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Hale’s House has just got past the mid-morning rush when Allison gets there, laptop bag in hand. Isaac smiles at her, says, “Caramel latte and a raspberry muffin?” and Allison smiles back.

“How’s Scott?” Isaac asks while Erica’s busy with the machine, since there’s no one else in line.

Allison’s eyebrows go up. “He’s great,” she says. “He misses you, though.”

Isaac goes red and starts stammering, and Allison rolls her eyes. “I don’t resent you for having a ridiculous crush on my ex-boyfriend, Isaac,” she says. “I do, however, resent you for not doing anything about it.”

Isaac mutters something incomprehensible in response, cheeks flaming. Erica’s snickering as she hands Allison her cup and takes the ten dollar bill Allison gives her.

“Keep the change,” Allison says, laughing when Erica goes, “Oooooooh,” in response. “The Huntress hit a million sales this week, I can afford it.”

“Well, congratulations, then! I loved the book, by the way,” Erica tells her, “Katherine was kickass,” and Allison ducks her head and grins.

“Thanks,” she says, and then, “Call Scott, I’m serious,” to Isaac, before taking her coffee over to the corner that’s sort of become hers over the years she’s been coming here to write. She’s not here for that right now, not really, but she brought her laptop anyway because she likes to be prepared.

She sips her latte while she checks her email, logs into her twitter and tumblr accounts. (She’s not famous, not by any stretch of the imagination, but she’s watched her follower counts slowly rise since The Huntress and the Hart was released, and more than what is probably her fair share of people reply to the inane things she tweets. It’s weird, but it’s not like she’s getting stopped on the street or anything.)

Someone’s sent her a link to fanart of Katherine in front of the burning Hart house and it’s so breathtakingly perfect that Allison has to sit and stare at it for a while, wondering how the fuck she got this lucky, how she managed to get fans, and reblogs it.


Allison Argent @allisonargent
shewhorunswithwolves: [image description: Katherine Monkshood of The Huntress and the Hart after burning the Harts’ ho...tmblr.co/ZHoMlgTVJjXB
10:06 AM – 25 Feb 12 – Details

Allison Argent @allisonargent
The internet and breakfast @HalesHouse is always the best way to start the day.
10:12 AM – 25 Feb 12 – Details

Stiles Stilinski @stilinskis
@allisonargent are you slacking off while the rest of us are slaving away, ARE YOU
10:15 AM – 25 Feb 12 – Details

Allison Argent @allisonargent
@stilinskis You’re not even working today, hypocrite, it’s Saturday.
10:15 AM – 25 Feb 12 – Details

Stiles Stilinski @stilinskis
@allisonargent I can still judge you
10:16 AM – 25 Feb 12 – Details

Stiles Stilinski @stilinskis
@allisonargent also I might not be at school but I’m still slaving away. I’m slaving HARD
10:16 AM – 25 Feb 12 – Details

Allison Argent @allisonargent
@stilinskis You are a disgusting person, I hope you know that. Are you actually tweeting while you’re having sex?
10:18 AM – 25 Feb 12 – Details

She doesn’t get a response to that, and she hopes that whoever Stiles is with is punishing him appropriately. And then she realises the implications of that thought and shudders all over, hoping kind of fervently that they’ll at least be done by the time she gets home. Years of living with Stiles haven’t made it any less awkward or embarrassing to walk in on him with a hook-up.

Someone clears their throat, rather pointedly, and Allison looks up.

“Hey, Danny,” she says, motioning for him to take the seat across from her. “You’re early, we weren’t supposed to meet for another half hour at least.”

“You say that like it’s a surprise,” Danny says, with a wry smile. “Or like you feel guilty.”

He gives her the Look, the one that means he knows exactly how many words are in the draft of the sequel to The Huntress. (He follows her on twitter, so he probably does.)

“I do not feel guilty at all,” Allison says, with great dignity. “You said you had something to discuss?”

“A few somethings, actually,” Danny says, shifting instantly from her friend to her agent. “I’ve found you a publisher for the other idea you mentioned you were working on. There’s a real niche market for queer young adult speculative fiction, they think it could do really well.”

“Great,” Allison says, grinning.

“Also,” Danny continues, “there’s this site that wants to interview you. Over email, of course, sometime this week? I gave them your details; they said they’d be in contact soon.”

Allison frowns. “An interview?”

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, Allison,” Danny says dryly, “but you’re kind of the hot new thing at the moment. Everyone-”

Allison holds up a hand. “If you finish that with wants a piece of you I will fire you, I don’t care how great you are. There is no excuse for terrible puns.”

Danny grins. “You wouldn’t,” he says, and, okay, that’s probably true, but it’s the principle of the thing. “You know it’s true, anyway.”

“Anything else?” she asks, a little pointedly. She’s not just trying to change the subject; Danny could have told her this over the phone, or even in an email. There has to be something else he wanted to discuss face to face.

“Yeah,” Danny says, “you remember my friend Jackson?”

“Jackson, as in, Jackson Whittemore?” Allison arches an eyebrow. “Famous for being famous, generally an entitled douchebag?”

“He’s not that bad,” Danny protests, half-heartedly. “He’s having a birthday party and he said I should invite you. And Stiles, since I told him the two of you are basically a package deal.”

“Why does Jackson Whittemore want me at his party, anyway?” Allison asks, head cocked in confusion. “He barely said three words to me last time we met. I didn’t think he even remembered who I was.”

“Hot new thing, remember?” Danny says, and Allison rolls her eyes. She doubts Jackson and his ilk care very much about books, much less the kind she writes. “Come on, he’d love to have you there. And it’d be great publicity?”

Allison sighs. Danny has a point, but there’s no getting away from the fact that a party thrown by Jackson Whittemore is not going to be anywhere near close to her idea of a good time. Still, it might not be too bad if she can convince Stiles to go with her.

“When is it?” Allison asks, resigned, and Danny’s grin is positively incandescent.

#

When Allison heads back to hers and Stiles’s apartment, she nearly bumps into the kind of ridiculously pretty woman heading out of it. Her hair is perfect, her make-up not even a little bit smeared, and there isn’t a single crease in her dress that Allison can see. Allison doesn’t think this can remotely be considered the walk of shame; the woman has far too much class for that.

“Sorry,” Allison blurts, when she realises she’s kind of been staring.

“It’s fine,” the woman says, flashing her a brief smile. “Excuse me.”

And with that, she strides away, down the hall and into the elevator. Shaking her head hard, Allison pushes the door open and walks into the apartment.

“How the hell,” she says, “did you get her to sleep with you?”

Stiles is lying on the sofa, hands clasped on his chest, staring up at the ceiling. Allison doesn’t have to see his face to know that it looks blissed-out and smug.

“I have no idea,” he says happily. And then he seems to come back to himself a little because he sits up abruptly and says, “Hey, fuck you, I can totally land girls like that, totally, any day of the week.”

“Sure you can,” Allison says, “I hear casual sexism works wonders for guys.” Stiles has the decency to look a little bit ashamed, at least, and Allison shakes her head at him. “Do you remember her name, even?”

“Lydia,” Stiles pronounces, falling back down on the sofa. “Lydia Martin.”

Allison thinks of the woman, of her wavy reddish-brown hair that fell halfway down her back, her pristine red mouth, the simple but obviously expensive dress, and thinks, Lydia.

And then Allison thinks of the look on Stiles’s face, the way his voice sounded when he said Lydia’s name, and she’s seen Stiles fall in lust a hundred times before but she’s never seen him look like this.

“She sounds great,” Allison says softly.

Lydia turns out to be some kind of math genius – “First woman to win the Nobel prize for mathematics,” Stiles says proudly; “It’s the Field’s Medal,” Allison corrects him, rolling her eyes – whom Stiles managed to get in to do a talk for his students.

“I don’t need details,” Allison says, holding up a hand when Stiles starts talking about how he convinced her to go home with him afterwards. “I really, really don’t.”

Stiles pouts a little, but obligingly cuts himself off mid-retelling. “Fine,” he says instead, “I’ll tell Scott. He’ll appreciate me, he’ll listen.”

“Scott won’t interrupt you,” Allison corrects, “that doesn’t mean he’s listening,” and Stiles sighs.

“Maybe you can be best man at the wedding,” he mumbles, “or, wait, no, best woman, best person? The one with the rings, anyway.”

“Did you get her number, then?” Allison asks, amused. “I mean, it would kind of help if you’re planning on making this a long-term thing.”

Stiles pauses for a second, and then his eyes go wide with horror. “Shit,” he says.

Allison bites her lip, holding her laughter back behind her teeth. “Idiot,” she says, and Stiles falls back on the sofa and groans.

“I am the worst,” he says mournfully.

Allison pats him on the shoulder and says, “Yeah, you kind of are.” And then something occurs to her and she grins. “But,” she says, “I know what’ll cheer you up. Danny’s friend Jackson is having a party this week, and he’s invited us. It should be fun, right?”

Stiles narrows his eyes at her, clearly not fooled at all. Dammit. “You only want me to go so you won’t be bored shitless by yourself.”

Allison bites her lip. “But it’d be so much more fun with you there, you know it would, you are the life and soul of a party,” and yeah, maybe she’s laying on the flattery a little thick but she’s kind of desperate here. “Please?”

“Okay,” Stiles relents, after a minute. “I won’t have to wear a suit, though, will I?”

Allison shakes her head. “It’s smart-casual, apparently,” she says, “you should be fine in jeans and a shirt.” She leans forward and wraps her arms around him, squeezing tight. “Thank you,” she says, and then, “Hey, you wanna do something today? We haven’t just hung out in a while.”

“Don’t you have best-selling books to be writing?” Stiles teases.

“Don’t you have lesson plans to be making?” Allison shoots back.

“Fine, fine,” Stiles says, wriggling away from her. “What did you have in mind?”

#

Allison thinks it should probably be weirder than it is, living with her ex-boyfriend’s best friend. It actually isn’t weird at all, because Scott was the one who moved out when they broke up (amicably, or at least as amicably as a six-year-long relationship can break up) leaving Allison in need of a roommate. The lease was nearly up on the apartment Stiles was renting at the time and he was looking for someone to share with to cut costs; it just made sense for him to move in.

And Stiles was Scott’s friend before he was hers but that doesn’t make him any less her friend. She might not have known him since they were kids like Scott has but she still knows about his mom dying when he was eleven and how much it broke him, and he knows about her aunt Kate and how much Allison hero-worshipped her before she had a psychotic break and killed herself, nearly killing her then-boyfriend Derek Hale in the process. (The same Derek Hale who runs Hale’s House with his sister Laura; it’s mostly stopped being painfully awkward, mostly, mostly).

And they know other things, too, like the way Stiles still vibrates all over when he’s nervous or scared, and how much he genuinely cares about the kids he teaches, about making them care, about math, about their education, about themselves, in a way he was never encouraged to. Like the fact that Allison hates nothing more than being manipulated, being lied to, that secrets hurt her in a way the cold, hard truth doesn’t, and the fact that she still has nightmares about tearing apart every single person she loves even though everyone else thinks she grew out of them years ago.

(They know each other, is the point, and they might not have known each other as long as Scott and Stiles have but sometimes, sometimes Allison thinks they know each other better.)

It hits her, though, like it sometimes does, that it really kind of should be weird, when Allison is explaining to the millionth person that Stiles is not her boyfriend no really she isn’t kidding they are just friends.

“Really?” The guy behind the counter looks honestly bemused. They’re not even going to see a rom-com for Christ’s sake, this is ridiculous. “But you look so much like a couple.”

“We really aren’t,” Stiles says, rolling his eyes, because it bothers him nearly as much as it does her that people automatically assume they’re together, just because they’re friends and they’re close and they live together or whatever. “Can we have our popcorn now?”

Shaking his head, the guy hands it over, says, “You’re in theatre room three. Enjoy the movie, I guess,” and turns away, muttering something they can’t hear under his breath.

“Dick,” Stiles mutters back, and Allison bites back a grin. She still links her arm with Stiles’ as they walk towards their theatre because that’s something they do, and sometimes it’s easier to let people assume Stiles is her gay best friend or something, though it’s not really any less offensive. “Sorry about that.”

“No, hey,” Allison says, frowning, “it’s not your fault.”

“Yeah, but.” Stiles sighs. “I know it bothers you, and it should because it’s fucking stupid, like, obviously the only reason a man and a woman could possibly be friends is because of latent sexual attraction, what the fuck.”

Allison laughs, can’t help it. “You picked that one right out of one of my rants, didn’t you,” she says, and she thinks her smile is probably more fond than she means it to be, but she doesn’t particularly care.

“Yep,” Stiles says, grinning back at her. “Sometimes I listen when you say things, who’d have thought,” and Allison actually has to hug him this time, fuck the guy behind the counter and everyone else who’ll make stupid assumptions now.

They sit at the back of the theatre, right in the middle, because it gives them the best view of the screen. They make faces at the couple making out in the corner already, the opening credits still rolling on the screen, and quietly improvise terrible dialogue for them until the movie starts.

It really has been too long since they just hung out, Allison thinks, letting her hand brush Stiles’s when she reaches for the popcorn, and settles back in her seat to watch the movie.

#

Extract from She Runs With Wolves: an interview with Allison Argent.


3. Did you expect The Huntress and the Hart to be received as well as it has been?
I really didn’t expect it at all. The market is so saturated with fantasy-thriller-romances about werewolves, so to think that mine would stand out at all was ludicrous.

That wasn’t why I wrote it, though, I wasn’t trying to write a best-seller. I guess that’s what everyone says, right? But I honestly just wrote it because it was a story I wanted to tell, and I think it was a story I needed to tell. Not for any grand purpose or anything, just... for me.

5. Katherine Wolfsbane is a fascinating character, and has polarised your (quite extensive) fanbase. Is she based on you at all?
Not even a little bit. If she’s based on anyone it would be my late aunt, who died last year. She always inspired me, always encouraged me to imagine and create, and the book is sort of a tribute to her, and the things she taught me. In a way, Katherine is the person I always wanted to be: she’s strong, brave and fiercely caring. But there’s an ugly side of her, too. She has moments of incredible cruelty, and she’s so fixed in her view of the world that she can’t even try to understand anyone else’s. She’s still sympathetic, though, or at least I like to think she is? She’s a product of the toxic environment she was surrounded by: the father who taught her how to hate, and the society that justified it. I’m not saying that makes what she does okay, not at all, but it makes it understandable.

7. There’ve been rumours that you’re going to make The Huntress into a series; is there any truth in this?
Sorry to disappoint, but no, I’m only intending to write one sequel to The Huntress. I’ve had Katherine’s redemption arc planned out since I finished the first draft a few years ago, and I know exactly where it should end. It would be a disservice to the characters as well as myself to try and drag the story out any further.

8. Do you have any plans for what you’ll be working on once you’ve finished the sequel?
I do, actually, but it’s kind of a complete departure from what I’ve done already. Kind of. I’ve been told it falls under the general category of queer young adult speculative fiction, but mostly it’ll be a whole lot of me being pretentious about what it means to be human and the concept of personal identity. It should be a lot of fun! I used to write stuff like this when I was younger and couldn’t find enough stories about people like me, and I guess it’s pretty self-indulgent but, y’know. It should be a lot of fun.

#

The doorbell rings while Allison’s trying to find something to wear to Jackson’s party, and then it rings again, and then it rings again. Allison yells out, “Stiles!” because apartment rules clearly state that the person who is closest to the door when it rings is responsible for answering it.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m getting it,” Stiles calls back, sounding only a little put out.

Satisfied, Allison goes back to rummaging in her wardrobe, wishing there were a stricter dress code so she wouldn’t have to agonise over what to wear. She hates this. Maybe she can ask Stiles for an opinion? Or, no, not Stiles, he’d laugh at her forever if he knew she was fretting this much over clothes. Danny? He’s got better taste, and he’s less likely to mock her if she asks for advice.

Before she can even think about getting her phone out, though, she hears Stiles say, “Oh, hey,” in this voice like he’s torn somewhere between shock and delight. “What are you doing here, Lydia?”

Allison freezes. Her fingers curl tighter around the dress she paused on, digging into her palm through the fabric, and she has to force herself to let go.

“I need a favour,” Lydia replies, and Allison can tell from her voice how much it costs her to say that.

“Oh,” Stiles says again, and he’s definitely edging more towards delight this time. “Sure, uh, what can I help you with?”

Allison can’t make out what Lydia says in reply, no matter how hard she strains her ears, and it occurs to her then that she’s being really kind of creepy, eavesdropping on their conversation from her bedroom. She exhales, shakes herself hard and goes back to flicking through her clothes. There must be something here she can wear.

After a minute, she gives in and hits six on her speed dial. “I need advice,” she says when Scott picks up.

“The pink dress with the bow, it’ll look great with your complexion,” Scott says, and Allison nearly drops her phone in shock.

“How’d you know?” she manages eventually.

“Stiles told me about the party,” Scott says, which doesn’t really answer Allison’s question, but then he continues, “and he texted me earlier to say it seemed like you were having some kind of freak out about clothes and was this at all normal because you’ve never done it before.” Allison laughs; it maybe comes out a little more ragged than she meant it to. Scott’s voice is softer than before when he says, “Hey, come on. You’ll look beautiful no matter what you wear, I know you will.”

“Thanks, Scott,” Allison says quietly. “How are you doing, by the way? Sorry, I didn’t even say hello.”

“It’s fine,” Scott says easily, “you had more important things to worry about. I’m doing great, yeah.”

“Has Isaac called you?” Allison asks, remembering their conversation earlier that week.

“No,” Scott says, and he sounds miserable. Allison has to resist the urge to roll her eyes, which is when she knows she feels better.

“Have you called him?” she tries, knowing Scott can hear the laughter in her voice, and also knowing he’ll take it for the gentle mockery it is.

“Nah. I don’t think he wants me to. I don’t think he really likes me all that much,” Scott says, and Allison can’t stop herself this time. Honestly, some people are so oblivious.

“He does,” she says, “he really really does, trust me.”

“Yeah, okay,” Scott says, but it’s his I’m-humouring-you-so-you’ll-let-this-go voice and not his you-are-a-genius-I-don’t-know-why-I-haven’t-been-taking-your-advice-all-this-time voice. There’s a subtle difference. “Have fun at the party, okay?”

“Thanks,” Allison says, and, “Bye, Scott,” because they might have broken up years ago but she still knows what Scott sounds like when he wants to end a conversation.

Lydia’s gone by the time Allison ventures out, wearing the dress Scott suggested. Stiles is leaning against the wall beside the door, looking thoughtful.

“What do you think?” Allison asks tentatively, and Stiles looks up at her.

“You look fantastic,” he says, and his eyes only stray to her boobs once. Or twice. Definitely not more than twice, Allison is kind of proud of him.

“Thank you,” she says. “What did Lydia want?” Stiles frowns, and Allison curses herself internally; she hadn’t meant to sound quite that sharp. “I heard you talking when she came in,” she says quickly, “it sounded like she wanted something important.”

“Oh, uh, yeah.” Stiles shifts awkwardly on the spot. He won’t meet her eyes. The vague foreboding curling round Allison’s chest has turned into a full-on heart-clench. “Her ex-boyfriend’s throwing a party and she needs a date to make him jealous.” He shrugs. “Apparently I’m perfect since I’m pretty much the exact opposite of him, he’d hate me.”

“Oh,” Allison says, proud of how calm her voice sounds.

“It’s tonight,” Stiles adds, kind of unnecessarily, “and I wouldn’t ask, I wouldn’t, I know you really don’t want to go to this party by yourself, but-” He bites his lip, laughs a little at himself. “I really, really like her, and it sort of seems like she likes me back, at least a little bit, and I can’t-”

“Yeah, no,” Allison says, forcing herself to smile, “that’s fine, of course that’s fine.”

Stiles looks relieved for just a moment, before he carefully tamps it down. “Are you sure?”

Yes, Stiles,” Allison says. “You should go, have fun, convince her you’re the love of her life and you two should get married and stuff.”

“And stuff,” Stiles repeats, waggling his eyebrows, “I hope that means what I think it means,” and Allison laughs, breaking the weird, awkward tension settling in the air between them.

“Pervert,” she says fondly.

“Prude,” he shoots back in the same tone of voice, and Allison just laughs again.

#

The next time the doorbell rings, Stiles is fixing his hair in the bathroom and Allison’s curled up on the sofa in the living room with her laptop, trying to work out where Jackson’s party actually is, so she gets up to answer it.

It’s Lydia again, of course, come to pick Stiles. She’s wearing a deep purple dress and matching lipstick, her hair pulled back from her face. It suits her, but Allison’s pretty sure Lydia’s the kind of girl who looks effortlessly gorgeous whatever she does to herself.

“Hi,” Allison says, smiling at her. “Stiles is in the bathroom right now, but he should only be a minute or two. Do you want to come in and wait?”

Lydia nods and follows her inside. They only have one sofa, and it’s kind of small for two people who aren’t as comfortable with physical proximity as Allison and Stiles, so Allison and Lydia end up squished at either end, not quite looking at each other.

“You’re Allison, right?” Lydia says eventually. “Stiles has told me so much about you.”

“All bad, I’m sure,” Allison tries to joke, but it comes out more serious than she means it to. Lydia doesn’t seem to notice.

“He told me you’re a writer,” she says. “He gave me a copy of your book, said I would love it.”

“Oh,” Allison says, a little taken aback. “He’s, uh, told me a lot about you too.” Lydia smiles like, of course he has. “First woman to win the Field’s Medal, right? That’s amazing.”

Lydia’s smile is wide and genuinely pleased, like Allison surprised it out of her. “Yes,” she says, and, “Thank you. I love your dress, by the way,” and it doesn’t sound like she doesn’t mean it but there’s still something about her smile Allison doesn’t quite trust. “Are you going somewhere nice this evening?”

“Yeah,” Allison says, “a friend of my friend – agent, actually, but he’s a good friend too – is having a party.”

“Sounds nice,” Lydia says, eyebrows raised, like Allison’s unenthusiasm is written all over her face.

Allison grimaces. “Yeah. It’s not really my thing, but Danny insisted, so.”

Lydia’s face flickers, just for a moment, barely long enough for Allison to notice. “I see,” she says, but before Allison can say anything, can even try and find out what that look meant, Stiles appears.

The last time Allison saw him wearing a suit, he was sixteen. He was still gangly and awkward in his body and the shirt and trousers didn’t fit all that well to begin with. Now... now Stiles is ten years older, and Allison’s seen him naked more than a few times – hazards of living with someone – so she knows he’s grown into himself since then but somehow it’s different actually seeing it, seeing the stretch of the shirt over his chest and the smooth. long lines of his legs.

“What do you think?” Stiles says, grinning as he gestures at himself. “I scrub up well, eh?”

Allison just nods in agreement, and Lydia says, “You do.” She sounds impressed, like she hadn’t been expecting it, and Stiles’ grin widens.

“You look beautiful, of course,” he says, and she flicks her hair, like, of course, but she’s smiling, too. He offers her his hand and she takes it, letting him pull her to her feet. “Shall we? Bye, Allison, have a good night!”

“You too,” Allison calls after them, and waves at them from her position on the couch until the door shuts behind them.

#

Jackson’s party is all the way on the other side of town, the part that’s so disgustingly rich that even Allison, who doesn’t consider herself poor by any means, is kind of appalled by the extravagance. But she just shakes her head, parks next to a pristine black Audi, and climbs out of her own car, smoothing the creases in her dress as she heads up towards the house.

“Allison,” she tells the guy at the door, when he gives her a funny look and asks her who she is, like he knows she has no right to be here, “Allison Argent? Danny Mahealani invited me, he said-”

“Hey, Allison!” Danny appears out of nowhere, narrowing his eyes briefly at the doorman before pulling her into a hug. “So great to see you.”

“Hey,” Allison says, the relief washing over her. “Stiles couldn’t make it, sorry.”

Danny frowns at her. “What are you talking about? Stiles is here, he showed up ages ago.”

“What?” Allison shakes her head. “No, he’s-”

And then she catches sight of him, on the other side of the room, dancing very terribly with a reluctant-looking Lydia Martin.

“Oh,” she says, dumbfounded.

“He’s either very brave or very stupid,” Danny observes. “Jackson’s been glaring vaguely in his direction ever since he arrived, I don’t fancy his chances. Speaking of, you two should-”

“Jackson is Lydia’s ex-boyfriend,” Allison realises, belatedly.

“Well, yeah,” Danny says, frowning. “Is that relevant to anything?”

“I can’t decide if this is ironic or just sad,” Allison says, mostly to herself, and then shakes her head hard. “Sorry, I- Stiles was supposed to be going to Lydia’s ex-boyfriend’s party, which was why he couldn’t come to Jackson’s, except, wow, they’re actually the same thing.” She grimaces. “When did I accidentally walk onto the set of a romantic comedy? Ew.”

Danny shakes his head too, a smile tugging at the corners of his lips. Allison suspects he’s laughing at her. She thinks she’s okay with that.

“Come on,” he says, taking her by the arm, “you should say hi to Jackson. I bet you twenty dollars he asks you to dance, you look gorgeous.”

Allison laughs, says, “Deal,” because there’s just no way. Danny grins at her.

Jackson’s talking to a group of people who look just as smartly dressed and twice as aloof and pretentious when they approach, and Danny raises his eyebrows at him in question. Jackson’s eyebrows waggle particularly energetically back and he says loudly, “Danny, hello, I’ll be right with you.”

He excuses himself from the group and hurries over to him, the painfully fake smile falling off his face as he goes.

Thank you,” he mutters, pulling Danny into a hug. A proper hug, arms wrapped around shoulders and waists, not a bro-hug with fist-grabbing and shoulder-bumping like Stiles taught her to do once. That’s... unexpected. “I hate having to deal with people like that. I thought I’d never get away.”

Allison coughs, because that seems just a little bit hypocritical, but it only draws Jackson’s attention to her.

“Oh, hello,” he says, giving her a distinctly appreciative once-over. “And who’s this?”

“Allison Argent,” Allison says, before Danny can (re)introduce her. “We met before, at Danny’s twenty-fifth?”

“Yeah, I remember now,” Jackson says, nodding. “I don’t remember you being this beautiful, though.” Allison raises her eyebrows, wholly unimpressed, and he laughs. “You can’t fault a guy for trying. You’re one of his clients, yeah? You wrote that book about the woman who hunts werewolves? That was awesome, I loved it.”

Allison finds herself smiling without even really meaning to. “Really?” But then her natural wariness kicks in and she narrows her eyes. “The main character’s full name?”

“Katherine Elizabeth Monkshood,” Jackson reels off. “Nice touch, by the way.”

“Thank you,” Allison says, and means it. Danny coughs meaningfully. “And, uh, thanks for inviting me, it’s nice to see you again.”

“No problem,” Jackson says, smiling at her. “You meet so many fakes in my line of business, it’s nice to have a few genuine people around.”

“Your life, so hard,” Danny says dryly, and Jackson elbows him good-naturedly.

“Why are we friends again?”

Danny cuffs him on the back of the head, says, “Because you need some kind of moral compass, dickhead,” and Jackson laughs.

“Point,” he says, and then his face suddenly goes all hard and Allison looks past him to see Lydia and Stiles not ten feet from them, laughing together. “Hey, Allison, would you like to dance?”

“Hah!” Danny crows. “I told you. Pay up, Argent.”

“This totally doesn’t count,” Allison protests. “It does not count if he’s only asking me because he wants to make his ex jealous.”

Jackson flinches. “I’m not,” he says, and Allison snorts. “Okay, yeah, but not the way you think I am. I just-” He blows out an impatient breath. “You ever just needed to prove to someone you don’t care what they think?”

Allison thinks of her grandfather. She thinks of everyone who teased her in high school for being a year older than everyone in her grade. She thinks of Stiles, and she says, “Yeah, I get that,” and holds out her arm to him. “It would be my honour to dance with you, Jackson.”

Jackson smiles back at her, an actual, genuine smile she wouldn’t have thought he was capable of if she weren’t seeing it on his face.

Allison isn’t much of a dancer, honestly, but she’s coordinated enough that she’s as decent at it as the next person. Jackson, on the other hand, is really honestly good at it, puts his feet in all the right places and even pulls off a few dips and twirls without dropping her.

“I was captain of the lacrosse team in high school,” Jackson tells her when she compliments him, his smile genuine. “I’m pretty coordinated.”

Allison raises an eyebrow. “So was my ex,” she says. “I never understood the appeal.”

Jackson’s smile widens and Allison groans, because she knows that look.

Sure enough, Allison spends the rest of the song and the entirety of the next two being treated to a speech – no, that isn’t the right word; what Jackson delivers is a sermon – on the virtues of lacrosse.

“Please, stop,” she begs, breaking away from him to cover her ears, “I surrender, okay, lacrosse is the greatest thing to exist ever, please don’t-”

“Allison?”

Allison freezes. Stiles sounds genuinely stunned, and when she pivots slowly to face him, he looks it too, his eyes as round as saucers and his mouth hanging open.

“Hey,” she offers. Beside Stiles, Lydia has her arms folded and is looking distinctly amused by the situation. “Fancy seeing you here.”

Stiles looks at Lydia, and then he looks at Allison, and then he looks at Lydia again. “No way,” he says, “no fucking way.”

“Way,” Lydia says dryly. “Stiles, this is Jackson Whittemore, my former boyfriend. Jackson, this is Stiles Stilinski, my current boyfriend. I assume everyone present knows who Allison is.”

Current boyfriend? Allison thinks, and, when did that happen? There’s a moment where Stiles just looks delighted, his face lit up as if from the inside, and then he shakes himself hard.

“Wait,” he says, “Allison’s Jackson is your Jackson? Really?”

“He’s not my Jackson,” Allison and Lydia object at the same time, and turn to look at each other.

“I’m not anyone’s anything,” Jackson retorts, sounding sulky. “And, seriously, your name is Stiles Stilinski? What the fuck kind of name is that?”

“It’s a nickname,” Stiles shoots back, the duh going unspoken. “Like you can throw stones, Jackson Whittemore, that just sounds like a douchey over-privileged-”

Boys,” Lydia says, and she doesn’t even really raise her voice but there’s enough steel behind it that Jackson and Stiles both go silent immediately.

Allison is impressed. No, Allison is more than impressed, Allison is awed. Allison wants Lydia to teach her that trick right now so she can use it when Stiles is pestering Danny. Or, well, when Stiles is pestering anyone, to be honest.

“Good,” Lydia says, sounding satisfied. “I’d appreciate it if you did your posturing somewhere I didn’t have to see it. Allison and I can give you some time alone.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” Jackson bites out, at the same time Stiles all but wails, “Don’t leave me alone with him, Lydia!”

They glare at each other. Lydia rolls her eyes; apparently this has ceased to be entertaining for her.

“We’re going to get a drink,” she says, linking her arm with Allison’s. “You two can do what you like, short of actually trying to kill each other. I’m not bailing you out this time, Jackson.”

Jackson opens his mouth to protest, but Lydia’s already dragging Allison away. She relinquishes her grip when they’re out of earshot of Jackson and Stiles and sighs, heavy and long-suffering.

“I did suspect,” Lydia says, “when you mentioned Danny. It seemed too much of a coincidence.”

Allison nods, kind of awkward. She likes Lydia, she does, but she doesn’t really know her that well, aside from what she’s been told by Stiles.

“Jackson isn’t going to hurt him, is he?” Allison asks, unable to keep the worry out of her voice. Stiles played lacrosse in high school, too, but he was never first line or anything. Jackson could take him out in a heartbeat.

Lydia looks considering for a moment, and then says, ”Probably not,” which is very reassuring.

“That’s very reassuring,” Allison says, and Lydia laughs.

“Danny’ll keep him in line, don’t worry,” she says, and she links arms with Allison again. “Come on, I was serious about getting drinks.”

She leads Allison to the kitchen, which is quieter but no less huge and grandiose than the rest of the place. Lydia turns back to her, gives her a considering look, then picks up a bottle of expensive-looking whiskey.

“You look like the type to appreciate it,” is all Lydia says when Allison slants an eyebrow at her. Without waiting for confirmation of this, Lydia pours out two glasses and hands one to Allison, giving her an expectant look.

“Thanks,” Allison mutters. She’s not a big drinker, and whiskey isn’t really her usual choice of poison, but it seems rude to turn it down. She takes a sip and makes what is probably an exceptionally horrible face at the taste since Lydia laughs.

“Maybe not, then,” she says, and drinks her own. The silence that follows is not quite awkward, almost companionable, almost, and then Lydia says, “So how long have you known Stiles?”

“Since high school,” Allison replies. “I started dating his best friend sophomore year, and we’ve sort of all been friends ever since.”

Lydia slants her a look. “That’s like me and Jackson and Danny,” she says, after a moment. “We’ve known each other since high school, too.”

“That’s nice,” Allison says, and then has to laugh at herself, because really? Lydia laughs too, any remaining tension draining away. “Sorry,” Allison says. “I swear I’m usually better at this, it’s just-”

“I get it,” Lydia says. “Stiles is your best friend. This is going to be awkward for you.” She sounds matter-of-fact, like she actually means it, and Allison just nods. “It’s fine. Shall we start over?” She puts down her glass and holds out a hand with mock formality. “I’m Lydia Martin, PhD.”

“Allison Argent,” she replies, dutifully shaking Lydia’s hand. “I write books about werewolves.”

Lydia grins and picks up her glass again. “Nice to meet you, Allison Argent,” she says, raising her glass in toast.

*

The next morning, Allison sits down at the kitchen table with a plate of cookies and her laptop, determined to make headway on the sequel to the Huntress.

“One cookie for every five hundred words,” she tells herself firmly, and gets to work.

Stiles surfaces sometime later, scruffy and rumpled and hungover-looking. He grunts when he sees her, and Allison doesn’t bother with greetings, just says, “There’s still coffee in the pot,” and smiles when Stiles makes an appreciative sort of noise and heads straight for it.

He slides in opposite her, watches her type, sips at his cup of coffee. His presence is sort of soothing, a familiar constant that helps ground her, helps settle her thoughts. She barely notices him getting up, barely notices the rush of water as he turns the tap to wash up the cup, she’s so engrossed in writing.

“I read your interview,” Stiles says suddenly, and Allison jerks around in her chair to face him, surprised. “It was great, really interesting, though it was pretty obvious Katherine’s basically an idealised version of your aunt Kate.”

“Okay,” Allison says, still wary, still wondering where Stiles is going with this. Honestly, she has no idea why Stiles would read the interview; it’s not like he takes that much of an active interest in her career.

“I didn’t know you were bi,” he says abruptly, and Allison startles. How did he even- but oh, wait, people like me. Shit. “Is that even right? Are you bisexual?”

“It’s the most fitting label, I guess,” Allison says, and hates how awkward this is. “I’m more attracted to men than women, honestly, and I just. Never thought it was worth bringing up.” She shrugs again. “Didn’t really know how to, I guess.”

“So, what,” Stiles says, “you didn’t trust me enough to tell me? Didn’t think I was worth telling?”

“That’s not what I said,” Allison protests, a little panicky, because she can feel things spinning out of control, “that’s not what I meant. Of course I trust you, Stiles, I just-”

“Does Scott know?” Stiles demands.

“Well, of course, but I don’t see what that has to do with-”

“Fucking hell,” Stiles mutters. “I feel like a great friend right now, don’t I.”

“This isn’t about you,” Allison says, the hurt steadily pulsing into anger. “I don’t understand why you care so much.”

Stiles’s eyes widen, and Allison isn’t sure whether it’s with shock or disbelief. “I care,” he says, his voice short and vicious, “because you’re one of my best friends, and you apparently felt more comfortable telling some random website about your sexuality than me!”

“It was a fucking accident,” Allison retorts, “it’s not like I meant to, I was just answering the question. It’s nothing to do with you, Jesus. You’re so fucking self-centred.”

Stiles’s mouth twists into something mean, and for a moment Allison is scared. Genuinely terrified, because they’re friends, they fight sometimes, of course they do, but they’ve never fought like this, and never over something so stupid. She’s never felt like their relationship’s been stretched this thin before.

“Oh,” Stiles says, with a laugh that is hollow and bitter all at once, “I see how it is. You don’t trust me. You think, what, you think if I knew you liked girls I’d ask you to make out with them in front of me for kicks?” He laughs again, and it’s even more humourless than before. “You really think that little of me, huh.”

“That is not fucking fair and you know it,” Allison says, quietly, so her voice can’t shake. “I don’t think that, you know I don’t, I trust you-”

“Like fuck you do,” Stiles says, just as quietly, and grabs his coat.

“Where are you going?” Allison demands, her voice going high in the middle.

“Out,” Stiles tosses over his shoulder, “I know where I’m not wanted,” and slams the door shut behind him. Allison sinks back into her chair and grabs fistfuls of her hair, rocking back and forth until Stiles’s voice stops echoing in her ears.

#

Allison ends up going to Hale’s house because she’s starting to suffocate, staying in their apartment and staring at all their stuff – not hers, not his; if they could ever differentiate Allison doesn’t remember where to draw the line – and she can’t handle it any longer.

Derek’s on shift, which makes Allison blanch, and actually consider just going back to her apartment for more than half a second, but Boyd’s also working and he’s already seen her. And, besides, Allison is not a coward, she can handle this.

Taking a deep breath, she pastes on a smile and joins the queue at the counter. “Hey,” she says, when she gets to Boyd, and, “Caramel latte and a blueberry muffin,” because she doesn’t usually come in at this time of day; he doesn’t have her order memorised.

They’re pretty busy, so Allison doesn’t have to make eye contact with Derek when he puts her coffee on the counter with her muffin, when she mumbles, “Thank you,” and scurries away.

Her usual spot is taken, though, and it throws her off long enough that the person sitting there gives her a really weird look and Allison realises she’s kind of gaping at them. She mutters, “Sorry,” at them and ducks away to a table on the other side of the room, nearly burning her mouth on her coffee as she waits for her laptop to load up again.

Usually she writes better when she’s emotional – which isn’t a comment on her objective quality because Allison tries not to do that; better just means that the words flow out of her more easily – but the universe apparently hates Allison right now because she stares at the screen for a full ten minutes with absolutely nothing simmering in her head, and after she gulps down more coffee, another fifteen.

After a while, she changes documents, figuring she just needs something new, that she’s spent too much time in Katherine Wolfsbane’s head today. She writes and writes and writes some more, not even sticking to her already vague outlines, just writing whatever comes into her head. She knows it’s going to be terrible, but she doesn’t care. She just needs to get this out.

“Refill?”

Allison jerks, startled, and knocks the remains of her coffee over her shirt. She suddenly wants nothing more than to cry, to just break down and sob out all her frustration until the tight ball of tension inside her unknots, but she isn’t going to. She is Allison Argent, and Allison Argent doesn’t do things like that.

She summons a smile from... somewhere, she doesn’t even know, and drags her eyes up. Boyd looks worried, kind of, but that’s probably because she just spilt coffee all over herself.

“That would be great,” she says, and she sounds exhausted even to her own ears, more than she’d usually let herself be, but she just can’t right now. “Thank you.”

Boyd pours more coffee into her now-empty cup, adds milk and a shot of caramel, and then he sits down across from her.

“Uh,” Allison says, blinking at him, “hi.”

“Hi,” Boyd says. “Shitty day?”

“Yeah.” Allison sighs, scrubs a hand through her hair. “Just, you know when everything in your life’s conspiring to make you miserable? That’s the kind of day I’m having.”

Boyd nods, says, “Those are the worst.” He nods at the coffee he just poured. “Refill’s free, by the way.”

“Oh,” Allison says, surprised, “you don’t have to-”

“Not me,” Boyd says. “Derek.”

Allison glances back at the counter, can’t help herself. Derek is studiously not looking at her, busying himself with the machine even though there’s nobody in line.

“Oh,” she repeats, softer this time. “Thank you. Um. Thank him for me, would you?”

“Sure,” Boyd says, nodding at her as he gets up.

“Thanks,” Allison says softly, watching him go back to the counter, to Derek, whose lips twitch into something approaching a smile, by his standards. Maybe the universe doesn’t hate her today after all.

And then, as if to punish her for tempting fate with such a ludicrous suggestion, Allison’s phone rings. She winces, figuring it’s Stiles or, worse, Scott. He’s mediated in arguments between them before, but they’ve never had an argument like this before.

When she checks the display, though, the number is unrecognised. She frowns at it.

“Hello?” she says, and Lydia says, “You have to come here and let him apologise to you.”

Allison blinks. “I’m sorry?”

Stiles,” Lydia says, like this should somehow be obvious. “You have to come to my house and let him apologise to you.”

Allison’s eyes narrow, some of the fury from before returning in small increments. Of course Stiles went to Lydia. And of course he’s getting her to fight his battles for her.

“Why,” Allison snaps, “because I’m obliged to? Because he deserves my forgiveness?”

“No,” Lydia says, again with the how-are-you-this-stupid voice. “Because he was a dick and you deserve an apology.”

“Oh,” Allison says, after a minute. “Okay.”

“Good,” Lydia says, satisfied, and then gives Allison her address. “Where are you?”

“Hale’s House,” Allison says, “it’s this little coffee shop in-”

“I’m familiar with it,” Lydia says, and Allison’s pretty sure she can hear the eye-roll in her voice. “See you in ten minutes.”

“Bye,” Allison says, but Lydia’s already hung up.

#

Lydia’s house is not what Allison was expecting. Granted, she was expecting something like Jackson’s house, and Lydia’s address wasn’t really the right area for that, but still. It’s a relatively small, and near the university campus, which makes a lot of sense, in hindsight. Allison remembers Lydia Martin, PhD, remembers the proud look on Lydia’s face when she introduced herself.

“You’re late,” Lydia says when she opens the door. Her face looks impassive and disinterested, her mouth pressed into a perfect moue, but Allison is coming to realise that this is what Lydia’s face usually looks like.

“Traffic,” Allison lies, even though the roads are all but empty at this time of night and Lydia must know that.

Lydia just nods. “He’s in the kitchen.”

Allison steps inside, past Lydia’s outstretched arm, presumably pointing in the direction of the kitchen. Allison follows it, stopping at the pristine white door, and looks back at Lydia. Lydia just makes a shooing motion with her hands and Allison swallows, steeling herself, before pushing the door open.

Stiles is sitting at the table, one leg pulled up into his chest, the other jiggling insistently at the floor. He looks up when Allison walks in. They both freeze, staring at each other.

“I’m sorry,” Stiles says, after a moment. His leg slides down to the floor. “Really, I am, I shouldn’t have- fuck, I said some really stupid stuff. Really mean stuff.”

Allison nods, sits down opposite him. She gets that he was angry and, now, after she’s had some time to think about it, she even thinks he kind of had a right to be, maybe, but he didn’t have the right to say what he said.

“Everyone says stuff they don’t mean when they’re mad,” she says, not quite looking at him. “I should’ve been more understanding. I really do trust you, though, it was never about that.”

Stiles nods. “I know. I know that, you don’t have to tell me, I know you trust me. I shouldn’t have reacted the way I did. I, yeah, I’m really sorry.” He grimaces. “Lydia yelled at me a lot when I told her what I said.”

Allison bites her lip around a grin. “She’s kind of great,” she says, and Stiles’s face softens.

“She really is,” he says, and the look on his face is so fond it makes something in Allison’s chest clench, even as she wants to make fun of him for it forever. “She said I was a selfish sexist pig and she will slap me stupid if I ever treat her like that.”

“I can hear you talking about me, you know,” Lydia calls from outside, and Stiles and Allison both crack up at the same time.

“Maybe you shouldn’t be eavesdropping, then,” Stiles calls back, and the door opens to reveal Lydia’s unimpressed face, her folded arms across her chest.

“It’s my house,” she reminds him. “It is logically impossible for me to be eavesdropping.”

“Shush, you,” Stiles says, grinning at her, “your logic has no place here,” and she rolls her eyes.

“Has he apologised sufficiently?” she asks Allison pointedly.

Allison slants her eyes at Stiles, and can’t hold back a smile. “Yeah,” she says, “yeah, I think he has.”

Stiles grabs her hand and squeezes. He doesn’t say anything, but Allison can read the gratitude in his eyes.

“God,” Lydia says abruptly, “you two,” and nothing else, like somehow that’s supposed to make sense by itself. Allison lets go of Stiles’s hand, but she’s still grinning.

#

Afterwards, after she’s driven them both back to their flat – Stiles walked all the way to Lydia’s house, because he apparently loses all semblance of common sense when he’s angry – Allison saves Lydia’s number in her phone.

It’s not like she’s planning on using it, she reasons, she just feels better with a way to contact Lydia. In case of, like, an emergency. Or something. And, besides, if Lydia didn’t want her to have it, she wouldn’t have called Allison, right?

Right.

#

She gets the text while she’s writing, in her corner of Hale’s House. Lydia showed up at their flat a few hours ago to take Stiles... somewhere, Allison wasn’t really paying attention, and she couldn’t sit in their flat by herself tonight. She’s rewritten the scene she’s currently working on six times since she arrived; it’s pivotal, and it refuses to come out the way it looks in Allison’s head.


I finished your book. It was fascinating.
18:19, 15/03/12
...is that a good thing or a bad thing?
18:20, 15/03/12


Neither. It’s a comment on the underlying message, not the objective quality.
18:26, 15/03/12


The message being? Sorry, I’m just curious, I like knowing what people think about this stuff.
18:28, 15/03/12

Lydia?
19:01, 15/03/12


Don’t trust ANYONE.
19:06, 15/03/12

It’s not exactly subtle, either.
19:06, 15/03/12


Allison stares at her phone. Somehow Lydia doesn’t strike her as the type to use all-caps in text messages with any frequency at all.

I guess that’s fair. I never intended for that to be the message, though.
19:10, 15/03/12


Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s about female empowerment and the dichotomy of good and evil.
Kate still has a fuckton of trust issues.
19:13, 15/03/12


Allison actually recoils at that, because- because Lydia can’t know, there is no way Lydia can know, and yet-

Her name’s Katherine.
19:14, 15/03/12

But yeah, I guess she does.
19:15, 15/03/12

Allison sets her phone down after that, determined not to look at it again, but it doesn’t buzz for the rest of the night, until she finally packs up, waves goodbye to Erica and Laura, and goes home. Allison is determinedly not disappointed.

#

The doorbell rings while they’re eating the lasagna Stiles made for dinner, curled up on the sofa with their knees touching. They turn to look at each other at the same time. Allison is marginally closer to the door, but the sofa is supposed to be neutral territory.

“Get it together?” Allison says eventually. Stiles opens his mouth like he’s going to argue, just for the sake of it, and she adds, purposefully light, “It’s probably Lydia anyway.”

It’s been Lydia every other time, to take Stiles out or, sometimes, rarely, to stay, to perch on the sofa next to Allison with Stiles sitting on the floor, leaning back into her, while they watch TV.

(Allison hates herself for being surprised that they’ve lasted this long, that Lydia hasn’t got bored or sick or tired of Stiles because she knows it’s a horrible thing to think on so many levels, but she is. Surprised and, well, maybe a little something else she isn’t willing to acknowledge quite yet.)

It isn’t Lydia.

“Hey,” Danny says. “I was just passing through and I figured I should stop by, see how the novel’s going.”

His eyebrows indicate he already knows the answer to that, and Allison winces, gesturing him in. “It’ll be done by the deadline,” she promises, because it will, she’s never missed a deadline in her life and she doesn’t plan to start now. “Do you want a drink?”

“Coffee’d be nice,” Danny says with a nod.

“Milk and two sugars?” Stiles checks.

“Yeah, thanks.” Danny’s eyebrows are doing something funny, like they’re not sure where to settle on his forehead. “She’s got you well-trained, I see.”

Stiles mock-salutes. “Just doing my house-husbandly duty,” he says, and Allison narrows her eyes.

“You’re a terrible house-husband,” she tells him. “How long have those dishes been in the sink, exactly?”

“Fine, fine,” Stiles says, rolling his eyes, “I’ll just wash them while I’m making Danny his coffee, shall I?”

“You do that,” Allison replies loftily, and Danny coughs.

“So,” he says, once Stiles has disappeared into the kitchen. “How is the novel actually going?”

Allison bites her lip. “It’ll be done by the deadline,” she repeats, and Danny sighs.

“You can talk to me,” he says, and his voice is more gentle than long-suffering but Allison still winces anyway. “About anything.” Danny’s face does something meaningful-looking that Allison doesn’t really understand. “I’m your friend too, y’know.”

“Yeah,” Allison says, “I know. I just-” She blows out a breath between her teeth, forces herself to smile. “All the usual worries, y’know? Nothing important, don’t worry about it.”

“Allison,” Danny says, gentle, so gentle.

“What if people hate it?” Allison bursts out before she can stop herself. She squeezes her eyes shut, every negative review of The Huntress burning hot on the backs of her eyelids. “What if I can’t, whatever I did with the first book, what if I can’t do that for this? It’s just, it’s just fucking awful right now, I hate all the characters, even Kate, especially Kate, and I just, I just-” Her breath hitches on a sob and she has to swallow hard, has to clench and unclench her fingers before she can trust her voice again. “All the usual worries. Y’know.”

Danny touches her arm. Allison resolutely does not flinch. “Allison,” he says, gently, but thankfully Allison is saved from whatever Danny was going to say by Stiles returning from the kitchen with the coffee, talking a mile a minute about... something, Allison doesn’t even know, but he sounds aggravated by it. Probably something to do with school. Danny lets his hand drop and smiles at Stiles, and Allison breathes a little easier.

#

“You know,” Lydia says, “people tend to identify with Damien, even though he’s not the main character.”

“I do know that,” Allison says, wondering how, exactly, Lydia knows. “Because he’s the victim.” And a man, she doesn’t say.

“That’s over-simplifying it,” Lydia retorts, and Allison nods, forgetting for a moment that Lydia can’t see her over the phone. “Katherine’s a victim too. They’re all victims, depending on your perspective.”

“That’s true,” Allison says, grinning because she can’t help herself, because this time it doesn’t matter that Lydia can’t see. “Let me guess. You identify with Katherine?”

There’s a beat of silence, two, and then Lydia says, “No, actually. Katherine’s sister-in-law,” and Allison thinks, probably, that she should’ve seen this coming, but the kick in her chest still takes her by surprise.

“Oh,” she says, “okay.” She pauses, then asks, “So what are you and Stiles up to?” but she’s speaking to a dial tone.

#

Allison can’t do this.

She just can’t. She has no idea why she thought that she could, why she ever thought she could make something halfway beautiful out of words and phrases and stupid fragile ideas. Everything she’s written today, yesterday, and every day before that this week has been awful, which actually isn’t saying much since her net total isn’t much above three hundred words. The spark just isn’t there, and Allison has never needed it so badly before.

Another thing she needs: coffee. So much coffee. So much good coffee, not the awful swill she makes herself. But she can’t leave the flat, because she has this whole fucking book to write, and she isn’t allowed to go anywhere before she finishes at least the next chapter.

What she really, really needs is a hug, but stupid Stiles is on a stupid date with stupid Lydia being stupidly happy somewhere far out of Allison’s reach and it’s so stupid how jealous Allison is.

Allison sighs heavily, digging the heel of her hand into her eyes. She didn’t get much (any) sleep last night. The nightmares have been pretty bad, recently.

The doorbell rings in the middle of Allison’s grappling with the scene she’s currently working on. The current scene, which isn’t even important in any way, it’s just filler, dialogue for the sake of dialogue, but it just refuses to come out right and Allison is five seconds from breaking down and weeping.

Inhaling deeply, Allison gets to her feet and rearranges her face into something appropriate for people who aren’t her reflection in the shiny screen of her laptop. By the time she gets to the door and hauls it open to see who’s there, she’s mostly stopped shaking, even.

Danny says, “Hey,” and looks her over consideringly. “You weren’t at the café, and you didn’t answer your phone when I tried to call you.”

Allison frowns, fishes in her pocket for her phone. It’s on silent, and she has three missed calls from Danny, but those aren’t the only things she notices.

“Shit,” she says, clapping a hand to her forehead, “Danny, I’m so sorry, I didn’t realise what day it was.” She blows out a breath between her teeth. “I’m a little all over the place at the moment.”

“Laura said they haven’t seen you all week,” Danny says, and his tone neutral but Allison knows him better than that. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, fine,” Allison says, raking a hand back through her hair. “Just stressed, you know how I get this close to a deadline.”

Danny nods. “Sure,” he says, and glances around. “Hey, where’s Stiles?”

“Do you even need to ask? He’s with Lydia, of fucking course.” Allison groans, cradling her head in her hands. “God, I sound like such a bitch.”

“No you don’t, Allison.”

“Why do I even care,” Allison says quietly, “I shouldn’t care.”

“Hey,” Danny says softly, and then there’s a soft, warm hand on her arm, “it’s okay to be a little jealous, you know.”

“No it’s not,” Allison says, swallowing down hard on a sob. “It’s not, it’s completely unreasonable, it’s not like I have any sort of claim, I have no right to be jealous. I don’t-” Her voice catches and she squeezes her eyes shut tight because she is not going to cry, she is not. “I don’t even know which one of them I’m jealous of. Well.” She huffs a laugh, tiny and defeated. “More jealous of.”

Danny’s quiet for a minute, and then he says, “That’s okay too,” and uses the hand he’s still got on her arm to pull her into a hug.

“Did you know,” Danny says, after a minute, “that for most of the time Lydia was dating Jackson, I was dating him too?”

Allison jerks back, shocked. “No,” she says, “no, of course I didn’t, I- I didn’t think you even liked him like that.”

Danny shrugs, a sad sort of smile on his lips. “We work better as friends,” he says, and it sounds careful, practised, like something he’s said before, “we all do, really, just. We were in love with each other for a long time. Since high school, and, well.”

“I know how that feels,” Allison mumbles, thinking of Scott. “You weren’t dating Lydia too, then?”

Danny shakes his head, but this time his smile is a little more real. “I’m pretty sure I remember coming out to you,” he says, eyebrow arched, “don’t you?”

Allison rolls her eyes, but she’s smiling too. “Yeah, okay,” she says.

“I did love her, though,” he says. “Still do, a little, and Jackson, but. Better off as friends, right? I broke up with him first, and then-” Danny shrugs. “Jackson and Lydia have always had a weird kind of relationship. They pissed each other off, they broke up, they ignored each other for a while, they had apparently great hate sex, they got back together.” He shrugs again, his smile wry. “They broke up for good about a year ago now, and they still can’t resist needling each other.”

“Right,” Allison says, not sure where Danny’s going with this.

It must show on her face, though, because Danny grimaces. “My point,” he says, “is that I think you should talk to them about it. I don’t know about Stiles, but Lydia’s a lot better at sharing than people tend to think.”

Allison snorts. “What makes you think she’d even-”

“She likes you,” Danny cuts in, rolling his eyes, “trust me, that is really not the issue here. And it’s not like Stiles hasn’t been half in love with you since-”

“Wait,” Allison says, “no, no no no no, Stiles is not- we’re just- we’re just friends, Danny, you of all people should know that.”

“Allison,” Danny says, very patiently, “I know you hate to perpetuate a stereotype but even you must have noticed that you and Stiles are basically married. And, yes,” he says quickly, at the look on her face, “I do know that doesn’t mean you have to be in a relationship, it could just mean you’re really really good friends if you weren’t who you are and you weren’t ridiculously in love with each other.”

Allison doesn’t say anything for a long, long time, and then she says, quietly, “Oh.”

“Yeah, oh,” Danny says, teasing, but his eyes are soft. “So you should talk to them.”

“I don’t think I can,” Allison admits, because her throat is raw and there’s something clawing at her chest and she’s intimately familiar with what fear feels like, at this point.

“Do you want me to talk to them for you?” Danny says, still mocking her, and for a moment Allison wants to say yes, because that would be nowhere near as embarrassing or terrifying as saying I like you I like you please say you like me back.

“No,” she says, very firmly, “I’ll do it, I will. Just... not today.”

Danny points a finger at her. “Do I have to give you a deadline, Argent?” he threatens, and it’s so ridiculous that Allison just bursts out laughing, has to put her head between her knees while she gets her breathing under control.

“That won’t be necessary,” she assures him, “I should be fine.”

“I hope so,” he says, and he’s gone serious again all of a sudden. He leans forward to hug her, rubbing circles into her back until she pulls away and gives him a small but genuine smile.

“I should get back to writing,” she says, “or just failing and pretending to write, I don’t know. Thanks. For. Y’know.”

Danny kisses her forehead, soft, then pulls her into another hug. “Any time,” he murmurs into her ear, and then he’s gone, quietly letting himself out of the apartment.

#


cheering u on xxxxxxxx you can do this xxxxxx
23:53 02/04/12


Thanks, Scott xxx
03:54, 03/04/12

#

Allison finishes the draft of The Huntress sequel half an hour before the deadline. It’s choppy and piecemeal and very, very terrible and Allison does not care. She can fix it later, when it comes back to her marked up with pointed commentary, but for now she needs to sleep.


Allison Argent @allisonargent
Finally done with the Huntress sequel. Success, like vengeance, tastes SWEET.
23:33 PM – 6 April 12 – Details


She shuts her laptop screen with what is probably too satisfying a click and sits back against the sofa, stretching out her spine and listening to each bone crack into place. She sighs, quietly, and gets to her feet, wincing at the ache in her muscles from being curled up in the same position for too long.

“Hey,” Stiles says softly, and Allison nearly jumps out of her skin.

“Hey,” she says. “I didn’t hear you come in.”

Stiles shrugs. “You were in the middle of writing, I didn’t want to disturb you.” He grins, tentative, and holds up his phone. “I figured I should say congrats in person.”

Allison grins back and steps forward to hug him. Stiles opens his arms around her and lets her cling, rubs a soothing hand up and down her back.

“You’re amazing,” he tells her, whispers it in her ear. Allison shivers, and tells herself it’s just because it tickles. “I knew you could do it.”

“Nice to know someone did,” Allison jokes, or tries to, at least; her voice falls just a little flat.

“Hey,” Stiles says, pulling back a little to look at her, really look at her. “Hey,” he says again, his voice soft, bringing a hand up to stroke her face, and Allison kisses him.

She knows it’s a mistake the instant their mouths touch, she knows it’s wrong and horrible and she should pull away and brush it off as innocent while she still can, but she doesn’t. She licks over Stiles’ lips and Stiles- Stiles kisses her back, pulls her in closer, opens his mouth for her tongue.

Stiles kisses her back.

That’s the part which makes her jump back, jump away, staring wide-eyed at Stiles. He’s staring back at her, just as shocked, his mouth wide and wet.

“I’m sorry,” she blurts, “I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t have done that,” and flees.

She shuts herself in her room, sinking down against the door, eyes squeezed shut. Stiles doesn’t come after her.

*

Allison doesn’t sleep well, wracked by guilt and self-loathing and the distinct certainty that she’s fucked everything up. Eventually she gives up, just lies in bed staring at the ceiling until morning light starts filtering in through the curtains she forgot to close.

Yawning, she pads out to the bathroom and strips down, stepping into the shower. The water helps, clears her head a little, washes away some of the awfulness collecting under her skin. When she’s dressed and heading for the kitchen for breakfast, she almost feels better, almost.

And then she hears Stiles’s voice, low and muffled through the walls, and the awful feeling comes rushing back. She grabs her jacket and her bag and ducks out of the flat, shutting the door quietly behind her.

Hale’s House is full to bursting when Allison squeezes inside, joins the end of the queue. Isaac gives her a distracted smile when she gets to the counter, says, “Caramel latte and a blueberry muffin?” just like always.

Allison breathes deep, feels herself calm down. “Yeah,” she says, “thank you.”

Her usual seat’s taken, of course, but she manoeuvres herself over to a free table in the middle of the room. She purposefully didn’t bring her laptop, too burnt out to even think about writing, but there’s a book she started months ago at the bottom of her bag, and she pages through it to find where she left off.

She isn’t really aware of the coffee shop calming down, getting quieter; she just finishes the book and abruptly realises the place is all but empty, that she’s been here for hours. Stifling a yawn, she puts her book back in her bag, wonders if she can justify spending another few hours here – not hiding, just, she doesn’t feel up to facing Stiles just yet, that’s all.

But then someone pulls out the chair in front of her and sits down. Allison freezes, and Lydia says, “Hello, Allison.”

Allison swallows, hard, and forces herself to look up. Lydia doesn’t look angry, exactly, just sort of... intense. Like she might be angry, coiled up and controlled under the surface.

“I’m really sorry,” Allison says quietly. “I didn’t mean to, and it won’t happen again, I just- I’m really sorry.”

Lydia studies her for a few moments, her eyes narrow and intent. Finally, she says, “Come with me,” and Allison just nods, doesn’t even think about arguing.

Lydia walks Allison to her car in complete silence. The drive back to Allison and Stiles’ apartment is even more awkward, Lydia’s manicured nails drumming on the dashboard, Allison staring fixedly ahead. She’s almost grateful to see Stiles when he opens the front door to let them in.

“Hey,” he says, offering Allison a tentative smile.

“Hey,” she says back, biting her lip. She can’t hold his gaze for longer than a few seconds before the shame wells up again, hot and horrible.

“No,” Lydia announces, and they both turn to look at her, like metal drawn to a magnet. “You are not allowed to be awkward about this, either of you.”

“But I-” Allison tries.

“Kissed Stiles,” Lydia says, matter-of-fact, “and he kissed you back.”

Stiles goes red. “Lydia-”

“Sit down,” she says, but it’s too soft to be a command. “We’re going to talk about this properly.”

Allison and Stiles arrange themselves at either end of the sofa, looking anywhere but at each other. Lydia makes a disbelieving noise, shaking her head at them.

“Clearly we’ll have to take a more direct route than I thought,” she mutters, and leans down to drag Allison into a kiss, hard enough to bruise. She pulls back after a minute, looking satisfied. “There,” she says, a little breathless. “Now we’re even.”

Allison touches her mouth, her eyes so, so wide. “Lydia,” she starts, doesn’t know how to finish.

“I know Danny talked to you,” Lydia says, her voice wavering for the first time. “I know you know about us and Jackson. And you,” she says, spinning to face Stiles, “we’ve talked about this. This doesn’t have to be complicated.”

Allison remembers the twist of Danny’s lips when he said we were better off as friends. “It kind of does,” she says quietly. “What if we can’t make it work?”

“Scared, Argent?” Lydia mocks, and Allison shoots back, “Terrified.” Lydia visibly sobers.

“If we can’t make it work, we can’t make it work,” Stiles says suddenly. Allison looks at him, and his eyes are bright and clear. “But isn’t it worth trying?”

Allison thinks about long nights curled together on the sofa, talking through plot arcs and lesson plans in turn. Allison thinks about the ache in her chest when Stiles is with Lydia, and how it isn’t quite jealousy. Allison thinks about kissing them, both of them, and Allison says, “Yeah, I guess it is.”