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Lydia’s felt a scream building in the back of her throat for a day. She can’t tell who it’s for, except that it’s not for anyone she knows, which is as much of a relief as her powers ever allow her. She doesn’t want to spend the whole afternoon dwelling on impending doom, however, so she swallows it down as Stiles comes bounding into her room.

“Knocking is a thing, Stiles,” Lydia says, “a thing we’ve talked about.”

“You don’t have to knock to come into my room,” comes Stiles’s often repeated complaint. They’re sharing a one bedroom apartment in New York City for their Sophomore year at their respective colleges, and Lydia easily claimed the tiny bedroom out from under him, both because it made sense - she’s the one with boobs, and also the one who requires actual closet space - and because Stiles is a pushover. He still complains about his curtained off alcove in the main room, but she doubts he actually minds.

“The case, Stiles?”

“Oh, yeah, a call from someone named Laura. She’s actually only a few blocks from here. Says her uncle disappeared from the hospital a few years ago, and now she’s getting weird mail from his home town.”

“Weird how?” Lydia asks. Stiles mans the phone number for the Yggdrasil Occult Detective Agency (aka YODA, as Lydia realized too late to protest) and amount of information he manages to get for each call varies according to his own special kind of logic. She’s trying to train him to ask more leading questions, but he says he prefers to do it in person, when he can read their clients faces.

“Creepy photos, news clippings, stuff like that. I figure you can feel up her mail, maybe do a diagnostic on the missing uncle.”

“Fine,” Lydia sighs, “I’ll get my shoes.” She just hopes she doesn’t need to do a diagnostic wail - the kind of scream that allows her to get information from the ringing silence that follows. If she tries to scream, she’s not sure she can guarantee what will come out.

***

The moment she meets Laura, Lydia knows who the building scream is for. She’s usually guiltily relieved when her predictions target strangers. Lydia’s not a saint, and it’s not like she has the luxury of being naive about death being a part of life. As long as Stiles is safe, her pack is safe, she’ll leave the noble fight against fate to people like Scott or Allison.

It’s a shame though, because Laura is gorgeous in that effortless way Lydia secretly resents. High cheekbones, large, thick lashed eyes, and flawless skin exempt her from needing make up. Lydia gets the feeling she wouldn’t use it regardless, though, if her long unstyled black hair, ripped jeans, and worn, fuzzy slippers are anything to go by.

She casually waves Stiles and Lydia into her apartment, without checking them out through the peep hole, or around the door chain first. That, and the assessing look Stiles exchanges with her tells her that there’s probably more to Laura than she can see on the surface.

Lydia tunes out Stiles’s introductory spiel, too familiar by now. Stiles never tires of being a private detective, even if they started YODA mainly as a convenient excuse for why Lydia was ending up at one too many crime scenes for the NYPD. He loves the work, whether they’re using Lydia’s powers, or his own intuition and investigative skills.

She takes the chance to look around the apartment. It’s large enough to have a separate kitchen/dining area and main room, and a hallway that leads to at least two bedrooms. The furniture is all dark and neutral, the walls white and undecorated.

There’s a pile of large, open envelopes on the beaten metal coffee table that draw Lydia’s eyes, and she’s moving towards them almost before Stiles is done speaking.

“Right,” Laura says, seeing her interest, “those are the letters I told you about. Except they aren’t letters, and whatever the message is, I’m just not getting it. My brother wants me to forget about them, but…” she trails off in frustration, dragging a hand through her hair.

“But you think they have something to do with your uncle?” Stiles asks.

“Honestly, I assumed he’d died,” Laura admits with a shrug.

Lydia wonders about how anyone can shrug over the possible death of a family member, but maybe the almost haunted look in her eyes, and lack of pictures on the wall are explanation enough. She’s seen that look before, in Allison’s eyes, and Satomi’s.

“Do you think he sent these?”

“Maybe,” Laura sighs, “Or someone who wants me to look into it. I should have gone back ages ago. And I will go back, now, but I’d like to have some idea of what I’m getting myself into first.”

“And that’s where we come in,” Stiles says, bright and professional, “we don’t want you walking into a trap!”

Lydia sits down on the dark level couch before allowing herself to be drawn back down to the mail. The return label is printed, with a tiny familiar logo, from an all too familiar city and zip code.

“Eichen House,” she murmurs, and then she bites down on her tongue as she tips the envelope’s contents into her hand - a photo of a dead deer, with a bloody spiral carved into it’s hide. And then the waiting scream rips out of her.

***

Lydia has nightmares that start like this one, where she’s struggling against something as inevitable as the oncoming tide. There’s fear burning in her throat, and rage too, the feelings all her own. She puts them aside to listen.

***

In the ringing silence after her scream, she vaguely registers Stiles telling Laura, "that definitely means it's a trap." But Lydia's chasing the whispers, familiar ones, charming, dark, and wrong, and when Stiles puts a notepad in front of her, flipped open to a blank page and a pen in her hands, she starts to draw. Stiles and Laura are talking, but she can't discern their voices through what she needs to hear.

The door to the apartment bangs open as she finishes sketching the third spiral, and a very scruffy looking man with eyebrows that have seen neither wax nor tweezers is asking what the hell is going on.

"Everything is fine," Laura says, though she's looking from the scruffy man to the triskelion on the notepad anxiously, "Derek, these are the investigators I hired. Lydia, Stiles, this is Derek-"

"Hale," Stiles finishes angrily, snapping the notebook shut as Laura reaches for it, "and you're Laura Hale," he adds, inching between her and Lydia like his skinny self is going to save her from two werewolves. Lydia rolls her eyes, and catches a tiny, brief grin from Laura.

"Is that a problem?" Laura asks.

"As it happens, we have a No Hales Policy. You can thank your psychotic 'missing uncle' for that. So nice try, but we're out of here."

"Stiles," Lydia interrupts.

"I think we have some unfinished business first," Laura says, voice calm and even, though Stiles is practically vibrating fear and rage at her.

"If you want to pay our initial consulting fee, that's fine with me -"

"-we're paying this guy?" Derek scoffs.

"Stiles-"

"-but I'm more than happy to call it even if you stay as far away from us as possible," Stiles finishes, grabbing Lydia's wrist to tow her along to the door, clearly forgetting that she is not baggage to hauled around. Sweet, but annoying.

Lydia snaps her wrist back, "STILES," she tries to yell, though her voice still hoarse from earlier makes it little more than a whisper. It's probably more effective that way, and Stiles stops in his tracks, his hand still on Derek's shoulder to push him out of the door frame.

"It's Peter," Lydia tells him, "I heard Peter."

"THAT'S WHY WE'RE LEAVING," Stiles flails, nearly smacking Derek's face. And honestly, he's such a tragic human being sometimes.

Lydia takes a deep breath. "Peter's the one sending the letters. To bring her back to Beacon Hills. He's going to kill her."

“Peter Hale is my uncle, he’s not going to kill me.” Laura scoffs, “he was in a coma for years, he’s probably still healing in this Eichen place.”

“Oh, but he’s better,” Stiles says, “you could say he’s in violent good health now.”

“So you know where he is?” Derek argues.

“Yes, he’s been in Eichen House for the last two years,” Lydia says, “not the part that shows up on the records, and not the part you can check yourself out of.”

“For good reason,” Stiles adds.

"So he’s insane, and locked up, and you think he’s sending a message to lure me into a trap?” Laura laughs, ”How could he even find us, if he's been in this Eichen House for years? We changed our identities after he went missing from the hospital, we assumed the Arg- hunters-"

"The Argents," Stiles interjects, "and it was more like he found them."

"Good," Derek says bitterly.

"Watch it," Lydia snaps, "the Argents aren't the only family with homicidal psychopath in their gene pool." She wishes Stiles hasn't mentioned it, because for all her powers tell her she and Stiles are still safe from these wolves at the moment, there's no way in hell she's putting them on Allison's scent.

Laura steps into Lydia's space, radiating tension, for all her voice is smooth when she asks, "do you have any idea what they did to us?" The words are honey sweet, like she's referring to nothing more than a sale at Macy's, and Lydia's shudders, seeing more than a little of her uncle's charisma.

Laura frowns, and steps back again without prompting. Peter never would have retreated. Laura's unpolished, maybe, more straightforward, but she can read people - read Lydia - with more than just her werewolf senses. It just sets Lydia more on edge.

Stiles rushes on, oblivious, "You mean what Kate did? Yeah, we know. I guess you missed the papers."

"Stiles figured it out, he's very proud," Lydia says, smoothing her skirt, and incidentally drying her palms, "so did your uncle of course. Very big on vengeance, he is, which brings us back to the delightful spiral he mailed you. I’m glad to see he’s into harming animals now, as well as, oh, anyone else he can get his claws on."

Laura taps the envelope. "How did he find us?" she murmurs to herself. Her fingers are long and slender, the nails tidy and shaped, but unpainted. Lydia pulls her gaze away, towards Stiles's large, clumsy, safe-to-look-at hands. He's waving them away from himself in a clear 'nothing to see here gesture.'

"Who knows?" He says, "I stopped underestimating him years ago, and I recommend it as a life choice. Plus I think his roommate has a third eye. And the doctor there is a total stalker.”

"What." Derek says flatly, and moves, unsubtly, even more solidly in front of the door. It's probably meant to be intimidating, and maybe she would have been intimidated five years ago, before werewolves, berserkers, and kanimas. Before she could read the fear in the whisper of his claws against his palm.

"I think that's enough information sharing for one consultation," Lydia says, tossing her hair. She directs her words to a red eyed Laura, not needing, and not appreciating, the visual cue to know who's in charge. "We'll be leaving now, and we won't be contacting you again."

"What about Laura?" Derek explodes, heaving forward, threateningly. Stiles blocks him mainly by losing his balance, and getting tangled in Derek's legs, hanging off his arms.

Lydia ignores the slapstick corner, and keeps talking to Laura, "Stay out of Beacon Hills, and stay away from your uncle, that's all I can tell you." She isn’t sure it will be enough, honestly. It should be - the fate her scream told her of is tied to Beacon Hills. Lydia has screamed for people she’s ended up saving, and screamed for people she couldn’t. She doesn’t want to think about how this feels like the second kind.

Laura's eyes fade back to hazel, "Why would you assume it’s Peter that’s the problem? Maybe he’s the one in trouble!”

“I’m sure he’s counting on you thinking that,” Lydia says, holding Laura’s stare.

“What did he ever do to you?" Laura asks, finally looking away.

Lydia can feel the scars, in moments like these, but she pushes it aside. No part of her belongs to that scenery-chewing, B-movie villain. He’s not in her head anymore, or lurking in the shadows around her friends. She’s moved past his bullshit.

"He did enough, ok? To all of us," Stiles says, jutting out his chin. Stiles has his own nightmares, but he’s woken Lydia from hers more than once, knows exactly how broken she is. And, being Stiles, brave, mouthy, and stubborn, he’ll never tell

There’s a tense silence, while Laura looks at Stiles, and back at Lydia. "Derek," she says quietly, and just like that, the door is open, and they're leaving.

Once they're in the bright sunshine, Lydia wonders if she should have offered more, dug deeper into the whispers for Laura, but being brave still doesn't come naturally to her, and Stiles altruism stops at his friends, and goes very little further. There's nothing to make her question herself, except... she doesn't want Laura to die. And she sure as hell doesn't want Peter to win.

"We don’t have to see them again," she tells Stiles as she climbs up into the jeep, "but maybe we should look into it a little more."

Stiles slumps against his seat, but he doesn't argue, which is a surprise. She arches an eyebrow at him.

"What?" He says, "Scott is such a bad influence on us."

"Speaking of Scott..."

“We’ll get him on Skype as soon as we’re back.”

***

Lydia is still trying to forget the Hales, after a lot of mental effort, and assurances from Scott that Peter Hale is just as locked up as he’s ever been, when Laura plops down next to her in her favorite coffee shop with a jovial, "Hey Red, fancy seeing you here."

Laura’s wearing a navy tanktop, jeans worn past the point of fashion, and has her hair in a messy ponytail, and yet somehow manages to look more like a model than a hobo. Lydia slowly puts down her nearly finished latte, and places the bookmark - a laminated sprig of some flower that sadly isn't wolfsbane - firmly into the spine of her textbook. "Are you following me?"

"No," Laura says cheerfully, "not that this is entirely coincidental; I have seen you here before."

Lydia's never seen Laura here before, but that isn't saying much. She usually comes here when Stiles has too much Adderall, or, less frequently, gets laid, and she usually keeps her face in her texts to avoid annoying college boys, or inadvertent predictions of doom.

"Checking out all the supernatural creatures at your local hangouts, hmm?" Lydia asks. She feels wrong footed again.

"Checking out the cute ones, anyway," Laura winks, "you're pretty memorable."

Annoyingly, Lydia can feel herself blushing. “And yet you've never even bought me coffee. Can't have been too interested in my looks."

Laura sighs, "My brother and I made a pact about three years ago not to date girls. Sadly we're two for two on picking mass murdering psychopaths."

Lydia thinks out loud, "Kate Argent, and...?"

"That was Derek. Mine was an adorable school teacher who turned out to be a vengeful dark druid who wanted an alpha in her back pocket. Good times," Laura says bluntly, "now we vet everyone."

"And you've vetted me?" Lydia asks, "because otherwise your chair is a little closer than it needs to be."

"I had a nice chat with my old emissary, Deaton, who is apparently two-timing me with your little alpha." She smirks wryly, "he says good things about you. Loaded me up with caveats about your buddy Stiles, but you, he likes."

"So you're interested in me," Lydia says, flipping her hair over her shoulder, so it fans out appealingly, and leans forward so that her shirt drops open just enough for the edge of her bra to show.

Laura's eyes don't waver once from hers. "You're an interesting girl."

"Uh huh," Lydia says, holding Laura’s stare for moment.

"See, I think you're a little more interested in using me as a supernatural cheat guide to figure which life choices will lead you six feet under." Lydia drinks the last of her latte, gone cold, all the mocha congealed unpleasantly on the bottom, so she doesn't see Laura's reaction. She continues to not see it as she packs up her things, until Laura's hand is on her wrist, keeping her from zipping her bag.

"If that was it, could you blame me?" Laura asks, voice gone husky. Lydia still stooped over her bag slightly, and she realizes Laura may be getting another sneak peek, and this time, she’s affected.

Lydia raises an eyebrow, "I only magic eight ball for my friends, and you? Are not my friend."

"What if I bought you another coffee?"

So that’s how it is. "It'd be a start," Lydia says, easing back into her chair, willing to hear what comes next. Or maybe it’s just been awhile since she’s flirted with a girl this attractive, "but really, I already told you, you need to stay away from Beacon Hills."

"It's just that simple?"

"Not really," Lydia says, wishing it were, "and neither is my coffee order," jiggling her empty cup.

Laura grins.

 

***

They're still talking - though they've studiously avoided serious topics - as Lydia stops in at Triple Goddess Books to replace their old YODA flyer with a new one that has a fresh set of phone number tabs at the bottom.

"Oh hey," Laura says, "this is where I got your number!"

"It would be," Lydia says, "we don't advertise anywhere else."

"You're not going to get a lot of business that way," Laura frowns thoughtfully at the crowded bulletin board, "though I guess you're targeting people in the community?"

"Pretty much. We're mostly tied up enough with school - we don't have time for too much extra work." Lydia's course of study is no joke, and Stiles is double majoring in Law Enforcement and, as he calls it, 'Druid Studies.' Deaton claims he's not in a hurry to retire from being an emissary, but she's caught him looking wistfully at houseboat ads online more than once, and he encouraged Stiles to take the accelerated program. "And this is the only legit occult store in the city we've found, so when we do advertise, it's here."

"You, and the Happy Brownie cleaning service," Laura notes, thumbing a bright pink flyer.

"You should write down their number," Lydia says sweetly, "I've been to your apartment. Tell me, when was the last time you vacuumed?"

Before Laura can answer, a girl with messy hair and streaked mascara runs in, setting the door jangling, and jostling them as she reaches for a pull tab on the YODA flyer. She rips the flyer practically in two and curses.

"Excuse me," Lydia says, "but I'm right here. You can at least wait until I'm more than 3 feet away before you vandalize my flyer."

"Hey, are you ok?" Laura asks the girl gently.

"I didn't - is this really your flyer? You're Yoda?"

"I'm Lydia, actually, but yes." She says, brushing her hair back over her shoulder, and wondering, not for the last time, why she let Stiles name the agency.

"Oh thank God! My sister, my little sister, she didn't come back from her date last night, and it hasn't been 24 hours, so I can't go to the cops, and her roommate thinks I'm just freaking out, that she just stayed overnight with the guy? But I know she wouldn't -"

"Slow down," Laura soothes, "you need to breathe, and then tell us. We'll find your sister, but it'll take us longer if you pass out," she teases gently.

Lydia cuts her a glance at the 'we' comment, but doesn't challenge it. Handling emotional distress is not the part of helping others that Lydia claims to enjoy.

“Start with your name,” Lydia suggests.

"Darla, my name’s Darla. And my sister’s name is Jenna. A friend of mine said you can find things, sometimes. Can you find Jenna?"

"I'll need something of hers, preferably something that... holds part of her."

"Part of?" The girl echoes faintly.

"Gross," Laura wrinkles her nose.

Lydia rolls her eyes, "I mean a hair brush, or a toothbrush, or a pillow. Lockets, jewelry, or journals might be very sentimental, but they do nada for my powers, generally. And it helps if I can be in her space."

"If her roommate isn't worried, will she still let us in?" Laura asks.

“Us?” Lydia asks, folding her arms over her chest.

“I’m here, and I want to help,” Laura replies evenly.

Darla looks between the two of them, “I’m sorry, I thought you were both…”

“Laura doesn’t usually work with us at YODA,” Lydia explains sweetly, “actually, she’s another client.”

Laura puts her hand over her heart dramatically, “I would recommend her products and/or services.”

Lydia rolls her eyes, annoyed that she can’t call Laura out on the lie in front of Darla.

“But you’re both… you both have those auras,” Darla says, making an outline with her hands in the shape of, Lydia assumes, an aura.

“Auras?” Laura asks, “That one’s new to me.”

It isn’t new to Lydia, but her powers aren’t exactly visual. It also explains how Darla heard about YODA, if she’s in the community.

“Um, yours are just a bit brighter, in this way I’ve seen before, so I just assumed…” Darla shrugs, “I don’t mind if she comes,” she tells Lydia.

Lydia sighs, “she can come along if she’s quiet.”

Laura smirks a little, but mimes zipping her lips.

“Assuming we can even go to your sister’s place?”

“I don’t know,” Darla says, chewing on her bottom lip, “I hope so.”

“Well, we can always ask,” Lydia says.

***

Luckily, when they get to Jenna’s apartment, her roommate Hannah lets them right in, “Oh thank God,” she says, “I’ve been freaking out, Jenna hasn’t answered my texts, and I know she would have come back to change before her afternoon classes.”

“So you believe me now?”

“Yes, I bel - wait, you aren’t the police,” she says, turning to look at Laura and Lydia. Laura’s nose is in the air, and she’s sniffing conspicuously.

Lydia grabs her PI license from her purse, and passes it to Hannah, “you won’t be able to get the police until it’s been 24 hours. I don’t have the same restrictions.”

Laura turns a little to grin at her, and then picks up a cardigan off the back of the sofa, “is this hers?”

“Yes? But - “

“I’ll need to see her room, Hannah,” Lydia interrupts, so that Hannah won’t see Laura bury her nose in the cardigan. Honestly, there are times Lydia doesn’t miss working with werewolves.

Jenna’s bureau is crowded with scarves, make up, and miscellaneous bottles, the typical detritus of a girl who’s been readying herself for a date. Absently, Lydia wonders if Laura owns any of these things, or if she’d show up as bare faced and unstyled to a date as is she is now. She puts the thought aside as she finds a comb, half hidden under a knit cap, with a single strand of brown hair still woven through the teeth.

Hannah and Darla are arguing, so she shushes them as she brings the comb up towards her ear. Then she plucks the teeth with her nail, playing them like an instrument, and closes her eyes as the whispers start.

Jenna is arguing with her date. The clink of a seatbelt coming unfastened, and the metallic creak and slam of a car door being open and shut. High heels staggering on grass, crunching leaves, until other steps overtake them. The inaudible song of the moon, bright and full, and then -

“Why’s everyone being so quiet?” Laura asks, shattering the vibrations.

“Shhh,” Darla shushes her exaggeratedly, and too late.

“I’m never bringing you anywhere ever again,” Lydia says, putting the comb down with a snap. The brief sound tells her the rest of what she needs to know, “but apparently, it’s a good thing I brought you.”

“You say the sweetest things, Red. Does that mean…?” Laura trails off, with a significant look at Hannah and Darla.

“It’s your kind of problem, yes,” Lydia says, and turns to the girls, “sorry, I don’t mean to be cryptic, but it might be best if you let us handle this. Jenna’s ok!” She adds, interrupting Darla, who is looking increasingly upset, “but the date didn’t go well, and she’s lost and freaked out.”

“You got that from her comb?” Hannah asks, “What are you, psychic?”

“More or less,” Lydia replies, and then cuts off further questions that she doesn’t want to deal with, “Hannah, can you pack a change of clothes for Jenna, and some water?”

“Oh - sure, I guess,” Hannah says, and runs off, though Lydia can hear her muttering to herself about psychic detectives as rifles through the closet.

“I’m coming with you,” Darla says firmly.

Lydia opens her mouth to protest, but Laura cuts in, “that might not be a bad idea. She’ll want to see her family more than us strangers.” Lydia knows most werewolves, especially the newly turned, prize their secrecy, but she’s reasonably sure that Laura isn’t wrong that Jenna will be happier to see her sister than a banshee and a strange alpha. Still, even with the memory of how fiercely she once resented being kept in the dark by Allison, she hates being the one to make that call.

“Good,” Darla says, “I’ll bring the car around.” Her forehead creases, “wait, where are we going?”

***

An hour later, they’re walking through woods just across the Jersey border, Darla with a shopping bag full of clothes, a bottle of evian, several packages of poptarts, and a headful of new knowledge about werewolves. Laura marches in the lead with Jenna’s cardigan and her nose once more in the air.

Lydia can hear echoes of the path Jenna took in the leaves crunching beneath their feet, hears her running towards the full moon, as the change took her.

They find Jenna in a clearing, sitting on a fallen tree with her head between her knees. She looks up when she hears them, as alert as a prey animal, rather than the predator she now is, and then she's darting across the clearing, and flinging herself into Darla's arms.

"Oh my God, Darla, I've had the worst first date," she cries.

She's a younger copy of her sister, the most visible difference a dyed blue streak in Jenna's hair.

That, and the yellow flash of her eyes as she sees Lydia and Laura, "who the hell are you?"

Darla looks over her shoulder at them, "they helped me find you, Jen. They're a little weird, but they're ok."

It wasn't a ringing endorsement, but Lydia's heard worse. Unfortunately, Jenna is now literally snarling at Laura, "she smells like the guy who did this to me!"

Darla backs away, eyeing her sister in dawning horror as she growls and begins to shift and this? This is why it’s sometimes better to tell the family after a werewolf has a little more control.

Laura just looks at her calmly, "Yes," she says, "I do. And there's a good reason for that, but I'm not going to explain until you can stop scaring your sister long enough to listen."

"Darla?" Jenna asks, looking at her trembling sister, and then down at the claws on her hand. "What's happening to me?"

"The bite is a gift," Laura begins, and Lydia snorts. Laura glares in response and then rolls her eyes, "Granted it might not be a gift you'll appreciate right away."

"You're a werewolf," Lydia says, "But mostly? You're a survivor. And you're going to be fine."

"More than fine," Laura adds, and Lydia takes back her earlier thought that Laura is the more sensitive of the two of them, "you'll be faster, stronger-"

"But not human?" Darla asks softly, looking at the air around Jenna like she’s seeing something new. Lydia wonders how her aura has changed. "I guess... well, it's a good thing you've always been Team Jacob, huh Jen?"

Jenna laughs a little helplessly, but she's still holding out her clawed hands.

Lydia gently clasps them in her hands, and thinks about what Scott would say, "I know you're going to be ok because I've been there."

Jenna huffs doubtfully, "yeah?"

"When I was in highschool, I went to a school dance with some friends... and two weeks later I woke up, naked and lost in the woods, scarred, and no longer human. So yeah, I've been there," she says, rubbing her thumbs soothingly along Jenna's wrists.

She catches Laura's eye, but she can't quite figure out her expression, despite the fact that her impressive eyebrows are knit together.

Lydia feels her face flush, and she looks away. Jenna may feel a little better, her hands, and blunt nails, are curling around Lydia's, but Lydia feels scraped open with Laura's eyes on her.

Laura coughs softly, and adds, "I want you to know that it isn't supposed to happen that way. Whoever bit you... That isn't our way." She's speaking to Jenna, but Lydia wonders if the words aren't meant for her as well. She scowls in reply. Lydia's met enough good alphas to know that they're the majority. But she's also met enough Peter Hales to knew they do more damage than all the good ones can counter.

"Then why?" Jenna asks, "I didn't ask for this."

"No one asks for a gift, do they?" A man's voice asks. Red eyes glow from the shadows before he steps into view, tall, Abercrombied, and a lot younger and more freckled than Lydia expects from such a finely tuned sense of drama.

"You!" Jenna shouts, and the claws are out again, great. Lydia shifts closer to Darla and draws her back away from the wolves.

"Oh good, you're here," Laura says, her words distorting behind fangs "saves me the trouble of trying to find you."

"So you can steal my beta?"

"So I can charge you with violation of statute 9 of the Tri-state Allied Werewolf Charter," Laura snarls.

"There's a charter?" He pauses, blinking. And that's when Laura attacks.

The fight is short, nasty, and ends with Jenna up a tree, and the strange alpha panting and pinned beneath Laura.

"What are you, the werewolf police?" He coughs wetly. Lydia isn't looking too closely at his mouth. Ugh.

"Sort of," Laura says gleefully, "there's no statute, but there is an alliance. You think any sane pack is going to risk some rogue fratboy alpha running around a major metropolitan area? I don't know who bit you, or whose power you stole, but that's not how we work."

"Ok, ok, I'm sorry!"

"Apologize to Jenna."

Jenna hops down from the tree, and comes warily closer.

"I'm very sorry, Jenna."

"Good," Laura says, but presses his shoulders back into the dirt when he tries to get up, "now Jenna gets to decide whether or not she wants to kill you."

"What?!" Jenna practically shrieks, and backs away.

Darla digs her fingers into Lydia's arm, "is she serious?" She hisses.

Lydia frowns. She's not sure - Laura has a hardness to her, sharp corners that make Lydia wary. And after all, she is a Hale. Either way, she's not particularly horrified. Lydia would kill Peter too, given the chance.

"You kill the one that bit you, and there's a chance you'll be regain your humanity. But there's also a chance you'll take his powers, and become an alpha, which can be hard on a new wolf," Laura explains, "it's your choice."

"You can't!" The alpha shouts, and wriggles harder to get away.

“Tell her what an alpha is, at least,” Lydia says impatiently.

“An alpha is a leader - a werewolf who can turn others into werewolves,” Laura explains.

“So I’d be like him?”

"Or me. Or you’ll be back to your old self. But this time it's your choice," Laura tells Jenna.

Jenna takes a step forward, her claws out, but her hand shaking. And then she takes a step back, "I don't think I can. Darla? I'm sorry, I can't."

Darla runs and tackles her into a hug, "of course you can't, Jen!"

"But I'm a werewolf," Jenna says, though her words are a bit lost from being spoken into Darla's shoulder.

"Team. Jacob."

"You don't even like Twilight!"

"I like my baby sister," Darla ruffles her hair.

"Can I go?" The alpha says, "no killing, right? So I can go?"

Laura laughs, "sure, you can go," and then she punches him unconscious, "Red, you got any mountain ash handy?"

Lydia spreads a circle of black powder around the alpha, as Laura talks to Darla and Jenna about full moons and anchors.

***

A while later, Abercrombie Alpha has been carted off by a group of emissaries who hint darkly about restoring the balance, and Darla’s driven them back to Jenna’s apartment.

“I can drive you both home, I know it’s late,” Darla says, wringing her hands, her eyes on the door her sister has disappeared behind.

“We’ll get a cab,” Laura offers, “you should stay with your sister, we’ll be fine.”

“Is your werewolf enforcer thing a paying gig? Because some of us are poor students who are going to take the subway,” Lydia says, after Darla goes in.

Laura rolls her eyes, “It’s on me, Red.”

“Oh, so we’re sharing a cab?”

“Well,” Laura leans into her personal space, “I was thinking we could go back to your place.”

“You were, were you? And why would we do that?” They’re walking in tandem down to the lobby, and Lydia’s mostly made up her mind already. She’s keyed up from the events of the day - a common werewolf hazard - and Laura’s focused attention is heady.

“We were interrupted so dramatically earlier,” Laura says, snaking an arm around her waist, and pulling her in step, “we never finished our... talk.”

“You have the entire cab ride to convince me we have more to talk about,” Lydia challenges, shrugging Laura’s arm off, “and I don’t plan to make it easy for you.”

Laura just winks.

***

Lydia’s fully prepared to fend off some flirtation once they’re in the cab, but instead, Laura digs into her pocket and hands Lydia a folded up scrap of newspaper.

Lydia eyes her warily before taking it. Unfolded, it’s the article about Kate Argent masterminding the Hale fire, including the spin story that she’d followed it up by murdering her accomplices one by one years later. There’s another spiral drawn on the photograph, the ink red and portentous, but no other writing or marks.

“So this is what today’s been about?” Lydia asks coldly. Despite herself, she’s hurt at the idea that Laura is manipulating her, and surprised that she’s already come to care enough to be hurt.

“Maybe a little,” Laura admits, “but not all of it. I am interested in you, and I wanted to help Jenna, too.”

“What would you have done if I’d started screaming in this cab?” The cabbie flicks an uneasy look at Lydia in the rearview mirror, and she lowers her voice to a whisper, “I can’t believe I fell for it.”

“Fell for what? I’m not putting on an act, here. Is it so hard to believe that I might like you, and want to know what happened to the person who murdered my family?”

“No, I’m very likeable,” Lydia says, “but I’m also intimately familiar with the kind of mind games your uncle likes to play.”

“Ok, first of all, I think we know different Peter Hales. My uncle may be a little on the morally gray-side, but he isn’t a straight up sociopath,” Laura says, her voice pleading, “I get that he may have been-” she flicks her eyes to the cabbie, who is studiously watching the traffic, “-a little out of control, but…”

And it’s true, they’ve never been clear on how much the fire altered Peter. He may blame it for everything, all his sins and insanity, but Lydia’s had him in her mind. She knows that darkness runs to the heart of him.

“I think, when you knew him, he was better at hiding it,” Lydia finally says.

“How much of this is true?”

“The half you already know,” Lydia shrugs, “the rest was all Peter.”

“Shit,” Laura curses.

The cab pulls over to the curb, and Laura puts a hand on Lydia’s arm when she goes to open the door.

“Look, I know I handled this badly, but I’m not the bad guy here. And I want to know what happened, if you’ll tell me. About that story you told Jenna. Can I come up?”

Lydia blows out a sigh, “fine.”

***
“... and then he tried to kill Allison anyway, so we… stopped him,” Lydia says, not really wanting to get into the full death and resurrection of Peter Hale, especially since she has a feeling Laura won’t like the part where they set him on fire first. Lydia wasn’t involved, of course, but she doesn’t want to argue the point.

Laura’s sitting on the battered armchair that Stiles brought up from the curb a month ago. Lydia’s secretly pleased it passed the werewolf sniff test - she’s been refusing to sit on it herself. But Laura’s head has been in her hands since Lydia talked about the attack on the lacrosse field.

“So he killed Kate Argent,” Laura says, her voice muffled.

“Yes, but don’t get your hopes, he wasn’t very thorough. She’s a werejaguar now.”

Laura looks up, her eyes wide, “is that even a thing?”

“Yes, and it’s very… blue. But she’s got her hands full, both the Argents and the Calaveras are hunting her. I don’t think she has any free time to make trouble for you or Derek now.”

Laura looks thoughtful, her fingers drumming on the armrest. “That's almost better,” she says, but she doesn’t look any calmer. There’s a palpable tension in her as she curls up tighter into the armchair.

“There’s more though.” Lydia probably shouldn’t stir her up further, but she also can’t leave Laura with the idea that Peter’s action were altogether noble, or justified. “She managed a brief reprieve when your uncle recruited her to kill Scott.”

“There’s no way!” Laura cries, standing up, “He wouldn’t! She killed my family, she -” She’s practically trembling now, with anger and disbelief.

Lydia stands up too, pushing into Laura’s space, even though she still has to look up at her. “I know, ok? Can you try to believe me for five seconds? This is what I’m telling you, he’s twisted, you can’t even trust his desire for revenge.”

“You keep saying these insane things,” Laura says helplessly, her breaths coming faster, holding onto Lydia’s arms, like she needs the support to stay up.

“I think we shouldn’t talk about this anymore,” Lydia says, “you barely know me, and -”

Laura shakes her head a little wildly in negation, and then puts her palm over Lydia’s heart, fingertips touching the bare skin above Lydia’s blouse, “it sounds like the truth, but...”

And then Laura’s kissing her, mouth hot and insistent, until Lydia opens for her.

Lydia’s made bad choices before, when it comes to this. Reckless choices. But this makes sense, despite the fact that she can’t let herself trust Laura, and Laura won’t trust Lydia. They’re both broken, and distrustful, and vulnerable here. It’s not a struggle for dominance, as much as Lydia’s enjoyed that in the past.

They both fall slowly down to the couch, still kissing, until they’re entwined side by side.

“Can I?” Laura asks, but she’s already parting the buttons on Lydia’s shirt, and Lydia forgets why that might be a bad idea until Laura’s hands still pushing the blouse down her shoulders.

"They're not exactly attractive," Lydia admits ruefully, as Laura’s hand traces one of the scars.

"Hmm, I don't know. I think they make you look stronger," Laura says, smoothing her hand down Lydia's chest, "you're so soft, and pretty, but you have this underneath, this tough little survivor. That's definitely attractive," Laura says, and strokes each and every scar. And Lydia let’s her.

***

"I'm going to get some water," Laura says, rising.

Lydia just waves a hand and rolls more thoroughly into the warm spot in the middle of the bed. She feels replete and energized, but also completely unwilling to move for anything other than more sex, let alone Laura's glass of water. Laura will find the kitchen and water, or she'll die of thirst in the hallway. Either way, it'll work out.

Except then she's hearing Laura's low warm voice saying, "hey Stiles."

"Oh my god," Stiles yells, "you broke into our place? You broke into our place without pants!"

"Relax," Laura says, "Lydia invited me."

Lydia has just enough time to pull the covers up for decency before Stiles throws open the door, "LYDIA HAVE YOU BEEN MURDERED?"

"NO, Stiles, obviously I am not dead," she sighs.

"Then what were you thinking?" He hisses, waving from Laura standing awkwardly in the hall, to the bed, to the crumpled pile of Laura's clothes on the floor.

"I was thinking I wanted to have sex, actually."

"And you could've picked anyone!" Stiles says, frustration in his voice, but luckily no jealousy. There are times he calls her sister now, the way he calls Scott brother, but they haven't always kept things strictly platonic. But it's just straight up annoyance she hears when he adds, "so why the creepy alpha who's just using you for your powers?"

"Wow, good to know you think so highly of me," Laura says dryly.

Stiles jabs a finger at her, "she dated a lizard once, and I still think you are the worse decision."

"Maybe I should go," Laura says, and grabs her jeans. Lydia doesn't say anything to stop her, shouldn’t say anything. She can't say Stiles is wrong about Laura's motives, remembering the newsclipping and the cab ride. And while she's perfectly happy to be used now and again if the sex is good, this was probably always going to be more trouble than it's worth. And maybe if she keeps telling herself that, she’ll believe it. She knows it’s a lie though, as she regretfully watches Laura’s fantastic legs vanish into her jeans.

Laura finishes gathering her things, her eyes on Lydia, but she doesn't say anything. She doesn't even put on her jeans before she slams out of the apartment.

"That was a mess," Lydia sighs, and falls back against the pillows, now gone cold.

She hears Stiles say from the door, "we have a No Hale Policy for a reason," and lobs a pillow at him.

***

Stiles is driving Lydia crazy, alternating recriminations with offers of ice cream, so she grabs some nail polish, and heads over to Kira's place.

Kira hired them a year ago to deal with a case involving power outages and an extremely persistent kappa. After Stiles committed a few minor felonies and Lydia translated some ancient Japanese texts (harder than Latin, but doable) on her behalf, they became friends. Kira even helps them out on some of their cases, calling herself ‘the Muscle’ with a disturbing amount of glee.

Lydia will always love Allison best, but there's something to be said for physical proximity, even if Lydia can’t trust Kira's choice of nail polish colors.

They end up on the floor in Kira's dorm, painting their toes, and watching Supernatural. Lydia usually finds it a little tediously inaccurate, but she's too distracted to complain.

Then a woman starts screaming on screen, and Lydia's brush jerks in her hand, painting a bright pink streak down her big toe.

"Damn," she curses softly, and reaches for a cotton ball to wipe it up.

"Ok, I know we don't really talk about feelings, but you never mess up your nail polish," Kira says, pausing the show.

Lydia eyes Kira thoughtfully. She has gorgeous hair and excellent bone structure, and while her fashion sense is more Hot Topic than hot, she pulls it off. If Lydia has any sense, she'll channel her poor neglected libido into convincing Kira she's not as straight as she thinks she is.

Instead? All she can think about is Laura's stupidly strong hands, and unexpectedly sweet smile.

She wants to tell Kira about how annoying Laura is, and how she hasn't even heard from her, but what she says is, "I screamed last week."

"Whoa. Like that time you screamed in the 7-11?" Kira's brows knit in concern.

"No," Lydia says, tucking her arms around her bent legs, "that guy was already dead. This was... a warning."

"So like that time with the dark coven." Kira caps her nail polish, even though only three of her toenails are shimmery blue. Lydia's not sure if she's glad to have Kira's full attention or not.

“No, it’s worse than that,” Lydia explains.

“They were cutting out peoples’ tongues, I don’t even want to know what’s worse than that.” Kira pulls a face.

Lydia waves a hand, “Not… worse that way, you know?”

Kira nods, “Because we got there in time to save everyone?”

“Exactly. But this time, the feeling is just…” she hasn’t wanted to articulate it before now, or even acknowledge it, but there’s more than just Laura’s past that makes Lydia feel the need to keep her at arms length. "I can't really pin it down. We had this alpha in Beacon Hills, Demarco?"

"I think you mentioned that he was kind of a failboat, right?"

Lydia winces, remembering the time he tried to catch the kanima and wound up kidnapping her chemistry teacher. “True. But that’s not the point. He showed up one night to deliver a keg to this party I was throwing against my will - ok, that’s not the point,” she pauses to regroup, “I ended up screaming in his face, so he bolted... and he ended up running into these assassins -”

Kira throws her hands up. “Wait, what assassins? Why assassins?”

Lydia rolls her eyes, “Long story. Anyway, Scott heard me scream and saved him from being decapitated. For a week, we save him from decapitation, from being infected with diseases, or shot - and then, when all the assassins are gone? He gets ripped apart by berserkers.”

“That is a terrible story. Why are all your stories from home terrible stories?” Kira asks mournfully.

Lydia rests her head on her knees and closes her eyes, “it was that kind of scream. It just feels… like I might not be able to save her.”

Kira nudges her leg with her toes, “who is she?”

Lydia snaps her eyes open, and glares, “don’t get your nail polish on me!”

“Lydia…”

She sighs, “She’s a client.”

Kira raises an eyebrow, “because you always get this worked up about your clients?”

“I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” Lydia pleads.

“You’re right, we shouldn’t talk about it, we should be working the case,” Kira prods eagerly, “wait, why aren’t we working the case?”

Lydia wonders if Kira will find their No Hale Policy petty. Actually, she’s pretty sure she will. For a trickster, Kira has absolutely zero guile, and a heart full of sunbeams. Still, Lydia tries to explain, “we have some… history.”

Kira’s heard about Peter before - unlike Lydia, Stiles enjoys rehashing old history - so Lydia can gloss over most of it when she tells Kira about his trap, and her reservations about getting involved.

Kira listens quietly, and then finally says, “you know, that seems more like a reason to help her to me. You hate him, and you like her, right?”

“I don’t like her,” Lydia snaps.

Kira’s eyes widen, “Oh my God, you are so lying, aren’t you? Lydia!”

“She has… good points,” Lydia says awkwardly, looking at her toes. She wishes her hands were steady enough to finish painting them.

“She has good points in bed, you are dripping subtext all over this room!” Kira cries, “what is wrong with you?”

“I know, I shouldn’t have slept with her!”

Kira snorts, “Please, that part’s fine. I’m talking about cutting her off because of her uncle!”

Lydia remembers Peter, young and seductive, giving her a wolfsbane flower, and shakes her head, “It’s because I can’t trust her. And she doesn’t trust me.”

“You’re going to get hurt if something happens to her either way,” Kira says, her voice low and soft, “don’t make me worry about you, Martin.”

"It’s fine," Lydia tells Kira, "I'm not going to see her again."

Kira looks doubtful, but agrees to turn the show back on, and lets the topic drop.

***

The next day, Lydia sees Laura again at the cafe. She plops down cavalierly at her table with a "Hey, Red!"

This time she already has Lydia's order in hand, at least, which Lydia approves of.

“How’s Jenna doing?” Lydia asks, keeping her voice casual, and inhaling the steam from her coffee. Definitely her usual order.

“I know a decent alpha near her school, she’s going to take her on.”

“But you won’t? She trusts you.” And now Lydia’s angry with herself for not following up with Jenna herself. She’s seen new wolves struggle with their alphas - admittedly, Isaac and Erica hardly tried to murder anyone at all anymore, but that was Scott’s influence, not Demarco’s - and she doesn’t want Jenna to go through that. She thought Laura would -

“My pack is my family,” Laura says, “always will be.”

Lydia pushes her hair over her shoulder, and rolls her eyes. Hales. “So’s mine,” Lydia hisses, letting her irritation out, “Scott would - “

“We can’t all be true alphas, can we?” Laura snaps. She looks up at Lydia, her eyes losing their playful gleam. Lydia can practically see the lines being drawn.

So, ok, coffee offer notwithstanding, this was clearly not going to be a friendly chat. Sadly for Laura, Lydia specialized in unfriendly chats.

“I’m not going to argue with you about putting family first,” Lydia says sweetly, “mine just happens to be one I’ve chosen. Stricter entry standards, fewer psychopaths.”

"Mmm, and you chose the lizard too?" Laura drawls slowly.

Lydia sniffs, "he wasn't a lizard when I dated him. And he’s not pack."

"Oh, totally ok then," Laura grins darkly, "not like I can throw stones about who anyone dates."

"Stiles can be a little over protective," Lydia's hand drifts self consciously to the scar Laura touched so gently a few nights ago, "he has reason to be," she finishes bitterly.

Laura watches the movement of her hand with a small frown, "and he doesn't trust me."

"He doesn't trust most people. And he just... thought you were using me for information."

"I would be stupid if I wasn't," Laura says. "Let’s be honest, right? All I know is that my uncle hurt you and your friends while avenging the death of my family. And that’s terrible, I know, but you’re all alive.”

Possibly, Lydia shouldn’t have edited out the parts where Peter haunted and harassed all the local banshees, and prompted an invasion of supernatural assassins, “Actually-”

“And now,” Laura interrupts, “he’s locked in an asylum, while your alpha runs things, and when he reaches out for help, you tell me it’s because he wants to kill me. I can't even trust my own emissary, let alone a banshee who has a policy of not helping any member of my family after only meeting one of us!" She's looking a little red eyed, and not in the sad way, by the end, but Lydia refuses to be intimidated.

"Two members," Lydia corrects primly, "or three, if you count Malia, which we don't."

“What,” Laura says, looking stunned.

Lydia’s taken aback as well. She wouldn’t expect Laura to know about Malia, but Cora shouldn’t be a surprise. Who loses track of their sister?

"Who else?" Laura clutches Lydia's arm tightly. No claws, but her blunt fingernails still hurt where they dig in.

Lydia doesn't think it's intentional, so she grits her teeth and says, "Cora."

Laura's hand falls away, "Cora? Cora survived?"

Lydia looks away. She's never been great with feelings, and she doesn't think Laura can help the raw grief that's showing on her face. So that answers that question. Cora never volunteered where she came from or how she survived. They thought she must have been with other members of the family, but if she wasn’t even in contact with the sister who would’ve been her alpha, she must have been completely separated from them.

"Cora showed up a few years ago - three years - looking for the Hale alpha."

"For me? God, I didn't even know - and she was alone? How?"

Lydia hands her a napkin, “I don’t know how she survived, or where she’d been,” she says before Laura can lose herself to her guilt trip, "She was looking for Peter. He'd gotten the word out, apparently, while he was an alpha. She stayed with him for a few months, didn't really mingle with us too much. We couldn't find her, though, after Peter tried to kill Scott in Mexico."

"So you, what? Left her in Mexico? Christ, was she even ok?"

"I know this is an emotional moment for you, but let's not gloss over the fact that your uncle tried to kill my friend, and that your little sister either knew about it or actively helped," Lydia hisses. Only the fact that New Yorkers are mostly adverse to public drama is keeping this discussion private.

“She would never -”

“-well, I didn’t exactly get to ask her about it,” Lydia says, “aside from her disappearing, we weren’t really on speaking terms!”

Laura's still staring at her accusingly, so Lydia just shrugs, "I don't know if she was hiding after, or if she just bailed on him after she figured out the exact level of his crazy, but don't blame us for letter her leave."

Laura huffs out a breath, but remains silent, turning her eyes down to her untouched coffee. Her nose is red and her eyes shine. Lydia looks down at her book, reads a few sentences about Babylon.

"Who the hell is Malia?" Laura finally asks.

"Malia is a long story."

"I brought you coffee," Laura says, nudging it forward.

"You brought me coffee, and accusations, actually," Lydia says, rubbing her temples, and feeling about done with the conversation.

"I don't deal well with feeling hunted," Laura admits, "I can own that. You're giving me all this information that I need to have in tiny pieces, and it all sounds insane. And I'm supposed to trust you over the few blood relatives I have left?" Lydia wonders where the Laura who’s gently cupped her hand over Lydia’s heart to feel her honesty has gone. But really, this version is less… disconcerting.

"Fine. Cliff Notes version? Malia is Peter's long lost daughter who spent most of her life as a coyote after accidentally killing her adoptive family. She likes running, warm sweaters, and venison, and hates math, waiting in line, and her father."

"Oh," Laura says, "shit, I remember now," she rubs her forehead, "mom was talking about how we'd need to start training her before..." she trails off, looking sad.

"She's fine," Lydia says, softening, "she's feisty as hell. Scott helped her to figure things out, she's a forest ranger in the preserve now, has a lot of fun breaking apart bear traps."

"Everyone needs a hobby," Laura says weakly.

Lydia's tempted to build on the concept that Peter’s alienated both his daughter and his other niece, but before she can, Stiles is bursting into the cafe, and windmilling over with a fist full of print outs and a manic expression that indicates nothing good about his adderall consumption.

"We've got a case!" He says, flinging the printouts at Lydia, before catching sight of Laura. "You," he says darkly.

"Me," Laura replies, letting her eyebrows add an implied, "you asshole."

Stiles looks from the eyebrows to Lydia, and back, "Lydia," he says pointedly.

"Stiles."

"Seriously?"

"The case, Stiles."

"Ugh," he says, but he drags a chair noisily over do he can plop down at their table, "so Raindusk from the bookstore called and said she thought she saw a Woman in White near the pond where she’s going host a handfasting tomorrow - too late to move or cancel it, so we'll have to look into it tonight, send her on if we can."

"That's more of job for hunters, isn't it?" Laura interjects.

"Witches like hunters about as much as werewolves do," Stiles says dryly, "so no."

"Are they holding the handfasting during the day? It may not be an issue if the Woman in White only appears in the evening," Lydia scans the printout to confirm that they're nocturnal, but Stiles is already shaking his head.

"They're the ghosts of scorned women, I think she might make an exception for a wedding held on her haunting grounds."

"Good point," Lydia says, and shoves the pages back at him so she can pack away her books, "did you call Kira?"

"She's on a bus halfway to Boston for a Fall Out Boy concert."

"Do you want me to call-"

"No, I do not want you to call Jackson," Stiles interjects. Jackson was also in the city attending college, and Lydia reserves the right to shamelessly use him for fighting or heavy lifting when she has to, but Stiles has never been fond of the arrangement.

“We don’t even need to pay him, he owes me for last month,” Lydia points out.

Stiles shakes his head, "this thing is practically your cousin, I bet she'll love you, we'll be fine."

“Excuse me, do I need to explain to you what a banshee is again?” But Lydia's instincts aren't sending up an alert, and she supposes Jackson will be more hindrance than help if they want to play nice with the angry dead lady, so she lets the argument rest.

"Derek and I could come along," Laura offers.

"Uh, how about no?"

"Thank you for offering," Lydia says, glaring at Stiles, and then turning one of her sweeter smiles on Laura, "but we'll be fine."

"You're too young to keep running headfirst into danger," Laura says, “you’re not even out of college!”

"You didn't think I was too young when you had your tongue in my-"

"Woah!" Stiles interrupts, looking a little dazed.

Laura is definitely going to drive her crazy sooner rather than later. Lydia's cheeks still feel heated, and she wants to yell again, but she takes a breath, tucks her hair behind her ear, and says, "this is our job. And Stiles and I haven't been young for a long time."

"That's not what I meant," Laura says, her eyebrows knitted together, "just. You can call us, if you need help."

Stiles grimaces, and Lydia pulls him out of the coffee shop before he can mouth off again. Lydia is never, ever going to call Laura for help.

***

They really should have called Laura for help. Lydia would have thought a head of a coven, and owner of an occult bookstore, could tell a Woman in White when she saw one, but apparently not. Which is why Lydia is standing there, uselessly holding a bag of salt, while Stiles gets dragged, oblivious and smiling, into an algae filled pond by what is clearly a rusalka.

"Stiles!" Lydia screams, the reverberations reaching out into the night, and - oh shit - it's that kind of scream.

it jolts into Stiles though, like a palpable force, and she sees him start to struggle, splashing in the shallows, but he's still moving inexorably deeper.

She’s read through the page on rusalkas ages ago when she’d first translated the bestiary, and tonight she scanned through the pages of all the creatures related to the Woman in White, just in case, but that’s different than actually preparing. She remembers something about a willow broom, and a chant she hasn’t bothered to memorize. So that will be a problem, but there’s a willow tree down near the edge of the pond, and she darts for it, stopping only once she grasps one of the long draping branches.

And then she sees two black wolves race into the clearing, one with glowing blue eyes, one with red. Laura. The blue eyed wolf grabs the back of Stiles jeans, dragging them half down and off, and pulls Stiles from the water like he’s a little girl on a bottle of suntan lotion. She sees Stiles topple back, and when he falls, he lands in the arms of an extremely naked and human Derek Hale.

Laura, still lupine, splashes through the shallows, and launches herself at the rusalka. It’s impossible to see if there’s blood in the dark spray when they meet, but the growling and snarling from both creatures sets Lydia’s hair on end.

Lydia tugs on the willow branch, hurriedly asking permission in Ancient Latin the way Raindusk taught her. The branch cracks off in her hand, as close to emphatic approval as a tree can give.

Derek and Stiles are wrestling in the mud on the bank of the pond. They seem to both be struggling toward the rusalka, and striving to keep each other away at the same time, though she can’t quite tell if they’ve both been affected by her allure, or if they’re just… both useless.

Lydia shimmies out of her skirt and shoes as she runs, the long branch dragging behind her, and then she’s wading into the grossest pond she’s ever seen to rescue a werewolf she shouldn’t like with a weapon she isn’t sure will work.

Laura’s claws dig into the rusalka’s shoulders, blood streaming from deep slashes, but the rusalka is wriggling away, slipping closer to the deeper water that will pull a wolf under.

Lydia lunges forward and brings the willow branch, sopping wet, down over the rusalka’s head. The rusalka glares at her briefly, a bewildered flash of green eyes, before her attention is back on the wolf astride her torso. Fair enough, Lydia doubts she brought the flexible bough down hard enough to hurt. The rusalka swipes her own claws at Laura, striking her across the muzzle, and Laura loses her grip with a yelp. She starts shifting as she hits the water, but the rusalka is drawing away and down. Lydia struggles forward and redoubles her efforts, lashing the branch at her again.

“Rest in peace already!” Lydia screams in frustration, and hears the power in her voice, that strange vibration in her throat. The rusalka wails about betrayal and pain, and Lydia isn’t sure whether the words she’s crying will be heard by anyone else.

“He’s not worth it,” Lydia tells her sternly, though not without understanding, “now REST!” Another sweep of the willow swishes through the rusalka, insubstantial and fading, until she’s only a green glow, dissipating across the surface of the water.

Lydia sags, breathing heavily, and promptly stumbles when her foot slips on a slimy rock below the surface. She can feel silt squelching between her toes, yuck. And then Laura is there bracing her up in the water.

“Are you alright?” Laura asks, her bare skin slippery against Lydia.

“That was not a Woman in White, and Stiles almost died, and this pond is gross, and probably polluted, and I am not alright!” Lydia says, wincing as she hears how high pitched her voice has gone.

“Ok,” Laura says, “let’s get you back to shore,” and starts towing her, so Lydia’s feet don’t need to touch the bottom until they’re at the sandier shore, and Lydia can stand without unidentifiable things touching her.

“Thanks,” Lydia says, brushing the water off her thighs and trying to regain some of her poise.

“I just felt like I should save you from something tonight,” Laura says with a little smirk.

“Maybe I should keep you around for winter, you can save me from ruining my shoes in slush,” Lydia shoots back, conscious of how ridiculous it is to flirt when she looks like an absolute disaster. Her hair is half wet, curling damply across her shoulders, and her mascara doesn’t bear thinking about, waterproof or no. She’s tempted though. Laura’s no-maintenance look hasn’t suffered at all. Wet and naked is… a really good look on her. It doesn’t hurt that her breast are at eye level, and a stream of water is running between them from her soaked hair.

Lydia drags her eyes away with some effort to find Stiles. He’s still tangled with Derek, but at least now it seems like they’re aware, and trying to separate. Despite arguing too much to make any actual progress.

She opens her mouth to yell at them, but Laura stops her. She puts a blunt tipped finger on Lydia’s lips, and leads her deeper into the trees around the pond.

“What is it?” Lydia whispers?

“This,” Laura slides a finger up Lydia’s neck, “this little drop of water was driving me crazy.”

She bends to taste it, and Lydia arches up into the hot press of Laura’s mouth with a short groan, “I didn’t get wet just to drive you crazy, you know.”

“That’s even hotter,” Laura laughs, “watching you beat a monster with a tree branch? You’re ridiculous,” she says, pressing Lydia back into a tree, before leaning down to swipe her tongue along Lydia’s collar bone. Their breasts touch, through the damp clinging fabric of Lydia’s shirt, and Laura’s bare, perked nipples drag against the cloth.

“Not hot,” Lydia complains, “cold,” she whines, as she spreads her chilly fingers against Laura’s unnaturally warm back, and then reaches around to caress Laura’s even warmer stomach. Her abs are hard and sculpted, unlike Lydia’s own softer skin, and she can feel the muscles bunch under her hands just before Laura pulls her closer, crushing up against her.

“Is that better?” Laura murmurs.

"Hmm, I don't know, I think you can try a little harder."

"Oh, can I?" Laura replies mockingly, even as she's twisting aside Lydia's soaked and ruined panties to stroke a finger right where Lydia wants it. She writhes against the sensation, heedlessly selfish for a few moments, until Laura catches her open, panting mouth in a kiss, upping the stakes.

Lydia lowers her hand, and presses the heel of her palm against Laura's mons, a single damp finger circling.

Laura hisses into her mouth, and bucks forward, trapping Lydia's hand against her own thigh, and riding it. Rough bark scratches at Lydia's back with the added force of Laura riding against her, but Lydia has two long and clever fingers pumping inside of her, and the sting only makes it feel sweeter.

She’s shuddering into Laura's mouth on her neck, Laura’s body against hers still the only warm thing she can feel. By contrast, the grass and crumbling leaves under her feet, and the grit of the bark behind her her fade away.

She’s so close to completion, arching into Laura’s hand... but then she hears an inelegant scuffling crash.

"Not again. Lydia!" Stiles cries.

"Again?" Derek growls, "we had a deal, Laura. No girls!"

"It's not like it's serious," Laura protests, pulling away, though not before subtly twisting Lydia's panties back in place.

Lydia is entirely cold now, "I need to be dry before I get lectured," she snaps imperiously.

Stiles is glaring at the Hales with more venom than usual, "I'm not going to lecture you. Come on, I have towels in the jeep," he says, and tosses Lydia her shoes. She tries to scrape her feet clean of dirt and leaves before she puts them on, but her feet still feel gritty and uncomfortable in them as she follows after Stiles.

Laura and Derek fall into step behind them, still bickering quietly, until Stiles rounds on them, "why are you following us? I don't have towels for Hales, only for Lydia," he snaps, and wraps an arm around Lydia's shoulder. His side is warm, and she snuggles into it on long habit, appreciating his steady presence and petty snark both. "Run along, wolves," he makes a shooing motion with his free hand.

"Uh, we saved your lives," Laura points out, "I think that deserves a towel or two."

"Technically, Derek saved my life, and Lydia saved yours," Stiles says, so we owe you no towels."

"You’re welcome," Derek says dryly.

"I'm not forgetting I have bite marks in my jeans because of you." Stiles says darkly, “How did you even find us? Did you follow us?”

“The location of the handfasting was on the coven’s Facebook page,” Laura says, wringing out her hair, “honestly, we wouldn’t follow you all day long. The screaming helped us find you faster though.”

“It was a little hard to miss,” Derek added, wincing.

"It's a feature," Lydia says.

"So it's not set in stone then?" Laura asks, "You screamed for Stiles, but he didn't die."

"His death was prevented because I screamed,” Lydia crosses her arms over her chest. She shudders thinking about Stiles dragged under the water, “but it’s not an exact science. Don’t give yourself an out,” she warns, when she sees Laura’s eyes narrow speculatively.

“But you don’t know,” Laura protests, “You don’t know for sure.”

Lydia’s doubted her abilities before, more in the early days, when she’s found herself in unexpected places, drawn to murder and death, or when she was hunched over her grandmother’s record player, desperately trying to listen. She still doubts - she knew when she screamed for Laura that it was worse, inevitable, but now she wonders if maybe… maybe there is no unpreventable death. Or maybe she’s fooling herself, because Laura, forceful, vital, and headstrong seems, in every moment since, so far from death that she can’t even conceive of it.

“Believe her or not, it’s literally your funeral,” Stiles says. Lydia leans on him a little more, and let’s him draw her away. “Because she’s never wrong,” he calls over his shoulder.

***

Lydia dreams that night. Dreams of screaming, with that inherent knowledge one has in dreams that if she can just scream loud enough, she’ll be saved. But the more desperately she tries, the fainter her scream becomes, until it’s little more than a hiss of air.

She wakes to the blinking notification light on her phone, too bright in the semi-dark, and knows, before she even looks, that it means Laura has gone back to Beacon Hills.

"I hope you're wrong," is all the message says.

Lydia hits the call button, but doesn't put the phone to her ear. Laura won't answer, and she watches the glowing screen distantly as the call fails to go through. It probably doesn't matter either way - she doubts a phone call or text message will convince Laura any better than screaming in her face did when they met.

She rips the curtain back from Stiles’s bed, only to find him awake and looking at her wryly. “Knock much?”

“You’re awake,” she says blankly, “it’s 3 am!”

“And thank you for obviously wanting me to be awake at 3 am, but I’m up for the same reason you are.”

“Laura texted you.”

“Nooo,” Stiles says slowly, eyeing her sidelong, “Derek did. Apparently, Laura is missing, and he’s ‘calling in my life debt’ to help find her.”

“And?”

“And what? I haven’t texted him back, because what I want to say is that he’s a presumptuous, grumpy-faced sour wolf who owes us actual money, but I also don’t want him to kill me, so.”

Their phones both beep at the same time, and Lydia looks down to see that she has a message from Scott. Not unusual, since it’s only midnight in Beacon Hills, and Scott always forgets the time difference, but in this context…

“Oh good,” Stiles says, “Scott doesn’t want us to be ‘worried’ but Peter’s broken out of Azkaban.”

Lydia feels her heart in her throat, thrumming almost as hard as a scream, “Now is NOT the time for Harry Potter jokes.”

Stiles looks at her seriously for minute, and then his face softens. “Yeah, I guess not. I’ll let Derek know he needs to buy some plane tickets.”

***

An hour later, they have plane tickets, and a very sleepy assurance from Kira that she’ll be happy to help out as soon as the sun actually rises.

"Do you think Peter is actually ruthless enough to kill his own niece, just to get enough power to take down Scott?" Lydia asks, trying to shove down her rising worry.

"I don't know what you want me to say here," Stiles says, shoving more brightly colored underwear into his bag then he can possibly need. Or should own, except that she knows for a fact that he just goes and buys more when he's too lazy to do laundry. "Except that we have a-"

"-no Hale Policy," she folds her arms over her chest, and watches Stiles move onto socks, "I just can't -"

Stiles looks up at her, "you can, and you do. Lydia, even if he hadn't possessed you, or murdered a bunch of people, you would still believe he’s going to do it because you're never wrong. About banshee stuff - you are wrong, wrong, wrong about my taste in music, but..."

"But what if I am wrong? He never hurt Cora or Malia, maybe he's not capable -"

"I don't understand."

"Of murdering family! He practically killed half of Beacon Hills for doing the same thing, there has to be more to it." She wants it to be true, more than she believes it. That Peter Hale will find some limit to his madness, draw a line before he leaves his ambiguous gray area he’s always lurked in, before he hurts Laura.

"I don't understand why you're asking me a question you already know the answer to," Stiles rolls his eyes, "oh my god, it's not even as bad OR ridiculous as his last evil villain plan! Now go pack your ass kicking shoes so we can go rescue Scott and your boo."

Lydia wants to protest the term, but Stiles heard Laura say they weren’t serious. If he wants to believe… whatever he believes, she doesn’t have the time or the will to argue with him.

***

Kira meets them at the airport with a duffle, and glamor-disguised katana. "So, my mom gave me this creepy box to bring with me when she heard where I was headed, and told me to find some old jar she buried under a tree. Only she called is something weird, like a nematode?"

"Laura will know where it is." Derek sighs and hands Kira her ticket.

“All our missions should be funded by werewolves,” Stiles whispers delightedly in Lydia’s ear. Derek obviously hears, but Kira is still effectively distracting him.

"Seriously? It's a real thing?"

"It's a nematon, and yes, it's real."

"Oh good. I mean sometimes I just wonder if 900 years is enough time for some dementia to sneak in. Hey, do you think we’ll get a decent inflight movie?"

***

Erica is the one who picks them up from the airport, brash, blonde, and flirting shamelessly with both Derek and Kira, despite the fact that Lydia happens to know she's still happily dating Boyd. Lydia lets the small talk and comic book references wash over her. She's too anxious, staring out the window as her familiar, frightening town grows nearer, for politeness. Derek is terse too - just because he has to speak more without Laura around apparently doesn't mean he'll do it recreationally.

As soon as they see the interstate exit for Beacon Hills, Stiles turns the police scanner on, and Sheriff Stilinski's voice is crackling over the speaker.

"-nine four at the highschool, I repeat, five nine four. Vandalism, and a possible break in. Requesting back up from... STILES GET OFF THE SCANNER!"

This last bit comes both from the speaker, and from Stiles's phone, before the transmission clicks off.

"Hey, we are your backup," Stiles says. Lydia can't hear the reply, as the sheriff is no longer shouting, but she gets the gist when Stiles says, "what if I told you we weren't in New York, though?"

Stiles pulls the phone away from his ear as the yelling resumes, "I was gonna call - I AM calling - we just got here."

"Yo, Batman, am I going straight to the high school, or to Chez McCall? Kinda need to know before I make my next turn," Erica calls back.

"The high school," Stiles says, "be right there dad loveyoubye!"

"Why the high school?" Kira asks.

"He always did like teenagers a little too much," Stiles muses.

"Or he could be nostalgic for all the times he chased us around the halls," Lydia suggests, thinking of men's shoes pacing in front of her bathroom stall, surreal and frightening, a nightmare that chased her, awake or asleep.

"The vault," Derek says.

"...that sentence is gonna need a verb and a direct object and some other words before it makes sense, buddy."

"Ooh, is there is secret werewolf vault under the high school?" Kira enthuses.

"Yes," Derek replies shortly.

"I... I was kidding."

Derek unbends enough to elaborate, "He’ll need supplies, and he’ll want to stay hidden from your pack as long as possible. It’s a bolthole, he probably has as a stash there. And only a Hale can open it."

“Would Laura look for him there too?” Lydia asks.

Derek shrugs.

"If he’s got a secret lair, that's the kind of thing he wouldn't want to advertise though," Stiles says, leaning on the back of Derek's seat, hands gripping the headrest, "so why is it getting called in on the police scanner?"

"Maybe they're both there, and, um... fighting." Kira suggests, clearly trying to be delicate about the subject at the last second.

“Or it’s the lacrosse team!”

"Or It's a trap," Lydia says shortly, because she remembers the spring dance. And her birthday party. And Mexico.

"It's no la Iglesias," Erica agrees, "but if the deep vee fits, it’s at least worth checking out."

There's a huge spiral across the front of the high school, red paint dripping off the walls and the windows that aren't smashed. The front doors are gaping open, and Sheriff Stilinski is standing in front of them with his hands on his hips as Erica comes to a screeching stop in the parking lot.

Stiles practically leaps over Kira to get out, nearly pratfalling to the pavement before he hugs his dad. Lydia's always envied him that, in between the times when she thinks loving someone that deeply would rip her to shreds.

"-NOT going in there," the Sheriff is saying as the rest of them get out, and then he zeroes in on Derek, eyes narrowing as he takes in the scruff and the leather, "who is this?"

"A friend from New York?"

Derek snorts. The sheriff looks unimpressed.

"And extra werewolf back up!"

The sheriff looks even more skeptical, "because we don't have enough of those in stock locally?"

"He's Derek Hale," Lydia interrupts, "and he's going to help us find his sister and deal with his uncle. Isn't he?"

Derek nods, looking almost submissive under her pointed glare. Well. She can work with that.

"We don't actually need to go in the school," Derek says, "just under it," and walks towards the school sign. Stiles trots eagerly after him, until Derek turns, puts his hands on Stiles shoulders and pushes him back firmly, "humans should wait here," he growls.

"That's speciest!" Stiles protests.

"What if the human has a gun?" The sheriff asks.

"Is it safe?" Erica asks, and it takes a second for Lydia to realize she's asking her. Or rather the banshee.

Honestly, Lydia rarely gets answers as clear as that, but. “No, it’s not.”

"You’re not screaming," Derek says with a wince, “we would have noticed.

"Do you remember meeting me?" Lydia explains cooly, "Because I’m fairly sure I’ve already screamed over this."

"No bueno," Erica says uneasily, and starts furiously typing in her phone.

“So you won’t come in with me?” Derek scowls.

“Of course we will,” Stiles insists.

“I did not fly cross country and sit through that boring movie just to visit a nematode,” Kira adds, unsheathing her sword.

“But screaming is bad, though, right?” The Sheriff asks, gripping Stiles’s shoulder hard.

“I screamed for Laura. Not for you, not for Stiles, not for Chris freaking Evans,” Lydia pokes Derek’s stupidly hard chest, “so yes, we’re all coming, because she is NOT GOING TO DIE.” She fights to keep her voice even, but she can feel the hysteria boiling up. She’s never wanted to be wrong more.

"I texted Scott," Erica waves her phone, "so we'll have back up."

“Speaking of back up, dad, you better stay here and keep your reinforcements busy.”

“I don’t like you down there alone.”

“I’ve got a full house of supernatural creatures in this hand, I think I’m all set. Plus, you heard the banshee,” Stiles says, waving at Lydia.

“Stay safe, or you’re grounded,” the sheriff threatens, but he steps back a few paces, towards the parking lot.

“He can’t ground me if I don’t live with him, right?” Stiles asks.

"Let's go," Derek says, and sets his claws in the grooves of some little bit of masonry on the side of the school sign. One twist, and the school sign is sliding away with a grating noise to reveal a darkened staircase.

"That is the most Nancy Drew thing I have ever seen," Kira whispers.

 

Peter is waiting for them at the bottom, lounging back in an artful pool of light. He looks unchanged, as polished and well groomed as if he hasn't spent years in an asylum, and years before that in a coma. A perfect goateed cartoon villain. Lydia wants to stab him more than she anticipated, and she’s seriously regretting that they came here before she could pick up some pointy things from Allison.

"Derek, my wayward nephew! I see you've made some friends," Peter smirks.

"Peter," Derek says flatly.

Lydia hasn't thought about what they'd do if they met Peter and he wasn't up to his knees in blood, tricks, or violence, and it suddenly occurs to her to worry about it very much. Because there's absolutely no sign of Laura, and without her, the chance Peter can manipulate or subvert Derek is worryingly high.

"Finally done running from your sins, are you? I hope you're here to help me reclaim this territory for our family," Peter says.

"Oh crap," Stiles says.

"No," Derek replies, glaring briefly at Stiles, "and neither is Laura."

"Then she is here," Peter hisses, "and I just need to draw her out. And luckily for me, I brought my own friends."

He's across the room with his hand around Derek's neck, and several figures have stepped out of the shadows of the vault to converge on them before Stiles can even get a mountain ash barrier around him and Lydia. Combat is not, and never will be Stiles’s forte, but he’ll get some decent spells going if he can keep out of the fray.

Two werewolves rush at Derek, who is already busy dodging swipes from Peter, and Lydia hears the familiar syllables of one of Stiles’s more powerful shield spells start up.
.
Erica watches the fighting, claws out, keeping track of the motion like a kid waiting to play double dutch before she jumps into the fray, landing a nice swipe at Peter's leg that just narrowly misses hamstringing him, and he falls away from where he’s harrying Derek. A second later, Erica’s rolling away from his counterattack.

Kira's katana is fending off a growling, white eyed creature - probably a wendigo - but he’s dodging unreasonably well.

It’s times like these that Lydia regrets not picking up the targeted offensive scream Meredith tried to show her - she would love to make Peter’s ears bleed for more reasons than she can count - not least for going after his own nephew, after all his lip service about family when he made her read his sister’s claws.

In fact, those claws resonated strangely, an echo on the air, even before Peter flung them at her. She remembers it too clearly, like she’s hearing it again now. And then her eyes are drawn to the familiar wooden canister like a magnet, even as she desperately wants to keep watching her struggling friends. She never thought of the claws after finding out about Malia, but Peter clearly decided they were worth tucking away safely, as they sit on a shelf just past the support Derek is using to launch a furious backflip. Lydia doesn’t know if she’s suddenly drawn to it because she’s just thought of it, or if it’s contents have provoked the memory, but it’s plucking away at her, drawing her in much like a corpse does. Lydia has little control left now. Just enough to be subtle, as she steps carefully past the mountain ash, and quick, as she ducks past Erica’s opponent as he’s thrown to the ground hard.

She doesn't make it. Claws snag in her shirt collar, and she's reeled into Peter's chest, until there are more claws at her throat.

"I don't know what you're up to," he purrs, "but don't even think about it." She struggles, an almost visceral desire to get away from him driving her, until the claws cut at her throat.

"LYDIA!" Stiles cries.

"Can't really help her from your little circle, can you?" Peter taunts.

"But I can," Derek says, launching himself at Peter, shifting mid-leap into his full wolf form.
Still, Peter practically bats him across the room with his free arm.

"I see you've learned a new trick, Derek. But, unfortunately for you, so have I."

Lydia's tempted to struggle even harder, just to get away from one of Peter's grandstanding speeches, but he's almost holding her off the ground now, and she has to concentrate just to stay balanced on her toes, to keep herself from choking against his grip.

"You may be a full wolf, but I've taken the power from every man and wolf I've killed, from that first alpha, to the Mute. Do you really think you can match me as a beta?"

"Maybe I'll have more luck," a familiar voice says, another vault door grinds open behind them, "seeing as how I am an alpha and all."

"Finally!" Peter turns to his niece, first dragging Lydia and then tossing her to the ground at his feet. Lydia braces her arms against the ground and kicks him hard in the kneecap before scrambling out of his reach.

He howls in pain, and then Laura tackles him to the ground, pinning him.

The fight is a blur of motion, almost faster than Lydia can follow, and brutal. Despite the fact that there are two of them, Peter is strong and unbelievably fast, and holding his own against Laura and Derek. Lydia still feels the strange pull in her bones, but she can’t - won’t look away this time, not while Laura fights for her life.

One of Peter's minions is down, but Erica is struggling against the remaining werewolf, while Kira is fiercely parrying a long glaive the wendigo found somewhere in the vault. Both Erica and Kira still have the bright shimmer of light around them that means Stiles's shield spell is working, but Derek's must have weakened or broken when he transformed, and bloody gashes form on his black furred shoulders and back.

Lydia watches helplessly as Laura intercedes, but Peter throws her off, and she lands in a heap, briefly stunned.

Finally, Derek falls back, whimpering, and human again. Peter lunges, claws out to finish it, and Lydia’s screaming Laura’s name before she even sees her leap between her brother and uncle.

And then Laura is falling, clutching her throat, blood spilling over her fingers.

Lydia scrambles up, stumbling back and snatching the canister up from the shelf, almost insensible to her own actions, even when she’s swinging her arm to smash the canister on the ground.

The eerie resonance fills her, building up in her ears and throat, until Lydia is screaming again with more than just grief and rage.

Peter staggers towards her, his hand outstretched threateningly, but no one can help her. Derek is crouched on the floor, his hands covering his ears. Erica is bracing herself against a pillar, one of the strange werewolves fallen and bleeding. Kira’s buried her katana in the wendigo, but she’s standing frozen, mouth open in shock, staring at Lydia, even as the body slowly slides off the blade. Only Stiles seems unaffected, but she can’t look at him, and his desperately sympathetic eyes.

She’s still screaming. The claws aren’t inert on the ground, trembling in the waves of the sound, until they seem to almost split apart. There’s a white mist, gathering, coalescing from where they’ve fallen, a barrier between Lydia and Peter. Lydia uses her voice to beckon it, a call and answer, until she’s looking at the ghostly form of a white wolf.

And then, as Lydia’s scream dies away, the wolf becomes a woman, naked and red eyed. She stalks forward, as forceful and determined as though she’s corporeal, and Peter falls back from her, tripping over Laura’s body, and down on his knees. The fear in his eyes makes Lydia fiercely glad. She’s found him his own waking nightmare, finally. It would have been enough revenge for her a moment ago, but now it’s not quite enough.

“Talia?” Peter asks, “how?”

“You attack my son, and murder my daughter, and you ask how I’m here?” Talia Hale’s eyes are blazing, “As though I care about any of your questions!”

She grips his hair, pulling his head back to bare his neck, “Here is my question, brother. Do you want to live?”

Peter struggles to nod, despite the hold of her insubstantial hand, his adam's apple bobbing with the strain.

“Then return what you’ve taken!”

Peter hesitates for a moment, he stretches his hand towards Laura’s prone form, and then pauses.

“NOW!” The word is a howl, and the vault practically shakes around them.

Peter flinches, and then lunges to grasp Laura’s arm, black lines racing up the veins of her arm. He holds on for a long time, even as he’s shuddering with the strain, claws going soft, and the blue glow of his eyes flickering, and dimming. Talia stands above him, unrelenting.

Derek has crawled forward to cradle Laura’s head, and there are black lines spreading from his fingertips as well.

Laura's wounds close, but all the stolen power spilling into her won't bring her back from death. That requires more, Lydia senses, letting her instincts - or some other voice - speak to her. But Laura isn't so far gone. No need for a ritual at the Worm Moon, just... a little extra push.

Lydia leans forward, sealing her lips on Laura's, still warm, and breathes out more than air. Laura abruptly shudders, her body arching up into Lydia's, sucking in a breathe from Lydia's own lungs, and then falls back, panting, and alive.

There's a hand on Lydia's shoulder and she looks up to see Talia smiling. "Thank you," she says, and her hand isn't cold at all. And then she's mist again.

***

Emotionally drained, injured, and exhausted, they still have to see to binding Peter and his minions, with the exception of the wendigo, who is thoroughly dead. Stiles is shaking out the last of his mountain ash around them when Scott arrives.

"Sorry I'm late," Scott says, full apology in his soft brown eyes, "there was a little trouble at Deaton's," he adds, glaring at Peter.

"Someone's been shopping at minions’r'us, huh?" Stiles asks, kicking one of the prone werewolves lightly, and jerking back quickly when he stirs.

"He had some help," Scott tells them, "I guess his cellmate used his third eye to figure out where you live in New York, and Dr. Fenris - he runs the dangerous creature section at Eichen House - he was a little... obsessed... with your family's ability to go full wolf. Peter told him he'd let him... um, study you, if he helped bring you here, and let some of his buddies out.”

“Stiles was right about how he found us?” Derek says, “Really?”

"What?" Laura yells, over Derek's words, "I am not a lab rat!"

She pops her claws in Peter's face, and he struggles to pull back, "I wasn't actually going to let him!" Peter protests.

"No, because you were going to kill me!"

"Exactly," Peter says, then, "wait!"

"Uh, well, Ms. Morell took care of it, and told us if we bring Peter back, she can have him kept in solitary this time. Hi, by the way, I'm Scott."

Laura just rolls her eyes, and goes back to menacing her uncle.

"You're a true alpha," Derek asks, face intent, pants finally on, but still unfastened. He’s abandoned getting dressed in favor of staring at Scott with open fascination.

"Cute," Kira says, and then she starts, "I mean, I'm Kira! Hi!"

Scott looks a little abashed, but he grins, pleased, "yeah, that's me. I mean, the true alpha part. Anyway, the sheriff has a van waiting, so let's get these guys chained up!”

Lydia doesn’t bother trying to help corral their prisoners, and walks ahead of the group, eager to get out of the vault. When her eyes adjust to the fading light, she sees Allison waiting by the van, bow strapped to her back, and a smile on her face. Lydia practically tackles her with a hug.

Allison ruffles her hair fondly, “heard you had a bad day.”

Lydia burrows into her, “at what point can we call it a bad life?”

“That sounds like a lack of caffeine talking. Why don’t we get you some coffee and see how you feel then?” Allison says.

“Oh, I see how it is,” Lydia hears Laura’s voice behind her, “I die, and get thrown over for any old brunette cutie, huh?”

Lydia disentangles herself from Allison unhurriedly, because she won’t be baited, but she ends up standing by Laura anyway. She wants the reassurance of Laura’s body, tall, muscular, and alive.

“Allison, this is Laura Hale. Laura, this is my best friend Allison.”

Allison gives Lydia a knowing look, and then holds out her hand to Laura, “Allison Argent, actually, and it’s good to meet you.”

"Argent, huh?" Laura pulls in a shuddering breath and takes Allison’s hand, "I hear you're one of the good guys," she says with a darting glance at Lydia, "I'll forgive you your aunt, if you forgive me my uncle.”

Allison dimples. "Deal," she says.

"You know, I think dying has improved your social skills," Lydia smirks.

Laura wraps her arms around Lydia's shoulders, "shut it, you." She says into Lydia's ear.

“So are you guys heading back to New York soon, or will you stay for the weekend?” Allison asks.

“Actually, I think Derek and I are going to head down into Mexico,” Laura says, “we have some other missing family to find.”

Lydia’s heart falls a little, and she shrugs Laura’s arm off her shoulders. “That’s probably not a bad idea,” she says primly.

Laura gives her an assessing look, “I think we should talk.”

“We are talking!” Lydia says, and then yelps as Laura tugs her away from the van, “Ok, fine, more talking!”

Laura stops, and then rubs her hand soothing against Lydia’s arm where she grabbed her, and despite herself, Lydia leans into the touch.

“Red, I’m going to come back. And when I do? I’m going to want to see you.”

“I thought you weren’t serious,” Lydia accuses her, hoping Laura doesn’t notice the thread of insecurity in her voice.

Laura smiles a little wryly, “That’s wishful thinking. Look, my last girlfriend lied as easily as breathing, and for the longest time, family was the only thing I could trust. I shouldn't have started something with you when I was still in that headspace, but... I don't know if you knew this, but you're a little irresistible."

"I know I am. And I forgive you," Lydia says magnanimously.

"So," Laura says, "do you think I'll ever stand a chance of talking you out of that policy of yours?"

"Try buying me coffee someday when I don't have blood in my hair, and I'm not jetlagged, high on adrenaline, or coming down from a scream, and I'll think about it."

“I can’t wait,” Laura says, curling a hand in Lydia’s hair, and drawing her up into a kiss.