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we learn to live with the pain, mosaic broken hearts

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part one: this nightmare's closing in, everything is lost

.

december, 2011

The first time she meets him--on purpose, in the actual flesh and not just a quick wave during one of his extensive skype chats with Scott--she wants to murder him.

It’s cold, and she’s wearing one of her longer dresses and a thick coat, and it’s still cold and he’s an hour late. She knew she shouldn’t have agreed, she knew he sounded too good to be true, she knew she shouldn’t have worn heels and she fricking knew she should’ve cut Allison off the second she opened her mouth.

“Did you tell her yet?” Scott’s eyes had lit up as he entered the room, bag of Chipotle forgotten on the dresser when he spotted his girlfriend on her bed next to Lydia. He had leant over to kiss the brunette, anyway, and it took everything in her not grimace.

“Hi,” Allison had smiled, her pretty dimples showing and her eyes on his like they hadn’t seen each other in months when she knew for a fact they had breakfast together that morning. (She was also there to witness them exchange saliva while she tried not to look too bitter while she chewed on her overpriced salad.) They were all in love and perfect and ugh--it really tested her self-control on a daily basis. At this point, she didn’t even have to remind herself to not roll her eyes anymore. It was muscle memory.

“Hello, nice to see you, too,” Lydia had cut in, flatly as she shoved her textbook in between their faces, hopefully breaking whatever weird eye sex tension thing they had going on there. “Tell me what?’

 What now? They’ve joined a bingo club together? They want her advice on matching outfits? Marriage?

(Those two, they were almost boring . They are sophomores in college, supposed to be partying and getting drunk and dating a lot of different people and making mistakes and growing. Instead, they have date nights, and mom and dad the rest of them and talk about their joint future. If it wasn’t for the fact Lydia knew Scott still wears Spongebob underwear and Allison sometimes stress-cries over midterms, she would think they’re an old married couple.)  

Well.” Her best friend had smiled mischievously, sending a cheeky look to Scott, who was, by the way, too busy playing with Allison’s hand to notice the little inside joke his girlfriend was trying to pull. “Remember that guy I told you about?”

She had remembered. The nice, reliable guy who’s Scott’s best friend from High School and goes to Brown. She’d seen pictures of him, heard the stories about him, she thinks she met him that one time when they were at Scott’s birthday party for five fleeting seconds and you know what? She wasn’t interested. She just wasn’t. Relationships weren’t her thing. Not right now, anyway.

Besides, she didn’t do guys whose middle names were Nice And Reliable. Knowing herself, she’d end up ruining him and if she didn’t need one thing in life, it was another reason to be denied to enter the holy, non-existent gates of heaven.

“Tall, dorky, dark-haired stranger?” Lydia does roll her eyes this time as she watches them exchange another knowing look. “If he’s anything like the last guy you told me about, no thanks.”

Allison sighs, because she’s been here before, to which she almost desperately adds, “No, Lyds, seriously, he’s so—”

“Perfect for you,” Scott adds, raising his eyebrows suggestively at Lydia, who just crosses her arms in response, pursing her lips.

“Remember the tall, cute, photographer who was oh so perfect for me? And then I ended up having to get a restraining order because he was taking pictures of me in my sleep?”

“Matt wasn’t that bad!” Allison intersects, side-eying her boyfriend to make sure he doesn’t throw her under the bus, because he had been that bad and she damn well knew it.

“In my sleep, guys.”

Scott starts ticking off on his fingers. “For one, Stiles is not a photographer—”

“That’s definitely reassuring,” Lydia remarks sarcastically, wondering if her friends just-- don’t get it as they share a giddy look. Like they’re about to tell their kid they’re going to Disneyland. She isn’t in an ‘ oh my god, mommy ’ mood. What the hell kind of name is Stiles, anyway?

“He’s super smart, and like, he loves to wear plaid,” Scott adds, thoughtful look on his face but Lydia still doesn’t look convinced, prompting Allison to seduce her with another fact. 

“Did he say smart? He was offered five different scholarships. He’s on top of his class and he—”

“Are you calling me some sort of privileged elitist snob?”

Allison rolls her eyes, obviously getting frustrated at her attempts to avoid the actual subject. “No, he’s a great guy, Lydia, I promise. I think you guys would be good together.”

They stare each other down, in which Lydia is usually really talented because she practically invented the (St)(Gl)are Holding A Thousand Insults™, only she knows Allison is competitive and persistent and stubborn.

“If I wasn’t already with Allison, I’d one hundred percent date him.” Her boyfriend states proudly, shrugging a little as he looks from Lydia to Allison and back.

“What?” They both exclaim at the same time, one of them spotting a concerned look as the other one looks slightly annoyed. Slightly, as in shooting daggers from her eyes. Flaming, acid drenched, covered in rusty nails, daggers. Not so much because she’s jealous, but just because he’s not really helping.

“Sorry,” Scott mumbles quietly and Lydia sighs, deciding to put him out of his misery. “Look, guys, I really appreciate it, but I’m just not looking for anyone serious right now.” 

“I took part in that extensive mathematical small-world experiment last year where you asked me weirdly personal questions about people I supposedly knew in third grade!” She looks smug, arms crossed over her chest. God, she hates it when Allison looks smug. 

“Me too,” Scott nods in agreement as he raises his eyebrows. “Because of you I have to live with the fact I’m distantly related to Peter Hale. I didn’t need to know that.” 

The Famous Guilt Card, she strongly dislikes her friends. Groaning and childishly stomping her feet, she finally agrees.  

She groans again, pinching the bridge of her nose before letting out a sharp breath. “Fine. One date. I’ll go on one date with him.”

“Yes!” They both exclaim as they high five and and really, she kind of loves her friends, too. Even if she doesn’t like them. 

Flashforward to the moment where she’s wet, cold and incredibly pissed off. An old, beat up jeep pulls up eventually, waving and apologizing about being late before finally reaching her and offering her a hand. His hair is short and his plaid shirt is wrinkled and he smells like beer. 

"You're drunk," she states, leaving his hand hanging in the air.

"No, my gi-- ex -girlfriend, she. She was pretty drunk and in trouble at some bar with a couple of--”

“You came here directly from a date with your girlfriend?”

He winces, “Ex.” The look on his face gives away that even he didn’t think that was the best answer to give her right now. He apparently doesn’t know how to pick his battles.

She scoffs, shaking her head lightly as she throws up her hands in defeat. “Okay. Let’s just forget this ever happened.”

She backs up and turns around, thinking about how hard she’s going to blast ‘best thing you never had’ when she gets to her car while he’s sputtering some sort of apology. He reaches out to grab her shoulder, to do what exactly? She doesn’t know? So she, basically, in some weird self-defensive reflex, elbows him in the face. Muscle memory from when she took those self-defense classes freshman year. It wasn’t on purpose, per se, but she isn’t going to pretend like she’ll lose any sleep over it tonight.

“Oh god,” she says, as she gasps at the blood gushing out of his nose. She’ll just be helpful for like, three minutes. That’s all of the good in her that’s left for the day.

“What the fuck?” He spits, eyes narrowed as he pinches the bridge of his nose. An angry flush creeping up his neck. “You broke my nose?”

She doesn’t know if it’s because he left her to wait for him for two hours while he was with the woman he was obviously still hung up considering he gave up a date with her or the fact she really just does not like him, but it rubs her the wrong way. “Okay, you know what? I’m done. For your information, it probably is broken. I also don’t care. Have a nice life.”

Allison never asks her about the date, but she does gift her a really nice, expensive purse for her birthday.

.

july, 2013 

Being maid of honor to Stiles’ best man hadn’t been that big of a deal.

They’d managed to divide their tasks in such a way that there was minimal contact beside an email here or there (texts are too personal) and that one phone call that lasted thirty seconds and consisted of yes, no, and a few three-word-questions. So, she's this petty. Who could blame her?

She can’t make it to the rehearsal dinner because her layover’s delayed (at least she had all the duty free shopping a girl could wish for); he shows up late to the actual ceremony, almost knocking over the bride midst aisle walk in his hurry to stand next to the groom, because his damn idiotic jeep broke down; they both manage to avoid standing next to each other during the photo op (she makes it her personal task to hold Allison’s lace chapel train--mostly for aesthetic, also because they’re in the woods and it’s dirty--and he mainly functions as a person who fucks up almost every picture by posing weirdly or having his eyes closed or just, Stiles ).

Besides the compulsory dance that Allison makes them have at the reception, it’s all going according to plan.

He grins, a little goofy, as his long fingers tighten on her small waist. “Can you tell I’m trying very hard not to step on your toes?”

He looks different than the last time she saw him, she notes. His hair is longer and he looks older, more mature. He is cute. But. She is really good at holding grudges.

She huffs, rolling her eyes as she reminds herself that three minutes isn’t that long. The song should be over in no time. “Why? It’s not like you’ve ever been considerate before.”

He doesn’t sound sad or defeated, only a little bothered, like he wants her to like him. “I don’t want to give you any more reasons to hate me, basically.”

She finally looks up at him (up to this point it had been a nod of ‘over her dead body will Allison give up her quest to get us to dance so we might as well get it over with’-acknowledgement, a shimmy of her back to get his hand further up and not that close to her ass, and suddenly finding everyone and everything else but him incredibly interesting), tilting her head a little trying to figure out his angle. He doesn’t give in, doesn’t reveal some kind of ploy to embarrass her eternally, so she figures that, hey, maybe after more than two years, they can move on.

One step closer / I have died every day waiting for you / darling don't be afraid I have loved you / for a thousand years

The corner of her mouth tugs up, and if it’s a tiny bit arrogant, it’s not her fucking fault. Her body is conditioned to react this way around him. “I don’t hate you, I just think you’re very annoying.”

“Well. You look very pretty.” He slides his arm off her waist and up her arm to run his hand over the lacy strap on her shoulder. He grins. “Green’s a good color on you.”

She bites down on her tongue to keep from correcting him, because it’s emerald, not green, and Lydia thinks that maybe this is it, you know. That they’ve reached the point of adulthood in which they could possibly be civil, friends even maybe. The part where you stop publicly calling out other people because you don’t get along and carry a secret hatred towards each other, and instead just give half-assed passive-aggressive compliments and do basic smalltalk. She feels like there’s hope yet, and even manages to smile at him, too. 

The effect is lost a little, because his watch catches on the lace of her strap, and instead of, you know, asking for her help, he decides to just forcefully yank his wrist away, ruining her dress and almost rendering her half naked. As he’s apologizing and she’s trying (her hardest) to get away from him, he steps on her foot and her ankle gives way, foot twisting awkwardly.

“Oh my God, Lydia. I’m so sorry. I really didn’t mean, I didn’t mean to, shit, it’s turning purple?" His hands are in his hair, frantic as he tries to hold her arm to steady her. "Oh, no, no. I can’t--I don’t, I screwed up. Shit. Let me get some ice, or, or something?”

He babbles on and on and on, and she’s about three words away from possibly yelling at him, maybe crying in frustration, and definitely punching him, but, because this is Allison’s wedding and it’s her day--and she’s an adult?--she just shushes him, holding up a hand.

“Don’t. However unbelievably nice this was, this will be it for us tonight.” And hopefully forever.

Then, head held high, she hobbles away to her seat and lets one of Allison’s other bridesmaids, Kira, who’s pre-med, take care of her for the rest of the night while she glares holes into Stiles’ back as he breaks into a chicken dance on the middle of the dance floor, like her ankle isn’t throbbing and weddings haven’t been ruined forever.

I felt it in my chest as she looked at me / I knew we were bound to be together / bound to be together

She hisses as Kira presses a champagne bucket filled with ice to her ankle, watching Stiles transition into the robot, dress being kept together only by her fist (anger is heavily implied). This, this is why she doesn’t associate with him.

 .

may, 2014

She makes it back in time from her trip to South-America for Scott’s 23rd birthday party because she loves Scott, maybe even more than she loves Allison (it’s a badly guarded secret) and she voluntarily skipped hers, because, like. Allison’s mom is scary.

By the time she arrives, everyone is either drunk, or about to be. It makes her potty piano gift (she ordered online months in advance) and the ‘ coffee makes me poop ’ mug (she picked up at the airport because faith ) ten times funnier. Allison hugs her for five straight minutes, and Scott kisses her cheek, sloppy and wet and affectionate, and she missed her friends.

It was great teaching underprivileged children english and basic math, humbling her in a way nothing else could have, but God, she didn’t realize how much she had missed home until she saw her friends.

She’s talking to a very inebriated Isaac about his new girlfriend who apparently likes kickboxing and has the prettiest hair ever and smells really good as he twists her silk scarf around her neck (while she tries to get equally as tipsy twice as fast) when Stiles appears into view. He’s wearing a New York Mets cap, backwards, and a plaid she feels like he’s always wearing.

He’s surprisingly sober as he shoves a new red solo cup her way, charming smile on his face. “Truce?”

She hesitates, eyes narrowed, before taking it, because she half feels like he might spill it all over her within seconds if she doesn’t. She takes a sip, figuring she can be decent.

“How was your trip?”

She eyes their friend warily, because she doesn’t want anyone to think that she’s like, friends with Stiles now. Isaac seems to be in a zone as he stares at the brightly colored fabric around her neck and leans back against the arm of the couch, and she decides that in this state, he probably won’t remember any of this in the morning anyway.

“It was amazing, honestly. It was a total culture shock at first, but the people were so welcoming and, the children. God. The children were so nice, and, I learned a lot. I saw even more. It was-- good .” She knows she’s grinning like an idiot, but it’s not because of him, it’s because that trip changed her life, confirmed her dreams in life, taught her she can make a difference.

“I’m glad. It sounds awesome.” He smiles, politely, as he rubs the back of his neck, almost awkwardly. “So, graduate school after summer?”

She nods, swallowing tightly. It’s… weird. A little uncomfortable, even, to be talking to Stiles, out of all people, like this. This is not how they communicate. It’s too… girl from my high school cheerleading team in the grocery store, or, old creepy uncle I only see during the holiday season but my mother wants me to be nice to.

“Yeah. I’m going to try and get my master’s degree in mathematics.” She pauses. Isaac’s still petting her scarf so she sits him down on the couch with it, figuring he seems to love it way more than her, anyway. She turns back to Stiles, biting her bottom lip. “How’s…” she licks her lips, trying to stall, but fuck it. “Okay. Yeah. I’m not even going to pretend like I listen to Allison when she tells me about you.”

He laughs, and it’s genuine, and what the hell is happening. “I finished college. Tried to get into the police academy. Failed my physical fitness exam. Four times.” He grimaces, sighing, as he downs the rest of his cup. “My ten year plan of becoming the youngest successful detective in California has been severely delayed. Life is great.”

Right. She remembers. Stiles wasn’t dumb, but he had trouble focusing, always tried to do too much, take on too much to handle. Last thing she heard he was triple -majoring in political science, criminal justice and human relations, minoring in Spanish, and juggling two part-time jobs to finance himself through it all, on top of it.

Okay, so maybe, sometimes, she did listen to Allison when she mentioned him. But. Only to see if she was winning the game of life. Apparently she was. He was graduating a year late while she was on her way to travel the world. At the time it made her feel good, now it makes her feel a little bad for him.

She sees her hand reach out and squeeze his forearm, but she doesn’t really register it until her cold fingers wrap around his warm skin. She pulls away quickly, like maybe, he wouldn’t notice. “You’ll get there,” she tells him, tense, as she avoids his gaze, taking a gulp of her own drink.

The air’s tight, pulse in a gallop for no reason. He smiles, shy. “Thanks.”

Scott pulls her over to play (beat him in) Mario Kart, and an hour, three shots and five drinks later, she’s making out with Stiles. It’s warm and sloppy and drunk and even a little great, her hands under his shirt and his hands in her hair, until mid-kiss she vaguely registers Liam saying something along the lines of, “We get it! You won.”

She’s dumbstruck for about three seconds, looking from Stiles (he’s smiling uncomfortably) to Liam and back to Stiles, when it dawns on her. She’s about to very dramatically quote She’s All That (“am I a bet, am I a fucking bet?!”) until she figures punching him will do, too.

After that she stalks over to Liam (she’ll forgive him, eventually, because he’s still a child) and pulls the fifty from his grip (fifty, really. She was worth twice that, at least), flipping off everyone who’s looking.

He’s still groaning like the little bitch he is, blood dripping from his lip. Good, she thinks. The thing she comes up with to announce her departure is not her greatest but her blood-alcohol level has taken a serious beating today and it somehow convenes all her feelings, so it’ll do.

 “Die.” 

.

november, 2015

 Next time she sees him, it’s Thanksgiving. Deciding nothing and no one will ruin her time with her friends before she has to spend Christmas mediating between her mom and dad over peas and steak, and then fly back to Massachusetts. Not even Stiles, thus, she’s taken upon ignoring him completely.

She busies herself with helping Scott prepare his mom’s famous turkey tacos; fawning over Allison’s small baby bump and then crying over how she’ll have to witness the remaining part of her pregnancy through skype; judging Kira’s new doctor boyfriend; actively rooting for the football team Stiles is not rooting for; secretly helping Isaac pick out a ring for his girlfriend Malia, who--Lydia guesses by the way she always wears tacky, obviously fake, neon-colored, usually wooden (?), jewelry--couldn’t give two craps about size, color, clarity, cut or carat, but she will for her; fawning some more about the bean-sized infant that’s going to be her unbiological niece while eating some leftover tacos.

It’s like regular Thanksgiving, only now there’s constant stream of star wars related trivia entering her ear canals at any given moment that she pointedly gets to ignore.

.

april, 2016

She would have said no, honestly. If she’d known, she’d have said no. But, after Allison bruises her hand from squeezing too hard and she sees an actual human being come from her best friend’s vagina, she needs a breather. When she comes back, Stiles is holding the baby, rocking it gently and they’ve obviously already asked him when they blindside her.

She holds out her pinky for the baby to hold, and the tiny human does, the pressure soft but, strong, so strong. Scott, standing next to his best friend, lovingly look over his shoulder at his daughter, asks, “We, uh,” he looks over at his wife, and Lydia inwardly panics, because this is it. “We wanted to ask you if you wanted to be her godmother.”

So, technically, she knew this was coming. Logically, who else were they going to pick? She’s known them forever, she’s been Allison’s friend for longer than that, she loves both of them, she already loves this little baby that’s real and squeezing her finger so what’s the problem? Sure, Stiles is the godfather but she’s been dealing with him fine for a few years now, and they could alternate visits. She wouldn’t actually have to do anything besides buy expensive gifts and be the coolest aunt ever. And in return, God--in return.

She looks over at the hospital bed, and Allison’s smiling, looking perfect, even though, well . Human being out of vagina. She is totally the annoying kind of person who by tomorrow will already have picked up taking care of an infant while doing her yoga exercises and, like, rock-climbing.

“Yes,” she answers, grinning down at her as the baby sucks on her finger. It’s a stupid thing to do, but it makes her chest tighten and a warm feeling spread across the rest of her body. Confirming, louder, she adds, “Yes. Of course.”

Allison’s beam widens, and Lydia leans over to hug her, tight and thankful. The brunette talks against her hair as she announces, “Samantha Melissa McCall, meet your godmother.”

“Stiles, you’re supposed to give her to Lydia, now,” Scott remarks, softly as he delicately runs his finger down the side of his daughter’s face while his friend just groans, petulantly.

Allison narrows her eyes, sitting up a little, as she snaps, “Stiles, hand her the damn baby. Don’t make me get up to come take her from you.”

This actively seems to scare him, and before she knows it, she’s sitting next to her best friend on a hospital bed, holding a tiny bundle of blankets and a little human, part Allison, part Scott, and she’s completely in love.

“Samantha,” she whispers, tapping her on the nose gently. “Hi. I’m Lydia.”

She would have never said no, even if she knew what was going to happen. Honestly.

 .

august, 2016

Like faith, like one big joke, like some sick alternative universe, she’s in town when it happens. She decided on coming home to put the finishing touches on her thesis, keep her mom some company and get some much needed Samantha time.

She’s pulling an all-nighter--because once she starts, she can never really stop until she’s finished--when the phone rings.

It’s strange, because when you answer, you don’t know it’s the call. The call that changes your life. You just pick up, and it’s three a.m., so you expect it to be Kira—maybe she broke up with her boyfriend again and she needs a tub of ice cream and some company—or Isaac—maybe his motorcycle broke down again no matter how many times she tells him to get a vehicle that’s less life-threatening—but you don’t expect it to be about them. Anyone else. Just--not them.

She rushes to the hospital in the rain, almost wraps her own car around a tree on the way there, heartbeat loud in her throat, and when she sees him, head in hands in the waiting room in the stark, bright lights of the hospital, it drops down to her stomach and she can’t breathe, practically crashing into his arms when he rises to his feet, barely holds herself together. They might not be friends, but he’s the only person who really understands exactly how she feels right now.

He’s shaking his head when she pulls back, but she can’t, she can’t hear this.

“How--have… where’s Samantha?” She asks, blurts out, just to be safe, to buy herself a little bit more time. She doesn’t want to know. It’s selfish, but Stiles nods, understanding. She notes his cheeks are wet, that it was raining outside. There’s still hope.

The corner of his mouth lifts up, a little, but his eyes. His eyes are empty. “Liam is actually pretty good with babies.”

She swallows, hard, pulling on his jacket, giving him a look that’s somewhere in between desperation and an utter feeling of loss and pain, so much pain. He clenches his jaw, unclenches it.

“The doctors, they, uh. They can’t say much. Sc…” He closes his eyes, collecting himself. “Sc--he, he, uhm, was pronounced dead on the scene. They’re operating on Allison, but, but it, it doesn’t look too good.”

Tears gather in her eyes, her chest tight. “It doesn’t look too good,” he repeats, slowly and quietly, more to himself than to her.

She kind of just stumbles into him, silent tears rolling down her cheeks, burying her head in the junction between his neck and shoulder, as he holds her up, telling herself she’ll remember to be embarrassed about it all later.

Stiles sits them down on a waiting room bench after a few moments, rubbing her arm comfortingly. She doesn’t remember actually sobbing, just that her throat hurts after a while, and that it becomes hard to breathe.

They sit there, like that, for hours, like a mess, and she hates it, because momentarily, it seems like maybe Allison is going to pull through, maybe she’ll make it. She won’t ever be the same, quite possibly she’ll never walk again, but she’ll be alive. God, she just wants her to be alive. She doesn’t think she can do this, any of this, without her. Not without Scott, here, too.

But then, she doesn’t, and Lydia can’t believe this, and she’s angry and she’s yelling for Allison to wake up in a hospital hallway, because she’s strong, she’s always been so strong and this , this can’t be it. She can’t go like this. She can’t leave her, and, and Samantha and, and--she feels two arms wrap around her, momentarily stopping her train of thought. Or that particular one anyway.

Scott, flung out of a car. Allison, impaled. That was not supposed to be the end of their story. He was about to take over an old animal practice downtown. She was on her way to become chief deputy sheriff. They just had a baby--they were a dad, and a mom, and good ones, too. Not like the shitty dad card she got dealt.

“It’s not fair,” she hears his voice, but it seems distant, like an echo. “I know it’s not, and this is the worst thing that’s, that’s ever fucking happened to me, and I, I would trade my life for theirs, in a second, I would. I wish I could.” It’s not much of a reassurement, doesn’t make her feel better or makes her understand why, but it makes her feel less lonely.

Even if it’s just for a moment, because she doesn’t see how she could ever be okay again. Not without Allison.

.

present

Liam is asleep on the couch when they get there, and she thinks Stiles called him, sometime that night, to tell him what happened, and she can’t--she can’t look at the boy who was basically Scott’s little brother, can’t comprehend how any else is feeling right now, because what, what she feels is the worst --so she goes upstairs into Samantha’s room and stays there until he’s gone.

A woman from child protective services calls her while she’s unbuttoning the little one’s pajamas to tell her that for an ‘ unforeseen amount of time ’ Samantha is hers, and Stiles, because they’re her legal guardians and ‘ it’s a weekend ’. She figures telling this absolute inconsiderate trollop that she’s a bitch for making it seem like her friends’ death is an inconvenience won’t do much good for Samantha, so she bites down on her tongue until she tastes blood.

“I’m so sorry,” she whispers, tickling softly under her chin and making her squirm giddly. Lydia forces herself to smile, but a lone tears drips onto her light pink romper and all she really feels like doing is scream. She leans down to press a kiss to her forehead. She’s barely three months old. “I’m so, so sorry. You don’t deserve this.”

They’re the logical choice--they’re not wrapped up in a time-consuming medical internship or living across the ocean in france or a freshman in college--and it shouldn’t bother her, because today, she really needed him and he came through, but thinking of spending most of her time with him? For the next eighteen years?

Maybe it’s petty, and stupid, and there’s probably a really good psychological reason for her laser focus on this instead of--yeah. Something like survival of the fittest.

She doesn’t know what she wants, she just doesn’t want that. Doesn’t want him.

Deep down she also knows that she could, could give up the baby. Liam wouldn’t be the first single teen parent, Kira could and would probably quit her job, or Isaac could give up his life and move back, or Stiles--he could just do it by himself. She knows that she could. It just wouldn’t feel right.

He’s standing in the door opening when she turns around with Samantha in her arms, fully dressed in the cute, frilly dress she gave Allison right after her birth, and because she had no idea about baby sizes, it didn’t fit. It does now. He looks awkward, still in his uniform, wrinkled, and he’s fidgeting, trying to find a way to make it seem like he wasn’t watching her.

“I’m, uh..” He stares at Samantha, chewing on her own fist, and it makes him smile a little. It still doesn’t reach his eyes. “Can I please hold her? For just a second?”

“Yeah,” she says absentmindedly, because he doesn’t need her permission but it’s nice of him, to ask, anyway. She looks like a mess, hair up in a messy bun, make-up smudged under her eyes and cheeks still wet from crying, and he looks worse.

He takes her carefully, rocking her even more careful until she giggles a little, reaching out for his face. She seems to recognize him, probably because he’s over here all the time and she’s just--she’s just been her mom’s visiting friend for all of her short life. He kisses the side of her head, before handing her back over to Lydia, rubbing the back of his neck with a sigh.

“I, uh, I called the lawyer. He’s coming over later and, I--” he gets distracted by Samantha grabbing onto a clump of her hair, voice trailing off and his eyes filling with tears. Lydia looks down, and the dimples in her cheeks, her brown eyes--it’s like looking at Allison and Scott. Right now that feels a lot like watching a car crash in slow-motion. He clears his throat, wiping at his eyes with the base of his thumbs. “Around four, okay?”

She nods, eventually, watching as he runs the back of his hand over Samantha’s cheek carefully. It creates a strange feeling in her stomach, like maybe she doesn’t belong here.

.

It’s a lot to take in. Samantha is theirs, for now, while she doesn’t even understand yet, can’t even comprehend that her parents aren’t there anymore. They’re supposed to start living in their house, their friends’ house with all their belongings and memories and it’s theirs. They just finished talking about their will, about their funerals, stuff that wasn’t supposed to matter yet. That they made, thinking--thinking lies.

“What about other family members?” The lawyer--Aaron or Adrian, she thinks--suggests.

“What about them?” She snaps, because he’s their lawyer, isn’t he supposed to know? He winces a little as he starts flipping through his file quietly. “I mean, family. Like grandparents. They were fairly young parents themselves, surely there’s--”

“Allison’s dad died a few years back before Samantha was born. Hunting accident,” she informs him, sarcastic smile on her face. The last thing she needs is to be reminded of how she watched her best friend cry through a computer screen and she couldn’t do anything to fix it. “Her mom has Borderline with severe anger issues and lives three states over. She couldn’t possibly take care of an infant.”

Stiles look over at her for a second, dumbfounded almost, before he starts to talk. “Uhm, Scott’s dad was never really around. Melissa, she, she was a nurse in the army. She died on duty during our freshman year in college.”

“Thanks for reminding us though,” she spits, crossing her arms over her chest as she stares him down. The lawyer clears his throat, uncomfortably, as he pulls on his tie a little.

“Miss Martin, I understand this is a very difficult time--” she huffs, because isn’t that the understatement of the century, but he doesn’t seem too fazed as he continues, “but you have to understand there’s no shame in saying no. There’s other options to explore, we could temporarily place her in foster care until we find her a permanent fam--”

“No,” it’s Stiles firm voice this time, and her head snaps to look at him, gaze focused on the lawyer. He’s frowning, persistent. “We’re her family.”

She swallows hard, and it aches, it aches so bad but it’s the truth. They’re all she has now. She nods, slowly, jerkily at first, then, more firmly. “Yeah. He’s--sorry. I’m not usually, I don’t. I just never thought this could happen, and it’s just a lot to take in.”

She clenches her jaw, pauses as she digs her nails into her hands to distract herself from the gaping hole in her chest, her eyes burning with the need to cry.

“But. Stiles. He, uhh, he’s right. We’re all she has, now. We’re.. She’s ours. We’re not backing out.”


.

Chapter Text

.

part two: i'm alive, if living's just a beating heart
'cause we won't admit we've taken it too far

The first days aren’t as bad. It’s mostly because so much is happening it’s just going by in a blur. She’s numb during most of it, and Stiles picks up where she’s slacking. The baby cries a lot, probably sensing that something is wrong but not really knowing . The thought that she might not even be able to miss her parents, because she doesn’t even remember, it makes her so immensely sad—it hurts to look at her sometimes.

The funeral is nice, something like out of the movies... their favorite songs playing in the background, the prettiest flowers as far as you can look and their pictures displayed everywhere. The entire time she’s checking beside her, expecting Allison to be there to hold her hand through it all. It’s a hard habit to break.

Most of the time she just finds Stiles standing there instead, and she doesn’t—she isn’t mad at him, because it isn’t his fault, but she is resentful. Of, of everything. The entire situation. And it’s easier to resent him, than something that isn’t palpable. She has never felt so lost.

She collapses on the couch after everyone leaves, staring at their pictures on top of the fireplace, and after he comes down from putting Sammy to bed, he sits next to her. He licks his lips, hesitating for a few moments. “Are you ok—that’s not…” He closes his eyes, running a hand over his face. “Let me just try that again. I, uhh. Are you, how are you holding up?”

She almost makes a snarky comment, but her heart isn’t in it so it’s easy enough to repress. When she reaches up to brush some hair from her face she’s surprised to find her cheeks wet. She hasn’t cried since she found out. That’s why, that’s why they’re talking about it. He must’ve noticed.

“I’m… coping,” she tries out her voice, and it’s more strained than she’d hoped for. It’s not even the truth, because she’s not coping. Not even a little. But, still, it feels like a better fit than ‘fine’, or ‘okay’. “What about you?”

“Coping,” he offers her a small smile, but it doesn’t reach his eyes and she can tell his jaw is clenched. She closes her eyes for a second, trying to pull it together as she lets out a shaky breath. She opens her mouth, but nothing really comes out so she closes it again. Clearing her throat, she tells him, “I, uhh. I just, I don’t—they did everything right. I don’t understand, it’s not. It’s not fair.”

“I know,” he breathes as he puts his arm around her, pulling her into his chest. She freezes for a second, before resting her head on the juncture between his neck and shoulder and giving in. She knows he doesn’t understand either, but he understands her , and it’s—it’s nice. A nice change to the uncomfortable smiles and empathetic claps on the shoulder, half-meant ‘ if you need anything, you can always call me ’s’ and year supplies of soups and casserole. It’s not what she needs.

Today they buried their best friends and tomorrow they have to go to court to be granted permanent custody of their child. It’s not—it’s a lot to take in, so she doesn’t blame herself for forgetting to hate him, for just a little while.

.

He’s everywhere, all the time. She knows that’s part of the deal when you live together, but it’s hard to breathe sometimes. With a baby, and a—completely adult person living with her, sharing her life with her. Sometimes it gets too much. Combine that with a lack of sleep, and edible food, and serious case of PMS coming on, and there are going to be things said that one will regret later. The one in this case being her.

“She’s going to be here any second,” Lydia informs him, having just taken a quick shower to get rid of the mashed carrots in her hair and dress into anything else but yoga pants.

It’s still a mess downstairs, and the baby’s crying and she’s feeling so fucking overwhelmed sometimes that—she just wants to yell, or cry, or both.

“We’ll be fine,” he tries to comfort her, while he simultaneously tries to shush Sammy.  “It’s not like she hasn’t seen worse homes.” It’s  a lame joke that falls flat. “We just have to convince her we’re doing the best that we can, you know, to be her parents, give her the family she needs—” he cuts himself off, probably at the look on her face.

“Are you okay?” He asks her suddenly, probably catching on to the fact she’s not really listening, and all she sees is the fucking mashed carrots on the wall behind the kitchen table and the bottle of wine still on the kitchen from last night that’ll make it seem like they’re alcoholics and Sammy’s loud, soul-crushing cries and she just snaps.

“We’re not a family, Stiles,” she spits, and she feels like the walls are caving in on her, that even Sammy is blinking at her like she’s insane. But, God, is he fucking obsessed with her or something? “We’re not her parents, we’re not married. We’re not a fucking family.”

Her chest is heaving up and down quickly and her throat feels dry, her bones heavy. He doesn’t say anything, just hands her the baby, muttering something about getting changed himself.

She puts Sammy in her baby chair and starts cleaning the kitchen, as a way to deal with the nervous knot in her stomach. She feels like a trainwreck, like she might actually be losing her mind, and she feels bad, for pinning that all on him and then the doorbell rings and she momentarily forgets whatever lame cookie-cutter apology she’d thought up for him and just hopes, hopes that they’ll pass this inspection and they can keep her.

Stiles comes down freshly showered and in his regular attire (plaid shirt and jeans), like he’d been waiting for the doorbell to ring instead of coming down to be in the same room as her. 

They give her a tour of the house, Sammy perched on her hip, and the social worker checks if everything’s baby proof, everything meets the requirements, asking them a  couple of routine questions now and then that they can answer easily enough before sitting them down on the couch.

“Are you guys together?” She asks, finally, scribbling something down in her notebook and Lydia narrows her eyes, because why in the hell does everyone keep assuming two platonic kind-of-friends aren’t perfectly capable of raising a baby together? “We’re not.”

Stiles tenses up beside her, clearing his throat just a little. The social worker seems just mildly panicked, eyes widening a little. “I’m sorry, I just assumed—you do realize this will make her upbringing even that more difficult?”

“You don’t say,” Stiles mutters sarcastically, and Lydia elbows him out of reflex, which maybe wasn’t the best way to show her that they could get along just fine, romantic relationship or not. They exchange a look before turning back to the social worker. She just eyes them curiously, not elaborating on the matter as she cuts in, “What about daycare?”

There’s a few more questions, none in particular that make her tick too hard until the social worker claps her hands together, putting her notebook back in her bag.

“Well, I’m happy to say that however unusual your situation, you’ve passed the initial inspection.” She shakes their hand, then sends them a tense, friendly smile. “You can call the office to make a new appointment within the next two months.”

She corners him later, in the kitchen while he’s doing the dishes and she’s had enough time to sulk on her own. She stands next to him, grabbing a dish towel as she starts drying whatever he hands to her.

After a moment or two, she says, “I’m sorry about what I said. I wasn’t in my right mind.”

“I think you were,” he answers, honestly, scrubbing the plate in his hands just a little too hard, knuckles turning white.

“I didn’t sign up for this, okay? I didn’t get handed a book on What To Expect When Your Best Friends Die And You Get To Keep Their Child. I know you’re natural at this,” he opens his mouth to oppose but she cuts him off, “but I’m still learning.”

She puts the mug in her hands down, resting her hands on the counter as she lets out a deep breath, rolling her neck in a small circle to release some of the tension. She turns her head into his direction but focuses her gaze on the plate in his hands, “I’m not her mom, Stiles. I was supposed to be her awesome liberal aunt who would teach her how to handle a shot and help her with her math homework. You know, buy her expensive stuff her parents wouldn’t give her. That sort of stuff.”

“And I was just supposed to be her uncle, but—we ended up here. As, as, whatever you want to call it. Her parental figures. Me, you and her. We’re all that’s really left of their family. We can’t turn on each other when it gets hard, because then—” He shakes his head, swallowing tightly as he shrugs a little, helpless.

“I know,” she cuts in, worrying her bottom lip in between her teeth. “That’s why I wanted to apologize. What I said to you, that wasn’t fair.” She licks her lips, trying to be careful with her words, “I just don’t want any lines to get too blurry, you know?” She swallows visibly. “For Samantha.”

“Yeah, I understand.” He presses his lips together in an understanding, close mouthed smile before he splashes some of the water at her, making the corners of her mouth turn up, just slightly. “Apology accepted, but it was mediocre at best. Next time, gravel just a little more.”

“Gravel?” She questions him, astounded and a little offended, as she splashes some of it back at him.

“Yeah, tell me I’m pretty, offer to do my laundry for a month, that sort of stuff.”

She lets out a huff of air, clenching her jaw just a little. "A week, max."

"Is that all?" He grins goofily, and it takes all she has not to take the spray of cold water and aim it at his stupid face.

"You're moderately attractive."

.


It’s been three days since she got custody, in the middle of the night, and there’s poop— everywhere. It’s the weird, wrenching, green, baby kind of poop. And wailing. So much god. damn. wailing. At this point she’s not even sure who it’s coming from.

Stiles comes home from his night shift to find her permanently installed in the bathroom, cradling Samantha in her arms, but ready to aim the shower spray if necessary. She hasn’t looked in the mirror in three hours, scared of what’ll be looking back at her at this point.

“Great, you’re here,” she announces, handing the baby over as she shudders, looking down at herself. She feels like she needs at least five showers to recover from this, but one will do until she has time to catch up on some much needed sleep.

“Her temperature is high?” He asks, frown on his face and he rocks her, trying to get her to calm down as he maneuvers his hand inside her onesie to put it on her back. He’s looking slightly more panicked every second that passes, moving his hand into different positions and hoping for a different outcome. “She’s so warm? I can call Kira, maybe she can come take a look, just to be sure.”

Right. She’s the only one here with an actual doctorate. “I just temped her, Stiles. It’s a little on the high side, but it’s not too alarming. She’s wheezing now and then, but I think it’s just because she’s tiring herself out with all the crying. It’s fairly normal.”

He adjusts her in his arms, pressing her head to his neck softly, hoping she’ll rest it there. “Scott has, he had asthma though. Are you, don’t we need, we should—”

“Stiles, seriously.” She’s too tired to try and hide the small smile that’s formed at his brain going into fifty million directions, as usual, running her hand over Samantha’s dark bush of curls before resting it on Stiles’ forearm. “She probably just has a small cold. If she doesn’t feel better by tonight, we’ll call Kira. I’ll make an appointment with Allison’s GP to ask him about the wheezing as soon as I wake up, at what’s hopefully a more reasonable hour, okay?”  

Obviously still wary, he searches her eyes, like he’s checking to be sure she’s not pulling one on him before he finally nods. She squeezes his arm, and he nods again, more confident. “Okay.” He presses his lips to Sam’s temple, before muttering another affirmative.

She brushes a lock of hair that must’ve fallen from her messy bun behind her ear, pressing her lips together in a small, amused but sympathetic smile. “I was supposed to be the one worrying about this stuff, remember? I know nothing about babies and you’ve babysat tiny children since you were twelve.”

“I know,” he replies, absentmindedly as he wipes a curl from the baby’s face only for it to fall right back where it was. “It’s just... Different, I guess.”

She’s finally calmed down a little, nose still red and eyes still teary, but considerably less loud. Lydia smiles half-heartedly, wiping the liquid that had collected on her small cheeks away. It is different. Sammy, she’s—she’s part of them and she’s their legacy. She agrees, “Yeah.”

.

“I really need to stop doing this to myself,” she mutters to herself as she sniffs, closing her fist around the necklace she found in the laundry basket upstairs. It’s an arrow shaped one, a gift of Allison’s father when she won the state archery championships during their junior year of high school. She sinks down at the top of the stairs, and squeezes it tightly, resting her forehead on her balled fist.

She could hear Stiles talking to Samantha in the baby’s room just a moment earlier, so she’s a little surprised when he sits down next to her on the staircase. It’s narrow enough that their knees touch.

“Well. At least you look beautiful while doing it, right?” He offers her, hand wrapping around her fist as he lowers it to her lap. Softly, he adds, “There’s not a limit on crying, you know.”

She unwraps her fingers from the jewelry, shows it to him carefully as she wipes the tears with her free hand. “I know. It just doesn’t really do anything for me.”

She knows that she shouldn’t feel bad for crying. It took her a while to even cry after that day in the hospital, and then when she did it was like every little thing was too much. Every thought she had lead to Allison and Scott and before she knew it she was back to being a mess. And that would be fine, if it helped her, but it just—made her more sad. Kept her from moving on. She’s done crying.

He gives her a look like he’s not going to get into that one, running his finger over the arrow carefully. His voice is incredibly careful when he offers, “Do you want to wear it?”

She swallows hard, dabbing at the inside of her eyes to dry them as she considers it. She closes her first back around it. “It should belong to Samantha.”

“Maybe you can hold on to it for her? Until she is old enough for it to actually fit?” She knows he’s only saying it like that because he thinks that’s what she wants to hear, and she’s glad that he doesn’t call her out on it. She wants to carry a piece of Allison with her. Not because she’s afraid she’ll forget, but because she wants to honor her. Remind herself of the person Allison was when she most needs it. Like now, when she could use a little strength.

“Yeah,” she sniffs, quietly and he holds open his hand. She eyes him thoughtfully, but he doesn’t falter for a second, doesn’t break under her gaze. She hands it to him, fingers momentarily brushing before turning her back to him as she lifts up her messy hair.

He opens and closes the clasp around her neck with some difficulty, before carefully smoothing the thin chain out with his fingers, shooting sparks up her spine and momentarily turning her pulse into a gallop. It feels weird all of a sudden, to share this with him.

She turns back to her original position, knee knocking into his as she makes sure the arrow aligns with the middle of her necklace. She avoids eye-contact, “Thank you.” She leans back on her hands, and he lays flat on the parquet, putting one arm over his forehead.

“I miss them, so much, I keep thinking I’ll never get over this,” he mumbles, staring at the ceiling absentmindedly.

She presses her cheek against her shoulder, looking at him over it. She sniffs, puts her chin on top of her shoulder before carefully putting her hand closer to him, fingers twitching. She licks her lips, putting her much smaller hand over his, squeezing softly. “I know.”

It’s quiet for a moment, the silence louder than ever. They actually give a shit about each other.

“This is weird,” he confesses with a watery laugh, and she mirrors him, because this is so weird, throwing his hand back onto his stomach.

“God, you know how to ruin a moment,” she says, still laughing, wiping at the bottom of her eyes with the palms of her hands. It doesn’t feel like a crime, to laugh, to not feel pain for just a second, and that’s good. She pushes at his knee, just for good measure before she gets up. “I have to finish folding this. Do you maybe want to start dinner, please?”

“Wow. A question, not a demand? And a please ?” He sits up, leaning back on his elbows, pressing one hand to his heart. His eyes are crinkled with joy , because he still enjoys riling her up. “I’ll hold your hand more often if it means—”

She throws a pair of socks at his head, before picking the laundry basket back up, balancing it against her hip. “Like I said, moment’s over, Stilinski.”

He’s still laughing when she enters the laundry room, shaking her head to herself as she leans back against the door for a moment. She closes her eyes, letting out a deep breath. She’s feeling a lot of things right now, things she can’t quite put a name on. Most of all, she thinks that—it’s not so bad, living with Stiles.

.

 When she gets home from work one day, slipping out of her heels and already letting her hair drop from it’s bun—Isaac’s there. Stiles is mostly just sitting there, arms crossed, staring at anything but him. She knows he’s bitter about the fact he was Scott’s friend, too, and that he just never showed, but they’re supposed to be adults. They’re parents. They don’t just get to ignore things until they go away any more.

“I came here, to, I guess, to apologize?” He explains, probably at the confused look on her face as she sits down next to Stiles, shoulders pressed together, bouncing Samantha on his lap. He hands her to him just as she reaches for her, obviously distracted, pressing a kiss to the side of her face.

“I kind of, uhh.” He avoids eye-contact, frowning as he picks on a loose thread from the couch. It takes a while for him to continue, like he’s collecting himself. “I kind of went off the rails when I heard.”

“What about Malia?” She forces out, because she kind of still wants to ignore him, too. It would good, to do that. Even though Stiles is usually the one holding grudges, enough for the both them, really. But she knows better, she knows Scott would expect better of them, would not want for them to be mad at him on their behalf. He’s really big on second chances, or he was, and Isaac was one of his best friends. He deserves for them to hear him out, at least.

“She, uh, she deals with problems by getting over them and I, I guess I couldn’t... I didn’t know how to do that.” He swallows, tightly, and she understands that for him, at that time, losing both of them, the way he grew up—it was too much. She understands. “So, you two are really raising a baby? Together?”

“Yes,” she tries carefully, glancing at Stiles out of the corner of her eye. There’s no sign of resentment at her for speaking to him, so she’ll take that as a good sign, for now, that maybe he understands why Isaac did what he did, too.

“Still?” He asks, a little skeptic, one eyebrow slightly cocked. She can’t fault him for that, since everyone who knew their history would know that her and Stiles—they were like blue and orange. They don’t go together. And they didn’t, until they had to.

“Yes,” Stiles answers before she has a chance to open her mouth, confident as ever, almost challenging Isaac to go up against him.

“Damn,” he breathes, running a hand over his face before leaning forward, elbows resting on his knees. “I guess I owe Scott a lot of money.”

She lets out a huff of laughter, shifting Samantha to her other arm, and watches Stiles smile despite himself as they exchange a look. “We know it’s crazy, but we really didn’t have a choice.”

“You did, though,” Isaac presses, carefully, his voice quiet as he focuses his eyes on Samantha. It must hurt him, too, to look at her when she looks so much like them. “But you chose her. I don’t… I don’t think everyone would’ve.”

Lydia swallows tightly, being careful not to look at Stiles, because that’s crossing a bridge that she’s not ready for. “It’s worth it, I promise.”

Isaac chews on the inside of his cheek for a moment, then looks back up at her, “Could I hold her, maybe? For a second?”

Lydia nods, sending him a kind smile, and to her surprise, Stiles doesn’t oppose. “You’re welcome any time you want, Isaac. You’re still her uncle, and—” she sends co-parent a pointed look, as she puts the baby in his arms, “Still our friend, too.”

Isaac smiles at her, timid but thankful, holding Samantha like she might break any second, gaze full of awe as the baby splutters. “I don’t know how you guys do this.”

It’s Stiles who beats her to an answer, voice more forgiving than she had anticipated. “You’ll get the hang of it.”

.

She’s in the middle of the baby food aisle, deciding between what kind of baby food would make her less hated by the mom community (they’re more judgemental than she was in high school, which is saying a lot) when Stiles comes up to their cart, arms full with product and dropping them in.

They decided to team up today, so they could do half the work in less time and have more time at home to sleep and maybe do the dishes so they don’t have to eat of paper plates anymore, if they feel like it.

She takes a peak in the cart, to her surprise, discovering not just candy and chips, but also her favorite kale juice (she’s that person), Haägen-Daz ice-cream (cookies and cream), cereal bars (strawberry and yogurt flavored), carrot cake, favorite brand yogurt and past-time snack almonds.

He takes out one soft breadstick and hands it to a babbling Samantha, sitting in the babyseat in the front of the cart so she can nibble on it a little even though it’ll probably end up on the ground at one point or another.

At this point, she realizes she’s looking a little dumb, multiple baby food jars stuffed in her arms and blinking into a cart stupidly. “How did you know all my favorite products?”

“Well, besides the fact we’ve been living together for a while now, I remember things,” he grins, putting a finger to his temple as he pushes the cart towards the next aisle. She quickly puts a few jars back in the shelves, hurrying back over to Stiles, dropping a few random ones in that she hopes Samantha will like as she just blinks at him again.

Sometimes she doesn’t even remember her own last name—she’s that busy/exhausted/all over the place and un-put together—let alone what kind of food Stiles likes. Plus, she hasn’t had Haägen-Daz ice cream in years , because she tried that stupid anti-sugar diet that had her more cranky than energized for a while.

“You remember things?” She frowns, grabbing hold of the strap of her bag so it doesn’t slide of her shoulder, throwing her messy braid on the other shoulder, and she can’t help but get a little annoyed now. His events of their story doesn’t add up with the facts. “We hated each other. Whenever Allison mentioned you, I basically just tuned out.”

“I don’t know, I guess… We got off on the wrong foot, mostly because of me,” he answers, not thinking about it too long. She huffs, because you don’t say? He ignores her, continuing, “So I didn’t really have any reason to hate you personally. You were mostly justified in your dislike of me. I mean that, and you’re smart, successful, ambitious, genuine and beautiful. You went to South America to teach kids English, like—what’s there to hate?”

She swears to God it’s hotter in here than three seconds ago, a flush creeping up her neck. It’s not even what he’s saying, it’s the way he’s saying it. Like it’s a matter of fact, like she should already know this. It makes her feel like she missed a lot of signs that her dislike for him wasn’t as two-sided as she’d thought all this time. Luckily, Samantha garbles a little, tiny fists reaching for the breadstick in her lap so she can focus her attention on her instead of having to look him in the eye. “So why were you? An asshole, I mean?”

He snorts at her abrasiveness, rubbing the back of his neck as he starts to explain, “Well, the ankle was a one off, and with the dress, what happened, that too. I’m just very clumsy, and at that point you already disliked me so bad I could’ve given you the wrong drink and all hell would’ve broken loose."

“Mhm,” she replies, not wanting to cut him off in the middle of his thought process but trying to let him know she acknowledges the fact it might’ve been an accident. She’ll give him that much. She wipes some breadcrumbs off Samantha’s chin as she slows her pace enough for him to walk and think at the same time.

“I used to date Malia, I don’t know if you know this but, the first date Allison and Scott set up? Well, we’d just broken up like, two weeks before. And it wasn’t a bad break-up or anything, it was a mutual acknowledgement that we didn’t really feel about each other like we used to,” he throws some cereal into the cart, collecting his thoughts before continuing. “It’s just that… She was my first real girlfriend, and Malia, she… Her parents were very abusive, kept to themselves, never let her out of the house. She’s really bad with people because of it, sometimes even naive, and that night she got into a fight at some bar with a few sleazy guys. A mutual friend called me and that’s how I ended up late at a date with you, smelling like I had a fistfight with a sixpack of beer.”

“You could’ve told me,” she accuses him, just a little, because it doesn’t feel too fair like this. They’ve been living two completely different truths all this time. Her rightfully calling him out for being late because he was seeing his girlfriend, ex or not, right before their date sounded a lot better than, her being a bitch to him because he heroically saved his ex-girlfriend from a night in jail or a visit to the hospital. That makes her the villain in the story.

“You were already so,” he regards her carefully, wincing a little as he adds, “judgemental? And my brain was so full from what happened that night I didn’t really have the energy to go against you.”

She was judgemental because he was 1) late, 2) reeked of beer, 3) was late because he was with his ex. Those are serious red flags. In hindsight, they were explainable, but still. At the time nobody would've blamed her. After waiting for him for so long, maybe she wasn’t so clear headed anymore, too.

“And then I broke your nose,” she grimaces, and he laughs, like it was also funny at the time. “Yeah, thank God I don’t depend entirely on my looks, because those were a difficult six weeks.”

“It was self-defense,” she presses, as they stop in front of the crates of all kinds of fruit. He huffs, shaking his head as he heads over to the bananas while she gets some apples. When he returns to her side it’s quiet for a moment as she pushes the cart towards the vegetables.

“And the bet ?” she forces out finally, indignant, because if he’s in a confessing mood, she wants the whole truth.

He winces at the thought, closing his eyes as he sighs. “That was—I don’t want to sound like I’m making up excuses or anything, but—my dad just got diagnosed with cardiac disease and ever since my mom died he was all I really had. And I, I just wanted to feel something else, anything else. I didn’t really think you were going to go for it anyway, so it’d just be a good opportunity to get a laugh out of Liam and maybe make myself feel better in the process. But I enjoyed talking to you, too and then you just punched the living shit out of me. Which I deserved, rightfully so.”

 

“You’re really good at that,” she mumbles, just a little upset he wasn’t as bad as she always made him out to be, for whatever’s that’s worth right now.

He cocks an eyebrow, “Making an ass out of myself?”

“Expressing your feelings,” she elaborates, and she can’t deny she’s a little envious of him. For that.

He grins half-heartedly, but then it fades. “Do you ever really think about it, you know, what if? What if Liam hadn’t exposed me for the fraud that I am, or I hadn't twisted your ankle that night?” His voice starts of humorously, but is more serious by the end of the sentence. Like he’s given this a lot of thought.

“Sometimes yeah,” she answers, honestly, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear before pushing the cart around the corner. She doesn't let herself go there often, but. Now and then, when she's lonely and in a shit mood. “It would’ve been easier, maybe.” Not to get the news that they did, but in the beginning, when they weren’t as in sync as they are now. It just added unnecessary difficulty to a situation that was already too hard for words.

Samantha’s breadstick falls on the floor as some sort of sick mic drop, and they exchange an anguished look before the baby starts bawling, tears forming at the corners of her eyes.

“No, no, shhh,” Stiles starts, picking her up from the cart and cradling her in his arms, bouncing her up and down a little. Lydia rubs her back with tiny, circular movement, also whispering little comforting words into her direction.

After a while (and a new breadstick that Lydia digs up from the bottom of the cart), there’s a final sob as she rest her little head against Stiles’ neck. Lydia shakes her head with a smile, leaning in to kiss her on the temple as she brushes her hair back from her forehead. Satisfied, with the attention, Sam starts nibbling on the breadstick.

“You’re such a cute family,” an older lady in what must be her seventies mentions as she passes them, basket tucked under her arm. Because ladies her age can never keep their damn opinion to themselves, no matter what the implications might be for the people she’s giving it to.

Lydia is about to correct her, and Stiles must know this, because he freezes up, shoulders stiff and mouth firmly shut. Instead, Lydia realizes there’s not much inaccuracy to the lady’s statement. They are a family. Minus the romantic relationship, but that was only implied, not mandatory. So, she just thanks her, and pretends not to notice the surprised look on Stiles face as she rolls the cart towards the dairy aisle.

“I thought we weren’t a family,” Stiles interjects, because he’s Stiles and he can’t let it go and let it rest.

“Did you want me to hire an ad in the newspaper?” She snaps, crossing her arms over her chest. She doesn’t know when she started feeling differently about the topic, she just does.

“I thought you said—” He tries, a little incredulously. Lines blurring, he’s right, that’s what she said.

“Feelings change,” she cuts him off, with a stern look, pressing, “It’s just an old lady in a store, Stiles. Please don’t make this a big deal.” It’s not a confession of love, if that’s what he thinks.

He nods, lips pressed together in a smile that doesn’t quite reach his eyes. “Whatever you say.” Then, like nothing’s happened, “I think we should get more breadsticks. They’ve proven to be very useful to get her to be quiet. It’s great coercing material.”

.

Kira takes her out for drinks one random Friday night, ambushing her at home with a new dress and a bottle of cheap wine she loves a lot. (That sneaky little witch knows she loves it, too.)

“What’s this?” She narrows her eyes suspiciously at the two people in front of her, putting her bag down on the kitchen table as she takes in the scene in front of her. It feels like an intervention of sorts.

Stiles doesn’t look up from feeding Samantha applesauce or something like it, pulling weird faces at her so she’ll open her mouth as he sits across from her baby chair. “Don’t look at me.”

Kira sends her a cheeky smile from where she’s standing behind Stiles, hands behind her back. “I’m taking you out. It’s been a super long while since you’ve been out this house for anything else besides work or—grocery shopping! Which isn’t bad, but it also means your only company has been Stiles, a baby, and a bunch of hormonal teenagers who hate math.” She holds up the bottle of wine, a stern look on her kind face, “Soooo… You’re going to drink a glass of wine, get dressed into something else than any teenage boy’s teacher fantasy and come with me. No complaining.”

Lydia eyes Stiles helplessly, but he just shrugs. “Hey. It’ll be good for you.” Him too? Ganging up on her just like that? She huffs, crossing her arms over her chest before uncrossing them, balling her fists against her side. “What if… I can’t leave her. Work’s different. I have to go to work. I don’t have to go with you.”

“She’s seven months,” Kira presses incredulously, already getting a wine glass out. “Not that she can remember or even register it, but she’s not going to hold one night against you”

“Besides, are you going to not leave home for the next…” He pretends to think really hard, eyebrows raised. “Seventeen years and five months?”

Kira nods her head along to every word he’s saying, pouring the wine into the glass, “Yeah, exactly ! What he’s saying.”

“Look,” Stiles gaze softens, his voice more reserved as he momentarily stops feeding Samantha. “You don’t have to go if you really don’t want to, but I think you should.”

She looks at him for a second, then at Samantha and back to him. She sighs loudly, reaching for the glass and downing half of it in one sip. “There better be a lot of alcohol otherwise I’m going to be too distracted by Sam to even think of having fun.”

“Yay,” Kira exclaims, hugging her from the side as she jumps up and down. “I laid out a dress for you on your bed.” Lydia glares at her, that sneaky little… “You’re a snake, Kira.”

“You’ll thank me later,” she sings, pushing her towards the stairs with a pat on the butt and a loud, smacking air kiss. She can get just two pecks on Sam’s chubby cheeks in before Kira is pushing her again. “Hurry up, I made reservations.”

Twenty minutes later, she comes down in the tight, velvet green bodycon dress Kira laid out for her. It comes to just above the knee and has a tiny split on the side. Her hair is down is big waves, minimal makeup on her face, just some mascara and a little red cherry lipbalm.

She knows she looks good, but the way he’s blinking at her makes her just a little self-conscious. She bites down on her bottom lip, fidgeting with her necklace. “Is it too much?”

“No, no, you look great,” he stammers, clearing his throat, and she holds eye-contact just a little too long. His dark brown eyes almost longing—for something, maybe to say more. Her mouth feels dry all of a sudden, breathing just a little more difficult, feeling just a little hot.

Luckily, ever obvious Kira whistles and it breaks some of the tension, and definitely their little staring session, “Yes, ma'am! You’re going to break a few hearts tonight!”

Lydia laughs, as Kira throws her arm around her shoulders, rubbing her arm encouragingly as she hands her her black coat with her other hand. Lydia just about gets to lean down for three seconds to kiss Samantha goodbye before Kira’s guiding her towards the front door, throwing a careless “don’t wait up!” over her shoulder as Lydia just sends a sheepish wave over her shoulder, trying to not think too hard about the look on his face. (A little sad, maybe? Or maybe just relieved. Right, she wasn’t going to think about it too hard.)

It takes her about fifty minutes, three drinks, and five shameless attempts at trying to get her number before she’s making out with the sixth. Kira is dancing with some girls on the dancefloor and Lydia was supposed to be getting new drinks for them when she got ambushed by—

“Aron?” She tries, pushing him off her a little so she can breathe . They’re sitting in a booth in the corner of the bar, pressed dangerously close.

“It’s Aiden,” he corrects her with a smirk, hand moving down her back to her ass.

“I’m not really looking for something…” she searches his face, trying to come up with the right word. Her brain is just the tiniest bit fuzzy from the pink cocktails she’s had. “Permanent.”

“Great.” He presses his mouth to the column of her neck, moving his way up before sucking on her skin just below her jaw. He pulls back, and the glint in his eye isn’t goofy, or full of admiration, or—what she’s used to. “Neither am I.”

Her hands are on his shoulders, and she feels kind of numb so she squeezes, just to make sure he’s really in front of her and she’s not making this up in her head. Kira was right, it had been a while, and it would feel good… To feel something else for once. To be seen in a different light. Not as a mom, or a co-partner, or a teacher.

So, decisively, she presses her mouth back against his, moving her hands up to his face. Ignoring the little part of her that reminds her it’s not quite right, it doesn’t quite fit. Completely disregarding the suggestion it gives her instead.

.

Lydia hates Dora. She fucking hates the tiny, Mexican trollop and her damn talking backpack and her stupid monkey and what the hell—she hasn’t slept, like had an actual good night’s sleep in so many days. She’s lost count.

She’s almost eight months now, she should be able to sleep through the damn night.

Right now Stiles putting her back in her crib, and Lydia wants to cry she’s that tired but instead she’s watching Dora The Explorer, because it’s the only thing that will shut up Samantha for more than two minutes. She can’t risk shutting it off, because it feels like she would be jinxing it. If she shuts it off now, Stiles will come back down with a crying Samantha because she shut it off. Which sounds stupid, but she’s so sleep deprived everything sounds legitimate at the moment.

“She’s probably teething,” Stiles sighs, sinking down on the couch and leaning his head back with his eyes closed, rubbing his forehead with his thumb and forefinger.

“I’m just glad she’s stopped crying for a sec—” Lydia murmurs, shutting off the tv as she sits down sideways next to Stiles, putting her feet next to his leg. As if on cue, there’s crying coming from both upstairs, and the babyphone. She groans, resting her forehead against his shoulder as she pulls her knees closer to her chest. “God fucking damnit."

He inhales sharply before sitting up quickly. “I’ll go get her, I guess. Maybe you can get one of those teething rings from the freezer?”

“No, wait—this is her attention-cry,” she says, pulling him back down on the couch. She keeps her hand on his forearm, just to make sure he doesn’t stand up again and because he’s like, nice and warm and she’s so tired . “Just give her a minute, to put herself to sleep."

“You recognize her different cries?” He exclaims, appalled, dark circles under his eyes. She can tell he’s just the tiniest bit jealous.

“Yeah, I guess,” she answers, lamely, proud smile forming on her mouth despite of her tiredness.

“It’s not a competition,” he reminds her, but it’s more to reassure himself of the fact.

“I know,” she says, but she’s still smirking and her voice an octave too high, too teasingly. He turns his head to glare at her, knocking his shoulder against her knee as a lazy, half-hearted attempt to get back at her.

“God, I’m so tired,” he whines, making sounds as if he’s sobbing. She ignores him as she leans her chin on her knees, hugging them close to her chest as she takes him in. He does look really tired.  

“Would it make us bad parents if we just give her a little bit of that attention that she craves?” He peaks through one eye at her, grimacing. She puts a hand to her forehead, pushing her hair back from her face as she thinks it over.

“A good night’s sleep would actually benefit our parenting skills because we’d be more attentive and alert during the day,” she wonders out loud, biting down on her bottom lip.

He nods, agreeing immediately, already sitting up. “Plus, we don’t want to end up like those parents that stand on top of the stairs and seriously consider dropping their babies down to get them to stop crying because they’re that sleep-deprived.”

She shrugs, getting up from the couch, “Just for one night, right? What harm could one night be?”

That’s how she ends up in Stiles’ bed on top of the covers, with Samantha in between the both of them, still sobbing quietly but not full on screaming anymore, so that’s a plus.

Funnily enough, she couldn’t be more wide awake right now. His eyes are closed, but he’s still absentmindedly stroking Samantha’s back, making these little comforting shushing sounds that are really bad for her heart.

She adjusts her head on the pillow, thinking how this all just feels familiar in the newest way. She hasn’t really considered it before, or hasn’t let herself, but Stiles. Stiles is really attractive, from his freckles and pale skin to his beautiful brown eyes. And those hands—it’s probably just the lack of sleep talking, but it feels good to admit that she notices. With all the ways he looks at her, it isn’t weird for her to admit that.

They fall asleep in the same bed, but not for one second does Lydia feel like they’re crossing a boundary they can’t uncross. She just has one of the best nights of sleep (more than four hours!) in a long while with her co-parent who she might or might not platonically love lays next to her and—their kid.

.

 

 




Chapter Text

.

part three: i want you for worse or for better, i would wait forever and ever

.

"Are we really watching this again?" Lydia asks him as she sinks down on the couch with a bowl of popcorn in her lap, folding her socked feet under her. It's been a long day at work, but wondrously, Sammy fell asleep within three minutes.

Before all of this happened, Lydia would have ran away screaming if someone suggested an evening on the couch with Scott's annoying best friend. But, now? It about sounds like the best thing in the world.

"Are you really asking me that?" He's on the floor, making use of their coffee table as a glorified hamper, absentmindedly folding laundry as Stranger Things plays on the TV. It's mostly Sammy's rompers and frilly dresses and playful dungarees, but there's also his Star Wars t-shirts and plaids, her pencil skirts and pyjamas.

Her eyes fall on his hands, shaking his head at something on the TV as he folds one of her thongs. She suddenly leans forward, snatching the red fabric from his hands as her cheeks pink.

He gives her an incredulous look, turning his head to look at her. "Seriously? I do all the laundry in this house. What did you expect?"

"I don't know!" She exclaims, fist still folded around the material tighty. It's just so… domestic. "Just… Don't, please."

He rolls his eyes, "You'd rather do your own laundry?" She doesn't respond immediately, because, of course she doesn't want to. They've divided all the tasks in and around the house, and she's fine with trash duty and doing the dishes.

He seems to be able to read her mind, struggling a little to open her fist—because she's trying to keep up the ruse that she doesn't want this—before grabbing the red material, folding it and putting it in the hamper with her clothes, all the while not even taking his eyes off the screen. He mutters something about the short-haired girl on screen, but all and all, it's not like a big, relationship changing thing that's just happened.

Even though it feels like that, for Lydia. It feels so intimate, even though he's folding her fucking underwear like it means nothing. And it probably doesn't. But every time he picks up one of her thongs or boyshorts with his long fingers, skillfully and delicately unwrinkling them and folding them—her heart skips about three beats, tongue darting out to wet her lips or, hand reaching up to try and loosen the collar of her sweater because it's so hot all of a sudden or, teeth biting down on her bottom lip, or pressing her knees together to relieve some of the fucking pressure she didn't want to have to relief to start with.

It's mostly out of petty reasons that she starts to text Aiden that night, purposely letting Stiles know multiple times by showing him something stupid he said, or showing him the ridiculous snapchats the guy sends her. She knows it's not his fault, not really, and she's not even sure Stiles even likes her, like that, anyway, but she needs to make sure. That, if he does, he'll stop. Especially since he's touching her thongs daily, now. That feels like crossing a line. It'll be too messy.

Aiden is easy, clean. No mess involved. No best friend baby to look after together. No strings, whatsoever.

"He's an idiot, you know that, right?" He says, folding one of Samantha's bibs as he snorts at the snapchat she shows him. He's shirtless, all 38 abs showing, just wearing a bowtie around his neck, caption reading 'i'm a classy guy x'.

"Yeah," Lydia answers, automatically, because he is. She's basically just been making fun of him all night, with Stiles' help. She shrugs, snorting at the screen again as she takes a screenshot. "But he's hot. And really good in bed."

She's only even interested in Aiden, not because of who he is, but because of who he isn't. He's unlike anything that Stiles is. But to admit that, would be to admit something else entirely. And she's not—she's not ready. For that. For all the complications that come with it, and the feelings, God, the feelings. The messiness.

Aiden's stupid hot, and stupid, period. He obviously is really into her. It makes it easier to deny what she wants to deny.

Stiles' shoulders stiffen just a little, as he avoids her gaze. Lydia knows she's a bitch, she knows that. Somewhere deep down she likes that he likes her, she wants him to like her. But that's not fair. As the credits of the episode play on tv, he mutters, finally, "I just think you deserve better, 's all."

She reaches forward, squeezing his shoulder. Her pulse feels dangerously high, that he cares, that much. He finally turns his head to look at her. "Thanks. But it's not that deep, Stiles."

He looks at her for a moment, taking her in, then shakes his head, deciding not to get in it. Eventually, turning back to the TV, he mentions, "I'm thinking of quitting the force."

"What, why?" She snaps, sitting up, eyes wide. "You love being on the force. You've tried for years to get on it and—"

"I know," he sighs, rubbing the back of his neck as he leans back against the couch, trying to search for the right words. "But, I realized it might take years, before I even get promoted to being a detective. So, I've been looking into becoming a private investigator, instead."

"You'll spend the rest of your life taking pictures of cheating husbands and finding missing dogs," she notes, blunt as she licks her lips, feeling like the rug just got pulled from right underneath her feet.

He shrugs, leaning his elbow on his knee as he plays with his fingers nervously. "But it pays well and, I get to chose my own hours which means I get to spend more time at home."

With Samantha, he doesn't mean her. He means Samantha.

Still, it feels like there isn't enough room in her chest for her heart right now. "You'd really do that?" She whispers, fragile voice almost breaking because she's close to tears. He'd give up all his dreams, something he's worked for so hard, just to—just to give her a better life.

"Yeah, it used to feel like the most important thing in the world, you know. Being a detective," he smiles, fond at the memory, absentmindedly, "It felt like the only thing that mattered."

"And now it doesn't," she fills in, nails digging into the palm of her hand to keep from crying. Because she knows, what he means. Nothing else really matters, does it, when she's everything. He turns his head, catching her eye as he nods. "Now it doesn't."

.

Lydia spends a mid-week with a bunch of teenagers on a academic decathlon field trip, which makes her realize she's really glad she's not in high school anymore.

She gets home on Sunday morning to find Liam passed out in front of her downstairs bathroom; Isaac asleep sitting at the breakfast table, pretty sure his face is covered in eggs benedict; Mason asleep on her couch, but at least he'd had the decency to take off his shoes before he laid down.

She puts down her bag and takes off her coat before going upstairs, only to find Theo (the partner from his squad that Stiles keeps talking shit about) passed out on her silk sheets with some unknown tramp. Her SILK sheets. Scratch that, Theo's the tramp. She already trusts the girl more than she does him.

She stalks down the hallway, ready to rip someone a new one. She finds Stiles asleep in his bed. He's laying on his stomach, one leg hanging off the bed, chubby hand laying on top of his forearm. It's Samantha, fast asleep on top of the covers, underneath her own Dora blanket. They look so cute, her anger fades immediately.

"Stiles," she clears her throat, kicking his leg softly. Then, harder, when he refuses to wake up. It seems to work, because he scrambles into a sitting position immediately, clutching his chest. His hair is sticking up in different directions, rubbing his eyes tiredly at the sight of her, voice gruff with sleep as he checks, "Lydia?"

"Yeah, unless you brought a girl home with you, too. You don't think Samantha's a little too young to go clubbing?" She crosses her arms over her chest, defiantly.

"There was a guy's night planned, for a long time, apparently, I forgot. They ambushed me and practically forced me to go," he explains, eyebrows raised as he leans his head back against the headboard. He's already answering all the questions she wanted to ask. "I had to take Samantha because there was literally no one who could watch her, and apparently she works like a charm on the ladies. She loved the attention. I didn't drink anything, promise."

"Still doesn't explain the unknown hussy in my bed, sweetheart," she snaps, sarcastically as she slaps the back of his head. "With your partner, which makes it even worse."

He frowns, rubbing the back of his head as he thinks it over, kicking the covers away from him. "An unknown…" His face lights up all of a sudden. "That's Malia."

"I thought you said it was guy's night?" Lydia sighs, defenses already lowering as she sinks down on the bed sideways.

"You know her, she's one of the guys," he counters, scratching his chin, hand drooping down his chest to rest on his stomach. "Besides, she came all the way from France, like. Does it matter?"

"And you let her get into bed with that weasel? While Isaac was downstairs?" She's just grasping at straws now, trying to find any small sliver of wrongness she gets to be mad about.

"Theo was wasted last night. I don't think they could've done anything even if they wanted to," he notes, yawning as he reaches out to tuck some hair away from Samantha's face.

She takes him in, really takes him in. He looks tired, but in a cute sleepy way, brown eyes laced with laziness, and fondness, for Samantha as he looks at her. He's shirtless, chest bare except for the small trail of dark hair leading down—God, she needs a drink. It's 8am and she needs a fucking drink.

"You know," she voices, soft as she tucks Sammy's foot under the blanket. "I'm glad you had fun. You deserve it."

His head snaps away from Sam to look up at her from under his lashes, he gives it a moment, like he's expecting her to elaborate. "I feel like there's a catch somewhere. You're going to tell me this is the last fun I'll be having for the next eighteen years, or what?"

"I just wanted to tell you," she shoves him, laughing, hand ending up on his shin. "I appreciate everything you do." Her smile fades a little, gets more bittersweet than happy, a little more real than intended. "I notice. That's all."

He raises his eyebrows, stupid smug smirk on his face. "That's all you notice, huh?"

She opens her mouth to ask what the hell he's talking about, when her train of thought gets momentarily lost because he's flexing his abs, because he's laughing, at her. Because she's being too obvious, ogling him like one of the hormonal teenagers she couldn't wait to get rid off.

"Shut up," she snarls, slapping her hand down on his shin for good measure. "I never said—"

Samantha brabbles, tiny fists reaching out, before deciding its taking too long for them to react to her and rolling over until she's able to sit up.

"Oh. Good morning, sunshine," Lydia cooes as she picks her up and puts her on her lap, bobbing her on the nose. "You had fun last night, did you? A real ladies woman, huh?"

"It was different," he admits, absentmindedly as he watches them, and Lydia remembers he's sensitive, likes to talk about his feelings. "Without Scott, I mean."

Hearing his name still makes the hairs on the back of her neck stand up straight.

"Like it feels wrong to have fun without him?" Lydia huffs, almost humoured. "Yeah. I know the feeling." She kisses Sam on the forehead, shaking her head lightly. "It's not bad—it's natural, to move on. To not feel guilty for moving on. It's hard, but—"

"It's what they would've wanted?" He fills in for her, eyebrows raised skeptically as he folds his hands on top of his hip bones.

"Yeah, sounds like a cliché when you say it like that, huh," Lydia smiles, as Sammy settles her head under her chin, fist wrapped around two of her fingers, guiding it to her mouth.

He leans forward, putting one hand on her shoulder, hand feeling heavy and warm. "I notice, too, you know. You're doing great."

"Thanks," she mutters, hoping her face isn't fifty shades of red about now. Finally, she makes a move to get up. "I think someone is hungry and someone else has to kick about twelve people out of our house."

She sends him a pointed look over her shoulder as Stiles pretends to salute her before she steps outside of his room.

"It's too early for a drink, right, Sammy?" She mutters against the side of her head softly as she descends the stairs. "Such a mess."

.

"I have a free day, you too, right?" She vaguely registers a voice as she opens her eyes, blinking a few time to clear her sleepy gaze. Looking out the window, it's still dark. She turns on her back, moving her head to look at the clock.

"It's five a.m.," she mutters, pressing a hand to her forehead, swallowing tightly as she tries to remember why she even woke up. "It's five a.m."

"Lydia," it's the voice again, and this time she can make out it's Stiles.

"What?" She groans, pulling the covers over her face.

"It's Saturday. You're free from work and it's my first complete weekend off in like, two months." His voice, it's still there. But he sounds further away. She sits up, still slightly disoriented as she tries to decipher where he is exactly. "It's a sign from God, or like, whoever you believe in, the universe, or like, science. Math...ematical possibility lining up just right for us to be free on the same weekend."

Finally, he emerges from her closet, Sammy balancing on his hip, throwing some garments her way. "We're going to the zoo. The shower's already running. I'll make breakfast while you get ready."

"You were in my closet?" Is the only thing she can come up with in protest, staring at the items on the bed in front of her. She was really looking forward to a day of doing nothing, just slightly feeling dreadful because she has five different classes that handed in papers that she has yet to grade but knowing she could spend her sunday doing it instead.

His head pops back around the corner of her door, Sammy grabbing at his nose, giggling as he pretends to bite her. "You're wasting water."

With a loud groan, she lays back down, in demonstration, only to get back up five seconds later and stalking over to her bathroom. He's impossible.

Luckily, he offers to drive (her car, because there's no way she's getting in his jeep with Sam) as soon as she comes downstairs, and the hour and a half drive there is quiet except for him talking to the baby now and then. Plus, he brought snacks. It's enough for her mood to dissolve.

They go see the African wildlife first, Stiles telling her weirdly detailed but very random facts (it's his ADD) about each and every animal they come across; they spend at least two hours at the aquarium because nothing has ever been as visually stimulating for Samantha before; they eat their sandwiches on a bench in the cold, surrounded by penguins and polar bears, huddled close together for warmth as Samantha takes a nap in her stroller; they ask a lady to take a photo of the three of them in front of the monkeys and he posts it on instagram with the caption 'they're the top bananas' and her heart is so warm; he basically wants a photo of her and Sam in front of every animal there is, but especially in front of the red pandas because 'they look alike' which isn't a dig at her hair color, but it is; they eat cheddar goldfish while watching a sea lion show because he's a dork who took themed snacks to the zoo;the baby gets fussy when they're in the butterfly garden, fists opening and closing like she wants to grab one of the colorful creatures and just as Stiles crouches down in front of her, she says it.

"Dada."

Lydia can see it happen. He just kind of freezes, blinking at Samantha like she just said a full on sentence as she keeps reaching for him, just a little too far away, babbling more gibberish before spitting it out again. "Dada."

She crouches down next to him, putting a hand in between his shoulder blades. "She's probably just picked it up at daycare," she tries to comfort him, because this is both the best and worst thing that's ever happened to them, and it comes with a set of very complicated emotions.

"Dada," Sammy puffs, head turning red from effort and Lydia offers her free hand to her, trying to release her from her misery. The baby squeezes, pulling it toward her mouth, because that's just something she does now.

"Are you okay?" She asks, softly, rubbing his back gently as she leans closer to him, following his gaze to look at their baby, their Samantha.

He nods, sniffing as he uses his thumb and forefinger to press at his tear ducts, quickly wiping away the liquid that had formed. "Y..Yeah." He picks up her favorite stuffed animal and hands it to Samantha, who gladly grabs it with her free hand, grip still tight on Lydia's fingers.

"I just want you to know that you shouldn't feel too special," Lydia informs him, trying to break the tension as she leans her head on his shoulder, moving her hand up to rest her fingers on the junction of his neck. "Babies always say dada before mama because of the structure of their mouth and their limited motor control the 'd' sound is easier to make."

He turns to look down at her, readjusting the backwards cap on his head, eyes no longer shining with tears, but with amusement. "It's not a contest." He grins, and God, dear God, she loves him. "But I'm glad you were so insecure about losing that you did research on it."

She cocks an eyebrow, shifting so her chin is resting on his shoulder and they're so close, yet, she manages to keep her voice steady. "I'm a certified genius, I don't need to do research."

"Keep telling yourself that," he laughs, arm looping around her to squeeze her side, earning a yelp from her as she retaliates by elbowing him in the ribs. He helps her rise to her feet, "Sam is tired and I'm super hungry. What do you say we get out of here and get something to eat?"

"You're always hungry," she mentions, because she honestly does not now how he's so lean, since he's always either eating or talking, making her think that talking probably burns a lot of calories. She laughs at herself, before smirking mischievously, adding, "Dada."

"Stop," he practically whines, and he looks so stupid in his Mets cap as he hides his face in his hands. Stupidly cute.

"Why, are you going to cry?"

Before they get in the car, she pulls out her phone, typing a quick message to Aiden. She kind of feels like an asshole for doing it over text, but it's not like they were actually dating, friends with benefits at best, but without the actual friends part. Besides, it was long overdue. He was a nice distraction, but now that she just had a goddamn epiphany over Stiles grinning like an idiot, it was time.

TO AIDEN:

Sorry, I can't do this anymore. It's been fun. Wish you the best X Lydia

Her phone beeps, about two hours later, just as she's laughing at something stupid Stiles has said while they sit down in a local cafeteria, even though she knows he's only saying it to get this exact reaction. She pulls it out of her pocket, Stiles focusing on getting Sammy in a baby chair.

FROM AIDEN:

Is this about Stiles?

She stares at the message for a second, because it is and it isn't, but she hadn't thought it'd been so obvious for outsiders.

"You okay?" Stiles asks, gently after they order, trying to feed Sammy her mashed mixed vegetables even though she keeps spitting it out, which she probably got from Scott since he lived purely on meat.

"Yeah, it's just—" she pauses, biting down on her lip as plays with her necklace. She sighs. "Me and Aiden broke-up." And he like practically told me he knew it was because I'm maybe, possibly, definitely in love with you and now I need to know if you know, too, or are trying to ignore it because you don't feel the same way.

His spoon freezes mid-air, before he clears his throat, continuing his prior movements as he avoids her gaze, "and are we sad about this, or are we celebrating?"

She rolls her eyes, tucking the necklace back behind her sweater as she leans closer to him in the booth to be able to reach Sam's bib, using it to clean of the green gunk of her chin. "You're not going to catch me losing a wink of sleep over it, so you shouldn't either."

He purses his lips, impressed, his arm warm against hers. He smells nice. "Wow, okay. Good for you." He presses his lips together like he wants to say more, but doesn't.

She leans her cheek on her fist, watching him do and make the most embarrassing moves and sounds to get Sam to eat. It's good, this feels good. Him and her and Samantha, the three of them, happy and in a good place and not fighting for once in their damn lives. She chews on her bottom lip, smiling a little as Sammy finally opens her mouth, only to spit it all right back out, Stiles pretending to cry, making her giggle.

In the end, she chickens out. Because, even if she's still Lydia Martin and he's still Stiles Stilinski and he probably does feel the same, she doesn't know if it's worth, in the end. If it goes wrong, if it doesn't work out, if feelings fade, they're back to square one, or maybe even worse than that. For Samantha, it's not—she deserves better than that.

.

Lydia has taken one day off from work a week, because Stiles is trying to require a PI license, and it's good, a blessing in disguise. She sees more of Samantha, and she has extra time on her hands to actually help around the house and grade and watch stupid netflix shows she hasn't watched for almost a year.

Samantha recently took her first steps, and everyone knows it, because Stiles extensively documented it on every and each social media platform. The other week she finally said mama, and Lydia about died. It's weird being someone's mother, and sometimes she doesn't feel exactly like it, but it's also thrilling, and heartwarming, and amazing. She's actually sleeping through the night, and she waves bye and claps her hands. She loves music, especially bad pop, which she most certainly gets from Scott.

Her and Stiles are in a weird inbetween stage in their relationship. They're not quite together, but they act like they are, which is, confusing, to say the least. It's also weird being someone's mother and having someone else who you may definitely have romantic feelings for being that someone's father but none of you are actually acting on it. It's just—a strange, uncomfortable situation.

Lydia is just texting Kira back about a complex medinical equation and plans to get drinks, putting away Samantha's bottle in the sink, when the baby bursts out into tears in the other room. She feels like she can't breathe, heart skipping a beat as she throws her phone down on the dinner table, rushing into the living room.

An hour later, she's at the ER, in hysterics as they do a medical examination in one of the patients rooms. There was blood, and, Samantha lying next to the coffee table, and the dread, the absolute dread she felt, the failure as she picked her up and cradled her to her chest, but she wouldn't, she wouldn't stop crying and she doesn't even remember calling Stiles, but there he is.

There he is, holding her, tucking her head under his chin, as she tells him all this, not being able to think clearly when they're in the exact same position as that night of the accident.

"Shhh," he tells her, running his hand over her head as he pulls back just a little, too look at her, to cup her cheek and wipe away her hair from her face. "I'm sure she's fine." He sounds so confident and sure, and she can't help but think back to the time she found him in Samantha's room, freaking out over a cold.

She nods her head, sniffing as she looks at him, she has to believe this now, she has to, or she'll explode. "I just can't, Stiles," she chokes out, tears collecting in her eyes once again, and she knows she sounds desperate, crazy, but she can't. "I can't lose her, too."

"I know," he mutters, pulling her back against his chest as he presses a kiss to her head. "She's fine. I know she is."

The nurse finds them ten minutes later, asks them to come into the examination room because they need to give her some stitches. They follow her, and Stiles holds Samantha as the doctor stitches up the small wound on her forehead. She informs them their baby is fine, besides for the small cut, and to just follow up with their GP if she starts to show any abnormal signs. Stiles writes all of them down in his phone while Lydia tries to shush Samantha, whispering against the side of her head that, "you're such a big girl, you're so strong, yes, you are."

They thank the doctors and Stiles drives them home, Lydia in the backseat next to Samantha, just to be sure. She doesn't think she can ever let her out of her sight again.

"I'm sorry for being so crazy," she tells him, running her finger down Sam's face, smiling sadly when she tries to grab her finger.

"Well at least you look beautiful when you cry," he notes, sarcastically as he looks at her through the rearview mirror, eyes crinkling with laughter as she flips him the bird.

She spends the rest of the night holding her until Stiles offers to take her up to her room, reminding her it's been a long day for the both of them. She decides to take a shower, slipping into her sleep shorts and an old sweater before sitting down against her headboard.

She doesn't know how long she sits there, eyes closed, repeating the days events over and over and coming to the same conclusion each and every time. She can't lose Samantha, but she can't lose Stiles either. She loves them both. She wants them to be a family, a real family. Not because of Samantha, but because she wants him, all of him.

"She's asleep," he knocks on her door, leaning against it with his arms crossed, having changed into a maroon t-shirt and basketball shorts.

"C'mere," she mumbles, coaxing him to sit down on the bed with a wave of her hand, and then a pull on his when he's close enough. She sits up, inching closer, putting her hands on the side of his neck. He freezes, swallowing visibly. She inhales sharply, moving her thumbs over his jawline, regarding him carefully. She leans her forehead against his, nuzzling his nose for a second. Then, "I love you."

His hand moves over her thigh, pulling his face back a little to search her eyes. His other hand lands on her arm, he leans closer, watching her closely like he's still expected her to say 'as a friend' any second now. His lips part slightly, and he reaches over her arm to run his thumb over her bottom lip, making her inhale slowly, trying to slow her heart rate.

"I love you, too," he breathes, and it's finally quiet, in her head, when they kiss.

It's slow, and soft, at first, almost careful, and then it turns hungry, and greedy and like what she's been thinking about for a while now. One hand under her sweater, on her side, the other in her hair, trying to pull her even closer, because nothing feels close enough right now.

They disentangle for a second so he can pull his shirt over his head and she dips her head to kiss his jaw as soon as he does, sliding closer to connect their mouths again. They shift, so he doesn't have to turn his body in such an awkward angle anymore, and she straddles his lap, pushing him back against the headboard. Her sweater is next, and she smirks, as his eyes turn darker, pupils dilating at the sight of her before their mouths touch again, chests pressed together as his hands roam her back.

"This doesn't feel real," he mutters, pressing a kiss to the corner of her mouth, pulling back just a little to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. "I mean, I really love you, but I've imagined this about a million times in my head and it's never felt like this and I just feel like any second now I'm going to wake up, and just in case that happens, I just want you to know that—"

It's so Stiles to find something to ramble about when they're literally about to have sex, and it makes her stomach do all kinds of weird flips and turns because she's so in love. She really is.

"Shut up," she snaps, without any real heat, mouth red from kissing as she sits back to shimmy out of her shorts. Then she leans forward, small hands on the side of his face, pecking him on the mouth, then his cheek, temple, nose. "I love you, okay? Try and remember. It feels like this, because it's real."

He nods, inhaling heavily as their mouths reconnect, Lydia's hand travelling down his chest. "We'll have to be quiet," she whispers, reaching her free hand up to run it through his hair.

He makes a strained sound in the back of his throat at that, and she grins against his mouth, because now that she knows what it's like to kiss him, the desire to do it again keeps surging inside her, warmth uncoiling from her lower belly. Thinking, she could get used to this.

.

"Lyds," it's Allison, beaming bright. Lydia knows she's dreaming, in that blissful state in between sleep and being awake, knowing she won't have long with her. It almost would be cruel, if this wasn't the only way this could still feel real.

"I just don't get it," she hears her own voice and she realizes she's staring at the ceiling of their old dorm room, the smell of Allison's perfume engulfing her. "You're young and hot, and sure I love Scott, and he's great and all, but like—you're seriously going to spend all of your time with him? This is college, Al. He could be just one of your many boyfriends."

There's a dip on the bed, and suddenly Allison is lying beside her, hands resting on her stomach. "He's not just my boyfriend, though. You know that, right?"

Lydia rolls her eyes, turning her to look at her best friend. She's such a sap. "I'm not trying to be bitter here or anything, but what are you on?"

The brunette sighs, turning her head to look at the ceiling, tapping one hand nervously against the other as she smiles at nothing. "Just try and remember, Lyds."

"Remember what?" She sends her a strange look as she sits up a little, leaning back on her elbows.

"What it feels like. All of those times when you're walking down the quad and you seem him talking to his friends and you cannot breathe until you're with him." Allison bites down on her lip, and she sounds so sure, so sure and Lydia swallows, tightly, listening warily. "Or, when you're in class and you keep tapping your foot and checking your phone for the time because you know you have plans with him right after. Don't you remember what that's like?"

"No," she says, but it comes out too soft, so she clears her throat, repeating herself more firmly. "No."

"No?" Allison sits up now, too, searching her face. Her eyebrows rise. "You've had a million boyfriends, you've never—"

Lydia clenches her jaw slightly, turning her head away from her best friend to avoid her gaze. "None like that."

Suddenly, Allison clamps her hand around hers, squeezing softly. "You will, one day, and you'll know what I mean and understand." Her eyes are soft, and uncritical. "Understand why he matters to me more, than the—the lacrosse games, and the sorority parties."

Lydia sighs, biting the inside of her cheek. It all sounds like a fairytale, a story, something out of the movies. It doesn't sound real.

Allison's smile crinkles her eyes, and Lydia remembers thinking about what she did for it to be justifiable to have a friend like her. "You deserve that, too, Lyds."

Unfortunately, that's where the dream ends, but it gets less hard to say goodbye each time, when she knows she has the memories like these forever.

She stretches lightly, peeking through one eye to find Stiles asleep next to her, on his stomach, face resting on his arm. She leans closer, pressing a kiss in between his shoulder blades, before moving her mouth up, kisses neck, right below the ear, and by the time she reaches his cheek, he's awake.

He pushes at her lightly, trying to pull the pillow further over his head. "Today is going to be crazy," he mutters, voice still laced with sleep. "I need my sleep."

Lydia rolls her eyes, but leans down to press another kiss between his shoulder blades anyway, hand running over his forearm. "Okay. You catch those three minutes of useful sleep. Meanwhile I'll be in the shower."

She slides out of bed, slipping into her bathrobe. "In the shower, all alone." This finally seems to catch his attention, so she sighs deeply, leaning against the door opening. "Alone and, wet."

He sits up, sending her a pointed look, eyes devoid of any trace of sleep all of a sudden. She pouts dramatically. "And did I mention naked?"

"I'm up, I'm up," he mutters as he stumbles out of bed and towards her, gathering her in his arms and pulling her back against his chest as he starts kissing her neck.

"I didn't invite you to join, sweetheart," she teases, his hands sliding over her stomach, automatically making her press her thighs together. "Mhm," he says, casually, pressing one more wet kiss just below her ear before he adds, "then you're going to have to beat me to it."

Before she knows it, he's rushed passed her and into the bathroom. She huffs, indignant as she hurries after him, and he's already half-undressed before she gets there.

"Asshole," she laughs against his mouth as she pushes him back against the bathroom tiles, water trailing down their bodies.

After their joint-shower, Lydia gets to setting everything up downstairs while Stiles wakes up Sammy and dresses her up. When they come downstairs, Lydia immediately takes her from him, pressing kisses against her face. "Happy birthday, my sweet little angel."

"Our girl is one," he breathes, putting his arm around her waist, like he can't quite believe it.

"Yeah, she is," she beams, leaning into him as she cranes her neck to look up at him. Our girl.

Later, when they're surrounded by all their friends and family, trying to pretend like a one year old could actually blow out candles, Lydia finally understands.

She finally understands what Allison had meant way back then, when they were just two girls in college. Before Samantha, before Stiles. She gets it now. The feeling she gets in her chest when she looks at him, when she gets to come to him, and Samantha, when she wakes up next to him—warm and grateful and like she can take on anything in the world.

It's not what Lydia had imagined, never thought there'd be a world when she would experience all of this without Allison, but it's the world they live in, and if that's the world they have to live in, if that's reality—she's glad it has Stiles in it, too.

.

 

fin.