.  “I am so fucking serious.  If you touch me one more time without my permission, I’ll scream until your ears bleed.”

    He draws his hand back slowly and watches her with tired eyes.  “Why are you being like this?”

    It’s official.  She hates him.  She hates him so fucking much.

    “What ever I’m like, it’s because of you,”  Lydia says quietly.  “It’s your fault.  And I can’t even go through it in privacy.  No, I have to make a spectacle of myself in front of the pack.    You have no idea what that feels like, Scott.  To have your friends cross their fingers that you’re going insane.  Nothing to worry about, just Lydia being crazy again, right?  How many voices do you think she heard today?”

    “What are you talking about?  No one wishes you were crazy!”

    Lydia ignores him and continues her rant.  “I can’t stand this anymore.  I don’t understand how any of you think you’re helping me.”  Her voice is thick and she can’t stop the tremors that run through her throat.  “Did anyone ask if I was okay?” she says.  “Did anyone actually care about me?  No. You only care about my powers.  That’s the only meaning I’ll ever have to the pack, and I’m fucking sick of it.”  She turns from Scott and continues her march to camp.

    “Lydia, please wait and talk to us about this.”

    “No, leave me alone,” she says without turning around.

    “But you haven’t even told them you’re moving yet,” he says with a whine.

    “You can tell them for me, I don’t give a shit.  I’m done pretending.”


    Lydia turns her phone off the second she gets in Jordan’s car.  It started raining while she was packing and now the droplets hammer down on the windshield wipers with brutal force.  Jordan doesn’t ask her what’s wrong.  He seems to understand that she needs time before she can discuss it.  The ride is silent save for the sound of the rain, and Lydia keeps her eyes trained out the passenger side window to avoid acknowledging the awkward quiet.  Once she starts to see signs for Beacon Hills she turns to Jordan and clears her throat.

    “You can drop me off at Deaton’s,” she says softly.  The Deputy nods with a sigh.

    The car whines to a stop in front of the vets and Lydia grabs her array of bags to exit.

    “Lydia,” Jordan says.

    She looks over her shoulder and waits for him to continue.

    “You know you can always talk to me.  About anything. I’m here for you, night or day.”
    
    She nods and turns back to the car door, but Jordan places a hand on her shoulder.

    “I’m worried about you,” he says,  “And I won’t force you to talk about it, but I need you to know that.”

    She closes her eyes and takes his words deep into her heart.  How does he always know what she needs to hear?  She sets her bags down to lean over the center console and wraps her arms fiercely around Jordan, tucking her head into the crook of his neck.

    “Thank you,” she whispers.


    The soaked banshee stands in a near stupor in the middle of the vet waiting room as Deaton looks for a clean towel.  The water puddles under her feet and she can hear the small splashes the droplets make as they escape her wet hair.  Deaton returns with a mug of coffee and a towel.  He hands the mug to Lydia and then drapes the towel over her shoulders.
    
    “Camping didn’t agree with you?”

    She doesn’t dignify the question with a response and instead walks over to sit by his desk and drink her warm coffee.  The Druid watches her with seemingly clinical yet caring eyes.

    “No, of course it didn’t,” he answers his own question and sits down behind his desk to face her.  “But I’m sensing there are larger issues at play here.”

    Lydia looks up dully from her drink and shrugs.

    “Or perhaps I’m wrong,” he continues, “Perhaps you just decided to stop by and enjoy a cup of coffee at your local veterinary office.”

    “You’re not as good at this as your sister was,” Lydia says with a small smile.

    “Well, she was a counselor,” he says, “I, on the other hand, am a vet, so I’m not used to my patients talking,” he finishes with a warm smile.

    Lydia lets out a tiny laugh and sets her cup down on the desk.  She takes the corner of the towel and wipes away the water that drips from her hair to her face.

    “I’m moving.  I don’t want to, but I have to,” she says after a long silence.  “And things have been so messed up lately, I almost tricked myself into thinking it was my best option, but . .  . the pack,” her words fade softly.

    Deaton remains quiet, silently beckoning her to continue with a nod of his head.   

    “I just don’t know how I feel about anything anymore,” she says,  “When I’m not around them, I think about them. I miss them.  I want to help them.  And then I see their faces and I remember things, and I get so pissed off.  I can’t even stand to hear their voices.  How does that even work?”  She crosses her legs and looks down at her lap to her fidgeting hands.  “I resent them.  Every single one of them.”

    “Why?”  The question is posed gently by the Druid.  It’s clear he makes every effort to keep the word free of any accusation.     

    “Look,” the banshee sighs, “The only way I know to explain it is this:  Everyone has a role in the pack, and mine is the canary.  I don’t even feel like a person anymore.  The way they look at me - like I’m a just weekly weather forecast or something.”

    Deaton sits back in his chair and folds his hands on the desk.  

    “It’s times like this,” he begins slowly, “That I find it difficult to be an Emissary.”  Lydia looks up sharply from her lap.  “I want to be able to comfort you,” he continues, “I want tell you that everything will work itself out, but you and I both know that isn’t true.  Banshees are supernatural creatures of a very strange nature.  You’re much closer to the unknown than any other being.  You stand at the threshold between this world and the next.  Anything that disrupts that balance will show itself through you.”

    “So I have no choice is what you’re saying?”  she says. “No matter what, I’ll always be a canary?  That’s not fair.”

    “No, it’s not,” Deaton agrees, “But there is very little fairness in life, Lydia.  I’m sure you know this by now.”

    The banshee crushes her lips between her teeth and shrugs the towel off her shoulders with a shake of her head.  

    “I don’t really know what I expected from coming here, but thanks for listening to me anyway,” she says as she stands and turns to the door.

    “Lydia,” Deaton says in a calm voice.  She stops with her hand on the doorknob but doesn’t turn around to face him.  “You may be trapped in this role, but don’t ever think you’re as helpless as a canary.  You have far more power than you realize.”

    She exits without acknowledging his words.

    Rain obscures Lydia’s vision of the parking lot, and as the wet cold creeps under her jacket, she wishes she hadn’t insisted that Jordan leave.  He’d wanted to wait for her, but she’d been stuck in a self-punishing mode of thought.  His offer had repulsed her in that moment.  Lydia gnashes her teeth and pulls her jacket tighter in a futile battle to keep out the rain.  Stupid girl.  She hates this about herself.  Why does present Lydia have to suffer for past Lydia’s tantrums?  What does walking home in a storm even prove?  How pitiful she is?  Lydia can’t draw any other conclusion.  She hates pity, and thats the point.  This punishment functions on multiple levels.  Stupid smart girl.  All that awareness, and yet she knows nothing.  Contradictions are all she has left.  And they’re everywhere.  They scratch her eyes and get caught between her teeth.  It’s maddening.  Why does she feel so bad for walking out on the pack when they deserved it?  If someone had just tried to connect with her before demanding answers, maybe she wouldn’t be walking home in the rain right now.  They expect too much of her. Everyone else can control their freak abilities.  They can’t understand what it’s like to have random power.     

    Someone shouting her name startles the banshee, and Lydia turns swiftly to see Derek leaning out the window of his Camaro.  The werewolf motions for her to get in the car, and she doesn’t wait for a second invitation.  Lydia plops into the passenger seat with a sigh and pushes her waterlogged hair from her face.

    “Shouldn’t you be up in the mountains?” she says while buckling her seatbelt.

    “I had everyone pack up after you left,” he says before turning into the parking lot of a coffee shop.  “Camping sucks in the rain anyway. Here, hold on,” he continues, “Just looking at you is making me cold.  I’ll be right back.”

    Lydia watches Derek run across the parking lot and disappear inside the building.  He returns four minutes later with two steaming cups of coffee in his hands.  He gives one to Lydia as he gets in the car.

    “Thanks,” she says as she holds the warmth between her palms.    

    “Jordan picked you up, right?  Why were you walking?”

    “I had him drop me off at Deaton’s,” she says.

    “And he didn’t wait?”

    “I didn’t let him,” she says after taking a sip of her coffee.  “Anyway, I’m not going to apologize, if that’s your game plan.  I don’t think I did anything wrong.”

    “You’re right,” says the werewolf,  “You didn’t do anything anything wrong.  It was my fault.  I shouldn’t have pushed us into a trip.”  
         
    The banshee watches him carefully from the sides of her eyes.

    “But they’re terrified, Lydia,” he continues,  “You guys have been through so much that I forget you’re still just kids.  No question about it - what happened at the lake should have been handled better, but it’s only their fear getting the better of them.”

    Lydia rolls her eyes at the obvious statement.  “It’s their fear that I resent,” she huffs.  “Do you know how much of burden it is?  What it feels like to have everyone turn to you like that?”

    “I know,” Derek nods, “It’s an extreme responsibility, but it’s meaningless with out the power to back it.  And you have that power.”

    “Are you trying to build up to the Spiderman quote?”  she snorts, but stops her laughter at Derek’s confused face.  “Nevermind,” she says.  Stiles would’ve have appreciated the reference.  Derek turns the car into her driveway, and she reaches for the door handle.

    “Power doesn’t automatically create responsibility, Lydia,” the werewolf says.  She looks back at Derek over her shoulder as he continues, “Responsibility is created from the expectations of those around you.  You carry this burden because the pack trusts and respects you.”  

    Lydia pulls her lips into a sharp grin.  “Yippie,” she says in a falsetto voice.  Derek seems unimpressed at her sarcasm and the banshee sighs.  “I know all of that already, okay?  You’re the third person to say it to me,” she says.  “I just have a lot of things going on right now.  A lot of unprocessed things.  Like my death, for instance.  And it’s not like I’m leaving the pack. I mean, I’m moving, but I can’t control that.  I’ll still be a part of the pack. . . probably.”

    “Don’t rush things on how you feel,” Derek says with sad smile,  “This weekend was my fault.  I should’ve known to give you more time. I hope it didn’t set you back too much.”

    “Please,” Lydia says as she tosses her hair over her shoulder,  “It takes way more than that to set me back.  But time never hurt anything, right?”  She attempts a smile as she exits the car, but she can tell from the tension in her jaw that it came off more as a smirk.  She realizes a smirk works better with her image anyway as she slams the car door.  

    Monday comes far too quickly for the banshee’s liking.  Lydia still hasn’t decided if she’s going to tell the pack about her Berserker visions as she pulls into the Beacon High parking lot.  On the one hand, it feels like the right thing to do, but on the other, it feels wrong depending on the pack when she doesn’t trust Scott.  Lydia doesn’t hate the True Alpha at the moment, but she knows that could change when she sees his face.  She doesn’t want to make waves in the group so maybe it’s best to keep her distance.  But if, on the off chance, her visions aren’t PTSD related, she’d be leaving the pack exposed by not telling them.  Lydia parks and then drops her head to the steering wheel.  Today already sucks.

    A tapping on her window registers in her mind and Lydia raises her head to see Kira shyly standing next to the banshee’s car.  The kitsune waits until Lydia is out of the car to speak.

    “Morning,” she greets in a soft voice.  “Um, listen, I want to say I’m sorry.”  Kira looks down at her feet and puts a hand to on the back of her neck.  “Derek was really pissed at everyone for what happened.”

    “It’s fine,” Lydia says as she starts walking towards the school building.

    “No, it’s not fine,” says Kira as she speed walks next to the banshee,  “You’re going through something.  Something’s really bothering you and instead of trying to figure it out with you, we cornered you.  That’s not how friends help each other.  I’m really sorry, Lydia.”

    Kira’s words make Lydia feel toasty inside, but she keeps her face neutral.

    “I promise not be an asshole like that in the future,” the kitsune finishes.

    “I’m going to hold you to that promise,” Lydia says as she pushes a clump of hair from her face.  Kira smiles brightly at the response as she turns the corner and offers a frantic farewell wave to the banshee before she disappears down the hallway.

    Lydia slows her steps and lets out a loud sigh when she spots the lurker next to her locker.

    “Good morning, Scott,” she says in a dull tone without looking up as she enters her combination.  She sees his feet shift clumsily in the corner of her vision.

    “Uh, yeah, morning,” answers the Alpha.  Eloquent as always.  The open locker blocks Lydia’s view of Scott’s face, but if his body language and voice are any indication, the werewolf is embarrassed.  “So I, um,” he stops then starts again, “That is, uh, I know,” he stops again and sighs.  Lydia closes her locker loudly, and turns to the stuttering teenager.

    “Scott,” she says in a clipped tone,  “If you’re trying to apologize, just forget it.  Kira already said sorry.  I assume it’s on behalf of everyone.”

    “No, that’s not it,” he says,  “I mean I do want to apologize, but it’s just. . . I want to talk to you.”

    Lydia tilts her head as she pushes her lips out into a frown.  “I’m not eager to repeat our last conversation,” she says as she starts to walk away.  Scott scrambles to keep up with her heeled strides.

    “That’s the thing,” he says, “It won’t be a repeat.  I promise.  I talked to Derek, and I think I get it now.”

    “Get what?”

    “How you feel.”

    Lydia stops to face him.  “I don’t even know how I feel, Scott,” she says, “How could you possible know?”

    “Just give me a chance, okay?  Please?” He puts his whole body into the plea, clasping his hands while widening his eyes and bending his knees, back, and shoulders.  Lydia’s height has increased by four inches thanks to the soft pink peep-toe heels the banshee sports today, and the Alpha stands almost three inches shorter than her in his currently curved position.  The satisfaction of seeing the top of his head nearly stills her breathing.  She feels a strange inner peace at being able to physically look down at the True Alpha.  Scott straightens his body, as if somehow sensing Lydia’s thoughts, and the height ratio shifts back in the werewolf’s favor.  He says something, but Lydia misses what it is in the process of trying to shake off the serene spell left by her brief moment of physical advantage.  She ignores the heated embarrassment creeping over her cheeks that accompanies the realization that she had officially zoned out.  Lydia clears her throat and tosses her hair over her shoulder with a flick of her wrist.   
    
    “Fine, we can talk,” she says, addressing the only the topic she can remember.  She mentally crosses her fingers that it’s a suitable response to whatever Scott just said.

    “Really?”

    “Yes, really,” she answers with a huff.

    “Alright,” says Scott as a relieved looking grin spreads across his face.  “Then how about after school in the library?”  

    Lydia nods in agreement as the first bell rings then disappears into her classroom with a passing group of students.  She sits in a desk close to the front and sets her purse on top of it.  The banshee busies herself pulling a notebook and pens from the oversized accessory.  Her fingers brush against a sharp point and she draws her hand back with a shocked hiss.  Allison’s silver arrowhead.  The banshee’s been carrying it with her since she got out of the hospital.  It must have fallen out of the scarf used to wrap it.  Lydia tenderly reaches back into her purse and holds the arrowhead in her palm before wrapping it back up in the silk scarf.  Maybe she’ll make the tip into a necklace.  Would Allison like that? She tucks the bundle in her purse and uncaps her pen.  She’s already read past the chapter that the teacher is lecturing on, but taking notes helps keep her mind occupied which it does nicely until the bell rings for class change.  Second period passes as quietly as first, and soon Lydia finds herself having to occupy her mind through third period.  She succeeds for most of class until she feels her mental control slipping and gives up on taking notes altogether.  She’ll draw instead.  The banshee presses the pen hard against the paper to create small, scratchy lines.  Lydia has no idea what the lines are supposed to form, but she knows it’s relaxing to draw them.  She stills the pen when she realizes the teacher has stopped talking.  The silence of the room takes on an unnatural quality, and fear begins to coil in Lydia’s stomach.  She lifts her head at the sound of soft growling to her far left.  A berserker hovers in the classroom door.  A tainted laugh catches Lydia’s attention next, and she turns to see Allison perched on the teacher’s desk.  The hunter smiles at her with a mocking tilt of her slender neck.  The berserker walks with thumping footfalls that echo in the banshee’s already hammering heart.  There’s no where to run this time.  Lydia grips the edges of her desk and closes her eyes.  She won’t die, she tells herself.  It’s not real.  It can’t hurt her.  She squeezes her eyes shut tighter at the tickling sensation of warm breath ruffling her hair.  It’s not real.  Bone clicks against the pressed wood as the creature grips the desk and leans in closer.  It’s not real.  Lydia counts to the three and opens her eyes.  A bone-plated face stares back at the banshee with an uncanny familiarity she can’t place.

    “Lydia?”

    The sound of her name breaks through Lydia’s panic, and the berserker is gone before she can even turn her head to see who called out to her.

    “Lydia?”  The soft voice repeats, and Lydia looks up to see Kira smiling down at her.  “That was the lunch bell.  Let’s go,”  the kitsune continues before she looks down at Lydia’s notebook.  “Hey, that’s neat,” she says with a nod,  “What is it?”

    Lydia fixes her eyes on the notebook in confusion and sets the pen down that just seconds ago she had moving in furious patterns over the paper.

    “I don’t know,” the banshee answers slowly as she studies the design.  “But something tells me we need to find out.”

    The rest of the pack sits quietly at the lunch table after Lydia shows them the unknown design.  Stiles leans back in his chair until its front two legs lift off the tile while drumming his fingers next to his tray.  He titters precariously a moment then allows the chair to return all four legs to the ground with a slam that launches him forward.

    “And you don’t remember drawing it?”  Stiles says as he reaches for the piece of paper.

    “I remember starting it, but I don’t remember finishing it,”  says Lydia.  “I don’t recognize any of the patterns either.”

    “Could it be another language?”  Kira asks.  

    “It’s possible,” Lydia says, “But if it is, it’s one I’ve never seen before.  And look, see how the lines come together like they’re merging?  Typically, a written language has more distinct symbols than that.  If this is a language, it’s an old one.”  She finishes with a sigh.

    “Lydia,” says Stiles as he cradles his head in his hands, “I’m not trying to be mean, but have you ever thought of trance writing answers instead of their impossible-to-solve, riddle counterparts?”  He wipes a hand down his face with the question.

    “Come on, dude,” Scott says, “They’re not impossible.  We solved every single one so far.”

    “Yeah, literally by the hairs on our chinny-chin-chins!” Stiles counters loudly.

    Lydia rolls her eyes at his outburst and continues speaking as if Stiles had never opened his mouth.  “There’s one more thing,” she says while tucking some hair behind her ear.  She’s not eager to open this topic of discussion, but after the events of third period, she can’t risk keeping it a secret any longer. “I still don’t know if it means anything or not,” she continues, “but I’ve been having visions of a berserker.”

    “You were running from a berserker at the lake?”  Malia says with wide eyes.

    “Why didn’t you tell us then?”  Stiles says with a hint of regret hiding in his voice.

    “I didn’t think it was important then,”  Lydia says with a flip of her hair.

    “What changed?”  asks Scott.  “What makes it important now?”  His words could be confrontational but his face and tone show clear concern.

    “Well, for starters, that’s what I was seeing when I drew the pattern,” she says with a nod towards the paper.  

    “And for enders?” says Stiles.

    “You know how I said I know the difference between warnings and stress hallucinations?”  Lydia pauses after her question to wet her lips before continuing, “I’m not so sure this is a hallucination anymore.”

    The banshee half runs, half walks down the hallway.  She’d gotten all the way to her car before she’d remembered that she’s supposed to meet Scott in the library.  She slows to a stroll when she sees the library doors and calmly walks inside and over to a round table where the True Alpha sits reading.

    “Hey,” she greets in hushed tone as she takes a seat.

    “Hey,” Scott returns as he closes his book.
     
    “So,” she continues in tight voice,  “I’m here.  What did you want to talk about?”

    “Yeah, okay, first off. . . um,”  he stops after stumbling through the words.

    “Scott,” she presses with a slow tone and and wide eyes.

    “Well, I owe you a lot apologizes so I’m trying to think of what to say sorry for first,” he says while staring down at his hands.

    Oh god, not apologizes.  Sorries are the last thing Lydia needs to hear from Scott right now.  She gets exhausted of thinking about all the wrongs he’s committed against her.

    “Then let’s skip the apologizes,” she says.  “What was the other thing you wanted to talk about?”  

    “Oh, well, it kinda got addressed at lunch,” he says with a slight frown, “But it’s definitely related to the apologizes.”

    She narrows her eyes and purses her lips.

    “So I will definitely find a way to explain it with out saying sorry,” Scott continues in a rushed tone of voice.

    Lydia nods with a perky smile.

    “Right, so I talked to Derek and to Deaton,” he says.  “Or they talked to me, actually.  About you, obviously. . .Well, your powers to be more specific.  Or your relationship to the pack because of your powers to more specifically specific.” The Alpha stops his butchered speech with a sigh.  “Can I start over?”

    “Please do,” the banshee says.

    “Lydia, the pack needs you,”  Scott says in a serious manner.  “Not your powers, but you: Lydia Martin.  We need your problem solving skills.  Your critical thinking. Your. . . how many languages do you know?”

    “Three, if you count archaic latin although technically it isn’t spoken,” she replies.

    “See?”  Scott says as he raises a hand and lets it fall slowly back to the table,  “That’s amazing, and we need it.”  The noticeable excitement fades from the Alpha’s voice leaving a more sincere and calm sounding tone when he continues speaking.  “The pack wouldn’t be the same without you.  We wouldn’t even be here without you.  And we should’ve done a better job of showing you how important you are.  You’re not some thing.  Not some prediction of the future.  You’re Lydia.  You’re our friend.”  He emphasizes the group of words by saying them softly, then clears his throat as if trying to cover the tenderness shown in his earlier tone.  “And friends help each other no matter what, right?  So when you scared, or you feel weird about something, remember that. . . you’re not alone.  You’ve got a pack.  You don’t have to tell us what you see. . .”  He pauses like he’s struggling to find the right words then carries on,  “Or even why you’re seeing it if you don’t want too. Just lean on us a little.  I know you don’t trust me, but you can trust them, can’t you?” the Alpha says in a slightly desperate sounding tone.

    The banshee raises her eyes to meet Scott’s imploring look, but refrains from speaking.  She doesn’t have an answer for his question anyway.

    “Lydia, I promise we’ll do everything to figure out what’s going on,” he says,  “Stiles is on his way to Deaton’s with the pattern right now.  We going to solve this before anyone gets hurt.”
    
    For one second, his words erase everything that’s happened in the last six months.  If she closes her eyes, she can almost imagine them back at the beginning of junior year.  Before Lydia had a name for her supernatural affliction.  Before Allison was dead.  He sounds so much like his old self that Lydia’s heart splinters and cracks.  It’s not fair.  Why did things have to change?  Why did Allison have to die?  Why did Scott have to hurt her?  

    “Lydia. . .”  

    When Lydia hears the soft devastation shadowing Scott’s voice, she knows she was unsuccessful at stopping her oncoming tears.  Although he could probably smell her pain and grief before the emotions took a liquid form.

    “I need to go,” she says quickly as she swipes under her eyes.  “I’m supposed to meet Jordan, and I refuse to be late.”  She stands with a small sniffle and swings her purse over her arm.  She walks to the door before she stops and looks over her shoulder at the still sitting Alpha.  “I’ll call Stiles later to see what he found out,” she says before walking out the door.

Chapter Text

    Lydia sits on the edge of her bed with Malia and Kira fanned out on either side of her.  The girls have been furiously packing Lydia’s wardrobe since two in the afternoon, and by five, they succumb to the exhaustion of the task.

    “I didn’t know it was possible to own that many dresses,” Kira says with unhidden wonder.

    “I used to have a shopping problem,” Lydia says.

    “You do realize that was just the closet, right?”  Malia says with both her eyes closed.  “We haven’t even gotten to the dressers yet.”

    “An extreme shopping problem,”  Lydia elaborates with a shrug.

    “Well,” Kira says with a deep stretch, “let’s get back to it then.  The party’s at eight and we still need to get ready.”

    The three girls divide the task into it’s efficient separate parts;  Malia assembles the boxes, Kira stacks the clothing, and Lydia fills and labels each packed box.  The kitsune pulls out a turquoise sweater with a black heart design and holds it up for Lydia to see.

    “This one’s so cute, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen you wear it,” Kira says with a smile.  “It goes great with your outfit now.”

    Lydia stares at the garment with her mouth slightly slack before she clears her throat and looks back down at the half-full box in front of her.

    “It’s Allison’s,” she says in a muted tone.  “She gave it to me, but I never wore it.  After everything that happened, I couldn’t really bring myself to put it on.”

    “Oh, oh god,”  Kira half says, half mumbles,  “Lydia, I’m so sorry.  I didn’t mean to. . .”  She holds out the sweater for Lydia to pack.

    “No, don’t be sorry,” the banshee answers as she takes the offered clothing gently in her hands.  “I should’ve worn it though.  She said it’d make my hair pop.”  She keeps an unfocused gaze on the limp fabric clutched tightly in her grip.

    “Why don’t you wear it tonight?” Malia interjects.  “Instead of complaining about what she left behind, just enjoy it like she’d want you too.”

    Lydia whips her head to face the were-coyote.  She can feel sharp words building on her tongue, but when she opens her mouth to retort, all potential venom falls flat against her teeth.  Malia’s logic baffles the banshee to the point where she can’t refute it.  She clicks her tongue instead and pulls the sweater over her head.  Then she stands to regard the change in the mirror while smoothing her hands over the soft woven fibers.  Just as Kira said, the sweater looks perfect with Lydia’s black fitted jeans and pink heels.  The banshee pulls her hair out from the under the top and lets the strawberry blond strands curl down her shoulders.  Lydia smiles despite the salty, pinching sensation building in her chest.  Allison was right.  The turquoise does make her hair pop.


    Lydia adjusts the hem of her sweater for the fifth time as Kira, Malia, and she walk towards the booming entrance of Jungle.  They’re running almost thirty minutes late which means the boys should have already secured a table.  The club overwhelms Lydia as she steps inside the flashing lights and shaking walls.  She searches the booths lining the walls for Scott and Stiles but can’t find them.  

    Lydia turns with a sigh to the two were-creatures next her and says, “Go find the boys while I grab a drink.  Text me when you find them.”

    The banshee walks to the bar without waiting for a response and pushes her way up to the bartender to order a vodka tonic.  A cold tingle ripples up her spine as she waits for her drink.  She’s being studied.  Lydia turns with a violent flare to check the surrounding area behind her.  No one seems to be paying the banshee any mind.  Maybe she’s overreacting.  The bartender walks over with her drink, and she holds out seven dollars only to have the guy shake his head.

    “Someone already paid for your drink,” he says with smile while setting the glass in front of her.

    “Excuse me,” she says in a high pitched voice as the bartender starts to walk away.  She waits for him to turn back around before she continues,  “Who paid for it?”  The bartender points to a black haired boy sitting at the opposite end of the bar.  He seems absorbed in something on his phone, his face tightening at the edges as he clicks away at the buttons.  The boy looks up as Lydia inspects him, and the cold tingle from before returns with a vengeance at the eye contact.  The banshee quickly turns back to the bartender and holds out her money again.

    “Sorry,” she says, “But I’m not comfortable with strangers buying my drinks.”

    “It’s already been paid for though,” the bartender says, “I can’t really accept more money for it.”

    Lydia scoffs with a indigent shake of her head before putting her palms on the bar and leaning towards the bartender.  “Then make me another drink,” she says slowly through pursed, slightly parted, lips.

    She checks her phone while waiting for her second drink. There’s a text from Kira that reads “top floor booth on the right :) ”.  She feels eyes on her once more and looks up from her phone to meet the stare of the black haired boy.  He smiles at Lydia and stands as if to approach her when the server arrives with her drink.  Lydia snatches the second vodka tonic from the tabletop and speed walks away from the bar towards the stairs without looking back.  She sees Stiles and Scott sitting across from Malia and Kira at a booth as she rounds the top of the steps.
    
    “That took a minute,”  Kira says as she slides over to make room for Lydia.

    “Sorry,” the banshee sighs, “Some creep tried to buy me a drink.”

    “Creep?”  says Stiles,  “Where?”  He leans over the railing with his words and twists his neck to look at the bar underneath them.  “Like human creep or supernatural creep?”

    “Human creep,” Lydia says after taking a sip of her drink.

    “The guy in the blue shirt?”  Stiles continues.  

    Lydia nods as she frowns slightly and says,  “Yeah, how’d you know?”

     “Because he’s watching us,” says Stiles as he waves a splayed and hostile hand at the boy down-below at the bar.  “Hi, yes, we see you.  Quit looking, fucking creep,”  he sneers before leaning back from the railing and taking a seat.   “I think I’ve seen that loser before.”

    “Probably in school,”  Lydia says,  “Half the Jungle’s cliental are underage.”

    “Speaking of,” Scott cuts in, “How did you even get that alcohol?”

    “Oh sweetie,”  she replies with a tilt of her head, “I’ve had a fake since I was sixteen.  Not that I even need it here.  Honestly, this place is a law suit waiting to happen.”

    “Well, then we should dance before they close it down,”  Malia says with a grin.

    “You go ahead,”  Lydia says, “I’ll be there when I finish my drink.”  She stands so the other two girls can slide out of the booth.  Malia reaches over the table and grabs Stiles by the hand to tug him out of his seat.

    “Come on,” the were-coyote says, “I wanna dance.”

    “I’m not big on dancing,” he says as he pulls back against her grip, “Not a huge dancer at all.  In fact, I’m a tiny dancer.  A tiny, tiny dancer,” he says while freeing his hand and holding out his thumb and index finger to create an inch sized gap.  Malia drops her shoulders and fixes Stiles with a blank look.  “Really?  No Elton John?” he continues as he lowers his still gesturing hand,  “You were human for nine years before you coyoted-out and you don’t know Elton John?”  

    “Stiles,” the were-coyote bites out.

    “Alright, I’ll dance,” Stiles says as he stands up from the table.  “But you gotta hold me closer.”

    Lydia snorts into her drink at the Stiles’s terrible use of song lyrics.  What a dork.  She realizes she’s still standing and quickly takes a seat but leaves her stare on the interlocked hands of Stiles and Malia.  Not that she cares, but aren’t they supposed to be broken up?  And speaking of broken up couples, Lydia can’t help but notice the way Kira’s eyes stay on Scott before the kitsune follows Malia and Stiles to the dance floor.  She probably still likes the True Alpha, and the banshee can’t really blame her for it.  It’s not like Kira and Scott aren’t compatible.  Their relationship fell apart due to bad luck and bad timing. Honestly, they never had a chance if Lydia thinks logically about it.

    “Aren’t you gonna dance with her?”  she says loudly over the piercing dub-step of the club.

    “What?” Scott says as he turns back around from watching Kira dance.

     “She probably still likes you.  Don’t ask me why,”  Lydia says while moving the straw of her drink in slow circles.  

    “You think so?”  the Alpha says in a wistful sounding tone.

    “Who knows,”  Lydia shrugs,  “You weren’t really yourself when you two broke up.  Maybe she’ll rethink it.  You’ll have to be honest with her though.”

    “Yeah, of course,”  he says as he looks back to the kitsune on the dance floor.  

    “About everything,” she continues, “Especially Allison.”

    Scott faces Lydia with a slight frown on his features but otherwise makes no effort to protest her words.  “That’s her sweater, isn’t it?” he says with a nod at Lydia.

    The banshee puts her drink down and smooths out the bunches from the precious article of clothing.  “She gave it to me,”  she says softly.

    “You don’t still. . .” he says, “I mean, have you heard her lately?”

    Lydia looks up sharply from her sweater and says, “Stiles didn’t tell you?”

    “Tell me what?”  the werewolf asks in an slightly escalating tone.

    She grinds her teeth against the words she knows she has to speak.  “She’s gone, Scott,  for good,” she says without making eye contact,  “She left after I died.”

    Scott’s hand that had been resting on the tabletop suddenly tenses and curls into a fist as his other hand grips the edge of the table with such strength that Lydia hears the wood groan.  

    “Scott?” she says in a measured voice.

    “I’m okay,” he says in a hoarse sounding breath as he squeezes his eyes shut.

    “Are you really?  Because you don’t look okay. At all.”

    “I don’t know,” he says while moving both hands to his ears.  “Suddenly the music,” he stops to let out pained groan that carries a slight growling edge.

    Lydia stands up quickly.  “Okay, we need to go outside,” she says. “Now, Scott.  Come on.”

    The Alpha is practically panting when Lydia gets him down the stairs.  He can’t remove his hands from his ears which is a serious problem considering that his claws have come out.

    “God dammit, Scott,” she hisses as she puts her hands over his.

    “I’m sorry,” he says in a haggard tone as he watches her from behind remorseful looking red eyes.

    “Red eyes?  Are you serious?” she says in high-pitched and stressed tone as she forces his head down with her hands.  “Jesus, just act drunk, okay?”  

    It’s an awkward, stumbling trek to the exit, but no one pays them any mind.  They just look like another pair of wasted teenagers.  The moment they reach the outside alley, Lydia leans Scott against the wall and backs away quickly.  Her body starts to tremble and she feels lightheaded.  She’s not about to faint, but forcing her legs to keep standing probably isn’t a good idea.  Lydia steps back until she’s resting against the brick wall behind her and slowly drops her body into a crouched position.  She’d acted on instinct back there- all she could think of was getting the unstable werewolf out of a club filled with people.  Now that she’s made it outside though, a cold terror worms up her spine.  What if Scott loses control again?  Lydia watches him with wary eyes as her limbs collect energy incase she has to run - or worse - fight.  The Alpha’s eyes are still closed and his breathing sounds heavy, but at least he’s lowered his hands from his ears.  However, she can’t tell if his claws are out since his hands are balled into fists at his sides.  The banshee holds her breath as Scott shifts on his feet and then drops to sit on the ground against the wall.  He leans his head back with a sigh and unfurls his fists to revel blunt human nails.  Lydia lets go of the breath she was holding and drops her head to her knees.

    “Oh god,” she says before lifting her head back up and running her hands through her hair.  She stays like that - vacant eyed, hands wound in her hair, and lips parted with shock and surprise - until Scott calls out to her.

    “Are you okay?” he says.  

    She looks at him with wide eyes and shakes her head slowly.  “No, I’m not okay,” she says in a high pitched tone,  “what happened back there?”

    “I have no idea,” the werewolf confesses,  “I didn’t feel out of control. . . I felt sick.”

    “So you just happened to feel sick after I mentioned Allison?”
    
    “Lydia, I know what you’re thinking,” he says while steadying his breath,  “And you have more than every right to think it, but I swear that’s not what happened.”

    Lydia opens her mouth to pick apart Scott’s words, but the sound of Stiles’s calling out her name distracts her.  

    “Lydia!”  The deep bellow sounds again, this time with a clear edge of hysteria lacing his voice. “LYDIA!”

    She turns to face the the direction of the panicked shouts right as Stiles rounds the corner to the alley.  He’s racing towards them at top speed but slows and stops when he sees Scott and Lydia sitting calmly on the ground.  The human drops his hands to his knees to catch his breath as he watches them through squinted eyes.  

    “Dude, are you okay?”  Scott asks as he stands up and walks over Stiles.  

    The human boy waves a hand and shakes his head while his face shows a pained grimace.  His expression changes into one of pure agony with every inhale.  “Ran so fast,” he says with a shallow breath, “Might puke.”  He moves one hand from his knee and holds it against his side as he leans back against the wall with help from Scott.  “What uh, what are you guys doing out here?”  Stiles says in between heaving gasps.

    Lydia and Scott answer at the same time.

    “Scott lost control.”

    “I felt sick.”

    They turn to look at one another and Lydia shrugs at the werewolf before facing Stiles again.  He’s no longer hunched over, but he still looks extremely winded.

    “So what are you doing out here?” she says.

    “Looking for you,” Stiles says, “I thought that was pretty clear from the whole yelling your name part.”

    “Obviously,” she says as she rolls her eyes,  “I meant why were you looking for me?”

    “Right, you remember that creepy dude in the blue shirt?”  he says.  She nods as she crosses her arms over her chest.  “Yeah well,” Stiles continues, “I saw him walking up the stairs and when I got back to our table, you were gone.”  He stretches his mouth down with a hand and tugs on his bottom lip before he lets his hand fall back to his side.

    “You thought I got kidnapped?”  she says.

    Stiles looks up at her with an almost irritated expression.  “What?” he snaps as he flings an arm out,  “Like that’s so unbelievable?  A pretty girl going missing at a club?”  

    Lydia bites the inside of her cheek to stop a smile from curling her lips.  

    “I’m not going missing at my own farewell party,” she says with a flip of her hair,  “That’s too cliche.”

    “Yeah, well, last time I checked, this town didn’t really care about cliches,”  Stiles says as he allows his body to sink to the ground.  “In fact, I’m pretty sure it thrives on them.”  He rapidly taps a hand on his knee.  “Anyway,” he continues as he looks over his shoulder at Scott,  “what do you mean you were sick?”

    “I don’t know,” Scott says as he walks closer to Stiles,  “Just that the music got too loud and I couldn’t block it out.  I started to panic and then I started to shift.”  He pauses to face Lydia and continues, “But I wasn’t losing control.  Mentally, I was all still there.”

    “Oh good,” she interjects, “So you just lost physical control.  I’m sure that won’t cause problems or anything.”

    Scott gives Lydia a blank look that seems to say he’s unimpressed with her sarcasm.

    “No. . . no, she’s right, dude,”  Stiles says with a sigh,  “It’s still a problem.”  He rubs a hand across his frowning lips.  “God, does this town ever chill out?”

    “It’s Beacon Hills, Stiles,”  Lydia says as she sits next to him,  “I’m pretty sure the answer is no.”

    “Maybe we should all move to Glendale with you tomorrow,” he says.  

    “Glendale’s still a part of Beacon County, isn’t it?”  Scott asks as he sits on the other side of Stiles.

    “Can you not?”  Lydia says quickly as she leans forward to glare at the Alpha.  “You’re gonna jinx it.”

    “Speaking of jinxes,” Stiles says as his hand tapping goes into overdrive against his knee,  “I’m guessing you didn’t follow up with Deaton about that pattern you drew.”

    “No, you said he didn’t know anything,” she says.

    “Well, that was Monday,”  he says while he fishing his phone from his pocket.  “And about twenty minutes ago, he sent me this.”  He clicks away at the screen before holding the phone out to Lydia.  She stares at the message before speaking.

    “Defixione?” she says.

    “I’m assuming you already know what that means,” says Stiles.

    “Yeah, it’s latin for curse tablet,” she says as she hands Stiles back his phone.

    “Why do I not like the sound of that?” Scott says slowly with a groan as he leans his head and closes his eyes.

    “Probably because it has the word ‘curse’ in the name,”  Stiles says with a shake of his head.  “Never really means great things.  And wait for it, cause it gets even better.  You see, Deaton doesn’t actually know what it’s cursing.”
 
    “Well,” Lydia says as she stands up and claps her hands together,  “What are we waiting for?  Someone go get Malia and Kira.”

    “Wait, what, uh - where are we going?”  Stiles asks as he blinks up at her rapid movement.

    “To Deaton’s, obviously,” she says in exasperation with a tilt of her head.  Scott and Stiles exchange multiple looks in another example of their obnoxious, non-verbal communication skills.  Lydia clicks her tongue loudly and puts her hands on her hips.  Her action seems to spur the boys to a conclusion.

    “Are you sure you want to spend your last night in town like that?”  Scott says.

    “Do I really have a choice?”  she says.

    “Uh, yeah, you do?”  Stiles says with a bewildered look.

    “Let me rephrase that,” says Lydia as she holds up a hand and paces, “I’m moving to a new town, by myself, tomorrow.  That means no supernatural bodyguards, for lack of a better description.  If I’m drawing something that translates into curse tablet,” she stops in her pacing to face both the boys and holds out her arms,  “I can’t afford to not know everything I can about it.  We have to talk to Deaton.  Tonight.”

    Scott looks at Lydia and nods.  “I’ll go get Kira and Malia.  We’ll meet you guys there,”  he says.


    Lydia shifts in the passenger seat of Stiles’s jeep.  The ride feels a little bumpier than she remembers.

    “Stiles, when was the last time you had your jeep serviced?” she asks.

    “Uh. . . not that long ago?”

    “I mean professionally,” she says,  “Not whatever that thing is you do with duct tape.”

    “Then long ago?  It’s still driving, isn’t it?” he says.  She narrows her eyes at him.  “I don’t know, Lydia,” he continues,  “Can we just focus on one problem at a time? Please?”  She rolls her eyes and turns to look out the window, but she can feel Stiles watching her from the corners of his eyes.

    “What?” she says as she looks over at him.

    “Did Scott really lose control again?”

    “Sure looked that way,” she says as she turns back to the window.

    “Do you think it has to with the defixione or berserkers?”

    “I don’t know,” she sighs while leaning her forehead against the glass.  “We were talking about Allison, and then. . .”  Lydia trails off as her eyes widen, and she pulls back from the window.

    “And then?”  Stiles says.

    “What if that’s it?” she says as she whips to face the boy next to her.

    “What if what’s it?”

    “That’s the metaphor,” she says excitedly, “That’s the connection.”

    “Lydia, what are you talking about?”

    “The berserker was so familiar, and every time I saw it, Allison was there.”

    “What?”  he says as he slams on the breaks.

    “Jesus Christ, Stiles!” she shrieks while bracing herself with her hands against the dash.

    “You saw Allison?” He turns to face her with the question.  “But you said she left.”

    “She did,”  Lydia answers as she moves the hair shaken loose from the quick stop out of her face.  “What I’ve been seeing isn’t the real Allison, idiot.”
    

    Stiles pinches his eyes in irritation, and says,  “Then you should have started off with that.”
    
    “What? That you’re an idiot?” she says.

    Stiles points a shaking finger at her as he narrows his eyes and bites his bottom lip before he takes his foot off the break pedal.  He keeps one hand on the steering wheel and lowers the other to tap against his knee.  “So what’s this metaphor?” he says as he eyes dart between Lydia and the road.

    “Before I say anything else, I need you to swear something,” she says.  Lydia waits until Stiles makes eye contact to continue speaking, “Until I figure out exactly what’s getting set up, you can’t mention anything about Allison to Scott.”

    “Oh god,” he says,  “Again?”

    “Yes, Stiles, again,” she says fiercely,  “And may I remind you that last time I asked you to keep a secret from him and you didn’t, I nearly died.”

    “Yeah, but he’s better now. . . right?”

    “Stiles! Just swear it!”

    “Okay!” he says loudly,  “I swear I won’t tell Scott anything about Allison.  Especially whatever terrible, horrible shit you’re about to tell me now.”

    “Thank you,” she says tersely.  “Now as I was saying, I only saw the berserker when I was having visions of Allison, and I couldn’t exactly place it, but I know I recognize the eyes behind the bone.  They were so familiar, Stiles.  So familiar.  What if it’s Scott?  What if he can’t maintain control when it comes to Allison?”  

    Lydia feels the words slam into her chest despite being the speaker - as if her own statement shocked her.  She looks to Stiles with unblinking, wild eyes under a taut brow.  She stares at him and through him, feeling the distance reflected in her own eyes, far removed from the physical world before her.  

    “But I don’t even know what kind of warning that is, or if it’s related to the curse tablet. I have absolutely no idea what it really means,”  she continues softly before she crushes her lips between her teeth and slumps back in her seat.  “I just have a ominous feeling.”

    “Ominous as in death, we-are-all-going-to-die ominous?”

    “No, and that’s what bothers me,” she says,  “It’s too ambiguous.  I can’t pinpoint what feels wrong.  Things just feel out of balance.  Like something’s tipped the scales.”   

    “And something tells me that something isn’t in our favor, is it?”  Stiles says.

    “At least we’re used to having all the odds stacked against us,”  she says quietly.

    “Hey,”  he says,  “look at me.”  Stiles waits for Lydia to look up from her lap.  “It’s gonna be okay, alright?  We’re not gonna be caught off guard by this one.  Whatever’s causing it, we’re going to solve it.  And we’re gonna beat it.”       
    

    The pack crowds around one of the metal examination tables at Deaton’s as the Druid spreads an array of books out across the table’s surface.  He flips through each one quickly and leaves certain ones open to display the various symbols inscribed inside.  

    “I’m afraid what I know isn’t much,”  Deaton says he picks up Lydia’s scribbled pattern off the stack of books before him.  “Some of the symbols I recognize as letters from old gaelic inscriptions, but the majority of these symbols are beyond my comprehension.”

    “Yeah, but what about the curse thing?” Stiles asks.  “I mean how can you be sure this is a defixione if you can’t read it?”

    “The circular structure of the writing is extremely common in any celtic language defixione.  Gaelic, even ancient gaelic, would be the same,”  Deaton says,  “That, and this word here.”  He points to a segment of pattern from Lydia’s scribbles.  “It’s the gaelic word for retribution.”

    “So it’s written in gaelic then?” says Scott.  “Couldn’t you translate it?”

    “Unfortunately, no,” says Deaton.  “You see, its one of those rare words that managed not to change form as it traveled from group to group.  This language is similar to gaelic, perhaps even used the gaelic alphabet as a building block, but it’s an entirely different celtic language.”

    “Like how English, Dutch and German all evolved from the proto-germanic language branch?”  Lydia asks as she picks up the paper with her design.

    “Exactly,” answers the Druid.

    “What does ‘proto’ mean?” asks Malia.

    “It’s a greek word for first or before, depending on how it’s used,”  Lydia says.  “Think of it as a starting point.”

    Stiles reaches past Deaton to point at a book across the table.

    “This looks familiar kinda,”  he says while tapping a finger against the inked design.

    “You’re right, it does,”  Deaton muses,  “May I see the pattern again, Lydia?”

    The banshee nods and delicately places the sheet of paper next to the book.

    “There, that one,” says Stiles as he points to a scribble in the Lydia’s pattern resembling a crow’s foot.  “Isn’t it the same?”

    “Not the same, but a variation,”  says the Druid.  He points at the symbol in the book.  “See how this middle line continues down past the point here?” he says,  “Now look at the one Lydia wrote.  The line stops at the junction here instead.”

    “So what does that mean?” asks Kira.

    “It means we’re definitely looking at a language that has ties with the ancient celtics,”  Deaton says.  “I might be able to find out which one it is, but because there are so many different branches of celtic languages, it’ll take awhile.”

    “What if this language is a kind of proto-language?”  Lydia says.  “What if later forms of celtic languages, including gaelic, used this alphabet as a building block instead of vice-versa?”
    
    “It would have to be very, very old if that were the case. . .”  the Druid’s voice drifts as if he’d had an an epiphany while speaking.  “Although, what we know about defixiones are from what we’ve dug up,” he continues,  “They haven’t been a common practice among the Celtics for a long time.  In fact, most defixiones date back to around the fifth century B.C.E.”

    “Then we could narrow down the possible languages to those spoken before and during the fifth century, right?”  says Malia.

    “I think it’s a safe bet,” nods Deaton.

    “Anything else we should know about defixiones?”  Stiles asks.  “Possible causes?  Possible cures?  Possible deaths?”

    “Any information I can provide will be limited until this is translated,” sighs the Druid,  “But in general, there are certain patterns that defixiones adhere to.  Defixiones are mostly conditional magic - they rely on rules, and only once the rules are broken will the curse go into effect.  They’re an ancient magic that borrows the power of the gods to enact retribution.”

    “G-gods? Did you just says gods?” stutters Stiles.  “You’ve got be fucking kidding me.”

    “What do we do?” asks Scott.  “I mean, until it’s translated, what should we do?”

    “If was you,” says the Druid, “I’d try not to break any rules.”
    

    Lydia gets up early the following morning since her father’s coming over at ten to help her move.  She brings mostly clothes because she’s been warned that the apartment her father rents is small, and the room she’ll be occupying is even smaller.  She stacks all the boxes in the downstairs hallway by the time he arrives, and by eleven, Lydia and her father have every box loaded into his truck.  It’s about an thirty minute drive to Glendale from Beacon Hills, but it passes quickly enough.  The apartment is small but sweet.  The building was built in 1964 and still possesses a faint residue of sixties charm in the form of a black and white tiled kitchen and a circular chandler for the living room.  Personally, Lydia isn’t a huge fan of vintage, but this one does it well.  However, she’s not prepared for the size of her room.  Small seems quite the understatement.  Closest feels more appropriate.

    “I know it’s not what you’re used too,” her father says as he walks in with the last of Lydia’s boxes.  “But remember it’s not forever.  We just want you to get a breather from Beacon Hills.”

    “Well, we’re lucky I’m not claustrophobic,” she sighs while scooting and stacking the boxes in the corner.  

    That night her father makes them steak for dinner to celebrate Lydia’s move.  He talks fast and tells her all about the area - the shops, the cafes, the school.  She listens to his slightly rushed and overly energetic speech as she cuts her steak.  Lydia can tell from his behavior how much he missed her.  Her father is usually a quiet man.  He rarely speaks without purpose so tonight’s conversation feels all the more special.  She won’t admit it to her mother, but Lydia’s missed him terribly.  She likes to think she didn’t chose sides during the divorce, but sometimes, decisions are made for you.  If her father had stayed in Beacon Hills, she would have made sure to see him every week.  After dinner, she calls Jordan and keeps him on the phone until she falls asleep.  

    She wakes with a thirst deep in her bones - an aching, gnawing sensation that intensifies around her skull and hands. The cold air carries the hum of insects and as Lydia’s vision adjust to the dark, she realizes an open sky has replaced the beige ceiling of her small bedroom.  Her first instinct is panic but the surge of movement the emotion pulls from her body sends a shock wave of pain that travels up her spine to reverberant in her head.  This isn’t good.  She feels dizzy and sick to her stomach.  Lydia crawls towards the nearest tree and props her back against it with a defeated whine.  She shouldn’t be having black outs anymore.  This really isn’t good.  She uses the tree to stand but drops back to the ground at the pain in her feet. Where did she walk to this time?  Thunder booms all around her followed by a flash of lightening.  The bright burst of light illuminates the area, but all she sees in the brief light are trees.  Where the hell is she?  There aren’t woods like this in Glendale as far as she knows.  A rock digs into her lower hip and Lydia throws the useless stone in frustration only to have the pressure at her hip stay.  She pats her back pocket in confusion and realizes that what she thought was a rock is actually her phone.  Lydia scrambles to turn the phone on and stares blankly at the screen while waiting for the technology to come to life.  Lighting jumps across the sky once more, but this time, Lydia sees something in the corner of her eye that causes her to slowly let the phone drop to her lap.  The nemeton.

    She needs call someone.  Now is definitely the time to call someone.  This is big.  This means something.  
    
    The small screen lights up, and Lydia dials the first number she thinks of.

    “Hello?”  Stiles answers on the eighth ring in a muffled voice heavy with sleep.

    “Stiles, it’s Lydia,” she whispers while casting her eyes in every possible direction.  You never know what might be hanging around the nemeton after dark.  She listens to the sounds of Stiles shuffling in bed before she continues,  “I need you to pick me up.”

    “What?” he says in a strained voice containing more confusion than sleep.  “Where are you?”

    “The nemeton,” she says.  The other line is silent a moment.  “Stiles?”

    “Yeah, I’m here,” he says in a slightly more alert sounding tone,  “Did you say the nemeton?”

    “Yes, and please hurry.  It’s really fucking creepy out here.”

    “Why are you at the nemeton?”  he says.
    
    “I don’t know, Stiles!” Lydia says in tense whisper, “It wasn’t really by choice.”

    “You’re sleep walking again?”

    “Oh my god, are you going to come get me, or should I hang up and call a cab?”  she snaps.  

    “Jesus christ, yeah, I’m out the door now,” he responds in a equally irritated tone.  “Just stay where you are, okay?  Don’t move.”

    “Yeah, don’t wor-”  she stops in the middle of her sentence at the sound of branches cracking in the distance.

    “Lydia?” he says.  “Lydia, what’s happening?”

    “Shhhhhh,” she whispers into the phone as she presses her back harder against the tree.

    “Are you okay?” Stiles demands,  “Lydia, what happening?”

    “Shhhhh!” she repeats in a hoarse whisper,  “There’s something out here.  Be quiet or I’ll hang up.”

    “Something?” he asks in panicked tone,  “What kind of someth-”

    Lydia hangs up before Stiles can finish and quickly switches her phone to silent.  She counts to three in her head and takes a deep breath before she leans over to look around the tree.  She can’t see anything save for more trees.  Maybe she’s overreacting.  The sound of branches snapping closer to her causes the banshee to whip her head back from view.  Nope.  There’s definitely something out here with her.  Stiles keeps calling her, but Lydia turns the phone over with shaking hands to hide it’s light from whatever is currently stalking the forest.  A familiar sounding rattling breath winds through the trees, and the banshee covers her mouth to silence her own heavy breathing.  Berserker.  Lydia closes her eyes and listens to the forest around her.  The crashing footfalls draw closer but stop almost twenty feet away.  She’s out of options.  Even if her feet weren’t scratched to hell and back, she doubts she’d be able to outrun a Berserker in the dark.  There’s always the off chance that it’s another one of her hallucinations, but Lydia’s not willing to bet her life on it.  She opens her eyes and slowly moves her hands from her mouth and presses them hard against her chest over her heart.  She’s not sure whether she’s trying to slow her heart-rate or convince herself it’s still beating, but she knows she needs to focus on something that isn’t her possibly imminent death.  Thunder cracks above her and Lydia bites her lip hard enough to break the skin to keep from making a noise at the overwhelming sound.  She keeps her hands pressed against her heart as she listens to the creature cross the clearing behind her and walk towards the nemeton.  It sniffs and snuffles around the tree stump before it continues into the woods and away from Lydia.  She doesn’t move until the footsteps disappear completely into the distance.  Lydia turns her phone over with shaking hands.  Twenty five missed calls from Stiles.  He calls again and she answers.

    “I’m okay,” she whispers into the phone as she stares at the nemeton.  Part of her is worried about the Berserker coming back; the other part is curious about it’s interest in the stump.    

    “You!” Stiles says,  “I-I. ..  I could kill you, do you know that?  I could literally kill you for what you just did.”  She can hear the tremors in his voice.

    “I told you to be quiet,” she says,  “You’re the one who didn’t listen.”  She scoots slowly across the forest floor as she talks, trying to get closer to the nemeton.

    “So?” he says,  “What kind of monsters was it this time?  Chupacabra?”

    “Really, Stiles?”

    “Look, you just put me through an extremely traumatic experience,” he says,  “And you know I cope with a being a powerless and puny human though humor, so honestly, this is your fault.  And if you think I’ll ease up cause I care about you, then you’re dreaming.  The sarcasm only gets worse from here on out.  Now, where the hell are you?”

    “I told you,” she says with a sigh,  “The nemeton.”

    “Yeah, no, I got that,” he says.  She can practically hear him rolling his eyes through the phone.  “I mean where exactly near the nemeton are you?”

    “I’m not near it,” she says, “I’m sitting on it.  You can’t miss me.”

    The other line is quiet and for a moment, Lydia fears the call was dropped.

    “Stiles?” she says softly.

    “Yeah, I’m here,” he says after long pause, “But. . . I’m standing on the nemeton, and you’re not here, Lydia.”

    “What?” she says.  “Stiles, that’s not funny. . .”  She twists to look behind her, and the banshee’s breath seizes in her throat at what she sees.  She’s not in the forest anymore.  “Stiles,” she says in a trembling voice,  “I don’t know what’s happening.”  Her breathing starts to race and soon she’s hyperventilating.

    “Lydia, listen to me,” Stiles says,  “It’s gonna be okay.  What do you see?  Are there any landmarks?”

    “No,” she says, “I mean yes, there are, but I know where I am.”

    “Where?” he says, “Where are you?”

    “I’m at her grave,” she says in a cracked tone.  “I’m at Allison grave.”  Lydia stares at the tombstone in front of her as she slowly pushes away from it with quivering arms and legs.  The air gets stuck in her lungs.

    “Okay, okay,” he says, “I’m on the way.  Lydia, breathe, okay?  You need to breathe.”

    “I can’t,” she chokes out, “I can’t.”  She keeps scooting away from the grave as she speaks.

    “Lydia, breathe,” he says in a forceful tone, “Focus on my voice and try take a deep breath.”

    “I can’t,” she says, “I’m scared.”  Her left hand slips as if the ground gave way beneath her and Lydia tumbles backwards with it.  She hits her head hard.

    Lydia sees blackness when she opens her eyes.  Did she lose consciousness?  She hears Stiles’s muffled voice yelling her name and digs her phone out from under her back.  

    “I think I fell,” she says. She tries to sit up, but her head bangs into something.  She raises her hands up until she touches a flat, smooth surface above her.  She pushes against it with all her strength, but it doesn’t even budge.

    “Where are you?” Stiles says in frantic voice, “Where’d you fall?  Are you okay?”

    “I don’t know,” Lydia says as she fights against the hysteria working it’s way through her brain.  “I can’t get up.”

    “You can’t move?”

    “Something’s blocking me,” she says, “Something heavy.”

    “Okay, what do you see?”

    “I can’t see anything,” she says in near tears, “It’s too dark.”

    “Okay, alright,” he says.  She can hear the wheels in his head turning.  “Okay, um, your phone.  Your phone should have a flashlight app.”

    Lydia pulls the phone from her ear and searches for the flashlight application.  She can barely get her fingers to stop trembling long enough to open it.  She winces at the burst of bright that shoots from the phone and waits for her eyes to adjust to the light.  The first thing she sees is a wood ceiling about six inches above her head.  She looks to either side only to see the same wood walls.  

    “Did you do it?”  Stiles asks.  “Can you see anything?”

    “Yes,” she says softly.

    “Do you know where are you?”

    “Yes,” she says again.

    “Lydia, it’s okay,” he says.  “It’s okay.  Just tell me where are you.”

    “Oh god,” she says,  “No, Stiles, this is bad.  This is really bad.”  She can’t control the hitch of emotion that shakes through her words.

    “Just tell me where you are,” he repeats.

    “A coffin.”  The words escape her like a whine.  “I’m in a coffin. . .  and I think it’s already been put in the ground.”

    Stiles is silent.

    “Are you there?” she asks without hiding her desperation.

    He clears his throat before answering, “Of course I’m still here.”  His voice is thick and choppy sounding.  “I need,” he stops to take a wet sounding and shaking breath, “I need to call Scott.  We, uh, we need his sense of smell.”  He sniffs loudly and Lydia knows he’s crying.

    “Okay,” she says.  “That’s a good idea.  Call him.”

    “I’ll call you right back, okay?”

    “Okay,” she says.

    “I swear, Lydia, I’ll call you right back,” he says, “Right back.”

    “Okay,” she says. She waits for the dial-tone, but the sound eludes her.  “Stiles?” she says.

    “Yeah?”

    “Call him,” she says.

    “I will,” he says.  

    “You have to hang up to do that,” she says softly.

    “I will,” he says in quietly devastated sounding voice.  

    “I’ll be okay,” Lydia says in a convincing tone despite how little faith she has in the words. “Stiles, I’ll be okay, so hang up and call Scott.”

    The wait for Stiles to call back is the worst part.  She needs to steady her breath and stop hyperventilating if she wants her air to last as long as possible.  Lydia keeps track of how many minutes pass.  It takes five and half hours to die when your buried alive if you keep normal breathing patterns, give or take a few minutes, depending on the size of the person and the coffin.  Lydia’s been buried for seven minutes.  She’s has about 443 minutes left to be saved.  That translates into 19,380 seconds.  She’s in the middle of the math for figuring out nano-seconds when her phone rings.

    “Stiles?”

    “Yeah,” he says, “I’m at the graveyard with Scott right now.  He says he can smell you.”

    “Okay,” she says as she tries to control her breathing, “That’s good right?”

    “It could be,” he continues, and she can hear the stress in his voice.  “But Malia and Liam went out to the nemeton and they said they could smell you there too.”

    “Okay. . .” Lydia says slowly.  “So what the hell does that mean?”  The air can’t be getting thinner yet, but she finds it hard to breath anyway.  Probably panic.

    “And there’s one more thing,” he says,  “There aren’t any fresh graves here.  None.  Scott said he’d be able to tell if the dirt was disturbed.  So unless someone got you in the ground without moving any dirt, I don’t think you’re here.”

    “You don’t believe me?” she asks in stunted horror.

    “No, I believe you,” he says,  “You were definitely here and at the nemeton.”

    “So?” she says.

    “Do you remember when I went missing before I was possessed?”  he asks quickly.  His nervous habit of smacking his hands together can be heard through the phone.  “I, uh, I thought I was in the Eichen House basement, remember?  I was convinced I was trapped down there.  I was even on my phone.  I called Scott.”  

    “I remember,” she says in between gasps,  “We found you at Malia’s cave.  You were sleepwalking, caught in a dream.”

    “Right,” he says, “So what if you’re still asleep?  What if you slept-walked to the nemeton, to the graveyard, and now you’ve fallen somewhere you think is a grave?”

    Lydia is quiet as she turns the possibility over in her mind.  It makes sense, but the realization that she could be asleep offers little comfort; they still had to find Stiles to wake him up.

    “Lydia?” he says.

    “Yeah,” she says with a huff, “So you want me to just relax with my fingers crossed that I’m not asleep in an actual coffin somewhere and wait for you guys to find me before the five hour time limit is up?”  

    “No,” he huffs back, “I want you to wake up.”
    
    Lydia’s starting to feel slightly light-headed.  She really needs to get control of her breathing.  She can’t keep talking and gasping like this.  She’s filling the small space with carbon dioxide and shorting her timeframe for survival.  This needs to happen fast.  She’s going to pass out soon.

    “Okay,” she says, “How do I wake up if I’m not even sure I’m dreaming?”

    “Um, in dreams your mind tells your body what it thinks you’re interacting with,” Stiles says in a muffled voice.  He probably has a hand over his mouth.  “So we need to override that,” he continues, “We need get your body to interacting with where ever you really are.”

    “Okay,” she says as she fights the urge to cry.

    “So close your eyes,” he says, “Don’t think about where you are.”  He stops to clear his throat and swallow loudly.  Honestly, he sounds more upset than her.  “Try to focus on your body.  Your hands, your feet.  Then arms and legs,” Stiles continues,  “Just keep focusing on different parts of your body until you reach your head.  Concentrate on how they feel, but keep your eyes closed.”

    Lydia squeezes her eyes shut and takes a deep breath.  She lets her body go still and focus on her hands.  At first, she can’t tell a difference but then her hands grow cold.  When her fingers start to go numb to she turns her attention to her feet.  The same process happens - cold and then numb.  She can’t tell if that’s a good or bad thing so she continues without thinking about it.  When she gets her to her right arm, she notices a tickling sensation on her inner elbow.  It almost feels like a bug crawling on her.  Lydia clenches her jaw against the feeling and pushes forward to concentrate on her left arm.  By the time she gets to her torso, she can feel small sharp fragments of something digging into her back.

    “I think it’s working,” she says.

    “Don’t stop,” Stiles says, “Keep going until you can describe it.”

    Her previously numb hands now feel more buzzed than numb, and her back is damp from whatever surface she’s lying on.  Suddenly, Lydia feels a drop of water on her face, and the shock cause her to clench her hands.  And when she does, her nails scrape against dirt instead of wood.

    “I think I felt water,” she says, “I can grab dirt too.”

    “Good, that’s. . . that’s so good,” Stiles says,  “What else?  What about your feet?”

    “They hurt,” she answers, “But I think. . . I feel bark?  Something rough, I don’t know.”

    “Okay, okay,” he says sounding short of breath, “Where’d you feel the water?”

    “My face.”

    “Alright,” he says, “Focus on that.”

    Lydia bites her lip as she tries to move all the energy in her body up to her face.  She imagines a white light traveling up her form and settling over her head.  She feels flush for a moment and then a cold breeze drifts over her followed by more drops of water.  The drops increase in frequency until she realizes that she’s soaked.  

    “Now what?” she says.

    “Can you feel something?”

    “Yes,” she says,  “What do I do now?”

    “Hold on to the feeling of whatever’s happening,” he says, “and then open your eyes.”

    “Okay,” she says with unsteady tremble, “I’m gonna do it.  I’m opening my eyes.”

    Lydia cracks one eye and then the other.  At first, all she sees is darkness and panic that she’s still in a grave overwhelms her.  But then she feels a raindrop, and then another, and another.  She tilts her head up and can just make out a dark sky peaking at her from an opening above her head.  Rain pours in and pools around her on the muddy floor.  Lydia smiles as a flash of lightening illuminates the small caved in cellar.  She hasn’t actually been here before, but she’s drawn many, many pictures of it.

    “Do you see anything?”

    “Yeah,” she laughs, “I’m not buried, but I am definitely underground.  I fell into the root cellar.”    

    “At the nemeton?  You’re actually at the nemeton?”

    “I told you I was sitting right on it,” she says.


    Lydia busies herself by untangling her feet from the roots of the nemeton.  She hisses in pain as she pulls her right foot free and examines her ankle with the light from her phone.  The swollen skin is tender and warm to the touch.  She can tell the ankle isn’t sprained (thank god), but she definitely needs to ice it.  The high of not being buried alive starts to wear off and Lydia begins to feel uneasy about the events of her night walk.  Why would she go to Allison’s grave and the nemeton?  The sound of metal clinking together draws her attention and Lydia nearly screams as a chain ladder drops down beside her.

    “Jesus Christ, Stiles!” she yells.  “A little warning would be nice!”

    Someone starts to descend the shaking metal steps and says,  “It’s not Stiles, it’s Malia.”  

    “And me!”  another voice calls out and Liam pokes his head over to look down the hole at the banshee.  “We had to get a ladder,” he says with a shy smile.  

    The werecoyote turns around and faces Lydia when she reaches the bottom.  “Stiles said you fell.  Can you stand?” she continues.

    Lydia uses the towering roots beside to her stand but winces at the pressure on her ankle.  “Yeah, but I don’t think I can climb,” she says.  Malia crouches so Lydia can get on her back and then piggybacks the banshee up the ladder.

    “Where’s Stiles?”  Lydia asks once they’ve cleared the sinkhole.  “And Scott,” she quickly adds.

    Malia seems to sigh before she answers,  “On the way to pick us up.”  Liam helps Lydia slide off the werecoyote’s back and then he walks back to the sinkhole to fold up the ladder.

    “Sorry you had to come all the way out here,” Lydia says softly.

    “It’s fine,”  Malia says in a tired sounding tone.  She looks everywhere but at the banshee while biting the corner of her lip as if struggling with an internal debate.  “Do you like him?”  Malia blurts out.

    “What?”  Lydia says,  “No! Of course not!  I mean, how could I?”

    “But you know who I’m talking about,” Malia sighs, “I don’t even have to say his name and you know.”

    “I. . .” Lydia starts then stops.  She’s not sure what to say.

    “I know he used to like you,” the werecoyote continues, “And I know we’re not technically dating at the moment, but still. . . I don’t want to lose what I have with him.  He’s special to me.  He was the first person to accept me.  He accepted me before I accepted me.”

    Lydia stares down at her hands while Malia talks.  Her story sounds frighteningly similar to the banshee’s own history with Stiles.  Malia’s pain and fear.  Lydia’s intelligence and frustration.  That boy sees things no one else wants to notice.  

    “You’ll never lose that connection to him,”  Lydia says,  “Stiles isn’t the type of person to forget others like that.”


    Malia gives a hollow sounding snort and shakes her head.  “That’s what I’m afraid of,” the werecoyote says as Liam walks up and drops the ladder to the ground with a loud clank.  He seems to know better than to join the conversation, and the three wait in awkward, almost oppressing, silence by the side of the road until the jeep’s headlights slide into view.

Chapter Text

    The jeep is packed at full capacity with the ladder and five people.  Lydia rides shotgun while Liam sits awkwardly sandwiched between Malia and Scott in the back seat.  Everyone seems lost in their own thoughts and a strange, but not unwelcome, silence settles over the the group.  Lydia occupies herself by picking dirt out from under her torn and jagged fingernails; with this much damage, she probably dug with her hands again.  The banshee stops and folds her hands to hide her nails when she notices Stiles watching her.  

    “So are night walks your thing?”  Liam breaks the silence as he leans forward.  Lydia turns around to stare at him.  “Like as far as banshees go,” he says,  “You take night walks and go around banshee-ing things?”

    “Do you ever listen to yourself talk?”  Stiles says while scrunching his face.

    Liam ignores him and continues, “I mean, I thought banshees predicted death but can you do you other things?”

    “I don’t know,” Lydia says in a slightly bitter tone while turning back around,  “There’s not much written about us.”

    “Well, what did you do tonight?”  he asks.

    “I don’t know, Liam,” the banshee says with an irritated flair of her eyes, “That’s why they call it call a blackout.”  She notices Scott and Stiles exchange worried expressions in the rear view mirror.  It’s obnoxious, but she can’t blame them.  This is definitely something worthy of worry.  Historically, blackouts plus Lydia equals bad news.  “All I know is that when I woke up, I felt drained,” she continues,  “Like I’d used all my energy some how.”

    “Maybe walking fifteen miles?”  Stiles says,  “That tends to tire people out.”

    “No, it’s different,” Lydia says while chewing on her thumbnail.  However, she quickly draws back when she tastes dirt from under the nail.  “I can’t shake the feeling that I did something tonight. . .  Something that used my power.”

    “Can you remember anything?”  Scott asks,  “Anything at all?”

    “I don’t even remember falling asleep,”  she says,  “Usually, if I sleepwalk, it’s because of a dream, but I didn’t dream anything tonight.”

    “Except, you know, that you were buried alive,”  Stiles corrects.

    “Yeah, but I’d already been to the graveyard and the nemeton by that point, right?”  she says.  “That means I started dreaming after the blackout.”   She turns around to face the three were-creatures in the backseat.  “Did you smell anything other than me?  An emotion?  Or another person maybe?” she says.  

    “You think someone else is involved?”  Malia asks.

    “I don’t know,”  Lydia says with a dazed tone, “But last time this happened, it wasn’t all me, right?”

    Scott leans forward with a perturbed look and says,  “Actually, now that you mention it, I think I did smell another scent, but I didn’t recognize it.  I picked it up at the nemeton and the graveyard.”

    “And you didn’t say anything?”  Lydia asks loudly.

    “I was a little focused on finding you at the time,” the True Alpha replies with a scowl shadowing his face.

    “So then she wasn’t alone,”  Malia concludes.  “If the same scent was at both locations, there has to be another person, right?”

    “Jesus, it’s keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it?”  Stiles says while shaking his head.  “A curse tablet, bersekers, and now a mystery villain with a mystery goal. . . Don’t you just love Beacon Hills?”   He taps his hand on the steering wheel during a red light before the jeep lurches back into motion with grunt.  “Alright, maybe instead of trying to figure out the who, we should focus on the why,” he says.  

    “You mean, why would a banshee go to a graveyard and then the nemeton?”  Lydia says as she stares out the windshield.  

    The jeep falls into an uncomfortable silence at her question.  Stiles tightens his grip on the steering wheel and folds his mouth inward while Scott shifts in his seat to cross his arms and look out the window.  The unspoken answer permeates the air until the jeep is filled with an oppressive tension that no one seems willing to break.  Stiles pulls into the Martin’s driveway as Lydia unbuckles her seatbelt and pauses at the sight of Scott’s motorcycle.  She turns around to look at him, but the Alpha answers before she can ask the question.

    “When we realized you were sleeping, I checked your house,” he says while opening the jeep door,  “You weren’t there.”

    Lydia nods at the logic and climbs out the passenger side.  The concrete hurts the bottom of her feet and she grits her teeth at the first couple of steps.  Lydia waves over her shoulder to say goodbye to the retreating jeep.  She waits until the taillights disappear and then she plops down to sit on the ground, stretching her legs out in front of her with a sigh.

    “You okay?”  Scott asks from behind her.

    “My feet hurt,” she says matter of factly.

    “Do you want me to carry you inside?”

    “No,” she says with a gentle shake of her head,  “That’ll freak my mom out.  I just need a minute and I’ll be fine.”

    Scott stands holding his helmet in his hands.  He taps a finger on the plastic while looking between Lydia and his motorcycle before he walks over and hangs his helmet on the handlebars.

    “I’ll wait with you,” he says and then quickly adds, “If that’s okay.”

    “I don’t mind,” she says.  She watches Scott walk back towards her and sit down with his legs crossed.  He keeps a respectable four feet between them, which is unneeded, but considerate nonetheless.  

    “I’ve been thinking about what you said at the lake,” he says,  “And maybe you’re right.”

    “About what?”  she says, “I said a lot of things at the lake.”

    “Beacon Hill’s biggest threat,” he says,  “You said it’d come from us not knowing what we are. . . or what we’re capable of.  That people like us can’t afford to have things like our powers beyond our control.”

    Lydia looks down at her dirt covered fingernails as Scott talks.  Hearing her own words stings more then her blistered feet.  She balls her hands together into a trembling mass as she fights against a wave of nausea.   

    “So maybe you’re right,” he continues. “But I refuse to believe that that makes us bad people.  And I don’t care if that makes me naive.  We didn’t choose to be this way,” he says fiercely.  “Everything we’ve done, we did because we wanted to save lives.”  Scott slowly reaches over to Lydia and untangles her hands gently so that each rests palm down on her lap.  “Lydia, what ever you did tonight, you didn’t choose to do it.  You’re a good person.”

    The banshee smashes her lips together and breathes heavily through her nose.  The sound could pass for a soft laugh save for the salty water building in the corners of her eyes.  Scott turns away to clear his throat as she wipes at her tears.

    “Duh, I’m a great person,” she says with false bravado before sniffing loudly.  “Why are telling me all this?”

    “Honestly?” he says, his face cracking to show a coltish smile,  “Because you smell really, really bad.  Believe me, I learned what self-loathing smelled like hard core.  I. . . uh, I think the scent actually replaced my cologne for awhile.”  

    Lydia laughs for real and slowly lets her head drop down to her knees.  “That bad, huh?” she says,  “I wonder how I’ll smell when I find out what I did.”


    Lydia sits with a cup of tea at the kitchen table opposite Natalie who stares vacantly at the space in between them.  The room has horrible lighting at this angle for her mother.  In fact, Natalie looks twice as old with her back hunched and her mouth crooked from the worry pulled round her shoulders like a shawl.

    “You walked?”  she asks Lydia in a quiet voice, her eyes never leaving the table.  “From Glendale, you walked here?”

    “Slept walked,”  Lydia corrects slowly.  “I don’t even remember leaving the apartment.”

    Her mother sinks deeper into her frail form while her trembling fingers reach for her hot drink.  Natalie knocks the cup over with her tremors and stands quickly to get a towel.  She cleans the spill silently and sits back down across from Lydia with her hands still shaking.

    “Mom,” says the banshee in a gentle voice as she covers her mother’s hands with her own.  “It’s okay.  I’m okay.”

    Natalie stares down at her daughter’s broken fingernails.  “I don’t know how to help you,” she says softly, “I really don’t know what to do.  Maybe you should a sleep specialist.”

    “Mom, please,” Lydia says, “I can handle this.  I really don’t want doctors involved.”

    “Lydia, you walked fifteen miles and you have no memory of it,” says Natalie.  “I think that warrants a doctor’s visit.”

    “So they can run multiple test, costing thousands of dollars, only to tell us they don’t know what’s wrong?”  she counters.  “I think I’ll pass.”  Her mother’s face tightens so Lydia continues in a more pleading tone, “I promise I’ll go if it happens again, but for now. . . can we just drop it, please?”

    Natalie looks like she wants to argue but she surprises Lydia by simply sighing and nodding her head in weary resignation.  “Your grandmother would sleep walk too,” she says,  “We spent a lot of money trying to figure out why.”

    “And did you figure it out?”

    “No, of course not,” Natalie says, “Because it’s never that simple, is it?”  She smiles sadly following her words.

    “What else did Grandma do?”  Lydia asks.

    Her mother stares into her tea after the question,  She seems to be waging some sort of internal battle - her face tensing then slacking as an apparent conclusions is reached.  Natalie stands and picks up her tea.  “It’s late,” she says to her daughter,  “You should get some rest.  We can talk about this another time.”

    Lydia can’t fall asleep when she finally crawls into bed.  Her mind runs at hyperdrive, bouncing back and forth between possible scenarios of her blackout.  The one she keeps ending up at makes her sick to her stomach.  She doesn’t want to entertain the thought, but the more it creeps into her mind, the more it becomes the only answer.  She groans into her pillow and turns on her side.  Tomorrow, she’ll investigate the possibility.  She’ll get Malia to help and kill two birds with one stone; Lydia isn’t thrilled about where she and the werecoyote ended their last conversation.  She sits up suddenly in bed, urged by an unknown emotion to search the drawer of her nightstand.  She turns on the lamp with one hand still in the drawer, moving furiously over the random assortment of items.  She tells herself that if the object she’s searching for is actually in the drawer (where she left it) then she needs to calm her movements before she gets badly cut.  However, her search becomes more frantic the longer her hands remain uninjured.  Where is it?  She pulls the drawer completely out and dumps the entire contents on the floor, running her hands over the scattered chapsticks, coins, hair-ties, and pens.  Where the hell is it?  Lydia runs her fingers through her hair with a whine as she stands and walks to her closest.  She turns every purse upside down to shake empty, but she can’t find it.  It isn’t here.  Lydia crumples to the floor next to the pile of empty purses and covers her mouth with both hands.  She breathes hard through her nose with irregular inhales and forces the exhales out between her quivering fingers.  

    How could she lose Allison’s arrow?

    Early the next morning, Lydia drives over to the Tate household.  It’d been an awkward phone conversation to get Malia to help her.  Lydia hopes the werecoyote’s attitude has calmed some as she whips into the driveway.  After a moment, Malia opens the door and gets in the car with a long sigh.

    “So where are we going?” she says while looking at the window.

    “The graveyard,”  Lydia answers.

    “Why?” Malia asks as she leans forward and looks at Lydia sharply.

    “Because I need to check on something,” the banshee says without taking her eyes from the road.

    “What something?  And why me?”

    “Just something,”  Lydia says in a short tone. “And I need a good smeller to find it.”

    Malia rolls her eyes at Lydia’s words and turns back to the window.  She sighs and slumps back in her seat as she props an elbow against the door to rest her chin on her fist. “You could’ve got anyone with a strong nose for that,” she says.  The posture combined with the werecoyote’s clearly disgruntled face saturates her previous statement with an almost comical level of petulance.

    Lydia clicks her tongue against her teeth and cracks her neck.  “Fine,”  the banshee says,  “You got me.  I have to know something.”  She looks at Malia as she stops the car at red light.  “About what you asked last night,” the banshee continues.  The other girl flicks her eyes to meet Lydia’s.

    “I’m listening,” she says.

    “Why did you ask me that?”  Lydia says as the light turns green.  She eases her foot from the break pedal and turns back to the road, but not before she notices Malia tense.  “I mean, you said yourself that you’re not dating Stiles, and you know I’m with Jordan.  So if there’s something bothering you, just say it.  Don’t ask round about questions.”  Lydia finishes with more hostility than she meant to let into her voice.  

    “Okay,”  Malia says.  “Every time something happens, you call Stiles.”

    “So?”

    “Have you ever thought about why?”  Malia continues, “I think it’s because you know he’ll come running.”

    “You think I’m taking advantage of him?”  Lydia asks with an incredulous scoff.  

    “Maybe,” the werecoyote shrugs.

    Lydia clenches her jaw and pulls over to the side of the road before she turns to face Malia.  “And sleeping with a mentally traumatized and possessed boy isn’t?” she says, “That’s right, sweetheart. I’m perfectly aware of when your relationship began with him.”

    The werecoyote looks slightly stunned, and Lydia almost wants to cover her own mouth upon the realization of what she said.  Malia doesn’t deserve her temper - not like that, anyway.  She knows not to take her frustrations out on other people.  Dammit.  She’s overwhelmed.  Clearly, it’s hard to remember etiquette when she’s grappling with multiple serious threats.  First, there’s the blackout itself, which is troubling to say the least, but once she factors the locations, the implications build to a fucking terrifying second possibility.  The banshee’s positive the other girl can already smell her growing self-loathing and embarrassment when Malia’s lips part and she meets Lydia’s eyes with a wounded expression.  

    “Stiles told you about that?”  the werecoyote asks, looking visible shaken by the idea.

     “What?”  Lydia says before remembering her earlier cruel words, and then quickly she recovers as if smacked with the realization of her attack on Malia. “No, of course not,” she says, “Stiles would never.” She pauses and avoids Malia’s stare by looking down at her lap before continuing, “He’d never do anything that terrible.”  

    “Then who told you?”  Malia asks.  

    “Is that important?”  Lydia counters in a dry tone.

    “Me and Stiles were the only two people there,” Malia continues, “And we agreed not to tell anyone.”  She seems genuinely curious.

    “Three,”  Lydia corrects.  “There were three of you. . . One was just hiding in the other.”  The words feel loaded on her tongue.  Little bullets that bounce around her teeth.  She doesn’t want to talk about the nogitsune.  She needs to say something and redirect this conversation away from her wounds.  “It’s not true anyway, I know that,”  Lydia quickly continues, “I shouldn’t have said you took advantage.  I mean, the same argument could be made against Stiles.  You’d only been human for a couple of months.”

    “Why would it tell you that?”  Malia asks, apparently not willing to drop the topic of the evil fox spirit.

    Lydia bites her lip and leans her head back in a quick stretch to hide her irritation.  “Because, at the time, it was a way to hurt me,” she says while turning on the blinker to pull back into traffic. “It feed off pain, strife, and all those other lovely emotions,”  she says with a sarcastic falsetto as the car accelerates.  “Anyway, I don’t want you to think I’m taking advantage of Stiles now, because I’m not,” the banshee continues quickly,  “Think of him as my supernatural emergency contact.  And let’s be honest, Jordan’s in way over his head already when it comes to this kind of stuff.  Plus I don’t know if I trust Scott.  Who else am I supposed to call?”
    
    Malia keeps silent until the cemetery gates loom ahead on the left.  “You could call me,” she says in an almost hurt sounding tone as Lydia turns the car into the cemetery parking lot, “Or maybe you don’t trust me either.”

    “I trust you,”  Lydia says immediately.  She parks and turns to Malia with squared shoulders and a knotted brow.  “I trust you,” she repeats,  “If I didn’t, would I be asking for your help today?”  Lydia pulls the keys from the ignition and hops out the car.  

    Malia exits swiftly, turning to close the car door before she speaks, “If you really trusted me, you’d tell me what the hell I’m looking for out here.”

    “You see, that’s a little difficult,”  Lydia says as she and Malia walk the path to the graveyard,  “Because I’m not exactly sure what we’re looking for either.  But I’ll probably know when we find it.”

    “Probably?”  

    “Hopefully,”  Lydia shrugs.

    Malia follows behind Lydia as the banshee has a better sense of the cemetery layout.  The two girls weave through the tombstones, always careful to the tread the edges, and never the centers, of each and every grave they pass.  The stone markers blackened with age finally give way to a younger, grayer generation, and then those too are fall behind pale stones only softly weathered.  But these graves are still generations older than the grave Lydia marches towards.  The girls will have to pass through the transition of stone to marble before they reach the tombstone they seek.

    “We’re going to her grave, aren’t we?”  Malia says quietly, as if keeping a hushed tone for the dead.   

    “If I came to the cemetery, there’s only one grave I’d go too,”  says Lydia in an equally soft voice.  “It was raining when Scott was out here, and he was sniffing for a fresh burial.  Maybe he missed something. . .”  She stops talking when she sees the tombstone.  The sight always renders Lydia speechless as if some small part of the banshee expected to find Allison instead of her grave.  

    “So can you smell anything?”  the banshee finally says.

    “What am I supposed to be smelling for?”  Malia asks.

    “I don’t know,”  Lydia huffs,  “Like fresh dirt?  Digging, but not as much for a burial?  Something like that.”

    Malia stares blankly at the grave in front of her.  She turns to Lydia after a moment, and says,  “All the grass is there.  It doesn’t look like there was any digging.”

    Lydia’s eyes blow wide and she raises both hands in frustration.  “I know that,” she hisses before she stops and takes a deep breath to calm down.  She slowly lowers her hands and says,  “Just, please, use your nose.”

    The werecoyote rolls her eyes and then closes them.  She kneels to the earth and leans forward over the grave using one of her arms as a brace.  Malia tilts her head and scrunches her eyebrows while dropping closer to the ground.

    “Do you smell something?”

    Malia doesn’t answer but, instead, opens her eyes and leans even further down to inspect a portion of the grass. She plucks a blade and holds it up to her nose before looking up at Lydia sharply.  “This is a different kind of grass,” she says, “Just this one patch.  It smells different and it’s shorter.”  She sits up and digs a finger under the grass near the blade she plucked.  “It’s loose too,” she says.

    Lydia squats next to Malia and runs her hand over the grass.  “I think I can see the seams,” she says.  Lydia works her fingers under the grass on one edge and Malia uses her claws to pick the roots from the dirt.  In minutes, the two girls have peeled aside enough grass to expose one square foot of earth.

      “This is weird,” Malia says, breaking the silence, “I’ve never visited before. You should have told me so I could’ve brought flowers or something.”

    “It’ll be fine,” Lydia says while rolling her eyes,  “She’ll understand.”

    They continue to slowly peel the grass back until Malia stops Lydia by putting a hand over the banshee’s.  The exposed earth is almost three feet long.  “This dirt is loose,”  the werecoyote says,  “Someone dug here.”  She points a claw to a hiccup of dirt on the otherwise smooth surface.

    Lydia reaches forward with shaking hands and starts scooping away the loose earth.  She concentrates on nothing except the consist removal of the obstruction before her.  She’s close.  She can feel it.  Whatever she’s looking for is right under her hand.  Lydia pushes hard against the dirt and curls her fingers downward, only to pull her hand back with a cry.  She clutches the injured hand to her chest and stares down at the emerging crimson line on her palm.  The pain forces her to bite her lip, but Lydia returns both hands to the dig. She has to know.

    “Lydia stop,”  Malia says,  “It’s gonna get infected.”

    “I’m almost there,” she says as she continues to furiously pull at the dirt with both hands.  The earth grows darker as her blood mixes into the soil.

    “Stop!”  Malia yells as she grabs the banshee’s hands from the grave.  Lydia pants from her efforts, and turns to the werecoyote with a wild stare.

    “Let me go,” she says as she pulls against Malia’s superior strength,  “I can almost see it.  Let me go!”

    “Lydia, stop it,”  Malia repeats with an edge of desperation.  “Look at your hands!”

    Lydia follows Malia’s line of sight until she sees her mangled hands clutched between the werecoyote’s shaking ones.  Cuts run up and down her palms, blood and dirt indistinguishable next to one another inside the flayed skin.

    “I’ll dig, okay?”  Malia says softy.  “I’ll dig.”

    Lydia nods dully, her eyes transfixed by her bloody hands.  Malia carefully moves her claws around the loose dirt, scooping handful after handful away from the growing hole.  She digs deeper than wide and soon bits of earth start crumbling back inwards onto her steady movements.  Malia grunts as she shakes the dirt of her hands and Lydia turns to face her at the sound.

    “Anything?”

    “Hold on,”  Malia says.  “There’s something, but it’s whatever cut you so I’m trying to be careful.”

    “But you can see something?”

    “Yeah.”

    Lydia scoots closer at Malia’s words, and leans over to watch the werecoyote work.  Sunlight begins glinting off a reflective and smooth material as she digs.  The banshee bites her lip as an aching tremor hammers against her heart and ribcage.  Malia scoops one last handful of earth away to reveal the shiny silver of an arrow.  Lydia lunches forward yank the arrow free but she’s stopped by Malia firmly grabbing her wrist.

    “Wait,” says the werecoyote, “It’s not just the arrow.  See?”  She reaches with her free hand and points at a rolled scrape of fabric peaking out from the dirt under the arrowhead.  She lets go of Lydia’s wrist and moves enough debris aside to gently unfurl the muddy corner.  Malia stares at the make-shift scroll a moment before she turns to Lydia.  “It’s the symbols again,” she says,  “The curse thing.”

    Lydia sinks into herself with a sigh as she slowly retracts her hand from the hole in Allison’s grave.  She knew she’d it be here.  The moment her arrow went missing, she knew where to find it.  But what does it mean?  She feels sick to her stomach at the possibilities.

    “You don’t seem surprised,” Malia continues.

    “I did research on defixiones,” she answers.  “Do you know what makes a curse tablet a curse tablet?”  Lydia says in a dejected tone,  “It’s not the words - they’re just a conduit to a higher power. Some tablet’s don’t even use a real language.  First, it’s the location.  It has to be somewhere the other-side can hear.  Naturally, a grave would suit that purpose perfectly. . . The second part is the most important piece of the defixione.”  She pauses to take a shallow breath and clutches her injured hands together before continuing, “The object belonging to the cursed.”

    The two girls are silent as they stare at the exposed earth.  Malia drops her shoulders and tilts her head as she reaches out both hands to push a small pile of dirt back into the hole.  Lydia watches the werecoyote’s movements with horror, too stunned to find her voice until the tip of the arrow has almost disappeared under the returning dirt.

    “What are you doing?” she says with high-pitched cry.  “Stop!”

    “The curse only goes into effect when we break the rules, right?”  Malia says as she pushes Lydia’s hands back from grabbing at the arrow.  “For all we know, digging it up is against the rules.  We should leave it exactly like we found it.  You should have told me we were looking for the defixione. I’d have told you it was a bad idea.”  

    Lydia drops her head down and gnashes her teeth.  Bad idea or not, it’s important to know, right?  There are too many unsolved puzzles right now.  They need all the information they can get.

    “And now we have some, which means we’re that much closer to solving the puzzles,” Malia says firmly,  “So help me bury this.”

    The banshee looks up sharply at the werecoyote’s words.  Lydia hadn’t realized she’d voiced her previous thoughts out loud.  She needs to calm down.

    “You’re right,” she says as she nods.  “You’re right.”  Lydia breathes through her nose as she pushes the soil smooth over the hole, and Malia gently folds the grass back over the patted dirt.
    
    After Lydia drops Malia off at home, she drives to the clinic.  Her hands need medical attention, but she’s sick of the hospital.  She calls Deaton to let him know he should unlock the back door.  Her current state might worry his other clients - that and the fact that she’s going to a vet instead of a doctor for care.  Lydia sneaks by the examination rooms where she can hear the chatter of owners and their pets alike.  She turns the corner and darts into Deaton’s office where she sits at his desk to wait for the Druid vet.  He appears minutes later with an assortment of bandages and sterilizing solutions.  She stands to offer him his own chair back, but Deaton motions for her to sit back down and pulls a wheeled stool over.

    “This is easier for me,” he says as he sits with a smile.  Lydia holds her hands out for him to inspect.

    “Have you figured out the language yet?” she asks.

    Deaton looks up from her injured palms and shakes his head.  “I’m afraid not,” he says as he looks back at her hands,  “But I’m assuming you’ve made some head way.”

    “I found the defixione,” she says.

    He raises an eyebrow as he reaches behind him for the cotton balls and iodine.  “You left it where you found it, I hope,” he says without looking up.

    “I did, of course,” she says, mentally blessing Malia. “But. . . don’t you want to know where I found it?”

    Her question causes Deaton to look up and he seems to hesitate before showing a sad smile.  “Of course,” he says,  “Where is it?”

    Lydia stares at the Druid with a pinched brow and pursed lips before shaking her head.  “You already know where it is, don’t you?”  she says dully.

    “I had deduced as much from the sequence of events,” he answers with missing a beat.  “The question is, Lydia, do you know why it’s there?”

    She tries not to flinch as the iodine solution touches her cuts.  “I put it there,” she says in a tone burdened with guilt.

    “I said the darkness would affect you differently,” Deaton continues,  “That it could take uncharted paths.  There’s a line, even in the supernatural, that divides what can and cannot be done.  A balance that must be kept.”

    “You think I’m disrupting that balance?”  Her voice is soft.  

    Deaton pauses in his work to face the banshee.  “Actually, no,” he says,  “I think you’re protecting it.”  He finishes wrapping her hands in gauze and stands up to collect the unused bandages.  Lydia turns his words over in her head as she stares at her patched palms.  

    “Are you sure?” she asks in a timid voice.  “It doesn’t feel that way.”

    “And what makes you say that?” he questions without turning around.

    “Because that night, I did something at the nemeton,” she says.  “Something I don’t remember.”

    Deaton pauses in his clean up and faces Lydia as he leans back against the counter.  He wears a soft scowl over his features as if reviewing undesirable possibilities. “That certainly is troubling,” he agrees, “But not necessarily cause for alarm by itself.”

    “What if I told you I went to the graveyard first?”

    “That. . . would be cause for alarm,” the Druid says slowly as his face slips into one of deep concentration.  He starts walking towards the bookshelf and just as Lydia’s sure he’s about to reach for a well-worn spine, he turns on his heels and begins to pace.  “When you found the defixione, was anything missing?  Anything at all?” he says.

    “Missing?” Lydia voice cracks over the word.  “From her grave?”     

    “Yes,” he says.  “Think carefully.”

    “I. . . I don’t know,” she says, “We were looking for loose dirt.  Malia noticed the grass was different.”

    “The defixione was under new grass?  Buried in her grave?”  Deaton says.  Lydia nods slowly while her eyes follow the pacing Druid.  “Scott mentioned another scent,” he continues with his face pulled taut.

    “That’s right,” she says.  “He smelled it at the graveyard and the nemeton.  Why?”  She licks her lips while an unexplainable panic builds under her skin.

    “We know you buried the defixione,” muses the Druid, “But who’s to say you dug the original hole?”

    “You’re saying someone else dug first?” The words tumble hard and fast off Lydia’s tongue.  

    “It’s entirely possible,” he says.

    “Why?”
    
    “That depends directly on what was taken,” Deaton says with a deep sigh.

    “Taken?” she echoes with a soft breath.  She stands with slight teeter to her gait and looks at Druid.  “What do you mean taken?”

    Deaton turns back to the bookshelf and pulls the book Lydia thought he was going to pull earlier.  He stares at the faded navy cloth cover as he gently wipes the dust away with his hand.  Once satisfied with it’s cleanliness, he offers the book to her.  Lydia hesitates before plucking it from his hands, as if already aware of what bad fortunes the book had to impart.  She stares blankly at the title then fixes the vet with a doubtful expression.

    “Druid burial practices?

    “Not the most thrilling read, to be sure,” Deaton says, “But informative nonetheless.  The Druids had a very particular view on death.  One that could inform our current situation. You see, they often went to great lengths to protect the body following a burial.”

    “Protect it from what?”

    “Read the book,” he says with a small nod.  “I’m afraid you’ll find there are humans much more frightening than any supernatural creature you’ve encountered so far.”

    Lydia walks the trudge of the damned to her car.  Her mind is numb and she’s surprised her legs still work given the information she received from Alan.  She sits in the driver seat with an unnatural stillness and watches the parking lot through blank eyes.  The ringing of her phone startles Lydia and jolts her back into a semi-coherent state.  

    “Hello?” she answers in more normal a tone then she thought possible.

    “Don’t you dare nonchalantly hello me,” snaps an incredulous sounding Stiles.  Lydia slightly pulls the phone back at his tone.

    “I don’t have time for this, Stiles,” she says.

    “Oh, I think you do, actually,” he corrects, “You see, I’m sitting here with Malia who was kind enough to tell me that you two decided to visit the graveyard this morning?”  He increases the pitch at the end of his sentence as to leave no doubt of it’s inquisitive nature.

    Lydia leans her head back and grits her teeth.  Dammit Malia.  Of course, the werecoyote told Stiles.  She runs a hand through her hair and clears her throat.

    “So?”  the banshee asks.  “I don’t see what the big deal is.”

    “The big deal?  Digging in Allison’s grave isn’t a big deal to you?”  Stiles chokes out.  “Oh, you’re right,” he continues,  “You are so totally right.  You know what? Let me apologize.”

    “Stiles,” Lydia says.  She can only take so much of his sarcasm.  

    “No, I insist,” he pushes on,  “Because now that I think about it, digging in a grave is completely normal.  Totally, absolutely un-crazy.  I mean, you definitely made the right call. The only call.”

    “I found the defixione, didn’t I?”  Lydia bites back.

    “Yeah, and according to Deaton, we can barely even touch it without breaking a rule. So again, great job,” he snaps.  She wants to strangle him.  “I mean, seriously, what are you thinking, Lydia?”

    “Look,” she says after taking a deep breath to modulate her tone,  “We need to know everything we can about last night.  Whatever happened, it wasn’t good. I can feel it.”  She hears him sigh into the phone with a groan.  “Stiles, I’m not making this up,” she says quickly.

    “I know you’re not making it up,” he says,  “And that’s why you need to slow down, and think.  We can’t be reckless when we don’t know the rules.”

    “And we can’t sit around doing nothing either,” she says.  “I’ll admit it was reckless, but it got us information.  They’re planning something. . . I know it involves Allison somehow.”

    The other line falls quiet for a moment after the hunter’s name.  Lydia hears Stiles shuffling the phone as if switching from holding it with his head and shoulder to his hand.  When he speaks again, his tone has lost its edge.

    “Who’s they?  What something?  How is she involved?”  he asks, not pausing for her to answer.  “Lydia,” he sighs,  “Do you see how little we actually know?  We need to regroup, and think about this. For starters, you probably shouldn’t be running around, making rash decisions, the day after you slept walked fifteen miles.  I mean, did you even sleep at all last night?”

    “Of course I slept,” she says.

    “Okay, how many hours?”

    She hesitates to answer but does with a sigh, “Two.”

    “Go home and sleep, Lydia,” he says.  “We’ll meet up tomorrow.”

    “I have school tomorrow.”

    “We all have school, but remember there’s this crazy thing called the afternoon,”  he says slowly as if pausing for Lydia to grasp the concept, “It’s like for things that happen later in the day.”
    
    “Oh my god,” she sighs.

    “I’m serious, you’ve never heard of this?” he continues, “Apparently it happens every day, even after school.”

    “You are so obnoxious,” she says - careful to keep the emerging grin on her face out of her voice.
    
    “So we’ll see you tomorrow?”

    “Fine,” she concedes,  “Tomorrow.  But Stiles, I swear to god if anything happens between now and then-”
    
    “I know, I know,” he interjects, “It’ll be all my fault.”

    “As long as you know,” she says before hanging up the phone.

    The drive back to Glendale feels longer than she remembers and Lydia can scarcely keep her eyes open by the time she parks her car.  She nearly dozes off in the elevator waiting for her floor.  Relief floods her when she realizes her dad is still at work.  Life is simpler when you don’t have to explain blackouts to parents.  She really should read the book Deaton gave her, but she’s so tired.  The banshee crawls into bed with even showering.  She sinks into the mattress with a body shuddering sigh and closes her eyes.

    Lydia watches them silently through the trees.  A boy and a girl.  He carries her to the raw bones of a once great tree - it’s stump still bleeding.  The wind whines and twist around the banshee but she pays more attention to the voices it carries.  Whispers that creep with spidery fingers over her shoulders and around her ankles.  She shivers to shake the cold hands off her body but they only tighten their grip.  Closer, she thinks.  She should be closer, but then the boy might see her.  The girl poses no problem.  Quiet and still, she lies on the stump.  What happens next?  She should be worried, a voice tells her.  She should be frightened, says another.  Lydia shushes them both and crouches with her thoughts, focusing her all on the scene before her. What happens next?  Thunder rudely announces itself and the trees groan from the earth shattering boom.  Lydia stays still.  Not even a breath escapes her.  The boy hovers over the girl as he moves his hand slowly, tenderly, across her face and neck.  His motions repeat as if in a pattern.  The banshee waits until he steps back from the dying tree.  She creeps towards the stump only once the boy’s back disappears into the tree line.  The girl’s expression reads serene.  Lydia would think her sleeping if not for the bleeding hole on her right temple.  Stranger still is the calming effect the dead body has on the banshee.  The unseeing eyes stare straight past the stars.  Lydia curls around the stiff form and rest her head on the dead girl’s breast.  Poor thing, she thinks.  Poor misused child.  She props herself up on her elbows to admire the designs drawn on the body and traces an idle finger over the soot-like substance.  She feels grains of sands under her fingertip and half-heartedly wonders what type of dirt now adorns the dead girl’s features.  The banshee quickly decides it doesn’t matter - the pattern is beautiful.  Lydia follows the drawn lines with her index fingers, running her hands up and down the girls face before she leans forward and kisses each open and vacant brown eye.

    “See me,” the banshee whispers as she pulls her lips back, “See me.”

    No sooner have the words escaped her mouth, Lydia feels the stump give way beneath her.  She begins sinking down, and for one horrid moment, she fears she’ll crush the body underneath her.  Eyes closed, she grits her teeth and waits for the wet, decayed embrace.  When the squelching mash of dead never collides with her living body, Lydia creaks an eye open.  The body and stump are gone - consumed by a blackness that threatens to swallow her as well.  Lydia gasps and pushes out of the muck only to have her legs sink deeper with every inch her top half gains.  Quicksand?  She immediately stops struggling and a bizarre combination of terror and deja vi overtakes the banshee.  She’s in the Veil.  Well, she’s half in the Veil.  Her legs hang, dead weight, into the darkness underneath.  Her upper half seems to hover on a frozen lake.  She can feel the cold seeping into her heart and crawling up her throat.  It’s impossible to pull herself up.  She barely retains the strength to keep from slipping under into the black tar as it is.  This is a dangerous place.  She shouldn’t be here.  

    “Lydia?”

    The voice that calls her name sounds far away and yet, whispers right next to her ear.  The banshee turns her head as best she can to catch the speaker.  Though she would know this voice even if it came warbled through muddy, clogged pipes.

    “Here,” she answers.  “I’m here, Allison.”

    “What are you doing?”  Laughter tickles through the question as brunette hair dances in the corner of Lydia’s vision.

    “I don’t know,” she says.

    “How did you find me?”

    “I don’t know,” she says while straining her eyes to follow the fantastically fluid movements of the hunter.  She seems to be every where that Lydia looks.

    “Do you need help?”  

    “No,” Lydia immediately answers, “Don’t touch me.”   Allison draws back the hand she was extending.  “Something’s wrong,” the banshee says as the frozen surface beneath her hands starts to thaw.  She begins slipping, dropping deeper into the black tar.  Allison reaches towards her flailing arms, but Lydia twist out of range from the offered help despite fighting for breath in the thick cold.  The hunter bristles at the banshee’s rebuttal and morphs her face into an expression of clear and willful disobedience as she lurches forward and grabs Lydia to pull her from the thawing darkness.
    
    “I said don’t touch me!”  Lydia gasps but it’s too late.  The icy surface creaks and shatters as blackness swarms and swallows both girls.

Chapter Text

    Lydia feels weightless as she tumbles into the void.  Allison’s grip on the banshee’s hand is strong, but the slick, inky mass of the Veil is stronger, and the darkness works to pull the two girls apart.

    “Allison!”  Lydia screams as the hunter’s fingers slip away.  She opens her mouth to scream again, and the black tar rushes in and down her throat, coating and clogging her airways.  Cold, boney hands grip the banshee’s biceps and drag her upward from the muck.  She sputters and coughs the deep blackness from her lungs as she feels calculating eyes survey her form.  The same wrinkled, spindler fingers wrap around Lydia’s chin to raise her head.  She finds herself staring into wrinkled black eyes surrounded by pruned skin on the oldest woman she’s ever seen.

    “A banshee?” the old woman cries with a high-pitched laugh as she claps her bony hands together.

    Lydia wakes up with a cold sweat to her alarm at six thirty.  She rubs her mouth and nose out of instinct, her body still driven by panic to clear her orifices of the tar-like substance from the Veil.  A dream?  Lydia holds her face with her hands and moves her fingers with a steady pressure under her eyes.  Did she see Allison?  The real Allison?  The idea sneaks under her skin and grips her heart with gnarled, and barbed fingers.   She wishes she remembered more of what she dreamt.  Images of dark woods merge with the blackness of the Veil, and she’s left with a mauled recollection of fear.  She leans over to turn on her lamp, illuminating the cluttered and unpacked room around her.   The floor is covered with partially opened boxes, and she has to balance herself carefully to not fall while moving towards her purse.  She needs to read the book Deaton gave her.  The spine is slightly bent from its years of use by the Druid.  She runs her finger down the well-worn marks before opening the book to the deepest crease in the bound cloth.  Lydia’s great at speed reading.  Her mind gleams precious parcels of information before her eyes finish scanning the text.  She knows what both pages say in less than thirty seconds, and quickly turns to the next two.  After powering through almost 25 pages, she stops.  It’s six forty five.  She wants to keep reading, but she has to get ready for school.  Her life may be going to hell, but Lydia Martin will not look frumpy on her first day at a new school.  

    She mentally reviews what she read as she applies her make up.  The Druids believed the body once buried became a seed to be reborn in the other world.  For the seed to grow back into the soul, all of its energy had to go with it.  Any spell that requires grave dirt burrowed the energy of the deceased.  Obviously, that had a negative effect on the soul seed.  The stronger the magic, the longer it took the soul to be reborn. There was a time when the Druids would salt the earth of the graves as protection against dark magic.  They believed salting the graves robbed the dirt of it’s connection to the dead and made any dirt taken from that grave utterly useless.  Is this why Deaton wanted her to read the book?  He suspects someone stole grave dirt from Allison?  She sets her lipstick down slowly and opens her mascara, leaning into the mirror with wide eyes as she moves the wand over her lashes.  The reflection of her green irises flicker a moment and then she’s not looking at her own eyes at all.  A set of dark amber irises stare back from the mirror.  Lydia pokes herself with the mascara wand in shock as she violently pulls away from the mirror.  She covers her irritated and watery eye while backing away slowly.  Her heel catches on a sharp, hard surface and she stumbles backwards, stopping herself right before her head smacks the floor.  With more anger than agility, Lydia flips off her back and grabs the offending object only to go limp at the realization of what she holds.  

    Her father walks in her room, drawn by the loud noises.   “Is everything okay?” he says.
          
    “Why is this here?”  She turns and holds out her hand for him to see the splintered bear skull in her grasp.  “How did this get here?”
    
    Her father narrows his eyes and crouches down to inspect her find.  “What are we looking at, sweetheart?” he asks in a slightly concerned tone.
    
    “What do you mean what?” she snaps.  “Clearly it’s-” she looks down again and stops. There’s nothing in her hands. The bones are gone.  What the hell is going on?  “It’s nothing,” she continues in a weak voice, “Clearly, it’s nothing, Dad.”

    Her father raises an eyebrow and stands up.  “Nothing?” he says.  “Are you sure you’re okay?”

    “I’m fine,” she sighs as she pushes herself off the floor. “It was just a bad dream, that’s all.”

    Lydia keeps her eyes focused forward as she marches down the school hallway.  Her heels click and clack against the linoleum floor - her own personal brand of war drums, and make no doubt about it, this is war.  Anyone who approaches school as anything less has already lost.  It’s important to portray confidence and strength otherwise the social food chain will eat you alive.  Lydia knows how it goes; she used to run it.  However, the banshee’s not interested in making friends this time around, and so she avoids the curious stares that follow her down the hall to the main office.  The frail and elderly woman behind the counter shuffles papers about on the desk until she sighs and picks up a stapled packet.  The woman offers it to Lydia and points out the school map along with the class schedule before waving the banshee out of the office.

    The first class is Advanced Trigonometry, and Lydia can’t help but smile.  She’s already on the college level for Trig - the class is merely a pleasantry, a sort of pretense for her college applications.  She chooses a seat near the back and searches through her purse for Deaton’s book.  Instead of picking up where she left off, Lydia decides to read from the beginning.  She’ll be able to get plenty of reading done in this class.  The book, although informative, doesn’t have the information Lydia needs at the moment. Protection for the graves is interesting, but she wants to know why the burials need protection.  What ill means could grave dirt be used for?  She turns to the index and runs her finger down the list of words, but the only entires under grave dirt are the pages she’s already read.  

    “Miss Martin?”  A voice cuts into her thoughts.  Lydia looks up into the pale, pudgy, and frowning face of the Trigonometry teacher. What’s her name again?  Ms. H- something.  Lydia remembers seeing it on the syllabus.  Hewitt.  That’s what it is.

     “It’s Lydia Martin, right?”  Ms. Hewitt asks.  The banshee nods slowly.  “Well Miss Martin,” she continues, “I’m not sure how they did it in your last school, but here, we expect that our students pay attention during class.  You don’t even have your book open.”

    The classroom echoes with muffled laughter, and Lydia grinds her teeth as she opens her trig book to the page written on the board.

    “Why don’t you solve the first equation for us, since you’re so confident in your skills that you don’t even need the book.”

    The banshee stands with a huff and walks to the board. She stares at the equation a moment then turns around to face Ms. Hewitt.

    “I can’t solve it,” Lydia says.

    “Exactly,” she says with a snide smile.  

    “No, I mean, it’s unsolvable because it’s not written properly,”  Lydia says.  “It’s supposed to be ‘2 cos (2x - π/3) = 1’, not ‘2 tan (2x - π/3) = 1’.  You see, tangent can’t complete the function you’re asking us to solve.  Only cosine can.”

    The classroom falls silent following her declaration as Ms. Hewitt stares with an unmistakable hatred at the banshee.

    “She’s right,” a girl calls out softly.  “The calculator shows ‘error’ when you enter the equation with tangent.”

    “Please take your seat,” Ms. Hewitt grinds out as she stalks past Lydia to correct the equation on the board.  The banshee shows her a smug smile as she passes the chalk to the teacher’s outstretched hand.  

    Lydia - one.  High school - zero.

    She doesn’t mind eating alone during lunch.  In fact, she prefers it.  The isolation allows her the time to think.  The pack will be gathering later today, and if she’s going to convince them of the approaching danger, she needs to have her thoughts arranged in a coherent form.  She starts by listing the events as she knows them in chronological order.  First, someone digs in Allison’s grave, and possible removes some grave dirt.  Then Lydia buries the defixione in the already dug hole and follows the stranger to the nemeton.  Something happens at the tree stump that she doesn’t remember and then she falls in the hole.  Since the mystery of her sleepwalking, she hasn’t seen visions of Allison or the Berserker.  However, she did dream of Allison last night, and this morning, she imagined tripping over a Berserker’s skull.  Then there’s the question of Scott.  Obviously, Allison is the Alpha’s Achille’s heel.  Lydia worries how he’ll react when he realizes the hunter is at the center of the unknown danger.  Honestly, there are too many open ended questions, and the banshee’s head throbs at all the potential outcomes.  She rubs her eyes with the palms of her hands.

    “Hey.”

    Lydia lowers her hands at the interruption and sees a muddy pair of blue converse.  She lifts her eyes in boredom to view the rest of the boy attempting to talk to her.  Shaggy, but close-cropped, black hair surrounds his red-cheeked and round face.  She recognizes him, but she can’t exactly place where.

    “My name’s Blake,” he says with a smile as he sets his book bag down at the lunch table.  His voice tickles her ear drums, but not with the raspy quality so associated with a husky tone, this sounds more like the rumbling of rocks.  Deep and echoing.

    “Is that supposed to mean something to me?” she asks while lifting an eyebrow.

    The boy’s smile falters but he’s quick to replace it.  “I’m in your Trig class,” he says.  “Everyone hates Ms. Hewitt.  It was pretty awesome how you showed her up.”

    Lydia rolls her eyes at the cliche expression and sighs.  “I didn’t show her up,” she corrects,  “I helped a teacher by pointing out a mistake.”  She folds her hands and leans her chin on her knuckles to study the boy in front of her.   “And not be rude or anything, but if this is your idea of flirting, I’m really not interested.”

    “Wow,” he chuckles, “Um. . . okay.  I probably should have expected this.  Sorry, I guess.”  He reaches forward and plucks his bag from the table.

    “Why?” she says, suddenly irritated.  “What do you mean you expected it?”

    “Nothing, just that you weren’t interested last time either,” he shrugs.

    “Last time?” she says as she sits up straight.  “Excuse you, but do I know you or something?  Or is this just how you recover from bad flirting?”  

    Blake bites his lip as he grins and takes the seat across from her.  “I tried to buy you a drink once at Jungle,” he says,  “You refused it.”

    “Oooh,” she muses,  “So you’re a creep from the club.”  

    “Creep sounds a little harsh, but sure,” he says, “You remember me now?”

    “I think creep is perfectly apt for the situation,” she says in a flippant tone of voice as she leans back in her seat,  “And I’m beginning to recall a vague drink related scenario,”  Here she pauses and waves her hand in the air as if conjuring her next words.  “But to be honest, I refuse drinks all the time . . . and your face isn’t really ringing any bells,” she lies.  She keeps her eyes neutral.  She needs to see how he reacts.  See if the same unsettling cold emerges in his eyes that she noticed at the bar.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t look up from the table until he starts to stand, and by the time he meets her eyes again, his stare seems lively and amused.

    “Well, this time, I’ll be sure to make an impression,” he says in a tone far too confident for Lydia’s liking.  He holds out his hand for her to shake while saying “It was nice to meet you, Lydia.”

    She lowers her eyes to the offered hand before she flicks her stare back up to Blake.  “Likewise,” she says in a clipped tone while standing and gathering her things from the table.  She walks away, leaving the boy to discreetly pull back his rejected hand.

    The December wind cuts through her thin jacket and brings with it the smell of decayed leaves.  Death follows her everywhere, it seems, and now she’s traveling back to the source.  Beacon Hills.  The pack is meeting at Derek’s loft - all of them but Deaton.  Lydia wanted the Druid to be there, but he left yesterday in search of a translator for the defixione.  She’ll have to deliver the bad news by herself.  Her hands go numb from her grip on the steering wheel as she drives, but the banshee doesn’t care.  It’s important to hold on, stay in control.  The elevator ride up takes an eternity, and just as she’s convinced it’s stuck, the doors part to revel Derek’s floor.

    The atmosphere of the loft is somber.  Malia sits and stares out the grand windows from the kitchen table, Kira posed silently next to her.  Derek and Braeden stand at the counter, arranging Braeden’s arsenal of deadly weapons.  Stiles and Scott pause in their conversation as Lydia walks over to them.

    “Why do I get the feeling I’m not the only one with bad news?” she says as she drops her purse to the couch.

    Stiles rubs the back of his neck and hunches over before he stands up to stretch.

    “You’ve got bad news too?” he says.  “Wanna play rock paper scissors to see who gets to ruin who’s day first?”

    “My day’s already ruined,” Lydia says,  “What’s going on?”

    “I guess it’s not awful,” Scott says, “But it’s definitely not good.”

    “Not awful?  Really, buddy?”  Stiles says,  “Cause I’d say, considering the circumstances, it’s pretty fucking awful.”

    “Oh my god, what?”  she snaps.

    “Peter’s out of Eichen House,”  Derek says as he walks up behind Lydia.  

    The banshee turns swiftly to address the werewolf.  “Excuse you?” she says, “He’s out?  As in he escaped?”

    “Escaped, transferred, released - we don’t know,” Derek continues, “All we know is he’s not there anymore.”

    “Not there anymore?” she repeats with wide eyes.  “What the hell kind of answer is that?”

    “It’s the only answer Eichen House will give us,”  Braeden says as she tucks a pistol into her jeans.  “They’re not very open about their more special patients.  For the most part, the staff likes to pretend they don’t even exist.”

    “So what?”  Lydia huffs,  “It’s a hunting party now?”

    “No,” Scott says,  “Peter’s not important.  He knows he’s place.”

    “Okay. . .  and the weapons?” she asks.

    “For assurance, in case he forgets,” Braeden answers while loading a round into her other pistol.

    “He won’t be back here,”  Malia says from across the room.  “At least not for a while.  He’s not stupid.  He knows there’s no way he can win against us right now.”

    “Yeah, right now,”  Stiles says in a heated tone,  “Which brings us back to my point.  Peter’s dangerous no matter where he is.  I mean, how do we know what’s going on right now isn’t another one of his schemes?  Isn’t the timing on all this a little too perfect?”  

    “No, it’s not Peter,” Lydia says,  “Malia’s right.  He wouldn’t launch an attack when he’s this weak.  Plus, Scott would’ve recognized his scent.”

    “It’s true,” Scott says in a tired voice.  “Anyway, what’s your bad news?”  The question’s addressed to Lydia.

    “Well, it’s complicated. . . kinda,” she says,  “And we won’t have the all details until Deaton gets back, but I think it’s important enough to mention now.”         

    Malia and Kira walk over to stand by Lydia, as if already sensing the discomfort the topic causes the banshee.

    “We don’t know what the defixione says, but we found it in Allison’s grave,” Lydia says as she studies her fingernails.  She can’t meet anyone’s eyes at the moment.  “The actual cursed object was her silver arrowhead.  That means, the defixione wasn’t made for us. . . It was made for Allison.”

    “But Allison’s already dead,” Braeden says.

    Lydia whips her head to face her.  “Thank you,” she grinds out in sarcasm, “I think we’d forgotten.”  The mercenary rolls her eyes and turns back to loading her guns.

    “So it’s cursing her afterlife?” Kira asks.  “Like her soul?”

    Scott looks up sharply at the kitsune’s words.

    “Are you serious?” he says.  “It’s not enough that she fucking died, she has to be cursed too?”  

    “No, not exactly,” Lydia corrects quickly,  “Remember, we don’t know what the defixione says.”

    “So we find out what it’s saying, then what?”  Malia says.  “Shouldn’t we be focusing on why someone would want to involve her?”

    Lydia licks her lips and shoots Stiles a pointed glare as she gestures with her head towards Scott.  The human widens his eyes at her, but Lydia simply narrows hers and tilts her chin.  Stiles steps forward with a sigh.

    “I think I’ve got an idea on that,” he says as he taps a fist to his palm, and turns to look at the True Alpha.  “Scott. . .” he continues in a small voice,  “Come on, buddy.  It’s no secret.”

    The werewolf looks around the room to all six pairs of eyes focused on him.

    “I’m not trying to use her as an anchor, if that’s what you mean,” he says in tense sounding tone.

    “And uh. . . how’s that going?”  Stiles asks.

    “Seeing as how I’m seriously feeling the need to maim right now,” the Alpha says as he flashes human nails, “Pretty good.”

    “That’s lovely,” Stiles says with a sneer.

    “Look, what Stiles is trying to say,”  Lydia interrupts, “Is that Allison is still a vulnerable point of access.  She pushes you to the edge and a pack with an unhinged Alpha doesn’t survive long.”

    “She’s a distraction,” Braeden says from her spot at the counter.  “Something to keep your attention while the real threat is being set up.”