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Stiles bounced on the balls of his feet impatiently in the coffee cart line, wishing that university students weren't as dependent on caffeine as he was.

He was recovering from yet another late night study session, and he could really use the energy boost, however false. It was only his first semester but assignments and readings piled up quickly, and Stiles was determined not to fall behind. He was there on scholarship only, which, without it, meant he'd be shipped off back home.

Part of him didn't completely hate that plan, only because he was rather homesick, especially these days. He had his reasons for leaving in the first place, and he tried to focus on those whenever he felt the doubt creep in.

His loved ones could take care of themselves, he was sure of it, but it was still hard sometimes to convince the rest of him of that. Worrying had a way of distorting the realistic part of your mind. Without him there to physically witness their wellbeing, it could be a bit of a challenge to ever feel completely comfortable, but Stiles was working on it. He was slowly getting used to being on his own, to being away from his hometown.

What would really help would be a distraction, such as the large amount of work he wanted to get in before his next class. If the coffee line would ever move…

Stiles let his eyes wander for a distraction from his boredom, right around the time he picked up on the conversation in front of him. His eyes fell on two guys that looked like they must be on the varsity football team, broad shoulders and lean biceps and that kind of toughness to them that made him imagine a cartoon villain cracking their knuckles menacingly.

He couldn't help but glance down at his own slim figure, with his long gangly hands and lack of muscle mass and he sighed a little.

"Did you hook up with Lydia last night?" the taller of the two asked his friend.

"Nah. She said she had to study. Not sure if I believe her or not. She probably was with another guy."

"Or maybe she was blowing you off because she's not interested."

"Shut up, she's interested. We hooked up at that party during frosh week."

"That was weeks ago, and drunkenly making out isn't a one-way ticket into her pants, bro."

"Whatever. I'll get her to go out with me eventually. Rumor is she used to get around in high school, so I bet she's great in the sack."

"Keep your voice down, Romeo. She's over there."

Stiles, who had only been half-listening to the conversation, silently begging the line to hurry up—because damn did he need an IV drip of caffeine at this point—found his eyes travelling by reflex to the table the guy nodded at. His gaze landed on a beautiful girl that had to be around his age, curled tendrils of strawberry-blonde hair framing her face. She had huge, emerald green eyes and a look of concentration on her face as she sipped at her iced cappuccino and made notes in the margin of her book.

"God, redheads are so hot."

"Her hair's actually strawberry-blonde." Stiles accidentally muttered under his breath.

Unfortunately, the pair heard him and turned.

"What did you say?" the shorter one asked.

He blanched. He hadn't even meant to say it, let alone for them to hear him. The cartoonish version of them flooded his mind simultaneously as he tried to speak. "Uh… I said… you can order now… with the barista who's blonde…?" he invented, thanking the lord that the line finally cleared and their turn had arrived.

"Oh. Thanks man." the taller guy said, still looking skeptical, but it was good enough for Stiles.

Stiles grimaced and stuck his hands in his pockets, cursing his stupidity. Damn his inability to keep his mouth shut. It wouldn't have been the first time it got him in trouble, but he was really trying to be better.

After he ordered his large double-double, he found himself looking back over to where Lydia was while he waited for it to be ready. The guys had sat down two tables over and looked to still be gossiping about her.

He rolled his eyes. Guys could be as bad as girls.

Stiles thanked the barista who gave him his coffee and sat down at the only table left in the café—directly next to Lydia's.

He pulled out his books from his bag, arranging his stuff just so before flipping to where he left off on his reading and readying his notebook for taking important notes.

He couldn't help letting his eyes wander back over to where the girl was sitting so close. He noticed now how well she dressed—a skirt and blouse combo with black tights and jewelry. It was clear she put effort into her appearance, if her style, hair and precise make-up application were anything to go by.

Averting his eyes quickly, the realization kicking in that he was practically examining her, he focused his attention on his work.

He was just starting to get absorbed in it when a voice sounded right next to him.

"Excuse me?"

Stiles nearly jumped out of his skin, having essentially forgotten that other people existed.


It was Lydia, looking slightly amused but mostly apologetic and apprehensive.

"Hi. No, it's fine, I'm just naturally jumpy."

Was she here to reprimand him for his ogling? His brain scrambled for a decent excuse.

"I was wondering if I could possibly borrow one of those?"

She gestured to his highlighters, where he had six lined up of various colours. He felt himself redden. He looked like an OCD freak.

"I left mine in my dorm and really don't fancy running across campus when I've only got a few more lines to do."

Stiles corrected his throat. "Uh, yeah, I mean, if you want… which clearly you do, since you asked, so um…" He flicked his hand in that general direction and wished she would disappear so he could bury himself under the table.

"Thanks. I'll return it in a few minutes." she told him as she snatched up a yellow and walked back over to her table without another glance.

Stiles felt the two guys staring at him, and he propped his book up so he could hide his face behind it. He was such an idiot. Why couldn't he form words? Why did he suck at human interaction, especially with the attractive side of the population?

It's not like it really mattered, he reasoned as he went back to work. He didn't even know Lydia. It didn't matter what she thought of him. And in a college that big, he probably wouldn't even run into her again.

How wrong he turned out to be.

His day had been going pretty sour since the beginning. He overslept his alarm, which set off the next tumble of events. He rushed shaving, causing him to nick his cheek for the first time since he was an adolescent. The bathroom was full of people getting ready, since normally he got up at the perfect time to avoid the crowd, and he had to wait for a shower, which he would've skipped if he hadn't skipped yesterday. He didn't want to spend the day self-conscious about whether or not he was exuding an odor.

When he ran downstairs to grab a quick breakfast, there was none of his usual options for cereal, only fibre-rich old people kind, so he grabbed a muffin to go and sprinted to the building his Calculus class was in.

Upon biting into it, he realized it was not a weird-looking chocolate chip muffin like he anticipated. It was a raisin and bran muffin, which he practically gagged on and tossed in the nearest trashcan while his stomach growled in protest. He seriously hated raisins.

He was just shy of being perfectly on time for class, something that should be completely avoided for the particular professor he had, since she always started precisely on time and refused to let anyone in once the clock hand switched to a minute past. Midterms were closing in and Stiles didn't want to miss a single class, since they covered a lot of bases every time.

With his bag slung over his shoulder, Stiles slipped through the other students finding seats and headed to his usual spot, only to find it already occupied.

He slowed his pace, not quite believing his eyes. It was the strawberry-blonde from the other day—Lydia.

He stopped short of the desk as other people milled around to their seats, words caught in his throat. Why was she sitting there? He had sat there every day since the semester had started. It wasn't like it was a perfect seat—the chair sort of squeaked if you shifted your weight in any way at all, it wasn't near a window, and it was not in the front row which is where she usually sat if he remembered correctly. He hadn't even put together that they had a class together. He normally was looking at the back of her head.

"Um, I'm sorry… um, that's kind of my seat." Stiles said awkwardly, feeling like a complete idiot. Everyone knew there was no seating arrangement, so he knew he was going to come off like an OCD moron, but truthfully he had his compulsive tendencies. Remembering back to his highlighter display that she definitely had noticed since she had come over to borrow one, he realized he really had nothing to fight.

Lydia looked up in surprise, raising a perfectly sculpted eyebrow, and she didn't seem to recognize him in the slightest. "There's no seating arrangement in this class. You can sit wherever you want."

"Yes, see, but I want to sit there. I always sit there. Have since day one."

She forced a smile, but he wondered why she bothered. Her tone wasn't warm in any way. "Look, class is going to start any second. I suggest you find another seat. I'm sitting here. My stuff's all unpacked, it has a decent view of the front, and I got here first. There's a few others around, just pick one."

"It's not that simple! Look, I've been having a really bad day already and that is the only left-handed desk in the room…"

A part of him wanted to bring up the 'you owe me!' for the highlighter lend, but he was already coming off extremely pathetic, and their professor chose that moment to walk through the door. By the looks of things, Lydia wasn't going to budge on it regardless.

Reluctantly, Stiles slipped away and plunked himself down a few rows back, trying not to pout in annoyance. He glared at the back of the girl's head, trying not to think about how much time she must put into her morning routine to get her hair that shiny. It was clear she was having a better day than him.

She didn't turn around once.

Stiles spent the rest of the class fuming. She looked so perfectly comfortable in his seat, like she had been the one in it the whole semester, while Stiles found his new seat's back digging into his spine and struggled to position his papers correctly to save them from sliding off his desk.

He tried, he really did, to let it go and just settle with what he had. At least he hadn't been late and missed class completely, right? At least it didn't turn into a big blowup that had the whole class of students judging him?

But when class ended, she breezed by him as if they had never had a conversation, which only annoyed him further. She wasn't even going to apologize? Wasn't even going to tell him that next time it was all his? Was he going to have to fight this girl for the rest of the term to get his rightful seat back? He didn't care how pretty she was—it was pretty easy to forget about that fact all together when she was being infuriating—what kind of person steals someone's seat in the first place?!

Stiles knew he was being a little extreme about the whole thing, but that was ADHD and irritation for you. Spend an hour fuming about something small and it is guaranteed to grow into something more.

The rest of his classes went by smoothly, despite the extra work they piled on. Technically, the professors always outlined assignments in the syllabus so students could time manage appropriately, but they never received the details of the assignment until a couple weeks prior, so it's not as though they could really do much beforehand.

When his legal ethics professor passed out the assignment for the term paper they were required to write, he almost groaned. It required using the textbook, which wasn't ideal in Stiles case, seeing as he had never bought it. It was ridiculously overpriced, and often times the professors would reference a few pages here and there and it wouldn't be used for more than that. He didn't feel like dishing out over a hundred dollars for something he might not even need to open. So far, his professor hadn't mentioned it once, so he thought he was in the clear.

Luckily, the library had a copy of most textbooks, even if they were the prior editions, so he decided that he'd head there after he grabbed some food.

He looked through the expected aisles before giving up and asking the librarian at the center desk.

"There's only one copy of that textbook here, and I gave it to another student about half an hour ago. Hopefully she'll return it to the shelf as soon as she's done."

Of course. Stiles thought bitterly, thanking the woman and tugging his bag higher on his shoulder as he headed to the back corner where the private study rooms were. It was mid-evening on a Friday night; he was hopeful that most people would be out partying and avoiding the library so he could snag the decent room, the one with actual heating and the cushioned chairs.

What with midterms coming up, he shouldn't have been at all surprised that the few rooms were taken, including the best one.

Stiles was grateful that at least it was finally the weekend, because his day couldn't get much worse.

He wondered if maybe some of them were almost done, just doing some revision before leaving to party or relax for the night. Peeking through the best one's door window, he groaned out loud at the sight before him.

Lydia was sitting comfortably inside, alone, and was not only in his preferred room, but one glimpse at the cover of the book she was reading alerted him that she was in fact the student in possession of the textbook he desperately needed. He could see the library sticker from where he was.

He had only realized earlier that day that she was in both his calculus class and his legal ethics class, so really, he should've known.

By the looks of her stuff scattered about, she wasn't planning on leaving the library any time soon, so he was out of luck on both fronts.

Stiles plopped down at the nearest table and planted his face in his bag. This girl had to be out to steal his sanity.

Lydia appraised her essay on her laptop objectively, smiling in satisfaction at her work. She had been pouring over the paper for the majority of the evening and had finally finished her first draft. She still had to insert her citations, but she usually waited until her second draft for doing that.

She always did her editing from a hardcopy, because it was too easy to miss things when reading it electronically and she liked seeing the comparisons.

Making sure she was hooked up to the school's wi-fi, she hit print and headed to the print room to collect her work.

When she left the room, she saw a guy deeply invested in his notes, a pencil between his teeth. As her eyes scanned the rest of the library, it appeared they were the only ones there, unless there were people hiding upstairs. The rest of the study rooms were now empty and the librarian had clearly gone home.

The library was usually left open rather late for those cramming students, but at about one a.m. the custodial staff would come in to clean and when they needed to lock up for the night, you had to leave.

Lydia was usually done before then, but there had been a few nights already that she had had to stay late.

She flicked on the light and walked up to the printer, frowning as she saw that it seemed to have some sort of error screen up.

Pushing some buttons, she tried to restart the direction for her paper to print.

When it whirred to life, she smiled triumphantly. She was never the best with technology, but she wasn't an idiot.

Or maybe she was, since the printer kept printing long after her essay's seven pages.

Feeling a little panicked, she looked back at the screen to see the message '712 documents pending – printing page 12/724'.

"Oh my god, no! Stop it!" she screeched, slamming the buttons on the touch screen as if that would make them work better. "Cancel! CANCEL!"

Seeing as it wasn't voice activated, her efforts were entirely pointless. Nothing seemed to be working and the screen was now flashing red. God knows what buttons she pushed in her attempts to resurrect order.

Blank page after blank page was pouring out, the odd one coming with some sort of html coding on them, and Lydia felt like the inside of her chest was going to burst. What the hell was she supposed to do?!

She couldn't locate a plug, likely tucked away behind the massive multi-purpose machine, and she tried pressing more buttons, which only made things worse, since another mechanism started going off.

"STOP IT, DAMMIT! STOP!" she screeched, beating it with the textbook in her hand, not thinking to locate the power button.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa! Violence and technology? Not a great mix." a voice came from behind her as she frantically attacked the printer that was almost her height.

"It won't stop!" she shouted back, not stopping her efforts until the guy's hands clasped around her wrists, pulling her back into him and dragging her away from the electronic device.

"Let me give it a try." he told her, his calm demeanour soothing her rapidly beating heart and she finally took a breath as he stepped forward and started pushing buttons, his eyes scanning the options.

A few clicks and the machine quieted, stopping its frequent printing.

"Try reprinting what you needed."

Lydia nodded and slipped away to hit print again on her laptop.

When she returned, the brunette was stapling her paper together and turned around to hand it to her.

"Thank you so much. I don't know what I even did; it just started going nuts and I panicked…" She glanced up bashfully, only to catch the first glimpse of his face.

One look at his amber eyes and she recognized him instantly, a prickle of guilt sparking in her gut.

"Oh… you're the guy from this morning."

He ran a hand through his messy hair. "Yeah, uh, hey."

An apology sat on her tongue, eager to spring forward, but her lips couldn't seem to form the words.

"How did you know what to do?" she asked instead, her cheeks flushing.

He glanced over at the printer and shrugged. "My dad's the sheriff in my hometown. The station has a similar one. They can be pretty finicky, so I've had some practice."

It was quiet between them for a moment.

"Well thank you, again, for your help… um…" Despite their history, she had no idea what his name was.


"Excuse me?"

"My name. It's Stiles."

She felt stupid. "Oh. Sorry. I've never heard that name before."

"Well, truthfully it's a nickname. I'll save you the agony of my real first name."

She giggled without meaning to, tucking her hair behind her ear as she glanced away, embarrassed for her outburst. "I'm Lydia."

She didn't know why she felt so shy all of a sudden. Maybe it was because she had been kind of a bitch to him that morning, or maybe because of how embarrassing it was that he had seen her meltdown.

Or maybe it was because she suddenly noticed that he was pretty attractive. The moles splayed across his pale skin were oddly enticing. She wanted to trace them with her fingers, make invisible lines to connect them. His eyes were what really drew her in though—they watched her like they could read all her thoughts.

The best part about it was he seemed the type to have absolutely no idea how attractive he was. She had had her fill of boys who thought they were the next best thing.

Stiles stuck his hands in his pockets, turning his body to indicate he was leaving. He gave her a little smile. "I better head out. Good luck with everything."

She nodded, words lost, and pushed her hair back as she pretended to look over her term paper.

When she figured the coast was clear, she peeked out of the room and saw Stiles swinging his bag over his shoulder as he headed towards the door.

He didn't glance back, but she wished he would. She wouldn't mind getting a glimpse of a real smile of his.

Chapter Text

The weekend passed in a blur as they always do when you want them to last, and Stiles didn't see Lydia again until Calculus in the middle of the week.

When he arrived at his usual time, he saw Lydia sitting in her usual spot front and center, unable to help himself from smiling slightly when he saw her glance back. He gladly took his rightful seat and let out a relieved sigh at the familiar comfort. He swore he caught her smiling as she turned back around.

Their shared legal ethics class was the next day, and he even contemplated taking the empty seat next to her near the front. He wondered if they were just going to be friendly allies now or on the path to friends.

Since starting college, he hadn't really made friends. He was friendly with a few people, like his roommate, but he had a best friend back home that couldn't compare to anyone and he was too focused on his studies to bond with people at parties or other get-togethers since normally he avoided them all together.

He had never really been the best at making friends anyways, so it didn't bother him too much, but it wouldn't hurt to have someone to hangout with during his sparse downtime.

Stiles sat a couple rows back from her, against the window side, pulling out his notebook and gazing out of the window as he waited for class to begin.

Midterms were next week, and then it was just a few short weeks until Thanksgiving break. He'd finally be able to go home and talk to his best friend Scott face-to-face rather than on Skype, catch up properly with his dad, and sleep in his own bed. His dorm bed wasn't so bad, but he knew going home would probably give him the best sleep all term. He wondered if his nightmares would stop once he went home.

His ethics professor walked in and interrupted his thoughts, forcing him to face the front.

"Today we're going to go a little off course, due to some recent events. In this class, I'm supposed to be instructing you partially on how to conduct yourself professionally in the legal world, wherever your path may lead you. So let's say you're a lawyer, or a police officer, or just someone on a jury, since some of you may be taking this class and not seeking a legal position. Let's say a girl in her first year of university comes to you, or is on the stand, and is filing a report for being raped on campus during a frat party. She knows who the perpetrator is, but he denies it. What information would you need to gather to build a case?"

Stiles spoke out without raising his hand, which thankfully was encouraged in the class. "Do you mean details, or do you want basic information like where it happened and what happened?"

Professor Callahan nodded. "I want everything you think should be collected. So yes, her account of what happened is obviously crucial. And then where it happened is important. What else?"

"Well, if you know where it happened, you might be able to find witnesses that can testify for certain things, like seeing them together or overhearing something." Lydia piped up from her spot, causing Stiles to smile a little.

He didn't know how he missed her being in his class before. She often spoke up in class. He never really paid anybody much mind, but now that he sort of knew her, he wondered how he had ignored her existence.

"Good. Very good." the professor said with a nod. "What else?"

"Isn't whether or not she's been drinking a factor that needs to be explored?" Stiles added, since it went quiet after Lydia spoke.

"Why is that important?"

His professor was challenging him, if the spark in her eye was anything to go by, and he swallowed nervously.

"Well, if she wasn't coherent enough to offer consent or too uncoordinated to fight off an attacker, I think that's important to consider."

She beamed. "Excellent. What else?"

"Well, the opposition will probably want to know what she was wearing, because apparently if her skirt is too short she's asking for it." Lydia inputted, bitterness catching her tone towards the end.

"Exactly! Good, very good! And what is that an example of?"

Stiles hadn't missed the passion in Lydia's voice, and felt a pang. It sounded as though she had heard that phrase before, possibly targeted at herself. He thought of her short dresses and skirts he always saw her in. He saw it as feminine expression, but he knew others might see it as an invitation.

"Rape culture." he voiced quietly.

Lydia glanced back at him, looking concerned, but he averted his gaze to look outside, not sure he wanted her to see the emotions on his face.

He didn't know her, not at all, but he never wished a girl to have to endure the absolute callousness of some people. He had been raised to believe that girls were people too, and that they deserved respect and had much more to offer than their bodies.

Professor Callahan continued on with the lesson, her passion for ending rape culture inspiring, but Stiles wasn't as involved as before. For some reason, Lydia had gone quiet too. He hoped it wasn't because the conversation was too sensitive for her.

When class ended, Stiles made a beeline for the door. Lydia watched him go, not sure why she felt the need to run after him and check to see if he was okay. They weren't friends. He had saved her from a technology issue, and she had stolen his preferred seat. That was all they had between them. Some awkward run-ins.

Still, when Lydia made it back to her dorm, she couldn't seem to get him off her mind.

Friday came again, and just like always, Stiles seemed to need an extra dose of caffeine to get him through it. He had one class left and then was heading to the library to get a jump on his work.

He wished he could study in his dorm, but it was always too loud there, especially on the weekends. He found it much easier to concentrate at the library.

"Honey, your order's ready at the end." the barista called out, to who Stiles assumed was himself since he had been in a daze. He awkwardly headed towards the end, which is where he was supposed to be waiting anyways, but as he reached for the drink, he realized it wasn't the right thing. He had ordered coffee, and what was sitting there was clearly something fancier, if the multiple markings on the side and whipped cream was anything to go by.

Stiles retracted his hand immediately, stepping back, hoping no one had noticed his slip-up.

A perfectly manicured hand closed around the beverage, and Stiles peeked up to see who, by now, he should really just expect.

Lydia smiled at him as she took her drink.

He flashed her a quick smile as he stuck his hands in his pockets and rocked back on his heels, waiting patiently for his drink to be ready.

"I didn't even see you in line." Stiles commented, feeling like they needed to break the awkwardness between them at some point. Especially since it looked like running into each other was going to be the norm from now on.

If their orders were so close, she must have been only a person or two in front of him.

"I didn't see you either." she said with a shrug. "Um, how's your week going?"

"It's uh… I'm glad it's over." he finished, causing her to laugh a little. He tried not to smile, but it was impossible not to after hearing the sound.

"I'm with you. Callahan's essay has been kicking my ass." she explained, taking a sip of her fancy concoction. "Have you ever noticed you and I are the only ones who ever speak up in her class?"

Stiles nodded at that, grinning now. "Yeah. You'd think an ethics class would be cause for more controversy and spark some debate."

"Right?!" she giggled.

A loud voice broke their attention. "LYDIA! Coming?!"

Several feet away, someone was clearly impatient for Lydia's return. Stiles couldn't help but notice how buff the guy was. It seemed Lydia had a type.

She looked awkward suddenly, turning to glance at the guy before pivoting back to Stiles.

"I should let you go. I've got to get to class anyways." Stiles said, his drink arriving at the perfect moment. "I'll see you around, Lydia."

"Yeah." she replied half-heartedly, returning to her companion's side.

"Who was that?" Stiles heard the guy hiss at her.

"He's nobody." she dismissed quickly, irritably, and Stiles felt something twist in his gut.

He didn't know why it hurt. He and Lydia weren't anything. He barely knew her.

But he couldn't seem to shake the feeling of slight betrayal, hating himself for believing she might actually care about him in some small way. The way he did for her.

Stiles got through his final class and headed to the library immediately. Midterms were creeping up quickly, which meant the due date for his ethics essay was closing in quickly. He needed that textbook.

He had glanced at the paper Lydia had printed off the week before and he knew it was a draft of the final paper, which meant she should be done with it now. His days were lessening for him to finish, and he hadn't even started properly.

His grades had to stay high for him to keep the scholarship that was funding the majority of his education. Without it, he'd be out of there.

Arriving at the library, he spotted Lydia over in the history stacks, a new athletic guy engaging her in conversation. His arms were crossed as he leaned closer to her, no doubt trying to show off his biceps as he clearly attempted to flirt.

She looked pretty indifferent, but had on a sly smile, so maybe it was just her ploy for enticing him. Stiles wasn't exactly highly knowledgeable in the flirting techniques of women.

Spotting the ethics book in her arms, Stiles rolled his eyes and sunk into a seat across the library.

He put his headphones in, cranked the volume, and tried to focus on something other than the nagging anxiety that was building in his chest over the fact that he needed a textbook he couldn't afford to buy and couldn't seem to get a hold of in any other way. He had already tried finding an electronic copy to no avail, and he was really starting to get concerned that he was going to have to break into the library in the middle of the night to steal it.

The library had a rule on textbooks—they weren't allowed to be checked out. So unless Lydia stopped hogging it, he was doomed.

He really should have made it his top priority to get the book before now, because likely she only had it the handful of times he actively sought it out. It was hard to balance everything though—he had many assignments all due at the same time—but this was a term paper that was being used in place of a midterm exam, so it was incredibly crucial to his final mark.

He wanted to be proactive and do another part of the assignment, but he wasn't sure how to do any of it. He knew the assignment required him to have some online journals as references outside of the textbook, but he had no idea to find legitimate academic ones. It was his first semester of college, and it seemed like all of a sudden the weight of it was pressing down on him. They had certain expectations of things their students should know how to do without further instruction, and online database searching appeared to be one of them.

It also didn't help that there was a group of about six or more sophomores sitting a few tables over that were loudly chatting about everything outside of academics, making it hard for Stiles to concentrate on anything but trying to tune them out with his iPod. Which, despite the loud volume, wasn't proving very easy.

He buried his face in his hands, trying to focus his breathing. He wasn't a stranger to panic attacks but having one in the middle of the school library was not on his wish list for the semester.


He lifted his head to find Lydia, now alone, watching him in concern.

"You okay?"

"Yeah… yeah, I'm fine." he said, turning down his iPod and cursing himself internally at the way his voice shook slightly.

Worse, Lydia seemed to notice.

"What's wrong?"

He sighed as he leaned back in his chair. "Well, for starters, I need that." he said, pointing to the book in his arms. "Every time I try to get it someone has it, and usually it's you, and the due date is creeping up and I don't even have the full assignment directions because they're in the book, which I didn't buy because it was way too expensive. And I can't even attempt to collect some potential sources because I don't even know how to do online journal database searches, because all that comes up when I Google is Wikipedia and some other shifty looking sites. And I need to provide a copy of my sources in a couple days to prove I've been working on the paper, which clearly I haven't been. And that 'study group' over there is practically turning into a rave party it's so damn loud. I can't hear myself think. And I'm going to lose my scholarship and have to go back home and my whole future is going to go down the drain, all because I'm inept at college and can't even get one fricking textbook."

He knew he was rambling, but he couldn't help himself. His anxiety was bubbling over and this was the result.

Lydia seemed to absorb this before picking the book out of her arms and placing it on the table in front of him.

He immediately felt guilty.

"Lydia, no, you had it first—"

"Do you not need it?"

He sighed. "Yes, I need it, but—"

"Well, then, shut up and take it. Come find me when you're done. I can help you with the online database search."

And without another word, she flipped her hair over her shoulder and walked off.

Stiles stared at the textbook in his hands in shock, gripping along the sides as if testing if it was real. After all this time, it seemed impossible that he finally had his hands on it.

The clicking of heels made him look up and he saw Lydia returning with a grimace.

"Why don't you just come upstairs with me? I've got a room, and you can't even hear those dimwits up there." she said, jerking her head in direction of the 'study group'. "Plus, then we can share."

Stiles couldn't find any viable reason to argue. He gathered his stuff quickly, following her lead.

"Are you sure you don't mind me being there? I don't want to mess with your study schedule."

Lydia flashed him a stunning smile over her shoulder as she shrugged. "I've had worse company."

As her curls bounced against her back when she faced front, something in Stiles' chest did something similar.

It was the second floor, so the private study rooms were different, but still comfortable. Perhaps even better than downstairs.

Stiles took the seat adjacent to her, eager to show his appreciation for her lending him the book and lying it between them after he flipped to the appropriate page.

Lydia looked amused as she watched him copy out the full assignment directions from the book. "Did you really wait this long to ask me for it? I'm sorry I seemed to be hogging it. I thought everyone else except me bought it when I kept lucking in."

Stiles didn't look over, continuing to write, but the pink that formed on his cheeks was enough of an indicator that he was listening. "I didn't want to bother you. You had as much right to it as I did. But thank you, for lending it to me now."

"Well, it's public property."

"Are you always this argumentative when someone tries to express their gratitude?"

Lydia did her best to hide her smile, pulling her own work towards her and pulling out a blue highlighter.

"So you managed to remember them today." Stiles commented quietly, smirking a little, and Lydia stared at the writing utensil in her hand in surprise.

That was Stiles that day?!

God, how had she been so oblivious to him?

"Yes. Normally I'm much more prepared. I had one of my other ones, but I use different highlights for different subjects, so I couldn't mess with my system."

Stiles looked up, clearly intrigued. "You do?"

She nodded. "Pink is for Legal Ethics, yellow is for English Lit, green is for Calculus, and blue is for Biology—"

"WAIT a second." Stiles said with a look of near utter disgust. "You use BLUE for Biology, and green for MATH? What kind of logic is that? They should be switched!"

"But green's my favourite highlighter colour and math is my favourite subject. And who cares? It just matters if they're sorted properly."

"Oh my god, who on earth would make a science course blue. I mean, underwater biology, sure—"

"You mean marine biology."

"—maybe even microbiology. But Biology? Studying plants and organisms and—"

"What's so blue about math?!"

"Math just IS blue, okay?"

Lydia rolled her eyes. "Wow, with an argument like that, I can see why you're taking Legal Ethics. You're going to make a great lawyer."

"I'm not studying to be a lawyer." Stiles said in a grumble under his breath, still looking like choosing any colour but green for a science course was the biggest insult to colours everywhere.

"What are you studying to be then?"

Stiles opened his mouth and then closed it. "I haven't… fully decided yet." he replied honestly.

Lydia settled back into her seat, trying to refocus on her work. She didn't know why her heart was beating so fast. Had arguing with Stiles really got her that riled up?

Glancing over, his eyes looked like they were still sparkling with energy, even though they were downcast to the book next to him.

Without meaning to, Lydia found herself observing him, watching the way he chewed on the corner of his thumb as his eyes scanned the page. His eyebrows were furrowed in concentration, his hair a haphazard mess from his earlier tugging, and she felt a sudden craving to reach over and smooth it back.

Lydia immediately dropped her gaze back to her work and cursed herself internally. What the hell was wrong with her?!

She told herself repeatedly that she couldn't be getting a crush on some random guy that she had just met when she barely knew him.

She was grateful she too wasn't in the running to become a lawyer. She wouldn't make a good one either.

Stiles hadn't expected anything more out of his and Lydia's study session the night before—he had a good time, he felt they got along well despite their random bickering, but he hadn't assumed anything. He knew that being invited to share a book wasn't a one-way ticket into spending more time with Lydia and joining her in the future.

Which is why he was surprised when he felt someone tap his shoulder as he strolled into the library.

He turned around to find the 5'3 strawberry-blonde smiling up at him.

"Still need this?" she asked, wiggling the book in front of her tauntingly. "I snagged a study room again if you're interested."

He couldn't help his face from melting into a grateful smile. "Definitely. You sure? I didn't cramp your style too much yesterday?"

She shook her head. "Nah. Plus I might need to borrow a couple of your highlighters again…"

"Aha! So that's what you're really looking for… just using me for my supplies…"

"Well, you could stay down here, book-less, and with the visiting high school if you'd rather."

Stiles finally noticed that there were a lot more people in the library than usual and spotted a familiar face among the crowd.

"Stiles!" the younger girl squealed excitedly, rushing over and throwing her arms around his neck.

"Hey, Becca." he laughed at her enthusiasm. "What are you doing here?"

"Field trip. Your school has quite the impressive library, so naturally they assigned us a super-hard essay and wanted us to take advantage of the resources." the fifteen-year-old brunette explained with an eye roll. "I was hoping I'd run into you." she added, eyes full of sparkling excitement as they looked into his.

He smiled. "It's good to see you. How are things? How's your brother?"

"Danny's good. Off ruling the technology world. I'm doing fine. School's a pain, but what else is new."

"I feel you there. School is kicking my ass. And I'm kind of swamped right now actually, so I sort of have to go, but you should get back to your class anyways… it looks like they might be moving on without you."

Becca turned to see the crowd heading towards the stairs. "Shit. Thanks. See you!" and she scampered off.

Stiles exhaled and turned to find Lydia looking amused.


"Nothing. It's just cute that you make the young girls swoon."

He grumbled as he followed her, face turning pink. "Shut up."

Lydia was having too much fun. "Friend's little sister?"

"Yeah, we used to play lacrosse together back in high school."

Lydia hadn't ever really contemplated what kind of guy Stiles was in high school. He was a jock?

"Danny was the goalie. I was the one on the bench mostly." he added, seeing her surprised look and knowing where her mind had gone. He wasn't exactly built like an athlete.

"So you spent a lot of time spectating with the families?"

"Essentially." Stiles said as they spread their books out on the table, now inside the private room. "Danny got hurt once, so I waited at the hospital with his sister, and, I don't know, kept her mind off things and tried to keep things light, and she's sort of been… attached since."

Lydia didn't want to admit it, but she found it absolutely adorable. Stiles seemed like such a nice guy, and someone who you'd want by your side during something like that. There was something that was so interesting to her about him; he had so much more to her than she originally imagined. She still didn't really know him, but the more she learned, the more she realized how complex he was.

He could be neurotic and OCD, he could be sweet and considerate, and he could be resourceful and intelligent. She wasn't used to people she couldn't figure out quickly. It seemed like every moment she spent with him, she'd find another new thing about him.

And when they were apart, she found herself wondering things about him. What was his real first name? What kind of life had he had growing up? Did he have a lot of friends at college? She always saw him on his own, but maybe that was personal choice when it came to studying.

"What are you working on?" Stiles asked after a few minutes, pulling Lydia out of her distracted thoughts.

"Hmm? Oh. Just a partner assignment for English Lit."

"Don't you need your partner for that?"

"Trust me, he's useless. It's better for both of us if I handle it myself."

"Not really fair to you, though." Stiles noted.

"I know. Next time I'm not taking pity on him. He's in our legal ethics class too."

"Oh, you mean Aiden? The one who sits in the third row?" Coincidentally, also the guy who interrupted their chat at the coffee cart that one time. Stiles tried not to feel pleased that Lydia seemed less than over the moon about him.

"Yeah, the one that always tries to partner with me? He's too much of a slacker. But I don't know anyone in the class, so rather than be partner-less, I say yes like an idiot. I don't know why my backbone has evaporated since I got to college."

Stiles smiled. "Just ask anybody. That's all I ever do. Plus, when people don't know you, they're less likely to take advantage since they're not sure how decent at the class you are."

Lydia chuckled. "Okay. I'll remember that."

Stiles let his eyes linger on her face for an extra moment, enjoying the warmth that spread through him knowing that he was the cause for her smile.

Time passed quickly, and Stiles joining Lydia for studying became the norm after a couple times of sharing the book, so she didn't even bother asking him to come anymore. He would meet up with her and they'd go together, even after the assignment had long since been done and over with.

It was nice that they had two classes together, since they could work through complicated equations or controversial topics with an ally, but they worked on their other classes during their study sessions too.

It became their routine—getting together after classes for the day to work on school work.

Stiles found he was more prepared for his classes than ever, and used any time between assignments to read ahead in the textbooks. He felt better about participating in them now that he was actually knew what he was talking about.

He and Lydia seemed to be friends now, or at least they were by his standards, but a part of him wondered what happened to all those guys that seemed to be hanging around her before they started hanging out. Maybe he just never saw her with them because they always had predetermined hangout times, but he found it odd. He knew the guy that was her typical partner had all but disappeared, but if Lydia had said no to him like she was planning, than it was understandable why he wasn't running around kissing her ass.

Stiles remembered at the coffee cart, when Aiden had irritably asked why she had been talking to Stiles, and she had told him that he was 'nobody'. It made more sense now—Aiden had felt threatened that Stiles would steal Lydia away. He clearly knew they were all in the same class. It was the only reason that made sense to Stiles anyways.

None of the other athletic guys Stiles had seen Lydia with seemed to be around either. Lydia seemed to be a pretty popular girl, often breaking away from a few girls after class to meet him. He hadn't been introduced to anyone, but it's not like she owed it to him either.

Truth be told, he was just grateful to have her in any way. She was incredibly smart, quick-witted, and definitely could keep up with even his craziest of ramblings, which very few people could. She also had this hidden kindness to her, underneath her layer of snark and indifference—she really cared about people. It was obvious from the way she had rescued him with the textbook thing and even went so far as to help him with his database searches.

She could've just brushed him off, told him to wait his turn, anything but invited him into her study session and therefore into her life. He would be forever grateful that she took pity on him that day, because she was quickly becoming his closest friend at college. She didn't have stiff competition, but still.

She was also very, very easy on the eyes, but he wasn't about to concentrate on that fact for too long.

Lydia suddenly groaned out loud, shoving her papers in irritation.

"Having an incompetent lab partner should seriously be illegal in the education system."

Stiles couldn't help but laugh. "Having trouble with your report?"

"I'm 90 percent sure she didn't even collect the data from the actual control group, so it's absolutely pointless. I have no reference point. God, why doesn't she just drop out? I don't understand why they give us assigned partners but then we are not allowed to switch if we have to."

"Well, now that midterms are over, I think a lot more people will drop or switch out. Some people don't realize post-secondary isn't high school. You can't coast along and slack off and expect it'll get you anywhere."

"Is your chemistry lab partner any better?"

Stiles shook his head. "Nope. Still doesn't know where anything falls on the periodic table and why some elements bond together and others don't. I've given up trying to explain things. I'm half sure he's stoned most classes."

Lydia rolled her eyes in sympathy. "Too bad we weren't taking the same classes. Looks like we both could use a competent lab partner."

Stiles pointedly ignored the way his heart reacted at her proposal that spending more time with him would be ideal. His whole argument that he only liked her as a friend was quickly going down the drain the more time he spent with her.

"Want me to proofread that?" she asked him, seeing the way he was dazedly staring at the draft of his Shakespeare paper.

"You wouldn't mind?"

"Not at all. It's much easier for someone else to read it. I have no idea what you're trying to say. It takes away the bias and makes it easy to see where the holes in explanation and presentation lie."

Stiles handed it over and took a swig of water, grateful for the break of rereading the same sentence eighteen times. After a while of working on the same thing, his brain just seemed to go completely offline.

Lydia started marking corrections, her lip between her teeth as she read along, nodding occasionally.

Stiles phone sounded and he pulled it out of his pocket.

When are you coming this weekend? Miss you bro!

He smiled and texted back his best friend quickly.

Driving down Thursday morning since I have my night class on Wednesday. Can't wait to see you!

"Who are you texting?" Lydia asked casually, sounding a little stiff, no doubt seeing how enthusiastic Stiles suddenly looked.

"My best friend Scott. He's just checking when I'm coming home for Thanksgiving. We haven't seen each other properly since the end of the summer."

Lydia smiled. "You must be excited then."

"Definitely. Plus his mom's cooking is amazing. Me and my dad have been going there for Thanksgiving forever, especially since his dad left, and now that our parents are dating it only makes sense. It'll be an interesting year." Stiles said amusedly.

"Your dad is dating his mom?"

He nodded. "Yeah, but it's cool with us. I've been best friends with Scott since I was four, so he's more my brother than anything. I couldn't ask for anyone better for my dad either, Melissa makes him really happy, and she's already like a second mom to me anyways. They spent a lot of time together over the years and it just happened, but me and Scott were really happy for them when they told us. This will be our first holiday as a more official family."

Lydia nodded. "That sounds really nice."

"So do you have Thanksgiving plans? Going home?"

She shook her head. "Uh, no. My dad travels all the time, even over the holidays, and my mom is spending it with her new boyfriend's family. I'd rather stay here than join that awkwardness." She held back the paper objectively. "Your paper's really good, by the way. I made some notes for you to think about, but otherwise it's good. Very direct, well explained, clear focus. You'll ace it."

"Really?!" he exclaimed happily, taking it back from her and skimming over her notes.

A thought suddenly struck him.

"Lydia, why don't you come home with me? Scott's girlfriend is going to be there, since her family is going away."

"She's not going with them?"

"Uh, no. They're um going hunting, and she's not really into that."

Lydia could understand that. She never understood why people hunted animals for sport. If they were trying to kill you, maybe. But just to put a 'trophy' on the wall? No thanks.

Stiles continued his persistence. "I'm sure she'd appreciate the extra company. Scott's house has a guest room, and even if it's occupied, we can stay at my house if need be. You shouldn't spend the holiday alone. And I'd love to have you there."

She pushed her hair back, busying herself with looking elsewhere, feeling her cheeks warm at his earnest suggestion. "It's really sweet of you to offer, but I wouldn't want to intrude. You haven't seen your family in months. And it's a holiday—you don't want to be bringing some random stranger into it…"

"Don't be ridiculous, they'll all love to have you there. And frankly, Melissa will kill me if she found out a friend of mine was spending Thanksgiving alone up here. Come. Please? We'll drive down in my jeep Thursday morning, stay a few days and then head back on Sunday morning. If you're having an awful time, I promise I'll drive you home early. And you'll have automatic control over the radio."

Lydia couldn't help herself from smiling after that, shaking her head in disbelief. He didn't leave her much room to argue. It was clear he really wanted her to go. And his family did sound really nice.

"All right, fine. But only if I get all of my assignments done before the break."

"YES! We will, I promise." he told her seriously, making a special point to get back to work, furrowing his brow exaggeratedly in concentration.

She laughed and shoved him playfully, rolling her eyes to the heavens in wonder of how she put up with such a goofball.

Chapter Text

It was a stressful couple weeks, but Thanksgiving finally came, and both Lydia and Stiles were assignment-free.

Stiles had called ahead the night before to let his dad know the next day's plans, having already given his dad and Melissa the headsup about the extra person for dinner, and his dad of course took the opportunity to tease him mercilessly.

"So this Lydia… she's just a friend?"

"Yes, Dad, hence me saying I'm bringing my FRIEND Lydia."

"Is she pretty?"

"What does that have to do with anything?!"

His voice practically squeaked, so his dad got a good chuckle out of that.

"I'll take that as a definite yes."

"As I said, she's a friend I met here. We study together. She was going to stay here and be alone for the holiday, so I invited her home with me. End of story."

"Well we're all excited to meet her. I'm sure she's great."

"She is. So please, don't embarrass me."

"You're sure you only like her as a friend?"


"What? I'm just saying… it's not very often my son brings a girl all the way home to meet his family."

"I'm ending this call."

"Fine, fine. More important question…"

"If you finish that sentence with something revolving around contraception, Dad, I swear to god…"

"No, I'm serious, Stiles. Does she know?"

Stiles exhaled. "Of course not."

"Are you sure it's a good idea to bring someone unaware down to visit?"

"It's one weekend, Dad. We can't be normal for one weekend?"

"It's never really been up to us, Stiles, you know that."

"Fine. Do you want me to retract her invitation?"

"No. I just want to make sure you thought this through."

"Well, Scott and Allison will be with us all weekend, and you and Melissa. I can't imagine a safer group."

"Good. All right, I'll let you get back to packing. We'll see you and your 'friend' on Thursday."

Stiles could practically hear the smug smirk his dad was sporting, and he rolled his eyes as he hung up.

Once he packed up the jeep with his bag and pillow, he headed over to Lydia's dorm.

She was waiting on the curb for him, three suitcases and her huge purse with her.

"Uh, Lydia, you know it's only for three nights, right?"

She sent him a look, like he had just said something highly crude. "And did you supply me with an itinerary of what we were going to do? If I recall correctly, when I texted you you said 'we're going to eat dinner and then hangout the rest of the weekend'. Really clear. So I had to pack for everything. I don't know what your family's traditions are or what we'll do in our down time or—"

He smirked. "We usually just eat dinner. And dessert, if we're lucky."

Lydia made an irritated noise that rivaled a ruffled bird, so Stiles raised his eyes skyward and attempted to lift one suitcase, but nearly toppled over with how heavy it was.

"How many young children are you smuggling into Beacon Hills? Jesus, Lydia, these weigh a hundred pounds!"

"Well, be more specific next time!" she retorted, dragging the other two behind her as Stiles struggled with the first one.

Eventually, he got all three in the back and Lydia took her rightful seat in shotgun.

"Are you looking forward to going home?" she asked him, previous argument forgiven and forgotten.

Stiles put the jeep in drive and pulled away from the building. "Yeah… yeah, of course."

He really hoped his dad hadn't been right about it being risky bringing Lydia home for a weekend. The last thing he wanted to do was drag her into something she needn't be involved in.

He also hoped his dad kept his promise not to embarrass him. Lydia was looking particularly beautiful and he figured he'd be derailing their friendship on his own over the weekend without any outside help.

Stiles pulled up in front of the McCall house, familiarity and warmth immediately washing over him. Scott's house was as much home as his own was; he spent just as much time there.

Lydia followed him to the front door, her purse hung over one shoulder, and forcing a smile when Stiles glanced at her for confirmation that she was ready. They left their luggage in the car, not sure where they were staying overnight yet and not wanting to drag it in until necessary.

Feeling strange, Stiles knocked on the front door. He used to always invite himself in, whether they were home or not, until Scott got him a key since his mom didn't like Stiles going through Scott's bedroom window.

Since he had been away, it seemed only fitting that he knock now.

"Come in!" came a cry from inside the house.

Stiles led the way, his hand protectively falling to Lydia's lower back.

Melissa came out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on the apron she was wearing, and shook her head in disbelief at the teenage boy.

"I can't even recall the last time you knocked on my front door, Stiles." she teased, enveloping him in a huge hug.

Her hair had evidence of flour in it, so he had hope that she was working on her famous apple pie for dessert.

"Sorry, won't happen again." he countered, squeezing her back before pulling away with a happy smile. "Melissa, this is my friend Lydia. Lydia, this is Scott's mom and my dad's newest conquest."

"Conquest?!" his dad's familiar bark of disbelief came, him entering the room now. "Honestly, why were we looking forward to him coming home?"

"Because it's too quiet around here without him. So nice to meet you." Melissa told the younger girl, hugging her too, which clearly caught her by surprise.

Lydia hugged her back when she caught up. "Same here. Thank you for letting me crash your Thanksgiving dinner."

"Oh, please, the more the merrier!"

Stiles pulled back from hugging his dad, grinning at him for his earlier jab, before turning back to Lydia.

"Dad, Lydia. Lydia, Dad."

"You can call me John actually. Or Sheriff works too." he told her, shaking her hand formally.

"STILES!" a male shout suddenly came, followed by the thundering of feet against stairs, and Stiles was running towards him without hesitation.


They crashed into each other in a flurry of limbs and shouts, laughing excitedly, and a brunette came down the stairs much more calmly after them.

"First thing to learn about Scott and Stiles? They're the furthest thing from normal." the girl commented amusedly, looking over her shoulder with affection at the pair.

They were still talking a mile a minute and entangled giddily, so she turned back. "I'm Allison, Scott's girlfriend. You must be Lydia."

"Nice to meet you." Lydia said with a smile, meaning it.

"You've got to watch this one. She's dangerous." Stiles said, finally rejoining the group, almost out of breath from his reunion with Scott. "How's it going, warrior princess?"

Allison rolled her eyes but pulled him into a hug, ruffling his hair. "Good to have you home, Stilinski."

"Warrior princess?" Lydia asked in confusion, hoping someone would fill in the blank.

"Allison does archery. Uh, you know, been in a few competitions. She's nationally ranked." the Latino boy, who Lydia now knew was Scott, explained.

"So you guys have seen her shoot?"

Stiles and Scott exchanged a quick look.

"Uh, yeah, we watch her compete sometimes. She's crazy good. Could definitely kick our ass if it ever came down to it."

"You better hope it doesn't." Allison teased, bumping her hip into his.

"I'm Scott, by the way. Nice to meet you, Lydia."

Whatever weirdness had appeared, immediately evaporated and Lydia was grateful. She had a feeling she'd be spending much of the weekend missing out on inside jokes and typical trivia.

"Likewise." she told him with a smile.

"So… Happy Thanksgiving!" Stiles said when it suddenly went quiet for a beat too long. "When do we eat? I'm starving."

"Stiles, we just ate lunch not even an hour ago." Lydia reminded him, trying to hide her amusement.

"I'm a growing boy, Lydia, god, have a heart."

She had to shake her head at him as they headed into the kitchen with everybody, some of the others chuckling at his jest.

Melissa gestured to the various food-in-progress around the kitchen. "So, I'm working on the apple pie. Allison has already made the pumpkin. John's going to do the turkey, Scott's agreed to do the mashed potatoes, I'll handle the stuffing and the rest of the side vegetables… Stiles and Lydia, do you want to do the sweet potatoes?"

Before Stiles could protest, say that Lydia shouldn't have to do anything since she was a guest, she piped up.

"Sure. I love sweet potatoes." she said with a bright smile.

Stiles shrugged. "Sweet potatoes it is."

Melissa handed them the bag and they set up shop at one of the counters, Stiles washing them before passing them to Lydia to be peeled.

Allison and Scott sat across from them at the stools while Scott worked on his own potatoes.

"So Lydia, are you in first year too?" Allison asked.

She nodded. "Science major. Planning on studying medicine."

John looked up from his spot and made eye contact with Stiles. He gave him a thumbs-up and a wink, nodding exaggeratedly in approval, and Stiles shot aggressive daggers at him, melting his face into indifference when Lydia looked over.

"Very impressive. Scott's studying to be a veterinarian. I'm not really sure what I want to do, but I'm in first year nursing."

"That's pretty impressive too." Lydia said, smiling at the pair of them.

She couldn't help but be a little jealous at the way they looked proudly at each other. It was easy to tell the pair was in love, and that it wasn't the typical teenager type.

It was quiet for a moment, so Lydia continued on. "Your jacket is really cute, by the way. Where did you get it?"

Allison smiled. "My mom used to run a boutique back when we lived in San Francisco. They had the greatest stuff. I've got a huge pile of stuff back at my place, if you want to head over there some time this weekend and pick through some? I will never wear it all."

"You are my new best friend." Lydia said with a grin, causing the other girl to laugh.

She noticed Stiles smiling too, although he kept his eyes on his work, and she figured he was happy that she was fitting in so well.

"So how did you meet Stiles?" Scott asked, since Stiles had yet to give him the details.

Stiles and Lydia both glanced at each other awkwardly, causing the others to look confused.

"I lent her a highlighter—"

"I stole his seat—"

"Oh right." Lydia said, since they had overlapped each other. "The highlighter thing was first. But then you nearly stole my drink."

"After you had been hogging the textbook I needed for a solid week." Stiles countered, raising his eyebrows in challenge. "And let's not forget I saved your ass from printing an entire forest of paper that one night."

"Hey! Who helped you with your database searches?!"

"Well, who helped you restore your files after your laptop crashed?!"

"Who proofread your Shakespeare essay?!"

"Was that before or after I saved you from your usual slacker partner in Legal Ethics?"

Lydia let out a noise of irritation, mirroring Stiles' scoff, and they both grouchily turned back to their work.

The other four were staring at the pair and then glancing at each other. None were oblivious to how fast both of them were keeping up with each other or the fire in their eyes. They very much liked arguing with each other, whether they said it out loud or not.

"So tell me more about this seat stealing thing." Allison piped up, the only one brave enough to break up the silence, leaning her chin on her hand as she flashed a brilliant smile. She was clearly very much enjoying the dynamic between the pair.

Stiles tried not to smile, but it was difficult. "So, I'm having one of my worst days ever. I overslept my alarm for the first time, on one of the few days I have a really early class, and of course everyone and their dog is in the bathroom when I go to shower—"

Lydia suddenly gasped dramatically. "They allow dogs in your dorm?!"

Stiles raised his voice louder, purposely ignoring Lydia's sarcasm, which caused her to grin in satisfaction. "—And I can't skip. And I nick myself shaving like a thirteen-year-old. And I go to grab breakfast, but since I'm late, nothing is left. So I grab a muffin, which is disgusting and I toss out anyways, but I make it on time for class. So I rush in and go to sit down in my seat, which by the way is the only left-handed desk in the room, and there sits this nightmare in high heels—"

Lydia barked out a laugh at that, amused by his description. "Nice storytelling skills, Stiles. Make the audience pity you before you get to your villain moment."

"It's not a pity ploy if it's actually what happened."

"Oh please, you act like the seat was your first born. My usual seat was taken, so I found the next available closest to the front, which happened to be 'yours'. It should be mentioned that there is no seating arrangement in our class, so there is no such thing as people having their own seats."

"Come on, Lydia, I had sat there every day. Most people would understand. No one else ever tried to take it from me."

"If you had been on time, I wouldn't have either."

"Well, anyways, ignore her. I asked for it back and she just brushes me off and tells me to sit somewhere else, despite my explanation—"

"It's a seat for god sakes! All my stuff was already laid out! It's not like they don't all work the same way."

"It was the only left-handed desk in the room!"

"Are you even left-handed?!"

Stiles and Lydia continued bickering, their storytelling forgotten, and Allison kissed the back of Scott's hand, sending him a look.

He grinned back at her, knowing exactly what she was thinking. There was no way Stiles and Lydia weren't into each other. And what kind of friends would they be if they didn't try to help get their friends what they truly wanted?

Dinner managed to get made without any casualties, with, after learning quickly that Lydia and Stiles had different opinions on how to cook sweet potatoes, was quite the miracle.

The group sat around the dining room table, passing food to each other, and the chatter was all upbeat and happy.

Lydia couldn't miss the way the others looked at Stiles, clearly extremely happy to have him home. He and Scott kept laughing over stuff that no one understood, and he and his dad seemed to have an amazing relationship, and even he and Allison clearly got along well. It was clear they all loved each other very much. Lydia had never been in such a warm household.

And it wasn't like they were oblivious to her presence either. Each of them were very welcoming, explaining old memories when they came up so she didn't feel left out when everyone talked about them, and asking questions about her.

"I still can't believe you got that tattoo." Melissa was saying to her son, shaking her head as she nodded towards the double black ring around his upper left arm.

"Mom, I turned eighteen. It's a rite of passage!"

"Yeah, and don't complain. You didn't have to go with him." Stiles said through a mouthful of potatoes.

"I told him you should've taken me." Allison said to her boyfriend, then turned to Lydia. "Stiles fainted."

"I don't like needles! Or blood!"

Allison shook her head at him as she took a big bite of her roll.

"Did you do anything major for your eighteenth, Lydia?"

Lydia turned pink. "Uh, no, I actually haven't turned eighteen yet."

"Really? When is your birthday?"

"November 29th."

"But that's tomorrow!"

Lydia dug into her stuffing. "Huh, yeah, I guess it is…"

She was a horrible liar.

Stiles looked absolutely flabbergasted. "You never told me it was your birthday this weekend!"

"It's no big deal…"

"Um, it's a HUGE deal. Lydia, you can buy porn, fireworks and vote! It's important!"

"And get a tattoo and most things without parental consent." Scott added.

"We have to celebrate." Allison said keenly. "We'll think of something really fun to do. There's got to be something."

"Allison, it's Beacon Hills." Stiles deadpanned, and she tossed her rolled up napkin at him.

"Shut up. We'll find something. It'll be super fun. You are not bringing in eighteen watching Scott and Stiles play video games. We can do whatever you want."

Lydia was red now. "You guys, it's very sweet, but you don't have to go to any trouble—"

"Oh no, we are going to the trouble. We'll make it your best birthday ever. You only turn eighteen once." Allison said stoutly.

Lydia gave in finally. It didn't look like she was going to win the argument, especially when the parents joined in on having the dinner at the house and making a special cake.

After dinner, they all piled into the living room to eat pie and watch a movie. Lydia settled next to Stiles, laughing when he fake-tried to steal a bite out of hers, and she realized how at peace she felt. She couldn't remember the last time she had felt so comfortable around strangers. Having Stiles next to her was wonderful, but she felt relaxed even when he wasn't so close. His family and friends were great. She was so grateful for the invite—she never would have had this back at the university or with her own family.

That thought should have made her sad, but she couldn't feel sad when she was feeling so happy.

Lydia excused herself after the movie to return the dishes to the sink, while the others talked about their thoughts on it, placing them in the dishwasher.

Stiles followed shortly after, having gathered the rest, and shot her a smile.

"Hey, how are you holding up?"

"Good." she told him honestly. "Your family is really great."

He knew she was referring to all four, knowing that Scott, Allison and Melissa were practically family.

"They are. I've missed them." He looked over his shoulder to make sure they were alone. He smirked a little mischievously. "So… what do you want for your birthday?"

She shook her head. "No. No way. You are not getting me anything. I don't need anything, definitely can't fit anything more in my dorm, and I already owe you way too much for taking pity on me and dragging me home with you when you're supposed to be catching up with your family."

"Hey, if you haven't noticed, I am. Just fine, even with you here. You're not a burden, Lydia. They're just as happy to have you here as they are to have me, and so am I." he said compassionately, looking at her so seriously she felt her knees soften a little. "It definitely wasn't a pity invite. I'm glad you're here."

Lydia wasn't sure how to respond to that, feeling a little too emotional to form proper words. No one had ever welcomed her into their home and life the way Stiles had. It felt so surreal. She knew they were friends, and he was definitely her best friend since coming to college, but still. He had no obligation to go so above and beyond for her.

"So, you can either tell me what you want, or you can tell me nothing and end up with a bunch of stuff you don't want. Your call."

"I'm not telling you anything, in the hopes it will discourage you. I don't need anything. We'll hangout all day, eat dinner and cake here, and that will be more than enough."

Stiles shrugged. "Can't say I didn't try."

"Stiles…" she giggled, pulling on his arm, unable to believe his stubbornness. She hadn't planned on him finding out about her birthday at all, but the last thing she had wanted to do was lie when asked directly. It would've come out eventually, maybe not that weekend, but Stiles probably would've never forgiven her, if his attitude now was anything to go by.

Stiles tickled her waist in retaliation, causing her to sink into him in squeals of protest, his triumphant laughs joining in the mix now, and he stopped after a minute of torturing her.

"I forgot to tell you earlier, but you look beautiful."

The sincerity in his words made her face flush instantly.

What the hell was wrong with her? She never blushed from compliments or a guy being nice to her, but she seemed to be completely susceptible to it tonight. It must be because of the emotions of the day.

She smiled shyly, tucking her hair behind her ears, looking down at her striped dress. "Thank you. Just something I had in my closet. I wasn't sure how dressy your family got."

She realized they had been in the kitchen for god knows how long, and corrected her throat as she led the way back to the living room.

Stiles sighed. "I didn't mean just tonight." he murmured to himself before following the strawberry blonde.

Chapter Text

The rest of the night went well, and Lydia felt like she had gotten a great look into who Stiles was. Something about seeing the way someone interacted with the closest people in their life felt so intimate.

For instance, she never got to experience his humour quite like she had that weekend. She found herself laughing more than ever, even though sometimes she tried to hide it so he couldn't see how completely smitten she was becoming. And he was kind, and generous, and so well-mannered. He was the kind of guy who immediately offered to help when he saw someone struggling with something, like when Melissa tried to pack up the leftovers and nearly spilled half of them on the floor. He teased her mercilessly for it, of course, but he and Scott were like moths to a flame in helping out. It was clear that they both thought the world of her, too. And Melissa looked at them like they were the moon and the stars.

Lydia could understand what she saw in them. She hadn't known Stiles long, but she'd known Scott even less, and she wasn't oblivious that both young men were pretty special by anyone's standards.

Stiles also was intelligent, not just in the way he spoke or the words he used, but in the way he saw the world. There was something about the way he held himself that made it clear that he understood people and how the world functioned. It wasn't just his vast vocabulary, the way he presented his views, or how knowledgable he was on certain subjects, although those things were impressive all on their own, but it was in the way he could read when someone was confused about something and he would further explain it; or, when he knew the best time to crack a joke or jump in to break an awkward silence or turn a mood around. He always seemed to know what to do or figure out an issue before most people could even catch on that there was a problem.

Lydia could relate to many aspects of Stiles' personality, but it was clear their lives were very different. From what she had learned, he had been an absolute troublemaker growing up, but it sounded as though his life had been rich in vibrancy. He took risks, got busted too many times, but still repeatedly went out on reckless adventures, dragging Scott with him.

Allison, too, was wonderful, and an active member in many of the stories that were told over the holiday evening. It felt crazy to feel so close to a girl she just met, but Lydia and Allison just clicked. More than once they got lost in chatting with each other and giggling, completely forgetting about the boys next to them. To be fair, Scott and Stiles did it to them more, but Allison had warned Lydia that they were practically the same person when they were together so it wasn't a surprise.

Best of all, Lydia felt like she fit in. It's not as though she didn't have friends back home and she had grown up being rather well liked, but it was different with them. She felt at home, as if she had known them all for much longer than a few hours.

When Lydia first met Stiles, she never imagined that she'd ever have a friendship like this with him—sharing friends, meals, and sleeping arrangements.

Of course, Lydia would be sharing the guest room with Allison that night, while Stiles crashed in Scott's room with him. Melissa and the Sheriff would be in the master bedroom.

Lydia was sort of excited to hang out with Allison on her own and get some proper girl time. Allison was really easy to talk to, to feel comfortable around, and Lydia had a feeling she'd be pretty good at getting her to spill her guts.

She couldn't remember the last time she'd had a proper sleepover with a girl friend. Lydia usually had male companions of a different nature overnight, but that was a different time.

Before Lydia settled in her temporary bedroom, she headed to the bathroom to brush her teeth.

She had to giggle to herself at the sight of Allison kissing Scott down the hall, both of them lost in smiles and whispered words between brushing lips. It was nice to see two people so happy to be in the company of the other.

Naturally, the bathroom was already occupied when she got there, but the door was open and she could see Stiles pulling a toothbrush out of a drawer.

"Aw, you have your own spare toothbrush here?" she teased, leaning against the doorjamb.

Stiles turned with a smirk to see her in all her pajama pants and tank top glory. He was dressed in a burgundy t-shirt and grey sweats.

"Scott went so far as to make me a key. Melissa always got upset when I broke in through his bedroom window."

Lydia had to laugh at the image.

"You can come in, you know. I don't bite, and there's more than enough sink space."

She shrugged. "You had first dibs. It's no problem for me to wait."

"Have it your way." he said with a mirroring shrug, lathering up his pearly whites with toothpaste, making an extra effort to take his time.

She didn't realize what he was doing until he raised an eyebrow at the mirror in her direction, and she finally scoffed and entered the room.

"Fine. But if I spit on your hand, I better not hear anything from you."

Stiles laughed, muffled from the toothbrush stuffed in his mouth, and Lydia began working on cleaning her own mouth.

She adjusted her hair in the mirror as she stood with her other arm protectively across her middle, wondering what the state of it tomorrow morning would be. She made a mental note to try to snag the shower first. She didn't fancy everyone seeing her at her worst so soon after meeting them. She knew enough now to know they likely wouldn't care, but it was her own personal pride she was worried about bruising.

Stiles suddenly stepped in front of her, exaggeratedly adjusting his own hair, and hardly able to hide the forming grin around his toothbrush as he saw the annoyed look on her face.

She bumped her hip into his to shove him over, unable to look him in the eye or else she'd crack up, and she rinsed her toothbrush before shoving it back between her lips.

Their teeth brushing continued in much the same manner, frequent but short bursts of amusement, before they pretended to be serious and got back to work.

Lydia swore she had never spent so long brushing her teeth in one sitting in her life.

When they finally finished, Lydia realized the time to separate couldn't be put off any longer.

"Well, I guess I'll see you in the morning."

"Yeah. You going to be okay sharing with Allison tonight?"

"Of course. She's great. I like her a lot actually."

Stiles smiled broadly at that. "I thought you would. She's pretty great all around. She makes Scott insanely happy too, so I guess I'd like her by default regardless."

"Scott's great too. They all are."

"Yeah. Well, I guess I should get back to his room. Night, Lydia."

"Night, Stiles."

They broke away from their close standing and headed down their respective directions to their rooms for the night.

Before Stiles could open Scott's door, she turned around and grabbed his wrist.

"Hey, sorry. Um, thanks again, for inviting me this weekend. It's been a really great time so far."

Stiles smiled. "Of course. I'm glad you're here. And tomorrow is going to be even better, birthday girl." he teased.

Lydia bit her lip, looking away shyly, before raising her eyes to meet his again.

The atmosphere between them changed, Lydia suddenly very aware that she was still touching his arm, and his breathing seemed to slow as he watched her.

"Um, so, goodnight I guess." she said quickly, retracting her hand and using it to push her hair off her face.


He flashed her a smile before opening Scott's door and leaving her to head down to the guestroom.

She didn't realize until she had laid down on the bed in her room how much she had wanted him to kiss her.

Allison returned to her room shortly after Lydia settled in, and she immediately grinned at the girl before leaping excitedly on the bed.

Lydia had to laugh at her antics, sitting up straighter as Allison scooted over.

"Okay, so time to start getting to the good stuff."

She had a pretty good feeling what was coming, but she feigned innocence instead. "Which is?"

Allison sent her a look, clearly seeing right through her thinly veiled disguise. "Your completely obvious feelings for Stiles."

"He's right down the hall." Lydia reminded her in a whisper.

"So? I guarantee you he and Scott are already too invested in doing the exact same thing that they wouldn't even be smart enough to contemplate eavesdropping."

"Very nice, Allison."

"What? I love Scott, but even I have to admit the guy can be a little slow at certain things. It's okay, it's totally endearing, and he's smart where it counts."

Lydia rolled her eyes.

Allison hugged her knees and poked Lydia in the thigh. "Come on, Lydia. You know you're dying to spill."

"I've got nothing to spill." Lydia said, completely unconvincingly.

She burrowed herself under the blankets, peeking out at Allison who was grinning.

"I'm not buying it, so you might as well just spit it out. Why is it so hard to admit you like him?"

Lydia focused her eyes on her nails.

"I… I don't know. It's different with Stiles, somehow. I've liked boys before, hell been with boys before, and no one…" She threw her hands up in frustration. "No one else has ever reduced me to this, unable to use my words."

Allison smiled to herself, settling in to listen now that it looked like Lydia was ready to talk. "Sounds like you like him a lot."

Lydia sighed. "You know, growing up, I learned rather fast that most guys get intimidated by smart girls. I started dumbing myself down, and it worked. I got asked out plenty, scored a few boyfriends, and even thought I was in love for a while. But I realized that I didn't really like myself when I was playing dumb. So when I went to university, I decided that I could show my intelligence more, but old habits die hard. My old… type would come up to me, and I could actually feel my IQ lowering. Until I met Stiles."

Allison was listening aptly. "What was so different about him?"

"He was so confrontational, so… quick-witted. And before long, we were studying together and I was practically showing off how smart I was any time he asked me a question, especially in Calculus, since math was always my best subject. And just the way he looked at me…"

She shut up, blushing now.

"I guess I really am obvious, huh?"

Allison giggled. "Not exactly. But seeing the fire in both of your eyes after you were arguing was a pretty big clue."

"Ugh, he is so infuriating! And hellishly stubborn! He would not let me say no to coming this weekend, even though I insisted I didn't want to intrude on his first visit home, and it's like he doesn't know how to listen! And god, you should hear his protests against highlighter colour choices. Absolutely unreal. He is so… so…"

She couldn't even finish her sentence, because just the thought of his smug smirk or the sight of his open-mouthed laugh was enough to make her stomach do flips.

Allison decided to finish her sentence for her. "So under your skin?"

Lydia blew out a breath, but nodded before burying her face in her knees. "Boys suck."

Allison laughed. "I don't know. I think we picked some good ones."

"So how about you start spilling about you and Scott? When did you two get together?"

Allison smiled. "Sophomore year of high school. Me and my family just moved to town, and Scott was the first person to be nice to me. I had made a vow that I wouldn't date any boys until college, but he of course ruined that plan. I just moved too much, and didn't want to start something that had to be finished."

"You guys seem pretty perfect together."

The brunette shrugged, picking at the blanket, her eyes cast downwards. "Like anyone, we have our ups and downs. We actually broke up for a little while in high school, tried dating other people, but we kept getting drawn back together. It's hard to ignore that puppy face."

Lydia figured there was more to the break-up story than she was saying, but it wasn't her place to ask. Allison would tell her if she wanted to. Instead, the archer launched into further detail of her life before and since moving to Beacon Hills, and Lydia found herself sharing some of her own history without worry. She normally was a much more private person, but she couldn't help herself around Allison. She just made it so easy to confide in, such a generous listener and always seeming to know how to ask the right questions to get Lydia to spill more.

The night grew later, and Lydia really felt like she had just found a new best friend.

"Okay, I'm exhausted. And if we're going to celebrate your birthday properly tomorrow, we'll need our rest." Allison teased as she flicked off the lamp.

Lydia yawned as she snuggled into her pillow. "I wonder if the boys are already asleep and what they've been up to. Or talking about."

"Oh my god, dude. If you say one more time how beautiful Allison's smile is I'm going to suffocate you with my pillow." Stiles grumbled, down the hall, but he was grinning, because he had missed Scott even if he did talk about Allison too much.

"Would you rather talk about how gorgeous Lydia is?"

Scott looked far too smug, even as Stiles sent him a look, so he caved.

"I don't know what that has to do with me. You can thank her parents for that."


Stiles ran a hand through his hair. "Yeah, she's gorgeous. Yeah, she's crazy smart and charming and totally out of my league. Come on, Scott, did you forget that fast who I am?"

"Don't be like that. You're way too hard on yourself, man."

"I've seen her hanging out with guys much buffer than me, Scott. And a few of them. And I've heard guys say she's… experienced. And look at me. I'm lucky I even had one girlfriend in my life."

"And who did she come home with for Thanksgiving weekend? And I doubt Lydia cares about that—"

"Really? Really? That's hardly evidence! Maybe she didn't get any other offers and didn't want to be alone! We're friends. Friends hangout on the weekend."

"Whatever, bro. Deny your guys' growing romance all you want." Scott teased, leaning over to shut off the lamp and settling down in the blankets. "But Stiles?"

Stiles made himself comfortable and looked over.

"No matter how much of a stubborn pain in the ass you can be, I'm still really glad you're home."

Stiles smiled. "Me too, Scottie."

It didn't take long for Scott to fall asleep, but Stiles stayed awake for longer, staring at the ceiling.

Talking about Lydia shortly before bed was dangerous. Now he wondered if he would ever be able to fall asleep.

He had learned rather quickly at school that studying late with Lydia, or thinking about her before he went to bed, meant his mind would be fixated on her and infiltrated her into his dreams.

Tonight, knowing she was only down the hall from him, not across campus, it was different. He knew the room she slept in here—he had no idea what her dorm looked like. He now knew what kind of pajamas she wore, how she piled her hair in a bun on top of her head, and how she brushed her teeth.

It was stupid, to feel intimately closer to someone you had only gotten glimpses of really. Stiles had always been an ambitious learner, despite his poor attention span growing up, but when he was interested, he was invested. And he very much was interested in learning more about Lydia.

Maybe it was her private demeanour, how little she shared about herself, that really drew him in. There was something about her—he felt like he could actually see her walls starting to come down around him. And he was eager to let her.

Scott snored lightly next to him, but Stiles lay awake, staring at the ceiling, missing Lydia.

He hated the way the center of his being ached. He wanted to be with her, to trade places with Allison, so he could watch her fall asleep, talk to her late in the night, feel her body heat next to his.

He loved being reunited with Scott, with his dad, with his life, but Lydia was becoming an important part of it too.

Stiles didn't want to fall for her the way he had—why couldn't he just have one regular friend at college?—but he didn't need Scott to tell him that his feelings were undeniable.

He had to be her friend this weekend though. And every weekend, he chastised himself. Tomorrow was Lydia's birthday, and, as her friend, he was going to do his best to make it her best birthday ever.

He didn't know her all that well, but just the way she reacted to everyone's enthusiasm over her birthday made it pretty clear that she wasn't used to being fussed over on that one day a year.

He wanted Lydia to have a good time that weekend. If her family were as absent as they seemed, she deserved this.

Stiles rolled over, trying to forget about how excited he was to see her the next day and have an excuse to pay excess attention to her, and tried to get comfortable to sleep.

Down the hall, Lydia was doing the same thing.

She was really happy with the new friend she'd found in Allison, but she still found herself missing the amber-eyed boy.

Speak of the devil, Lydia heard the squeak of the door down the hall. She knew immediately it was Scott's having heard Stiles slip into it earlier.

Who was to say it was Stiles anyways? Maybe Scott had to use the bathroom or—

Lydia heard a sudden noise, sounding like someone bumped into the hall table.

"Son of a—" she heard a familiar voice grumble in irritation, forcing himself into quietness.

Lydia smiled to herself. She could recognize that annoyed outburst anywhere.

Glancing at Allison, who appeared to be sleeping soundly, Lydia slipped out of bed and padded downstairs to where Stiles had disappeared.

She didn't see him at first, not really sure where he had gone, until she heard the snap of a screen door closing.

Lydia crept through the kitchen towards the back door, suddenly worried she was intruding. She had been so eager to see him she hadn't even contemplated that maybe he wanted to be alone. He hadn't had a minute alone since they left campus. He deserved some peace and quiet.

Unfortunately, the floor creaked, and Stiles turned from his spot on the porch.

She grimaced and gave an awkward wave, and his returning smile made her heart spasm.

"I hope I'm not intruding." she said quietly as she sneaked outside to join him on the stairs.

"Of course not. I just couldn't sleep. Everything okay?"

"Yeah, definitely. I'm just a little… wired I guess. I can't sleep either."

I've been too busy thinking about you. she silently added.

She settled next to him, and he bumped his knees against hers playfully.

"Excited about tomorrow?"

She blushed, ducking her head so she didn't have to meet his eyes, but she needn't bother. He already knew.

He smirked. "You know, you don't lose any badass points with me if you say yes."

She rolled her eyes at him. "Badass points? How did I get those in the first place? From acting like a total girl over the printer spazzing out?"

"Hey, you also weren't afraid to stand up for yourself and your temporary seat… basically you're never afraid to speak your mind, and that takes some guts. And something about you tells me you could probably kick my ass if it came down to it."

She scoffed. "Must be why you're always on such good behaviour around me."

"What can I say, you bring out the mischievous in me." Stiles said cheekily, eyes up to the sky now.

Lydia followed his gaze, seeing the stars littering the sky with twinkles.

When she cast her eyes back to his face, something in it made her arm reach to loop through his, and she scooted closer to lean her head on his shoulder.

Stiles let his fingers slip between hers so their hands were linked.

"You okay?" Lydia asked quietly, hearing the soft saddened sigh he released, keeping her eyes ahead so as not to intimidate him into spilling his guts.

"Yeah. I'm fine."

She raised her head a little, to send him a look. She hadn't been sure before, but his tone was completely unconvincing, and he rolled his eyes as she settled back into him.

"Just thinking about my mom. How I wish she was still here."

Lydia swallowed. Stiles hadn't explained why he only had his dad around. She sort of had a feeling that she had died, but Stiles hadn't ever elaborated on the subject. He never mentioned her at all.

"I'm sorry." was all she could think to say. "I didn't mean to pry."

"No, it's okay. You weren't. I just… I mean, holidays bring up a lot memories on their own. But I was just thinking…"

He went quiet, not in an emotional way but as if he was embarrassed, if his body language was anything to go by.


"I mean, there are plenty of times I had wished she was around. Things I wish I could've talked to her about, things I wish I could ask her or learn about her. And, you know, certain events I wish she was there for, like birthdays and Christmases and my high school graduation. But today… I don't know. I really wish she could've been here today. Not just because she'd love seeing how happy Dad is after so long of being so broken… but I really wish she could've met you."

Lydia felt a lump form in her throat instantly and her eyes began to sting. No one had ever said something so touching to her before, and there was no doubt that Stiles meant it. It was clear in his voice.

He nudged her temple affectionately. "She would've loved you, Lyds. Your firecracker energy, the way you don't let me get away with shit. You and her would've gotten along amazingly."

She didn't know what to say. Stiles had somehow rendered her completely speechless. The only thing she could really do was hold back her tears.

His thumb brushed along hers tenderly and she closed her eyes at his gentleness. She wasn't used to this from boys. She wasn't used to someone coming in, saying sincere, tender things, and still not trying to make a move on her. She wasn't used to feeling so close to somebody she still had so much to learn about. She wasn't used to having her heart feel this full just by being near someone.

She wasn't used to gentle, real love. She was used to passion, to attraction, to playing a role. She could pretend to be the cocky, self-assured, never-wrong-or-second-best popular girl. She could play up the always-get-the-guy trope.

She had only ever let herself fall for one guy before, and it wasn't on purpose, but she knew that her broken heart from that ordeal would be nothing like if something took her away from Stiles.

And that was enough to make her panic.

Before she could pull away, lie and tell Stiles she was tired, make some excuse to put some distance between them, Stiles moved first.

"I've got an idea. Wait here."

The excitement on his face as he scampered back inside tugged at her heartstrings and she knew she couldn't leave now.

Damn him and his hold on her. She was completely wrapped around his finger.

Stiles came back and sat next to her, pulling out a lighter.

Her eyes narrowed in concern. "Stiles. I really don't think your pyromania issues are a good thing to bring up if we're hoping to have an injury free weekend. This patio is made of wood."

He sent her an exasperated look.

"Look." he dug his phone out from the pocket of his sweatpants, thrusting the screen in her direction.

She saw the time. 11:59 p.m.

"You have one minute left of being seventeen! You should make a wish at midnight!"

Lydia had to laugh at his child-like enthusiasm.

"I'm going to have to make a wish later. Melissa's making a cake. I can't cheat and have two."

"Why not?! You can have one now, as a goodbye to your childhood, and one later for your foray into adulthood! A childish wish and an adult wish. It's totally legal."

"You just made that up."

"So?! Come onnnnnnnnn, Lydia…"

The clock flipped to 12:00 a.m. and Lydia sighed as Stiles spun the gear to bring up the flame. Scrunching her nose teasingly at him, she blew out the tiny flame as she closed her eyes and made a wish.

I wish that Stiles is always this happy.

As she opened her eyes, Stiles' grin surfaced. "Happy birthday!"

Lydia smiled fully back, glad her wish had already come true. Seeing Stiles happy was all she needed.

He flipped the lid back on the lighter and stretched his arms above his head, yawning obnoxiously.

He met her eyes and then paused, reaching out a hand to touch her face.

"Hold still. You have an eyelash on your cheek."

Lydia made herself as motionless as she could, considering her heart was pumping hard in her chest cavity at his close proximity. He had leaned in to get a better look at the perpetrator and she hadn't missed the way his gaze dropped to her lips.

She wet hers in anticipation, watching him carefully, silently begging him to go for it.

A snap of twigs from across the lawn made them both jump, effectively ruining the spell, and before Lydia could contemplate what the noise could be, Stiles had already stood and pulled out the baseball bat that had apparently been sitting beside him the whole time. How had she missed that?

A guy that had to be a few years older than them came into view, the darkness of the scruff on his face having nothing on the brooding colour of his eyes, and he stopped at the sight of them.

Stiles lowered his bat. "What the hell are you doing here in the middle of the night?"

"I came to talk to Scott. What the hell are you doing back in Beacon Hills?" the stranger asked, none too pleasantly.

Stiles sighed exasperatedly. "Happy Thanksgiving to you too, Derek."

Derek crossed his arms, rolling his eyes. "You know I didn't mean it like that."

"Didn't you?"

"You know what you being back means."

Stiles stepped forward, taking a step protectively in front of Lydia.

Derek finally seemed to notice that Stiles wasn't alone. He smirked.

"Brought your girlfriend home to meet the family? University must be treating you well."

Stiles didn't bother responding to that. "What do you want Scott for? Did something happen? Is Cora okay?"

"Everything is fine. But there's been a… shift. I need to make sure Scott—"

Scott, as if summoned, stumbled out of the door at that very moment. "Hey. I thought I heard you… I, uh, mean my phone beep with a text from you. And then I heard voices. And then I put two and two together and—"

Stiles sent Scott a warning look, knowing he was trying to cover his ass for nearly slipping up in front of Lydia, but he was not reducing suspicion in the slightest.

"Come on, Lydia. We should get to bed."

Lydia followed obediently, casting a look back at the pair. She knew there was something more going on. It was the way their conversation had been exchanged, and there was some sort of… aura coming from Derek, that exuded power.

Even thinking that made her falter in confusion. What 'power' could she possibly be sensing? Maybe his age gave him an authoritative vibe?

Shaking her head at the odd direction her thoughts took, Lydia tried to concentrate on her footing as Stiles lead her upstairs.

She grabbed his arm before he could disappear.

"Do you want to tell me what that was about?"

For the first time, Stiles couldn't meet her eyes, looking away as if ashamed. "Derek is just… kind of a dick, but he's a friend of Scott's, and mine too I guess, but we tend to butt heads a lot."

"Why did he imply that you being back here was such a problem?"

He swallowed. "Um… it's complicated. I also kind of dated his cousin and we ended things shortly before I left and kind of haven't spoken since, so he's pretty pissed at me for that."

"Why would he need to talk to Scott in the middle of the night? Couldn't he just call him?"

"Derek has a thing for the dramatic—he tends to like to converse face-to-face."

"Who's Cora?"

"His sister."

Lydia bit her lip. She was starting to think, based on the way Stiles reacted, that maybe it was Derek's dog and he needed Scott's help with patching her up after a dog fight or something. It would make sense, since Scott had been working at a vet clinic for years and was training to be a vet.

"How does Scott know him?"

But as the words left her mouth, she could see the pain on Stiles' face. Like the conversation was physically taking pieces out of him.

"I'm sorry. It's none of my business." Lydia said dismissively, turning to head back to her room.

"No, Lydia." he said, as quietly as he could considering there were sleeping bodies around. "I'm sorry. It's not that I don't want to tell you or I don't trust you or something. It's just… it's a lot of things, and it opens up a lot more, and… if I told you everything, it wouldn't… it really wouldn't help. It's safer for you not to know."

His eyes were wide and earnest, willing her to understand, and Lydia, although still burning with curiosity, figured it was time to cut him some slack.


There was a beat between them, both trying to sneak glances at the other to judge what they were thinking.

Stiles, as expected, broke it up.

"So I guess we should probably try to get some sleep so we won't be zombies during your best birthday ever, huh?"

Lydia forced a smile, having almost forgotten that tomorrow, or um today, was her birthday.

"Yeah, we should."

He reached out to tuck a strand of her hair behind her ear. "Night, birthday girl."

"Night." she replied, before finding some unknown courage and leaning up to kiss him on the cheek.

It was the only way she could think of to thank him for his little gesture downstairs. A silly one, by some people's standards, but it had meant a lot to her that he was trying so hard to make her birthday so special. She already knew it would be one she never forgot.

It also was meant as a stamp of forgiveness. She knew that Stiles could only have the best intentions if he was keeping her separate from whatever the hell was going on with that older guy. She knew him well enough to know that he wasn't stupid and he didn't think of her as some incapable child. It frustrated her when her curiosity wasn't quenched, but she trusted Stiles. She wanted him to know that she didn't hold his position on the matter against him. She had a feeling part of the reason he was keeping quiet about it was because he had some sort of pact or promise with Scott to keep his mouth shut about it.

Stiles looked surprised by her impulsive move, but his face melted into a smile, and she couldn't help but return it before heading down the hall.

As she slipped quietly in next to Allison, she couldn't help smiling as she fell asleep. Stiles had promised her an unforgettable birthday. She had a feeling he was definitely going to deliver on that promise.

Chapter Text

Lydia woke in the morning, feeling surprisingly refreshed even though she went to sleep late and her mind had been a little preoccupied with the weirdness of the evening.

Allison had seemingly been up for a little while, since she came in a few moments later with her hair wet from the shower and fresh clothes on.

She brightened when she saw the strawberry-blonde was up.

"Good morning, birthday girl! Happy birthday!" she said enthusiastically, squeezing her in a hug. "I just woke the boys up."

Lydia was surprised that it was after nine a.m. already.

"Um, do you think it would be okay if I jumped in the shower?"

"Of course! I told the boys you'd want to go first so they're going to wait until after breakfast."

Lydia smiled gratefully at her. Allison was a good friend and she barely knew her. She had a feeling her looking out for others was something she always did well.

Grabbing her things, Lydia headed into the bathroom to get ready for the day, feeling the first pinpricks of excitement brewing in her veins.

It took her some time to get ready, needing to blow-dry and style her hair and apply her make-up, but she didn't feel the need to go over the top. She really had no idea what they would be doing for the day so she took a more natural route and, once all of her stuff was put away, headed downstairs to find the others.

Stiles and Scott, still in pajamas and with bed-hair, were manning the stove and assumingly cooking up a feast.

Allison was sitting across the counter and the group was talking quietly.

It wasn't until Stiles spoke, well whisper-shouted really, that Lydia realized the tension in the room. "How could you guys not tell me?"

"We didn't want you to come charging back home. It would probably make everything worse." Allison told him wisely.

"Well, it would've been nice to know, especially since Derek decided to make a drop-in visit in the middle of the night and implied a hell of a lot in front of Lydia, who I now either have to lie to or skate around the truth…"

"What were you two doing outside anyways?" Scott asked.

Stiles looked down. "Just… talking."

Lydia tried not to smile. She was glad he kept their little celebration moment between them, as well as what might have happened had Derek not interrupted.

"You know you can't tell Lydia, Stiles. It's for her protection. You don't want her getting involved in this mess."

"Haven't I already? Bringing her here, with all of this shit going on?"

"We don't know that anything is going on yet." Allison interjected.

"You accidentally nearly shot Isaac in the head, and Scott is losing control of his abilities, and that's not something going on?"

"We're dealing, Stiles. The best we can. And you haven't had anything happen yet, right?"

"Not really. Some nightmares, but I don't think they're like what you guys are experiencing. It must be because you guys are here, close to it."

Lydia was only getting more and more confused. Allison nearly shot some guy? And what abilities was Stiles referring to that Scott had? And Stiles was having some sort of prevalent nightmares? What had being back in Beacon Hills have to do with it?

Scott leaned forward intently. "Maybe that's why I had such a hard time waking you up from your nightmare earlier. You were shaking the whole bed but I couldn't seem to get you to come back to reality. Are they normally like that?"

Stiles looked stressed. "Well, no, not usually."

"You're lucky Lydia was still sleeping. It sounded like you guys were practicing football drills in your room." Allison commented.

"Well I practically had to wrestle him down once he woke up—"

Stiles grew impatient. "Speaking of Lydia, can we change the subject? She is going to be down soon. It's her birthday. The least we can do is cut the shop talk and focus on making it a fun, no-stress day. It will be good for all of us."

"Do you still think we should stick with the earlier plan?" Allison asked, grateful for the subject change.

"I think that sounds like the most fun, yeah."

Lydia decided now was as good a time as any to come out of hiding and walked into the kitchen as if she hadn't been eavesdropping on their cryptic conversation.

Allison immediately turned and smiled brightly at the sight of Lydia.

"Hey! We were just discussing ideas for today."

Lydia slid onto the stool next to her, trying to appear as nonchalant as possible and also trying not to concentrate on how adorable Stiles looked with his hair that messy.

"I hope it's nothing too crazy."

"Guess that cuts out cliff-diving and crocodile wrestling…"

Lydia rolled her eyes at Stiles, meeting his for a second, and feeling a now-familiar thrill run up her spine. Based on the way his smirk melted into a soft smile, she wondered if he was remembering last night too. The good part, not the confusing part.

Lydia decided she would do what the rest of them were doing—push aside all thoughts about what mysterious thing was going on and focus on enjoying the day.

"Well, first things first, we'll need our energy, so eat up." Scott said, dishing pancakes out to both girls and passing over the bacon and eggs.

"I had no idea you two could cook." Lydia said as she dug through her food, not realizing how starving she was until the aroma from it all starting wafting into her nose.

"Stiles is the real pro. I mostly handle the easy stuff."

Stiles shook his head amusedly at the word 'pro' but Lydia was intrigued. She never would've pegged him for someone who knew his way around the kitchen.

No doubt catching her curiosity, or assuming it after getting to know her, he explained.

"Well, growing up with just me and dad, he usually worked long hours so I tried to make sure he at least had a decent meal to come home to or heat up later."

"He's actually pretty awesome at it. He's made stuff for me and Scott before. And he is more on his dad's case about eating healthy than his doctor is." Allison added teasingly.

Stiles looked a little pinker than normal now, and Lydia smiled into her pancakes.

She knew what Scott and Allison were doing. They knew how Lydia felt about Stiles, so they were trying to give her an opening to compliment him, while simultaneously helping her get to know him better and showcasing his positive attributes.

"That's impressive. I'm lucky if I can make cereal without screwing it up."

The other three laughed.

Allison patted Scott's cheek affectionately. "Same with this one."

"Hey, I make great mac and cheese."

The brunette put her hand over her heart. "My mistake. His mac and cheese is superior."

"And don't forget it, or else you're not getting any anymore."

"Fine! I'll deny you my desserts."

"Fine! I'll deny you drives on my bike!"

"That's fine, I'll deny you sex."

Scott closed his mouth grumpily at that and Allison giggled into him, now that he was on her side of the counter.

Stiles rolled his eyes while Lydia tried not to crack up. "This is the breakfast table. Can we keep it PG, please?"

Scott was rubbing gentle circles into Allison's lower back. "Sorry."

Lydia wasn't bothered, and she knew Stiles wasn't really either. Scott and Allison were cute together, and the way they were looking at each other made it obvious where their feelings lay. Lydia wondered if they'd be together forever. She didn't see teenagers that in love very often.

"So where are we starting with the activities today?" she asked as she picked up her dishes, and Stiles' despite his protests. "Don't give me that. You made breakfast. Only fair I clean up. Plus you need to shower."

He grinned at that, following her to the sink with Allison and Scott's, the pair of them too consumed with each other to notice.

"Is that your way of saying I stink?"

She leaned against the counter to block his access, raising an eyebrow in challenge at him.

"No. That's my way of saying I hogged the bathroom earlier, so it's only fair. But now that you mention it…"

Stiles' mischievous grin was her first indicator, but she didn't realize what his retaliation would be until she felt his fingers find her waist and begin their tickling.

"No! Stiles! Stop or else!" she screeched, trying to get out of his reach but failing miserably since he barricaded her in.

"Or else what?!" he laughed.

Not knowing how else to defend herself, she reached behind and grabbed the spray, flipping the water on and shooting a stream at his chest.

He backed up instantly, shouting in protest, and she shut off the water as she giggled into her hand. She had made a total mess, but the disbelief on his face was totally worth it.

She put it back in its slot. "I warned you."

Stiles shook the water out of his hair. "I really thought you were kidding about me needing a shower that badly."

Lydia didn't hear him though. She was too distracted by the sight of the thin burgundy t-shirt sticking to his skin, revealing a ripple of muscle on his abdomen.

She had never really considered Stiles being overly fit. He was obviously thin, but she hadn't really considered him 'athletic'. Now she knew he was actually hiding a swimmer's-type body.

Her lip got caught between her teeth as she let her eyes wander down his body, and they snapped back up to his face when she realized what she was doing.

"Sorry. I'll clean it up, I promise."

It took way more control than it should have to keep her voice from dropping an octave.

"I can help—"

"No, no, don't be silly. I've got it. It's just a bit of water. Go shower." she said quickly, turning to find a towel.

She felt another body approach from behind, and she turned to tell Stiles off again, but found Allison leaning down to help.

She was grinning, and Scott was gone.

"So… that was clever of you. I'm sure if you asked he'd be willing to show you his body."

Lydia groaned and buried her face in her bent knees as her new best friend laughed.

"Have you thought any more on what you might want for your birthday? I was thinking from me you could have a bunch of those clothes I have kicking around my closet, but is there something else you'd want?"

Lydia shook her head in disbelief at her as they sat cross-legged on the guest room bed and she watched Allison put a complicated French braid in her hair.

"I really don't even need that much. It's so generous of you."

"Hey, you might hate it all. But I was thinking you should come over later this afternoon for a bit. We could go through the clothes and maybe have some girl time, give the boys a chance to have some one-on-one video game time or whatever they do when they're together."

"That sounds awesome." Lydia told her sincerely, really meaning it. She couldn't remember the last time she had done that with someone.

Allison smiled proudly. "Good."

"You guys ready to go?" Stiles' voice came from the doorway, and Lydia automatically tucked her hair nervously behind her ear.

"Of course." Allison said, swinging her purse across her body and skipping out of the room.

Lydia was a little slower, and Stiles smiled as he waited for her.

"I forgot to say so earlier, but happy birthday."

Scott told her happy birthday before he headed into the bathroom to shower, and Melissa and the Sheriff said it to her as soon as they saw her, both on their way out the door. She hadn't even noticed that Stiles was the only one who hadn't yet that morning.

"Thank you, but you told me last night, remember?" she reassured him as they headed down the hall together.

He put his hands in his pockets. "Yeah, last night."

The wistful way he said it, as if he was reflecting on a positive memory, made her unable to hide the curve in her lips as they caught up with the others.

Allison was right about him being under her skin.

If Lydia was honest, not that there was much competition, it was by far the best birthday she had ever had.

After they piled into Stiles' jeep, they headed off to the nearby indoor rock climbing place, where Lydia was really grateful that Allison told her to pack a change of clothes, since she had leggings and a better shirt than the dress she was originally going to wear.

It ended up being a lot of fun, although she had only done it in gym class before, and the four of them were naturally competitive which made things interesting.

"You're taking your time." Allison teased Scott at one point, her several stones ahead of him.

He leaned back and cocked an eyebrow at her. "Maybe I'm just admiring the view."

She laughed and kept going, only to find him beating her to the top in the end.

"God, Allison, you took your time…"

With a smirk, she kicked at him and he slipped off of the wall, the harness needing to catch his fall as he sighed in defeat. She cackled from her spot at the top, smacking the buzzer with pride.

Stiles and Lydia were on an adjacent wall, competing here and there, but mostly they just talked while they climbed, covering topics like gym class nightmares and making fun of their friends.

At one point, when Lydia got especially high on one of the taller walls, and Allison, Scott and Stiles had already landed back on the floor, they dared her to jump from that height and fall into the pit of soft foam that was waiting at the bottom to soften any falls.

She wasn't exactly afraid of heights, but it was a long drop, so she was hesitant.

"Lydia, don't listen to them. You don't have to do that. Just climb down. Or we can lower you." Allison reassured her.

"No, it's fine." she called back, determined not to back down from a dare, however childish. She was stubborn and it seemed like the kind of day to welcome new experiences with open arms.

Letting out a tiny squeak, she released from the wall and descended into the fluff, giggling at the thrill as they exploded around her.

"Leave her!" she heard Stiles shout giddily, and she rolled her eyes as she saw Scott and Stiles racing to the locker room.

Allison helped her out. "How was that?"

"The absolute best." Lydia replied breathlessly, unable to stop grinning.

"You realize now we have to beat them at laser tag, right?"

"Oh hell yes. You're on my team."

The afternoon continued much like that, Lydia and Allison winning laser tag as promised, what with Allison's excellent hand-eye coordination and hunting skills. She knew how to strategize, even if she only ever hit moving objects for competition purposes. Or so Lydia assumed, despite the confusing conversations she had been eavesdropping on lately.

Their laser tag win had been awesome. Lydia had never felt so badass as she did when they stole Scott and Stiles' flag from their home-base and screamed in victory. Her and Allison's victory dance would probably be something she'd be embarrassed to do around anyone outside of their group of four.

Stiles and Scott sulked a bit at the loss, and then decided that, for bowling, it would be Scott and Allison vs. Lydia and Stiles.

"Don't worry, we'll smoke them. Scott sucks at bowling."

"How do you know I don't suck at bowling?"

"Do you suck at anything?"

Lydia didn't reply to that, worried he'd turn from tying his bowling shoes to see the stupid giddy look on her face.

Stiles was severely unimpressed when, after some whispered pointers from Allison, Scott managed to get a spare. His previous tries had all been gutter balls.

She looked far too satisfied with herself, and the way Scott was looking at her made it clear that he didn't want to know what they had exchanged.

"You guys are still going down."

"Stiles, you're not that great at bowling." Allison reminded him teasingly. She was about on par with him, so it's not as though there was a clear winning team yet.

But then Lydia stepped up to the lane and rolled her ball in a perfect line down the middle, knocking all of the pins down.

She shrugged as Stiles stared open-mouthed with the others.

"Huh, I guess I don't suck?" she said in fake-innocence as she plunked herself next to Stiles at the score table.

"That was kind of perfect form." Allison said in disbelief.

Lydia bit her tongue to keep herself from smiling too much at the positive attention. She forgot how thrilling it was to take people off guard.

"Okay, so, it's official. We're kicking your asses." Stiles said triumphantly as he dug into his fries.

Stiles and Lydia did manage to pull a win, but Scott and Allison performed admirably too.

Allison explained to the boys the plan for Lydia to hang-out at her place for a bit, and the knowing looks between the three clued Lydia into the fact that they had probably discussed it before she had joined them at breakfast.

Still, she played along like she was oblivious, because she knew they were enjoying the whole 'surprise' portion of her birthday, and she had zero complaints so far. Despite not having known most of them for long, she trusted them.

Allison's boutique collection of clothes actually ended up being pretty extensive, but even better, plenty of them didn't fit her right but fit Lydia beautifully since she was larger chested and shorter.

After trying on clothes, they painted their nails and mostly gossiped about typical girl things, something Lydia hadn't realized how much she had been missing. Allison inputted her number, and Scott's, into Lydia's phone because 'there is no way we're not hanging out all weekend and next time you visit'.

Eventually, the time came where they needed to head over to Scott's for dinner and the rest of the evening, and Lydia felt a jolt of excitement.

Birthdays in her world had always been a big party. A bunch of people she barely knew the names of, filling her house, lots of punch or games or whatnot. She never remembered much about them. Her parents would spoil her with a new designer handbag or fancy jewelry or new shoes. It wasn't anything like today had been like—it wasn't full of her laughing until her stomach hurt, or people bending over backwards to make her feel special or spend time with her. She felt more spoiled than she ever did, and despite the things Allison gave her, she hadn't received any presents yet. She hoped it stayed that way. They had all gone above and beyond already.

Arriving at Scott's, Lydia couldn't keep the disbelieving smile off her face when she saw the interior.

Balloons were hanging from the staircase railing, and streamers were crisscrossing through the entire house.

There was an explosion of confetti when she walked in the door, and she spat out the spare bits of paper.

"Really, Stiles?" she said irritably, laughing despite her attempt to sound annoyed.

He cackled, placing the confetti cannon on the table behind him. "Sorry, I had to. Welcome to your birthday party!"

"You guys are too much." she told the group, grinning. Melissa, John and Scott had now joined the entrance way.

Lydia suddenly spotted the few wrapped gifts on the coffee table in the living room.

"You GUYS! I SAID NO GIFTS!" she groaned, burying her face in her hands.

Melissa patted her affectionately on the shoulders as they walked further into the house. "But what's a birthday without gifts?"

"Seriously, I really appreciate all you guys have done…"

"So just suck it up and enjoy it. Dinner will be ready in fifteen." Stiles said with a grin, hooking an arm around her waist and guiding her into the living room. "Do you want to open gifts first?"

"I want to murder you in your sleep a little." she muttered under her breath. "I had hoped by me not giving you any ideas you wouldn't know what to get me and wouldn't try."

"I warned you… if you didn't give me anything, you'd end up with something you may or may not like. It's not my fault you didn't listen to me. You should know better. You know how stubborn I am."

"You're relentless." she said, meaning for it to come out with more malice, but instead her voice softened affectionately.

Sighing, but unable to keep her face looking stern, Lydia let her friends pass her gifts to open as she sat down on the couch.

It was an incredible night. Melissa had made homemade pizza and the most glorious vanilla bean cake with pink buttercream frosting. John and Melissa had gotten her an overly generous gift card to the Beacon Hills mall, with the hope that she and Allison might be able to use it on their planned shopping trip the next day. Scott got her some movies, having gotten ideas from Stiles and Allison, and Allison of course had generously given her the clothes that afternoon but had also wrapped a cute jacket she knew Lydia would go for after their first night together. It ended up fitting her perfectly.

She opened Stiles' last, whether that was everyone's plan or just the way it worked out, but she felt nervous butterflies fill her belly. As much as she was falling for the guy, she really didn't feel like they knew each other in the gift-giving sense. He understood her personality, she supposed, but he didn't know too much about her likes and interests, did he?

It was a small package, which meant jewelry, and she popped open the lid to find a sterling silver bracelet with hanging charms off many of the chain links.

There was a high heel shoe, her birthstone, a science beaker, a purse no doubt to symbolize her shopping habit, a paintbrush on a palette, ballet shoes, and a crown.

"It's beautiful." she breathed, embarrassed to find her voice more breathless than she planned.

She chanced a glance at his face, and saw him visibly relax, clearly having been stressed at how she would feel about it.

She couldn't stop staring at the bracelet in her hands, memorizing every charm. How had he managed to get so many things to represent her? Did she really share that much without realizing?

She was so distracted she didn't notice the others quietly leaving the room. Stiles stayed, still next to her on the couch, just as unaware that they were alone.

"How did you know about me being into art?"

He smiled. "I've seen you doodling during our study hang-outs. There's no way you haven't done more. And I've met up with you when you still have paint between your fingers or under your nails."

"Help me put it on?"

Stiles gently lifted the bracelet from her grasp and wrapped it around one wrist, clasping it in place.

She held her arm out admiringly, fingering each of the delicate pieces. It was stunning, and no doubt expensive. She would kill him later. For now, she couldn't stop the warmth from spreading through her whole body.

"Let me guess, the crown is because I'm a princess, right?" she asked, shocked to find her words jumbled by the sudden thickness in her throat.

Without her consent, there were tears beginning to slip down her cheeks. Today had just been so much. So much love and acceptance and happiness in such a short span of time. Today was easily the best day of her life.

Stiles reached out to wipe her cheek with his thumb. "You're a queen."

Her eyes flashed to his and she leaned up to kiss right next to his mouth, not quite brave enough to move over a couple inches.

She closed her eyes as she pulled away slightly. "Thank you. For today. For the gift. For… for everything."

Was there a way you could pay someone back for giving you the best day, the best weekend, of your life? Was there a way you could thank someone properly for opening up an entirely new world you hadn't realized existed? Was there a way to thank someone for showing you that you can be loved and important just as you are, that you don't need to hold back or change anything to fit in? You just have to find worthy people to pour your heart and time into.

She licked her lips and finally pulled back completely before she did something stupid. She didn't want to ruin today.

Flickering her eyes up quickly, she was grateful to see Stiles didn't look upset or weirded out by her gesture.

He simply squeezed her hand, rubbing over it with his other one, and she knew he was sending a thank you back in return. For what, she had no idea.

Correcting her throat, she realized that they were taking their sweet time and the others were chatting animatedly in the kitchen and her birthday wasn't for her to spend time with only Stiles. All of them put their time, money and effort into making her day special, and she was more than happy to spend as much time with each of them as she could.

Chapter Text

Morning hit, and it took Lydia some time to figure out where she was.

The sun was streaming in, making opening her eyes difficult, and she tried to grasp how that could be. Had she forgotten to close her curtains last night? She never got woken by the sun in her face in the morning.

Her ears picked up the sound of other people breathing, and she finally relaxed, figuring out what had happened and where she was.

Last night, the group of them had been watching some of the new movies Lydia had gotten for her birthday. They all piled blankets and pillows on the living room floor to get comfy and shared popcorn and snacks as they watched.

John and Melissa had gone to bed after the first movie, but the other four stayed up, too wired up from sugar and caffeine to think about sleeping yet.

The sugar crash must have hit eventually, because the four of them were still sprawled out on the living room floor.

Lydia looked over to see Scott and Allison curled up together, Allison's head tucked under his chin while both of his arms cocooned her in to him. They looked so peaceful, as if they slept like that all the time.

To her right was Stiles, head resting at an awkward angle as he slept, his mouth slightly parted as he breathed in and out.

There was something so much younger about his face in that state; he looked so peaceful. She let herself freely examine all of his facial features, something she normally was more reserved about when he could catch her in the act. His dark hair was such a contrast to his porcelain skin, as well as the moles spotting across the landscape. He had long, thick eyelashes, defined cheekbones and rosy lips.

There was no doubt about it. He was gorgeous.

She realized a little awkwardly that she was lying very close to him, their bodies aligned and her head having rested on the closest edge of the pillow next to his. It seemed her body unconsciously wanted to be closer to him; whether for warmth or contentment, she wasn't sure.

Settling back down, Lydia snuck a hand into her jacket pocket to pull out some lip balm, mussing up her hair into a more normal hairdo and hoping that she didn't look like the wreck she felt like.

Unfortunately, her extra movement caused Stiles to stir, and she didn't bother pretending that she was still sleeping. She simply turned to look at him when his eyes finally opened.

"Hey." he said softly, his voice a little thick with sleep.

Her heart did somersaults.

"Good morning." she replied just as quietly, unable to stop the affectionate smile from gracing her face.

"You been awake long?"

She shook her head. "Nah, just a couple minutes maybe. You look really adorable when you sleep." she accidentally blurted out, beginning to grin.

Stiles groaned loudly, clearly forgetting that there were two other sleeping bodies nearby. "Oh god, did you take pictures? Should I switch my major to law after all?"

Lydia laughed, and then covered her mouth with her hand, having forgotten that fast about the sleeping Scott and Allison beside them.

Sure enough, the other two woke up shortly after.

"So, breakfast?" Scott asked through a yawn as Allison rubbed the sleep from her eyes.

It was Saturday, which meant Stiles and Lydia were due to leave and head back to campus the next morning.

So far, they had spent the majority of the weekend with Scott and Allison, and only a bit with Stiles' dad, so today would mostly be dedicated to seeing him.

It didn't take a genius to figure out that Stiles and his dad were really close, and that his dad had no doubt been excited to hear that his son would be home for the weekend.

Lydia, the first day they had visited and she had seen how happy everyone was to have Stiles home, had wondered briefly why it had taken him so long to come down to visit. It was a bit of a drive, but not that bad since he had a car of his own and weekends off. Although, she rationed, that getting into the groove of university took a lot and they really didn't go easy on you just because you were in your first year.

Now, she understood that there was something more going on. What, she had no idea, but if anything, it made it clearer that Stiles' time with his dad was even more precious than she originally anticipated and the last thing she wanted to do was intrude on it. Naturally, when she was there, they went out of their way to explain things or find ways to make her feel included, which took away from their time to catch up properly.

Both Stilinski men insisted that she could never, but after John treated her and Stiles to lunch, she headed off to go shopping with Allison to leave the two of them to themselves.

Allison dropped Lydia off at Stiles' house later that afternoon, and she took in the sight of the house she had yet to see. This was where Stiles had grown up. It was only a couple blocks from Scott's house, and she felt something tighten her heart.

She was getting to see so much of this boy's life in such a short span of time, and she felt like she couldn't possibly be returning the favour. She wasn't very good at opening up, but she made a promise to herself that she would try more, if only to even the playing field.

Saying goodbye to Allison and promising she would text her soon and come back to visit, Lydia headed up to the front door.

Stiles opened the door with a smile. "You know, you could've just walked in. I should've told you that you didn't need to knock."

"Isn't your dad the Sheriff? Shouldn't you guys have more qualms about home security?"

He chuckled. "We have other stuff in place."

Like a baseball bat?

"I should get my stuff out of your jeep." Lydia remembered suddenly, realizing they had gone straight to lunch after spending the morning at Scott's place and that her luggage was still in his trunk.

"I already did. But here, I'll show you where it is." he told her, his hand falling to the small of her back as he directed her towards the stairs. "And then I'll give you the grand tour."

He pointed out rooms as they went down the hall—his dad's room, the bathroom, his dad's office, and finally his room.

She pathetically felt nervous as she followed him inside.

His desk was a mess, despite the fact that he didn't live there anymore, but otherwise it was obvious that he had gone off to college. She could see spots where posters used to be, some of the tape still stuck to the wall, but some were still up. She smiled as she spotted several photos of him and Scott on his bulletin board, as well as him and his dad, and then the Stilinski-McCall family blend at graduation. Allison was in plenty too, as well as what could be assumed to be her dad at graduation.

His bed was pretty simple, a double shoved in the corner with plain light blue sheets and a blue comforter. Her bags were perched next to it.

"It's not much, especially since I took most of my stuff with me." he said awkwardly, scratching the back of his neck as he saw Lydia eying his extensive CD collection.

"It's home though. You must be looking forward to sleeping in your own bed." she commented supportively.

She suddenly spotted something in the top corner of the ceiling.

"Uh… Stiles…?"

He followed her gaze and then laughed.

"I swear it's not what you think."

She raised an eyebrow at him, only able to think of one reason a video camera would be mounted in a bedroom.

"My dad installed it because I used to have a bad problem with sleepwalking. I did it a lot when I was younger, especially after my mom died, but it went away as I grew up. But when I was under a lot of stress in high school, it started up again. I got out of the house one time, didn't get far but… well, after that night, my dad wanted to make sure it never happened again. He put the camera in and an alarm system in the house that will detect if anyone goes in or out after its set. It hasn't really been necessary, but it helps him sleep at night."

Lydia squeezed his hand. "I'm glad you're okay."

She didn't know what else to say. He had just shared a rather personal part of his story with her.

Stiles shrugged. "I'm glad you don't think I'm a freak now."

"I could never."

She hesitated before they left the room to return downstairs.

"Wait… what about at school? How do you know you won't get stressed about some big exam and start it up again? There's not really enough security in the dorms and—"

Stiles shook his head, trying not to laugh. "Don't worry about me, Lydia. It's not usually that kind of stress. It's usually more… grief-related."

Lydia wondered briefly who he had lost in high school, but she knew it wasn't fair of her to ask. Especially since he had already shared so much.

Stiles slipped his fingers between hers. "Come on. I'll show you the rest of the house. My dad's been looking forward to you coming back."

Lydia hadn't missed the way Stiles let go of her hand right before they rounded the staircase to greet his father.

She could practically see his mask slip into place after his dad engaged him in conversation, and Lydia wondered when he got so good at hiding his emotions. How many things had Stiles gotten away with over the years?

Even more pertinent, how many times had she missed something he was feeling?

As the afternoon turned to evening, Lydia battled Stiles' dad at chess while Stiles started making dinner.

"I told you I could cook—"

"And I told you that you treated us to lunch, so it's only fair that I cook dinner." Stiles countered before his dad could say anything more.

"What are you making anyways? It smells amazing." Lydia commented as she placed her knight.

"Spinach and feta ravioli." Stiles commented, finishing forming the pasta and pulling ingredients from the fridge. "You're welcome to help when you're done."

"Oh she'll be here for a while." John reassured him as he took out one of her rooks.

"Hmm, not really. I'll help." Lydia said, sliding her queen across the board. "Checkmate."

Stiles had to suck in his lips to keep from laughing as his dad stared in shock at the board, completely surprised by the win.

He raised his eyebrows at his dad. "Did I forget to mention that Lydia is good at everything?"

"Well, not cooking. I've never really tried." Lydia admitted, grabbing the apron Stiles passed her and tying it around her waist.

"Hey, you've never had me as a teacher. Watch and learn."

She rolled her eyes as he rolled up his shirt sleeves. "Only if you stop acting like some cheap party magician about to pull a rabbit out of a hat."

The Sheriff, despite his sourness over losing, laughed out loud at that. It was no mystery that he very much enjoyed having Lydia around. She kept Stiles on his toes, something that was very hard to do.

Dinner was amazing, Lydia trying to hide how impressed she was but secretly attempting not to moan through every bite, and the three played some Scrabble before going to bed.

Halfway through, the Sheriff gave up and let the two of them continue their bickering over scoring, knowing he was fighting a losing battle.

It got pretty late by the time the game wrapped up, and they both figured it was best to just go to bed.

Stiles set up the couch in the living room for her, since she wouldn't listen to his protests to take his bed or that he could stay with his dad. She knew he hadn't had one night in his own bed since he'd been home and she wanted him to have it. And really, the couch wasn't so bad.

Plus, she doubted she'd be sleeping much.

They got ready for bed, said their goodnights, and went to their separate sleeping quarters.

Lydia was dressed in an oversized sweater and leggings, more than comfortable with the bedding she was provided, yet she couldn't find a position that would let her drift off into dreamland. Her mind was racing, wondering what the future would bring now that the weekend was over.

She didn't want it to end, but logic fought her on it. She knew all good things must come to an end, but the overhanging question of what happened next was a daunting one. She didn't know what this meant for her and Stiles, where they went from here.

Would they start hanging out more? Would he invite her down again? Would they just go back to their frequent study sessions and that's it? Or would they start hanging out without textbooks and lecture notes? It appeared that they could get along more than fine without them. In fact, half the time in their study sessions, they spent just as much talking about other stuff as they did focusing on their work.

He had been so generous with her all weekend, sharing so much of his life with her and going above and beyond to make her feel welcome, to make her feel like she was as important in his life as he was in hers. That meant something. There was no way they were just 'school friends' now. But where did the line end?

Lydia just didn't know how to relate to him now, what everything meant. She worried about screwing things up, passing over the delicate balance.

And frankly, if the weekend had taught her anything, it was that Stiles was her very best friend in the world and she couldn't lose him now. Not now, not ever.

Lydia hugged her knees, sitting up to peer out the window at the clear sky, the moon the only light shining into the dark room. It was quiet in the neighbourhood, a peaceful night, and she found herself sighing in contentment at how safe she felt. Just thinking about Stiles being upstairs, and even the Sheriff nearby. Allison and Scott and Melissa just a few blocks away. Everyone was so close, and she knew if anything bad happened, they would take care of her too.

Maybe she was a fool. Maybe she was overestimating their kindness for actual affection, but it was hard to find any insincerity in a single one of them. They were such a special group of people.


She looked up in surprise, having been completely lost in thought, and turned to see Stiles at the bottom of the stairs with his phone in hand. He slipped it into his waistband and made his way over in concern.

"I thought you'd be asleep by now. I was just coming to get some water."

"Can't seem to shut my mind off. Why are you still up?"

He sat down next to her. "Been texting Scott. He doesn't want me to leave tomorrow."

"It must have been hard to leave the first time. And to be away from all of them, but especially Scott. I've never met two best friends as close as you guys."

Stiles smiled. He wasn't oblivious that he was extremely lucky. "Yeah."

He absent-mindedly scratched the back of his neck, and Lydia tilted her head in confusion.

"What? What aren't you telling me?"

"What do you mean?"

She raised her eyebrows. "Your nervous tic—you scratch the back of your neck or on your face somewhere."

Stiles didn't even realize he had a nervous tic, although it explained why his dad could always see through his lies. Or at least some of them.

"Nothing. It's nothing."

"Stiles." Lydia complained, too stubborn to let him get away with it. "Come on."

He leaned forward on his elbows, taking his time finding words.

"I know how lucky I am. My dad, Scott, everyone is incredible. But… I had to leave."

"Why?" she asked gently.

She could detect the subtlest of guilt crossing his face, and suddenly understood that she was only going to be hearing about half of the truth. Still, at least it was still honesty.

He finally spoke. "I don't know how to explain it without sounding like a total prick."

She couldn't help but laugh and she leaned back into the couch cushions, shrugging one shoulder. "Maybe there isn't a way. Just tell me."

Stiles leaned back too and turned more towards her, his leg folding up across the cushion.

"I love them, so I could never tell them the truth of why I left, at least, one of the reasons." He paused. "I don't know how to explain it, but it's like… I felt like I didn't have an identity outside of them. When you lose your mom at a young age like I did, you're always known as that-kid-whose-mom-died, even if it's been ten years. And when it wasn't that, I was Scott's-best-friend. Scott was better at lacrosse than me; hell, Scott is better at pretty much everything than me. He's literally liquid sunshine. So, essentially, school is shot as far as me trying to be my own person. And then even when I'm not at school, I'm the-town-Sheriff's-son… I just… after a while, I didn't even know who I was without them. It was like… like I was always an extension of someone else."

Lydia contemplated the concept, intrigued. She'd never really had that issue exactly, because her parents weren't around let alone known by her peers, and she was usually a leader in her social circles. But she imagined it got quite lonely.

"As pathetic as it sounds, I just felt like I could never figure out who I was if I stayed. And even if I miss them all like crazy, I feel like I'd never find myself here."

Lydia nodded. "It makes sense to me. It was pretty brave of you to uproot everything you've ever known and go somewhere entirely new without your support system by your side."

Stiles smiled, grateful that she understood. "What about you? I don't think you've ever told me why you went away to school instead of staying in San Diego."

Lydia opened her mouth, and then closed it. As much as she trusted Stiles, as much as she felt comfortable in confiding in him with pretty much anything, this was something on the short list of things she was apprehensive to share with him. Since her feelings had started coming to light, she worried about what he'd think of her if he learned certain things about her past.

Stiles reached a hand across the space between them and grasped her hand gently in his.

"Hey, this is a judge-free zone, okay? You can tell me anything. But you're also not obligated to share anything you'd rather keep to yourself."

She smiled gratefully, and her gaze shifted to their linked hands as she spoke.

"My life was a lot different from yours. Both my parents were around, I had different friends through every grade, and I became pretty popular as the years went on." She exhaled. "It sounds good, right? Being at the top of the social ladder, where everyone knows your name? But it's not as glorious as people try to make it out to be. It's lonely. It's stressful. It's fake. You spend more time applying make-up and false senses of happiness than actually enjoying it. I never had a best friend, not really. I just would have a sort of… wingwoman. Someone to be the beta to my alpha. I've never had that mutual sort of equality that you and Scott have. You two love each other so deeply that you're completely connected. I know that not every best friendship is like that, but I've never had anything even close."

"I kept the act up though, as if I felt as admired as I seemed to be. I threw the best parties, I wore the best clothes, and I had the best hair. I jumped through all the typical hoops. But even though I danced and drank and did everything that was expected of me, I never felt like I was really there. It was like an out-of-body experience, like I was watching from afar instead of experiencing it firsthand. I guess it took me until high school was coming to an end to realize that I really didn't care for the life I had spent so long constructing and keeping alive. I guess that's what you do when you strive to be someone you're not—you just get caught up in the routine."

She looked up finally, catching Stiles' curious eyes. He didn't look pitying, but she could see the sympathy for the sadness colouring her tone. She didn't want to see it there, especially as she continued on to the next thing

"My parents divorced when I was sixteen, and I knew I wanted to move far away from that chaos as soon as I could, because living at home was a nightmare during the whole process. But it was so much more than that. I knew I didn't like being the person I was."

She looked down in shame.

"I wasn't just some popular girl—I was a mean girl. It's the only way you can stay at the top without getting torn away. I'd shut down anyone who tried to talk back to me, I'd flirt with boys just to prove I can to keep their girlfriends in line in my clique, and I wouldn't hesitate to call someone out if they were wrong, even if it was in a crowd. I guess I liked the power that came with it. Having boys fawn over you and girls want to be you gives you sort of this wacked out sense of right and wrong. I was a trainwreck."

"Or…" Stiles interrupted. "You were just looking for power when you felt so helpless at home, dealing with your parents."

Lydia absorbed that, rather shocked by his deduction. Of course he was defending her. He couldn't be like any other normal person and be disgusted at what she had just confessed.


She inhaled deeply. She loved that Stiles was so willing to keep her in a positive light, but she also didn't want him to be blind to what she was telling him. If he was going to lose interest in her, or reject her, she needed him to do it now. She knew based on the way her heart was racing in her chest that he had way too much of a hold over her, and losing him would be agonizing. If it was going to happen, it was better it be sooner rather than later.

"I used to play dumb, purely to keep boys' attention. I fooled myself into thinking I was in love once, and I got burned, and I never wanted a boy to have that power over me again. So I fooled around and became in charge of my own sexuality. It had the added benefit of spiking my popularity, but the independence that came with it was empowering."

Lydia pushed her hair back, still nervous to look him in the face.

"Long story short is that I used to be someone I didn't like. And I figured out that putting my needs above what other people think is so much more important. When I went to university, I promised myself I'd honour who I am rather than try to fit a certain image. Being smart was never something to be ashamed of—I just hadn't wanted to stand out. But now I know that it's one of my best assets and I shouldn't shy away from it. Because showing it off and being myself will bring the kind of people I want in my life."

She looked up at him for the last bit, squeezing his hands, and his face broke out into a smile.

Lydia didn't see any judgment or distaste in his eyes, so she was hopeful that maybe she hadn't scared him off completely.

"So, essentially, I went away to university to leave my chaotic family behind, my so-called friends who I didn't have a thing in common with, and the watered-down-version of myself. I never want to be her. I went to university to find myself too. And I'm still working on it. Even now, although I'm aware how wrong I was to hide so much of myself, I still struggle to be the 'smart girl' when I've spent so long pretending that side of me didn't exist. I just feel fake either way, you know? If I play dumb, I'm fake, because my intelligence is actually one of my best assets. But if I play smart, I feel like I'm out of my comfort level too, which feels very similar in discomfort to how I felt as a 'dumb girl'."

She took a moment to process all that she said, realizing that her mouth was literally getting dry she had been talking at length for so long.

"I'm rambling so much. I'm so sorry."

Stiles squeezed her hand. "Hey, don't apologize. I like talking to you. I think this is the most I've heard you talk about yourself since I met you."

Lydia smiled but couldn't look him in the eye. "Another thing I'm working on. Trusting people. Opening up. I find it much easier to discuss different species in a habitable ecosystem than share my inner thoughts and feelings."

Stiles played with her fingers delicately. "We can talk about whatever you want."

"I didn't mean it like that. I was just saying… that I trust you. I want to share stuff with you. I'm just sorry if I'm bad at it."

He looked up, sensing her bashfulness for saying something so bold, and he scooted minutely closer.

"Well I can keep rambling about my boring life and you can chime in when you like? Or we can play twenty questions or something?"

Lydia laughed. "Twenty questions sounds dangerous."

"Probably would be fun though." he said cheekily with a grin.

She shrugged. "Fine. I'm game if you are."

"Oh it's on."

The game went on well past the twenty questions, mostly getting interrupted between for further explanations and storytelling.

They were breaking down all kinds of walls tonight. They'd covered the simple things like whether or not they'd broken a bone (Stiles yes, Lydia no), most embarrassing moments, childhood nightmare fashion choices, irrational fears ("being afraid of spiders is NOT irrational" "Okay, Stiles"), and a whole lot in between.

There was one obvious topic they seemed to be avoiding, and as the night grew later, Lydia grew bolder.

"First kiss?" she asked.

Stiles immediately looked down, chewing on his tongue. "Sixteen."

She didn't believe his behaviour was from embarrassment, so she knew she was missing something of the story.

He corrected his throat. "It was with my mom's best friend's daughter, Heather. I'd known her my whole life. I dragged Scott to her seventeenth birthday party, and she asked me to help her pick out wine down in the cellar. I went, not thinking anything of it, and then she was kissing me and telling me that what she wanted for her birthday was not to be a seventeen-year-old virgin."

Lydia's eyebrows rose of her own accord.

She couldn't help but laugh a little. "The girl is bold. I'll give her that."

"Oh, she was. Always. She used to love to call me out on my crap or put me on the spot. She was a complete pain in the ass. Kind of like an annoying cousin, but less incestuous."

Lydia picked up on the past tense and straightened up, suddenly aware how much pain was on his face. She felt tears sting her eyes instantly. She didn't know what was wrong—she just knew she wanted his pain to stop.

His bottom lip trembled, and he looked down as his eyes grew wet.

Lydia had launched herself across the space between them and wrapped herself up in his arms before she could even contemplate it.

Stiles held her close, his arms tightening as he inhaled a shuddering breath.

"I'm sorry." he whispered, sounding irritated with himself

"Don't be. It's okay." she promised, nuzzling her cheek against his shoulder.

It was quiet between them for a few minutes.

"She died that same night." he explained quietly, shocking Lydia. "I ran upstairs to get protection from her brother's bathroom, half-excited, half-panicked out of my mind, and when I got back, the cellar was empty. I figured she changed her mind—or maybe got a better offer, it's not as though I was basking in girls' attention back then, and eventually me and Scott left. The next day I found out she was missing. A couple days later, they found her body."

Lydia swallowed, stroking up and down Stiles' back, knowing that if she spoke it would derail his confession. She didn't know what to say regardless. She felt numb. He needn't have finished. She had understood already.

"I stood in the back at the funeral. I couldn't talk to her family and closest friends, offer condolences, not when I was partially responsible."

Her eyebrows furrowed in confusion. "How were you responsible?"

Stiles pulled back. "Lydia, if I hadn't been too busy thinking with my dick, I would've remembered that the town we live in isn't the safest and she shouldn't go off outside alone. Or I would've told her no, and then she would've returned upstairs to the party to find another conquest or hang out with her friends. If I hadn't taken so long, upstairs freaking out about my potential performance, than I may have come back in time to hear the struggle. Or if I had sought her out after not finding her where she said she would be, instead of just assuming, maybe I'd realize that something was wrong and they could've started looking for her before it was too late."

"Stop. Stop that right now." Lydia said sternly, her voice not as steady as she would like since it hurt hearing him talk in such a way. She cupped his face in her hands so his hands would stop wringing and he would look her straight in the eye. "Her death was not your fault. None of it was your fault. You couldn't have known what would happen, and beating yourself up over what-ifs won't help you move on. It's over. She's gone. No amount of beating yourself up will change that. You need to forgive yourself and let it go."

Stiles was quiet for a moment. He knew what she said had some merit. Maybe one day he'd stop dying on the inside at the thought of repeating his mistakes. Maybe one day he'd show Lydia the pages of notebooks he scrawled apologies into, whether during one of his nightmares or when he was awake and a wreck. Maybe one day he'd be able to tell her about the happier moments growing up with Heather, before she was taken from the world.

He corrected his throat. "So what about you? Any horror stories from your first kiss?"

Lydia smiled at his attempt to lighten the situation, trying not to concentrate on the way his knuckles were running down her spine. "Nothing special, I'm sorry to report. Done on the playground in sixth grade."

"So you two didn't have a fairy tale ending?"

She laughed. "Oh far from it. Coincidentally, it was the same guy who later shredded my heart."

"No way."

"Seriously. He moved to London for senior year after he got into some legal trouble. His dad was a lawyer and it didn't look good to have a delinquent son, so the family shipped off to England."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be." she laughed. "I'm over him. I'm looking for someone who actually respects me and doesn't belittle me when I'm better at things than him."

"You need someone who knows that you'll kick their ass at everything. Calculus, chess, bowling…"

Lydia giggled into him, feeling the familiar swoop in her stomach that meant that Stiles was yet again winning her heart over.

They were still completely wrapped up in each other, and she longed to close the distance between them and kiss him like she'd been craving to all weekend.

Knowing that that would probably ruin the spell between them, Lydia finally extracted herself from his arms and sat across from him, leaving her legs tangled with his.

Stiles let out a long exhale. "It's hard to believe we're leaving tomorrow and going back to school."

Lydia smiled, burying her face in her knees before tilting her head to smile bashfully at him. "I know. I feel like a different person, somehow."

He smiled in return. "I know what you mean."

As their eyes locked, Lydia felt like a huge weight had lifted off her shoulders. Maybe it was because she finally knew what it felt like to have a best friend, maybe because she had gotten stuff off her chest that she hadn't even fully admitted to herself and learned even more about Stiles than she ever imagined, or maybe it was a combination of a lot of things, but she felt lighter than she ever had. It was a weight she hadn't realized she'd been carrying.

"Thanks for coming this weekend, Lyds. I'm really glad you came." Stiles confessed.

Based on the slight grimace that slipped out, she knew there was more to it than he was saying, but she didn't want to push him. He had already shared enough. But by the looks of things, he had been nervous to come home, and it likely had to do with that big thing she was missing out on.

She smiled warmly. "Thank you for the invite. Any time you need company again, please don't hesitate to ask. I'm glad it wasn't a pity invite."

"It wasn't, I swear. Really, it was for selfish reasons."

She giggled at that, nodding in faux-acceptance even though she had no idea how his invite had been intended for his benefit, and his fingers began playing with hers again.

"Since we're being so honest, I really didn't want to be away from you for that long."

Lydia looked up in surprise at the confession, his eyes still downcast to their joined hands. She hadn't been expecting that.

She opened her mouth to reply but then realized she had no idea what to say.

She could see the pink colouring his cheeks, the indication that regret was beginning to sink in for what he said. She didn't want him to feel like her heart wasn't doing the conga over his confession, because it most certainly was.

She squeezed his hand. "Why do you think I said yes so quickly?" she teased as casually as she could.

His eyes flashed to hers and he broke out into a grin.

"If you remember correctly, you'll be reminded that I basically had to draft up a full bodied argument, practically with a slideshow, to convince you to come—"

"Hey, you came out of left field with that offer! I barely had time to wrap my mind around the question, let alone consider accepting it."

"Oh, I'm sorry, maybe I should have written a formal offer up and had you sign on the dotted line that you understood everything fully before we proceeded…"

They both were giggling like idiots when another voice joined the mix.

"Do you two have any idea what time it is?" a gruff voice came from across the room.

Stiles and Lydia looked over in surprise to see the Sheriff yawning.

"Uh, it's gotta be, like, midnight, right? Sorry, Dad, did we wake you?"

His dad raised an eyebrow at him. "It's after four in the morning. I've got to be at the station in an hour. I'm getting up for the day and you two haven't even gone to bed yet. I think it's time to get some sleep if you have any hope of making it back to school in one piece. I'm not having you drive on two hours of sleep, Stiles."

He headed into the kitchen without another word, and Stiles wasn't oblivious to the smile he was trying to hide.

The teenage boy stood up sheepishly, untangling himself from Lydia and scratching the back of his neck, his body suddenly cluing in to how exhausted he was.

"Well, I guess I should let you sleep. You sure you're going to be okay down here?"

"I'll be fine." Lydia promised. "Goodnight, Stiles."

He hesitated for a moment before leaning down to hug her and press a kiss to her cheek. "Night, Lyds."

Lydia was sure her cheeks were burning, but there was no hiding the smile on her face from his affectionate action.

Stiles smiled tenderly in return before heading up the stairs to his room.

As Lydia settled down into her blankets, she couldn't help feeling the loss of his body warmth from across from her. She felt absolutely pathetic, but she missed his presence already.

Stiles climbed into his cool bed upstairs, void of the warmth of Lydia's smile or the softness of her gaze, and he sighed in reminisce as he thought about her downstairs. He wished not for the first time that she was there with him.

Chapter Text

It was the irritating trill of her alarm that woke Lydia in the morning.

Reluctantly, she patted along her night table until she found the device and effectively shut it off.

She sighed, stretching her arms as she sat up.

Her phone beeped as she got up to change into her day's clothes.

Still on for the usual?

Lydia smiled to herself. Stiles.

What a weekend. They had parted ways the previous afternoon and Lydia had given him a quick hug goodbye, a final thank you, and headed into her dorm.

Instead of reading ahead for her classes like she planned, she mostly smiled giddily to herself and was completely distracted by thoughts of the amber-eyed boy.

When did she become this sort of girl? The kind that drools over a guy instead of being in charge of her own emotions? Damn that Stilinski boy.

Lydia looped her arm through her shirt sleeve as she texted back with her other hand.

Definitely x

"Shit." she groaned as the text shot off to his phone. She hadn't meant to add the little x on the end, indicating her sending a kiss in text-speak. It was just the slip of a finger, okay? He'd probably see it as a typo, right? Oh god, should she just tell him it was a typo?

Awesome :) see you then. have a good day xx

Lydia couldn't even help herself from sighing, so glad that he definitely hadn't been weirded out.

She tried not to get too excited. It was just a dumb study date. And a dumb text. And a dumb boy. Nothing had changed between them, they were still just friends. At least, for now.

Lydia grabbed her perfume bottle and made sure to spritz a little extra for the day.

Naturally, when you're anxious for something, the hours drag on.

Lydia was tapping her pencil absent-mindedly against her notebook, impatient for class to end. She had completely zoned out of the lecture she was physically present in. All she could think about was how soon she could head to the library and meet up with Stiles.

It was, of course, the one day she didn't have classes with Stiles. It had been over twenty-four hours since she had seen him, and she felt like there was something missing from her insides.

She had gotten so used to having him around, so used to spending all of her time with him, that it felt absolutely strange to have not seen him since the previous afternoon.

It felt like forever, but the professor finally dismissed the group of students, and Lydia half-ran in direction of the library.

She didn't know what she expected. She just knew that she wanted to see him. The nice thing about being back at school was that she didn't have to feel so guilty about hogging him. On the weekend, there was always the nagging reminder that his family and friends hadn't seen him in months, but now they were back and the others weren't around for her to steal his attention away from.

Lydia nearly ran right into him when she turned off the stairwell on the second floor.

He grinned at the sight of her, catching her shoulders to balance her.

"Hey, lightning. Slow it down there."

"You're here early."

"Class got out early." he explained a little too quickly, leading the way down the hall. "Did you bring your Calc review? I was hoping you could help me go over some of those more complicated polynomials. Why we have a textbook that only has half the answers in it is beyond me…"

Lydia settled next to him at the table, pulling out her homework folder and sifting through for the right page.

He accepted it gratefully, his fingers brushing hers, and she stupidly felt butterflies fill her stomach.

Why the hell did this guy have so much control over her physiological condition?

They got to talking like normal, over homework and soon diverting into other things, and Lydia felt herself relax.

She knew things would be different after spending the weekend together, but it was a good different. The kind that she had hoped for, where they could talk more freely and not feel awkward around each other.

She even caught him smiling to himself as he worked and she had a feeling it wasn't over getting the correct answer he'd been working on.

The week went by in a blur, no professors bothering to take it easy on them just because they were still recovering from their holiday weekend fog.

Lydia's floor-mates wanted to go to a party that Friday night, at a frat house a couple down from their dorm. She wasn't exactly enthusiastic, but she also didn't have any other plans and it beat her sitting in her room alone getting ahead on homework. She contemplated texting Stiles to see if he was going, but she figured he probably wasn't. He, too, wasn't big on parties—he had made that clear on more than one occasion.

Her friends were really pushing her to go, claiming it would be fun to flirt with boys and dance with each other.

Lydia eventually caved, but now that she was there, and her friends had forgone 'girls night' for 'hook up with random boys night', she wondered why she had bothered. She was bored out of her mind, fishing out a drink between the many crammed bodies and attempting to slip through the crowd to find a safe spot to hide.

She had completely lost track of her friends, so once she downed a drink, she planned on heading out. The party scene just wasn't her place anymore.

Before she could locate the nearest spot near the exit, where she could pretend to enjoy herself until she made a quick escape, she spotted a familiar boy who looked about as excited to be there as she was.

He was leaning against the arm of a chair, where a couple was engaged in flirtatious whispering, and he was tipping back his beer while scanning the crowd.

When he spotted her, his face immediately broke out into a smile and he raised his beer at her in greeting.

With a coy smile, she made her way over, saddling up next to him.


"Hey! I didn't know you were coming to this thing; I should've texted you. I could've saved myself the agony of spending time with my roommate while he uses me as a wingman to hook up with girls."

She laughed. "I lost my friends to boys too. So much for ladies night."

"Funny how our college lives seem to mirror each other's… sucky party companions, sucky lab partners…"

Lydia grinned. "At least we can be miserable together."

"I wasn't planning on staying long. Kind of contemplating going back to my dorm room, since it's now free of my roommate, and watching Netflix on my laptop or something." he said slowly, as if he was planning on going somewhere else with it.

But his face suddenly changed as he looked past her shoulder. He suddenly put his beer down on the sidetable as he looked around him as if searching for somewhere to hide.

"OH shit, oh shit, oh shit."

"What's the matter?" she asked in surprise, wondering what the hell just happened, placing her drink down too now.

Stiles turned his body so he was blocking what no doubt was somebody's view of him. Lydia couldn't see anyone in particular looking in their direction—it just looked like a mass of bodies to her.

"Malia. My high school ex-girlfriend I mentioned? We broke up before we went off to college, but we already applied to the same school. I was never entirely sure if she came, because I haven't seen her and we don't keep in touch and god knows Derek would tear off my head if I asked, but she's here. Oh god, I should've left when I had the chance. I don't know what I'm going to say to her."

He glanced past Lydia and looked down.

"Shit, I think she saw me. I think she's coming over here. Oh god, what the hell am I going to-"

Lydia didn't know what made her do it. All she knew was Stiles was bordering on hyperventilation, and she was moving before she could stop herself.

Her palm wrapped around the back of his neck, dragging his mouth down onto hers and her other hand naturally fell to his shoulder as she kissed him sexily on the mouth, the way her body curved into his giving no one any room to doubt that they were intimately involved.

Stiles faltered in surprise at first, caught off guard by the sudden attack, but his hands slipped to her waist and his mouth began moving with hers.

Lydia kissed him deeply, making it last and dragging away the breath from both of their lungs in the process, which caused them to pull apart.

Stiles was breathing heavily. "Wh-why'd you do that?"

She swallowed, using the time to come up with an excuse. "I thought you were having a panic attack. I read once that you can stop one by holding your breath. So when I kissed you, you held your breath." she explained, a little more breathlessly than she would've liked.

"I-I did?"

She managed a soft smile, looking away as she wiped her smudged lip gloss with her pinky finger. "Yeah." she murmured shyly, fearing he could actually hear how fast her heart was beating. He looked to be pretty zoned out, so she held her head higher. "Also, it had the added benefit of scaring off your ex."

Stiles looked around and saw that Malia had disappeared completely. "Wow. Thank you. For both things. That was…. That was really smart."

Lydia shrugged, flashing him a quick smile of gratitude.

They were still standing only a few inches apart.

Lydia couldn't help herself from staring at his mouth, wanting very much to reacquaint it with her own.

Stiles seemed even more jittery than usual, his eyes seemingly unable to focus on anything for too long, so Lydia figured the exchange hadn't been as dazzling for him as it had been for her.

"Um, I think I'm going to head out."

Lydia nodded, tucking her hair behind her ears awkwardly. "Right."

"Can I walk you back to your dorm?"

She looked up, and he was smiling softly at her, forcing her heart to overreact.


She found herself blushing when his fingers slipped between hers and lead her away from the party.

There were no words between them on the walk home, but Lydia couldn't stop her smile. She very much liked holding Stiles' hand, and the way his thumb brushed along hers reminded her of the night before her birthday on the porch.

Lydia turned her head as she heard some sort of whining sound, like an animal crying out in pain.

"Do you hear that?" she asked her companion, slowing her walking.

"Hear what?" Stiles replied curiously, answering her question.

Lydia shook her head. It was silent now, as if a switch had turned off. She probably imagined it. "Nothing. I think my ears are still ringing from the music at that party."

Stiles smiled. "Too bad it wasn't anything decent playing. Maybe we would've stuck it out longer."

She laughed as they approached her dorm. "Hmm, I don't know. I think we were destined to wallflower and then bolt. We accomplished that quite well, as expected."

Stiles' hand remained in hers and she wondered if he was reluctant to separate them like she was.

"So we should really do this again sometime. Attend a crappy party, get abandoned, wallflower in the corner, leave early. We're fulfilling all of college students' dreams."

Lydia giggled and rolled her eyes at him.

Stiles stepped forward, Lydia's breath leaving her instantly, and he reached out to finger a strand of her hair.


She bit her lip, pressing closer. Please, please, please…

His eyes slowly roved over her face, and before either of them could move, a loud group of party attenders ran by, screaming and laughing and making more noise than a damn Saturday afternoon parade.

It caused Stiles to step back from her, out of protection or embarrassment, Lydia wasn't sure. But there was no question that the spell had been broken, once again.

Why did this keep happening? First Derek, now some college idiots…

Stiles smiled, stuffing his hands in his pockets. "Well, I guess I should let you get some sleep. Maybe we can hangout tomorrow, go get breakfast in town or something?"

Okay. Definitely a better compromise than she was expecting.

"Sounds good to me. I haven't really left campus much."

"Yeah, me neither. Seems like it's about time though, right? We really only have a couple weeks until finals and then winter break."

Lydia nodded. "Okay, so, pick me up at nine?"

Stiles nodded. "Nine works for me. Night, Lyds."

"Night, Stiles." she murmured, smilingly coyly before turning to head up the path to her building.

Stiles continued on his route, further up the hill and a few buildings away from her place.

Lydia had her hand on the door handle when she heard the same noise from earlier. Only this time it was louder and came out as more of a growl.

Instinct should've forced her to throw herself inside as quickly as she could, where there were tall glass doors and security and her nice safe dorm room.

But something else pulled her away. Maybe it was her unquenchable curiosity. Maybe she wanted to prove that she wasn't hearing things.

She stepped away from the door and turned towards the shrubbery underneath the bay window.

"Is anyone there?" she couldn't help herself from asking, feeling like a character in a horror movie.

You'd think that that fact alone would make her re-evaluate, since those stupid curious people always got killed first.

The growling grew louder and she began backing up towards the door again, the panic beginning to set in. She definitely wasn't hearing things.

"LYDIA! RUN!" Stiles was suddenly screaming at her, a terrifying contrast from his usual softness, and on reflex her head snapped in his direction. He was running at full speed towards her, the fear on his face enough to paralyze her.

She waited a second too long, and next thing she knew she was screaming as something heavy collided with her, sharp pain unlike anything she'd ever felt gnashing her side.

And then everything went black.

Chapter Text

Stiles was walking back to his dorm, cursing his nerves getting the best of him and preventing him from making the next move with Lydia, when he heard it. The distinct howl of a wolf. It was far away, likely in the woods far off campus, but he knew that kind of howl. After all, there were no wolves in California—except for one kind.

"Did you hear that?" Lydia had asked earlier, looking around as if expecting to find the source.

Like she had heard something moving, like an animal.

It hit Stiles all at once—the realization of what night of the month it was, what Lydia likely heard, and that he hadn't actually watched Lydia enter her building.

He turned and started running, and he saw her, stepping closer to the bushes next to the door, so close to safety but infinitely closer to danger.

He broke into a full-on sprint, knowing there was no way he could get there fast enough. She was too close, he was too far, and his heart nearly fell out of his chest as it all started to hit him.

"LYDIA! RUN!" he screamed at the top of his lungs, not giving a shit who heard him, just needing her to hear him, to understand his warning, and she snapped her eyes over to him immediately.

But that delay would be her downfall. The half-beast jumped out of the bushes, electing a scream out of the strawberry-blonde and knocking her down as it sunk its claws into her flesh.

Stiles practically flew the remaining distance, throwing with all his might the werewolf detonator alarm that Allison had lent him in case of a situation like this.

Sure enough, the werewolf ran off, shrieking, and Stiles got a good look at it.

"Oh my god. Aiden." he said in shock.

Based on the way he ran off howling, not quite grasping the proper sound, Stiles deducted that he hadn't been a werewolf long. Likely newly turned, not used to his powers yet, still a slave to the moon. He wouldn't have known what he was doing when he attacked Lydia. She was probably just convenient.


Stiles had been moving forward without conscious thought. He collapsed next to her on the pavement, hands flitting around as tears filled his eyes. There was so much blood, splattered all over her and her dress. He wasn't sure where her wounds were, but he found gashes in the dress material on her side that he immediately put pressure on.

"Hey! HEY! Call an ambulance, now!" he shouted at a group of girls who had stopped dead before exiting the dormitories, looking absolutely traumatized by what they had just witnessed.

Stiles turned back to Lydia, her eyes closed and her breathing slowed, and the tears splashed down his cheeks.

"Stay with me, Lydia. Don't you dare leave me like this. You are a fighter. Stay with me. Stay with me." he begged brokenly, wiping his eyes on his shoulder sleeve as he did his best to stop her bleeding.

He was completely dissociative to what was going on. When a pair of hands reached out to move him, he swung violently at them on reflex.

"Let go, son. We're here to help her. You can let go. We'll take it from here."

A crowd had gathered now, various party goers looking on in earnest for what had happened, people whispering, gossiping, but Stiles was oblivious to them all.

"Please. Please help her. Please don't let her die." he begged the paramedics quietly, not caring that he looked worse than he felt.

"We will do everything we can." the woman reassured him as her partner started the initial assessment on Lydia.

Stiles looked on from afar, not wanting to interfere, but desperate to be closer to her.

Lydia remained motionless, not opening her eyes, not giving him any kind of reassurance that the girl he loved was going to make it.

Stiles paced the hospital hallway, unable to sit still. He was getting weird looks, since he was covered in blood, but he didn't care. He really didn't fucking care.

He finally decided that there was no way Lydia was getting out of surgery so soon so he called Scott, not caring that it was almost one in the morning.

"Stiles? Hey, everything okay?" Scott's voice came warmly through the receiver.

Hearing his best friend's voice only made his emotions flood out of him. It was too much—the shock, the pain, the impending loss he wasn't sure he'd have to endure. He felt too much, all at once, and he couldn't physically keep it in anymore.

He started sobbing, burying his face in his knees as he sunk to the floor.

"Scott… it's Lydia. She was attacked. She's at the hospital and they're trying to save her but… it was a werewolf, Scott. She's going to… she's going to be…. I'm not even sure if he bit her or just scratched her, but she was bleeding so much… can you be turned by a scratch? If it goes deep enough? I… can you call Deaton or Derek or, fuck, I don't care, call Argent… call… somebody. Please, Scott. Please."

He wasn't even sure if he was making sense. He felt like he was losing his mind, like reality and sense were slipping away from him the more he tried to grasp on with both hands.

Scott's voice was firm and sure, though there was a slight waver in it if you knew him as well as Stiles did. "Stiles, I'm coming. Me and Allison are driving up right now. Where are you?"

"Berkeley Hospital." he managed to choke out.

"We'll be there as soon as we can. Stiles, she's going to be okay. And if she does turn, that means she'll heal. She's going to be okay."

Stiles nodded, even though Scott couldn't see him and his tears hadn't stopped regardless, and he ended the call.

He didn't want to tell Scott the truth. That he didn't want Lydia to be a werewolf. That Lydia didn't need that chaos in her life. Scott hadn't wanted it at first either, and then he learned to accept it and take it with grace, but not everyone got off that lucky. He wouldn't have wished the supernatural life on anyone. It was chaotic and terrifying and consuming.

Stiles headed to the men's room, rinsing his face with water and taking a few deep breaths. He had to hold it together. He couldn't fall apart. Lydia needed him to be strong.

Once he had his wits about him, he returned to the waiting room.

Allison was texting him, telling him to hang in there, giving him checkpoints they had passed so he knew how soon they'd be there. He was eternally grateful for the distraction.

The doctor came out, face grave, and Stiles felt his insides were left behind as he stood up to greet him.

"You're waiting for Lydia Martin?"

He nodded.

"Is there a family member of hers here I could talk to?"

"No, they're coming from San Diego. They won't be here for a while. Please, is she going to be okay?"

"Look, son, I know you're concerned for your friend, and I'm sorry for this but truthfully, I can't tell you—"

"Please. I'm covered head to toe in her blood. I'm all she has out here. Please, tell me something." Stiles begged, running a hand through his hair as he felt his emotions bubbling back up.

He knew, legally, doctors had to deliver any news, good or bad, to direct family first. But she was family to him.

"Excuse me, I'm Natalie Martin, Lydia's mother. How is she?"

The doctor looked relieved, clearly having been struggling to decline Stiles, and Stiles could've hugged the woman next to him despite the fact that they had never met. She wasn't shooing him away at all, which also was a bonus.

"Your daughter suffered severe wounds from the animal attack. There were several long gashes in her side and she lost a lot of blood. However, we've managed to get her to respond to some transfusions and have cleaned and dressed her wounds."

"Oh thank goodness."

Stiles breathed. She was okay. She was alive.

The doctor grimaced. "She's not out of the woods yet, though. We're not sure what's going on with her exactly—if we didn't know better, we'd assume it was some sort of allergic reaction. Her body keeps going into shock."

What the hell did that mean?

Lydia's mom clearly reflected his thoughts. "So what happens now? What can be done?"

"Well, out here we don't have much experience with animal attacks. We believe she would do better at another hospital, a more advanced one, and one that has dealt with these sort of incidents before. We want Lydia to receive the best care possible, so we've set up a transfer. We just need your consent to finalize it. Beacon Hills Hospital is expecting our call. We can give you directions, and they will set up a private room for Lydia where she will receive the best care in the state."

Stiles stared open-mouthed. She was going to go to Beacon Hills?

"She's in recovery right now, but we should be able to get you in to see her. If you wouldn't mind following the nurse there and filling out some paperwork, we can get things in motion."

Lydia's mom nodded and followed, leaving Stiles standing alone.

Stiles fished his phone out of his pocket and dialed Allison's number.

"Hey. Turn around. Lydia's being moved to Beacon Hills Hospital. I'll meet you guys there."

He wasn't sure what to do after he hung up the phone. He wanted to talk to Lydia's mom, but she had disappeared and he didn't really know if she would want to talk to him. She had only glanced at him briefly during the whole conversation with the doctor.

After a few minutes of standing around uselessly, he headed towards the parking lot to get in his jeep and start the trek to Beacon Hills.

It felt like a much longer drive without a happy Lydia next to him arguing about radio choices.

Stiles was surprised he made it to Beacon Hills in one piece, considering how distracted he was. He couldn't seem to keep his nerves under control—his hands were shaking and he was focusing the majority of his attention on keeping his breathing normal.

They had implied she would be fine, right? So why was he still panicking?

He really needed to see her. He needed to see for himself that she was okay.

Entering the familiar hospital, Stiles saw Allison and Scott near the nurse's station, talking to Melissa.

As soon as he walked in, they looked over, and Scott was jogging over as Stiles' face melted from its mask.

He collided with him, not even realizing he had started sprinting, and burrowed himself into Scott's hold.

Scott held him tightly, sighing almost in relief.

"You don't smell right." Scott mumbled sadly, as if that was the worst part of the whole evening.

Stiles almost laughed, but it came out as more of a sob and after another moment he finally let go.

"I'll work on that."

Allison came over as soon as the pair separated, no doubt wanting to give them some privacy, and she pulled Stiles into a hug immediately.

"She's going to be okay. I think they brought her in about ten minutes ago, but we couldn't really see anything."

Stiles nodded as they separated. "I owe you a thank you, by the way. Your detonator scared the guy off. We'd probably both be dead without it."

Allison smiled. "I'm glad it came in handy."

"Did you get a good look at the guy?" Scott asked quietly as they took seats along the wall.

"Yeah. At first, I thought…" He paused awkwardly, and the couple glanced at each other before looking at him curiously.


"Um, I thought it might be Malia. It was actually a guy in our legal ethics class, who, based on the evidence, looked to be a newly turned werewolf who just didn't have self-control yet."

"Why did you think it was Malia?"

"Uh, well… I had seen her earlier that night. There was a frat party and me and Lydia were talking and I saw Malia there and kind of, you know, tried to hide."

"So you think Malia went out looking for you? But she has control now." Allison reminded him.

Stiles grimaced, scratching the back of his neck. "Yeah, I know. Um…"

Scott seemed to start catching on. "You think she attacked Lydia on purpose? Because she saw you two talking?"

Stiles closed his eyes in defeat for a moment then ran a hand through his hair. "Well, when I saw her, I kind of panicked. And Lydia… she wanted to stop my panic attack, so she kissed me. And she did it well enough so that Malia would scare off and leave me alone."

Allison and Scott were staring open-mouthed at his confession.

"Lydia kissed you." Allison repeated.

"Yes, look, it's not a big deal, all right? She didn't mean it that way. Or, well, I don't know. But the point is, I thought Malia might have gotten jealous and sought her out to, like, punish her or whatever."

Before either of the two could interject their thoughts on the matter, Stiles stood up.

"That's Lydia's mom."

Natalie Martin had just walked through the doors and headed straight to the nurse's station to find out where Lydia was.

She spotted Stiles and eyed him up and down before tuning back into what the lady was saying.

"Thank you." she told her before following the direction the nurse pointed.

Stiles felt himself deflate. It was only fair her mother see her first.

The more Stiles thought about it, the more he felt as though he probably wasn't going to get to see Lydia at all.

But then Mrs. Martin turned around and walked straight towards him.

He swallowed nervously, not sure if she was going to berate him for his constant presence or tell him to go home.

"You're a friend of my daughter's?"

He nodded. "Stiles."

"Excuse me?"

"My name. It's Stiles."

The déjà vu hit him like a ton of bricks and he barely managed a smile.

Natalie had better luck—her mouth stretched softly. "Lydia has talked about you a lot. You were with her at the time of the attack?"

He stuck his hands in his pockets. "Sort of. I had walked her to her dorm and then was headed to mine when I heard her scream. I got there as fast as I could."

"Which explains why you're covered in her blood. You're the one who kept her from bleeding out. When the nurse took me to see her, she said if you hadn't been so quick to act—"

"It shouldn't have happened in the first place." Stiles wasn't going to stand there and await his medal of honour. "I should've waited until she actually physically disappeared inside the building before I left her alone. It was late, it was dark, and her curiosity nearly got her killed, and I should've—"

He broke off, not wanting his voice to break in front of Lydia's mom for god sakes. He didn't know why he was telling her this. He was trying to get on her good side so she'd let him see Lydia, and here he was explaining exactly how much he was at fault.

He wasn't sharing that he knew about the supernatural, that he should've been more aware of the moon's cycles after the years of having his best friend be a werewolf. After the reality check of all the drama with the Darach and since Scott had been turned, he should've been more conscious of how precious life is, how quick things can change. He shouldn't have been too busy thinking about his teenage romance and more time focusing on making sure they both were safe.

Mrs. Martin observed him with interest. "Lydia is in the ICU right now. She's going to need constant monitoring. I'm not even allowed in there, except with exceptional supervision, so I don't think you'll be able to visit her right now."

There it was. The gentle letdown. The 'it's not my fault the hospital has these protocols in place oops sorry' charade. She didn't want him around her daughter when he had done enough damage already.

"But you and your friends can make your way down there. She's in a room with windows all around, so you'll be able to see her from afar. Once she gets stronger and pulls out of the unconsciousness she keeps falling into, she'll be moved to a private room and you can see her then."

Stiles nodded. "Thank you."

She patted his shoulder and then gave it a light squeeze. "Thank you."

He wasn't sure how to react to that, so he simply turned around to gesture to Scott and Allison to follow.

Hands locked, the pair followed, not asking any questions.

They reached the end of the long course of different hallways and ended up in a more secluded area.

Stiles heard the pair of them intake a breath, no doubt seeing the sign above saying Intensive Care Unit. He hadn't really given them details yet, but it was clear that she hadn't been doing well when he told them she was being transferred to a different hospital.

Mrs. Martin disappeared to get an update from the nurse, and Stiles stepped up to the windows, his fingers grazing the glass.

The lump formed in his throat at the sight of her, all hooked up to tubes and wires, a machine helping her breathe, monitoring her heart rate, keeping track of the level of oxygenation in her blood.

Her strawberry-blonde hair was tangled, her face paler than usual, and her body completely still. Without the beeping signifying life, Stiles could have easily believed she was dead.

He felt a hand on his shoulder, the familiar squeeze telling him it was Scott, and Allison snuck into his other side to wrap her arm around his waist and lean into him supportively.

There was no point in crying. It wouldn't change anything. And at the end of the day, Lydia was in the best place she could be. It hurt, it hurt enough to make Stiles feel like his insides were dying, but he had to stay strong. He had to have faith that Lydia would make it through.

Stiles broke away from them and lead them to the seating area, which thankfully was empty.

Inhaling deeply and blinking away the excess moisture in his eyes, he explained how the attack happened and then what the doctor and Lydia's mom had told him. As expected, it was the allergic reaction part that peaked their interest the most.

"Is that even possible? To be allergic to the bite?" Stiles asked Scott, even though he was sure he had no idea either.

Scott grimaced. "It might be her body rejecting the bite, just responding in that kind of way."

Stiles buried his face in his hands. That had been his first guess but he hoped he was being pessimistic.

"Hey, she's at the hospital, she has a team of doctors and constant monitoring. She'll get through this."

"But it's not like she was bitten to be turned. She wasn't even bitten by an alpha, just some freaked out beta who didn't know how to handle the moon's power."

"I don't know, Stiles. We'll talk to Deaton in the morning. And Derek and Argent and hell, even Peter if we have to."

Stiles nodded, though he was only half-listening. It was going to be a long night.

"Stiles. Stiles!"

Stiles jerked awake, the crick in his neck from more than just the spontaneous motion and he unfurled himself from his lopsided position across the chair.

Allison's concerned face swam into view. "Hey. You should get home and get some sleep. We can't do anything for Lydia right now. After we get some rest, we'll go talk to Deaton."

Stiles wiped his face, correcting his throat from the morning frog taking residence there. "You guys go. Text me or call me if you hear anything. I'm staying here."

Allison looked to Scott for help, but he shook his head minutely. He knew better than to argue with Stiles about something like that. As much as Stiles wanted answers, he couldn't leave Lydia right now.

"I'll call you guys if anything changes with her condition."

The two of them nodded. "Okay. Keep your phone handy."

Stiles nodded and settled back in to his spot until he saw Lydia's mom greeting another man.

Based on her rather stoic expression, Stiles realized that that might be Lydia's father.

Mrs. Martin was talking to him in hushed tones, explaining everything, and Lydia's dad stared into the room vacantly. Stiles was half-sure he wasn't absorbing a word his ex-wife was saying.

The man suddenly looked in his direction and Stiles whipped up a magazine and pretended to be invested in it, only to realize halfway through hiding that it was upside down.

He had never been the best at subtlety.

When he was sure the coast was clear, he lowered the magazine and rubbed his face.

Stiles noticed the doctor in Lydia's room, talking to both parents. Yep, that was definitely Lydia's dad.

He wasn't the best at it, but eavesdropping his entire life had its perks. He was pretty sure he read the doctor's lips correctly when he said there had been no change.


Screw the night. It was going to be a long weekend.

Growing up with his dad as the sheriff, Stiles had heard his dad moving around enough to be able to pick up the sound of his work boots hitting linoleum out of a crowd.

But somehow, his dad still managed to sneak up on him Saturday afternoon.


Stiles straightened up from his half-dozing, blinking until his father's image came in clearer focus, and he got to his feet.

He saw his dad's eyes rove over him, lingering on the state of his clothes, and Stiles finally remembered that he had yet to change.

"Hey, dad."

He watched him warily. "You okay?"

Stiles nodded, shoving his hands in his pockets as his gaze shifted over his dad's shoulder to see Lydia's nurse writing down her vitals, the girl his heart belonged to still unconscious.

"There hasn't been a change. They don't really know what to do with her besides wait and see if she can fight off the 'allergic reaction'."

Stiles had called his dad late last night, and he had insisted on coming down right away, but Stiles had told him to stay home, to go to work, and that he would update him when he could. He must have finally gotten too stubborn to listen to him anymore.

"Stiles, I know you're worried about her, but she's in the best place for her right now. Come home. Shower. Change your clothes. I'll drive you back myself if I have to. Don't make me use my power as Sheriff to force you into it."

Stiles smirked a little despite himself, but when he cast his eyes over at Lydia, he really didn't feel like he could leave her. If she was going to… if she went… he wanted to be there. He hadn't been there for Heather, but he had for his mom, and he knew he'd never forgive himself if Lydia died without him there to hold her hand.

Even thinking it felt stupid and morbid, but he knew that was holding him there. He either wanted to be there so he could see her recover, so he could explain everything, or he wanted to make sure he didn't miss the moment when he lost her forever.

"Stiles, you need to sleep. And you're starting to get onlookers."

Stiles noticed the man his dad gestured to and chuckled.

"That's Lydia's dad. He has no idea who I am or why I'm here."

"You didn't want to introduce yourself?"

Stiles shrugged. "I just… It was hard enough telling his mom. That I was with her, about what happened. I don't want to rehash it all again. And it's inevitable that he'll ask."

The Sheriff patted his shoulder comfortingly. "What if Allison or Scott came to watch over her while you go home? They're due to come back any time now. They've been searching for answers."

That was usually Stiles' job—the research. Allison probably had talked to her dad, checked the bestiary, and more. Scott would've went to Deaton and Derek, maybe even Peter if they were desperate, which, at this rate, was likely.

As if summoned, Allison came down the hall and forced a smile at the pair.

"Hey. How is she doing?"

"The same."

Seeing his raw curiosity, Allison cut the small talk and got to the reason she came. "I'm sorry, Stiles. We've searched everywhere. We can't seem to find a reason why she'd be reacting the way she is, unless she is some other sort of werewolf and the lycanthropy is competing or something. Like how Malia is a werecoyote, not a werewolf. And honestly, that's just a theory. I called Kira, who spoke to her mother and they didn't know either. Scott texted me when I was on my way here and said that Deaton thinks we should check if her wounds are healing, to see if the bite actually took. Otherwise there's a chance—"

"That her body is fighting hard against the bite, yeah, I figured." Stiles said stressfully. "What did Derek say?"

"That if she's bleeding black blood, then it's a pretty good sign that the bite is going to kill her. That's what happened with Paige." She squeezed his hand. "But Lydia is young and strong. In reality, she should have a good chance."

"Paige should've too. And Lydia wasn't bit by an alpha, did you mention that to them? Does that matter?"

"Typically, betas can't make new werewolves. They don't have that extra spark of power."

"Which is what scares me. I can handle her needing time to heal from her wounds, like a human, but it's the supernatural element that's causing the reaction and I don't know if she's going to come out of it…"

He breathed out slowly. He couldn't dwell on the status of the situation too much right now. There was too little they knew. It hadn't even been twenty-four hours yet.

Allison stepped closer, tipping his chin so he'd look at her. "Stiles. Go home. Shower. Get changed. I know you won't stay home to sleep, so come back after that if you must, but you haven't eaten a thing, and you're starting to look like all of that blood came from you, you're so pale. I will call you the second something changes. If Lydia's finger twitches, you'll be hearing from me. Okay?"

Stiles sighed, gazing back at Lydia's form.

"Seriously, Stiles, you stink. You look like hell. And people are getting frightened of you. Go home. Grab some food and clothes. I'll keep an eye on her."

He groaned and finally listened, knowing he really wasn't that far from the hospital and that frankly he was getting tired of the suspicious looks people kept throwing him, especially Lydia's father.

He didn't miss the mouthed 'thank you' that the Sheriff sent Allison's way. She sent him a winning smile back before taking Stiles' seat.

Stiles' dad accompanied him home, making him a monstrous sandwich and handing him a bottle of juice that he downed on the drive back to the hospital.

Stiles had showered as quickly but thoroughly as he could, finding himself feeling much more like a member of the living when he threw on clean clothes from his drawers. Most of his clothes were still back at school, but he wasn't able to take everything, and now he was thankful for that. He hadn't really anticipated any impromptu trips home but it definitely didn't hurt to be prepared.

In reality, if he had nothing, Scott would've lent him something, but they were built a little different so he probably wouldn't have fit in them very well.

Arriving back at the ICU, Scott had now joined Allison and the two were leaning into each other, looking as desolate as Stiles felt.

Stiles lowered himself in the seat next to his best friend. "No change?"

Allison shook her head from where it was nestled against Scott's shoulder, their arms linked together. "Not really. But she seems to be much more stable. The last time they were talking to the doctor, he looked much more positive, and her parents actually were smiling, so I think that's a good sign."

"I'll try to get an update from her mom soon."

"I think she actually left with her husband. But Mom came out and she was talking to her. Once she's back from rounds, I'll grab her." Scott told him.

"Ex-husband." Stiles corrected. "They divorced when Lydia was sixteen. Do you know where they went?"

"Probably to get food."

Stiles leapt to his feet as Melissa came down the hall.

She smiled. "Now, technically, I'm not allowed to tell you this, since it's confidential information, but since Natalie said she would give you an update as soon as she didn't feel like she was going to pass out, I think I'll bend the rules. Lydia is making progress. She's stopped going into shock repeatedly. It looks as though, whatever was happening, seems to be diminishing. She's stable, and they're thinking that when she wakes up, they'll be able to move her to a private room."

"When?" Stiles repeated, making sure that wasn't a misuse of words.

Her smile broadened. "When. They have high hopes that she's on her way to a full recovery."

Stiles dove forward to hug her gratefully, and he could feel Scott and Allison's excitement next to him.

"Now, as you well know, this doesn't mean she won't feel some… supernatural side effects."

Stiles glanced at Scott. He remembered when he went through the change. He first noticed his hearing had improved, after his wound had healed completely like it had never been there, and then his speed and strength caught up to him. They really were only able to check one thing while Lydia was still unconscious—her ability to heal.

"You said her parents are gone downstairs to eat. And the doctor just checked in with them and on Lydia. And the nurse…?"

"—is going to do her other rounds. Which is what I should be doing before I hear this plan so I can keep my job." Melissa told them, flashing them a supportive thumbs-up before heading down the hall.

Stiles nodded at Scott as they snuck away to Lydia's room.

"Keep watch." Stiles told Allison, who rolled her eyes like it was obvious she was going to do so.

He and Scott slipped into Lydia's room, breathing out when they didn't set off some sort of alarm or knock anything obnoxious over.

As they went to close the door, naturally it squeaked like a thousand out of tune violins.

Allison sent them an annoyed look through the glass, stifling a laugh, but she nodded for them to keep going.

Approaching the bed, Stiles couldn't help but reach out and touch her forearm, rubbing his thumb soothingly along the warm skin.

Scott was on her other side, gently peeling back the bandage. Stiles was better off on the other side regardless, if his experience accompanying Scott to his tattoo was anything to go by.

"Is it healing?" Stiles asked quietly, not sure if he was ready for the answer.

"No. Not at all." he said, surprised, and carefully placed it back. "And no black blood. And it's not an actual bite, it looks like a scratch. I don't know if she has a bite elsewhere, but maybe the scratch didn't go deep enough to turn her."

"Didn't go deep enough? Did you see how much blood she lost?"

"You know what I mean, Stiles. It's not just a 1 + 1 scenario. There are other factors to consider with the supernatural."

Motion outside of the room finally caught their attention and they saw Allison sending them warning looks and gesturing to get the hell out of there.

Sure enough, when they rounded the corner after slipping out of the room, Lydia's parents were returning.

Stiles bumped his fist with Scott. Another mission executed successfully.

"Now that we know Lydia is going to be okay, anyone fancy raiding the vending machines?"

It wasn't until Sunday that Lydia was moved to her own room.

As expected, Stiles didn't go home at all, instead likely forcing himself to seek out a chiropractor in the near future due to his odd sleeping positions.

When Lydia woke up, Stiles nearly burst through the window itself, but he knew that wasn't right. She was with her parents, where she should be. She was pretty disoriented, what with being unconscious for a day and a half, so it wasn't as if she got up and started walking around looking for someone to socialize with.

They transferred her to another section of the hospital, which thankfully was near where Melissa was responsible for, so Stiles knew there would be a chance for him to see her before long. He just had to be patient.

…but it was really hard to be patient.

The day passed just as slowly as before, despite Stiles being a little calmer now that Lydia was awake. He still hadn't seen her and he was starting to think that he might get kicked out before he could.

As he texted Scott updates, who had told him to call when he heard anything since he had to get to work, and Allison had to make family dinner, he heard someone leave Lydia's room.

"He's still here? He's been here all day!" It was Lydia's father.

"Actually, he's been here all weekend." Melissa corrected as she walked by. "How's Lydia?"

"Good. Going to take a shower. Don't worry—I reminded her to be mindful of her bandages. I received a nice snarky reply to prove it too."

Melissa chuckled and Stiles hid a smile from his spot. Lydia was definitely getting back to herself.

"That's teenagers for you."

Before Mr. Martin could ask his next question, there was a shrill scream from inside Lydia's room.

It was loud and long enough to strike Stiles right in the heart and leave no room for him to question whose it was. Her scream would be permanently etched in his mind.


Without caring about respecting boundaries anymore, Stiles sprinted to her room and burst through the slower moving pair, wrenching open the bathroom door when he reached it.

He nearly slipped on the water on the floor and noticed that the bathtub was overflowing as the shower was running. He whipped back the curtain as Melissa moved to turn off the running faucet.

Her father was the first to speak. "Where the hell is Lydia?"

Stiles turned and saw the open window, and he swallowed as reality answered the question they all were burning to know. Lydia was gone.

Chapter Text

When Lydia had first woken up at the hospital, it hadn't been the beeping of monitors and the sting of fluorescent lights that alerted her that something was off. There was a dread coating her skin, like a figurative cold sweat, that was telling her that something wasn't right.

Her parents' faces swam into view, and she remembered thinking how odd it was that they were together. The fact that they were divorced didn't kick in until later on, but she could sense that that was off. Even if it took her some time to realize exactly why.

There was a dull pain on her side, noticeable even more when she wrapped her arms around her mother and the adhesive of the bandage tugged at her skin in protest.

They were talking to her, saying how glad they were that she was awake, and asking her things like how she was feeling and if she was in pain anywhere.

"My side." she mumbled, coming out raspier than expected, and she plucked off the oxygen mask covering her face.

She moved to remove more of the devices but the medical staff rushed forward.

"Let's leave those there until we do a full assessment, okay?"

Lydia nodded robotically, feeling exhausted and like arguing wasn't worth it. She just wanted to get the hell out of there. They were all watching her with such strange looks on their faces.

"What happened to me?"

Everything was foggy, muddled, like she hadn't cleaned off her windshield from the bad weather and she was trying to decipher shapes through spots in the glass.

Her father grimaced. "You were attacked by an animal."

Her mind was flooded with images all at once—her approaching the bushes slowly, Stiles running towards her at break-neck speed, screaming at her to run, and the flash of fur and claws and glowing eyes as a huge weight hit her and then the searing pain in her side.

Lydia startled, gasping, at the memory. That hadn't been a nightmare.

"Stiles. Where's Stiles? What happened to him?"

The monitor next to her started beeping like crazy, probably because her pulse just skyrocketed, and the doctor stepped in before her parents could say anything.

She moved forward and placed a reassuring hand on her arm. "Your friend is fine. He wasn't hurt. The animal scared off and he helped you until the paramedics arrived."

Lydia nodded, relaxing back into the pillows slightly.

"Your recovery hasn't been easy. We had a hard time getting you stable, but it looks as though you're going to be okay. We are going to keep you here for another couple days, to monitor you and see how your wounds are healing, but now that you're awake, in a couple hours we'll hopefully be able to move you to your own private room. Don't worry, Lydia. Beacon Hills Hospital has some of the best medical staff in the state. You'll be in great hands."

"Beacon Hills?" Lydia replied in disbelief. Of all the places, she was back here again.

"What do you say we try to get your assessment done before we answer any more questions?"

Eventually, Lydia was moved to her own room, where her parents flitted around her like useless insects.

It wasn't that she didn't appreciate their presence. But she really wanted to see Stiles, and she was sure he was nearby, and frankly she didn't want witnesses for their reunion. She wanted to have him crawl up in bed beside her and hold her and reassure her that he was fine.

But she honestly looked like hell reincarnated.

Her dad left the room to answer a business call and Lydia's mom scooted closer to the bed.

"Stiles has been here all weekend. I wouldn't think he even left, except that he seems to have changed out of his blood-stained clothes finally."

Of course he hadn't left. Of course he had been there all weekend. Never mind that they had classes to get to tomorrow.

Lydia tried to keep her face neutral, but she had a feeling her mother sensed the change in emotions since she forced an awkward smile, letting Lydia know that what came next was either a warning, a lecture or worse.

"I think it's really great that you've made such a good friend up at school. But I think we need to talk about that arrangement."


Natalie took her daughter's hand. "Lydia, you may not be ready to hear this but you nearly died. That animal attack happened at school, on campus near the dorms, and your father and I have discussed it and we feel it's best for you if you consider attending somewhere else."

"You want me to transfer schools?"

She tried not to panic. Be away from Stiles? Be stuck living with her mom and her mom's boyfriend? Or worse, her dad? Having to make all new friends, somewhere else, or worse, back in San Diego? No. She wouldn't do it.

"We don't like the thought of you going to school out there, practically in the wild…"

Lydia rolled her eyes. Parents were so dramatic. There was a shopping mall four blocks from campus and about three Starbucks.

"I was talking to one of the nurses here, and she said that they are desperate for teachers at the high school here. There's a good college nearby, and there is a pretty good turnover in real estate. We should be able to find a place quickly. And, if nothing else, the hospital here is clearly better and if anything like this happens again, I want you to be able to receive the best care possible."

"You want me to move here?"

"It's still California, honey. And it's not that far from your other school. Your friends can come down and visit."

She didn't care about seeing her other friends every day, but Stiles…

"Do I get a say in this?"

Mrs. Martin squeezed her hand. "We're trying to do what's best for you. You can finish the semester at your other school, it's only a couple weeks, which will give me time to get our situation down here sorted out."

"Wait, what about Brian?"

Her mom smiled. "You've always been my priority, Lydia. We will work it out. I can drive up to see him on weekends and such. He travels a lot with work as it is, so he might be able to come down here plenty too. I'd rather have you under my roof, safe, away from the dorms, than have to spend my nights worrying about you."

Lydia smiled softly and leaned forward to hug her mom. She hated that her mom felt the need to uproot her life, but if she was this serious about it, who was she to say no? It would mean no dorms, and at least Allison and Scott would be down here.

She wondered if Stiles would transfer too, it's not as though being away from everything had helped much, but she remembered that he had more than one reason for leaving in the first place. Maybe he couldn't come home.

"I've got to go make a few calls. Your father should be back any minute."

Lydia nodded, forcing a grateful smile before settling back into the bed.

She really needed to talk to Stiles.

Remembering how she looked, she figured maybe she could at least shower first.

Her dad returned, looking nervous when he noticed that her mother wasn't present.

"Mom went to make some phone calls." Lydia slid to the edge of her bed and got to her feet. "I'm going to take a shower."

"Do you, uh, want help?"

Her father really had no idea what to do with her. He looked more afraid of her than concerned, which only made her roll her eyes irritably.

"If I was four." she quipped in annoyance, shuffling to the bathroom on her own.

"Don't forget about your bandages." Her dad added quickly, nervously, and she stopped to flash him a faux-grateful smile.

"I got attacked by an animal—I didn't get amnesia."

She really didn't have patience for him today, even if deep down she was grateful that he actually made it down to see her.

There were towels already laid out, and a fresh hospital shirt for her to tie on after she got clean. She could not wait to put on real clothes again, but while they were checking her wounds and such, it didn't make any sense to bother.

Lydia started the water and undressed carefully, wincing slightly at the pain in her side.

"Bye, bye bikinis." she sighed as she glanced down at it, stepping into the tub and letting the water wash over her.

As she washed her hair and cleaned herself, she knew she should be feeling better by the second. Improved hygiene after lacking it for so long was guaranteed to improve her well-being, yet she felt off, like something was missing or wasn't right.

She opened her eyes and caught glimpse of the water at her feet, seeing how it was collecting despite there being no plug in.

The water became murkier, darker, so she couldn't even see her feet.

She gagged a little. What the hell kind of 'advanced hospital' was this when they didn't even have decent plumbing?

Breathing hard through her nose, Lydia squatted down to feel around for the plug. Instead, her fingers met a wad of hair.

Trying not to vomit, she lifted it up, only to see it was her own hair. Long, stained dark from the moisture. It was a lot of hair to just lose in one go. What the hell kind of meds had they been pumping her with? Was hair loss a side effect? She hadn't really looked herself in the mirror properly…

She dug around some more, but only found more of her hair.

She could feel herself starting to panic, whimpering as she found huge gobs of hair in the disgusting water. She had to be missing half of her hair. What the hell did she look like now? Some sort of half-bald monster? Tears were stinging her eyes. Her beautiful, long hair that she took such pride in was falling out.

Lydia felt like a ball had formed at the base of her throat, waiting to burst through. It could've been vomit, or a sob, but it was something else.

As Lydia searched desperately for the plug so that she could drain the stupid tub from the nasty liquid encasing it, something that looked remarkably like a tree root shot up and wrapped around her wrist, pulling her downwards.

And that's when that ball of pressure burst out of her mouth in the form of a chilling scream.

Stiles put his head in his hands after he read the text from Scott.

Still no luck, Stiles. I'm sorry. We've got everybody looking. We'll find her.

The last time someone had been missing like this and Scott hadn't been able to find her, it had been Heather, and it was because she was dead.

It wasn't right. How could Lydia have finally been okay, and then this happened? Where was she? What made her run off?

She had left two nights ago, in the cold, with no clothes on. It didn't take a medical professional to remind him how unlikely it was that she was okay.

The front door opened and Stiles shot to his feet, but his father simply shook his head desolately when he met his eyes.

"I'm sorry, Stiles. Nothing yet."

Stiles blew out a long breath.

There were too many supernatural horrors in Beacon Hills, especially after what they did a few months ago, that any number of nightmarish beings could have found her by now.

"Stiles, we need to talk about something else."

He looked at his dad in confusion. "Like what?"

"The fact that you're supposed to be at school, and instead you're here—"

"Dad, I'm not going back to school to await a text telling me Lydia was found dead in the woods! I want to be here! I want to help!"

The Sheriff waved his hands in a quieting gesture. "I know. That's why I think you should transfer to a school down here."

Stiles absorbed that in surprise, not really sure what to say.

"This time, it's Lydia. But what happens when the next big bad comes to town? Are you going to be okay studying for finals and attending frat parties while Scott and your friends fight off the next supernatural killer? I want you to have the best education possible and a normal life, but since Scott got bitten, you haven't had a normal life. And now that you know all about the supernatural, I don't think that ever will happen. It scares the hell out of me, you guys running off into danger like you have some sort of… obligation to save the city because you know what's attacking it, but I can't stop you. And I don't think you can either. Going to school away was fine when things were calm, but things never stay quiet for long. As much as I hate it, when Lydia was attacked, it made me realize how little protection you have up there. The supernatural is everywhere, and I'd feel better knowing you have Scott and Allison and the others to work with you than having you off by yourself."

Stiles nodded slowly, understanding. Frankly, since it had happened, he had been thinking about it too. He didn't want to leave Lydia, but he also knew that he was going to continue to be drawn back to Beacon Hills. There was something pulling him back, whether it was his connection with the Nemeton or what, but it was strong and he didn't think there was a point in fighting it anymore.

Going home at Thanksgiving also reminded him how much he missed his family and friends. Being away from them all again was hard. He missed his best friend, his bed, making dinner for his dad, all of it. It was the only thing that made him feel normal. He had gone away in the hopes of finding himself, finding a normal life, but his normal was the supernatural chaos that he left behind. It was about time to accept it.

"I'll have to finish the semester, I only have a couple weeks until finals, and I'll try to see if there are any openings in the classes I'll need down here."

The Sheriff smiled, nodding, and Stiles could tell he was more excited than he let on. Even with him dating Melissa, it was clear he had missed having his son around. The house did seem much emptier.

"You should get some sleep, Stiles. You've missed two days of classes. You might want to think about taking a drive up to get your books so you can complete your assignments down here."

Stiles tried not to smile at the fact that he wasn't telling him to go to school and go to classes. His dad knew full well that there was no point in arguing with him. He wasn't leaving until Lydia was going back with him.

"All right. Let me just take the trash bins to the curb."

The Sheriff closed his mouth in surprise, furrowing his brow, clearly caught off guard by the idea. Maybe he had forgotten the small part of what it was like to have Stiles living at home, having him take care of the unspoken stuff without needing to be reminded or asked.

Stiles patted him reassuringly on the shoulder before throwing a coat on and heading out the front door. It was chillier as they were in December now.

He dragged the bins to the curb, parking them so they wouldn't tip even if it got windy, and headed back up the driveway.

A noise from the side of the house made him slow his pace.

"What the hell was that?" Stiles murmured to himself, fishing out his keys and unlocking the jeep's door to pull out his aluminum baseball bat.

He advanced into the shadowed area cautiously, bat in hand, really hoping it was just a cat and not something supernatural.

When he saw who it was, the bat slipped out of his hand and clanged against the pavement.


Her hair was full of leaves and twigs, as if she had run through the woods, and she was covered in dirt and scratches. She was shaking all over, her arms covering her torso protectively as her hands quivered against her collarbones.

Her eyes weren't focused on him at all, and she didn't appear to have heard him.

"LYDIA!" Stiles shouted, needing her to look at him. Needing to know that this wasn't some trick.

Her eyes snapped up in his direction, going round when she saw who it was.

Stiles was running before she could get a word out.

He coiled his arms around her instantly, clutching her to him and exhaling shakily.

"Thank god, Lydia. Thank god you're okay." he managed to get out, kissing her forehead before pulling back to shake out of his jacket and wrap it tight around her. "I'm so sorry. You must be freezing. Here. Come on. Let's get you inside."

She didn't say anything, just quivered in his arms, and Stiles shouted for his dad as he closed the door behind him.


Just like with Stiles, Lydia didn't make any sort of verbal response. She just looked in his direction, fear present on her features.

"We need to get her to the hospital."

Lydia shook her head violently.

Stiles pulled her closer protectively. "We'll get her cleaned up first. Get her in fresh clothes."

The Sheriff looked reluctant, but caved when he saw the way Lydia burrowed into Stiles' hold. "Fine. I'll call her parents. Let them know she's here."

Stiles flashed his dad a grateful smile and lead Lydia upstairs.

He grabbed towels and started the water for her, not too hot since her body was a low temperature and would be sensitive.

Before he could excuse himself to let her shower alone, she suddenly grabbed his arm.

"Don't." she whispered, tears in her eyes, and he understood.

"I'll stay right here, okay?"

He helped her climb over into the tub and pulled the curtain across, accepting the jacket she passed through the space when she was done.

He had a feeling why she didn't want him to leave—she must have been scared off by something that happened while she was in the shower. He had no idea what could have possibly happened, but it was enough for her to go missing for two days over so it obviously was significant.

While she showered, he texted Scott and Allison and Melissa, letting them all know she was safe.

The shower turned off, and Stiles got to his feet, grabbing a towel and slipping it through the space for her.

He took her hand and helped her step out. She was still a little unsteady on her feet.

Lydia looked into the mirror above the sink and moved the hair around on her head, as if checking for something hiding underneath the wet locks.

She eventually gave up, following him back into his room where he grabbed some stuff out of his drawers and closet.

"I'm sorry I don't have something better to offer you." he said sheepishly, over the sweatpants, socks and t-shirt he handed her.

She shook her head dismissively. "It's fine."

Her voice seemed to be getting stronger.

Stiles' phone beeped but he ignored it.

"I'll let you get changed."

She nodded, a small grateful smile gracing her face, before she placed the clothes on the bed.

Stiles was just leaving the room when his dad came up the stairs.

"Lydia's mom is on her way over. She wants to take her to the hospital, but I told her that Lydia hadn't been keen on that idea and that she was cleaning up. I don't know how much pressure she'll put on her to go, but I think Lydia should at least go to get quickly checked, make sure her previously dressed wounds aren't infected or anything. Who knows what she came across out there." He watched his son carefully. "Has she said anything about where she's been?"

Stiles shook his head. "Something about the way she is… I don't think she really remembers right now. But she didn't want to shower alone, so she at least remembers the fear she felt before she ran away."

"Well, what matters is that she's back safe now. I called the station and the hospital to let them know she's been found."

"Scott and Allison are on their way over." Stiles confirmed, slipping his phone back in his pocket.

Lydia exited the bedroom and forced a smile at the Stilinski pair.

Stiles reached a hand out and she gladly took it, giving his a squeeze in return.

"Your mom's coming by. Same with Allison and Scott. They're really glad you're okay."

"We all are." the Sheriff inputted with a smile before turning to head downstairs.

Lydia coiled her arm around Stiles' so she could be closer, her other arm crossing his body so she could hug him from the side. She followed him down the stairs, not releasing him at all.

They had so much to talk about, but right now, this was all she needed. And based on the way Stiles rubbed his hand along her arm comfortingly, she figured he was good with just this for now too.

They got comfortable on the couch, Lydia tucking her feet underneath her as she snuggled into Stiles' form, and he kept his arms wrapped around her protectively. No way was he letting her go anytime soon.

He couldn't help himself from placing an affectionate kiss to her temple.

Stiles was warm and familiar and smelled good, and she felt clean and safe and at peace. It was so strange, since merely an hour ago she had been wandering around god knows where. She didn't really know why her brain was short-circuiting, only seeming to comprehend reality once she had seen Stiles, but maybe it wasn't something that could be explained. After all, something must have drawn her to him in the first place. It couldn't be a coincidence that she showed up at his house after being unfindable for two days.

Lydia closed her eyes, cluing in to how exhausted her body was now that she was a normal temperature and sitting comfortably. She clutched Stiles' hoodie tighter in her fists as she nuzzled closer, feeling her breathing begin to even out. She wasn't even going to try fighting to stay awake.

Stiles hadn't slept in days—half a week, really, since he hadn't slept since before Lydia was attacked. He had spent the last two nights running around with Scott or Allison or his dad. The nights before that were spent at the hospital, barely sleeping in the cheap chairs lining the halls. The first night he wasn't even sure she was going to survive so he couldn't have gotten more than a couple hours.

But now, having Lydia safe in his arms, her steady breathing soothing, Stiles couldn't help but feel sleep beginning to weigh down his body. He was so tired.

He fell into a deep enough sleep that he didn't hear Scott and Allison come to the door.

They walked in to see the pair practically cuddling on the couch, Lydia all tucked into Stiles while his face nestled in her damp hair.

Scott sighed. "One positive thing that came out of this whole ordeal is that hopefully these two will finally stop beating around the bush and get together already."

Allison giggled and pressed a kiss to his cheek, sneaking her phone out to snap a picture of the adorable pair, knowing that it really was only a matter of time.

Chapter Text

It felt weird being back at school, even weirder than after Thanksgiving.

So much had happened in such a short time, and Stiles had been reminded why he had slacked off during high school. It was hard to care about reading literature and solving algebraic formulas when you've experienced what it's like to see life flash before your eyes, or nearly lose someone you care about forever.

Still, Stiles knew that fighting the supernatural didn't exactly pay the bills, and that some of the stuff he learned in school had even helped him deal with that stuff, so he plunked his butt down into his seat and pulled out his books.

He was getting the odd side glance from his classmates, but he supposed that was to be expected. Lydia's attack had attracted quite the crowd, and he was in the center of it all.

All of their eyes became suddenly preoccupied, and Stiles followed their lead to see Lydia standing in the doorway.

A hush fell over the room and Stiles could detect the subtle nervousness in her eyes.

But just as quickly, she lifted her chin, flicked a strand of her hair out of her face, and practically strutted to her seat like the queen she was.

Stiles couldn't help himself from smiling to himself, especially seeing the crown pendant on her charm bracelet sparkling under the fluorescent light as she situated her books.

One girl leaned over to her.

"Are you okay?" the blonde asked, face full of concern.

Lydia flashed her a popular girl smile, brilliant and bold. "Of course I'm okay. I lost nine pounds."

Lydia was grateful for it being one of her shorter days, because although she was cleared by the doctor to go back to school, she still wasn't feeling a hundred percent.

She was mostly pushing through, but the coffee cart line was extra long, and she wasn't even entirely sure the caffeine boost would help with her low energy. She was pretty sure her body was just still in healing mode, needing rest and low activity so it could take the time and effort to heal. Instead, she was going faster than her normal pace, trying to catch up on the few days she missed. She needed to finish the semester with top grades if she had any hope of being accepted into the school in Beacon Hills so last minute.

Lydia rubbed her forehead, trying to swipe the light-headedness away. Her drink better be ready soon.

Her knees felt weak, and she found herself losing her balance.

Before she could sway and make contact with the floor, an arm wrapped around her waist and pulled her in.

Lydia looked up and smiled, pushing her hair off her face and trying to control her blush.


"Hi." Stiles replied amusedly, cupping her face in his hand and scanning her eyes objectively. "You okay?"

"Just a little weaker than usual." she explained awkwardly.

He nodded. "How about you go get us a table? I'll grab your drink."


"Lydia, it's okay. I've got to get mine anyways." he reminded her, stroking soothing circles on her waist.

"Okay, fine. But once I get my energy back, I want to go steal a study room."

"Deal." He pressed a quick kiss to her forehead before letting her go and heading back.

Lydia sat at the table, sighing, wishing she didn't feel so pathetic. Stiles was a great caregiver, no doubt about that, but she didn't want him to feel like he had to take care of her. She would be okay.

She leaned her chin on her hand, watching him from afar, finding her eyes following the curve of his spine, the subtle muscles in his arms.

A guy, maybe someone from his dorm, greeted Stiles enthusiastically and Stiles chatted with him while they waited for their drinks.

Lydia knew she had to tell him that she wasn't coming back to school next semester. That she was moving to Beacon Hills, essentially stealing the life he should be living there. She felt like she was betraying him somehow—she'd be living in his hometown, seeing his friends, but he would still be out here.

It wasn't fair. She wanted him to come with her. But he had said that he needed to be away. Did that still apply?

Her mind couldn't help reminding her of what he had said their last night of Thanksgiving break.

I didn't want to be away from you for that long.

She felt the same about him, even more so after the weekend they had had.

Stiles suddenly sat next to her, and she startled in surprise.

"Sorry." he said, clearly trying not to laugh. "Lost in thought?"

Lydia tucked her hair behind her ears. She really should just tell him already.


"I'm moving." she blurted out.

She couldn't look at him, too scared to see his expression.

He was quiet for a moment, but finally spoke.

"Okay… does this mean you don't want your machiatto?"

"Stiles!" she complained, looking up at him, to see his amused mask slipping on. It was subtle, but she knew he was doing his usual defense mechanism—making a joke to avoid showing his pain.

But then he smiled a real smile, and Lydia didn't know what to think.

"Come on. Let's go find that study room. Then we can talk."

Lydia followed his lead, feeling confused. He seemed to actually be taking things really well, all things considered, but then again, she hadn't explained yet, so what the hell was he thinking?

Thankfully, they managed to snag one as a study group left. Usually the rooms were something of a novelty, but Lydia had gotten good at beating the crowd so the pair of them had gotten pretty spoiled and today was no exception.

Once they were seated, Stiles pulled his seat over to hers and put his hands on hers in her lap.

"All right. Talk to me."

His amber eyes were warm and patient and she felt herself look down in shame, wishing she had told him sooner but also wishing she didn't have to tell him at all.

"My parents are still freaked out by what happened here. They don't think it's a safe place for me. And my mom is actually willing to uproot her life for me, even leave sharing a city with her longest relationship since my dad, and I just… I can't say no. I'm finishing the semester here and then I'll be transferring to another school."

Stiles nodded, watching their hands now.

"Me and my dad had a similar conversation."

Lydia looked up in surprise.

He grimaced. "A few months ago, I wanted to be away. It was my choice. And I'm glad I went. But if I've learned anything lately, it's that it's really hard being so far away from the people I love the most. I hate feeling so helpless. Maybe I am an extension of them, but maybe that's not such a bad thing. Because I'm a part of them too."

"So… what are you saying?"

"I'm moving back to Beacon Hills after the semester is over. I've already applied for a transfer. As long as I keep my grades where they are, they have a spot reserved for me."

Lydia simply stared at him.

"You're moving back to Beacon Hills?"

He nodded. "I wanted to tell you too, but there was never a good time what with all that was going on."

Lydia couldn't stop the grin from forming on her face. "Stiles. You're moving back to Beacon Hills?!"

He looked at her like she sprouted feelers. "Uh, yeah. Sorry. Thought I covered that."

"No. Stiles! I… That's where me and my mom are moving. She was speaking to someone at the hospital who mentioned some job openings at the high school, and she said she's staying there to search out a place for us to live, and my transfer has already sent through too."

Stiles mimicked her earlier shocked expression, just blinking.

"You're not joking?"

She shook her head, smiling so big she probably looked like she was hopped up on medication.

His face broke out into the biggest grin she'd ever seen him wear.

"Holy shit, Lydia!"

"I know!" she shouted back, giggling now.

Stiles was laughing just as giddily, before he sobered up some, looking like his thoughts caught up with him.

"Your mom thinks Beacon Hills is safer?"

Lydia nodded, calming down now too. "If nothing else, they still have the better hospital."

"I just assumed you would be going somewhere near San Diego, where you're from… I thought you and I would be miles apart, no matter what happened…"

"Nope. We'll be in the same city. And the same school. It'll be just like here except Scott and Allison will be around and your dad and Melissa. And now my mom too. No more dorms. You can sleep in your own bed."

Although she was listing all kinds of positive things, Stiles couldn't help but feel nervous. There had been another reason he had left Beacon Hills, another reason why he had to go back. And if Lydia was going to be around, things were going to come out. She'd be pulled into that world, whether he liked it or not. Hell, she already had been, and she had barely survived the spontaneous werewolf attack. How on earth was he going to keep her safe when she'd be neck deep in werewolves in Beacon Hills? And wouldn't her mom ship her off from there the second the trouble started?

But maybe, like his dad had wanted for him, she'd be safer with the supernatural pack to protect her. Maybe it would be better for everyone. And she didn't have to be long distance from him. That was a huge plus. Her safety was his top priority, but he couldn't deny the allure of having her close by, maybe even sharing classes like they did here.

Stiles smiled and returned the hug she leaped forward to steal, knowing that he had to trust that everything happened for a reason.

Lydia smiled broadly as she stepped back to admire her new room, seeing the way all of it was coming together.

It actually ended up being bigger than her old room, which suited her just fine. She really needed the extra closet space.

Her mom had managed to find an affordable house, actually only a few blocks from her friends'. She had suspicions that something bad happened to the previous tenants, because somehow they managed to snag a house that had an outdoor pool and everything. Her mom was very responsible with money and had a decent sized nest egg tucked away, so Lydia didn't feel too worried that anything would take away her new home.

"Lydia, do you want your sweaters in the dresser drawers or hung up in the closet?" Allison asked from her spot across the room, rummaging through the boxes. A lot of Lydia's clothes had been put in suitcases, but she only had so many before she had to start packing them in cardboard boxes.

"Closet, definitely." Lydia replied, coming over to help.

Scott and Stiles were downstairs, helping Lydia's mom and her boyfriend do the bigger heavy lifting.

Natalie had been so excited to hear Lydia's friends were coming to help. It saved them from having to hire professional movers, or doing it all themselves, and it also gave her a chance to get to know Lydia's new group.

Lydia hadn't missed the way her mom had been eying her and Stiles earlier in the day, when they were bickering.

"Lydia! You're not supposed to do any heavy lifting! See the marker on that box? It says HEAVY."

"I'm not an invalid, Stiles! And my wounds have healed just fine. I don't have any stitches left that might get ripped out—"

"You still shouldn't be overdoing it! It's not like they couldn't reopen if you put too much strain—"

"Are you a medical professional? No? Then shut up and let me move my own stuff."

Stiles groaned irritably at that. "You have got to be the most stubborn—"

"I think there's someone else in line for that award in this room, don't you?" she quipped back, quick as lightning, and they both glowered at each other before heading in separate directions—Lydia upstairs, Stiles back to the truck.

"Are they always like that?" Mrs. Martin asked Scott and Allison, who were breaking down the open boxes.

Scott laughed. "Oh that was nothing. You should see them cooking together."

"Cooking? Lydia cooks?"

Allison nodded. "Yep. Although she and Stiles spend more time debating than doing anything else."

Allison caught Scott's eye and smiled amusedly, knowing based on the impressed look on Lydia's mom's face that they had another person on their team rooting for the pair of bickerers to get together.

Allison returned to the boxes with the hangers, slipping each article of clothing on one before hanging it up.

"You know you're going to have to reorganize this whole thing to your liking, right? I'm just throwing it all in there."

Lydia smiled. "Oh trust me, I will be. I have a system."

Allison looked as though she hadn't expected anything less, smirking slightly as she started breaking down the empty boxes.

A laugh sounded from downstairs, and Lydia straightened up at the sound on reflex.

Allison didn't even have to hear it to know who it belonged to. She had to smile, thinking that maybe now, without the flurry of their other college life, the pair had a chance to get some real time together and would finally stop stalling on changing their relationship status.

She approached her new best friend cautiously, seeing her eyes glazed over as she looked at the different paint colour swatches in her hand. A taupe, violet, burgundy, magenta-purple, and deep blue were splayed in her hands.

Allison figured now was as good a time as any to bring up the obvious—the question of how soon she and Stiles were going to get together and allow them to go on proper double dates.

"I'm so glad you're going to be living here. It's amazing that your mom chose here of all places for you to move."

"I know. I guess getting attacked by a random beast has its perks?" Lydia teased.

Allison bit her lip. "Yeah… about that…"

Lydia turned to her, and she saw Allison duck her head shyly before flashing a brilliant smile at her.

"I've mentioned how happy I am that you're okay, right?"

Lydia laughed. "About a hundred times, but I'm glad it's still true."

Allison giggled and held up a paint swatch against the wall. "I like the purple."

Lydia cocked her head to the side contemplatively. She nodded. "Yeah, I do too."

Allison nodded in final agreement before turning back to the other boxes in the room, hunting for the next thing to unpack.

Lydia hadn't missed the look on her face before, when she seemed nervous at the mention of Lydia's attack, and she felt as if she was going to say something else. Maybe tell something Lydia hadn't known about it? She didn't know what it could be, but there was something about her expression that signified guilt, and that didn't seem possible. Allison hadn't even been there.

It wasn't the first time Lydia felt as if there was a puzzle piece missing from what happened that night, and after some of the stuff she heard over Thanksgiving, she couldn't help feeling like her friends had some big secret they were guarding, something that might relate to what happened to her that night at the dorms. She couldn't even wrap her mind around what that might be, because all of the snippets she heard didn't make sense. She needed the whole picture.

She was a curious person—a scientist really—and it meant her thirst for knowledge was pretty much unquenchable until she got all the answers and put together the solution. Now that she was living in Beacon Hills, she had to wonder if it would be long before she found out.

There was something inside her that felt like a warning—an unexplainable dread or anxiety that seemed to coat her every nerve ending. It was like it was telling her not to search for answers, not to question further into it, and she always flashed back to the night she was attacked when she really sat and pondered. Maybe because that was the last time she felt such a deep-rooted dread, that infinite moment between the beast's leap and the time it took for its teeth to slash into her side. She could remember the yellow glow-stick eyes better than anything and made a mental note to research into that. What kind of beast that could belong to. The hospital staff hadn't known exactly what had attacked her, but they hadn't cared much because they were relieved she had recovered.

Lydia supposed she should adopt the same philosophy, but that hunger for answers was too strong. Once they got their internet working, she would surely take the time to find something. With finals and moving, she hadn't really had much down time lately.

"Wi-Fi is working!" Stiles' voice suddenly came, and Lydia turned to see him in her doorway. "I'd like to take all the credit but it was actually the cable guy. I just unpacked the boxes with the stuff in it."

Scott passed him, holding Lydia's table lamp. "Where do you want this?"

She nodded towards her bedside table, which was still empty. "Throw it there. Once I find the rest of the power bars, I'll plug it in. Thanks, Scott."

"What about me?"

Lydia rolled her eyes. "Thank you, Stiles, for unpacking the stuff that lead to me getting an internet connection."

He smirked triumphantly. "At your service, milady."

She couldn't help rolling her eyes again. "How's it looking downstairs?"

"Pretty good." Scott said before Stiles could answer. "Most of the living room is together, all the boxes that need to be are in the kitchen, and everything is out of the moving van finally. It's just a matter of finishing building the furniture and unpacking the rest of the boxes. We actually came up to tell you guys it's time for a pizza break."

"Oh thank god, I'm starving." Allison said, intertwining her hand with Scott's and leading him out of the room.

"You guys don't have to stay until we unpack every box, you know. You've helped more than enough. I really appreciate all that you've done." Lydia told them as they headed downstairs.

"We know. We plan on using it to our advantage in the future so we can coerce you into helping us do other stuff." Stiles promised with a wink.

Lydia sighed exasperatedly. Leave it to Stiles to not let her have a sincere minute.

"We know you do, Lydia. We're happy to help." Allison interjected, shooting a smile over her shoulder at her.

Arriving downstairs, they headed into the in-progress living room and reached for the hot steamy pizza in boxes on the coffee table.

"Milo's pizza is the best. You guys picked this place first? You're already practically natives." Stiles said the last bit through a mouthful of pepperoni and cheese.

He swore he heard an irritated mutter of 'charming' from Lydia, but he was too happy with his carb-filled food to care. He supposed he should be on better behaviour in front of Lydia's mom if he had any hope of dating Lydia in the future.

"Speaking of choosing things, you guys picked a beautiful house. It's going to look amazing when you get it all together." Allison said enthusiastically.

"I'll have to have you guys over for a swim once we actually get the pool cleaned." Lydia told them with a smile, looking forward to it already. She had been spoiled by the group enough over Thanksgiving—it would be nice to be able to return the favour and have them over for a change. Lydia's dad had gotten them a huge big screen TV as a housewarming gift, and Lydia couldn't wait to use it for movie nights with her friends.

The enthusiasm from the others was encouraging, especially when they started spouting off other suggestions for things they could now do together now that they all lived in the same city, and Lydia felt her excitement mounting too.

That dread she had been feeling earlier quickly dissipated. How could living here ever be a bad idea?

It was a principle of the universe that one should never ask such a taunting question.

Chapter Text

Stiles woke with a start, gasping for air like he had been under water for a minute too long. He scrambled to sit up, his t-shirt sticking to his damp skin. Covered in a cold sweat and shivering, Stiles kicked his legs over the side of the bed and attempted to catch his breath.

He corrected his throat, but found it was mostly clear. Surprising, considering how harshly he had to scream himself out of his last dream. It had felt like he had torn it apart.

It wasn't the first time he had woken up like this since moving home. He had had a few nightmares like these when he was away at school, but he just assumed it was normal, only appearing when under high stress. But maybe Scott had been right—maybe it wasn't just PTSD from having their parents nearly sacrificed. Maybe it really was the aftereffects of what they did last year.

"Morning!" a chipper voice came from his left, and Stiles managed to pull himself out of his thoughts to find his best friend leaning against his en-suite bathroom's door.

Scott was beaming at him, fully dressed and ready for the day it seemed. Light was streaming in from the window.

Stiles groaned. "Seriously, Scott? How enthusiastic can one person be in the morning?"

He simply grinned. "You're going to be late…"

"Maybe I'll skip."

"Isn't your first class with Lydia?"

Stiles sighed and sluggishly got to his feet. "You know, I can't decide if it's flattering or creepy that you know my schedule so well."

"It's impressive actually. Hurry up and get ready. Mom's making breakfast. And you know she'll grill you about proper eating habits if you skip it."

With that, Scott headed off to no doubt get his bag packed or whatever the hell he hadn't done yet.

Despite Stiles' slow start, he couldn't help but smile as he started getting ready. It had only been a few weeks being home, but it was like he never left. Actually, somehow it was better. Scott couldn't even hide his excitement that he was back, and his dad was much the same. Even Melissa and Allison seemed to smile more often now.

Maybe it was all in his head, but it was touching nonetheless. He was glad to be home, although there were some things the pack had yet to discuss. He made a mental note to set aside some time that week to do so. He had been so busy trying to get things worked out with the school, move back in and show Lydia around town it kind of got put on the back burner. But it really wasn't something that could wait.

Stiles had planned on bringing it up the night before, one of the reasons he agreed to sleep over at Scott's, and yet they somehow managed to talk about everything but. It's sort of what happened when they had four months of zero hangout time to catch up on.

Stiles truly was happy to be back, but he couldn't deny the nagging part of him that was nervous. Nervous for what was coming. He knew it wasn't just him experiencing an influx of symptoms, but they were getting worse. Much worse.

Stiles headed downstairs to join the family for breakfast, unable to help the memories from coming to the surface.

Over Christmas, Allison had been over for Christmas Eve at Scott's place with Stiles and Lydia. They were watching Christmas specials, eating freshly baked cookies and exchanging Secret Santa gifts. It was a great night, filled with laughter and shared memories.

But Stiles had noticed something else amongst the upbeat evening.

There was an air to Scott and Allison that suggested they were anxious, as if waiting for something to come knocking at the door. He noticed on more than one occasion Allison's eyes darted around the room, as if sweeping her gaze around to ensure no one was lurking in hidden corners.

When Stiles saw her go to screw the lid of the eggnog on and her hands were shaking too badly to get it to work, he knew he couldn't play dumb any longer.

Before he could pull her aside, Lydia suggested they start opening the Secret Santa gifts.

Forcing a smile, Stiles passed his over to Scott. "Wanna go first?"

Scott grinned. "You got me?"

He shrugged, grinning back. It had been hard to keep a secret. "Made for easy shopping."

Before Scott could start tugging at the paper, he paused, swallowing. "Um, maybe someone else should go first. Lydia, it was your idea to start doing this. Yours is the purple and silver one."

Lydia reached for the gift, the others casting a strange glance to Scott, and Stiles finally understood why.

Scott had buried his hands underneath the gift, but Stiles could see the glimpse of the ends of his fingers, his claws fully out.

"Um, Scott, maybe we should be documenting this? Where's your camera? Let's go look for it." Stiles said pointedly, dragging him by one wrist out of the room. "Be right back."

Scott was breathing heavily by the time they made it to the kitchen. "I can't put them back."

Their parents got up from the table where they had been drinking wine over a game of cards.

"What's going on?" Melissa asked, sensing the tension immediately.

"Well, Fenrir Greyback here is trying to expose himself to Lydia apparently." Stiles said exasperatedly.

"I swear I'm trying. They won't go back in." Scott said, showing his hands and the deadly weapons extended out of the end of his fingers.

His breathing was getting heavier, his shoulders hunched, and Stiles could see his fangs protruding through his lips, his eye colour flashing back and forth from chocolate to blood red.

Melissa looked around quickly to make sure the girls hadn't come looking for them. "Okay. Get him outside. Now."

Stiles was already pushing him out the back door.

Scott stumbled away from him immediately as Stiles tried to follow him. "Get away from me! I don't know what's going to happen." he growled, pushing off his jacket, breathing laboured.

"Scott, it's okay—"

"Stay back!"

Scott let out a fully wolfed-out roar—Stiles cringing at how loud it was—and then he clenched both fists so tightly blood spilled between his fingers and dripped down his arms.

He fell to his knees, panting hard.

"Scott?" Stiles asked softly, stepping down the stairs one at a time.

He unfurled his fingers, showing the lack of claws, and his eyes were the familiar brown again.

"Pain makes you human." Scott murmured by way of explanation, wiping the sweat off his forehead as he shakily collapsed backwards to splay his legs out in front of him.

"Scott, this isn't just in our heads. It's starting to get bad for me too. I'm not just having nightmares—I'm having these dreams where I literally have to scream myself awake. And sometimes I'm not even sure if I'm ever actually waking up."

"What do you mean?" Scott asked, clearly concerned.

Stiles shook his head. "It's not important right now. We need to get back inside. Is Allison seeing Kate again too? She's been off all night."

Scott sighed. "In the fall, they were more like nightmares. And the odd daydream glimpse of her around corners. Now she goes into full-on hallucinations. And her shooting is off. She can't aim at all."

"Damn it. We've got to figure something out and soon. We can't go on living like this."

Scott nodded. "Let's get back."

Stiles got up to follow him. Before he could keep going, Stiles grabbed his arm.

"Clean your hands first. You looked like you just performed an autopsy."

Scott looked down at his bloody hands and quickly moved to the sink, scrubbing them beneath the stream.

Their parents were watching warily.

"It's fine. We got it under control." Stiles told them quietly, even though it was obvious that Scott wasn't transformed the way he was before.

Freshly cleaned, both boys returned to the living room where the girls were waiting patiently.

"So…?" Lydia asked slowly.

Stiles swallowed, glancing at Scott. "What?"

"Did you find the camera?" she asked amusedly.

Scott and Stiles looked at each other.

"Couldn't find it. Must be buried somewhere. Guess we'll have to use our phones after all." Scott said nonchalantly, crossing his legs on the floor where he had been sitting before.

Allison forced a broad smile. "Okay, well, let's get back to opening gifts. I already opened mine from Lydia."

"So you got me?" Stiles asked, surprised but pleased. Allison was pretty good at finding the perfect gift.

"It's the blue striped one." she confirmed.

They resumed the fun evening, but Lydia wasn't oblivious. She knew she was missing something. One of these days, she was going to figure out what big secret the three of them were harbouring.

Christmas and New Year's came and went, and soon they all were headed back to school. Since the four friends were all doing an undergrad, they were fortunate enough to be able to go to the same college. It was nice, having actual friends nearby or at least able to meet up with for breaks between classes.

Homework was still a chore, but at least having friends to study with made it a little more bearable.

Stiles yawned as he erased his most recent answer. He had been working on this problem for fifteen minutes and kept getting radically different answers. He knew his head wasn't in it, but he had to get the assignment done. It was due in two days and he had two more pages of problems to do.

Scott was across the table from him, mouthing words as he memorized definitions, and Allison was lounging on the leather loveseat behind him, reading ahead for her therapeutic communication class. Lydia was still in class, but would be meeting them once she was dismissed.

"Hey, do either of you remember anything from your math classes that would help explain what the hell I'm doing wrong with these functions? I don't have the formula wrong but I cannot figure out what f and g equal, since when I plug them in, they are definitely wrong."

"I never excelled at math." Scott reminded him. "And I took much less advanced courses than you. Lydia will know. Or maybe you could find a book around here that might help. It is a library after all."

Allison walked over to glance over his shoulder to see what he was dealing with. "Sorry, Stiles. It's been way too long." She headed back to her seat with a grim smile.

Stiles mulled his options over, staring at his notebook, hoping his error would suddenly jump out at him. He wasn't sure when Lydia's class was done. She might not be around for another hour, and he needed the right answer to the question to proceed or else it was all for naught.

"All right, I'll be back."

Stiles grabbed his textbook and work and headed over to the help desk.

"Hey, would you have any books here that explain Calculus in really simple terms? I have this equation I'm stuck on and—"

He stopped talking when the librarian looked up at him, unblinkingly, and started motioning with her hands. He had no idea what sort of message she was trying to send, but it seemed like a warding off gesture, and he backed up. Maybe she was deaf, only spoke in ASL?

"Uh, sorry. I'll just… go look myself…"

Stiles couldn't help but look back, her gaze determined, still not blinking, as she smacked her hands against each other, back to front, thumb of one crossing over the other as they hit together. She followed it with a looping gesture around one finger, another round of the hand smacking gesture, and then ran her thumb under her chin and outwards. Then started repeating it faster.

The library suddenly seemed eerily quiet.

Stiles headed back to their study table.

"Okay, guys, the weirdest thing just happened to me…"

But Allison and Scott weren't working on homework. They both stared at him, repeating the same strange sign language as the librarian, doing the collection of gestures over and over again, speeding up each time.

Stiles wanted to laugh, hoping that would stop whatever joke everyone was playing on him, but his eyes caught sight of the other students around, all facing him now, all doing the same weird hand motions.

"Oh…okay… I'm going to… I'm…" He was struggling to breathe, struggling to stand, and he found himself stumbling backwards towards the exit.

Before he could make it out, he was collapsing towards the floor and there was a ringing in his ears, a loud buzzing that blocked out everything else.

And then he heard his name being called repeatedly.

His head snapped up, only to find himself sitting back at his study table, Allison and Scott watching him in concern.

"Stiles? You okay?" Allison asked seriously.

Stiles shook his head to clear his thoughts, pushing his sweaty hair off his forehead. "Yeah, yeah. Sorry. I just fell asleep for a second."

"Dude… you weren't asleep." Scott confessed worriedly.

Stiles furrowed his brow at that, not sure what to make of it, and looked down at his notebook.

Instead of the homework he'd been slaving over, it was all marked over with the words 'wake up' repeatedly across the page in all different ways. Capitalized, underlined, bolded, diagonal, spaced apart, every form of the words was glaring up at him, like a written curse.

Stiles put his head in his hands, exhaling slowly.

"We need to get the pack together. Figure out how to stop this." Stiles said. "I know we've been distracted, trying to deal with our regular lives and enjoy the quiet in the supernatural world, but this can only end in disaster. What happens when me or Allison starts hallucinating when we're driving a car? Or Scott, if you transform uncontrollably in public? Or walking by a park full of kids? We're not just a danger to ourselves anymore."

"Stiles is right." Allison agreed. "We can't put this off anymore."

Scott sighed but nodded. "I'll call everyone and get them to meet us tonight."

"Kira's mom might know something. Remember how furious she was when she heard we had given power back to the Nemeton to save our parents? She knows something about its history." Allison said as she sat next to them at the table.

"Deaton was the one who instructed us on the whole sacrifices and consequences. He probably has a clue. Maybe there's a reason for our effects being as they are—they're not some generic symptom. It's unique to each of us. Maybe there's some hidden meaning in each that we have to figure out." Stiles suggested.

"All right. Tonight we'll try to figure things out." Scott agreed.

Stiles nodded and ripped out his notebook page, planning on attempting the equation one more time before waiting for Lydia.

But when he looked at his textbook to copy out the equation once more, he couldn't understand the words.

He read the instructions repeatedly.

Tsaet het omdainm fo chae utcnfino lebwo.

Scanning the rest of the page, he couldn't decipher a single word in the wreckage of letters.

He threw his pencil irritably at the page, stretching his back over the chair as he covered his face with his hands. It wasn't the first time recently that he ran into a dyslexic issue. But that didn't give him any sort of reassurance.

All he could think was that you can't read in dreams.

As was typical these days, the pack met at Derek's loft, since it was private and more than big enough for the group of them.

Explaining what had been happening to them was a little more awkward than any of them would've liked, but it had to be done, and the others looked concerned at the news.

Derek simply stood in brooding silence, as usual, whereas Isaac's eyebrows made friends with his hairline.

"So like when you nearly shot me in the head in the fall, completely out of the blue, that's happening again?" he asked.

Allison nodded. "I haven't even picked up my weapons lately, because I can't keep my hands steady when I try let alone have any hope of aiming properly. But I've had episodes of thinking I'm in the morgue, getting chased by a pissed off murderous Kate or having her taking out my organs in an autopsy, only to find myself in the middle of the street or from Point A to Point B with no memory of how I actually managed to do so."

"You didn't mention you ending up in the middle of the street." Scott said seriously, reaching out for her hand.

She shrugged, intertwining their fingers and squeezing apologetically. "Sorry. I was fine. It was just my street, so pretty low traffic. I had had the vision when I was in my room, and somehow I made it down the elevator, through the lobby and outside into the street. I have no idea how."

"What about your transformations, Scott? Has it just been uncontrollable shifts or are you blood-thirsty again like you were when you first turned?" Derek asked.

Scott shook his head. "So far, I haven't transformed fully. I… I haven't tried on my own. I don't know what will happen if I try, if I'll have any control or will just go on a murdering spree. Or maybe I can't even do it. But it's not just that. I've been seeing things too, my shadow shows I have claws out or a full alpha body like Peter's, but I'm still normal. I don't know what any of it means."

"For me, it's nightmares, mostly. Both when I'm asleep and awake. Dreams within dreams within dreams. Screaming myself awake, vivid visions during the day, all coming back to the Nemeton."

Scott took over from there, catching Stiles' look.

"We stopped by to talk to Deaton before we came here. Relayed the sign language in Stiles' latest dream. He said there's a door open in each of our minds. Basically, when we crossed from consciousness to the sort of hyperconsciousness, it opened a door. And now it's still ajar and we need to find a way to close it. As soon as possible."

"We don't really know anyone else who has had a near-death experience and come out of it seeing things, but if anyone has any suggestions on what we should do from here, please speak up. In the mean time, we would appreciate you guys keeping an extra eye out. We have no idea what kind of supernatural enemy may take advantage of this issue."

"If I may… I think what you guys are going through sounds like Bardo." Kira piped up.

"Bardo?" Allison repeated.

"Yeah. It's a Tibetan word for 'in-between state'. The state between life and death. There are different progressive states, where you can have hallucinations. Some you see, some you just hear. And you can be visited by peaceful or wrathful deities, which explains Kate."

"Wrathful deities?" Isaac inquired.

"Like demons."

No one looked impressed about that answer.

"If there are different progressive states, what's the last one?" Allison asked, knowing there wasn't really a great option lying ahead.

Kira swallowed. "Death. You die."

Scott clasped his hands together. "All right. So that settles it. We need to figure out a way to close the doors in our minds. Anyone have any suggestions?"

He was only met with silence.

Stiles sighed. "We're going to have to do some more research on Bardo. Think you can check the beastiary on that wrathful deity part?" he added to Allison.

She shrugged. "I can try."

Before anyone else could speak, Stiles' phone rang.

Seeing the Caller ID, he picked up in surprise. "Lydia?"

Derek looked at Scott. "Have you figured out if she has shown any supernatural signs yet? She's really immune?"

Scott shrugged. "As far as I know, she hasn't done anything out of the ordinary."

"Wait, Lydia, slow down. Tell me where you are. What do you see?" Stiles was saying into the phone, grabbing his jacket and pulling his arms through the sleeves.

Everyone's eyes were on him now.

Lydia's voice remained firm, but he could detect a subtle quiver in it. "I-I don't think I'm that far from my house, or yours. The houses look similar. But I was driving to the library to see if they had a book on thermodynamics that I could use for my project, and when I got out of the car I was here. I-I don't know why. But I'm down by this lake, and there's a house on the hill, so I figured I must have come from up there. But on my way up, I saw something glittering in the grass under this bush and I picked it up… and it's a necklace. And there's blood on it. I thought it was just tarnished, but it's definitely dried-on blood… I think it's been lost for a while, but do you think I should call the police?"

She was rambling, clearly distressed, and Stiles pieced together what she was explaining.

"What's on the necklace?"

"Um, an H with a blue gemstone on either side. Looks like sapphire."

Stiles closed his eyes. "Is there a mini lighthouse on the dock behind you? And a dirt path leading down to it that has white marble rocks as stepping stones? And double-doors near the house that look like they would lead to a cellar?"

"Uh, yeah…"

"Don't move, Lydia. I'm on my way." He hung up the phone and grimaced at the group. "Sorry to cut this short. I've got to go."

"What's going on?" Allison demanded.

Stiles knew he wasn't getting out of explaining. "Lydia was on her way to the library and somehow ended up somewhere completely different. She ended up at a lake and found some evidence of a previous murder case."

"What murder case?"

"It wasn't actually a murder. It was a sacrifice."

Scott understood immediately. "She found Heather's necklace. The one she was wearing when—"

"Yeah, when she became the first virgin sacrifice." Stiles confirmed. "She's freaking out, I'm sorry, I've got to go."

He left the surprised pack, jumped into his jeep, and drove the old route to his childhood friend's house.

Her family had since moved away, too distraught to imagine living in the same house she had been kidnapped and murdered from. They'd never know the truth of why she was killed—it was hard to say if it was better that way or not. It was a new family living there now, oblivious to the house's painful past.

Stiles parked and saw Lydia's car down the street, his mind swirling with what the hell this meant. How did Lydia end up here, and all the way down the hill without having a clue that she wasn't in the right place?

"Stiles!" Lydia called, spotting him immediately.

He jogged down the hill, grasping her arms as he looked over her face. "Are you okay?"

She nodded, but he could see the dried tears on her face. "I'm fine." She lifted the necklace and placed it in his hand. "See the red bit?"

He swallowed painfully, bobbing his head once in acquiesce.

His mind flashed back to that night, the necklace illuminated against her pale skin in the wine cellar, her strapless dress accenting her cleavage well enough that he didn't pay much attention to her jewelry. The only reason he was aware of it was because he knew it so well. It was the necklace he had given her when they were kids. He had seen her wear it many times before, but he had a feeling she was wearing it especially that night for him. To convince him that what they were about to do was a good idea.

Except, of course, it never ended up happening.


He wiped at his face, embarrassed to find his eyes had filled with moisture. "I'm sorry. I know whose necklace this was."

"You do?"

Stiles nodded. "You see that house up there? That was Heather's growing up."

"Heather? The one who—" She didn't need to finish the sentence.

He corrected his throat awkwardly. "Yeah. She was wearing this that night. I knew she had been dragged away from the house, so it makes sense that this was still out here. I hadn't even realized it was missing from evidence."

"I'm so sorry." Lydia murmured, stroking his arm comfortingly.

He held the necklace up, admiring the sparkle still in the gemstones and metal. "I gave this to her for her birthday when we were kids. We were a lot closer then, when my mom was around. My mom, of course was the one who picked it out. What eight year old knows what to get their friend that's a girl? My mom told me I should make that year a special one, and splurged on the necklace, getting one with her real birthstone. Heather's mom was upset that we spent so much, but I was happy because Heather fell in love with it instantly. She wore it all the time. My mom's health wasn't the best then, but it got progressively worse, and soon she was gone. Me and Heather didn't stay as close, but we'd see each other sometimes, like when she'd throw a big birthday party and stuff."

He shook his head, shaking out the memories of the simpler times, and sighed. "I'll give it to my dad. See if they can clean it up and return it to the family."

Lydia nodded.

"Come on, let's get you out of here." he told her, wrapping an arm around her waist and leading her up the hill.

Her eyes swept the area, her lip between her teeth, and Stiles knew her mind was racing for a glimpse of a reason for why she was there.

He didn't know what sort of words of comfort he could offer. He had no idea how she had found the place, let alone why.

"Do you want to hangout for a bit? Get a milkshake or something?" he offered, figuring it probably wasn't a great idea to have her on her own worrying about something she couldn't explain.

"I think I'll just go home." she said distantly, mind clearly far away.

He stopped her before she could leave, grasping for a way to turn things around. "Hey. You're in a new town. Getting lost isn't anything to be ashamed of. You'll figure it out."

"It wasn't like that, Stiles." she said, her face full of determination. "I knew how to get where I was going. I was going that direction. And then it's like autopilot in my brain took over. I was walking towards what I thought was the bookstore, looking at my phone, trying to figure out which book would best fit my project topic, only to nearly stumble on a rock. And then I look down and realize I was somewhere completely different, unable to recognize where I was. It… I don't understand it. Am I losing it?"

Stiles shook his head. "No, no, of course not." He wasn't about to offer that, out of the two of them, he definitely was the one lacking in the sanity department.

"I just need sleep. I should go. Thanks for coming." Lydia muttered, pulling away from him and getting into her car.

Stiles didn't know what else to say. He simply watched her drive away.

It was hard to offer words of comfort when you had no idea what was happening either.

Lydia wasn't sure what to make of what happened to her the few nights previous, when she ended up finding murder evidence instead of a book, but she was trying not to think about it too much.

It wasn't something that could be explained—she clearly remembered leaving her house with the library destination in mind, the normal route mapping in her head. She didn't know how her body followed a different map that lead her to somewhere foreign and caused her to stumble on something relating back to Stiles' past of all things.

It only served to make her warier of what he and the other two were keeping from her. She wasn't an idiot—coincidences only went so far. The secret felt like it was at her fingertips, that if she pushed a little further, it would be unveiled to her.

But she was starting to wonder if she wanted to know. Something was telling her that she might be better off not knowing. That maybe what she overheard at Thanksgiving, that she was better off not being involved in the mess, was right.

Still, her curiosity was peaked, and all she could do was wait out the right opportunity.

But when she was around Stiles, her lips seemed to seal. The dreadful feeling, that she was better off not knowing, intensified to the point of her having trouble keeping up conversation casually.

It made her frown, not wanting whatever was going on to interfere with their friendship, but not really sure what to do about it.

He would try to talk to her, and she would keep her answers short and concise, pretending to be busy with homework or reading. It was easier than trying to act like nothing was wrong. And she really didn't think telling him what she was feeling would help.

She didn't want Stiles to think she didn't trust him, or worse, that she was afraid of him. She wasn't. She trusted he had a very good reason to keep whatever it was to himself. But she couldn't deny what her gut was telling her.

"Hmm?" she asked, having zoned out with her thoughts, but heard the barest of whispers tickling her ears.

"What? I didn't say anything." he said amusedly.

She flushed. "Oh. Sorry. A little too into my reading."

He smiled, turning back to his work.

She had gotten used to being around him a lot, but she couldn't help her eyes from tracing the angle of his jawline, enjoying the curve of his cheekbone and slope of his nose. He was an attractive guy. His dark hair was so soft, she knew from experience, and she longed to run her fingers through the strands—

Another series of whispers, like wind causing branches to scrape against a window, sounded, and Lydia frowned. She had been observing Stiles enough to know that he hadn't said anything again, and it was just the two of them home in his bedroom.

She focused back on her work, subconsciously breathing quieter, trying to pick up the sound again.

'Let me in'.

Lydia jumped at the words, startling Stiles next to her.

"You okay?" he asked, face showing his concern.

She corrected her throat, standing up. "Um, yeah, sorry. Just remembered I need to get home. Promised my mom."

"Oh. Okay, sure. I'll walk you out." he said, pushing off the floor too and getting to his feet.

"No! Um, I mean, no, no that's okay. Thank you though. I know my way out." she said with a forced smile.

He was observing her carefully, the way he always did, like he could see into her thoughts.

"Sure you're okay?"

"Yes. Absolutely." Lydia said with more conviction.

"All right. We still on for Sunday night?"

She inwardly cringed. She forgot she invited the three of them over for a movie night. It was a college assessment day on the Monday, so there were no classes. Seemed like a good night to take advantage of, since her mom was going to be gone for the night, returning in the early morning for work. She had given the clear for Lydia to have a few friends over if it was only a few friends.

"Yes. Yeah, of course. I'll see you then, okay?"

Before Stiles could respond, Lydia disappeared.

Lydia tugged at her dress on Sunday evening, eyes on the mirror. She had thrown on a casual blue with white polka-dots dress she had picked up a couple weeks ago with Allison. She pulled a waist belt around it, judging the new addition with her lip between her teeth.

She glanced over at the clock. The others would be arriving soon. Her mom was heading out of town to visit her boyfriend for the night and had already reminded her to restrict the get-together to just the four of them. Lydia had promised her she would—her big party throwing days were more a thing of the past.

Lydia returned to her bed, picking up the textbook she had left open, and considering trying to squeeze some work in before her guests arrived. She had enough time to at least make a little progress.

As usual these days, her mind drifted, her hand falling to the side of her body that had been torn open the previous month. She flipped to a new page in her notebook, scratching her pencil along the paper, mindlessly drawing lines and angles as she thought back to that night.

She still had so many unanswered questions. Memories of that night still haunted her dreams—those glowing yellow eyes hiding in the shadows, the flurry of fur and claws and teeth, Stiles screaming at her to run. She still woke up in a cold sweat, remembering the consuming fear that hit her right before the beast did.

No one had really given her a straight answer for what animal it had been that attacked her, but there was something more to it. She felt like she was missing something. She wasn't sure what, or even where to start searching for an answer, but she felt as if someone had skipped the last step in an instruction manual and the finished product wasn't what it really should be.

There was something deep in her telling her that it had to do with what secret her friends were keeping from her. And that her absent-minded driving the other day wasn't as simple as Stiles had tried to make it out to be.

She didn't blame him, or the others, but she didn't know what to do about the nagging feeling she was constantly fighting. Normally, she could let things go, but this seemed to be the lucky exception.

"Studying hard I see." an amused voice came from her doorway, and Lydia startled so much her textbook slipped off the bed onto the floor.

She looked over to see Stiles leaning against her door frame, raising an eyebrow at her, looking far too good in a plaid shirt and jeans.

Pushing her hair off her face, she swung her legs off the bed so he could sit next to her.

"Sorry to barge in. Your mom let me in on her way out. Told me I could find you up here."

Lydia started gathering her things. "Don't worry about it. As you can tell, you weren't interrupting much."

Stiles reached for her notebook, gazing at the tree laid out on the paper. "You're pretty good at drawing."

"I was just doodling. It's just a stupid tree." she dismissed, tugging it gently out of his hands and getting up to put her stuff away.

She could feel his eyes watching her closely, and she knew he was scanning her in that way he always did. Searching her thoughts, picking up on whatever external cues she gave off, and he no doubt would pinpoint that her brain was a little too full for casual conversation.

"Scott and Allison aren't with you?" she said, changing the subject.

"They're taking Scott's bike. They should be here soon."

Lydia nodded, grasping for something else to say.

His hand was slipping into hers before she could move away to attempt to tidy her already-clean room.

"I kind of headed over early in the hopes you and I could catch up. I feel like we haven't really had time to talk much lately, and I know I've been caught up with other stuff, so I know it's on me."

Lydia shook her head, but wouldn't look him in the eye. "Don't be silly. I've been busy with school too, and setting up the new house and, you know, getting to know the city." Or failing miserably, as the other day seemed to insinuate.

He nodded understandably. "Okay. So you're okay?"

"Of course I am. Why wouldn't I be?"

She probably said it a little too quickly.

"I don't know, a lot has gone on in a short time. You seem a little distracted lately."

She shrugged. "Just trying to keep on top of everything."

Stiles licked his lips, turning to look at the floor since she would barely meet his gaze. "Well I'm here if you need anything, okay?"

Lydia closed her eyes at the hand squeeze he gave her.

She wanted to tell him about her nightmares. She wanted to confess everything to him, knowing he would know the right things to say to comfort her and make her feel better. But something else was telling her not to. Some force of nature had her mind leashed in such a tight grip that told her that telling him might make things worse. For her or him, she wasn't sure.

"Lydia?" Stiles asked in concern, no doubt reading her expression and seeing the amount of emotions on her face.

Words poured out of her mouth before she could stop them. "I have this really bad feeling. Like, dread. Only constantly. And it never goes away. It's just there all the time, sewn into my veins, telling me that something bad is coming. I don't know how to shake it. I tried telling my mom about it, but she said it's just anxiety, that I'm just stressed. Or PTSD from the attack. But it feels like something else. It feels… deeper than anything I've ever felt before. And it just keeps getting stronger. Like it's a warning."

As soon as she said it, she felt stupid. She knew she sounded crazy, or paranoid, or any number of unattractive things. And mixed with her distressed call the other night to him, stumbling upon murder evidence, and generally being spastic around him when they were studying that week, she knew she was digging herself an early grave.

"I'm sorry—I don't know what I'm even talking about—"

"Hey, don't do that, Lydia." Stiles cut in immediately. He looked so serious and concerned she found her lips sealing without any effort. "Have you noticed that it's stronger at certain times? Or…"

He was saved from finishing by a knock on the door downstairs, and Lydia stood up.

"That must be Allison and Scott."

Stiles stood up too. "We'll finish talking later?"

She nodded, forcing a grateful smile at him, before leading the way downstairs.

She didn't want to admit the truth—the answer to his question was she felt it the strongest when she was with him.

Chapter Text

Lydia soon learned she also felt an ominous feeling around the group of friends, but then again, Stiles was present there too. Still, Lydia had been in the popular girl game long enough that she knew how to plaster on a believable fake smile and seem like she was having a good time. Truth be told, she was having a good time. Her friends were here, her mom was out of town, she had the house to herself—things were good.

So why the hell did she still feel like this?

"I'm going to just make the popcorn and then we can get started." Lydia told them after handing out glasses.

The other three waited for her to disappear across the house before they leaned in to talk.

Stiles, as usual, was exasperated.

"Seriously, Scott, you need to get control of your damn were-eyes or Lydia is going to think you're more interested in the floor than anything else—"

"I told you before; I can't control it! We're lucky I'm not shifting completely without control."

"I don't get why we haven't told her. I hate lying to her, acting like we know nothing about what happened the night she was attacked. What ever happened to telling her once she woke up in the hospital? I thought you wanted to then?" Allison inputted.

"Well that was until she went missing for two days! And when she didn't end up turning into anything supernatural, I thought it was better we didn't burden her… but now, I don't know, maybe it is better we tell her."

Scott looked at him objectively, understanding there was more to it. "Did something happen?"

Stiles leaned in closer, wanting to be as quiet as possible. "We were talking before you guys came. She's been really distracted lately. And you know, that whole thing with her showing up at Heather's the other night was a little too eerie to just be a coincidence. It made me think… how do we know she didn't turn into anything supernatural just because she didn't turn into a werewolf?"

"What do you think she is?"

"I don't know, a psychic or something? If the Nemeton gaining power really does draw supernatural creatures to it–how do we know that doesn't include Lydia?"

Before they could respond, a scream sounded from the kitchen.

The three were moving without a second thought, Stiles nearly skidding into Lydia, who came barrelling around the corner.

"Lydia? Are you okay?" Stiles asked seriously, hands holding onto her shoulders so he could examine her fully.

"I think there's someone in here." she whispered in a shaky voice.

"What? What did they look like?" Scott was already pushing Allison behind him, looking around wildly for the perpetrator, senses clearly going into overdrive to sense the person.

Thankfully, his eyes had finally gone back to their chocolate brown. Ironic, considering his pulse had probably quickened with the danger in the air, so maybe it would only be a matter of time before things went south.

"A woman… um, long blonde hair, dark clothing… She looked… crazy. Totally crazy. Her clothes were mangled and it looked like her throat was… was…"

"Slashed? Bloody?" Allison supplied, eyes wide in terror.

Lydia nodded quickly, tears springing in her eyes. "What, is there some sort of haunted urban myth in Beacon Hills that you guys failed to tell me about!?" she asked hysterically.

Allison looked at Scott and then at Stiles. "Kate."

"That's not possible." Stiles said seriously. "How could Lydia…"

"It's the only thing that makes sense, Stiles!"

"But it doesn't make sense!"

"Does someone want to tell me what the HELL is going on!?" Lydia screeched, moving away from Stiles in her anger to glare at the three of them.

Her face changed almost immediately, blood draining as her eyes widened, and she backed up quickly.

The three whipped around, half-expecting to see zombie Kate Argent behind them. But it was just their shadows on the wall.

"I'm going crazy. I'm crazy. I'm actually crazy." Lydia muttered to herself, gripping her hair in her hands.

Stiles slowly stepped towards her, hands up in surrender.

"What are you seeing, Lydia?" he asked seriously.

"The shadow on the wall… it looks like… it looks like a… some sort of beast."

"Like a werewolf?" Scott asked, causing Stiles to shoot daggers at him.

Lydia sniffled, but looked at him in surprise. "I… I guess so, yeah." she whispered.

She let out a long breath, wiping her face.

"I'm so sorry you guys. I've been so… messed up since the animal attack. Nightmares. And lately I've been seeing things, hearing things… almost sensing things… Now my nightmares are infecting my everyday life."

Allison stepped towards her, reaching out a hand. "Lydia, it's not just you."


"No, we can't keep her out of this anymore! She's clearly involved now." she said, but her face betrayed her emotions. She didn't want to reveal the craziness of their lives any more than the other two. But her mouth was a straight line, her head held high, marking the firmness of her decision. "It can't be a coincidence that I started seeing Kate again the night Lydia went missing—the night she saw something that scared her enough to have her running around in the woods for two days!"

"Does someone want to tell me who the hell Kate is!?"

Allison turned to Lydia apologetically, squeezing her hands in hers now that she was close enough. "She was my aunt. She was murdered my first year here. Her throat was slashed right in front of me."

Lydia's eyes widened but otherwise she was motionless, a frozen figure.

"She also was a sociopathic murderer." Stiles added.

"Can we get to that later? Let's not overwhelm her." Scott reminded him.

"I'm right here! Can we stop talking about me like I'm not in the room?"

"Sorry, Lydia." Scott said. "This is just… a really big conversation. Bigger than you know. We've been wanting to tell you, but Stiles, well, all of us, were afraid of dragging you into it. But with you living here, and all that's happened… it's about time you know."

"Know what?"

Stiles swallowed, glancing at the other two, before turning his sad eyes to his friend. "Know the truth about why I left Beacon Hills."

It took hours to hash out all the details of the last few years of their lives.

They covered all of the important stuff—Scott getting bitten, Derek mentoring him, Stiles taking over since he didn't trust Derek, Allison learning her family hunted werewolves, the whole star-crossed lovers thing. Then came the obstacles they overcame—Kate's death and play in the Hale family fire, Derek's psychotic uncle, Alpha Derek and his betas, Kanima, Deucalion and his pack of alphas, and of course the whole drama with the Darach. How the three in front of her had surrogate-sacrificed themselves to find their parents and found the Nemeton. How they knew, by doing so, that they would be giving power back to the Nemeton, something that could only mean consequences of the supernatural variety, since they had turned Beacon Hills back into a beacon again. And it had resulted in some odd yet terrifying consequences in the three of them.

It only seemed to be made worse by them being in town, being close to it, so when Stiles went away to visit a college for a few days and found all of them suddenly felt like the dark hole in them wasn't ruling their lives, it was clear it was better if he left town. Their symptoms seemed to dissipate on their own, as well as the influx of supernatural enemies, which is why when he came home at Thanksgiving and found they were mistaken he had been so upset. They thought it was a way to keep the Nemeton effects at bay, but it was clearly too powerful.

Scott took the reins on most of it, and Allison filled in her part in it all, but Stiles mostly remained silent, studying Lydia's face.

This wasn't something they had ever had to do before—explain the existence of the supernatural world to someone in full, someone who had never seen any kind of indication that it existed, that the traumas she had experienced as of late couldn't be passed off as something else. The three of them had just sort of fallen into it and learned as they went, and gradually found more people in the know. Stiles had tried explaining it to his dad before, but he didn't believe him, and in the end, he had to see to believe. Scott's mom, too, was mostly dragged in unwillingly, especially after she saw Scott transformed and had an evil mutant lizard nearly strangle her in their home.

Lydia had tucked her face away the more they went on, but her expression was impossible to read, even for Stiles. It was mostly just blank. He wasn't entirely sure she was listening anymore.

"How about we take a break?" he suggested, cutting off Scott's next interjection, and the alpha nodded.

"I need some air." Lydia muttered, getting to her feet and leaving the room without another glance to anyone.

Once the front door closed, Stiles leaned back into the couch, letting out a long breath.

"Well, this is going fantastic."

"It's a lot to take in, Stiles." Scott said solemnly.

"Maybe we should leave it at that for tonight. Give her some time to absorb." Allison suggested, hugging her knees, looking just as worn out as the rest of them.

"We haven't really gotten to the explaining she needs yet though. About what really happened to her, about what seems to be happening here now, with all of us, what it could mean. She needs to know." Stiles was adamant about this. He hadn't want to tell her, to involve her, but Allison had been right earlier—she already was involved. And now that she was being filled in, he wanted to make sure they covered the most important bases. He wanted this to be the end of him lying to Lydia. Especially because he was worried that their Bardo issues might put her in danger at some point.

Scott was the first to argue. "Let's give her some breathing room first. If she wants answers, she can come to us. I don't think pushing her to go beyond her limits is the best idea."

"I don't think there's really an ideal that can be reached in this situation."

Stiles wanted to tell them about his conversation with Lydia earlier, how scared she sounded, but that felt like a much greater breach of trust than he had been doing. He didn't know exactly what was going on with her, but if that fear or dread had anything to do with her interactions with the supernatural world, he wanted to put those fears to rest. Make her feel like, now that she knew, they would protect her. He would protect her.

"Is what I said earlier possible? That Lydia is some sort of psychic?" Stiles suddenly said, remembering what lead to this big confession. "None of us can see anything the others can. Isn't that kind of the point? That it's all in our heads?"

Scott scratched the back of his neck before leaning his elbows on his knees, spreading his hands out widely. "I don't know." he exhaled. "I feel like anything is possible. And maybe the set of circumstances that lead to Lydia moving here really was the Nemeton drawing her here. We don't know enough to be sure."

"We should talk to my dad. And Deaton. About what Lydia might be or what her abilities might mean." Allison said seriously.

"Who knew all this trouble could come from some stupid tree." Stiles muttered irritably.

The comment sparked a memory into his brain as if he had received a shock.

"It's just a stupid tree."

His memory played back the few times he had seen Lydia doodling—one of the things that inspired him to get her that painting charm for her bracelet—and he remembered the straight lines she was always sketching, the angles, how it always seemed to be the same thing.

He stood up. "Oh my god."

Scott and Allison, both oblivious, stared. "What is it?"

But Stiles was already moving, looking for Lydia.

He saw her sitting on her steps, staring straight ahead.

"Lydia… Lydia, where is your notebook? The one you're always drawing in?"

Lydia stood up, her face full of confusion. "Why?"

"I need it. I just need to see something."

"Upstairs, on my night table? Or maybe my bed?"

Stiles moved to race upstairs immediately. Lydia wasn't sure what to think but based on the determined look on his face, she knew her curiosity couldn't stay idle. She followed him, being joined by Allison and Scott shortly after.

"Want to fill us in?" Allison demanded.

Stiles snatched up the notebook from her bed, flipping through the pages. "Look. Look at this."

He flipped page after page, all with different sized scribbles of the same tree. Bare branches, splayed out tips, a thick trunk.

"They're all the same." Allison whispered.

Stiles nodded. "Not just that." He turned the notebook 180 degrees, putting the branches below and the trunk having the straight cut off at the top.

"Oh my god." Scott said.

"Seriously guys, do you want to tell me what the hell is going on now?" Lydia said impatiently, although she was jittery from the revelation that she had been drawing the exact same tree for months.

"It's the Nemeton, Lydia. You've been drawing the root cellar that our parents were tied up in." Scott answered.

"Wait, look at the dates. These were before…" Allison said slowly, flipping through the pages then looking to Scott and Stiles. "These were before Lydia was attacked."

"What does my animal attack have to do with—" But the words failed her as the vision of the yellow eyes and hairy body flashed back in her mind.

She rotated to look at Scott.

"A werewolf? I was attacked by a werewolf? You guys all have glowing eyes and fangs and…" She closed her eyes against the flashes of memory that flooded her mind. It was too much.

"Betas have yellow eyes. I'm an alpha, so mine are actually red." Scott explained. They had explained the hierarchy to her earlier, the different powers that came from alphas and being in a pack vs. being on your own, but they hadn't covered every detail.

"So… what does this mean? Am I turning into a werewolf?"

"Um, well, no. We don't think so."

"You don't… you don't think so? What does that even mean?"

"You didn't show any signs of the usual powers—extensive hearing or speed or strength, uncontrollable transformation like claws or fangs or glowing eyes, you haven't had any lash outs, and you didn't heal quickly from the attack. You healed like a human. We would know by now if you were a werewolf."

"So why… so why am I seeing things? Hearing things? Maybe my powers are just different?"

Lydia took a breath. How was she saying this so calmly?

Ever since they started explaining, it had been too crazy to believe, like something out of a movie or a storybook. But then things started making sense. Those conversations she overheard. The fragmented pieces of the story started to link together and, although insane to believe, a part of her knew it to be true. And there was a certain peace that came with finally having a sensible answer.

"I don't think so, Lydia. For all intents and purposes, you don't have any real qualities of a werewolf. We've been thinking that maybe… maybe you already were something. And the bite couldn't affect you. As far as we know, there's never been anyone immune to the bite."

"How can I be something supernatural and not know? That doesn't make any sense…"

She covered her face with her hands, feeling her breaths coming out in short bursts. She was getting too worked up, too stressed out, and it wasn't the way she wanted to handle this. But this was getting insane.

Stiles' hand grasped around her wrist, pulling it away from her face and stroked her skin with his thumb. "Hey. We're going to figure this out. Whatever it takes."

She nodded but didn't verbally reply.

"Maybe we should call it a night." Scott suggested, sensing the exhaustion of the group.

Stiles let go of Lydia reluctantly.

"Call me if you need anything, okay?"

Lydia nodded again, not looking at him.

Scott and Stiles headed out of the room first. Allison was about to follow, when Lydia's hand shot out to grab her arm.

"Can you stay?" she asked quietly, more vulnerable than ever.

Allison smiled and rubbed the hand over her arm. "Of course."

Lydia didn't miss the pain that flashed across Stiles face, but he moved and headed downstairs.

She wasn't doing it to hurt him, even though she knew he would feel like she was intentionally shunning him. She wasn't sure how she was feeling about everything and she needed a more neutral confidante. She just wanted straight answers to the questions burning inside her brain, to rationalize the craziness she was swallowed up in, and this was the best way she knew to go about it right now.

"He'll get over it." Allison inputted, clearly recognizing the look on her face.

Lydia sighed. "I'm not blaming him for not telling me sooner or anything. I just need some space to figure this all out. And things with him, emotionally, are too complicated on a good day."

Allison nodded understandably. "Let's get ready for bed first, take a breather from everything, and then you can ask me whatever you want."

Lydia liked the sound of that. She headed to her dresser to dig out some pajamas for the both of them, ignoring the twinge in her heart as she heard Stiles' jeep drive down the road.

It was cold. That's all Stiles could register at first.

It wasn't a cold like on a bitter morning when visiting relatives a few states over. Or when you had your hands digging around in the deep freeze for so long that they started changing colour. It was visceral, coating his tissues and organs. It made him feel as if his lungs were icing over.

The next thing his brain registered was that it was dark. Not dark like in a movie theatre or when you shuffled through your room at night to go to the bathroom—pitch dark. The kind that you felt more than saw. It was complete absence of any remnant of light, an abyss, and the fear began coiling itself around his spinal cord.

Without his sight, his other senses were hyperaware, and he suddenly knew he wasn't alone. Wherever he was, whatever was happening—someone or something was there with him.

"Stiles…" a taunting, what couldn't truly be considered a voice, more like nails on a chalkboard, came from the void. "I'm getting closer, Stiles."

"Stay…. Stay away from me." he tried to say as strongly as he could, but his bravery was swept under the rug and it came out as more of a whimper.

"But you and I are going to have so much fun together." the scraping voice dripped with playful malice, clearly enjoying his fear, as if it, whatever it was, was feeding on its succulent taste.

"No, no, no. Leave me alone. Please." Stiles begged, trying to move, but it was like the floor was molasses and he was stuck. His legs were so heavy he couldn't budge them. He felt tears forming in the corner of his eyes.

"Let me in, Stiles. Why won't you let me in?"

He closed his eyes tightly, struggling against the quicksand floor, begging his mind to wake up from the nightmare he was in. It had to be a nightmare. It didn't make any sense.

Finally, he seemed to jerk free, and when he opened his eyes, he was looking through a vented window, light peeking through the slates.

The walls were close around him, the cool of the metal near his skin, and he could see glimpses of the Beacon Hill high school's boys' locker room. He was in a locker. How the hell had he ended up in a locker at his old high school?

Pushing on the door, nothing happened. His breath quickening instantly, he pushed again and again, harder and harder, internally begging for the damn thing to budge.

It did eventually, much to his surprise, causing him to nearly topple to the floor.

Stiles took in the empty room around him, the moonlit benches and tile floor. Had he been sleep walking again? His brief glimpse at himself in the mirror on his way out of the door concluded that he was still in his sweatpants and t-shirt from the night before, so it made sense.

But how had Scott not noticed him leave? He had stayed over after they left Lydia's, knowing Stiles needed the company to keep himself distracted from worrying nonstop about what Lydia was thinking after the big reveal. Were they out looking for him? He should call them… except his phone was on his bedside table at home.

It had been a while since he had been at the high school at night. Plenty of supernatural memories littered the halls in his mind, and he kept his cautious stance as he walked down them. They hadn't had security watching the place at night for some time, too many casualties, but he didn't fancy running into anyone or anything else.

An open classroom door caught his eye, his memory flickering to a certain teacher who turned out to be a dark druid, and he found himself drawn to it. They always locked the doors at night. Why was this one open?

Stepping inside, he felt his breath halt in his lungs, the cold from his previous dream returning instantly. He could taste the fear in his mouth, a rusty metallic taste like blood, sitting on the back of his tongue.

The windows were smashed, blinds hanging lopsided, much like the night Jennifer had kidnapped his dad, the first of the Guardian sacrifices. Scott's mom and Allison's dad followed a few days later. But it wasn't the trashed classroom that alarmed him the most.

It was the abnormally large smoothly cut tree trunk sitting in the center of it, roots anchored like it had been growing there for centuries. The Nemeton.

His mind reminded him that this kind of dream was familiar, that he'd been having a lot of these since returning home. Now that he was back close to the Nemeton.

He was dreaming, he had to be dreaming. Wake up, Stiles.

Hands shaking, Stiles reached out slowly to touch the trunk, wanting to know if he'd feel the wood under his fingers or just air that would clear away the cloud in his mind.

Before his fingertips grazed the aged tree, a root internally jumped from the center, wrapping tightly around his wrist and pulling him forward.

Stiles woke with a start, panting hard, struggling to get upright to breathe.

Lydia sat up, reaching over to rub his arm.

"You okay? Stiles?" she asked worriedly, touching his arm, clearly seeing his distress.

Stiles swallowed, nodding numbly, catching his breath as his memory flashed back.

"Yeah, I was just dreaming. It was really weird; it was like a dream within a dream."

"A nightmare?"

He nodded, rubbing the hand she had placed on his knee. She stroked along his shoulder soothingly. He felt himself begin to breathe—her presence was always so soothing. Especially after—

Stiles found himself stiffening, her touch suddenly not so comforting. His eyes flickered to their intertwined hands, to the hand on her shoulder, to the reassuring smile she shyly displayed.

Lydia hadn't slept over last night—Scott had. And by the looks of things, his best friend was nowhere to be seen, and last he knew, Lydia was getting the supernatural 411 from Allison at her own house.

Could she have come over while he was sleeping? Scott gracefully ducking out so they could talk in the morning?

His mind was telling him no. That was not a hypothetical option.

"Wait a sec. Lydia. What are you doing here?" he had to ask. He had to know. Was this all in his head too?

As if on cue, his closet door creaked open slowly, like something out of a horror movie. Both of their eyes snapped in that direction, and Stiles could only see blackness beyond the ajar door.

"Hang on." he whispered, remembering in his dream, how dark it was, how someone had been wanting to be let in.

"Stiles, where are you going?" Lydia whispered fearfully, gripping his arm.

"I should have closed the door." he found himself saying, as if the words were not his own, as if reminding him of the message his subconscious left him before, that the door in his mind was still ajar, still needing to be closed.

"Just come back to sleep." she told him, pushing on his shoulder a little more forcefully than expected.

He pulled away from her, getting to his feet. "No, no, I should close it."

"Don't worry about it." she said, rather sharply.

His voice was softer than fleece now. "But what if someone comes in?"

"Like who?"

He ignored her, crossing the room slowly.

"Just go back to sleep, Stiles." she repeated.

"No, what if they get in?"

"What if who gets in?" she asked, sounding scared now.

He was so close. It still only showed blackness.

"Stiles, just leave it. Please." Lydia sounded desperate now.

He was at the door. He pulled it open slightly, his eyes catching something beyond the dark. Maybe the answer of who was trying to come in. Who he needed to keep out.

"Stiles? Stiles, come back to bed. Stiles? Please. Don't, Stiles. Don't! Don't go in there, Stiles, Please don't. Please, Stiles, don't!" Lydia screaming pleads became more and more distant as he walked through the tunnel into the light, heart beating loudly in his ears.

There was a strong gust flowing through the lit field, the Nemeton on display again. Lights brightened up the area, as if they were in the center of the Beacon Hills High lacrosse field.

The wind grew stronger as he stood in front of it, and he covered his ears as it grew louder and whipped leaves against him.

"This is just a dream. It's just a dream, get it out of your head, Stiles." he practically chanted to himself, closing his eyes and opening them, waiting for his bedroom to come into view. He was still outside. "You're dreaming, all right? So wake up, Stiles. Wake up, Stiles. WAKE UP!"

He screamed at the top of his lungs, feeling the slices of the leaves and bits of debris across his skin, but then he was breathing normal, lying horizontally, and he sat up at the soft sound of birds chirping outside of his window.

It was morning…? He was actually awake?

The room had been brightened by the sunlight and he was wearing the same clothes as before. He was finally awake.

Stiles exhaled slowly, unable to believe the traumatic night of dreams he had just endured.

He looked to his side to find the bed empty, no Lydia and no Scott.

Oh god.

But Scott walked into his room a minute later, capped toothbrush in hand. "Hey, you're awake. Everything okay? You look spooked."

Stiles almost wanted to laugh. That was one word for it.

Scott sat down next to him, worried now. "Bad dream?"

"Yeah. They're getting worse. Darker, somehow. More messed up. And the Nemeton's an even stronger focus now."

"You think it means something?" he asked, intrigued.

"I think that thing Deaton talked about? Us needing to close the door in our minds? I think we're running out of time."

"Why do you say that?"

"Just something that's been happening in my dreams. Someone, or something, is trying to get into my mind. Maybe one of those wrathful deities or something. And it's getting harder to figure out if I'm awake or not."

Scott scooted closer, clearly concerned. "What do you mean?"

"You know how you can tell you're dreaming? You can't read in dreams. More and more, I've been having trouble reading. Trying to work on homework, and it's like halfway down the page it changes to a completely different language, or hieroglyphics or something."

"So what do we do?"

"I don't know. We've got to figure out a way to close the door in our minds. And soon." Stiles scratched the back of his neck, then let out a sigh. "But do you want to know what scares me the most?"

Scott observed him inquisitively.

"I'm not even sure if this is real."

Stiles felt himself get ripped out of that world, slamming right back into assumed reality, but a scream equivalent to finding bloody murder exploded from his throat. He thrashed away from the grip around his limbs, blankets, whatever the hell was holding him in place, and felt like his lungs were going to burn up in flames.

The Sheriff burst through his bedroom door, but Scott had already locked his body around Stiles, pulling him back into him as he sobbed uncontrollably, his mind feeling like it had been through the wringer. How could he know if this was real? In each dream, he felt everything as if he was awake, only really noticing how off things were until he woke up. The current events, being comforted by his family, may feel normal now, but maybe when he wakes up again in ten minutes, he'll realize the things that weren't right. It was just too much. All of it was too much.

Scott shushed him soothingly, releasing his tight grip as Stiles calmed down. Stiles moved to bury himself in his dad's shoulder, needing the physical comfort from his only parent more than he cared to admit out loud.

He could sense the worry between Scott and his dad, the no doubt exchange of concerned glances, but Stiles couldn't stop shaking all over.

He had no idea that a few blocks away, in the Martin residence, Lydia too was screaming at the top of her lungs.

Chapter Text

"Lydia? LYDIA!"

Lydia felt like she was underwater, everything muddled and with a rushing sound in her ears.

She tried hard to focus on the familiar voice, feeling it tugging her back to reality.

"What the hell happened? Did I do this to her?"

"Stiles, don't be ridiculous. How could you have?" Allison's voice came.

Wait, why was Stiles here?

"Maybe I infected her with whatever the hell we're experiencing! She could see Scott's fake werewolf shadow, and your dead aunt haunting you, and maybe now my nightmares…?"

Lydia's concentration finally seemed to return and she sought out Stiles in the group, his eyes immediately meeting hers and he threw himself forward to crouch in front of her.

"Hey. Are you okay?"

Lydia rubbed her forehead, looking around the room in confusion. She was in her bedroom, her three closest friends around her, and Stiles was still in sweats and a t-shirt, as if he had come over in the middle of the night.

Why were they here? Did she faint?

"What happened?"

"We're not sure, you were just sort of … screaming nonstop. Do you feel okay?" Allison asked tenderly, sitting on the edge of the bed next to her.

Had Allison asked Scott and Stiles over because she had had a nightmare? Oh god, how embarrassing…

Lydia tried to stand, but her legs were shaking too badly, and she ended up falling back to sit again, Allison's hands immediately grabbing her to steady her even before Stiles could.

"I… I guess I was dreaming?" Lydia said completely unconvincingly, seeking her mind for any scrap of memory that lead up to before right then.

Stiles was stroking up and down her calves slowly, watching her face with earnest, and Lydia noticed the drying tear tracks on his face.

She reached out without even thinking, wiping the moisture away gently, feeling her lip tremble in retaliation. Had she scared him that much? Or had something else upset him?

He leaned his cheek into her touch, exhaling softly.

His breath tickled the thin skin of her wrist, and she felt her eyes fill with water as his emotions seemed to start affecting hers.

Allison stood up, meeting Scott's gaze, and jerking her head to the side to indicate they should go.

"We'll go start making some breakfast. Then maybe after that we can start calling around to get some answers." she told the two, knowing they probably weren't even listening.

Scott patted Stiles' shoulder supportively before wrapping an arm around Allison's waist and leading her out of the bedroom door. It was clear that no one really knew what was going on, and that Stiles and Lydia were a little too distracted to participate in a discussion. Since no one seemed to be in any immediate danger, it was something that could wait.

Feeling the room empty, Lydia leaned forward until her forehead was resting against Stiles', exhaling slowly with her eyes closed as she inhaled his comforting scent and willed her heart to relax.

She had no idea what the hell had happened, but she knew that the closer she got to Stiles, the better she felt.

It was a strange contrast from the night before, when some sort of foreboding doom filled her when she got too close.

Stiles' hands closed around her wrists, holding her in place, his breathing indicating that he too was finally beginning to relax.

"I'm sorry. For whatever happened. I'm so sorry." Lydia whispered, her voice shaky despite her attempts to calm down, and Stiles was moving before she could say anything else.

He moved forward to wrap her in his arms, climbing up on the bed next to her and pulling her into his lap. He buried his face in her neck, in her hair, and she could feel the odd shudder roll through his body.

She squeezed him tighter, nuzzling as close as she could, and let out her random influx of emotions.

"I'm sorry too. For not telling you about the supernatural sooner. For forcing you into this life." Stiles murmured, wiping his face as he pulled back.

His eyes travelled down to her bed, the neat sheets and comforter that had been torn away from the mattress, and it took Lydia a moment to realize that that must have been her. No wonder they had all been so freaked out.

Lydia felt herself redden. "This is so embarrassing…"

"What is?"

"I… I don't think I had a dream about supernatural monsters under the bed or something. I don't really remember what it was about but… I don't want you to think I'm some scared girl who can't be told anything…"

Stiles tucked a fallen strand behind her ear, seeming to clue in that she still hadn't been filled in. "Lydia, it wasn't just you. I woke up screaming bloody murder, simultaneously with you. I… I don't remember everything that happened, my dreams were all over the place…."

He trailed off, and Lydia could see the stress sinking into his skin. So that was why he blamed himself? Because they both had mirroring nightmares?

"Scott called Allison right away, because I guess I had trouble coming out of it, but she already had her phone in hand, about to call him about you. It's… we're not really sure what it means. That's why we're going to call Derek and Deaton when it's not five a.m. It doesn't seem possible that it was just a coincidence. You and I are human, but there is definitely something eerie going on."

"We don't even know if I am human." Lydia said quietly, the words sounding so foreign on her tongue. Identity crisis she understood, but not to this degree.

Stiles grasped her hands in his and gave them a reassuring squeeze.

"We are going to figure out what's going on. With all of us. Especially the stuff with you."

"Maybe it comes back to what happened to me before I ran off into the woods those two days I disappeared? I still don't remember anything."

Stiles thought about it, remembering the Nemeton's location in that stretch of woods. Maybe it did all came back to that. Their PTSD-type issues, Lydia being drawn to Beacon Hills, her running off screaming, and them screaming now. Maybe it all came back to the Nemeton, to the sacrifices they made last year that brought power back to the mystical tree.

"Maybe you're right. Maybe the answer is out there somewhere." he admitted. "We'll talk to Scott and Allison, and whoever else, but I don't think it would hurt to take a look around. We haven't been out there since you were missing."

Lydia nodded, remembering the void in her mind, the cloud only clearing when she found herself at Stiles' house. She remembered the look on his face when he realized it was her, how quick she was wrapped in his arms, and the gentleness in which he took care of her. He always took care of her. When she was attacked, when she was at the hospital, when they went back to school and she was still weak. Even when she stayed for Thanksgiving and he expelled so much energy into making sure she was happy and enjoying herself.

"What is it?" Stiles asked, seeing the mist of emotion in her eyes.

Lydia forced a smile. "Nothing. Just thinking about all that we've been through the last few months. I'm sorry about earlier. Asking Allison to stay instead of you. I just needed some space. I didn't do it to hurt you, but I know it probably did."

He shook his head. "You have nothing to apologize for. Even if you had done it to hurt me, I would've understood why."

"No. You were right that weekend we had here. When you said that telling me how Scott knew Derek, and about 'everything else' would be too much. I… I don't know if I would've believed you then. I knew I trusted you, and I could tell not telling me was hard for you, but I think if you had told me before I had to see some stuff for myself, I would've thought you were nuts. I'm glad I know now, but I think finding out sooner would've messed everything up."

"I just wished you had known, so you knew to be careful… maybe then you wouldn't have been attacked."

"Or maybe I would've been attacked when I was alone and bled out on the ground." Lydia interjected. "That werewolf attack had nothing to do with your life here, Stiles. Allison told me it was someone we went to school with."

"Aiden." he supplied.

Okay. That she hadn't expected.

Her face must have showed it, because he immediately continued.

"He was clearly newly turned, out of control of his powers. It's hard to explain, but werewolves do have beast-like qualities, especially in the early days when they're still slaves to the moon's power. There was no way he had any idea what he was doing or that it was you. Scott nearly ripped out my throat on multiple occasions in his first few months."

He said it so casually, like having a homicidal best friend was so normal, that Lydia had to giggle. And once she went, he laughed, and then they were laughing together at the ridiculousness of their lives until tears sprouted from their eyes.

"You seem to be taking this awfully well, I have to say." Stiles commented once they calmed down.

Lydia shrugged. "I must get that from you. Allison talked about how freaked she was when she learned about her family, but she also talked about what you had been like, what Scott had told her. How you just threw your all into researching lycanthropy, and tried to get through to Scott, and trained him and protected his secret and coached him through the whole thing even though it was all new to you too. Most people would deny it right away, take some time to accept it, but you only laughed at the idea for a minute."

Stiles blew out a long breath, leaning back on his hands. "I guess when you saw it from the outside like I did, it started to make sense. Scott sucked at lacrosse, just as bad as me, and he zipped through tryouts like he was a professional player. Better, even. Doing weird flips and perfect throws and knocking balls all the way through nets. That kind of speed and strength doesn't just happen because he got a good night's sleep and some extra free throws in over the summer. And when I confronted him about the idea that he was heading down a dangerous path, that he should cancel on his first date with Allison, he threw me against the wall, scratched long gashes in the back of my desk chair… Scott's the gentlest person you'll ever meet. I knew there was some greater power at work. It wasn't something I could take my time digesting. Scott's my best friend. He needed my help. I did what I could."

Lydia smiled at his explanation. Scott and Stiles' relationship was very special, that much she knew, and it always made her happy to hear the other talk about their best friend in such a high regard.

"So do you have any questions? Anything I might be able to answer?"

Lydia exhaled slowly. "I'm sure I'll think of something later. Right now I'm just… exhausted."

"Do you want to try to get some more sleep?"

She shook her head. "No, I don't know if I could. What about you? You look more exhausted than you did over finals week." she said, suddenly catching on to the fact that there were deeper circles under his eyes than she first noticed.

"Just what every guy wants to hear…"

She laughed. "You know what I mean." She leaned into his shoulder. "You should sleep, Stiles. We may have a busy day ahead."

He shook his head. "No. I… I don't want to sleep." His eyes were focused on the floor, and she knew what he was trying to keep quiet about. He was afraid to sleep. Something in his dreams made him feel too vulnerable to have any desire to put himself in that position again.

She leaned over to kiss his cheek.

"We should go join the others." She caught sight of herself in the mirror and sighed. She looked like she had been outside in a hurricane, hair a wreck and face puffy and blotchy. "I think I might shower first actually."

Stiles nodded. "Sure. Come downstairs when you're done. We'll eat and figure out what we're going to do today."

Leaving Lydia to her privacy, Stiles headed downstairs and joined Allison and Scott in the kitchen, who were talking quietly. They looked up when they saw him enter the room.

"Everything okay?" Scott asked.

Stiles nodded, supressing a yawn. "Fine, it's fine."

"You guys got to talk?"

"A bit, yeah. I'm glad she knows now. No more secrets."

"And now maybe you guys can take things to the next level…?" Allison prompted slowly, attempting to be casual but both Scott and Stiles sent her a look. "What? It's just a simple question."

Stiles rolled his eyes at her. He glanced behind him to make sure Lydia wasn't nearby.

It wasn't that he hadn't thought about it—that he couldn't be with her until she knew about that part of his life and now she was in the know—but still.

"Not yet. She needs time to absorb, and we need to find out what's going on with all of us. There's just too much happening right now to think about stuff like that."

"Isn't that all the more reason to tell her? Because we never know what's going on with our lives?"

"I don't want to complicate things. Just because I'm in love with her—"

He stunned himself by the casual statement.

"You're in love with her?" Scott cut in with a huge grin.

"Yeah, well, you're in love with Allison!" Stiles said defensively.

Allison buried her giggles in Scott's neck. "We knew you guys were crazy about each other, we just didn't know how deep those feelings ran."

"Although we had our suspicions after seeing the way you two reacted to seeing each other upset this morning."

"Can we just change the subject? She's in the shower. She could be done at any time."

"Okay. Let's focus on today's plan." Allison said with a nod, looking between the two of them. "I really don't know how I feel about just us four going out there. With the way things have been, I don't feel like we can trust ourselves very well. At any moment, you could start transforming uncontrollably, I could start hallucinating, Lydia could get frightened by something randomly, and you Stiles… well, after the other day at the library, I'm kind of worried that it's not just restricted to when you're asleep. That hasn't happened again, has it?"

He looked at his hands folded on the counter, shuffling on the stool.

"Has it?"

Stiles sighed. "Not exactly. I… I haven't told you guys yet, but I've been blacking out, just a few times here and there. Or, at least, there are gaps in my memory. I always am rattled after those dreams, but these blackouts are just emptiness, spaces of a few minutes or even a couple hours where I couldn't tell you where I've been or what I was doing. I've ended up in my jeep outside of places I don't remember driving to. I wonder whether I actually attended class. It's making the whole am-I-really-awake thing that much more complicated."

"Why is this the first time we're hearing about this?" Scott demanded, clearly channeling his alpha status but only for his typical cause—concern for others.

Stiles shrugged. "I… I wasn't sure if it was related to the Nemeton stuff. Or if it was just… my brain. Decomposing."

Scott's face melted into understanding, and Allison got there eventually, but Lydia, who had just come in, stepped into the kitchen cautiously, not really sure what was going on.


Allison smiled warmly at her. "Hey. We made breakfast. Well, okay, we started to make breakfast. And then got distracted. So. We should probably get back to that. Stiles, do you mind reading the next step on that box next to you? We've already added the milk to the batter."

Stiles picked the box up absent-mindedly, forgetting that quickly of his recurring issue of supernatural dyslexia until his eyes found the mixed up sentences.

He stared at the instructions, willing the letters to form tangible words, but they simply melted down the box like candle wax. He didn't even realize his hands were shaking until Lydia reached out to steady them.

"Stiles?" Scott's voice came, but like it was through a thick fog, and Stiles slowly realized that his breathing had quickened. The only thing he had been aware of was his heartbeat pounding in his ears.

"Excuse me." Stiles managed to choke out, before getting shakily to his feet and leaving the room as quick as he could.

He didn't know what he hoped to accomplish. Secluded panic attacks didn't really make for more comfortable ones, although at least he could avoid the embarrassment of his friends witnessing it.

He should've known better regardless. His friends weren't exactly the leave-alone-and-let-die type.

The three of them dropped what they were doing and followed him quickly into the living room, calling after him.

"Stiles. Stiles, look at me. What's going on? Is this a panic attack?" Scott asked in confusion, noting the hyperventilation coming from his best friend

"I have to wake up." Stiles whispered, stumbling to grab onto something, to keep himself upright, to not get dragged into the darkness again. He couldn't go back there.

"Stiles, you are awake. This is real. You're here. You're here with us."

It sounded like Allison, but as if she was speaking through a thick layer of water, all muddled.

He heard a familiar scraping sound, his head whipping around to try to figure out where it was coming from. A metallic-like growl. Was it in his head? Or was that something really here?

"Don't let them in." he whispered, burying his face in his knees, hands over his ears, as he collapsed against the wall.

"What is he saying?" Allison again, or at least a part of him thought so, but he was having trouble concentrating on anything at all.

Until Lydia spoke.

She crouched down in front of him, grabbing his wrists to tug them away from his head. "Stiles, how do you tell if you're awake or dreaming?"

Her voice was perfectly clear, eerily so, as if it was inside his skull.

"C-count fingers. You have extra fingers in dreams."

"So count with me, okay? Count how many fingers you have." she instructed soothingly, the epitome of calm. She slid one of his fingers out of the tight fist he had. "One. Two. Three."

They kept counting. Stiles could feel his breathing returning as he answered her robotically. One hand was totally normal. The other he found was too.

"Ten fingers, Stiles. No extras. You're awake." she murmured before pulling behind his neck to hug him close to her.

He burrowed his face in her neck, breathing her clean scent in. He knew his face was heating up, embarrassed for his breakdown, but when he pulled back, he was only met with relieved smiles.

"I'm so sorry."

"You're fine." Scott promised. "What was that about though, dude?"

He exhaled. It was a lot of things, but he figured he might as well explain the trigger. "I can't read."

The other three exchanged glances.

Before they could start bringing up his GPA, or any other examples that clearly he was not lacking that ability, he continued.

"It's only happened a couple times now. Sometimes when I'm working on homework. Or looking up something on my laptop. I had a few brief periods of the weird dyslexia, but now it seems to be becoming more consistent. And you can't read in dreams."

"Well. Thankfully there isn't much reading to do in the woods. So I say we go out there this afternoon, start looking for some answers, because we can't go on living like this."

Stiles nodded, getting up from the floor, his hand slipping into Lydia's to give her a grateful squeeze before following the others.

"I really hope Deaton has an answer for some of this crap."

Heading to the all familiar woods later that day, Stiles inhaled a deep breath, letting the musky smell of the outdoors fill his lungs. It had been a while since he had been present there, but flashes back to his dreams the night before reminded him that his mind had travelled there more than once.

He hoped today they would get some answers. As expected, on the drive over, he couldn't read a damn thing, which confirmed his theory that his trouble reading was getting worse. It wasn't just the odd assignment or page in a textbook that he could go back to later—now he couldn't read a single sign that might hint at impending danger. Not exactly a comforting thought.

Lydia was surprised by how quiet Stiles was, although maybe it was from how rough of a morning he was having. She had been so wrapped up in her own weird issues recently that she felt guilty for not realizing that Stiles was fighting his own demons. She hoped that, now that they both knew what the other was dealing with thanks to Allison's explanations last night and she knew about his supernatural extra-curricular activities, they could work on fighting those demons together.

"Here come the others." Allison commented, fixing her bow over her shoulder.

Lydia recognized Derek right away, having seen him at Thanksgiving and not forgetting that strength at which he held himself. Didn't hurt that he was obviously a few years older than them. She now understood the power she had sensed could be linked to the fact that he was a werewolf, and she was a … something.

The other two she wasn't sure who they were. A pixie-sized Asian girl with a shy smile was followed by a tall boy with curly hair, an expression of slight boredom resting on his face.

Stiles straightened from leaning on his jeep.

"Lydia, you remember Derek." he said, as the older guy approached.

She nodded. "Nice to meet you properly."

He didn't reply, simply watched her, his head tilting to the side as he looked her over.

"Okay, can you not psycho-werewolf-analyze her before you exchange pleasantries, please?" Stiles cut in exasperatedly.

"Sorry. Just curious on her abilities. Welcome to Beacon Hills." he said with a sly smile, like he found something highly amusing. By probability, it was the fact that she had already managed to dive headfirst into the supernatural and she'd only been living there a few weeks.

"Isaac, Kira, this is Lydia." Scott introduced from his spot.

Kira waved friendlily, looking excited, while Isaac eyed her much like Derek did.

"So you were the naked girl we were searching for back in December? If I had had a better idea of what you looked like, I would've—"

"Finish that sentence and I will cut off something very important to you in your sleep." Stiles growled irritably at the beta, who simply smirked in response.


Derek rolled his eyes. Lydia tried to keep the smile off her face at Stiles' overprotectiveness.

The Asian girl stepped between the boys, clearly trying to break up the tension, and smiled at Lydia.

"I'm Kira. You knew that. I knew you knew that. Why did I tell you again?" Kira babbled, biting her lip. "Anyways, we are going to do our best to help figure out what's going on with all of you guys. And we know you're new at this, so if you have any questions, don't be afraid to ask."

"Uh, thanks." Lydia said, forcing a warm smile at the girl. "What kind of weapons are those that you have?"

"Katanas. Japanese swords. I've kind of got… genetic instinct on how to use them. And I've had tons of practice too obviously."

Scott was smiling amusedly from his spot. "We haven't gotten so far in the explanation of everything, but Kira is a thunder kitsune. A shapeshifter that resembles a fox. She not only is a badass with swords, but she can do some pretty impressive stuff with electricity."

"By impressive, he means accidentally breaking some light bulbs. I'm still working on controlling and channeling it." she said sheepishly.

"Foxes and wolves don't normally mix well, but Kira's been a great addition to the pack. She moved here our last semester in junior year from New York."

Lydia nodded. "So I guess I took your spot as the new girl."

"I stole it from Allison, so it seems only fair." Kira said brightly, looking grateful that Lydia didn't think she was a babbling idiot.

The strawberry-blonde couldn't help but smile a little. She liked Kira. She was quirky but kind.

"All right, we should get moving. Kira, Derek, you're with me. If I have any random transformations, I'd prefer the back-up so I don't hurt anyone else. Isaac, stay with Allison and be mindful of her aiming. Stiles, Lydia, will you be all right together?"

Stiles gave his best friend a look. Normally, Scott was pretty good at being the leader, making sure skills were well distributed, so that there was a balance of power. In this case, it was broad daylight and very unlikely they'd have any issues, but it was better safe than sorry.

And to be fair, it was clear that if Stiles had another panic attack, it was best that Lydia was with him. As far as reading went, there wasn't much to read in the woods, so that was fine.

But Stiles wasn't stupid. Scott wanted him to have time with Lydia alone, to talk about everything they needed to. Even if there was a greater goal in mind for the day's mission.

"We'll be all right. I'll call your cell if we run into trouble." Stiles replied.

"Everyone realizes that this plan is pretty much destined to fail, right? It's been over a month since Lydia ran off. There's very little evidence she'd leave behind, especially where she wasn't wearing clothes that could snag on things. Even the Nemeton isn't going to have some big sign on it that says 'All trouble explained here'." Isaac said seriously.

"We have to start somewhere." Scott countered.

"Even if there was a sign, I couldn't read it, if it makes you feel better." Stiles interjected.

Derek exhaled and moved forward, following Scott, ending the conversation between the bickering teenagers before it could start.

"Meet back here in an hour. There's no need in dragging this on. As much as I wish Isaac wasn't right, he did make some good points. Let's just do what we can. Lydia had to have slept at some point. We're going to head to the area nearest the hospital, see if we can get a sense of what emotions she was feeling."

"I have a feeling it was fear." Isaac chimed in.

"Isaac, if we focus well enough, we might be able to decipher a more in-depth insight into that." Scott said patiently. "You and Allison can head to where the woods lead to Stiles' house, since somewhere near there is where she left and regained her consciousness."

Stiles lead the way for him and Lydia without further instruction, knowing he wasn't going to waste his time examining leaves across the woods for traces of her hair. He wanted to check out the Nemeton.

It was quiet between them, just the crunching of leaves and twigs under shoes, and Lydia had a feeling Stiles was in a mood.

"I get the impression you don't like Isaac much." she said cautiously, not sure how he'd react.

Stiles sighed and kept moving, rolling the words around his tongue. "He annoys me a lot, but I don't hate him by any means. I used to not trust him, but he's proven himself loyal to Scott and to the rest of the pack, so I've accepted him. I don't think we'll ever be best friends or anything, our personalities sort of clash. Maybe we're just too similar. He and Scott are pretty close."

The bitter way he ended his spiel gave Lydia insight on why Stiles was so irritated with the teenager.

"Ah. Little jealous of him, huh?"

He glowered at her, but it didn't last long. "Maybe."

"You don't have anything to be jealous of. Scott loves you more than he loves anyone."

"Except Allison. You have no idea how much he wouldn't shut up about her when they first got together."

Lydia smiled. She had a feeling Allison probably was the same way.

"He's calmed down about her now of course. Especially after they broke up for a bit. Dated other people. Took each other off the pedestals they had invented."

Lydia remembered their breakup being mentioned before, but she hadn't realized they had dated other people.

"How long did their other relationships last?"

"Few months? Kind of hard to stay committed when you're in love with someone else. They eventually broke things off with Kira and Isaac and after some time, they got back together."

"Wait, the people I met today? Those are their exes? And they're still all able to work together?" Lydia was surprised. She knew most exes wouldn't be so comfortable together. And enough so that they even got divided into the same exploration groups. Scott clearly trusted Allison enough to send her off alone with Isaac.

"It was awkward at first but it's been a lot of time. Sometimes, when you're so focused on something else, like saving the city from chaos, it's easier to forget things like that. To let them go. And I think both understand. Kind of hard to doubt how Allison and Scott feel about each other when you're around them."

Lydia smiled. "They do have something special. I could tell when I first met them." She pondered for a moment, trying to remember if Allison ever mentioned why they broke up. "Do you know why they broke up?"

He smiled over his shoulder at her, raising an eyebrow. "Werewolf and a werewolf hunter are better stars of a forbidden love story than a successful one. Her dad threatened to kill Scott if she saw him again. Their code of ethics used to be a little skewed."

"I'll say." Lydia muttered, shuddering at the thought.

"One of these days, we'll give you the full scoop. The last few years have been a little crazy."

They were getting deeper and deeper in the woods now, the trees shading the sun.

Lydia swatted around her head. The buzzing circling around her head was driving her crazy. "God, how bad are the flies in Beacon Hills?"

Stiles laughed. "As bad as anywhere else I guess? I never see much of them. Are they taking a liking to you?"

"Apparently." she grumbled.

"It might be your hair. Bugs can be attracted to different scents. And your hair always smells like strawberries…"

As he said it, he realized that he was admitting that he had paid attention to the smell.

Lydia was grinning to herself.

Stiles corrected his throat. "So I can get it, if you want. With my bare, manly hands."

"Oh, my hero!" Lydia exclaimed dramatically, causing him to laugh.

She could almost forget how tense things had been lately, joking around with him.

"Okay, it's on my left side. Or around my head. I don't know. It's kind of a constant buzzing."

Stiles looked her over objectively. "I don't see it at all."

"Do you not hear that buzzing? It's so loud! It has to be right on me somewhere!"

He looked at her strangely, shrugging. "Sorry, Lydia. You're on your own."

"Pfft, some hero."

He rolled his eyes at her, trying not to smile, and trudged on their route.

"I swear there is a fly."

"O-kay. Whatever you say."

She grumbled irritably.

"So where are we going? You seem like you've got a destination in mind."

"Yeah, I kind of do. Although it's not necessarily going to happen since this stupid place only is found when it wants to be or something like that. So, in reality, it might be completely pointless but—"

Stiles stopped talking when he felt Lydia disappear from next to him, and he turned around to see her standing frozen, one foot slightly higher than the other.

"Lydia? What are you…?"

But his question was answered when his eyes travelled to where she was about to step. Her shoe was lightly pressing on a claw bear trap, and the slightest of movement would force it to snap closed on her leg.

Across the woods, a roar of pain erupted from what sounded like Isaac, and Stiles had a feeling the one in front of them wasn't the only trap around.

Chapter Text

"Stiles." Lydia hissed, eyes huge.

"Lydia, don't move."

She didn't even breathe.

He couldn't help but stare at the metal contraption, feeling the fear set in that at any second it could close around Lydia's bare leg, nothing to deter it from ripped through her flesh.

Her breaths were shortening in her panic and she looked to the sky for a distraction.

"Look for a warning label."

"A warning label?"

"Instructions on how to disarm it." she clarified, a touch of frustration in her tone.

Stiles was confused. "Why the hell would they put instructions on the bottom of a trap?"

"Because animals can't read!" Lydia said exasperatedly.

A simple concept yet he hadn't thought of that. Intrigued, he lay down next to the trap, searching for some sort of information.

Seeing the patch of red, he leaned closer, eyes catching on to the white lettering.

He knew it was what he was looking for, but none of it made sense.

"Lydia, we've got a problem." he admitted. "I can't read either."

Lydia exhaled slowly, trying to appear calm. "You don't need the instructions. When was the last time you used instructions, am I right? You don't need them because you are too smart to waste your time with them, okay? You can figure it out. Stiles, all I've heard since I learned about your involvement in the supernatural stuff is that you're the one who always figures it out. You figured out the issues with the printer that time too! And you thought about the tree I've been drawing to figure out that I've been drawing the same thing. You've used your cleverness plenty of times since then for academic and personal reasons. So you can do it. Figure. It. Out."

Stiles stared at her in surprise. He hadn't been expecting such a passionate speech. He didn't know that she thought any of that about him. He knew they did academic stuff together, like homework and assignments, but he was surprised by her attention to his problem-solving.

She was right though. He had a knack for research, and he did seem to pick up on subtler clues before others, sometimes things just seemed to click in his brain. He just had to focus and he could figure this out.

He noticed the stringy grass covering part of the metal. It was a circular knob that looked to be connected to the spring portion of the trap. That had to mean something.

But which way to turn it?

He thought back to the instruction he read before. Or failed to read. He scrunched his eyes shut, trying to remember exactly how the whole label was displayed. Trying to re-read may give him a whole new set of letter combinations. He remembered each word individually, trying to think of which might indicate a direction. 'WCIOCSKEL'. He let it mull around his brain for a minute.


"Okay. Here we go."

With a quick jerk of his wrist, he turned the knob to the right.

Lydia squealed and jumped away, Stiles leaping up to catch her from toppling over. He pulled her in close, her breathing slowing to a more normal rate.

"Thank you." she whispered, her cheek against his.

"We really need to stop putting you in these dangerous situations. My heart can't take the stress."

She giggled as she relaxed in his hold, leaning her head against his collarbone, the front of her body now pressed to the front of his. "I'm sorry. If it helps, we can consider it pay back from you scaring me this morning."

Lydia felt his posture change, and she knew she had said the wrong thing.

"I don't mean that I was scared due to your mental state. I just don't like seeing you so upset. I had no idea you had been going through so much. When Allison told me everything last night… I felt awful for not knowing."

Stiles let her go, brushing his hair back off his sweaty forehead.

"I… well, I kind of kept some of it from everyone… I swear it wasn't personal."

She nodded. "It's okay."

"We'll talk later, okay? When we're not in the middle of the woods with eavesdropping werewolves around…" Stiles said sheepishly. He didn't mind confiding in Lydia—he would just rather leave the rest of the pack out of his deepest thoughts and fears.

Out of the blue, there was a resounding howl that echoed through all the trees.

"Now that's what I'm talking about!" Stiles said, enthusiasm switching immediately at the sound of his best friend in full wolfed out form. "Unless he's doing so without control and that means everyone is screwed….And damn, I completely forgot about Isaac getting hurt…"

"You can decipher their different howls?"

He nodded, pulling her by the hand towards the noise, his cell up to his ear.

"Allison? Hey, what's going on?"

She sounded exasperated. "Isaac got his leg caught in a bear trap. He's doing okay. Scott's alpha howl seemed to give him renewed strength and he broke out of it. Derek's patching him up to help the healing."

"Scott managed to do the alpha howl? Did he transform fully?"

"Yeah, actually, he did. And back. Derek coached him on the howl but I think hearing his beta in distress helped him focus or something."

"Makes sense."

"What about you guys? Where are you?"

"Well, Lydia also stepped on a bear trap—"

"Oh my god! Where are you guys?! Is there an ambulance on the way?" Allison immediately panicked, which wasn't really typical of her. Her time as a hunter had taught her to be calmer in a crisis, but clearly hearing that Lydia was hurt had thrown that out the window.

"She's fine. She didn't set it off. I managed to disarm it. We're heading to you guys now."

"Christ, Stiles, next time lead with that, will you?!"

He chuckled. "Sorry, warrior princess."

"I think I see you guys. And… are you holding hands?" Allison added slyly.

"Hanging up now." Stiles said with the roll of his eyes, clicking off his phone.

Stiles and Lydia rejoined the group, Allison hugging Lydia upon sight and Stiles checking on Scott.

"How's your leg?" he asked Isaac, seeing the bloody bandages.

"Healing. It'll be fine." he replied gruffly, clearly still in a decent amount of pain.

Stiles nodded. "I'll have to let my dad know people are still trapping out here. Let's hope it's not Mr. Tate again."

"Well, he has Malia back now, so I don't think he really cares about catching the 'coyote' anymore."

Lydia looked up at the name, and Stiles corrected his throat awkwardly. "So, did anyone find anything?"

"Nothing." Derek volunteered unenthusiastically.

"Well, it was a long shot. At least we tried." Scott said.

His eyebrows furrowed as his phone rang.

Stiles jumped in surprise when his did the same thing.

"It's my mom."/"It's my dad." they said in unison.

Greeting their parents, the others watched in curiosity.

One glance at Scott and Stiles knew they were getting the same news.

Stiles immediately went into detective mode. "The shrapnel bomber? Nearby? So you have no idea where he is? Or where he's heading? Won't he need a hospital to stitch him up?"

Scott, meanwhile, was giving a similar questionnaire with his mom, but less targeted towards the outside party. "But are you okay? Did he hurt you? What did he say?"

Stiles exhaled. "Dad, yes, I'll tell them. We'll be fine. Just… be careful, okay? Yeah, love you too. Bye."

The others looked on earnestly, clearly curious on what the hell was going on. Scott hung up the phone a moment later.

Stiles spoke for the both of them. "You guys remember the stories about William Barrow? Crazy guy who walked onto a school bus and set off a shrapnel bomb that killed four teenagers and caused the other to lose his legs? He needed emergency surgery so he was let out of jail last night to be seen at Beacon Hills Hospital. They were scheduled to do the surgery this morning. But they didn't get to finish it. A tumour in his stomach filled with…"

He paused, looking at Lydia, eyes widening in realization.

"Uh, Stiles? Filled with what?" Allison asked.

"Sorry… um, tumour full of flies burst open, distracting the surgery team, and he literally sat up and sliced the surgery doctor in the neck before hightailing out of there. They're trying to find him but they don't even know where to look. My dad wants us to all go home and stay inside, keep safe."

Everyone waited for him to explain further, looking back and forth between him and Lydia, but sensing he wasn't going to give, Scott jumped in.

"My mom said she did his pre-op exam last night when he was admitted. And he said he killed those people because their eyes were glowing."

They all caught on instantly, even Lydia. "Werewolves."

"We can't let them look for this guy on their own. He's dangerous." Scott said.

"We don't even know what he escaped for. Does he have some sort of unfinished business?" Allison asked, trying to think back to what she learned in school. She hadn't been living in Beacon Hills when the guy was around.

"Maybe he wants to relive the glory days. Do it again." Isaac suggested.

"You mean bomb a high school bus? There's more than one high school in the area. We'll have to split up."

"My mom works at the Beacon Hills high school. She's there right now. Classes are in session for another few hours." Lydia said, trying not to panic.

Stiles touched her shoulder. "We'll keep her safe. Don't worry."

"We'll need to move fast. How long ago did he escape?"

"Probably about half an hour. My mom had to answer a bunch of police questions, and well, Stiles' dad was the one asking them." Scott explained.

Allison crossed her arms. "So, we'll split up and go to the high schools in the area? Try to find him before he does any damage? Shouldn't they evacuate the schools?"

"They won't want to panic everybody unless they have to." Stiles interjected.

Lydia spoke up. "Bombing a bus after being locked up for years might be too mediocre. If he's as sick as he sounds, he likely wants to make it worth the trouble of getting thrown in prison for longer. He might want to level the whole school, or wherever he thinks the glowing eyes people are. He's probably not oblivious to how overpopulated your guys' high school was with the supernatural, especially with all of the unsolved cases Stiles' dad has had over the years that revolved around there."

Stiles tried to hide how impressed he was. Lydia really paid attention. His dad had mentioned his series of unsolved cases at some point over the Thanksgiving weekend when she asked about his job, but of course she was clever enough to link her new knowledge to that now. Some human things were unsolved, but the majority related back to the supernatural.

"I'm sure my dad and the rest of the department are going to check out the high schools, and the first place they'll go is the school buses. We need to scour the whole area. Hopefully catch him before he gets anything going."

"He'll likely hang around to watch his disaster unfold. Even if he has set things up, he won't disappear, just hide." Lydia retorted. "Not anywhere obvious either. Somewhere unpopulated, like the basement."

"We'll need to make sure that when he is found, we get everyone out. No matter what the police are doing."

"True. We can't know what he's planning or how far he's gone. If he's there at all, there's a chance he's already planted something."

The rest were watching the two go back and forth, amused by the detective banter.

Oblivious, Stiles nodded. His phone beeped. He pulled it out to see a text from his dad.

Barrow spotted near Beacon Hills High. You better be home.

"My dad says Barrow's been seen near Beacon Hills. Maybe we should forget splitting up and hurry up and get over there."

They all stared at him.

He pushed his phone back in his pocket. "Okay, fine, we can still split up, but I think we should have more people with supernatural powers at Beacon Hills if that's where he likely is…"

"No. Stiles. You just read that text." Allison explained slowly, waiting for it to sink in.

He paused, catching on. "Holy shit."

"We should go. We'll figure out the rest of the plan on the way." Scott said, but he was smiling broadly, clearly happy that his best friend's dyslexia might be behind them.

Lydia linked her arm with Stiles' as they made their way back to his jeep, and he couldn't keep the smile off his face either.

Arriving at the school, it looked like a normal day. No extra security, no screaming mob of panicked students exiting the building, nothing out of the ordinary.

"Okay, let's split up."

Lydia's hand reached for Stiles' without her even thinking about it, and he smiled and linked their fingers together.

"Let's go check on your mom." he said quietly, knowing she was more worried than she was letting on and that she needed the visual reassurance that she was fine.

Lydia smiled bashfully, nodding. There really wasn't much they could do if confronted by Barrow, besides run and hide behind their more well-equipped friends.

"Text me if you find anything." Stiles told the others, leading Lydia away.

They headed down the hall, Stiles remembering his dream from the previous night. Classes were in session, so all doors were closed, nothing out of the ordinary.

"She's in there." Lydia said, peeking through the window in the door.

Her mom was addressing the class, calling on people in their seats, nodding in approval as they relayed their answers. All of them oblivious to the potential danger looming.

The principal came around the corner accompanied by the town sheriff. Thankfully, their eyes were on each other as they conversed.

"Shit, there's my dad. Quick. We need to hide." Stiles hissed, pulling her into the nearest open room.

It happened to be the boys' locker room. It was empty.

Lydia was smirking. "Let me guess. He probably wouldn't be too impressed that you ignored his demand that you go straight home and stay there."


He looked around the room, glimpses of his dream in his mind's eye.

"What is it?" Lydia clearly noticed his distraction.

"I was here in my dream last night. Trapped in a locker. At the time, I thought I had been sleep walking and ended up here. But then the dream changed."

Lydia could tell how freaked out he was. Witnessing his full blown panic attack earlier had been proof enough.

She wanted to ask him more about his dreams, about the things he said during his panic attack, but now wasn't the time. They needed to focus on finding the psychotic prison escapee.


His expression was still troubled, even more so than before.

He shook his head, thinking hard. "This sounds stupid… but being here, at the school, feels so familiar. Not, you know, because I was here in my dream, or because I spent four years going here. I feel like I've actually been here recently. That maybe that's what prompted the dream last night."

"Well, is that possible? That you might be sleep walking or something?"

Stiles mulled it over. He hadn't woken up in an odd place, besides within his dreams, but he had had those random blackouts. He tried to remember when he had his last one, but it was like trying to remember when you last forgot something you didn't remember forgetting.

"I don't know. It's probably nothing, just my brain getting even more scrambled than before. We should be focusing on Barrow. He's the imminent danger we have to worry about right now."

Lydia nodded. "Stiles?"

He turned to her from the doorway after checking that the coast was clear.

"I appreciate you not saying anything earlier, about the buzzing to the others. I really thought there was a fly, but thinking back, I never did feel anything actually around me. Just heard the noise. I wouldn't have been mad if you told them, but I can't lie. I feel like a freak."

He stepped closer, reaching out for her. "Hey, you're not a freak—"

"I still hear it, Stiles. It's been louder since we got here." she admitted. "I don't get what's happening to me. But I feel like this means something. Am I crazy for thinking that?"

He smiled. "Not at all. I think you're right."

"So… what do we do?"

Stiles pulled out his phone, texting a quick 'where are you' to Scott. "Let's see if the others have found anything. They should've texted me, but we'll meet up with them and see if they have any new ideas. If not, I'll call my dad, see how the investigation is going."

"I don't think you'll have to call him…"

"Why not?"

"Because he's coming over to us right now."

Stiles whipped around and shrunk slightly at the look on his father's face. He decided to meet him halfway, Lydia staying behind to give them some privacy for what would no doubt be a tense conversation.

"Stiles… I swear to god…"

"Dad, before you say anything—"

"No. I don't even want to hear it! Do you actually enjoy giving me a heart condition? I told you to stay inside today, to stay safe, and you actually join the crime scene! Where there is an escaped bomber." he hissed as quietly but as furiously as possible.

The other deputies were heading out of the front doors, and Stiles caught sight of a familiar FBI agent.

"Seriously? He's helping?"

"He was the one who directed Barrow to the Beacon Hills Hospital, so yeah, he's helping."

"So you guys are leaving? Why are you leaving?"

The Sheriff sighed. "There's nothing here. An eye witness puts Barrow at the train station."

"Dad, he's here. Lydia knows it."

"Did she see him?" his dad demanded, about to pull out his radio to order them to stay.

"Well, no, not exactly. Not at all, actually. But she has a feeling. She has a supernatural feeling. She can sense… things. And she still hears the buzzing."

"Excuse me? The buzzing?"

Stiles sighed exasperatedly. "Look, she's a psychic or something. She's been drawing the Nemeton since before, and she found Heather's necklace, and—"

"Stiles, I seriously don't have time for this. I'm not saying I don't believe, but I've got to go with eye witness over psychic. Now get your ass back home."

Before Stiles could say anything else, he caught sight of Agent McCall doubling back, clearly impatient for the Sheriff to join the rest.

Stiles wanted to flip him off, but figured that wouldn't help his case with his dad any, so he headed back to Lydia instead.

"Why are they leaving?!" Lydia whispered, eyes wide.

"They've got an eye witness placing him elsewhere." Stiles said bitterly.

"Barrow HAS to be here! That sound? The buzzing I've been hearing? It's getting louder."

"How loud?"

Lydia paused to listen and cringed immediately. Instead of a single fly, it sounded like a swarm. An angry, voluminous swarm.

Stiles checked his phone. Scott had responded.

Me, Derek, and Isaac are scouring the basement. Allison and Kira were checking out the school buses since they're parked out back. So far, no scent, no evidence of him being here at all.

"They're in the basement. Allison and Kira are checking out the buses." Stiles relayed.

Lydia stopped walking. "Stiles. Did Barrow make that shrapnel bomb himself?"

"Yeah, I think so. He was an electrical engineer." he replied, stopping too, knowing she was coming to a conclusion of some sort.

She exhaled slowly. "All the werewolves, all the ones with the glowing eyes, are in the basement… near the school's boiler room."

It only took a second for Stiles to catch on.

"An engineer could use the boiler room to blow up the whole school."

Lydia nodded. "We have to get them out of there."

"We have to get everyone out."

"How do we do that? The last bell won't ring for another twenty minutes."

Stiles knew that the police were gone now, so no hope for help from them, although that was doubtful on a good day.

"We break the rules."

Taking a few steps, he reached up for the red fire alarm, pulling down.

Ringing blared through the halls, and the scraping of chairs against tile floor signalled that the halls were about to be flooded with people.

"Time to go find the others."

Stiles and Lydia decided to split up, although they both were reluctant. They hoped that by hearing the alarm, they'd all get the hint and get the hell out of there. Especially since it could be a good hint that they were too late.

Lydia rushed to find Allison and Kira, who, according to Allison's text, were leaving from the library.

Lydia didn't actually know the layout of the school, so she headed towards the middle area as sneakily as she could. Teachers were ushering students outside, so she knew if she was spotted, she'd be grabbed among them.

Turning a corner, she heard her friends before she saw them, but quickly slowed her walk when she heard the conversation topic.

The fire alarm was still blaring loudly, obnoxious and almost near painful, but Lydia still picked up what they were saying.

"So what's going on with Lydia and Stiles?" Kira was asking eagerly, her feet quick beneath her but her eyes glued to Allison. "They've been inseparable. And when Lydia called the other night during the pack meeting, Stiles raced off so quickly. He looked so worried."

Lydia hid back behind the corner. She frowned. She hadn't realized she had interrupted him doing something the other night. She had assumed he was home. She felt guilty for bothering him, and then embarrassed that they all knew about her mental breakdown.

"He's very protective of her. They met at school early in the semester and got really close, especially after he brought her home for Thanksgiving." Allison explained, her eyes still scanning around corners. It seemed like she felt like there was something to find, that she was experiencing a sense of being watched. "After she was attacked, he wouldn't leave the hospital. No matter how hard we tried to get him to. His clothes were full of her blood, he was exhausted, but he wouldn't budge. We eventually convinced him to at least shower, after she woke up. And then she went missing, and I thought he was going to turn himself inside out."

She remembered her mother mentioning how dedicated Stiles was to staying at the hospital when she was recovering. She had been surprised, touched, but she knew she'd be foolish for expecting anything less. And based on his reaction when he found her outside his house, she knew he had been worried sick.

"He's so sweet with her. Just seems to know what she needs. And I've never seen him look so happy, not even when he was with Malia. And when they were discussing the plan to find this guy earlier, they just keep pace with each other so well. I think they'd be adorable together."

Allison chuckled. "Yeah. I think they're good for each other."

Lydia held her head high and turned the corner, pretending to be startled at the sight of them.

"There you guys are. Me and Stiles separated, and then I realized I didn't know my way around at all. We've got to get out of here before we get caught."

They rushed down the hall, keeping eyes peeled for any teachers.

"Did they find anything?" Allison asked.

Lydia shook her head. "No, I don't think so."

"So is he gone? Was he ever here?"

Before Lydia could answer, desperate to shout that yes he was definitely there, that she knew but she didn't know how, they spotted the others going through the back doors.

Following, Lydia halted, feeling as though someone was watching her.

She turned, the dreadful feeling coating her skin like a sudden chill, and she began walking back towards one of the classrooms.

"Lydia, we have to go!"

She held up a hand, shooing them off, and walked calmly towards the classroom.

It was the music room, the lights off, and she managed to get the door open. Weren't they supposed to lock these during a drill?

Entering the room, she swept her eyes over the instruments.

The room was suddenly bathed in light and she turned to see Stiles in the doorway.

She breathed. Her instinct told her it might be someone ready to give her the third degree for ignoring the fire drill, or worse, Barrow.

"What are you doing?" Stiles asked, crossing the space between them.

"I… I just feel something. About this room." She didn't know how to explain it. It was in her veins, drawing her there, a gut instinct that she couldn't understand the source of.

Her fingers grazed over the piano keys, pressing a couple in a row, and she backed up instantly at the whispers that overshadowed the ringing notes.


"Did you hear that?"

"I heard you play notes on a piano. And I can hear the fire drill still screeching through the building."

"You didn't hear whispering?"

"I most definitely did not hear whispering."

Lydia shook her head, pressing notes on the piano again, one at a time so they could ring.

"There's this…" She listened harder, at the aggressive sound far into the brushing of sounds. "Almost like a chant?"

Stiles didn't know what to say, but then it dawned on him. "Jennifer… The Darach… she stole one of the 'philosopher' sacrifices from here… We think he was sitting here recording because there was a big bang halfway through the unfinished song and then there was blood on the piano cover…"

Lydia nodded, letting out a sigh. "I'm sorry. I thought it might relate to Barrow. Let's get out of here."

Before they could join the others outside, Stiles heard a familiar bark of irritation.


Stiles swallowed and turned to see Coach Finstock glaring at him.

"Lydia, go find the others." he said quietly, pushing her in direction to the other exit, as he stood patiently to await the earful that was definitely coming his way.

"I'm not letting you take the blame for this alone." she said stubbornly.

Before he could argue, Coach had crossed the room and gestured exasperatedly at him.

"What the hell are you doing in here? You-you don't even go here anymore! Wait, you graduated, right?"

"Uh, yeah, I did."

"Great! You graduated high school, yet you still seem inept in knowing when the hell to leave. Do you have some sort of hearing impairment that explains why the hell you've been, I don't know, IGNORING the obvious FIRE ALARM?"


"You know why there is such thing as a fire alarm? Just take a guess."

"I don't need to guess—"

"Of course not! Because you KNOW! A fire alarm lets you know when there is a FIRE. So do you want to tell me why you two are blatantly ignoring this completely obvious sign—"

"It was my fault." Lydia piped up suddenly, causing both men to look at her. She swallowed, pushing her hair off her face and giving a bashful smile. "We were meeting my mom here after school was done, but we ended up getting here a lot earlier than planned and she was still teaching. Stiles offered to show me around, since I'm new to town and haven't seen where my mom works at all, but I thought we should… take advantage of the time alone."

She let her arm wrap around his waist, leaning her body weight into him, her hand resting on his chest, and the suggested intimacy wasn't lost on either of them.

"You two… you went off to… what do you think this is, a motel?" he spluttered, not really sure what to make of the new information.

Lydia pretended to be embarrassed, ducking her head. "We were just kissing. Nothing… inappropriate."

Stiles was frozen next to her, silent and very confused.

"And what about the fire alarm?"

"We were a little too caught up in each other for it to register. And when it did, we were on our way out. But then you came in."

Coach sighed, long and hard. "Unbelievable."

Lydia bit her lip. Damn. She was hoping that would work.

But then he continued. "All right, well, carry on then. I mean leave. Go… go outside or something. Just… get out of here." Coach said, with considerable less malice than before, the fight seeming to seep out of his pores.

They didn't bother verbally replying, just sped out of there.

Stiles didn't know what to say, so he just followed where Lydia pulled him by the hand. Before they could disappear, Coach flashed him a thumbs-up, nodding in approval towards Lydia.

Stiles grinned, holding back a laugh, before he and Lydia poured out of the back doors.

"Okay, that was seriously amazing." Stiles said, finally releasing his laughter.

She smiled broadly, giving a fake bow. "He didn't seem like he was the brightest bulb on the tree."

The others rushed over.

"What the hell happened?" Allison asked immediately.

"Nothing. I just… thought I sensed something."

"Nothing on Barrow, huh?" Stiles asked the group, and everyone shook their heads disappointedly.

"I guess we'll have to leave it up the police for now. No scent to pick up on, so nothing to follow until we get a new lead. It's the end of the day now. School is out. If Barrow was going to set off a bomb, wouldn't he have done so by now?" Kira asked.

Stiles nodded. "We should all head home. Maybe try to research into what happened. Think you can check the bestiary, see if there's anything about flies in there?"

Allison shrugged. "I can try. It's about a thousand pages and half of it is in archaic Latin."

"If it helps, the word in archaic Latin for fly is musca." Lydia added.

The others looked at her.

Allison smirked. "You know archaic Latin?"

She shrugged. "I got bored with classical Latin."

The whole group looked a mix of impressed and amused, and Scott clapped Stiles on the shoulder, leaning close to his ear.

"Mind running Allison home? I'm going to take Kira on my bike so we can go talk to her mom about this Bardo thing, in case she knows anything more now that it looks like its resolving for us, and Derek and Isaac are going in Derek's car."

Stiles nodded. "No problem. Good luck." He jerked his head in direction of his jeep to indicate that Allison and Lydia should follow him.

He settled in step beside Lydia. "Do you still hear the buzzing?"

She sighed. "A little bit. But it's more than that. Do you remember that dreadful feeling I've been feeling lately? I feel it now. I don't think this is over."

"Do you want to go back?" Stiles asked, fully prepared to stop.

She shook her head, looking down. "No. Let's just go."

Stiles caught Allison's eyes as Lydia climbed in the jeep, and she shrugged with a sad smile. All he could do was get in too and drive.

Stiles lay face down on the floor, dragging the board out from under his bed.

Lydia was lying on her stomach on his bed, playing with the different strings he had laid out.

"I can't believe you kept that board hidden."

He grimaced. "Well, I figured it would raise some questions. I put it away once I went away to college, so it's not as though it was to purposely hide it from you. Now that this stuff is going on, it looks like I'm going to need it."

Stiles had convinced Lydia to come back to his place and help him set up his research board, since Allison had found Isaac sitting outside her house waiting for her, planning to help her look through the bestiary. She looked as though she could use the distraction, and they really were trying to avoid anyone being by themselves. Derek was going to see if Peter had any ideas.

Stiles started pinning things in place, printing off the few things he had looked up for samples.

As he strung a red piece of yarn between Barrow and the mental institution he once attended, Lydia picked up one of the balls of yarn.

"What do the different coloured strings mean?"

He turned to look back at her, twiddling the marker in his fingers. "Oh you know, just different stages in the investigation. Green is solved, yellow is to be determined, blue is just pretty.

"What does red mean?"


She squinted as she observed the board in full. "You only have red on the board."

"Yes, I'm aware, thank you." he said with an air of sarcasm, scrunching his nose at her before turning back around.

"We're lucky Barrow didn't go to our college instead of the high school. I don't fancy knowing what would've happened if someone discovered it was you that pulled the fire alarm, or found us still inside long after it went off."

He shrugged, unconcerned. "It wouldn't have mattered. We were on to something. That's worth the risk."

"Even though we couldn't find any proof of Barrow being there?"

The desolate way she said it wasn't lost on Stiles. He turned around in surprise, but she wouldn't meet his eyes, eyes focused on twirling some of the red string around her index finger.

He came over, marker still in hand, and crouched in front of her.

"Hey. Lydia. You're new at this, whatever this ability of yours is, and you've been right any time anything like this has happened. Even if it's been stuff that's happened in the past. So don't start doubting yourself now."

She looked up, mouth drawn down in a frown. "No scent. No bomb. And I could've gotten you hurt. What would've happened if I went back in that school and it did blow up? You would've been killed."

"Okay, okay, look." He reached out for the string around her fingers, beginning to unwind it. "Barrow was there, okay? You knew it, you felt it. And look, if you wanted to? I'd go back to that school right now and search all night just to prove it."

She smiled softly at him, Stiles returning the gesture with an adoring smile.

"We're going to figure out your abilities, Lydia, I promise. For now, all we can do is go by your instincts. The others have the power of smell…"

He halted, leaning forward slightly when he caught the strong scent of the marker in his hand.

Realization hit and he got to his feet.

"Get up. Get up now. We're going to the school."

The sun was setting now, the school empty.

Stiles lead them to the chemical storage closet, and Lydia caught on. He hadn't spoken the entire drive, mostly just muttered to himself, and she figured it was best to just wait. Now she understood. The chemicals would've masked Barrow's scent.

"This was supposed to be locked."

He looked at the desks, the different chemicals laid out, hoping for some semblance of a clue that Barrow had been there or what he had been planning.

A crunching beneath his shoes made him step back, shining the light from his phone over the floor.

They both peered at the scattered staples, globs of blood amongst the mess.

"He was here. Performing very minor surgery on himself, but he was here. You were right."

Lydia grimaced, averting her gaze. "So why don't I feel good about this?"

"Well, because he was here to kill somebody."

"But who?"

"That's what we have to figure out. Start looking around for… anything."

Stiles went back to sorting through the shelves. Lydia caught sight of the chalkboard, handwritten numbers on display, and tilted her head in contemplation. Approaching the front of the room slowly, she deciphered the different possibilities in her mind.

Stiles caught on to her distraction and followed. "Lydia, what are those?"

"Atomic numbers." They were listed numerically, vertically, so she wasn't sure what they meant. 19, 53, 88.

"Is it a formula?"

"Not really. Nineteen is potassium, fifty-three is iodine, and eighty-eight is radium. The first two make potassium iodide?" Biting her lip, she picked up a piece of chalk and began writing the element symbols next to their associated atomic numbers.

"I never understood why potassium was K." Stiles said, thinking back to his last semester and all the lab work he did.

"It comes from Kalium, the scientific Neo-Latin name." she explained as she wrote out iodine's elemental letter I.

"What's radium?"

"R-a." she said as she wrote it out, stepping back to see them all better.

Her breath stopped, but Stiles spoke it out loud before she could.


Chapter Text

Stiles raced over to Kira's house, after trying both Kira and Scott on their cell.

Before Lydia could call Allison to see if she had heard from Kira or Scott since they left the school, Stiles stopped the car.

"There's Scott." he said hoarsely, barely braking before jumping out of the car.

Lydia understood his fear – Scott was lying next to his bike, facedown on the ground.

"Scott! SCOTT!" Stiles said, shaking his arm.

Scott gasped awake, looking up at them wildly. "Barrow! He took Kira. He must have snuck up behind me—"

"We know. He was after her the whole time." Stiles grimaced. "We've got to figure out what he wants with her. Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. Have you heard from Allison or any of the others? Did they find anything?"

"We haven't called them yet."

Scott pulled out his phone, hitting his second speed dial. "Allison? Hey. Sorry, Barrow sort of hit me over the head and knocked me out…" He winced, no doubt because her response was louder than normal. "I'm fine. Look, Barrow has Kira. Stiles and Lydia came to tell us, but she was already taken. We have no idea what he's planning, but it's obviously nothing good. Did you guys find anything that might help us figure something out?" He sighed, so clearly the answer wasn't helpful in any way. "Thanks. I'll call you when we figure something out."

Hanging up, he turned to the other two.

"Nothing in the bestiary beyond flies and the dead. But we have to think of something. There's no way he's not going to hurt her."

Lydia was confused about one thing. "Why the hell did he go to the high school? She doesn't go there anymore."

"Maybe somehow he knew that she'd be there, or that we'd all go look into it… or maybe that message wasn't written by him. Maybe someone else wrote it to tell him what to do." Stiles said slowly.

"Well, it definitely confirms that he was there." Scott agreed.

"I knew he was there. How did I know that?" Lydia asked, knowing they didn't have a better idea than she did.

"Because you heard the flies, right?" Stiles reminded her.

News to Scott, he looked to Lydia hopefully. "What do you hear now?"

She listened carefully, but it was nothing but typical California night sounds. Crickets and cars driving through streets nearby.

"Nothing." she sighed, disappointing them both. She looked to both of them. "I feel like I can do this, but I don't know what to do. It's like it's on the tip of my tongue, and I don't know how to trigger it." She was pacing now, exasperated. "I swear to god, it literally makes me want to scream."

"So scream." Stiles said seriously. "Lydia, scream."

She looked at him in surprise, but there was determination on his face, and most of all, undeniable faith.

Taking in a deep breath, she released a scream that rattled through her core, forcing the other two to cover their ears. It was a different pitch than any scream she'd ever had, somehow higher and sharper, and it released all of the building tension in her chest.

Her ears were ringing, but in a way that intensified her hearing. The buzzing had returned, but it had more of a static sound to it, and her gaze rose to the street light overhead.

She turned to them excitedly, surprised to find them back up in fear.

"It's not flies. It's electricity."

Stiles' eyes widened. "They said Barrow was an electrical engineer, that he worked at a power substation."

Scott looked over. "Which substation?"

Stiles took him and Lydia in his jeep, Scott keeping pace with his bike. They had to make it in time. They just had to.

Pulling up to the side of the building, Scott was off his bike in a flash, Stiles following as quick as he could. He grabbed his baseball bat from the backseat.

"We should split up. You go in that entrance. I'll try around the front." Scott instructed before racing off, clearly scared that they might be too late.

Stiles nodded and circled around the car, where Lydia was starting to get out.

"Okay, wait here, all right? Just wait for the cops to come."

She looked irritated. "Me? Wait, why?"

"Well I've only got one bat…" he said honestly, shrugging, before flashing her a grimace and heading towards the door.

Lydia huffed irritably in her seat. Being a… whatever the hell she was wasn't very helpful when it came to hand-to-hand combat against a mass murderer. But she didn't fancy sitting in the car. All she could do now was worry about her friends, and worry about what the hell she was supposed to tell the cops when they did arrive.

Needing a distraction, she pulled out her phone.

Did you and Isaac find anything?

Allison texted back quickly. No. Checking with my dad in his office now to see if he knows anything else while Isaac keeps looking.

Lydia sighed, leaning back into the seat. She kept her eyes focused on the building, looking for any sign of life.

She didn't want to worry about them. She knew they had done more dangerous things many times in the past. But she hadn't been around then, she hadn't known them then. And it's not as though there was ever any guarantee. They had no idea what the man inside was capable of. He was taking instructions from somebody else. How did they know his partner wasn't in there to help finish them all off?

Lydia suddenly felt a firm pressure on her chest, like someone had taken a seat there, making her head spin and her heartrate pick up.

She had felt this feeling before, this pressure inside her chest, as if she needed to loosen it or dislodge whatever was in there.

It wasn't exactly painful, but the pressure was intense. She knew she had to do something to relieve it. As she massaged over the spot, hoping for relief, something occurred to her. The taste on the end of her tongue, telling her what she had to do.

Trying not to think about how stupid she felt, Lydia opened her mouth and let out a mind-numbing scream.

It echoed across the entire lot, seeming to rattle even the jeep, and when she finished, she felt she could breathe again. She took in air in generous gulps, the dreadful feeling in her stomach loosening and freeing her from pain.

Suddenly, a strange crackling brightness flashed through the opaque windows. And then everything went black.

Stiles looked around, brow furrowing at the fact that he was outside. He distinctly remembered entering the building.

But there was a lapse, something that made him feel as though he was missing something.

Dammit. He must have blacked out again.

Where the hell did his bat go?

He felt his phone vibrate in his pocket.

Where are you? What happened?!


Coming back now.

The light from his phone was oddly blinding. It was then, looking around, that he realized how dark it really was outside. The building seemed to have lost power. Oh god, what did he miss?

He slipped his phone back in his pocket and made his way around the building using the flashlight from his phone, keeping an eye out for Barrow.

He had no idea where Scott and Kira were. Maybe he should head back inside, seek them out? What if Barrow had gotten to both of them?

Scott is back with Kira. Where are you?

Stiles sighed in relief. She couldn't have had better timing.

He racked his brain for any semblance of a memory of what happened before he blacked out, anything that could help determine what pieces he was missing. The last thing that came to mind was him hearing a noise, figuring it was Barrow or Scott, and running in that direction. Everything else was just emptiness, a void.

He didn't understand why he kept having these episodes. Was he actually having a neurological disorder where he was going about the motions and getting amnesia, or did his brain just shut down and stop him in his tracks?

Since he kept ending up in different positions from where he started, he figured it was the former.

And given his family history, anything that related back to his brain malfunctioning was not a good sign.


Stiles rushed forward to greet his worried best friend, who had his arm around Kira, supporting her. Lydia turned from where she had been pacing and headed him off, giving him a once over.

"What's wrong?" she asked quietly, sensing his nerves.

He shook his head minutely to indicate it could wait and turned to the other two.

"What happened?"

"Barrow chained Kira up, made some big speech about Village of the Damned and glowing eyes, and then tried to shock her with maximum electricity. It had to be thousands of volts. He slashed me with the wire to fend me off, so I was basically useless. He zeroed in on her and shot her up with sparks."

Kira continued. "Except, of course, I have no idea how to control that much electricity, so it sort of… exploded out of me instead, killing Barrow. Some I actually managed to absorb in me, but it looks like the incident knocked power out of the whole city."

Lydia was shaking her head. Another death? Granted, it was a mass murderer, but still. Is that why she felt the need to scream?

"Where were you?" Scott asked Stiles.

He stayed quiet, not really sure how to tell him that he honestly had no idea. They all were stressed enough. Who knew what would have happened if they had been too late. On anyone normal, that kind of electricity would've killed them instantly…

He straightened up and looked to Kira. "Someone told Barrow to get you. We thought it was to kill you. But maybe this was the person's plan. Maybe they knew you were a thunder kitsune, maybe they knew you didn't have full control of your powers. Maybe they wanted a blackout."

"What the hell kind of benefit could come from a blackout?" Lydia asked incredulously.

"I'm guessing nothing good." Scott interjected. "Your dad should be here soon, Stiles. We should warn him, about this person using the blackout to their advantage."

Stiles swallowed. "We can try… but you know, your dad seems to be running the show these days, and I don't really know how you plan on explaining kitsunes and psychics to him."

Lydia and Kira both looked at Scott, clearly oblivious to the news that Scott's dad was in town, and in law enforcement. Lydia realized she never did get the story on why it was just Scott and his mom.

Scott's phone rang before he could offer any words of explanation, and he furrowed his brow.

"Allison?" He listened, face growing more concerned. "Is Isaac okay? Were all five the same? What did they look like?" Pause. "Does your dad know anything?"

They all were waiting with baited breath, nervous for what was going on.

Scott's face went ashen. "You're sure that's what he said?"

"What?!" Stiles whispered fiercely, his curiosity about to explode his brain.

Scott's voice was hoarse. "They came out of the dark."

They wanted to head over to the Argents apartment immediately, knowing they needed answers and to check on Isaac.

But the police pulled up, and they knew they had to give statements about what happened.

Scott texted Allison, letting her know they'd all head straight over as soon as they were dismissed.

They were allowed to drive themselves, once they gave a basic overview of what happened.

"So how do these things usually go?" Lydia asked, trying not to show how nervous she was. She didn't want to screw things up and she knew telling the truth wouldn't help make their story sound believable.

Stiles glanced over at her as he drove. "Me and Scott will take the reins for the most part, but generally, try to be as honest as possible while still leaving out the supernatural resources we have. Like, no mention of Kira absorbing electricity, more like, Barrow messed up and electrocuted himself instead when she fought him off. And try not to be too specific about anything. Vague enough that they can't nail you for tiny details, but not too vague that they feel you're lying."

Lydia exhaled. "I'm going to try not to talk."

"We already told them you waited in the car for them to arrive, so they shouldn't ask you much." he promised. "Just follow our lead."

It wasn't until they were at the police station and the tension between Scott and the FBI agent running the interrogation made her remember what Stiles had said earlier. He must be Scott's dad. His badge hanging from his neck was a little hard to read from where she was sitting, but based on how he looked, she could see how they would be related.

The four teenagers sat down on the couch provided, Agent McCall across from them. The Sheriff sat behind the desk behind him, and gave Lydia a reassuring wink when she looked over at him.

Scott and Stiles rehashed the story, with Kira piping in at times, and Lydia had to smile at the chaotic way they told it. Just as Stiles had said, nothing too specific but nothing too vague either.

It was clear Agent McCall was starting to get impatient as the interrogation went on.

"So when did you get there?"

"At the same time." Stiles replied.

The older man's eyebrows furrowed. "At the same time as who?"

"At the same as me." Scott clarified.

"By coincidence?"

"What do you mean coincidence?" Stiles asked.

"That's what I'm asking you. The two of you arrived at the same time, was that coincidence?" His voice raised slightly in his irritation.

Always good at stirring the pot, thanks to a best friend who had been a bad influence on him his whole life, Scott played dumb. "Are you asking me?"

"I think he's asking me." Stiles interjected.

"I think he's asking both of you." Lydia added, trying to hide her amusement.

"Okay, let me answer the questions." Agent McCall sighed exasperatedly, the Sheriff hiding his amusement poorly behind him. "Let me ask the questions. Just so I have this absolutely clear." He pulled out his notebook to review the notes he gathered from their relay of what happened. "Barrow was hiding in the chemistry closet at school. Someone left him a coded message on the blackboard telling him to kill Kira. Then Barrow took Kira to a power substation and tied her up with the intent of electrocuting her, which blacked out the entire town."

Stiles nodded. "Sounds about right."

"How'd you know he would take her to a power substation?"

"Well, because he was an electrical engineer, so where else would he take her?" Stiles said slowly.

"That's one hell of a deduction there, Stiles."

"Well, what can I say, I take after my pops. He's in law enforcement." Stiles said with a smirk, winking at his father at his desk.

The Sheriff couldn't help himself from snorting slightly. Scott's dad sent him a glare, so he corrected his throat. "Stiles, just, uh, answer the man."

"We made a good guess." Stiles said seriously. That much was true.

"And what about you, Lydia? We haven't heard much from you. How did you get involved with this? You just moved here recently, right? To be closer to your boyfriend?" he said, sending her a knowing look before glancing judgmentally at Stiles.

She felt the irritation at the bias he was showing colour her tone. She put on her best fake smile. "Actually, it was because my insides nearly got torn out by an animal attack at my last school, so my mother felt it was best I transfer somewhere else that has a better healthcare option. Scott's mom especially was amazing in my recovery."

Scott sucked in his lips, clearly understanding the jab she had just sent.

She straightened up. "But that wasn't your main question, my apologies. But I have a question for you… is my relationship with Stiles somehow relevant when discussing mass murderers on the loose? Or is that just your personal vendetta against their family the reason for the intrusive question regarding my personal life?"

The man looked surprised, but quickly grew angry.

"You can't—"

"Tell the truth? Isn't that what you asked from us?" Lydia said, stronger and she got to her feet. "The truth is, Agent, we felt our friend was in trouble. We knew Scott was taking Kira home from when we were all hanging out, so we headed there to check on them when he didn't answer our text, only to find him… alone. From there, we did our best to figure out what Barrow could possibly do to hurt a teenage girl. We came up with the idea of him taking her somewhere personal to him, since Kira hadn't even heard of the guy until today, and we only knew a couple things about him. Like that he used to work at a power substation. So we started there. Like Stiles said, we made a good guess. And it saved Kira's life. So are we done here?"

Agent McCall stared for a long moment, before sighing and turning around. "Do you believe this?"

"To be honest, I haven't believed a word Stiles has said since he learned how to speak. But I think these kids found themselves in the right place at the right time. And that girl sitting there is very lucky for it." the Sheriff admitted, nodding towards Kira.

He didn't know what else to say clearly, since he sighed and stood up.

"All right. You all are free to go."

Lydia didn't offer him a glance as she breezed past him, sending a farewell wave to the Sheriff behind him. Stiles' dad looked like it was taking every effort he had not to laugh.

Once outside, the other three cracked up.

"Jesus, Lydia, you couldn't have torn off his testicles a little gentler, huh?" Scott asked through a laugh, patting her on the shoulder.

"That was amazing." Kira gushed.

Stiles was still laughing too hard to talk.

"You're definitely my favourite person alive." he finally choked out as they all calmed down a bit.

She grinned. "I just spoke the truth. It's not just me, right? He really has something against your family. He's dismissive with your dad and the way he talks to you is just condescending and unnecessary."

"Well, to be fair, I'm intentionally hard to deal with when it comes to him."

"So? Professionalism should not be rattled that easily, especially in someone in as high of a rank as an FBI agent. Talk about setting an example."


Speak of the devil, Scott's dad was halfway out the door, beckoning him over.

"Oh lovely." the alpha muttered as he made his way over.

They weren't too far away, so they could hear what he said.

"Scott. I don't know why you guys are lying, or why Stilinski is content to listen to this crap. But try and remember something. If half this story about Barrow is true, then not only did someone set him loose, but he is a pawn in their little game. A mass murderer is bad enough. A mass murderer being controlled by someone? Far worse."

"Yeah, I get it." Scott said evenly.

His father watched him for a moment before letting go of the idea that he might open up more thanks to his speech. "All right. Go home. It's a school night."

Scott resisted the urge to patronizingly salute him and rejoined his friends.

"We need to get to Allison's. Find out what happened to Isaac."

It didn't take long to get to Allison's. Her apartment was located only a few blocks over from the precinct.

Now that they had time, Scott gave them the scoop of what Allison had said on the phone—Isaac had been researching alone in Allison's room while she talked to her dad and had been attacked. The door sealed shut; Allison and her dad couldn't get in, not until the mysterious figures left.

Isaac had been on the floor, shaking all over, skin like ice. Once he snapped out of it, half-turning into a werewolf to kickstart the healing process to avoid hypothermia, the fear in his eyes was undeniable.

He had described the figures as towering ninjas with masks, carrying steel straight-cut swords and moving in unison. All five were identical, and all had eyes that could only mean supernatural—they glowed like fireflies.

There was no window open, no sign of forced entry, and when asked, Isaac told them the truth—they had materialized out of the shadows.

Allison met them downstairs, giving Kira a quick hug to let her know she was happy she was okay.

Lydia looked to see Stiles contemplating his keys at his car, twiddling the different ones through his fingers, counting them and observing one curiously.

"Stiles?" she asked, doubling back.

He correct his throat and shoved his keys in his pocket. "Sorry. I'm coming."

She didn't miss the anxiety shining in his eyes, despite his attempt to make his face casual. There was clearly something bothering him, but now wasn't the time to interrogate him about it. They had bigger things to worry about.

The group of friends piled into the stairwell, the elevator down due to the blackout. Scott’s arm winded around Allison’s waist, seeing the distress on her face. It was clear that it was more than just Isaac spooked by the spontaneous attack.

She met his eyes, leaning into his hold as they climbed the stairs, and she shook her head in disbelief. “I’ve never seen Isaac that scared before. He was so shaken up.”

“You said you think your dad might know something?”

The brunette nodded. “His face changed as soon as Isaac talked about their eyes. He went into his office and has been in there since.”

“What kind of supernatural creature materializes out of darkness?” Lydia asked the group, not really being an expert on the subject.

“Nothing good.” Stiles sighed, putting his hands in his pockets.

They got to the right floor, Allison opened the front door, and they all headed down the hall.

Isaac was in the office now, arms crossed as he and Mr. Argent talked.

"Hey, Isaac, you okay?" Scott asked immediately, looking him over for signs of trauma. It didn't look like he had a mark on him.

"I'm fine." he promised, smallest trace of a smile on his lips. "But we need to figure out what they're after. They didn't kill me, and there had to be a reason."

"And I think I know what that reason was." Allison's dad said as the group surrounded the desk. "I think they were after me."

"You? Why?" Allison's eyes were wide with worry at the idea.

Chris placed a box on the desktop, revealing what was inside.

"Because of this."

Inside was a mask looking to be made of some formidable substance. The lines of the face had the expression drawn into a menacing look, as if glaring and snarling at the same time. But it was broken into several pieces, as if something had shattered it.

"I came across them once before, when I was still in training to be a hunter. It was my first gun deal, I was eighteen, and it was supposed to be a simple exchange. Except Gerard had left out the minor detail of the buyers being yakuza, the Japanese mafia. He wanted to see if I could adapt in the moment. Testing my ability to improvise."

"Or your ability to survive." Allison said bitterly, all too familiar with Gerard's cruel ways.

Lydia had no idea who Gerard was, but she had a feeling he was responsible for the more barbaric ways the Argent family used to follow.

Argent continued. "The moment the sun went down, these figures seemed to materialize out of the shadows. They headed straight for the kumicho."

"What's a kumicho?" Isaac asked.

"Yakuza boss." he clarified. "They had swords, but not curved like katanas, but straight, black steel. Like ninjatos. Everyone shot at them, but nothing seemed to penetrate them. They walked through the line of bullets and weapons as if they didn't even have the ability to feel. The others had surrounded the kumicho, and these… warriors went through them. They cut down every living thing in their way."

"Did they nearly make him hypothermic like Isaac?"

"Not exactly." Chris said grimly. "When they got to the kumicho, his whole being changed. His eyes, fangs… he was something truly evil. Nothing I've ever seen before."

"Not a werewolf?" Scott inquired, intrigued.

"Definitely not a werewolf." he confirmed. "When they made it to him, there was something ritualistic about what they did, as if they were looking into his soul."

"That's what they did to me." Isaac said, running a hand through his hair, disturbed by the memory.

"They didn't bother with the others, besides to destroy them to get to their goal. Makes it seem as though they only go for those with a connection to the supernatural. All of them shoved their swords in him, killing him, spilling his blood on the fountain in the middle of the courtyard. He crumpled to the ground, dead."

Allison piped up from her spot. "Did they disappear after that?"

Her dad shook his head. "No, not right away. There were a few survivors that night from the yakuza, one of them a man named Katashi. He's more commonly known as Silverfinger, because of an unusual prosthetic. He looked like he was going to take them all on himself. I stood up and shot one directly in the face. This was the result." he said, nodding towards the box where the broken mask lay. "I know I didn't kill it. I don't know if anything does. But it slowed it down enough for us to get out of there."

"What was behind the mask?" Scott asked.

A shudder seemed to ripple through him. "Darkness. Absolute darkness."

"So if they are after you, what do we do? How do we stop them?"

"I need to track down Katashi. If I can, I think he might be our best chance at finding out more about what those warriors were after then or what the kumicho was."

"How do you know he'll remember you?"

"He'll remember this." he said firmly, looking at the shattered mask.

"Do you think it has to do with something in Japanese heritage?" Scott asked, eyes flashing to Kira. "Because Barrow tried to kill her, and someone told him to do so…"

"Kitsunes are known as tricksters. They can be good or evil." Kira admitted. "Maybe they are looking for a dark fox."

"Well, they won't find it in you. Then what?" Allison asked. "What happens if all they can do is sense the fox in you but have no ability to determine good or evil? It doesn't sound like they're exactly law-abiding citizens or have any concept of morals."

"Okay. We have to keep them away from Kira for now, just to be safe."

The candles around the room started to flicker all at once, dimming the room.

"That can't be good." Stiles said, his hand automatically reaching to cover Lydia's.

Allison peered at Isaac curiously, brushing his hair away from his neck by his ear.

"Can I help you?" he asked exasperatedly, twitching away from her.

"There's something there… behind your ear…" she said, biting her lip, lifting one of the candles up closer to shine some light on it.

"It's a symbol." Scott said in surprise, seeing the strange charcoal mark too.

"What? What kind of symbol?" Isaac asked, feeling behind his ear for some sort of indicator that it was there.

Allison batted his hand away. "Looks like a backwards five to me. Only more box-like."

Kira peeked up at it. "I think that might be a Japanese Kanji symbol. It means 'self'."

Isaac raised his eyebrows. "Anyone have any ideas why the Oni wanted to mark me as 'self'?"

Before anyone could answer, there was a flicker of motion in the corner of the room.

His voice went hoarse. "Maybe we should ask them."

The group backed up in panic from the darkest corner in the room. The dark warriors had returned.

It wasn't a very big office to begin with, so they were practically on top of each other in the confined space.

Lydia moved towards the door. "We need to split up. Get Kira out of here."

"If Kira's even the one they're after. Dad, you need to get out of here too, in case this is a revenge plot." Allison said fiercely.

"Allison, I am trained to defend myself. No way am I—"

The warriors disappeared again, bleeding into the shadows.

"This can't be good." Scott said, getting in front of as many of them as he could, looking around wildly for any sign of them. He and Isaac were the only ones present that knew how to heal.

There was a squeak of surprise, and they all turned to see Lydia surrounded in the hall by the masked men.

"Lydia!" Stiles shouted, but the door of the office slammed shut before he could get through.

She was on her own.

"Why would they be after Lydia?" Allison demanded as Scott and Isaac pushed on the door, banging against it, the strongest of the group.

"Well, we all had suspicions she had something supernatural in her." Kira reminded them.

"It's not a dark spirit." Stiles hissed.

They heard the start of a scream, the ringing scream they knew well by now, but it was cut off instantly, as if it was actually stolen from her.

At the sound, Stiles pushed through the other two and started using his entire body to slam against the door. "LYDIA!"

Chris had tools in his hand, ready to help unhinge the door, but Stiles' efforts mixed with the other two boys' previous ones knocked the door clean off the frame.

Lydia wasn't in the hallway anymore.

"Lydia?! LYDIA?!" Stiles screamed through the apartment, searching desperately for her.

Seeing a figure lying on the ground a few feet away in the living room area, he was on his knees at her side instantly.

Lydia was shaking all over, eyes wide and not blinking, teeth chattering.

"Lydia? Are you okay?" Stiles asked softly, wrapping her in his arms so she was across his lap, his hands rubbing soothing circles on her arms to warm her up. She felt like ice.

The others crowded around, scared at the sight of her, and Allison ran off to get blankets.

"They came out of the dark." Lydia whispered shakily, eyes wet, clearly full of fear.

"Shh, you're safe. I've got you."

"Check behind her ear." Isaac said suddenly.

Stiles positioned her better in his arms, but it was Allison who brushed her hair out of her face and moved her ear to see the black mark, blankets in her lap as she sat down next to them.

"She's been marked. Maybe that means you're clean from whatever they're looking for?"

Stiles took one of the blankets from her and covered Lydia the best he could. Her face was in his chest, burying her vision away from the rest of the world. It was clear she was shaken up from the experience.

"We need to figure out what the hell is going on." Scott said, not liking the stress on both of his friends. Stiles looked just as terrified. He could hear his heartbeat thudding beneath his chest like a galloping horse.

"I can't believe Stiles broke the door." Allison commented quietly, surprised at the level of strength that would've taken.

Stiles wasn't even listening, too concentrated on Lydia's distress.

"Well, me and Scott worked on it first, so maybe we did some damage." Isaac suggested.

Chris' eyes were trained on the teenage boy holding the strawberry blonde, looking contemplative.

Scott corrected his throat, attempting to draw everyone's attention away from the pair on the floor.

"We need a plan. We need to get out of the dark. But without any electricity…"

"Hey, Danny is throwing that blacklight party at that spot downtown. He was going to use a generator since the electricity bill would be nuts on its own. Maybe we can head there to make a plan?" Isaac interjected.

"Sure it's not just because you wanted to go?"

"Well, yeah, but at least it's a good excuse. We don't have to stay, just figure out a plan before we get ninja-ed to death. Who knows how long those things will play staring contest."

Scott looked at his best friend, who was still completely focused on warming Lydia up. She seemed to be coming around now, snuggling closer to him, eyes watching him with more focus.

"Well, it's all we've got for right now."

The party was in full swing, and the group slipped in unnoticed at first. But then various people recognized the Beacon Hills High alumni and expressed their enthusiasm at seeing them.

Scott put on a happy face for his old lacrosse teammates, the others talking to other classmates, but Stiles kept Lydia glued to his side as he meandered to somewhere with a decent amount of light.

"Are you okay?" she asked.

"I just… sort of hurt my shoulder." he mumbled. He had been hoping she wouldn't notice the way he was holding his arm funny. He hadn't been aware at the time, but his aggression towards the wooden barrier earlier hadn't really been pleasant on his anatomy.

"What has you so spooked, Stiles? You've been hiding something all night. Earlier, at the jeep, after you came to join us, something was clearly on your mind…"

Before he could answer, a girl with a glowing orange wig and lots of fluorescent body paint on came over to plant a kiss on his cheek.

She flashed him a huge grin. "Hey, handsome."

And then she disappeared into the crowd.

Lydia raised her eyebrow at him, wondering why he was staring after the girl like he just saw a ghost.

"Can you give me … one second… I'll be right back…" he said distractedly.

Lydia stayed where she was, her heart sinking as he chased down the girl who had just flirted with him. Was she an ex? Or was he literally leaving her to go get some other girl's number?

She sneakily slipped through some bodies, knowing it was stupid of her to eavesdrop but she needed to know who the girl was.

"Caitlin!" Stiles was shouting over the loud pumping music. "How are you?"


"I meant… since Emily…"

"Died?" she shouted back, clearly drunk, but her expression became mournful instantly. She shrugged. "I should've known, when you came to talk to me, that you already knew that she was gone."

Stiles looked sad by the fact, and Lydia moved away. She had a feeling she knew what had happened. Caitlin's girlfriend had been one of the sacrifices.

"I had hoped I was wrong. I had already lost somebody I cared about then, the same way."

She nodded. "So we should dance! Get drunk! It's fun!" she shouted, swinging her arms above her head.

"I would, honestly, but—"

"Oh come on, one dance!"

Reluctantly, he was wrapped up in her, and she danced outrageously to the beat. He couldn't help but smile a little and attempt to move with her.

"There you go!"

She was laughing, and then she was kissing him, and he could taste the luminescent paint on his lips.

Her hands gripped his hair, kissing him hard enough he stumbled a little, and he pulled them apart.

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. Don't think I don't want to. I mean, I… you're amazing, okay? But I'm sort of… in love with somebody else." he admitted.

She pouted slightly but then shrugged, grin returning. "That's okay."

"I should actually really get back to her. I just wanted to make sure you were holding up okay."

"Just fine!" she shouted enthusiastically, nodding. "Oh, are those your keys?"

He looked on the ground to indeed see his keys sitting next to his sneaker.

He picked them up, squinting at the extra key he had noticed earlier. It had an imprinted fingerprint that illuminated in the lights.

"It's glowing. You must have had phosphors on your keys."

"How would that happen?"

She shrugged. "They're in your teeth, nails, laundry detergent. Or have you been handling any chemicals lately?"

"No, not at—"

He stopped suddenly.


Chemistry closet.

"This should be locked."

"Oh my god." Stiles whispered. "I… I am so sorry, but I have to go. Right now. It's nothing against you, honestly, I just… I really have to go right now. Like, please don't think it's you."

"Okay?" she said slowly, looking confused but not upset.

"Okay. Okay, great. I'm glad you're doing well. Bye."

Stiles slipped through the bodies to get to the nearest exit. He couldn't see Lydia anywhere.

He sent her a quick text once he spotted her talking to Allison and Kira.

I've got to follow a hunch I just got. Be back in ten.

He sent the same thing to Scott before jumping in his jeep and driving to the high school, his keys jingling extra loudly as he went.

He had felt like he had been at the high school recently.

He had been having blackouts, periods of time where he had no memory of what he had done or where he had been.

He was the one that thought to check the chemistry closet in the first place. Was that really clever thinking or just his memory resurfacing?

Stiles headed inside the deserted school, pulling out the unfamiliar key and slipping it into the now-locked closet.

The resounding click signalling it opening echoed in the dark classroom, and Stiles swallowed as he entered.

So he had the key to the closet. What did that mean? Did he just unlock the door for whatever person was controlling Barrow? Were they controlling him too?

Stiles saw the instructions were still on the board.

But he looked at them more objectively now, the way the numbers were formed.

Swallowing, he stepped up with a piece of chalk in hand, writing out the numbers beside the others.

He stepped back to see it in full, and felt his heart stop completely.

The penmanship was almost identical. The way the curves of the numbers looped, the space between them.

It hadn't been someone just getting him to unlock the door. He was the one who wrote the instructions to kill Kira. He was the one responsible for the mass murderer coming to the high school and nearly killing one of his friends.

What the hell was happening to him?

Chapter Text

Stiles rolled over, his side cramping, no position he lied in seeming to work. His body was tired, but his mind was wide awake, thrumming with life, and no matter what he did, he couldn't seem to get to sleep at a decent hour.

He had tried drinking warm milk before bed, herbal tea, and even doing some yoga-like stretches, but nothing seemed to work. He tried having a fan blowing for some white noise, tried listening to soft music, but his mind always wandered. He was always left awake, counting down the minutes until he had to rejoin society.

He knew he was stressed out, that his anxiety wasn't helping his case any, but he didn't know what to do to fix it. He knew there was something wrong with him, but he wasn't sure what to do about it. He couldn't really be a murdering amnesiac psychopath, could he?

His phone beeped, and he welcomed the distraction, brows furrowing as he noticed the time.

You awake?

Lydia. Why was she still awake?

Yeah, can't sleep. What are you doing up?

Can't sleep either. Restless. Something on your mind?

Too many somethings.

Talk to me.

Stiles sighed, propping himself up on his elbow, chewing on his tongue as he contemplated telling her what had been going on. How scared he was growing of his own mind.

I've been sleepwalking again.

Her response was delayed.

How bad? Far?

No, just around the house so far. But it's only a matter of time.

Does your dad know?

I haven't told him, but he's been putting in extra locks and has turned the camera in my room on again, so I figure he must have caught me at some point.

He's just worried about you.

Maybe he should be.

Lydia was calling him before he could say anything more.

"Hey." he said quietly as a way of greeting, relaxing back in his pillows.

"Hi." her smooth voice came over the line, only a hint of worry present. "Texting wasn't working for me. What's going on, Stiles? You've been acting off for weeks, and I know the Nemeton stuff was bad, the nightmares and that, but that's over, right?"

Stiles opened his mouth and then closed it. He didn't really know.

"I'm not having vivid daydreams or nightmares where I have to scream myself awake, so that's good. Most of my sleep is completely dreamless, just black nothingness. But I'm still blacking out during the day, and it makes me wonder if I'm blacking out at night too, just going out and coming back so my body doesn't really know. I don't know how to explain it, Lydia, but something feels wrong. I… I might try to see a doctor tomorrow. Figure out if it's physiological and not psychosomatic."

Lydia swallowed, audibly enough that Stiles heard it in his quiet room.


"I don't think it would hurt to get checked out. I just…"

"You just what?"

"You know that foreboding feeling I've been getting?"


"It's getting stronger. I'm sort of scared for you to go."

Stiles was silent. He didn't know how to tell her that she should be afraid of him, not for him.

He very well might be going crazy.

"Stiles? Stiles, what is it?" Lydia asked softly, warm and concerned but full of fear.

"Nothing. I'm just scared of what might happen if I don't go."

"What do you mean?"

He swallowed. "There's just a lot going on right now, everyone is stressed. The last thing anyone needs is me having a full mental breakdown. I've been losing my mind this whole time. Maybe it's going to go past the point of no return soon. I want to stop it before it does. And if I can't stop it, I want to eliminate who gets hurt because of it."

"Do you want me to go with you?"

He shook his head, though she couldn't see him. "It's okay. I'll call in the morning and see if I can get an appointment. I may have to cut school, and you really shouldn't miss classes. Plus then who will catch me up?"

"Okay." She was smiling slightly; her usual bashful one, he could tell just by the sound of her voice. "Well, try to get some sleep, okay?"

"I'll try." he promised, although it felt pointless. "You should try too."

"Okay. Good night, Stiles."

"Night, Lydia."

He hung up the phone, sighing as he relaxed back into the blankets, tossing his phone to the other side of the bed.

It was going to be another long night.

Stiles pulled into the hospital parking lot, rubbing his hands over his eyes. They stung from lack of sleep, but he knew going home like Scott suggested wouldn't help anything.

Stiles had texted him to meet at Beacon Hills High before school started. Scott, confused but intrigued, followed his lead to the chemistry closet as Stiles relayed what he had figured out the other night.

But when Stiles tried to prove it, tried to find the key that had been there just this morning, but there was nothing there. Nothing on the board either.

Scott's words still rung in his head. "I don't want to sound like I'm trying to tell you that you're wrong, but I don't think you're trying to kill people either."

"It was here. It was all here." Stiles couldn't help repeating as he stared at the vacant board, no doubt a custodian or someone removing the scrawl once the police cleared the evidence.

After that, Scott suggested he take a sick day, get some sleep, probably getting to the point of questioning his best friend's competency.

Stiles had tried to get in at his usual doctor's office, but nothing was available, so he figured his best bet was the ER. He knew he wasn't exactly an emergent case, but seeing as he wasn't entirely sure he wasn't assisting murderers around town, he didn't want to risk waiting.

He didn't want to worry his dad, so he hadn't said anything even though his dad was well aware of his sleeping issues, but he knew once he ran into Melissa, he'd find out soon enough.

Before he could check in at the front desk, a familiar figure stepped in front of him, a wry smile on his face.

Stiles resisted the urge to sigh.

"Well, look who it is."

Stiles simply grunted, trying to mask his irritation and failing pretty miserably.

"You're not looking so good, Stiles. Not sleeping well? Your guilt keeping you up at night?" Rafael McCall asked, smirking.

Stiles nearly blanched, thinking he had discovered something, but then remembered how adamant he had been that he and the others had been lying about what happened with Barrow. They hadn't really, besides leaving out major details.

He rolled his eyes without meaning to. "Really cute, picking on teenagers. No wonder you and Scott are so close."

"Don't talk to me about my son."

"Why not? It should be the one thing we have in common. Except I know how to make him a priority, and you don't. He's the most important person in the world to me, but what's he to you? You haven't been here. You haven't seen all he's been through, seen all he's overcome. You don't know who he is, but I do. I know every last thing about him there is to know, and you can't tell me more than tidbits of trivia about his early life, can you? So don't stand there and scold me for bringing up your hurt feelings when you're the reason you're in the predicament you are! You know where to find him, and you're still here!"

Stiles didn't even realize he had raised his voice until he found himself needing to catch his breath.

He tried to calm his voice. "How about you stick to what you're good at? You know, coming up empty on cases around here and blaming it all on my dad."

The older man's jaw set. "We got called in for a reason, Stiles. Your dad has a role in this town—"

"But that's not what it's really about, is it?" Stiles said, voice lowering, adrenaline spiking in his veins, his chest hot. They had only been talking for a few minutes and he felt bottled anger crawling up from his toes. "You can dress it up to all the professional disapproval that you want. But I know the real reason you don't like him."

"Is that so?"

"Yeah. Because he knows something you don't want him to know." He stepped closer. "And guess what? I know it too. And I know it kills you to know that he's with Melissa, that the two of them got closer and fell deeper in love than she ever loved you. That he makes her happy when you only made her miserable. That—"

"That's enough, Stiles." Rafael scolded dangerously, eyes narrow.

Stiles felt a strange power flooding his system, feeling more alive than he had in weeks. He wanted to fight. Wanted to scream. Wanted to rip things off the wall and watch the panic build in Scott's dad's eyes.


Another voice joined the mix, and Stiles looked up to see Melissa coming towards them.

"Agent." Stiles said in fake-courtesy, walking away from him to greet her.

"What was that about?" she asked with raised eyebrows, arms crossed. It was clear she hadn't missed the fire dancing in Stiles' eyes.

Now that he had moved away from it, the exhaustion settled back in his bones like wet clothes dragging him down.

What had just come over him? He wasn't a fan of Scott's dad, obviously, but he had never had a craving to be so… aggressive with somebody. What was happening to him?

"Stiles?" Melissa repeated.

He swallowed. "N-nothing. Um, is Dr. Gardner here? I… I was hoping to see a doctor."

Her face morphed into concern, her eyes watching him carefully. "Dr. Gardner's not back until next week. Do you want to try waiting for one of the urgent care doctors or…?"

Next week… he couldn't wait until next week. How many people might he be responsible for killing by then? Maybe he was overreacting, but what if he underreacted? But would a doctor who had never seen him before lock him up? Was that what was best? Should he just stay away from everyone for good?

Dr. Gardner had been the doctor he had been familiar with—he had seen him for a multitude of things over the years – broken arm, lacrosse injuries, and of course that one time he had overdosed on his Adderall and thought he was going to die since his heart was racing out of his chest and he couldn't catch his breath. He knew him, would know whether Stiles' ADHD was playing a part in what was going on with him, or if it had to do with his genetics. He had been the main person involved in his mother's care, knew how her condition manifested. He should see him, really, it made the most sense, but how could he wait that long? What if he really did have what his mother had?

He backed up without realizing, breaths coming in short spurts. He could feel the panic attack coming on like an ominous wave.

"Stiles. Are you all right?" Melissa moved closer, grabbing his arm.

His breathing was becoming more difficult. He felt traitorous tears spring into his eyes. Was he all right? Or was he a monster?

"I-I don't know. I guess… I guess not really?"

"Okay, kiddo. All right. Come with me. It's okay."

Stiles focused on her soothing voice and let her lead him down the hall to one of the empty rooms. He was lucky it was a quiet day in the ER.

He was grateful that she was working that day. At least if he did end up getting locked up, he'd be able to see at least one person he loved before he was taken away.

Lydia entered Scott's house later that afternoon, Allison and Kira leading the way, Scott and Isaac bringing up the rear.

"Have you heard from Stiles at all?" Lydia couldn't help but ask Scott quietly as they made their way to the living room.

He pulled out his phone again, as she had seen him do several times on their way over. "No. He needs the sleep though, so hopefully he's home catching up on that."

Lydia nodded but couldn't help feeling worried. She had texted him a few times with no response. Maybe he did get some sleep, but she couldn't imagine him going home and sleeping a full night's worth of rest without interruptions after not being able to get more than a couple hours here and there for days. It just didn't make sense.

She had to trust that he was okay. Maybe he just needed some space. It was clear he had been through a lot. But she couldn't help but wonder if he had gone to see a doctor, if they hadn't given him a favorable outcome.

"So what's the plan?" Allison asked, her fingers interlaced with Scott's now.

"We can only assume they're coming again tonight. They didn't get Kira last time, but we don't want to give them a chance. Hopefully your dad and Derek will get some information that can help before they get here."

"It's getting dark quickly, Scott. I think we need to plan around that."

"Wait, where is your dad?" Isaac asked, having missed that part of the plan that also involved his old alpha.

"They're talking to Katashi, the man my dad talked about the other night. He managed to track him down. Apparently he's been in the country for a while. He and Derek have gone to talk to him and try to find out more about what happened that night, what the warriors were doing and what the kumicho was. Derek's going to pose as a professional gun seller so that my dad can sneak in. That way, if things go south, at least he has someone with some firepower with him."

"How is he so sure Katashi will talk?" Kira piped up.

"He brought the broken mask. Said Katashi will remember that. Hopefully he knows more about how to stop them that doesn't involve spending every night waiting for the sun to come up."

"So what about us? What are we going to do?" Lydia asked.

"Deaton installed a security system here but I need my mom to arm it. She should be home any minute."

"I hope so, because the sun's going down."

Lydia checked her phone once more. Still no messages.

"Who's Deaton?" she couldn't help but ask.

"My boss."

"Don't you work at a vet clinic?"

"Yeah, he's a veterinarian." Seeing her confused face, Scott chuckled. "He also knows a lot about the supernatural. He works unofficially with our pack, assisting us when he can."

Another time, she'd inquire more, ask if he had any ideas as far as knowing what she was. But tonight, they had bigger things to worry about.

She didn't want to admit it, especially because it was stupid, but she wished Stiles was there. He made her feel safe, even though those she was with were all more equipped to keep her safe. Even Allison had her archery skills.

She pushed the intrusive thought aside.

A key in the lock sounded from the back door and Scott headed in that direction. "Mom's home."

But he stopped dead in his tracks in the doorway of the kitchen, it clearly not being his mother, and the rest headed over quickly to see who the new visitor was.


"Why do you still have a key?" Scott demanded, bypassing a greeting.

Lydia recognized him as the FBI agent from the other night – Scott's father.

"That's not important. I came to talk to you."

"Well, as usual, your timing sucks. So you can leave."

"Scott, you can't talk to me like that. Just because I haven't been around doesn't mean I'm not still your father—"

"Actually, that's exactly what it means. You're a gene donor. I got my hair colour from you, and that's all I got so you can't come in here and play tough dad with me."

"You've been spending too much time with Stiles. You're starting to sound like him. He said almost the same thing to me earlier."

"When did you see Stiles?" Scott asked, anger forgotten.

"At the hospital when I was following up on a case."

Lydia sharply inhaled a breath. He had gone there this morning? And still hadn't updated them? Something must have happened.

Scott seemed just as surprised. He clearly hadn't known Stiles was even planning on seeking medical help.

Rafael smiled amusedly. "He didn't tell you? Guess he's not as good of a friend as he claims to be. Said he knows how to make you his priority yet he fails to tell you when he's in trouble."

"Leave him out of this. You want to talk to me yet you're going to stand there and bash my best friend? You already treat his father like shit for no reason. I have nothing to say to you. Get out of my damn house."

"What's going on in here?"

Melissa came through the open back door, looking between the two men and then at the rest of the group standing further behind Scott.

"I came to talk to Scott."

"He let himself in." Scott cut in. "And I already told him now wasn't the time."

Melissa met his eyes and nodded understandingly. She was well aware of the plan that was taking place that night.

"He's right. You should leave."

"Scott…" Kira whispered, and he looked around to notice that, in the heat of the fight, the darkness had descended much quicker. They were coming.

"Who the hell is this?" Rafael said, advancing past the others crowded in the corner.

One of the dark warriors stood in the middle of the living room.

"Dad, no!" Scott shouted.

Too late, the steel sword stabbed straight through his shoulder, causing Kira to scream.

Melissa rushed to his side as he collapsed, immediately setting to work as the others got prepared to fight.

Allison pushed Lydia behind her. "Stay with me."

Melissa pulled her ex-husband away from the chaos, into the hidden stretch of hallway next to the staircase as Isaac and Scott transformed.

Kira pulled out her katana, irises fiery in colour, and Allison prepared her bow.

"Now! Get them outside the doors!" Scott shouted, advancing on the nearest one and swiping with clawed hands and a menacing growl.

Lydia tried to keep her eyes everywhere, watching Allison's back as well as fearfully checking on her friends. They all were fighting like it was something common, kicks and flips out of the way and ducking at the retaliation. It reminded Lydia of how many battles they fought before, all that she had missed, and that no matter what she was, she was lucky that she had found them to take care of her.

One of the warriors came from the kitchen side and Lydia grabbed the first thing she could find and hit it with all her might. The figure crashed through the window.

Allison chuckled as she looked back at her, Lydia frozen in shock at what she just witnessed. She hadn't seen anything so up close. The supernatural world was a strange place and still didn't feel quite real. And she had never done anything so violent before.

"Nice weapon choice."

Lydia looked at the wooden baseball bat in her hands. "What's so funny? It was the only thing I could find!"

Allison grinned. "I'll tell you later." And then she went back to battle.

It took some time, to force them out of the doorways, and once they were outside, Melissa ran to throw the jar of mountain ash at the doorway. A black line appeared as the scattered glass dispersed over the wood.

Lydia didn't get it until one of the ninjas tried to move through the opening, only to get pushed backwards by some invisible force. There was a protection shield around the whole house. They were safe for now.

Scott went to check on his parents, Melissa making a beeline for Scott's dad right after she threw the jar.

"How is he?"

"He needs a hospital. Based on the way his shoulder is rotated, the tendon must be torn which means he very well could be on his way to a collapsed lung."

"Mom… they're not going to leave until the sun comes up."

"Based on the way he's bleeding out, he's not going to make it that long."

"Should we call John?"

She shook her head, looking torn. "Is that just going to get more people hurt?"

"Maybe. I don't think guns work on them."

"Well, what does?"

Scott shrugged one shoulder. "We're still waiting to hear back from Argent. But otherwise, we'll have to figure something out."

Scott headed back to the others, but they all had overheard. It was clear none of them really knew what kind of words to offer. Getting Scott's dad out of there safely was virtually impossible, not without getting hurt more, but they couldn't very well let him die there either.

Allison's phone rang and she eagerly dug it out of her pocket. "Dad? Please tell me you have something. They're here."

She listened intently, nodding.

"Does he know anything?!" Isaac asked impatiently.

She covered the mouth piece. "They're called Oni. They're Japanese demons. Katashi says they're unstoppable."

Not exactly inspiring words.

She listened further before repeating the action. "They're looking for one that is no longer themselves. That's why Isaac and Lydia were marked with the Kanji symbol for 'self'. It means they're clean."

"What do you mean 'no longer themselves'?" Scott asked in confusion.

"One that is possessed by a dark spirit." she explained.

Lydia felt the eyes draw to her. She understood. After all, they all hadn't known what she was, it came out of nowhere, and her powers were really whacky. But she had already been tested and came out clean. What did that mean? One of the others was possessed?

"They know you're supernatural. They will check anyone they sense that in. Once they know you're not a dark kitsune, they won't hurt you."

"It is me, isn't it?" Kira said fearfully.

Scott shook his head, reaching out to touch her arm. "They're looking for a dark spirit. I know that's not you. What I see around you? Is not evil."

"Scott, kitsunes are trickster spirits. How do you know that what you can see isn't a trick?"

"Because I've seen the bad guys, and you're not one of them."

Lydia couldn't help but smile at Scott's argument. She could understand why he was the alpha of the group.

Allison said goodbye to her dad and hung up the phone, turning to the group. "He said one more thing—that the nogitsune, a dark kitsune, gains its power from pain, chaos and strife. Katashi said if there is a nogitsune among us, we need to let the Oni destroy it. He told my dad that even if it was me, he needs to let the Oni kill it."

"Well it's not you either." Scott said seriously. "Let them in."

"Is he serious?" Isaac asked incredulously.

Lydia swallowed and took the steps towards the front door, all firefly-like eyes focused on her, the buzzing rattling coming from somewhere inside their chests. Maybe they were trying to talk amongst themselves, but whatever they were doing, it wasn't helping her nerves any.

She placed one foot on the ash line and swiped back to break it.

"Get out of the way, Lydia!" Allison shouted.

Lydia tucked out of the way as all of the Oni came parading in.

"Don't do anything." Scott commanded, standing strongly from his spot in the middle of the room. "Let them check you, Kira."

She nodded, but was clearly terrified.

"Trust me." Scott told her quietly, reaching out for her hand and keeping it locked in his.

The dark warriors stepped in front of them, reaching a hand up to cup their faces as their eyes bored into theirs. Both teenagers seized up like the breath was stolen from their lungs, their backs arching, before they collapsed on the floor.

"Scott!" Allison cried out, by his side instantly. The Oni paid no mind to her as they turned and retreated out of the house.

Isaac and Lydia tended to Kira, who came around after a minute. Lydia wrapped her in a blanket that was laying over the couch.

"It wasn't me?"

Lydia smiled at her. "It wasn't you."

"So who is it?"

Stiles woke up a little groggily in the hospital, the sedation still slightly present in his veins. He could feel the difference in his body though. Melissa had been right. He needed sleep badly. He couldn't remember the last time he had felt like this, so in control of his own body parts.

He moved out of the bed, slipping his shoes on before making his way out into the hall, looking for Melissa. He wasn't really sure where to go from here, if he had to sign something or give her an updated report or what.

It didn't take long for his exploration to get off course. He wasn't sure what made him walk towards the empty OR, slipping between the revolving double doors. Ironic that just moments before he had felt so in control of himself.

It was strangely dark in the hospital. Too dark.

A rattling buzz came from behind him, and he turned to see the dark warriors that had attacked the other day swarming him.

The fear set in instantly, freezing him in place as one approached slowly.

Before it could touch his face, his own hand jolted upwards and plunged straight into its chest. Stiles watched it in terror, not having consciously moved a muscle. How had he done that? Why had he done that?

A menacing glare settled on his face against his will as he ripped his hand back from the black chest, causing the warrior to dispense into black smoke.

He unfurled his fingers, Stiles fighting to control them to keep them closed. All it did was cause them to tremble as his fist revealed the dying firefly in his palm.

The other two warriors behind the first advanced forward, but he simply smiled sinisterly as he prepared to fight.

Stiles was completely lost, feeling like a prisoner in his own mind, as he watched his body push away the smoky figures like they were nothingness. He couldn't control any of his body parts. He was paralyzed, stuck following the motions of whatever was controlling him. He would've cried, devastation clawing at his chest, but his eyes didn't form tears. It was like he wasn't connected to his body anymore.

You're possessed. Stiles mind echoed, reminding him of every scary movie he had seen. They all were the same—they just wore the person's face. He'd have to find a way to break out of it. This couldn't really be happening.


Scott! Scott would know what to do.

"You okay?"

Stiles' body turned to face him and he smiled slightly. "Yeah. What's been going on?" he asked, hand reaching up to touch his shoulder as they walked out of the room.

The dead firefly lay on the floor unnoticed behind them as Stiles screamed in anguish inside his own head, nothing but silence answering back to him.

Chapter Text

Stiles gasped awake, coated in a cold sweat and shivering as he searched for his covers to pull over himself. His brow furrowed as he realized he wasn't in his bed, but a hard surface, his back cramping from the pain.

How long had he been here?

It was pitch dark, but not quite the abyss-like darkness he had been succumbed to in his dreams before. And there was a stench that was bad enough to make him cover his mouth with the inside of his elbow.

Stiles tried to pull himself up with his free arm, looking around wildly as he got his legs beneath him.

But as he tried to drag his legs back, metal scraping against cement sounded in the quiet and he was jolted back down by something wrapped tight around his leg.

The sudden pain ran up his leg and he cried out, covering his mouth harder to muffle the sound, not sure what he had managed to get caught on but knowing it hurt like a bitch. It felt like some sort of vice, tight and constricting, and he didn't want to tug again and risk the outlandish pain.

Where the hell was he? And how did he get there?

He must have been sleepwalking. He felt around him for any kind of clue of where he was. His hand closed around his cell phone and he kept his eyes peeled for any sign of life before turning it on.

Battery 9%

Great. Effing great.

Stiles held down 1 on his speed dial, trying to keep his anxiety at bay. It wasn't exactly easy when he had no idea where he was, how he got there, and if he was trapped.

He held the phone to his ear, trying to reach down blindly in the dark to feel what the hell was on his leg.

Movement sounded from across the room, someone slinking in the shadows beyond what Stiles could see, and the teenage boy cowered against the floor, trying to make himself as small as possible.

"Stiles, you there?" He finally clued in that Scott had answered the phone.

"Scott?" he whispered, unable to help a few tears from slipping out. His leg was really hurting, the smell was unbearable, and he knew now that not knowing where he was might be the least of his concerns. He may have walked right into the monster's lair of what had been haunting his nightmares. Maybe this was what his nightmares had been preparing him for and he was drawn to that spot in his sleep.

Scott was talking again, sounding concerned. "Hey, yeah, I'm here. Are you okay? Can you hear me?"

Stiles took a deep breath, knowing his phone wouldn't last forever. He needed to be as clear and concise and quick as he could.

"Scott, I don't know where I am. I don't know how I got here. I think I was sleepwalking."

"Okay, um, can you see anything? Can you tell me what you see?"

The most obvious question to ask, but Stiles didn't have a satisfactory answer. He knew his chances weren't good. Even with advanced senses both as a werewolf and an alpha, and knowing Stiles' scent so well, it would be hard for Scott to find him. Especially with that smell overpowering everything else. It was strong enough it was even making it hard for Stiles to concentrate.

"I don't know, it's dark, it's hard to see. There's something wrong with my—"

He stopped breathing. The suspected person in the room sounded so close to him, just a couple feet from where he was, as if they walked right in front of him.

He ended the call and hid his phone, not wanting the light to cast anything on him to help whoever it was find him. They had to know he was here by now. Why weren't they attacking him? Or doing whatever the hell they planned to do?

Stiles felt his phone light up in his hand and slipped his fingers between his chest and phone to swipe the ignore button.

He focused all of his energy on listening, trying to pick up any sound of the person's whereabouts.

His phone shone again, and Stiles hit ignore again. He wasn't trying to freak out Scott, but he needed to be sure the coast was clear.

Once there was no sign of any movement, Stiles sat up to feel around his leg, trying to wrench whatever it was off of him. It was metal, strong, and clamped tightly around his leg. He could feel liquid covering his fingers and suppressed a gag at the idea that it was likely his own blood. He jiggled the contraption, tried to search for an end piece that would help him remove it, but nothing worked. He wasn't strong enough and he didn't know what he was dealing with.

Giving up, Stiles redialed Scott.


He sounded so utterly relieved, Stiles felt awful for ignoring his calls, even if he was trying to do it for survival reasons.

"Scott, I don't think I can get out of here. I can't move."

"Where are you?"

"I don't know. It's too dark, I can't see much." he rushed his words, trying to keep his panic down but failing pretty miserably. He knew freaking out wasn't going to help Scott or himself any. He needed to stay calm and think clearly. "But something's wrong with my leg. It's stuck on something. It's… I think it's bleeding."

"How bad? Stiles, how bad is it?"

Stiles reached down to feel around his leg, feel if there was a huge pool of blood around his calf or if it was just splayed all over his pants. The pain reverberated through his body again and he gritted his teeth.

"Stiles? Are you there? Can you hear me?"

He coughed, covering his face again. "There's some kind of smell down here. Something smells terrible. It's brutal. My eyes are watering."

"Listen, I'm going to call your dad."

His panic spiked immediately. "Wait. No, no, no, don't." If his dad found out… if his dad knew that his sleepwalking had extended this far, that it involved him getting hurt in the middle of the night when he was supposed to be safe in bed, even with all the security measures he took, he'd never forgive himself. He'd never be able to concentrate at work or sleep without watching the monitor in his room like a hawk. No, his dad couldn't find out. He stressed his father out enough with everything else.

"But your dad…"

Stiles closed his eyes, willing Scott to listen. "Just please, don't call him. Promise me you won't. He already worries about me too much about me, Scott, please."

"What if I can't find you? Stiles, I can't make a promise like that."

Stiles wasn't used to hearing Scott sound so unsure and scared.

"No, no, no, just please don't call him. Come find me. You can do it. He doesn't have to know, Scott. You can find me." he promised, not meaning to sound so desperate but unable to help himself.

He knew Scott could. He trusted Scott with his life, he always had. If anyone could find him, it was Scott. He knew his scent better than anyone, was the best alpha the town had ever seen. He could do it. Stiles had to believe that Scott could do it.

"I don't know if I can do this."

"Stiles." a whispered taunting voice came from across the room, a sound like nails against cement scraping along the wall.

Stiles' blood went cold, which was saying something considering the fact that he was losing feeling in his extremities. He knew that voice.

"Whoa, I've got to call you back. I have to turn the phone off." he told Scott quickly.

"What, no, hey wait, no."

"I'm going to call you right back." he told him as confidently as he could as he shut the phone off completely.

The screen's light died and Stiles stuffed the phone underneath him, eyes peeled for any sign of movement in the darkness.

There was an ominous movement near the far wall, metal or claws against cement as the figure slinked along the length of the room.

Stiles curled himself into as small a figure as possible, hoping it would stay where it was and leave him alone until his best friend found him.

Lydia lay on her bed in her room with her headphones in, mind buzzing with everything that had gone on in the last couple days.

After the Oni battle at Scott's house, she had gone home, only to get a text later from Stiles saying he was sorry he took so long to get back to her, explaining that Melissa had sedated him since he was so sleep-deprived. She had texted him back saying it was fine, that she had just been worried about him, and asked if he was okay. He hadn't replied, but she tried her best not to worry.

She had met up with Allison at school the next day to find out in more depth what her dad had found out from Katashi. There wasn't much more than what she had relayed the night before.

Katashi did manage to explain one helpful thing. "The Oni seek out Nogitsune, but must be summoned as they are neutral warriors who are focused on a singular goal and will destroy anything that gets in the way of them accomplishing that goal."

It made sense that they had tried to kill Scott's dad despite him being purely human. He had gotten in the way of the Oni getting the supernatural people of the pack. They had no concept of morals. They were programmed to accomplish their goal by any means necessary.

Which was why she shouldn't have been surprised to hear that Derek had been swarmed on his way home from Katashi's. Isaac found him outside the loft, pulling him inside and forcing him to turn to break him out of it.

Were the Oni really going to search every supernatural being in Beacon Hills? Lydia had to imagine there were quite a few after all the stories she had heard, and especially after everything with the Nemeton had happened.

It was keeping her up at night, worrying about all the supernatural madness around town. That and Stiles. She wondered how the rest of the pack had managed to handle all of this for literal years. It was overwhelming.

She went to skip the song on her iPod, bored of Leona Lewis right now, until between the impressive belted riffs there was a more prominent sound that seemed to dull out the rest of the music.

Lydia sat up. It sounded almost like static at first, but then there was more. It was more of a snuffling sound, like muffled crying.

And then one phrase rang amongst the white noise.

"Come find me." the whispered voice cried.

Despite her not hearing it in such distress before, she'd recognize that voice anywhere. Stiles.

Lydia wasn't stupid enough to think that her hearing him saying that was projection from worrying about him. It was supernatural, her 'power' of whatever it was coming into play.

If she was hearing him cry for help, he must be in trouble somewhere. She had to find him.

Lydia threw herself out of bed, grabbing her phone and her keys.

"Allison? Hey, it's me. Sorry to wake you. Meet me at Stiles'—I think he's in trouble."

Stiles breathed in and out the best he could, no sound of movement for the past sixty seconds but he still was scared the figure would just jump out at him or appear next to him without warning. If it was whatever was in his nightmares, he figured it had enough supernatural mojo to do something like that without even trying.

He had no idea what this thing was capable of, especially if it had managed to get him here in his sleep. He wondered if he would've gotten out if his dad had been home. He was working night shift tonight at least, but if he didn't get out of here soon, his shift would end and he'd go home to find his son's bed empty. He couldn't have that. He needed Scott to find him before it came to that.

Reluctantly, he turned his phone back on and dialed Scott again.


Scott sounded so grateful to read his name on his Caller ID, it choked him up. As much as worrying his dad sucked, worrying Scott was just as bad. Thinking back to all the trouble Stiles managed to get them into growing up, he was surprised Scott too didn't have a heart condition.

Stiles swallowed and kept his voice low. "Did you call him? Did you call my dad?"

"No. Just Isaac. We're coming to find you. Can you figure out where you are? Try to find something and tell us where to look."

Stiles looked around, keeping in mind all that he'd managed to see since he woke up. "It's a basement. I don't know, some kind of basement."

"In a house?"

"No, it looks bigger, like industrial. I think there's a furnace, but it's cold. It's freezing down here." As if on cue, his body began shivering all over. His phone beeped, signalling it would die any minute. "I-I gotta turn… I gotta turn the phone off, Scott, it's going to die."

All he'd need is for his only link to them to die and have them get close but not be able to find him because he couldn't give new information as a clue or something.

"Wait, wait, wait. What else is there? What do you see?"

It hurt to say no to his best friend's desperation, but he didn't have anything else helpful left. "The phone's dying, I can't talk. I have to go. Please, just..."

He wished he didn't have to be so selfish and demanding. He wished he could help make it easier on his best friend. Truth was, he didn't know much more than Scott, and between the two of them, Scott had a better idea of figuring out where he was than Stiles did even though he was the one physically there. The benefits of werewolf senses.

Scott finally seemed to realize something. His voice changed. "Stiles. Why are you whispering?"

Stiles felt a single tear slip down his cheek. "Because I think there's someone in here with me."

Lydia jumped when Scott and Isaac burst through Stiles' bedroom door.

Scott was surprised to see her and Allison there if his face was anything to go by.

"How did you know? Did he call you too?"

Lydia grimaced. "Not exactly. I heard him… bits and pieces of your conversation no doubt."

"Don't ask. It gets more confusing when you ask." Allison piped up, knowing from experience from when she tried to understand the logistics earlier of how Lydia had known.

"Not as confusing as this." Lydia commented, licking her lips as she stepped out of the way so they could see Stiles' bed.

In the center of the mattress was a big pair of silver scissors stabbed into the material, but the weirdest part was all of the red strings tied around it that linked to various points on Stiles' investigation boards lining the walls around his bed.

"He uses red for unsolved cases."

Allison was biting her lip as she stepped to different parts of the room for a new angle, to see if the strings made some sort of particular shape or message. "Maybe he thinks he's a part of an unsolved case."

"Or is an unsolved case." Isaac said.

Lydia looked at the pair of them and seemed to clue in that they were just as lost as they were. "Hold on, is he still out there? You don't know where he is?"

"He says he's in an industrial basement somewhere." Scott explained.

"We came here to get a better scent." Isaac added.

Lydia tried not to panic. She had no idea how long he had been gone, but if he was begging for help the way she heard, he was in serious trouble. "What else did he say?"

Scott's face was hard to read, but she could tell he was doing his best to stay strong despite his visceral worry. "Something is wrong with his leg. It's bleeding."

"And he's freezing." Isaac said from his spot.

Allison rubbed her upper arms absent-mindedly. "Tonight's the coldest night of the year. It's going to drop into the twenties."

He couldn't be in more than a t-shirt and sweatpants.

"What did his dad say?" Lydia asked, knowing based on the empty driveway that they would've had to call him at work. She wondered if a deputy had been by the house yet.

"We kind of didn't… tell him yet." Scott said awkwardly, looking ashamed and sad.

The strawberry-blonde couldn't help herself from getting her back up at that confession. Her eyes went wide. "Stiles is freezing and bleeding and you didn't call his dad?"

"He made me promise not to." Scott said in a small voice, and her heart squeezed for his loyalty to his best friend. That sounded exactly like what Stiles would demand, out of everything. Even when he was in danger, it was his dad he was concerned about. "We can find him by scent. If he was sleepwalking, he couldn't have gotten far, right?"

Allison squeezed his hand in hers. "You guys didn't notice his jeep was gone, did you?"

Lydia had forgotten that quick about that. She could handle Stiles being pissed at her if it meant that he was alive to do so. "You promised he wouldn't call his dad. I didn't."

"Lydia, hold on, I can get more help. I can call Kira, Derek—"

"Everyone except the cops, great idea!"

She didn't mean to be snappy with him, but Scott had to understand that this wasn't necessarily a supernatural ordeal. Stiles had been sleepwalking. He went as far as driving his jeep somewhere god knows how far away. The police, not werewolves, might be able to use their technology and authority to find him much faster than a pair of teenage werewolves running around the city.

"Look… these… feelings I get? They're never associated with anything good, okay? They only seem to come when relating to death. And since Stiles is in impending danger…"

She didn't need to finish her sentence. Scott closed his eyes briefly before nodding.

"You don't have to call his dad. It's five minutes to the station."

Scott looked to Isaac and they headed to leave.

Lydia reached out an arm to stop Allison before she could follow.

"We'll catch up."

"What, why?" Allison asked, brow furrowed.

"There is something here."

Isaac scoffed. "Yeah, evidence of total insanity."

Lydia caught the pain that crossed Scott's face. It was more than just being offended by the jab. There was some hidden secret he was harbouring, maybe a fear that Isaac really was right. After all, Stiles had been none too quiet about how much the Nemeton stuff felt like he was losing his mind.

Lydia, too, wouldn't admit it out loud, but she was scared that Isaac was more right than he planned.

"We can find out what's wrong with him after we find a way to keep him from freezing to death." Scott said stiffly, his irritation colouring his tone slightly.

"Go. We'll be right behind you." Allison told him with an encouraging nod, turning back to the crime scene and following Lydia's lead.

Stiles hung up the phone with Scott, already missing the comfort of having his best friend's voice on the other end. He had to trust that Scott would come soon though, that he'd find him. Until then, he had to deal with his own situation alone. And that included figuring out how to get the hell out of there.

He tried to move his leg again, then hunched in pain. He could feel something digging into his skin like forks.

Struggling to get into proper position on his side, he turned the flashlight on his phone and pointed it towards his leg.

The light shined on his left, revealing the bear trap snapped around his calf, blood coating his pajama pants and the floor.

He cried out in anguish as the pain reverberated through him, his shout turning into sobs.

A scraping noise sounded across the room that effectively shut him up.

"Who's there?" No answer. "I know you're there. I can hear you."

Somebody was in there, a sound like scratching and heavy breathing following their movement, and Stiles sniffled as he used the flashlight to find the source.

It settled on someone in a crouched position, their back to him, all Stiles could see was a leather jacket and fully bandaged hands and head.

"Who are you?" Stiles demanded, voice shaking more than he'd like.

The chalk the person had been using dropped to the floor. Stiles looked down at it, wiping his face, but when he looked back up, the figure was gone.

He could see what was drawn on the wall now—what looked like a backwards five.

The Japanese symbol for 'self'. As he stared, it burned up until it disappeared completely.

He remembered the words from the most recent pack meeting. "They're looking for someone who is no longer themselves. Someone possessed by a dark spirit."

Stiles' tears fell faster.

Allison and Lydia, still working away in Stiles' room, tried to channel the boy in question's knack for finding clues as they scanned the scene before them.

"They found Stiles' jeep at the hospital." Allison said aloud, reading the text from her phone. "Derek and Scott checked up on the roof—said the chemo-signals indicated anxiety, some sort of self-struggle."

Lydia looked alarmed. A struggle with oneself on a roof emotionally could lead to something much more tragic.

"No, Lydia. They haven't found him yet, and they would have if he... but he didn't… That's not Stiles."

Lydia sighed. "Do we even know anymore? He's been so distracted, on edge… like a different person… all the signs of someone who is contemplating—"

A rush of whispers sounded from somewhere towards the bed and Lydia froze.

Allison, too, halted in place like a statue at her friend's sudden change.

"What did you just do? Did you just touch one of the strings?"

Allison bit her lip guiltily. "Maybe?"

Lydia pulled the red one closest to her. "What did that sound like you?" the strawberry-blonde demanded.

The brunette shrugged. "Like a string being pulled…"

"You didn't hear people whispering?"

Allison shook her head defiantly. "Definitely did not hear people whispering."

Lydia pulled it again, leaning closer to try to pick up what they were saying. "You didn't hear that?"

"I'm not sure anyone hears what you hear." Allison told her honestly, moving back to looking at what each of the strings were fastened to on the board.

"Whispering. Something about a house." Lydia deciphered.

Allison looked hopeful. "What house?"

Lydia lifted her head and followed the string to the image on the board the string was connected to. "That one."

Allison came over. "Eichen House? The mental health centre where Barrow was committed?"

"It's where he is. That's where Stiles is." Lydia breathed out in a rush.

Stiles struggled with his phone, needing the light. There was barely any coming in from the vent above, nothing more than moonlight and it was only enough for him to see a few feet in front of him.

His phone was dead. "No, come on."

He sat up, struggling with the trap, trying to get the thing off his leg. He grit his teeth in pain. He remembered the handle he twisted when he freed Lydia from hers, but this one didn't seem to have one, and the end of the chain was clamped to a pipe on the wall. He screamed out in frustration as he tried desperately to pull it apart.

He felt movement next to him, a person slinking by.

"Who's there? WHO ARE YOU?!"

The person started talking, a sinister sound like an old prophecy being told, but it was in another language. He recognized the dialect—Japanese.


Instead of restating in English, more Japanese spilled out of their mouth. He knew too little to even piece together some of it.

"I don't… I don't understand."

And then the man spoke in an all too familiar voice.

"Who are you, Stiles? Who are we? It's getting colder, Stiles. Did you notice that we've stopped shivering? Do you know why that's a bad sign?"

Stiles realized it as soon as he said it, almost as if he had commanded the motion to cease, or as if the voice was his subconscious.

"It's the body trying to conserve energy. It was my fifth grade science report. Hypothermia." he said, trying to keep his emotions at bay.

"Our speech is starting to thicken." he murmured as he moved through the room, sounding sickly entertained by the idea. "Then comes fatigue. Confusion. We're going to die if we don't get out of here."

Stiles held his head as high as he could, trying to appear as strong as he could. "Stop saying that! Stop saying we."

"We're trying to keep you from freezing to death. You better get up, Stiles." the voice told him.

"How? There's a freaking steel-jaw trap on my leg!" he screamed furiously, sick of this. He knew that voice. He knew it was the one that had been haunting his nightmares. He didn't know how he had got him here or how he had gotten into his dreams, but he knew he was no ally. No matter what mind tricks he was trying to play.

"Is there? Notice something different? It was on your right leg before, wasn't it?"

"No…" Stiles looked down to see his right covered in blood and the metal clamp.

"Are you sure?" he taunted.

Stiles shook his head and they were switched back. It was his left again.

His breathing became heavier. "What is this? What are you doing?"

They had encountered a few different supernatural creatures over their time since Scott had been bitten, but nothing they had come across had this type of… magic or whatever the hell it was.

"We're trying to save you, Stiles. We're trying to save your life."

The group arrived at Eichen House, deputy team in tow.

"I don't want to say are you sure about this, but…" the Sheriff started slowly, clear hesitance present in his tone.

"He's here. I swear to god he's here." Lydia affirmed.

With that, they headed inside in a rush, the Sheriff making a beeline for the front desk. "I need access to all basement facilities here."

They were directed down a series of hallways, keys in hand, and Lydia found the door without trying while the rest tried to recognize one white door from another.

"It's here! It's right here."

Busting open the door, they all ran down the stairs to the basement, desperate to find the cold teenage boy.

"Stiles?!" Lydia cried out. The Sheriff had gone down the stairs first, but Lydia was right on his heels.

Flashlights shone in every corner, nothing but silence meeting their cries of Stiles' name.

"Lydia?" Scott asked hopefully, his wide eyes clearly hoping she had some idea of another spot in there he might be.

Lydia felt a lump form in her throat. Stiles wasn't there. He never was.

"I don't get it. This has to be it."

The Sheriff had been twisting his head in every direction, crouching down to look under every nook and cranny. His face was distorted with worry and then fear. "Then where is he, huh? Where is he?!"

He shouted the last bit, and she knew it wasn't personal, but she still flinched. He was just a terrified father. But she couldn't help but feel like this was all her fault. She lead them to a completely wrong location, prolonging them finding Stiles even further just based on some 'hunch'.

Stiles' dad sighed. "I'm sorry."

"I don't understand." Lydia whispered, tears in her eyes, looking around the room. Why did she feel such a strong pull there if Stiles wasn't there? What the hell did Eichen House have to do with what was going on with Stiles?

Scott put a comforting hand on Lydia's shoulder. "There's still time. We'll find him."

Lydia ducked her head to hide her tears and pulled away to head upstairs, feeling stupid and humiliated. She couldn't take Scott's sweet comfort right now. She didn't deserve it.

Allison and Isaac were ahead discussing other possibilities they hadn't tried—the school, the warehouse Barrow had been at, when Scott got a text from his mom.

He furrowed his brow. His girlfriend noticed immediately.

"What is it?"

"My mom. She said she and my dad have an idea. They'll let us know if they find him."

Lydia still felt the fear twisted in her chest so tightly it made it hard to breathe.

"Please be okay, Stiles. Please." she murmured to herself as she desolately followed the others out of the building.

Stiles tried to shrink away into the wall, away from the bandaged figure that seemed to be getting off on his agony. He was still drawing the Kanji symbol on the wall.

"You don't understand, do you? It's a riddle. Do you know any riddles, Stiles?"

"A few." he replied with difficulty.

"What gets bigger the more you take away?"

Keeping silent was getting rid of the asshole, so he figured he might as well humour him. Maybe it would help him figure out how to get the hell out of here, or where he was, or buy time for his friends to find him. "A hole."

"What gets wetter the more it dries?"

"A towel."

"When is a door not a door?"

Stiles froze, realization dawning on him. He had suspicions before, but not like now.

"When it's ajar." he whispered, wetness spilling down his cheeks.

"We need to close the door in our minds. As soon as possible." "It sounds like Bardo. There are different progressive states, where you can have hallucinations. Some you see, some you just hear. And you can be visited by peaceful or wrathful deities." "The Oni are looking for someone possessed by a dark spirit."

Stiles' head was spinning. It was all coming back to him now. The moment at the hospital recently, where he couldn't move his own body, couldn't make his voice heard. Where he was trapped. Possessed.

The figure kept speaking. "Everyone has it but no one can lose it, what is it?"

"I don't…" He exhaled deeply, needing more air, shivering again.

"Everyone has it but no one can lose it. What is it, Stiles?"

He couldn't think. His brain was too full. "I don't… I don't know."

"Everyone has it, but no one can lose it."

Stiles shook his head, but he kept speaking, this time in Japanese, no doubt repeating the same obsessive riddle.

"I don't know." Stiles tried to cover his face with his hands, the figure getting too close now.

The bandaged man started bellowing Japanese in a vicious, cutting growl directly in Stiles' face, his wrapped hands grasping the chain of Stiles' trap and dragging him across the floor.

The teeth cut into his leg and he screamed, desperately throwing his hands out to attach to anything. He didn't want to go wherever this guy was taking him. He wanted out.

"No! No! Wait!" he screamed at the top of his lungs. "WAIT! WAITTTTTTT!"

"STILES!" a different voice shouted over his noise, arms latching around him, but he fought against them, still screeching, still desperate to get away, bawling and sobbing as he finally realized he wasn't where he thought he was. He was outside in the woods, Melissa McCall holding him as Scott's dad stood next to them.

His eyes moved around frantically, looking for any sign of the bandaged man, for the trap around his leg, but he couldn't see anything. He hadn't been in a basement. He had been dreaming.

"You're okay. You're all right." Melissa soothed.

Stiles was still shaking all over, unable to catch his breath, tears still falling against his will.

"Stiles, you're all right." she repeated.

He succumbed to her maternal hold, but he wasn't sure he truly believed her words.

Lydia knew it had only been a few minutes, but it felt like it had been hours by the time the Sheriff came out from talking to the doctor to speak to them.

"He's sleeping now, and he's just fine."

She breathed, closing her eyes. He was okay. He was safe. They found him. He had been asleep the entire time, calling Scott and going through the motions of regular life while still in his dream world.

"He doesn't remember much, it's been like a dream to him." He turned to Agent McCall. "Thank you."

Rafael smiled slightly but it was more of a grimace. "It was that repellent we sprayed in the coyote den to keep other animals out. I couldn't go near it without my eyes watering. It was just a good thing he mentioned it over the phone." He had read over the transcripts at the station and Stiles' comment about the brutal smell had sparked his attention. Melissa had come to the station after her shift right on time to join him for the mission to check it out.

The Sheriff argued. "No, it was more than that. Thank you."

"It was a lucky connection." the other father dismissed.

"McCall, can you shut up please? And accept my sincerest gratitude?"

Lydia hid a smirk. She knew they had their differences, but their argument was getting a little silly.

"Accepted." Rafael finally said, shaking his hand.

Melissa turned to Allison, Scott and Lydia, who were still present but barely standing from exhaustion. "All right you three. You've got school in less than six hours. Go home and get some sleep."

They nodded in unison and headed towards the doors, Lydia unable to help casting a look back at the parents, wishing they had let slip which room Stiles was in. What she would do to see him okay before she went home. Isaac and Derek had been fine to head home once they got the all clear that Stiles was safe, leaving only after helping charge Stiles' dead jeep battery, but Lydia wasn't that easily diffused.

She had so many questions. Most, according to the Sheriff's comment about him not remembering much, likely wouldn't be able to be answered.

"Lydia? You okay?" Allison asked, squeezing her hand.

She sighed. "I don't know what happened earlier. I was so sure."

"I wasn't much help either. It doesn't matter if he's okay." Scott reassured her.

She knew he was right. After all, Scott was an alpha werewolf and he hadn't been able to track down his best friend in his time of need. The guilt probably was worse for him than it was for Lydia, even though it made sense that the coyote den repellent would've masked Stiles' scent completely.

She suddenly stopped walking when she heard a strange clanging noise, almost like a hammer hitting an anvil repeatedly. Metal against metal. Loud and clear as day as if there was a blacksmith in the next room.

Allison watched her carefully. "Lydia… do you hear something?"

She licked her lips, focusing her eyes forward and following them out of the hospital. If they couldn't hear it, it was clearly her 'power' that was at work. And that power had already proved once tonight to be unreliable.

She shook her head. "No. I didn't hear anything."

Chapter Text

Stiles didn't sleep much, even though he knew that was sort of the whole point of him being there. He'd already had an evaluation done by the doctor with his dad present and he nodded his agreement when they mentioned running some tests.

He wasn't stupid. He knew it had nothing to do with worrying about what he might have run into out in the woods, like toxicity from breathing in so much of the repellent, or anything to do with the hypothermia. It was how he got out there. They wanted to evaluate his mental state.

Based on the guilt on his dad's face, he had a feeling he and Melissa had been talking about it before. She likely filled him in on what he had come in for the other day when she put him to sleep for a few hours.

Stiles couldn't look at his dad as he agreed, too afraid to read his expression, to see the deep fear that he knew must be there. That he might have to repeat what he went through with his wife with his only son.

He faked needing more sleep after the conversation, so his dad would leave to get some paperwork signed and busy himself with coffee and talking to Melissa and maybe even go home for a bit to get a shower or something.

In truth, he just lied on his side facing away from the door, trying to remember the night before and what happened in his dream. He felt like he discovered something, but he couldn't figure out what it was. Maybe it was just that he was actually crazy.

A sharp intake of breath in the doorway caught his attention and he rolled over to see Scott standing there.

He sat up immediately at the expression on his face, and he knew it was more than exhaustion that caused moisture to easily fill his eyes.

The look on Scott's face confirmed it all—he had really scared him. And that was saying a lot. Scott had thrown down with alpha werewolf packs, Gerard Argent, kanimas, Peter Hale, and Deucalion of all things, and he barely batted an eyelash. But the fear on his face now? There was no denying that Stiles had terrified him last night. That Scott was beside himself with worry.

Scott was crossing the room and throwing his arms around his best friend before Stiles could open his mouth to apologize, and he squeezed him so tightly, Stiles' breath actually caught in his throat a little.

He forgot sometimes that Scott was stronger than the average human, a hell of a lot stronger actually, because Scott was nothing if not extremely gentle whenever around people and especially him. But he could feel him hugging him tighter than normal and it made his tears slip out against their will.

Scott buried his face in his neck, breathing his scent in as if trying to determine just how okay he was, but it was Stiles who could practically smell the terror on him. It broke his heart he had done this to his best friend, even if he didn't remember most of it.

"I'm so sorry."

Scott pulled away, shaking his head. "It's okay, as long as you're okay."

Stiles met his gaze, eyes softening. "I'm not entirely sure."

Scott didn't waver their locked eyes and swallowed.

"Do you remember anything?" he asked instead, perching himself on the edge of the bed.

Stiles shook his head. "Bits and pieces. But nothing substantial. Dad told me some of the stuff I said to you but none of it really clicks or sparks any memory. I'm sorry I put so much pressure on you to find me. That wasn't fair."

Scott shook his head. "No, I'm grateful you trusted me. I still failed in the end. We all were out looking for you, everyone, but my dad ended up being the one to save the day. How's that for a plot twist?" he tried to joke.

Stiles smiled only slightly, but it was forced.

"When can we spring you from here?"

"I'm not sure. They want to run tests all day, so maybe tonight?"

"I've got to go to school, but I've only got two classes. I can come back later? Be here while they're running tests?"

Stiles looked at him, chewing on his lip.

"You don't have to."

Scott knew him too well. "I'll be back once my last class finishes. Promise."

Stiles nodded, smiling for real this time, grateful. "Thanks, Scottie."

He smiled back broadly. "All right, I'll let you sleep. I'm glad you're okay."

Stiles didn't bother to correct him as he gave him one last quick hug and let him go.

Scott snagged Lydia when she was staring off into space out of the window outside of her chemistry lab.


She jolted like she was electrocuted.

She had left her lab early due to having a bad headache. Or at least, that's what she thought. It was as if every single tinkle of glass stirrer hitting beaker echoed, every pen drop made her jump, and she slipped out of the room before her professor could notice.

And now Scott had nearly made her jump out of her skin, and he wasn't oblivious.

"Sorry. You okay?"

Lydia nodded quickly. "Yeah, sorry, just… thinking. I'm a little oversensitive to sounds today. How's it going?"

"Good. I'm done classes for the day. I was going to head over to the hospital. They're running tests on Stiles all afternoon but he should be discharged some time tonight. Did you want to come with me?"

A classroom door closing made her jerk spastically.

"Uh, I should probably just go home."

She didn't want to tell him Scott the truth. That she was putting off seeing Stiles. That she was embarrassed, no mortified, of her epic fail at finding him. Plus her slowly growing confidence in her abilities had now completely shattered. She couldn't face Stiles after his grand declaration of him believing in her that one night with Barrow. In reality, she was new at this, she had no idea what she was doing, and, if anything, she was just getting in the way.

Plus, with her extenuating hearing, it was probably best she didn't go to a hospital full of beeping and machinery.

"Are you sure you're okay?"

Lydia nodded. "I'm fine. I'll text you later." she murmured, pulling away to head to her car. She had to get out of there.

Stiles practically tuned out the doctor's warnings before the MRI, his mind muddled with so much more than what was going on.

He nodded along, answered the questions, promised the natural noises from the machine wouldn't bother him, and forced a smile at his father when he promised that he and Melissa would be right outside the room.

And then it was just him and Scott.

It was quiet between them for a moment before Stiles spoke, knowing he probably already knew even if they hadn't said it in so many words that morning.

"You know what they're looking for right?" Scott didn't answer, but he knew he was listening. "It's called frontotemporal dementia. Areas of your brain start to shrink. It's what my mother had. It's the only form of dementia that can hit teenagers. And there's no cure."

Scott wiped the moisture that slipped from his eye as subtly as he could.

"Stiles, if you have it, we'll do something…"

Their eyes met for a long moment.

"I'll do something."

Stiles looked up at him at that, lip beginning to tremble. Scott had never promised that. Stiles had never asked for it, never wanted it, and even now, he didn't. He saw the life that came with it. Maybe his wouldn't have the same weight like Scott's, but it was more than fighting off supernatural creatures and the call of the moon. It was the lying, the keeping secrets, the pretending to be normal when you were nothing but.

The fact that Scott would turn him to save his life, knowing full well what it entailed, meant he couldn't handle losing him. That he wouldn't. And that gave Stiles hope. Hope that he wasn't the monster he feared he might be becoming.

Both of their eyes were wet when he crashed into a hug with Scott, still sitting on the edge of the MRI table, squeezing his best-friend-turned-brother to him tightly and burying his tears in his shoulder to hide them from the watching parents behind the glass.

Scott was the most important person in the world to him. The one person he couldn't live without. Sometimes it was nice to be reminded that the feeling was mutual, even if he felt like he didn't deserve it.

Scott eventually pulled away, tears littering his face too, and he corrected his throat.

"I'll be in the hall, okay? We'll… go get some food after this or something, okay? Like real food."

Stiles smiled. "Sounds good."

Scott patted him on the shoulder and left the room, so Stiles moved back into the machine as instructed.

The doctor talked to him through a microphone inside the machine, but he still felt more alone than ever.

He was told he'd need to be still for approximately forty-five minutes. Quite a long time for an ADHD teenager.

Time passed slowly, the clanging sound becoming too much after a while. Maybe he should have accepted the earplugs or headphones.

His mind wouldn't stop racing. What if they found the disease like his mom? He was young, but it wasn't the kind of thing you'd forget. The paranoia. The panic. The constant fear. He felt that these days more than ever. Did that really mean…?

Maybe it was all in his head, these nightmares he had. He barely remembered them, just enough to remember there was a man taunting him in them. No details. It was exhausting trying to rack his brain to remember, to no avail.

Stiles closed his eyes tightly, trying to keep his emotions in check. He wouldn't know anything until the scan came out. He couldn't panic.

"Have you figured out my riddle yet?"

An all too familiar menacing voice.

Stiles opened his eyes, to find himself standing away from the machine, all else foggy. He could see his dad and Melissa and the doctor beyond the glass, but there was a strange glow around the room.

Like a dream.

He was dreaming, right? He must have fallen asleep.

The bandaged man was moving around the room, standing in front of the window now.

"If you answer correctly, we might consider letting them go."

Stiles was confused. "Letting who go?"

The bandaged man grinned with metallic teeth and turned towards the glass. "Your friends. Your family. Everyone who ever meant something to you. We're going to destroy all of them, Stiles. One by one."

He remembered everything now. It seemed when he was dreaming, his memory of what had been going on returned. This dark deity was trying to possess him. Had already done so. It was just a matter of time before he took over completely. And apparently his plan was worse than Stiles thought.

He couldn't help his tears from falling. His family, his friends, they may never know it wasn't really him. They might think he went crazy and did it all. They were all in danger, and he had no way to warn them. "Why?"

"Everyone has it, but no one can lose it. What is it?"

He remembered the question before. He still didn't know the answer. "I don't know."

"Everyone has it but no one can lose it. What is it?"

"I don't know." Stiles replied louder, moving away as he started unraveling his bandages.


Stiles covered his ears, tears spilling as he turned away from the monster, wanting to wake up. Trying to get out.

He could hear the movement behind him, the sound of the bandages hitting the floor. He was unravelling them. Stiles didn't want to see his face, not sure what kind of distortion would be there.

"What is it, Stiles?" the voice asked, calmer and normal now.

The riddle still played in his head. And then it clicked.

He swallowed as he opened his eyes and straightened up, turning around.

"A shadow."

The last bandage across his face was removed, and Stiles found himself staring into his own face.

"Let me in."

"N-no. Stay away from me."

"It's too late, Stiles. Haven't you figured it out?"

"No. NO."

"Let me in. Let me in. It's been me all along. Let me in."

"No, I won't!"

"Let me in, Stiles."

The next thing he saw was the inside of the MRI machine. He was back.

But his head moved slowly, taking in the surroundings… without his consent.

What… what the hell was…?

The lights suddenly went out, each light along the machine one by one, and his body whisked itself away before he could stop it.

"Wait… wait, my dad…"

Nothing answered him.

The lights came back on, like a power surge, but shortly after all went out completely.

His body moved to the hospital room he had been in before and started getting dressed in the dark while the people in the hospital frantically ran around.

"Stop, stop, stop." he begged internally, but nothing.

He tried moving his arms, legs, even a finger, but nothing was working. He was fully paralyzed. Only able to watch from his own eyes.

Once his sneakers were tied, his body strolled casually through the hospital. He came to a stop when the elevator opened at the end of the hall to reveal Noshiko Yukimura.

"Kira's mom? Why are we—" Stiles asked the controller of his body, but of course, no answer.

He walked to meet her.

"You know me." she said to him, and even though Stiles didn't fully understand, another part of his body seemed to. He felt it straighten and then nod once, as if in understanding. "Then you remember that I won't be deterred by your choice of host. Even if it is an innocent boy."

"Are you threatening us?" his voice asked, aloud, but with more control and conviction than he'd ever heard come out of his mouth before.

Like out of smoke, two Oni warriors appeared behind her. "Now I'm threatening you."

"We're not really afraid of your little fireflies." Stiles' voice said, a tinge of amusement beneath the cold tone. Stiles suddenly remembered killing one in his hand days before. Or rather, watching his body do so for him.

He began walking away.

"If the Oni can't defeat you, I know someone who will." Noshiko promised.

Stiles didn't like the sound of any of it.

But, though he tried, no one seemed to be able to hear his screams.

Lydia sat in her car across town, trying to drown out the sound of the clanging that had been going on in her head for hours. No matter how loud she cranked the music, she could still hear it at the back of her head, like she was hearing it separately from what her regular hearing was taking in. She had already taken pain killers and no relief.

She didn't know what was going on with her. If this was her supernatural power, how useful could it really be? It lead her nowhere the night before, just delayed them from really finding Stiles, and for all she knew she got the Sheriff in trouble for investigating somewhere without concrete evidence.

She wished she could go with Scott to the hospital, see Stiles, but she was too humiliated. She didn't want to be around anyone.

Scott was a good friend, a great friend actually. He was what Stiles needed at the hospital while they ran tests. Not her. Not someone who was too selfish and proud to be around him.

She knew Stiles had been having a hard time. She knew he had been sleepwalking. Why hadn't she said something to someone else? She knew she wanted Stiles to be able to confide in her, but maybe if she had said something to Scott or somebody else, they could have prevented him from getting so lost in the first place. Like, stationed someone outside his house to keep lookout? Rotate nights? His dad worked nights—he couldn't always keep him safe.

Lydia sighed. Punishing herself for the past wasn't really helping her headache any.

And if Stiles was sick, well, it was inevitable, right?

She couldn't imagine it though. Sweet, funny, kind-hearted and playful Stiles, a crazy person? She'd seen her share of crazy. She didn't want him to be thrown in that character, it wasn't right. There was something more going on. Something… bigger. She knew that. She knew that deep in her bones. And she really didn't think it had anything to do with her feelings for him.

Allison, Scott and Stiles had all had their share of Bardo symptoms. This had to just be some sort of weird manifestation of that. After all that she had learned about the supernatural, she had to believe that. The others had stopped… so why didn't Stiles'?

Lydia was so caught up in her thoughts, she startled when a voice sounded, like it was living in the back of her head.

"Let me in. Let me in."

It had a threatening, scratchy quality to it. Like it was… from another world. A demon. Lydia had seen enough movies to know what the bad guys sounded like.

But there was something that sparked her attention with this voice in particular. She had heard it before. She knew she had.

She replayed the words. It clicked. She'd heard it one night in Stiles' room, when they were studying that time.

"Let me in, Stiles."

Stiles? She… The voice, in Stiles' room… it wasn't speaking to her…

Stiles hadn't been himself, had been blacking out and having memory lapses, sleepwalking, being scared that something was really wrong…

Ever since they came back to Beacon Hills, she'd felt nervous around him… she felt like there was something to fear… but he also made her feel safe… she thought her powers were just false, but it was something she couldn't shake… almost as if some part of him was something to fear…

She opened her mouth and let out an almighty scream as she finally understood what had been happening all along.

Lydia drove to the hospital, knowing she had to tell Scott what was really going on with Stiles. Plus, she knew what she was feeling was tied to there for more than one reason. Something bad was going to happen.

Sure enough, she pulled in to the parking lot to see chaos ensuing.

She braked hard, eyes wide as she watched a long cable with sparks flying from the end come flying off the roof towards an ambulance driving to the entrance.

It swerved out of the way, but hit a fire hydrant, and water spewed from the broken mechanism like an overenthusiastic fountain.

Water quickly flooded the parking lot, and the ambulance driver stepped out of the van, rubbing his head.

Lydia felt the scream in her throat before his foot hit the water, but he went down almost instantly, spasms flitting through his body from the electrocuted water.

"Get back! Everyone get back!" Kira screamed.

What was she doing there?

Still, a couple people didn't understand and got out of their vehicles, collapsing as the electricity overloaded their bodies.

Lydia saw in horror as Allison moved towards one of the fallen, but the water was quickly reaching where she and Isaac were. Her mouth couldn't form the warning in time, and she was too far away, but Isaac got there first.

"Allison, no!" he said, throwing an arm out and pushing her back.

She fell back onto the grass, but the water still came, and down Isaac went.

"Isaac!" Allison shouted as he seized in the water, helpless.

One car nearly hit Kira, but she climbed over it like some sort of ninja, doing a flip off the end and grasping the flying wire.

She covered her hand over the sparking end as if it was nothing and closed her eyes in concentration as she seemed to seal the electricity inside.

When her eyes opened, they glowed orange, and Lydia finally saw the kitsune within.

Lydia's eyes scanned the rest of the scene, hoping no one else saw Kira's little magic trick. It would be hard to explain.

A flood of people came out of the hospital, Derek and Scott in tow. They ran towards them as Lydia did the same, Kira heading over as soon as she saw them collecting.

"Are you guys okay?" he asked the three girls.

Allison nodded quickly but clearly was distressed.

"Scott, Stiles—" Lydia began, but Derek interrupted from a few feet away.

"He's not breathing. SCOTT! He's not breathing!"

Isaac was lying in the water, unmoving.

"No." Allison whispered as Scott ran over.

Lydia swallowed as Kira looked just as scared as she felt. Hospital staff were starting to pour from inside, coming to assist as professional help arrived from all sides.

"I thought… I thought werewolves had healing powers?" Lydia asked, feeling dumb.

"Depends on the level of damage. Certain voltages of electricity can stop their ability to shift and cut off some of their other abilities. Werewolves… they can still die." Kira answered quietly, rubbing Allison's arm when she saw the tears in her eyes.

They watched Isaac get put on a gurney and wheeled inside. Already, electrical burns were formed over a good portion of one side of his body. It didn't look good.

"Come on. We should all go inside. Talk as a pack." Allison said stoutly, wiping her face and putting her chin up as she led the way.

Derek directed them into a private empty hospital room so they could talk privately. Scott wasn't with him.

"When Stiles was sleepwalking, his jeep ended up here, so Scott and I checked out everywhere we could think of. That included the roof." Derek began.

"You said chemo-signals on the roof indicated some sort of struggle?" Allison remembered the text she received.

Derek nodded. "We didn't know what that meant before. Now we think we do. We went up to check, right before everything went down. Scott thinks Stiles was trying to protect us, trying not to do something. That he was at war with himself… at war with something in him."

"So, Stiles caused the electrical accident?" Kira asked.

"Sort of." Derek said. "The wire was cut when we went up there and there were tools that could have done a lot of damage. The whole electrical box exploded and the wire got loose. He was at the hospital all day. Even if it wasn't from the other night, maybe he'd been up there before his MRI. And because of what we discovered at the substation that night with Barrow…"

"Wait, what do you mean?" Allison asked.

Kira grimaced. "I took Derek there earlier, to go over everything that happened that night. We found Stiles' bat magnetized to one of the power devices. It was magnetized so strongly Derek had to use full werewolf strength to get it off. Because of the electric outbreak then, and my foxfire abilities being so… unrefined, we think it jumpstarted what's going on with Stiles. That that level of voltage has something to do with helping it gain power."

"You mean him being possessed?" Lydia finally said.

Allison looked shocked, while the other two looked at her in surprise, clearly not expecting her to know.

"Look, I don't know how I know, but I've known something isn't right with him, and he's known it too. He's been jumpier than ever, paranoid, having blackouts… He wanted to get checked out for psychiatric attention. He wanted to be sure it wasn't supernatural, but I think deep down he knew something bigger was happening. And tonight… I heard words I had heard before… this time with his name. The voice was saying 'let me in'."

"Stiles… Stiles is the nogitsune? The dark fox spirit the Oni have been hell bent on finding?" Allison asked.

"Think about it, Allison. He's the only one of us that hasn't been checked."

"He wasn't? Not even at… oh."

"So what now?" Kira piped up.

"Now we have to find out how the hell to get the nogitsune the hell out of him." Allison said determinedly.

"I don't imagine that's going to be easy."

"Nothing we do ever seems to be."

Derek sighed. "Well, we're going to have to find him first. Two people saw Stiles' jeep leave the hospital."

"What about Isaac? Is he going to be okay?" Kira asked worriedly.

"They won't tell us anything. We tried to tell them he doesn't have any family left." Allison explained.

"He doesn't?" Lydia asked, that piece of trivia unbeknownst to her.

"He has us." Derek said, a touch of aggression to it as he moved towards the nurse's station.

Two days passed.

No sign of Stiles. Isaac wasn't doing much better. They had no better clue how to get the nogitsune out of Stiles than they did before. Things were looking pretty dreary all around.

Lydia looked up as Scott came out of Isaac's hospital room, wincing, eyes squinted as if in pain.

"I took some of his pain. As much as I could handle. He's in a lot of it, but hopefully it helps. It won't heal him, but… it's the best we can do for now."

Allison linked an arm with him, pressing a grateful kiss to his shoulder. "I wish we could do more."

"Right now, the medical staff here can help him more than we can, and hopefully they will be able to get him to a point where he can heal again." Scott said firmly, but Lydia could tell he was more worried than he was letting on. She had a feeling Scott was used to being the eternal optimist of the group. As a leader, he sort of had to be.

She wondered how exhausting that got to be after a while.

"No word about Stiles yet?" Lydia asked.

"None. The Sheriff got a text from him that said he was fine and not to look for him. That he'd be back. But who knows who really composed that text." Scott said.

Allison sent him a serious look. "We have to tell Stilinski what's really wrong with Stiles."

"You sound like Derek." he mumbled.

"Well Derek has a point. His dad thinks Stiles has dementia and freaked out and ran away. Even your mom this morning said if anyone was going to be missing for two days and come back just fine, it would be Stiles. But Stiles isn't Stiles right now."

"Those scans showed he does have frontotemperal dementia." Scott reminded her, although even he didn't look fully convinced. Maybe it was just denial for coping purposes.

"But who knows if those are even real? If this 'trickster' spirit really is inside Stiles, who's to say it couldn't do something that messed up?"

"Okay. Well. We'll have to meet up with everyone later to further talk about stuff. We have to get to school."

Lydia didn't know how she was going to concentrate on classes. She had been trying to throw her all into them the last couple days, keep busy, but with Stiles missing from the seat next to her in a few of them, it was hard to keep her mind from straying before long.

She was grateful when she made it to lunch time. It meant she could meet up with Scott and Allison and feel normal for feeling so worried.

Allison chewed on her caesar wrap as she read her phone screen.

"Derek said he's on his way to talk to my dad. What the hell does he want to talk to him about?" She quickly typed back.

"Maybe he wants to ask more about the night your dad confronted the Oni all those years ago?" Lydia offered. She knew they all were researching to the best of their abilities everything they could about nogitsunes, Oni, and possession in general. They did not want this whole thing to end like The Exorcist.

"He said there was one of his emitters in his loft." Allison said when her phone pinged.


"My family used them to ward off werewolves. They send off a ringing sound that only the supernatural can hear. They used to use them to help hunt them down, trap them in a certain area."

Scott shifted uncomfortably. Lydia had a feeling Allison's family's werewolf hunting days still brought up some unhappy memories.

His body language suddenly changed and he stood up, body on full alert.

"What is it?" Allison asked, getting to her feet as well, Lydia following.

"I hear one."

"An emitter?"

"Yeah, there's one somewhere in the school. Sounds like it might be coming from the basement."

"Let's go." Lydia said, packing up her stuff.

Scott hesitated. "It could be a trap."

"From who?"

They all met eyes and quickened their pace out of the cafeteria. If it was a trap from the nogitsune, that meant Stiles' body was in the building.

Scott went first down the basement hallway, holding up an arm to guard the two girls behind him. Lydia felt her breath halt in her chest when she saw the ring dagger Allison had hidden under her sleeve.

The brunette at the end of the corridor turned slowly and immediately raised his hands in surrender, a glowing silver instrument in his hand.

"Okay, I know what you guys are thinking, but it's me. I swear to god, it's me."

"Stay behind me." Scott told the other two, watching his best friend carefully.

Lydia would've listened without the instruction. As much as she wanted to rush to check Stiles over, make sure she was okay, there was a greater force inside her telling her to stay back. That it wasn't safe. And Scott was her best bet for protection.

Stiles' face became earnest. "It's me, Scott. I swear, it's me. I don't know where I've been the last few days or what I've been doing, but this is me, I promise."

"Do you know what happened at the hospital?" Allison asked from her spot behind her boyfriend, her stance wary.

"I know more than that." he told them, eyes flickering to Lydia before crossing the room to a bag on the floor. He began pulling things out. He held up a folded piece of paper. "You see this? It's a blueprint of the hospital's electrical wiring." He spread it out on the floor for them to see. "You see all these markings in red? That's my handwriting. I know I did this. I caused the accident. And everything in this bag, it's all stuff that can be a part of something bigger."

"What the hell have you been up to?" Allison asked, horrified like the others.

"I think something worse. A lot worse." Stiles said softly.

"Guys, it's not me. Listen to me. Hear ME! Guys! Don't trust him! He's lying to you! Get away from him! From me! There's a bomb! Tell my dad! Tell the station to evacuate!" Stiles screamed from inside, but his mouth didn't form any words.

Scott straightened up. "We need to figure out what the plan is."

The nogitsune continued, unperturbed by Stiles' screams. "I found another blueprint. It's of the high school."

"Do you think he used this for when Barrow was there?"

"Well, Barrow tried to set off a bomb there, remember? Or that's what we thought? What if the nogitsune wants to do that again?"

"You guys need to take a look at this." Allison said, having been digging through the bag. "Wrapping paper… I'm assuming the nogitsune isn't delivering birthday presents out of the goodness of his heart."

"Wasn't that William Barrow's thing? A bomb made from nails and bolts, all wrapped like a birthday present." Lydia said worriedly. "Where did it go off?"

"On a school bus." Scott said hoarsely. "We need to get to Beacon Hills High now. Call the Sheriff."

"No, no, no. GUYS! It's a distraction! He's tricking you! Scott! Please! Allison! Lydia! Listen to me!" Stiles screeched.

"They can't hear you. They're falling right into place."

"You son of a bitch, I swear, when I get out of here…"

"Oh Stiles, you and I are going to have so much fun together. Don't worry. You won't be getting out of here any time soon."


"Lydia…?" Allison asked, confused over why she paused.

She shook her head. "Sorry. Nothing. Just thought I heard… something."

A flicker of something crossed Stiles' face, but it was gone so quick. Lydia moved forward down the hallway, not bothering to ask what it was. He probably would try to convince her to listen to her powers, to trust them, and he didn't know how much they recently put him at risk. She didn't want to bring that all up when they just found him.

Plus, she didn't know how she could have heard the faint scream of her name from Stiles when he was right next to her. Her 'powers' were useless.

They arrived at the school, and by then, the whole place was in a panic.

An ambulance was already there, as well as several deputies and Stiles' dad.

"What the hell happened? Are we too late?" Allison demanded.

Kira came running from across the parking lot.

"What's Kira doing here?" Lydia said in surprise.

"Guys. Perfect timing. I have to tell you what I found out." Kira said breathlessly.

Allison steadied her. "Okay, but first, what the hell happened?"

"Oh, yeah, that. Um, Coach Finstock was sort of… shot with an arrow." she said with a grimace.

"How the hell did that happen? Is he going to be okay?"

"Yeah, it got him in the stomach. He had taken students out on the cross-country trail and he hit a trip wire and bam."

"Damn." Scott looked around the crowd. "It gathered way too much attention. There are too many people here. Even more that will get hurt."

"What are you talking about?" Kira asked.

"We think there's a bomb. Or that there will be. On one of the school buses."

"There are a few out on a field trip that are due back any minute."

"How do you know all this?" Allison asked her, amused but grateful.

"My dad works here, remember? He was talking about how bummed he was that he couldn't go, but marine biology doesn't really relate to history. I actually came to meet him for lunch and saw him talking to my mom in his classroom. And I found out she was the one who has summoned the Oni. She's been breaking her tails—"

"Excuse me? Her tails?" Lydia said incredulously. She had heard of some supernatural craziness, but Kira's mom having actual tails, meaning Kira might too, was just a little beyond her comprehension level at the moment.

"They're not tail tails… they're like… knive-looking things. I don't really know how it works, but kitsunes earn them. She snaps them, Oni come, I guess. Anyways. She definitely knows more about everything than she's let on. We have to get more information from her. Later, you know, when people's lives aren't at immediate risk." Kira said sheepishly.

"That's really helpful, Kira, thank you. We'll do that later for sure." Scott told her honestly.

He slipped through the crowd to check on Coach Finstock, and Lydia watched in fascination as he placed a hand on his arm and black coursed up his veins. Scott's eyes screwed shut, and she understood that that was what it looked like when he took people's pain. She knew he could do so—he had done so earlier with Isaac—but she hadn't actually seen it done. Of course Scott would try to make it easier on the man.

The paramedic looked grateful that his patient had quit shouting complaints as loudly. Scott excused himself and headed back over.

Lydia finally noticed Stiles had slipped away and was talking to his dad, who enveloped him in a hug. She was glad they could have a reunion.

Stiles, on the other hand, wasn't as thrilled. The real Stiles.

"Get away from him."

"Where were you? What made you run?" his dad asked.

"I uh… heard the diagnosis. The mic was on. I just… freaked out, Dad. I'm sorry."

"You lying son of a bitch. I would never bolt for two days and leave him to deal with that on his own. Not after everything he went through with Mom—"

"It's okay, Stiles. I know it was a lot. I was just… worried. With your… It doesn't matter, okay? As long as you're safe."

"I'm sorry I scared you. I just needed some time to think."

His dad pulled him into a second close hug. "You're here now. I'm glad you're home."

Stiles nodded against his will.

"Dad, dad, please. You know me. You know it's not me."

"The buses are here. Gotta go. We'll talk later, 'kay?"

"Dad! Dad!"

Stiles' body moved back to where his friends were, no indication that he was screaming.

"Coach got shot with an arrow." Allison said when he rejoined them.

"Oh, I bet he's taking it well. How dramatic is he being?"

Scott smirked. "Academy Award winning."

Stiles felt his face melt into a frown. "That was my doing, wasn't it?"

They all exchanged a look.

Stiles ran a hand through his hair. "I could have killed him. I could have killed him, right? What if it was his head or his throat—"

"But it wasn't. And he's going to be all right." Scott promised. He clasped his best friend on the shoulder supportively.

Stiles nodded.

The police were talking with the teachers present on the field trip. The Sheriff was directing people around, saying orders into his radio, and they knew then that something had happened.

Word spread fast through the crowd as everyone collected behind deputy guarded lines. There was a birthday present wrapped in the same paper they found in Stiles' bag on the bus, on one of the student's laps. It hadn't gone off yet, but maybe it was just a matter of time.

There were several deputies there, and Stiles' dad, keeping the students back and away from the area the best they could.

"Sheriff!" Scott shouted. "Do you guys know if it's really a bomb?"

"We're waiting for the bomb squad. They're… delayed."

"Delayed?! But it could go off at any moment!"

"Yes, Scott, I'm aware of that, but there are protocols…"

"Screw that." one of the deputies said that was next to him, heading to the van to start unloading gear.

"Parrish! What the hell do you think you're doing?"

Scott stepped back as they proceeded to argue, the deputy apparently convincing him enough to let him go on the bus.

Lydia watched the exchange from her spot next to Allison, not realizing she was leaning slightly away from Stiles.

She hoped he hadn't noticed. She wasn't meaning to be so wary of him. It was a gut instinct. It was stupid. She had always felt so safe with him. But he wasn't really 'him' anymore, not completely, right? It was only natural?

"Okay, now neither my dad nor Derek are getting back to me. What the hell is going on?" Allison muttered under her breath, checking her phone for the umpteenth time. "My dad has been looking for Stiles nonstop. You'd think he'd respond enthusiastically when I let him know we found him."

"Maybe he and Derek are working on something together?"

"Without talking to us about it first? That would be interesting. They're not exactly the type to get along. It's usually more of a last resort thing, like when they went to see Katashi."

"Really? Why not?"

"Hmm, I think it has something to do with my family being werewolf hunters for generations, or the fact that my dad's sister burned almost all of Derek's family alive."

Lydia swallowed. "Oh. Right."

Allison smiled at her. "Sorry. I can be a little blunt when it comes to my family history."

"Well, at least you get right to the point." she replied with a grin.

"It's not a bomb, sir, but there is something in the box." a voice came through the loudspeaker.

Everyone looked up as Parrish placed a nameplate against the windshield of the bus so they could read it.

Sheriff Stilinski.

It looked like a desk nameplate.

"Oh god. There's a bomb, but not here." the Sheriff muttered.

He was immediately on the phone, and the four of them all looked at each other.

It was the Sheriff's station that was under attack.

Chapter Text

"Get me an ambulance here at the Sheriff's station. We've got an explosion. We have multiple officers down. Multiple officers down. We need an ambulance ASAP. On the double." the Sheriff was shouting into the phone.

Stiles could barely keep his thoughts straight, the destruction they walked into at the station, and it had nothing to do with the fox spirit possessing his mind.

His dad's entire office was splintered and there was glass and destruction everywhere. It appeared that the delivery that morning into his office that was supposed to be just batteries and office supplies was actually a bomb all wrapped up. Stiles, of course, had known, but it's not as though his voice was heard anywhere outside of his head.

The one thing that did surprise him, however, was the sight of Derek and Allison's dad together next to the Sheriff's office. Derek had glass shards all in his back, Argent holding him up and looking at him in awe, so clearly something was happening there. They normally were civil, enough to work together when needed, but anything more than that was unusual.

Stiles wanted to go talk to Derek, or ask somebody else to, but his body was moving to look at the different bloodied bodies. He could feel the power surging through his cells, like he had just had some sort of power-up, and he wondered if maybe the nogitsune had.

Didn't someone say something about the nogitsune being drawn to chaos, pain and strife? Wasn't that exactly what this was?

"Scott? Scott?" he heard his voice say as he got closer to a dying deputy. His best friend rushed over.

Scott climbed over and squatted next to him as the man spluttered, blood likely caught in his throat.

His voice shook. "Can you do something? Take his pain? Anything to make it easier?"

Scott grasps his hand and does as asked, black coursing up his arm. The man's eyes turned to Scott, his face crumpled in pain and he grunted before taking his final breath.

Stiles watched, feeling his heart wrench, as Scott's horrified face showed his shock and he shakily gave the deceased man his hand back, placing it against his chest.

Stiles' dad was shouting at them, gesturing them to get the hell out of there, to move, to leave.

Stiles was still staring at the man in front of them, his mind caught up in the fact that he played a part in that man's life ending. The nogitsune didn't turn his face away, letting him absorb it all.

Scott was pulling on him, yanking him towards the door.

"We need an ambulance."

Kira came rushing through the door.

"The Oni. They're coming." It was dark out now. What if they came to the station? Killed more than were already dying?

Scott was the first to react. "Stiles, we gotta get you out of here."

Scott, maybe you should let them kill him. Even if it means killing me. Look what he's done already—what we've done…

No one heard a thing.

Allison and Lydia had gone to find out what had happened with Allison's dad and Derek, why the hell they were at the police station ahead of them, in what looked like at the time of the bombing, and Stiles, Kira and Scott were heading to the vet clinic.

"The animal clinic?" Kira asked in surprise when Scott suggested it.

"Yeah, the place is lined with mountain ash, just like my house. It'll buy us some time."

"But they can get through?"

"Eventually." Scott admitted.

Stiles drove, scrunching his face in his typical skeptical manner. "No one's got any better ideas? Okay, sure, animal clinic."

He continued down the road, wipers going to swipe away the rain. It was starting to rain harder.

It wasn't far to the animal clinic from the station. Stiles braked hard and they piled out quickly, knowing getting inside behind the mountain ash safety net was crucial.

But the Oni appeared before they made it all the way in.

Scott tossed his clinic keys at Stiles immediately.

"Stiles, get inside!"

Stiles expected Kira to follow as he raced over, but she didn't.

"Hey, Kira, get inside! Kira!"

But she had joined the fight, grabbing a pipe since she didn't have her katana handy. She used her ninja-like skills on the Japanese warriors, Scott striking them with claws and hand-to-hand combat. He dodged slices and scrapes until one particular sword stabbed him right through his middle, clean to the other side.

Stiles felt his insides freeze, but it was Kira who screamed out in anguish at the sight.

She went straight for the Oni in question, doing a high kick into its chest so it stumbled back.

Stiles ran over to help, grasping Scott and holding him upright.

"All right, come on, get him inside. Get him inside."

Scott was gasping, clearly in a lot of pain, as they escorted him inside and locked the doors behind them. Not that the Oni used doors but they didn't need any other unwelcome visitors.

"It's okay, Scott, okay? You can't heal until it's out, so I'm going to take it out, okay?" Kira told him as he nodded.

Before she could grasp around the handle, Stiles' hand shot out to grab her wrist.

She looked at him in surprise, Scott's face twisting in shock, but, expressionless, Stiles slammed her down so her head hit the table.

She crumpled to the floor, unconscious.

Scott stared at him, terrified, and Stiles, the real Stiles, felt his insides pain at how scared his best friend looked. He'd never seen him direct that look to him, and it hurt. It hurt a lot.

His body breathed in deeply.

"You okay?" he asked, sincerity almost in his tone and on his face.

Scott shook his head. "Please don't. Stop."

His fingers twiddled over the handle before gripping it. "It's okay."

He placed one hand on Scott's shoulder as he tightened his grip. And then his expression mutated as he began twisting the sword back and forth, cutting into Scott's flesh like butter. He was so much stronger this way.

Scott screeched out, gasping and choking on the pain, groaning at the action.

"Does that hurt? Hey, look at me. You should have done your reading, Scott." His voice was so different from Stiles', so cold and dark. His eyes seemed darker too, void of their usual playful light. "See, a nogitsune feeds off chaos, strife and pain. This morning, you took it from Isaac, then you took it from Coach, and then from a dying deputy. All that pain, you took it all." He sucked in a deep breath and his voice dropped to a more menacing level. "Now. Give it to me."

He touched Scott's face and sucked all the pain out of him, every last ounce. It was like when Scott did it, black coursing through their veins, except Stiles had never seen the opposing party look pained, whereas Scott was barely able to stand up. He gasped for air as Stiles drank in the power, the fire igniting his bones. He knew what the demon was talking about—he could feel the power thrumming inside him.

Stiles' face was grinning maliciously, amusement clearly shining through. "You really have to learn, Scott. You really have to learn not to trust a fox." He could see Scott processing, thinking back throughout the day, realizing he hadn't had his best friend back at all. "Mm-mm. No, 'cause they're tricksters. They'll fool you. They'll fool everyone."

"Not everyone." an authoritative voice interrupted, Deaton stepping next to them.

The one possessing him may not know yet, but Stiles knew he was in trouble.

Deaton plunged a needle into his neck, injecting some sort of serum, and Stiles felt his hands reach out in the hopes of balancing, gripping onto Deaton's shirt. But he was too weak. His body collapsed to the floor, legs like jelly.

Everything went black.

Stiles woke up groggily, blinking awake his heavy eyelids. It felt like his body had been drugged. He wanted to keep sleeping, but he knew he had to get up.

He weakly sat up, rubbing his eyes, and his breath caught in his throat.

His body had responded to him.

His hands had done what he asked. His chest halted its breathing when he got caught off-guard.

Eyes wide, Stiles held his hands out in front of him, flexing his fingers as he swiveled his hand back and forth. He touched his face, bit his lip, swallowed the lump in his throat.

This time, the tears fell. He was him. He was in control of himself again.

What happened before he passed out came rushing back.

"Scott? Scott?" he called out hoarsely.

The alpha werewolf came rushing into the room, falling to his knees in front of him as his eyes scanned his face.

"I… I'm so sorry." Stiles whispered brokenly, tears falling, but Scott tugged him into a tight hug. "You're… you must be in pain, you don't have to…"

"Shut up." Scott mumbled, breathing a sigh of relief. "I'm sorry I didn't believe you sooner. I'm sorry I didn't realize it wasn't you all day. I should've listened to you, at the high school in the chemistry classroom, when you said something was wrong…"

Stiles shook his head, getting control over his emotions now. "Don't blame yourself. It was way beyond anything we could've imagined."

"What matters is that you're okay, that you're you. You're not in the clear yet, we have to figure out how to get him out of you, but at least we have you to help us. You're the one always figuring things out."

Stiles smiled slightly, grateful for his best friend's faith, and he struggled to lift himself to his feet.

Scott followed, hissing painfully as his abdomen moved in the action.

"I'm okay." he promised, seeing Stiles' heartbroken expression. "I know that wasn't you. It's healing. It's just going to take a little time."

"How's Kira?" Stiles suddenly asked, remembering the way she had slammed into the table thanks to the nogitsune.

"She's okay. Deaton's looking after her in another room. She just got knocked out. Might have a slight concussion, but nothing too serious. It's okay."

Stiles' guilt wasn't turned off that easily, but he nodded anyways.

They both turned in direction to the front of the clinic when they heard the sound of the bell. Someone had just come in.

"We're closed…" Scott muttered, heading out to the front desk. "Stay here, Stiles."

He sighed and acquiesced.

"What are you doing here?" he heard Scott ask, but he didn't sound upset.

"We were worried about you guys. Where are Stiles and Kira?"


"Out back. Sorry we disappeared so quickly. I texted you, but I didn't see where you went at the station."

"We went to check on my dad and Derek. Figure out why they were there, how they knew."


"Well, according to Derek, when he went to confront my dad about the emitter in his loft, they got in a… disagreement. By the sounds of it, once their testosterone died down, my dad noticed the closet in his office was open. There was a briefcase of money in there, the same one that Katashi had offered Derek when he was posing as a gun seller. They had never taken the money though, since my dad was really there to ask about the Oni, so it didn't make sense why he had it. But then your dad burst in, arrest warrant in hand for Katashi's murder, and since both my dad and Derek were seen on Katashi's cameras and with the briefcase they left without, they got brought in to the station." Allison breathed. "They now think it was Stiles' doing, or, well, the nogitsune's. My dad knew them getting arrested wasn't the real reason they were there—that there had to be another plot going on. And then, when the Sheriff called to alert the station of the bomb in their midst, the chaos confirmed it. Derek used his supernatural hearing to pick up the sound of the bomb right before it went off and dove to cover my dad just as it went off. He's full of glass, but he saved my dad's life. My dad was pretty impressed with that and took him to get patched up. I don't know what's going to happen on the legal side of things, everything is in chaos over there right now, so since there wasn't more me and Lydia could do, we came here."

Stiles felt his nerves double. Lydia was there too. He sort of figured, what with Allison saying 'we', but having it confirmed made him weak in the knees. He didn't know what to say to her. She had been acting wary of him forever. How would she be now that she knew the truth? That he had been so convincing earlier?

"Did the Oni come?" Lydia asked Scott.

"They did. But they didn't get to him. Me and Kira fended them off, for the most part."

"For the most part? What does that mean?"

"Come on. Let's talk out back."

Stiles prepared himself to see them, inhaling deeply as they rounded the corner.

"You okay?" Allison asked, looking him over for any signs of pain.

He grimaced. "I'm fine."

Lydia, however, was studying him like a complicated math equation. Her eyes were narrowed in concentration, lip between her teeth.

"Lydia?" Allison said in confusion.

But Lydia's face relaxed and broke into a smile. "It's really you."

He smiled in return. "It's me."

She crossed the room to hug him close. He breathed in the smell of her hair. Strawberries.

"We've had you back all day…?" Allison said slowly, then looked over to Scott. "Haven't we?"

"Not exactly." Stiles said, figuring it was about time to start explaining the full truth about the day they had had.

Kira and Deaton eventually rejoined them as Stiles rehashed the details of his possession, the plans he knew that the nogitsune had done, the way he gained power, and how dark his mind truly was.

It took some time, getting it all out on the table, trying to explain the things he had learned along the way, like about Kira's mother.

Kira had already known her mother had summoned the Oni, thanks to seeing her at school, but even she seemed surprised by Stiles' comment about her mother's conversation with him at the hospital.

Another bell sounded, and Stiles stopped talking instantly. Who else could be there?

Correction: who else could be there that was on their side?

"Stay here. All of you." Scott ordered, going to greet the new visitor. "What are you doing here?"

Unlike earlier, his voice was much less enthusiastic.

Noshiko's voice was clear, even as far away as they were collected.

"Hand over the Nogitsune."

"That's Stiles back there."

"For now. The fox is only poisoned, not dead."

"We are not killing my best friend." Scott argued, his alpha power radiating in his voice.

"Your friend is already gone. The nogitsune just is using his body."

Lydia moved closer to Stiles, wrapping a protective arm around his waist.

He wasn't ready to admit how much he had missed her touch, missed her in the last while.

"Wait, how do you know he's been poisoned?"

"I'm connected to the Oni. They can sense these things."

"We know you summoned the Oni. Tell us what you know about the nogitsune. I'd be happy to kill the nogitsune, when it's not living inside my best friend."

"There is no way to separate Void from its host. You may be able to keep it at bay for now, with the wolf lichen serum in his veins, but once it runs out, the nogitsune will be at full power again. And your best friend will only be able to watch while he destroys everything."

"You sound as though you're speaking from experience."

"It's been a long time since he was taken down, but he's undefeatable. When you gave power back to the Nemeton, you knew there would be consequences. You knew you were messing with magic and supernatural beings you couldn't even wrap your minds around. You think what he's done so far is bad? You have no idea what he's capable of."

"So tell us. Help us fight this."

"The only way to fight is to kill the host, to subdue Void into a state where he can be contained."

"You will not kill Stiles."

"Then prepare to watch this city, the world, meet its destruction. All for one teenage boy."

"We will find a way."

"And you'll cost many their lives in the process, only to realize the truth I am trying to tell you. Your friend has no hope. Void needs to be stopped now, while he's not in control."

"I'm not killing my best friend. I'll find a way."

"Don't be a fool, Scott McCall."

"You can see yourself out. You're not welcome here." he said coldly before returning to his friends.


"Stiles, I don't want to hear it. We're not letting anyone hurt you. It's not your fault this happened to you." Scott argued immediately.

Stiles looked down, mouth closing. He wasn't entirely sure he was right.

"What do we do now?" Lydia asked.

"Hit the books, I guess. Try to figure out how to beat this. Our one known source that knew about nogitsunes is dead, and the other is hell bent on killing Stiles. There has to be another way."

Stiles admired Scott's optimism. He wished he felt the same.

He looked to Deaton. "How long… how long will it last?"

He didn't need him to explain. "Not long."

Stiles nodded. "Then we need to get me somewhere quick. Somewhere I can't hurt anyone."

"Like where?" Allison asked.

Stiles swallowed. "Eichen House."

Stiles dug through his dresser drawers, not really sure what clothes to wear. Sweats and a t-shirt, he guessed, but he wasn't sure if they'd put him in something else once he checked in.

Was there any point in packing anything? He wouldn't be allowed to do much.

He ran a hand through his hair, exhaling slowly. He knew this was the right decision, but making it wasn't easy.

Scott had stopped him before he left the clinic earlier, reminding him that Eichen House might not be the best idea. That Scott couldn't help him once he was in there.

But Stiles knew that, knew that getting in wouldn't be possible. No matter what trouble he faced, he'd have to survive it for 72 hours.

But, he had said to Scott what he needed to know.

"I can't help you once you're in there." Scott had said.

"And I can't hurt you."

"Deaton's got some ideas, Argent's calling people. We're going to find something. And if we can't…"

"If you can't… if you can't, then you need to do something for me, okay? Make sure I never get out."

It had hurt to see the pained expression on Scott's face, but he needed him to understand. The lichen poison would wear off, Void would come back full force, and it was unlikely that they would figure something out before the three days were up.

His dad was heading to LA tomorrow to speak to a specialist about his MRI scans. He wanted to find out more, see what they could do.

Isaac was finally out of the hospital, having gotten out earlier that evening, but Stiles didn't have time to go see him. They may not always get along, but he was grateful he was okay and wouldn't have objected to checking in on him. But Derek was taking good care of him, and hopefully he'd be back to full health soon. For now, Stiles had other things to worry about.

He looked up when he heard a soft knock on his open door. He assumed it was his dad coming in to check if he was ready.

A shy strawberry-blonde stood in his doorway instead.



She seemed more hesitant than usual, and he hadn't been oblivious to the wariness she sported around him these days.

"Come in, please." he added, stopping what he was doing so she knew she had his full attention.

She grimaced and closed the door quietly behind herself.

"I'm sorry to stop by unannounced."

"It's fine, Lydia. You're welcome any time. What's up?"

"I think you know." she said, stepping in front of him and raising an eyebrow.

He sighed. "They're already expecting me. They have a room for me, it's only 72 hours…"

"Stiles, there are so many things that could go wrong. Have you even fully thought this through? Why do you feel a pull to go there of all places?"

"We have to figure out Void's connection to there. Barrow was admitted there. The bomb at the police station was in a thing of screws just like the shrapnel bomb he set off years ago. There has to be a reason out of all the psychopathic murderers out there, he chose Barrow. There might be something helpful there, someone who knows more."

"Maybe he just chose him because he's a sociopath who has experience witnessing the supernatural. Stiles, I really don't think this is a good idea…"

He caught her wringing hands and pulled them to his chest, shutting her up.

His knees bent to lower himself to her eye level.

"Lydia, it's just for a few days, until we come up with a better plan. I promise I'll be back as soon as I can."

"I have a really bad feeling about this. About that place."

"He can regain power at any time, and with my diagnosis as it is, it's better for everyone that I am somewhere that keeps me inside."

"We don't even know if those scans are real."

"We also don't know if they're not real. My dad's going down to LA tomorrow to talk to a specialist. And whether they are or not, it's no mystery that I haven't been myself lately."

"Eichen House is not a safe place, Stiles. Not for anyone. And you're going to be stuck in there, with no way of letting us know that you're okay…"

"I know."

"So, stop packing! Stop talking about it like it's no big deal!" Lydia couldn't help raising her voice slightly, her emotions getting the better of her.

"Lydia, I have to go. And soon. So talk to me. Tell me the real reason why you don't you want me to go so badly."

"Because…" She went quiet, and he knew she was reprocessing her words. There was more to it. "Look… there are actual crazy people in there, okay? And… not everyone comes out of there alive. I…" She looked down, but he didn't miss the glisten of moisture in her green eyes. "I have better friends here in Beacon Hills than I've ever had anywhere. And you're the whole reason for that. You… you're my best friend, Stiles. I can't lose you. I can't."


She turned away, just out of reach from his outstretched hand.

"Look, I get it. You'll be fine. You'll be okay. Even if you're locked in there forever, or if Void takes over and gets trapped in there like a mental patient while you get to watch like some sick TV show. But what about me? What am I supposed to do without you? I can't do this without you, Stiles, not all of this. I… I need you. Please." she begged, not even bothering to hold back the tears overtaking her body. She was practically sobbing now, and Stiles' face looked utterly heartbroken at the state of her, but she couldn't help it. This was all too much. "I'm sorry, but Stiles, I-I… I need you. I can't lose you too. Please, don't go. Please stay. We can figure this out. Together."

He cupped her face, turning her to him, eyes wet now too.

"Lyds… when he gets control back, and he will, I won't be me. He may pretend to be me, but I'm stuck inside him, screaming my throat raw and he doesn't make a sound. I want to fight alongside you, I do, but this isn't one of those times that that's possible. You have to be strong. Know that I believe in you. That I'm fighting as hard as I can to get back to all of you."

She nodded, sniffling and letting him dry her face with his thumbs. "I know. I'm sorry."

"You know, I think you look really beautiful when you cry."

She rolled her eyes, but she giggled against her will, and the corners of his lips turned upwards at the sound.

"You have no idea how much I've missed you."

Stiles let his hands find her waist, rubbing circles in her lower back. "Right back at you."

"I guess I should let you go, huh? Your dad will come looking for you soon." she mumbled.

He pulled her into a close hug, her face immediately nuzzling into his neck.

"Trust me, I don't want to let you go."

They separated enough to meet eyes, both sets heavy with sadness of the impending farewell.

Without another word, she crossed the distance between them and pulled his face down to hers to meet their lips.

The kiss was long and needy, the built up desperation pouring through her lips into his. His lips tumbled over hers with practiced grace, eager but loving, and his grip on her tightened. Her hands on his neck pulled him closer, not wanting to ever let him go, wanting to keep them locked together while the world passed them by because this was what safety felt like. Stiles' hands on her waist, his scent in her nose, his skin under her fingers, his lips on hers. He was breathing her in, kissing her, everything about him so gentle.

When they finally broke apart, she bowed her head, letting the tears fall recklessly. He reached out to wipe them away.

"Please don't cry, Lydia."

She forced a watery smile, touching the hand cupping her cheek to hold it there as she looked up at him. "I'm okay. I'll be okay. Just… do what you have to do. We'll get through this."

Stiles looked like he was fighting himself about saying something, but his mouth closed and she knew the decision was made. If he was hesitating on saying what she wanted to hear, she knew he was right to. Now wasn't the time for that kind of exchange.

He pulled her into a close hug, pressing a long kiss to the top of her head, his grip on her making it clear that leaving her was a hard struggle.

But he let go, kissing her softly on the lips once more, making her want to lean in for more, but he had already swept away.

"Be careful, okay?"

Stiles smiled at her from his bedroom doorway, angling his head to try to mask the tears in his eyes. "You too, Lydia. Stay safe."

And with that, he was gone.

Lydia walked over to his window and watched him get in the Sheriff's car. Moments later, it peeled away down the street.

Hot tears blurred her vision and she collapsed back on his bed, hugging his pillow that still smelled like him to her chest as the sobs crawled out of her throat.

She hadn't even been able to tell him her true adversary to Eichen House, but she doubted it would've mattered. He was determined. And now she was scared she'd never see him again.

This wasn't the way they were supposed to be.

Stiles couldn't help his eyes from wandering over his new 'friends' as he and his dad walked through the lobby.

There was a guy contorting himself in his wheelchair to watch Stiles, a sinister smirk on his lips. Another girl stared blankly at him from behind a caged door while stroking her hair, as if she was plotting something.

"Mr. Stilinski. This way please." a nurse called out, smile on her lips that didn't quite reach her eyes.

Stiles led the way, his dad following closely behind.

She handed the paperwork to his dad, the consent form for the admittance, and began going over the rules for his stay.

"First 72 hours, there's no phone calls, no emails, no visitors. We will be taking you from here to a brief physical. In the morning, you'll be assessed by a staff psychologist, speak to a social worker and attend group therapy."

Sounds fun. he added bitterly in his head. Would they be able to tell he had something darker inside him and lock him in there for life regardless?

"I feel like we're forgetting something." his dad said, clearly distracted by the noises in the institution. Frequent doors closing, people vocalizing their distaste, and typical sounds associated with an old building were floating through the air into the office.

The nurse, unperturbed by his dad's comment, passed him foam slip-on shoes.

"You'll be wearing these, Stiles. No laces allowed. You don't have a belt, do you?"

He shook his head.

She placed a white bin on the desk. "Please empty your pockets in here."

He dug through to drag out his change, phone, keys, and wallet.

"Your pillow. Your pillow. We forgot your pillow."

Damn. He had forgotten it. When Lydia stopped by, her visit had thrown his concentration way off. He still couldn't get the kiss out of his mind.

"Dad, it's okay." he promised.

"No, no, you're never going to be able to fall asleep. We've got to go back."

"It's fine, Dad. I don't need it."

"I can't believe I forget it. I mean, every time we've ever stayed in a hotel, the first thing you pack is your pillow."

"You'll bring it tomorrow. It's all right." he added, nodding to the nurse to let her know they could continue.

"Okay, you know what, stop. Stop. Enough. Stiles, get your stuff. I'm not checking you in here if you're not going to get one good night's sleep." his dad said in frustration, standing up.

Stiles forced a smile at him and got up. "Dad. I haven't had a good night's sleep in weeks."

He hugged him, biting his lip when his dad tightened his grip on him, knowing that it was killing him to check his son into a place like the one he was. He couldn't imagine how hard this was on his dad, after dealing with everything that happened with his late wife.

He followed the nurse down a series of hallways, glancing back to see his dad watching forlornly before turning away.

Stiles sat through his physical exam, mostly bored and answering any questions they asked while they prodded him. It was only brief, so eventually, he resumed following the nurse to where he'd be spending the night.

The sleepless night, but he was getting pretty used to that by now.

They reached the main staircase, that wrapped around itself to the many floors above.

The nurse was talking, but he was distracted by another voice on what sounded like it might be the top floor. He was repeating some weird phrases as he knotted something to the railing.

"I'm the part of the bird that's not in the sky."

"Hey do you see that?" Stiles asked the nurse as they walked, trying to crane his neck to see up the few floors and beyond the railing.

"I'm the part of the bird that's not in the sky."

He moved faster, trying to get up there. He had a bad feeling.

The nurse was impatient. "Stiles, wait for me."

"I'm the part of the bird that's not in the sky. I'm the part of the bird that's not in the sky."

"That guy up there." He started to say, not really sure how to finish. He picked up his pace.

"I can swim in the ocean yet still remain dry. I can swim in the ocean yet still remain dry. I can swim in the ocean yet still remain dry."

"Hey, stop him!" Stiles shouted, seeing the guy's feet as he climbed to the railing.

There was no doubting what was going to happen. The knotted sheets had formed a noose, and it was around his neck.

"I can swim in the ocean yet still remain dry. I can swim in the ocean yet still remain dry."

"Somebody stop him!" Stiles hollered.

But the man stepped off the ledge and the sounds of bone snapping echoed through the building.

The nurse he was with gasped, but Stiles was distracted by the whispers below and looked down to see a group of people collected, gossiping about the event.

Among them, a fully bandaged man in a leather jacket snarled amusedly as he slipped away from the crowd.


Maybe Lydia was right. This place wasn't safe for anyone at all. Especially him.

Chapter Text

Stiles sat on the edge of his bed, watching the light begin to stream through the barred windows.

It had been a long night. Despite his reassurance to his dad, he had known full well that he wouldn't get any sleep without his pillow, so he didn't bother. It's not as though sleep deprivation was something new to him.

Stiles had a mission for the day. Amongst his mandatory group therapy and psychological evaluations, he needed to get to a phone despite what he had been told the day before.

The rules were clear upon admission—no phone calls for the first 72 hours. And, although he tried to convince the nurse last night while she near-shoved him into his room that he could make the call quick and that it was urgent, he hadn't been granted his plea.

But today, he had to. If the fox possessing him was poisoned, then why was he seeing him in Eichen House? Did that mean he was back to square one or that he wasn't as poisoned as they thought?

He needed to talk to Scott, to get the pack working on it. They needed to figure things out before the nogitsune took full control again.

He wondered what they were all doing, but then he realized the most of them must be sleeping. It had to be early morning.

He knew his dad was leaving at the crack of dawn to head to LA, so maybe he was already on the road. He'd stop for coffee, probably a bagel, or maybe a breakfast sandwich since Stiles wasn't there to nag him about the unnecessary cholesterol levels.

Scott, usually a sound sleeper, probably tossed and turned a bit before exhaustion took over. Hopefully he was still dreaming. Maybe Allison would've snuck over to sleep with him, to keep him at ease. It's something she would do.

Lydia… It was hard to think about Lydia.

His mind had had trouble staying far from her all night. It had gone back and forth to what the supernatural side of things could mean, his conversations with his dad and Scott, and of course his goodbye to Lydia.

She had been so devastated, broken down in a way he had never seen her do so before, and it had shattered his heart.

And then kissing her… he could get completely immersed in that memory. He had fantasized about kissing her for months, but he never wanted to cross that line prematurely. He had sensed she felt the same way at times, but other times he'd worried he was misreading things, because she was way out of his league.

But then she kissed him, and he forgot about all of that. Forgot about being possessed, about being insecure, about all the hell he'd brought into her life, and he just gave himself over to her.

Leaving her, broken, crying, and after such a long awaited moment, was one of the hardest things he'd ever had to do. Especially since he wasn't entirely sure he was making it out of Eichen House at all.

"Have you been awake all night?"

His roommate, Oliver, said into the quiet from the bed next to him.

He was a little eccentric, but so far harmless despite the fact that they had him in restraints overnight.

"Yeah. I can't sleep without my pillow." he said quietly, eyes flickering to his roommate as he coughed pretty hard. "You okay?"

He nodded as he coughed again. "I swallowed a bug the other day. You ever do that? I keep coughing like it's still in my throat."

Stiles' lips curled. "That's disgusting, Oliver." He looked over to the door, willing it to open already. He was getting really tired of the scenery. "You don't have any idea when they unlock the doors, do you?"

As if on cue, a click sounded.

"Now?" Oliver replied.

Stiles got to his feet instantly, slipping past the nurse who moved inside to release Oliver from his restraints.

Lydia had gone home after saying goodbye to Stiles, heart heavy and eyes wet.

It had taken a while, but exhaustion eventually took over.

Her phone ringing woke her in the morning. It was Allison, letting her know she and Scott were heading over to the animal clinic first thing to talk to Deaton. The pressure was on now that Stiles was locked up and Argent and Derek were still being held for Katashi's murder. They had a lot of detective work to do and needed all the help they could get.

Lydia was let into the clinic by Scott, who gestured her to follow quickly and she joined Deaton and Allison in the back office where Allison's dad was on speaker phone.

"Did you have any trouble with Ikeda?" Argent was asking.

Deaton nodded towards Lydia as a way of greeting when she came in while Allison gave a quick wave.

"Only minor. The white wolf was exactly where you said it would be. But we have two problems now. First, the lichen is not a cure. It'll wear off in a matter of days."

Lydia straightened immediately. They were talking about the poison they gave Stiles. Argent must have suggested a source for the ingredient, and clearly not a necessarily safe ally.

"But while it does work, the Oni won't go after Stiles, right?"

"I hope. Eichen House has an unusual history. It might not be all that safe for the Oni there as well."

Lydia bit her tongue. She had that inkling already. And if the Oni weren't safe, Stiles sure as hell wasn't, seeing as the Oni were apparently impossible to beat.

"What's the second problem?"

"I checked with your contacts in Japan. The yakuza boss you saw killed by the Oni never found the scroll." Deaton explained.

"What scroll?" Allison asked, the item news to them.

"A Shugendo scroll. The Shugendo were the ascetic mystics of Japan."

"The scroll had information on how to exorcise a nogitsune." Argent inputted on the line.

"So we need to find that scroll." Scott said quickly.

Deaton nodded. "Exactly. And I did get a name of the man who last purchased it—Kincaid."

Argent continued. "He was with Katashi. He's the guy who met with Derek to buy the gun. Sounds like Katashi wanted the scroll for himself. But Stilinski already told me nothing like it was found among his things. And a paranoid like Katashi would keep it close. Probably on him at all times."

"What's the Shugendo scroll look like?" Allison suddenly asked.

Deaton got up, pulling an ancient looking rolled scroll out of his files. "Something like this."

"Do these come in different sizes?" she inquired, eying it up and down.

"Any size."

"Then I think I know where it is." she said seriously. "You said Katashi went by a nickname—Silverfinger—due to a prosthetic. If he kept it on him at all times…"

"He hid it in the prosthetic." Scott caught up quickly. "And that wouldn't be amongst his things, because likely they'd bury him with it, right?"

"Not right away, not if he was murdered. They'll need to do thorough examination and autopsy for the murder trial. He's likely holed up somewhere, maybe the morgue." Lydia said.

"Then I say we take a trip there and see what we can find."

"Wait. If Kincaid purchased it for Katashi, he likely knows where he hid it too, and how valuable it is. I doubt he'd let a prize like that go to waste." Allison reminded them.

"We'll bring Kira and Isaac. Derek too. We'll need backup just in case we run into any resistance."

Scott received a text then, pulling out his phone.

His eyebrows furrowed in concern.

"What is it?" Allison asked.

"Stiles' dad… said the specialist didn't give a good answer, but my mom did some research into the old hospital files. The brain scans… Stiles' compared to his mom's. They're identical. There's not even a spot different between them."

"I'm guessing that's not possible?" Argent's voice came over the line.

Scott shook his head, then spoke since Allison's dad couldn't see him. "Not even remotely."

"So it was a trick? The nogitsune used Stiles' mother's disease against him?" Lydia said in confusion.

"Why would he do that?" Allison was just as lost.

"The nogitsune feeds off fear. Maybe it's to give him strength?" Scott suggested.

"Or maybe because he's been in Stiles' head long enough to know him. And he knows that Stiles would do the right thing." Deaton said.

Scott stared. "He knows Stiles would admit himself to Eichen House."

Allison immediately caught up. "He wants Stiles there. There has to be something there that the nogitsune needs. Some… part of its history."

"Dammit. I knew he shouldn't have gone in there." Scott said, pacing in frustration, hand in his hair.

"We need to talk to Stiles—warn him." Lydia demanded.

"He's not allowed any visitors or calls for 72 hours. What are we supposed to do, send smoke signals?" Allison said exasperatedly.

Scott sighed. "We don't know anyone on the inside of there that owes us a favour, huh?"

"No… but you know what, I have an idea." Lydia said, smile forming on her lips.

After eating and his initial psychologist visit, Stiles was finally freed to roam as he pleased. Oliver met up with him and gave him the tour. Stiles only agreed because he knew where the payphone was and he had managed to snag some change out of the cup in the psychologist's office before he was released.

Oliver was rambling off the different people's names, explaining that the violent patients were kept in a closed unit and naming off the others and their conditions. Stiles mostly tuned him out, determined to complete his mission, but he did hear that many of them seemed to be under the impression they were Jesus.

Man, he knew he had his issues, but maybe his friends had been right. He didn't belong here.

"Hey, how come you want to use the phone already?"

"Because after one night, I've changed my mind about this place being safe for me, or anyone, ever."

He could almost hear the 'I told you so' Lydia no doubt would be firing his way if she was there, smug smirk and all.

Damn, he had to get out of here.

There was a girl on the phone when they arrived, Stiles leaning against the wall impatiently.

He picked up on her conversation, not much else for him to concentrate on. He hoped she was almost done.

"No, I think you're wrong. I really think I should tell them. They're going to want to know the story. The whole story. I really think they should know. Yes, I do." Her voice changed, lowering to a fierce whisper. "One of them is standing right behind me."

Stiles straightened up. She was talking about one of the two of them, and Stiles had a feeling it wasn't Oliver. She had said 'them' and as far as Stiles could tell Oliver was a bit of a loner. Although he was plenty nice, everyone else seemed a little caught up in their own psychoses.

'Them' might mean the pack. What did she know? Who was she talking to? Was it about the nogitsune?

She passed them as if they weren't even there. Stiles stared after her as he picked up the phone. "Who was that?"

"That's Meredith. She's a little weird."

He sent him a look as he put the phone to his ear. "You're a little weird. She's a lot weird." He played around with the phone, no dial tone to be heard. "It's dead."

Oliver didn't look surprised. "Yeah. They turn off all the phones for 24 hours after a suicide."

Stiles exhaled. "Why didn't you tell me that before?"

"Why didn't you ask?" he asked, as if Stiles should have known.

Maybe he should go talk to that Meredith girl. He wondered if she'd tell him anything. He wasn't sure how weird she was, but if she knew something, he was desperate to get answers. The whole reason he had admitted himself was to get help from the inside.

He headed in the direction she went in.

"What are you going to do now?"

"Look, you and I can catch up later, okay? I've got to talk to—"

He froze instantly at the sight of a different girl passing by one of the windows inside, a glimpse of her hair flashing through the glass.

Stiles could recognize her anywhere. He broke out into a run.


Before he could finish, he tripped over his own feet, too hasty for his body to catch up and he tumbled to the pavement.

A group of no doubt believed-to-be-Jesus' hanging around started cackling amongst themselves, pointing and jeering like school children.

Stiles wiped himself off, pushing himself up before he paused in confusion.

He was laying above a vent, light pouring down into the room below, and a memory jogged in his mind. Something about the way the light hit the objects made something stir in his mind, in his gut, that made a chill spread across his skin.

His mind flashed to a steel trap on his leg, him shrinking against the wall, shouting at the bandaged figure he had caught a glimpse of earlier, his whole body shivering all over. It had to be the night he was missing, but he woke up outside the coyote den? How could he have dreamed of a place he'd never been? Unless the basement location was courtesy of the demon in his head… which meant—

"Enough!" a voice shouted, silencing the onlookers.

Stiles' head whipped up in surprise, immediately recognizing the woman standing above him.

"Stiles, can you follow me?"

He nodded and followed her lead.

"You saw something, didn't you?"

"The basement. I've been down there before."


He bit his lip. "I'm… I'm not exactly sure." He inhaled. "Look, are you in contact with your brother?"

Morrell was Deaton's sister, their high school guidance counsellor, and typically an ally when it came to the supernatural. She was all about maintaining the balance, the way emissaries are supposed to work, but it meant she wasn't always on their side. It made it difficult to trust her completely, but Stiles was relieved for the familiar face and didn't think anyone would want the nogitsune to take over completely. When Deaton and Argent didn't have any hopeful answers, things were looking bleak.

"My brother doesn't have any answers for you."

Stiles rolled his eyes. She always made it sound like she was telepathic. For all she knew, he could've figured something out that minute. "And you do?"

"I know what those lightning marks are." she told him, nodding towards his neck where some extra coloured veins poked past his t-shirt. "And I know what you need now."

Stiles kept his mouth shut and followed her to some private room towards the back.

She opened a cabinet and removed a vial of pills, raising her eyebrows to prompt him to hold out his hand.

"What are these, sleeping pills?" He wasn't oblivious to the dark circles forming under his eyes.

She shook her head. "Amphetamines. Sleeping is exactly what you don't want to do. You're vulnerable when you're asleep. When the marks fade, the nogitsune's grip over you will return."

"So all I have to do is stay awake?"

"For now. If your friends don't figure something out by the time those marks are gone, I'll come find you."

"To tell me what to do?"

"No, to give you another injection." She pulled out a drug from the cabinet. "Pancuronium bromide. It causes respiratory paralysis."

Stiles chewed his tongue. "That sounds a lot like death."

"It's used in lethal injection, yes." she deadpanned.

He should've known. As always, she may be an ally for part of the time, but in reality she didn't take sides at all. "So when the nogitsune takes over, you're going to kill me?"

"I'm going to do what I've always done. Maintain the balance."

He rolled his eyes. "Great. I've missed our talks. Thanks for the illicit drugs." he said, turning to leave.

Her voice made him halt.

"Stiles. Stay awake." she warned.

He wondered if she was doing so as a final attempt to be caring, as if hinting she didn't want to have to kill him, or if it was more for her concern over having a nogitsune loose in Eichen House.

He was going to bet on the latter.

She called out again before he could pass the doorway. "And you should follow me. Group therapy is about to start."

He sighed and let her lead him down the hall.

Stiles definitely wasn't in the mood for group therapy, and it was only made worse when Morrell decided they would revisit the previous session's topic of guilt.

Great. As if he wasn't feeling bad enough. Now he had to psychoanalyze his feelings and past mistakes, all while running out of time before a demonic spirit possessing him started going on a killing spree.

His mind wandered, wondering if he had seen what he thought he had earlier, and the sight he had seen last night.

He was starting to get paranoid. His talk with Morrell hadn't helped. He kept doing double-takes—thinking the doctor talking to one of the staff had bandages across his whole head, that the person sitting next to him had bandaged hands… he was going crazy.

Wait. He was crazy, according to the Beacon Hills Hospital MRI. And he was possessed by a spirit that may not have full control but definitely wouldn't hesitate to mess with his head at every available opportunity. Probably not a good combination.

Before he could get to the self-pitying portion of his hysteria, an orderly interrupted the session tugging someone behind him.

"Your new addition they warned you about." he grunted before pushing her forward and turning away to leave.

Lydia stood awkwardly in front of the group before finding the sole empty chair available. Her eyes narrowed on Morrell suspiciously, but Morrell simply nodded in her direction.

"Welcome to the group, Lydia." she said, her eyes flashing momentarily to Stiles.

He was too busy gaping at Lydia.

What the hell was she doing here? Why? Had they figured something out? Why had group therapy only just started?!

He swore it was her he had seen earlier, but with everything with Morrell, like her threatening to murder him in a few short days, he had sort of been distracted.

She sent him a timid smile before turning back to Morrell, who had begun leading the discussion again.

It took forever for the session to end, and Stiles was growing antsier by the minute. Those pills certainly were keeping him awake.

Or maybe it was the strawberry-blonde sitting across the room from him, dressed in full mental institution attire, that had his mind alert.

He knew he needed to provide certain medical information and a referral from a doctor in order to be admitted there. So how had Lydia done it? She wasn't crazy. She must have had to put on quite a show to get sent in so quickly.

When they were finally given the all clear, Stiles leapt up from his chair so fast he nearly knocked it over. It gave him some odd looks, but seeing as he was in a mental institution, it's not as though many people were that concerned with him acting abnormally.

Lydia gave a head gesture over her shoulder, indicating he should follow her, and he sent her an exasperated look back as if he was planning on doing anything else.

The others dissipated in other directions, so Stiles followed Lydia down an empty hallway.

Once they rounded a corner, Lydia turned around and immediately crashed into him in a tight embrace, burying her face in his shoulder as she squeezed him tightly.

He inhaled, letting her familiar smell and warmth wash over him as he held her just as closely.

She moved to find his lips with hers, desperation and longing clear in her kiss, and Stiles returned it tenfold. Leaving her the night before had been awful. He poured every bit of apology into it as he could as he pressed her against the wall, kissing the breath from her mouth.

Her hands lay slack against his neck, still managing to keep him tight to her, and she shivered as his hands slipped under her t-shirt slightly as he gripped her waist.

Stiles kept kissing her, lips tumbling over lips, and they were getting far too lost in each other to remain inconspicuous for long.

Lydia pushed gently on his chest, separating them enough for her to breathe and try to think clearly. Her head was spinning.

"Sorry." Stiles mumbled, blushing slightly over his enthusiasm.

She couldn't help but giggle a little. "Don't be. I started it."

Stiles dipped his head down and kissed her lips for one last long moment before pulling back and taking a step away from her.

He ran a hand through his hair. "So. What brings you to Eichen House?"

She would love to say it was just for that kiss, but she knew they had limited time and her time for being selfish was over. They needed to get right down to business.

"We've found some things, and most of them aren't good. Mostly, we didn't know how else to get in contact with you. You don't have much time—the poison will run out and he'll take over again. We need to find something, something that might be in this building. Void had a connection to here, that much has been obvious, and it may be where it's being kept. It may be why he led you here."

"I have an idea where. The basement. I tripped earlier and got a glimpse of it. I swear I've been there before."

Lydia looked surprised, but there was something else in her expression.


She bit her lip. "The basement here. It's where I… the night you had your nightmare and ended up outside the coyote den. I followed my… 'power' and lead everyone down to the basement. I was so sure that's where you were."

That was all the confirmation Stiles needed—he had been right earlier. "I was, Lydia. In my dream. That's where I was. That's why it's familiar to me."

"We have to get down there and see what's really there. That's too much of a coincidence to ignore." She sighed. "It was locked though. Your dad was the only way we got down there. It might not just be Void hiding things down there. We'll never get down there."

"Now, now, Lydia. Have a little faith. You forget you're talking to one of the best masterminds when it comes to getting into trouble this town has ever seen." Stiles said with a grin. "And it just so happens I have an idea."

Lydia tried to mask the thrill that went up her spine when Stiles introduced her to his friend Oliver as his girlfriend.

Oliver was a sweet kid—eager to please, so he readily agreed to helping without even knowing what their need to get into the basement was. He didn't ask questions, just agreed to help. Lydia couldn't help but develop a soft spot for that kind of child-like innocence.

The plan was simple—pretend to get into an escalating argument. It would advance to a scuffle, which they had already seen get broken up by the staff immediately. Brunski, the head orderly according to Oliver, was the one with keys to everything. If anyone had the basement key, it would be him.

He was down the walkway when they decided to cause a scene out in the courtyard.

The plan was simple—cause a disturbance, have the staff break it up, and whoever had Brunski grab them would slip his keys out.

Oliver played his part earlier, shouting about how Stiles was a liar, how they didn't do trepanation there anymore, how no one was going to drill into his skull.

Since he was the one tackling Stiles, he was the one Brunski went for. He dragged him off of Stiles, and Oliver sunk into his tight grip. Lydia caught a glimpse of the flash of metal as he slipped his keys away.

She hid her smile of victory as she helped Stiles to his feet.

"Mission accomplished." she murmured to him as she pretended to make sure he wasn't hurt anywhere.

He grinned back, flashing a subtle thumbs up to Oliver who looked like a happy puppy once he was released.

Time to get some answers.

It took a couple hours to dig through the filing cabinets in the basement.

It wasn't exactly easy—whoever filed things hadn't exactly had a certificate in file management. Things were chaotically thrown in, out of chronological and alphabetical order.

Stiles was looking through big pages, blueprints apparently of the upstairs rooms and closed unit. Nothing of the basement was there and nothing of use, unless he wanted to know where to locate all the fire exits.

Lydia's sharp intake of breath next to him caused him to look over.

"What is it?"

"Nothing. It's nothing."


"It's not to do with the nogitsune." Lydia muttered, going to stuff it into the pile of 'nothing' they had going.

Stiles reached over to grab her hand. "Lydia, talk to me."

She sighed and passed the file over.

Lorraine Martin was written on the front. He furrowed his brows in concentration as he flipped through the file. Reading the dates and then the next of kin, he concluded that she must have been Lydia's grandmother.

"Your grandmother was a patient here." He realized something. "They consider family history when admitting people. Is that how you got in here today?"

She nodded. "I put on quite a show too, used what's been happening to me to help sell it, but yeah."

"What about your mom?"

"I'm over eighteen—she didn't have to be involved. I told her I was going on a girl's weekend with Allison." She shook her hair off her face, her emotions showing clearer now. "Keep reading."

He squeezed her hand and continued flipping through the file. He saw date of death, and then cause. Suicide.

"Is that why you didn't want me to come here?"

She shook her head, then let out a breath. "Partly. I don't think she committed suicide. Or, I don't think she would've if she hadn't come here. I think this place changed her. And I just… I didn't want it to change you. Especially because I don't think you belong here."

"Why was she admitted?"

"I don't know. I was young. I knew she'd go on these ramblings, talk to herself a lot, fight with my dad when he tried to tell her to stop. Saying he just wasn't a believer. I didn't know what they meant, and they don't talk about her now."

Stiles reopened the file. He flipped through until he found symptoms and diagnosis.

"Lydia… look at this. Look at these notes."

Her eyes widened after he passed it over. "Patient reports hearing voices, warnings of death." she read aloud, reading the rest in her head. Sensitivity to sound, screaming in the night. "My grandmother was like me."

"Guess whatever you are might be genetic. Maybe that will end up helping us figure it out." Stiles said supportively, rubbing her hand.

"And to think, I've always been afraid of ending up crazy like her. That's what I thought was happening to me when it all started." Lydia said, almost amusedly, but he could detect the hidden pain there.

"You're not crazy, not even close. And I don't think fearing it keeps it away. I was always scared of being crazy like my mom, and apparently I am."

Lydia suddenly realized she hadn't told him about one of the most important things they had discovered while he was gone. "No, Stiles. The MRI scans weren't right. The nogitsune, I don't know how, but he must have had something to do with it. Those scans? They were exact replicas of your mom's. That's impossible, according to the specialist your dad spoke to. There's no way all of this is to do with you having dementia – it's all the nogitsune."

Stiles absorbed that for a moment. "Are you… are you sure?"

Lydia smiled, eyes glistening a little. "I'm absolutely sure. Those symptoms you had were all a result of you giving power back to the Nemeton and the nogitsune possessing you."

Stiles blew out a breath, unable to believe it. He had his suspicions, his hope really, but he hadn't wanted to let it get too high in case he was wrong.

Lydia suddenly straightened up.

"Stiles. The symptoms from the Nemeton revival you all had. What did they all have in common?"

"Uh, they all scared us to death and nearly caused us all to get admitted here?"

"No. They all represented a deep fear within you. You're terrified of your own mind, of getting your mom's disease. The nogitsune just pushed that further home by imitating your mom's MRI scans."

"Okay, yeah, I get what you mean."

"What about the others?"

"Well, Allison kept seeing her murderous aunt. I think a part of that could be her fear of her family's corruption. They almost won once, too easily. And of course she and her aunt were close, and she had no idea the kind of sociopath she really was. I think she's afraid of that weakness too."

"And Scott?"

"Scott's always been afraid of the monster within, of the werewolf inside overpowering his natural instincts and morals. It's a powerful thing to fight, but he does it, he's always done it. But it hasn't always been easy. Instinct is hard to fight."

He thought about it.

"I guess they could all relate to the most traumatic thing we've experienced too—Allison witnessing her aunt's murder, Scott getting bitten and dragged into the supernatural world against his will, and me with my mom's disease and death."

They both sat in silence for a few minutes.

"Sometimes this still doesn't feel real. The whole supernatural world… but at least it's still something we can work on figuring out. Preferably together." She reached up to push his hair off his forehead, smiling slightly. "I can get through this if you're with me."

She leaned up to kiss him softly.

It was easy to forget about everything when Lydia kissed him. All his thoughts went directly to how lightly her hands ran through his hair, the way her body curved into his. Stiles pushed the remaining files onto the floor, eager to get his arms around her, thoughts completely wrapped up in getting closer to her.

Reality sunk in before long, and Stiles knew he had to say something. He broke away, scooting down the couch to put some space between them.

"Lydia… I won't be me for much longer." he said, eyes sad.

She smiled and squeezed his hands. "Then maybe we should do something before that happens." she suggested.

Her hands lowered to the hem of her shirt and she peeled it over her head. Blushing slightly as his eyes roved over her half-naked torso, she shrugged one shoulder, waiting for a response.

Stiles knew the blushing wasn't to do with shyness over her body. Her body was, in short, incredible, and she knew it to some degree. He knew she didn't work that hard on it not to know. But she also was dressed in only a sports bra, something he was sure she didn't plan to wear for this. He knew Lydia—he knew she'd likely have picked out some fancy lingerie thing she'd know he liked, because she was like that, she'd go the extra mile. But he didn't need that effort. He only wanted her. And he thought she looked beautiful just as she was. There was nothing plain about her.

He crossed the distance between them to lean over her and kiss her firmly on the mouth, letting her know his acquiesce, and she pulled him down on top of her eagerly. Her hands pushed his shirt up and over his head, lips finding his immediately, enthusiastic but not rushed.

Stiles adjusted them so they were more comfortable, interlocking their fingers beside her face as he kissed her long and slow, treasuring every second.

He knew he didn't have forever. He knew they weren't going to get it all figured out before Void came back, and it was very possible he wasn't going to make it out of beating Void alive, but if this was his last moments as being himself, he was damn well going to make them count with the girl he loved.

Lydia was used to topping, to being in control, but it was different with Stiles. She felt safe underneath him, his lips trailing all over her skin. His body weight was comforting and warm. She felt loved and worshipped with him above her, not weak. It was everything she could have hoped for.

When his lips traced over her scar from the werewolf attack, her eyes teared up. She stroked his hair, arching her back slightly at the tickling sensation as he crossed over underneath her belly button, his touch so gentle.

She had never felt so safe with someone before.

Their clothes piled up on the floor, hands running over each other's skin, and their lips never parted.

When Stiles entered her, she gasped slightly, his forehead coming to lean against hers as they both breathed together. Once they found a rhythm, his lips covered hers again, stealing her breath as he set fire to her insides. Her nails dug into his back, ran down his spine, and her teeth dug into his bottom lip as his hips stuttering signalled his climax.

He lay on her, bearing most of his weight on one arm, as they caught their breath together, Lydia nuzzled her cheek against his, teasing his hair with one hand as she hugged him close. She never wanted to let him go. Why couldn't they stay like that forever?

Eventually, the draft in the basement got to be too much and they redressed themselves.

Both of them were hiding smiles, trying to keep themselves in line, but it was hard.

When they were both clothed, they settled back on the couch together, Lydia immediately curling up against his chest. His arm wrapped around her and his free hand took hers.

His fingers played with hers, eyes watching them.


"Stiles, can we just… can we just be here for a while? Just us? No supernatural chaos looming, no drama. Just Stiles and Lydia."

He pressed a quick peck to her forehead. "Okay."

She nuzzled closer, exhaling slowly. She knew this was wasting their precious time, and it was selfish to ask Stiles to keep his mouth shut when he likely would be unable to speak his own words soon enough, but she just couldn't handle another goodbye just yet. She wanted to treasure the feeling of the normalcy of cuddling with him after what they just shared. She needed to anchor the memory in her mind so she'd have something to look back on later. She was grateful she had the memory what they just did forever burned in her mind. Selfish or not, she was glad it happened.

Stiles was too. He was glad he was himself when it happened. It may not have been a fairytale lovemaking the way literature made it seem perfect, but it was perfect to him because it was just them.



"No matter what happens, I want you to know I have no regrets. Of meeting you, getting pulled into this world, of falling for you, of this. I could never regret anything to do with you. You have no idea how much you've changed my world."

Stiles smiled, eyes wet.

"Right back at you."

He wanted to say something more, those three words that always seemed to be sitting on his tongue around her, but she was looking past his shoulder before he could, something clearly catching her eye.

"Stiles." Lydia whispered, breaking away from him and going towards the wall between the furnace and stairs.

He got up to follow her, immediately seeing what caught her eye. The Kanji symbol for 'self', what the Oni left branded on those who did were not possessed.

Lydia knocked on the wall. He understood, even without the resounding echo that followed. It wasn't a typical wall. It was hollow behind it. It was covering up something.

Stiles grabbed a rod leaning against one of the furnaces and waited for her to back up before he swung it into the wall.

He cracked the wall over and over until a large hole crumbled away. Ducking down, Lydia joined him to peer inside.

There was a bandaged body sitting inside the cavity, bandages across every visible body part. The skeleton was dressed in some sort of army wear.

"This is him."

"The nogitsune?"

He nodded.

"That looks like the holder Kira's katana is held in." Lydia commented, pointing towards the sword strung across his body.

Stiles didn't know if that was helpful or not. Nogitsunes were from Japanese folklore, so it would make sense if it had been a Japanese warrior. Seeing the pocket flap on the chest, Stiles reached inside and pulled out an old photo.

"We have to get this to Scott." he said immediately.

"What is it? You recognize something?"

"Someone." he explained.

Before he could pass it over, a painful sensation exploded through every one of his neurons and he collapsed, gasping, on the floor.

He pivoted his body slightly, trying to see, as Lydia went down in similar fashion.

Oliver stood above them.

"I took Brunski's keys for you guys, but I took his stun gun. And his Haldol."

He injected it into Stiles' leg, and he went limp. A sedative.

"I can't go to sleep." Stiles gasped. "Oliver… what are you doing?"

"You remember me telling you they used to do trepanation down here?" He picked up a drill and turned it on, the tool whirring to life. "I'm going to let the evil spirits out."

Chapter Text

Lydia woke up first, disoriented, confused by her position in a chair she didn't remember falling asleep in until her last memory resurfaced.

"Stiles!" she shouted as she came to, attempting to get to her feet only to be tugged painfully back in place by the restraints wrapped tightly around her wrists.

"I'm afraid he can't really talk right now." Oliver explained, a small smirk resting on his lips.

"Please, let us go. Take these off of me!" she shouted angrily.

She needed to check on Stiles, to see if the lightning marks were now gone that he was asleep and vulnerable. She must not have received as much sedative, or maybe she just passed out from the pain from the taser.

"I took some pointers from the five-point restraint system." Oliver said from across the room, looking amused. He looked nothing like the socially awkward, eager-to-please boy that had helped them out earlier. He had a confidence to him, almost a darkness, and he wondered where it was coming from.

He had made a reference to the restraint system Eichen House used, the one Stiles mentioned they threatened to use on him his first night when he was arguing about using the phone. Oliver had been strapped down so tightly Lydia couldn't even imagine the claustrophobia that would've set in for Stiles if he had been in his place. Stiles said Oliver was nice from the get-go, but they must have had a good reason to do it then? And he was in a mental institution—did they really have any idea what his mental stability was?

"Oliver, stop this. Oliver, listen to me, stop." Lydia begged, hoping the kind boy she met was in there somewhere and would come back. "Oliver! Stop!"

"Start with Stiles. She can wait." a dark voice interrupted.

Oliver obeyed, moving across the room to where the boy she loved was slumped over, unconscious. Lydia followed the voice and felt a chill run through his spine. A man covered all over in bandages, except for the leather jacket and other clothes he wore, sat down a few feet from Stiles.

She knew who he was. The nogitsune. Or, as Noshiko had referred to him, Void.

She gritted his teeth. "You did this. You got into Oliver's head."

The man turned to her in what she could only assume was surprise, since even his eyes were covered by aged bandages. She could see his shiny silver teeth, and his mouth stretched into a sinister, metallic smile.

"Every Dracula needs a Renfield." Void said as a way of explanation, like mind-controlling teenagers was a perfectly acceptable way to spend a Saturday night.

"Just let him go." she demanded.

"Not until he lets me in."

Lydia struggled hard against the restraints, seeing Oliver advancing closer to Stiles and preparing the tool to drill into his skull. He was going to die if she didn't do something. She knew how this ended. She knew her grandmother had done this to herself once; there had been so much blood everywhere… if they didn't get found in time, all the way down there, Stiles would die for sure. And who knew if Oliver would stop as soon as her grandmother had had to—maybe he would just keep going into his brain matter.

"Lydia. It could've been you, you know." Void stood up, moving across the room to where the pair was, looking at Stiles almost lovingly. "Stiles had so much pain though, so much grief and fear to feed off of. And he was power hungry too, so exhausted of being so helpless. The human of the pack, with no real skills."

"That's a lie. He's saved their asses plenty of times." Lydia practically spat, fiery angry licking up and down her veins now.

Void shrugged, seeming to enjoy her reaction.

She remembered what they had said about him. He fed off of pain, chaos and strife. She shouldn't feed his energy—she needed to stay focused and keep her emotions in check. But that was Stiles he was threatening, and it was easier said than done.

"You, Lydia… you have quite a bit of grief and pain too, don't you? Years of parental neglect, insecurity, believing you were only ever going to be wanted for your appearance, your grandmother's suicide…"

"I didn't ask for a psych analysis." she growled.

"Maybe not… but you do have a choice here. Do you want Stiles to leave here alive? Do you want to leave here alive? We can walk out of this place."

She narrowed her eyes. "What do you mean?"

Void looked back at Stiles and Oliver, where Oliver was screwing on a different drill bit, and then he advanced on her.

"Let me in, Lydia."

"You're sick." she snarled.

"Oh, I know. That's why it's always so fun when I'm here." he said cheerfully, the scraping sound of his voice chilling her insides.

"Please, just let us go."

"Let me in."

Lydia shook her head, tears falling now, struggling harder against the restraints.

"Let me in, Lydia. Let me in or I'll make him kill Stiles. You'll never see him again. It will be all your fault. You know I'm going to win."

"Stop it! Stop! Oliver, stop!" Lydia shouted.

The drill sounded, Oliver acting as if he hadn't even heard her, bracing himself to position it to Stiles' temple.

Wake up, Stiles. Please wake up.

He moved in, drill spinning, and Lydia couldn't stop herself. She let out an almighty scream.

It reverberated through her whole body, her ribcage practically shaking in the effort as she let it out.

Oliver immediately dropped the drill, hands covering his ears, stumbling backwards.

Void, however, spun and looked at her in what she could only assume was awe.

She was nearly panting, the exertion taking the energy right out of her.

"Well, that was certainly unexpected."

She glared at him.

"You don't even know what you are, do you, Lydia?"

She straightened in surprise.

His smile stretched. "The Wailing Woman. How did I not sense the banshee in you?"


"A piercing scream capable of more than just drowning out the excess noise to help you focus your hearing on the whispers of other banshees, Lydia. You are much more than a pretty little thing."

Lydia absorbed that. All those whispers she heard – those were other banshees?

"You know why you just screamed, don't you?"

She sent him a look. "Maybe because you're about to hurt the man I'm in love with."

Void seemed downright cheerful by her answer. "Banshees sense death. You only get those dreadful feelings when someone is about to die. This isn't your first scream or use of your powers. You're connected to death, Lydia. And now you know for sure Stiles is going to die."

"Then stop it! Let him go!"

"Let me in, Lydia, and you can both walk out of here! We can walk out of here together!"

Lydia felt her face start to get wet, tears falling against their will. She couldn't let him in. She knew how dangerous he was, how many people he was responsible for killing, how it was only the beginning. But she knew Stiles couldn't handle having him inside him again, and she couldn't let him die…

The drill sounded again, Oliver on his feet and preparing to trepanise Stiles.

Void wasn't giving up, directly in front of her now, his voice growing in volume to a bellow. "Let me in, Lydia! Let me in! Let me in and I'll let him live!"

Lydia shut her eyes tightly, tears littering her face, wishing she could just wake up already. This had to be a nightmare. This couldn't be real.

"Let! Me! In!"

Lydia thought of Stiles—kind, loving, brave Stiles. She knew he hadn't asked for this life, none of them had, and he had suffered enough. She knew he'd never forgive himself for what she chose to do, but she couldn't let him die.

Her last thought before the darkness took over was I'm sorry.

The contrast of the quiet from the drama from before was quite startling, but it was the way Lydia moved so smoothly across the room that was the really chilling part.

Especially since she had no control over it.

"Oliver." her calm voice spoke into the moonlit room. Her restraints fell to the floor.

How had Void even got those off so easily?

Oliver paused, listening to the subtle command. Lydia grimaced at him, before suddenly grabbing the tool and smacking him across the head with it. She let out a sigh, almost of boredom, as Oliver collapsed to the floor unconscious.

Internally, Lydia was horrified.

Stiles finally stirred. "Lydia?"

She smirked and moved to crouch next to him.

Her face melted into concern as his eyes flickered open. "Are you okay?"

He tried to sit up straight, but the restraints pulled him back.

"Oh, sorry, let me get those." Lydia said, but her voice was speaking without her instruction. Without her knowledge of what she was going to say or why. Void was inside her. She was possessed.

As soon as he was freed, he pulled her in close. "Oh god, Lydia… are you okay? Did he hurt you?" he asked seriously, pushing her hair off her face so he could examine every inch of her face.

"I'm fine. I… may have knocked him out though." she said, chewing her tongue and giving a playful, apologetic shrug.

How did Void know her personality so well? He was far too good at playing her. How could he know so much just from being in her head a few minutes? Or had he been keeping an eye on her the whole time? And Stiles knew her… maybe he took from that too.

He chuckled despite himself. "Well… that's… wow. Okay. How did you get out of the restraints?"

"Small wrists." she answered quickly. "He didn't dose me as hard as he should've. I had to pull and twist quite a bit, but I managed to slip one out and untie the next one. And since they're cloth, well, they didn't make a bunch of noise so I managed to sneak up behind him before he could hurt you."

Stiles shook his head in disbelief. "You're amazing." He kissed her gratefully on the mouth.

Lydia could barely feel it, just the barest of brushing against her lips, and if she was able, she would've cried. It was the worst kind of torture, not being able to feel his touch when he was doing so. How could he have handled being possessed? It had only been a few minutes and she was already losing it.

How could she signal to him that it was her?

Her mouth was a smile as they broke apart, and she could've thrown up.

"I can't believe I'm still me. We have to move quickly. You have to get that picture to Scott."

"Stiles, I think the nogitsune is in Oliver. We can both get out of here." she said encouragingly.

He stared. "Really? You think he can stay in there?"

"Well, I mean, let's check your back. If the lightning strikes are gone, doesn't that mean you're able to be possessed? And if you aren't, maybe it's because he's somewhere else. And if he's in somewhere else, maybe that means we should separate you from that place as much as possible…"

"Okay, okay." Stiles said amusedly. "I never knew you to ramble."

She shrugged.

Stiles, I never ramble. It's not me, okay? Can't you see? Please, Stiles!

Stiles sighed and lifted his shirt.

"Ha, see! No lightning marks!"

He sent her a look. "What has gotten into you? You're awfully hyper for someone who nearly just had a drill enter her skull."

"Stiles. You're not possessed by a dark fox spirit. Forgive me for being happy about it."

He smiled and kissed her quickly. "Good point. Let's get out of here."

A sinister smile settled on her lips as she followed him by the hand out of the basement.

It wasn't easy getting released from Eichen House before each of their 72 hours were up, but Morrell managed to pull some strings. It helped that she was their therapist and could vouch for their lack of insanity.

She, of course, wouldn't do anything until Stiles went through vigorous 'testing' to see if he was just the nogitsune with good acting skills.

The dark fox in Lydia seemed to enjoy that part the most.

Once they found themselves outside of the gate, Stiles exhaled heavily.

"Thank god we're finally free of that place. I'm craving pizza."

"Yeah, I'm hungry for something." Lydia's voice said amusedly, a hidden malice inside.

Stiles didn't seem to pick up on it. "I've got to call my dad and Scott first. Maybe we can all meet up somewhere to catch up and eat at the same time."

Stiles, please. Please recognize that this isn't me. Please take me back in there right now. Don't let him out again, even if it means locking me up too.

Stiles was on the phone with his dad, who was clearly relieved to hear his son was free from that place, and Stiles couldn't seem to stop the smile that graced his face.

"Are you able to pick us up?" he asked, then looked awkward. "Yeah, it's a long story, but Lydia is with me. If not, I'm about to call Scott. Okay, cool, see you soon."

He hung up and held down his speed dial to get Scott.

"Hey, it's me. I'm free. We've got a lot to tell you guys. Fancy meeting at my place for some food and to talk? I want to hear about what went on on your guys' end too." He was nodding into the phone. "Cool, sounds good. Alright, dude, see you soon."

He slipped his hand into Lydia's as he lead her over to sit on the stone wall. "My dad's on his way. Allison and Scott are going to come over."

"Perfect." she murmured in return, squeezing his hand, as Lydia screamed inside.

It was late by the time they rehashed everything between the two groups.

Apparently the group, now with Isaac and Derek back, since he and Argent were finally released when Stiles' dad had returned from LA, had gone to get the Shugendo scroll from Katashi's prosthetic at the morgue. They came head-to-head with Kincaid, which wasn't an easy battle even with the fighters they brought. In the end, they were victorious, and Scott, of course, spared the aggressive werewolf, like the True Alpha he was.

Stiles did most of the explaining for him and Lydia's adventures, explaining their plan with Oliver and then how things got turned around when they made their discovery. Scott and Allison were both surprised to see the picture with what looked to be Kira's doppelgänger next to the man that no doubt one day became the nogitsune. The scrawled date on the back implied that the picture was taken in 1943, which meant that it had to be her grandmother or someone in her family tree who was alive back then.

"So the nogitsune is stuck in Eichen House?"

Stiles shrugged. "I guess. He had been possessing Oliver to attack us and then Lydia knocked Oliver out, so…"

Allison shook her head. "This feels too easy."

"I don't think there's anything easy about it. We can't assume he'll stay there. We should still be prepared in the event he gets out." Scott suggested.

"Maybe after some sleep? I haven't slept properly in days." Stiles groaned, yawning.

"Good idea. We should all get some sleep, put some of this behind us."

"What about you guys? Did you figure anything out?" Lydia asked earnestly.

Don't tell me anything, don't tell me anything, don't say anything, please.

"We can talk about it tomorrow." Allison said, a little quickly, which caused Stiles to look at her strangely. She smiled nervously. "You're not the only one who's beat."

"All right. We'll get the pack together tomorrow. Let's call it a night." he said.

Scott and Allison left. The Sheriff had been happy to see Stiles, and Lydia for that matter, but had to go do a night shift at the station so the house was empty and eerily quiet.

"Since your mom thinks you're still away with Allison, fancy sleeping over?" Stiles asked her. "I can lend you a shirt."

She nodded, smiling brightly, and took his hand as he led her upstairs.

Lydia felt her heart clench inside. She wanted to be present for their first sleepover. She wanted to be able to feel everything, to be able to talk to him, confide in him, get closer to him. This was torture.

They got ready for sleep, Stiles passing her one of his longer t-shirts and she excused herself to the bathroom.

Void pulled it over her head, admiring her reflection in the mirror.

I've got to say, Lydia. You two may have a connection, but no wonder he can't notice anything off about you. He's probably a little distracted.

Shut up.

Void left the bathroom and walked her back to his room where Stiles was throwing his laundry in the hamper.

"Hey. Ready for sleep?"

She smiled and waltzed over, stopping in front of him to pull him into a kiss.

The kiss, something that should've been soft and sweet, turned eager and demanding before long, but Stiles broke away, chuckling a little.

"Lydia… trust me when I say I'd love to give in to that, but I'm actually so exhausted I feel dead on my feet. Can we continue tomorrow?"

She nodded. "Sorry."

He kissed her once. "Don't be. I really don't mind." he teased, tugging her towards the bed and crawling under the covers.

Stiles pulled her into his chest immediately, hugging her close, letting his fingers brush her hair off her face. She rested her cheek against his shoulder, closing her eyes.

Oh Stiles. What the hell am I going to do without your help? Please figure it out. Please.

He may be clever, but he's a lovesick teenager. Good luck, banshee.

Eventually, her body fell asleep.

Little did she know, Stiles lay awake, the hair on the back of his neck standing up. He didn't know what it was yet, but he knew something strange was going on.

The only thing he could register was the blackness surrounding him, the cold coating his skin, and the heavy weight in his chest.

No, no, please.

It didn't feel like before though. There was a dread, ominous though it may be it still didn't match the dark spirit takeover he had felt too many times before.

It felt like a warning. But a warning for what?

His eyes adjusted in the dark, making out a hand reaching out for him.

He backed up on reflex, trying to get away from it.

"Stiles…. Stiles, please…"

He knew that voice. He stepped forwards. "Lydia?"

Her face came into view, the dark surrounding her still, only glimpses of her through the shadows.

Her hand stretched out, reaching for him.

He mirrored the action, trying to move forward to grab her hand, but she was just out of reach.

His feet cemented to the floor. He couldn't move.

"Lydia! LYDIA!" he screamed as she got dragged deeper into the darkness.

Tears coated her face, and he could see even as the shadows took over that she was terrified.

He used all his strength to try to push himself further, desperate to reach her, but the darkness swallowed her up before he could.

She was gone.

Stiles gasped awake, accidentally pulling away from Lydia in the process as he sat up to breathe.

She rolled over quickly and straightened, looking concerned.

"Stiles? Are you okay?"

He attempted to catch his breath, pushing his hair off his sweaty forehead.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine. Sorry. Bad dream."

"A nightmare? Do you want to talk about it?"

Her hands slipped in his and he stroked over them on reflex. That is, until instinct made him slow his pace.

"Uh, no, no it's fine. It was just… confusing. I'm sure I'll forget it by morning."

She nodded, still watching him carefully.

"I thought the nightmares were getting better."

"They are. I guess with the Nemeton still being powerful they'll sort of always be there. As long as I'm close to it."


"Sorry I woke you. We should go back to sleep."

She nodded. "Good idea."

She moved to let him crawl back into her space, but he swung his legs off the bed.

"I'm just going to… splash some water on my face. Maybe get a drink. I'll be right back."


Stiles sneakily grabbed his phone off his nightstand as he slipped off the bed and out of the room.

He padded downstairs and held down the first number on his speed dial.

"Stiles? Everything okay?" Scott sleepy but concerned voice came.

"I don't know." he said honestly, voice quiet, keeping his eyes on the stairs and trying to listen for any sound of movement. "I think something's wrong."

"What's the matter? Do you need me to come over?"

"No, no, stay where you are. It's Lydia." he admitted.

"What's going on?"

"She's… acting differently. I don't know how to explain it. There's something… off."

"Are you sure you're not just being paranoid?"

He couldn't help but start to pace. "No, I don't think I am. I… This sounds stupid, but I had a dream. Where she was being pulled into the darkness, begging for me to help her. The dreams with the nogitsune, they weren't real, but there was some hidden meaning in them. Even the ones when I was awake, like it was telling me something. Maybe this is Lydia, the real Lydia, trying to tell me something. Using her powers? I don't know…"

"So what are you saying? You think Lydia is possessed now? She wasn't even involved in the Nemeton stuff, there was no door open in her mind…"

"I don't know, Scott. I know Lydia. And… this isn't her. She kissed me last night, and it didn't feel like her. I didn't feel the way I do when she kisses me…"

"You and Lydia have kissed? Why wasn't this bigger news?!"

"Probably because we have a shit ton more stuff going on, Scott." Stiles couldn't help but say amusedly. "She kissed me before I went into Eichen House. And I guess we sort of made it official once she got in there and we got to talk a bit." Stiles couldn't help but smile, because he could practically feel Scott beaming through the phone. He knew he'd be happy for him, and frankly, he sort of had been looking forward to telling him about it. "Scott, this isn't really the pressing issue here…"

"Right, sorry."

He could tell his best friend was still grinning.

Stiles sighed. "Anyways. I don't know what to do. I guess keep acting like I have no idea?"

"Stiles, are you sure about this? I mean, this is Lydia we're talking about."

"Is it though?"

"Hmm, guess you're a better detective than I gave you credit for." a familiar voice said, sounding bored, and Stiles turned to see Lydia leaning against the wall watching him with an eyebrow raised.

Before Stiles could open his mouth, Lydia came over and slammed his head down onto the side table next to them.

He collapsed on the floor, his vision fading.

He could hear the barest whispers of Scott's voice through the phone shouting his name, but the blackness overtook him before he could reply.

The last thing he saw was the swish of strawberry-blonde hair as Lydia turned around to leave the house.

"Stiles! Stiles!"

Scott was shouting, that much was clear.

Stiles woke up groggily, groaning as his head pounded in rhythm with his heartbeat.

"Ow." he said as way of response, feeling awful.

"Thank god you're okay." Allison's voice came, and he opened his eyes to see he was surrounded by more than just his best friend.

Kira, Derek and Isaac were looking at him in concern too.

"Well hello everybody. Welcome."

"That's going to leave a nasty bruise." Allison assessed, peering at the bump on his head, running her fingers over it before getting up to help Scott get Stiles to his feet.

"I think we have bigger things to worry about right now."

Stiles suddenly remembered the last thing he had seen. "She's gone, isn't she?"

"Yep. And there's no telling what havoc she's wreaking right now." Allison said sadly. "I can't believe we didn't know."

Stiles sighed. "I shouldn't have been so stupid. I know how he thinks, I know how he's always one step ahead. I thought he was oblivious to me picking up on things, I tried to play things so casual, but I should've known. She felt… different. Something felt off. And I was too happy to be out of that nut house to realize right away."

"But you did notice, and that's what matters."

"So what now? What do we do?" Kira asked.

"We have to get some answers. We need to learn more about the nogitsune—figure out what his endgame plan is. One thing that might help is figuring out where he came from." Stiles suggested.

Remembering the night before, Allison dug into her bag for the photo they had found at Eichen House.

He raised an eyebrow at her. "How did you end up with it?"

She shrugged. "I don't know… I sort of… felt a weird vibe when you guys came back. A… tension? Maybe human instinct was kicking in and I was sensing the darkness in Lydia, but I just knew I didn't want to hang around too long and wanted to keep that safe. I guess I had the right idea."

Stiles remembered briefly the way she seemed to rush them home the night before. He hadn't been bothered at the time, but now he was downright grateful. He only wished he had been cleverer with his realization too.

Allison passed the photo to Kira, whose eyes widened. It looked exactly like her.

"It's from 1943." Scott supplied.

"Must be my grandmother." she said. "I really don't know much about my family history—my dad's spent my whole life filling me in on everybody else's. I'll have to ask my mom."

"I'm sure that'll go well." Isaac said sarcastically, not oblivious to the previous altercations they had had with Noshiko.

"Well, she knows something. And now she can't avoid telling us anymore. The nogitsune is more than she bargained for. I don't think she ever thought it would switch hosts like that."

Kira's phone beeped and she pulled it out. Her expression said it all—the news wasn't good.

"What is it?" Allison asked worriedly.

"It's my dad. He's in trouble."

They all moved at once.

The pack arrived at the high school in record time.

It was morning now, the classroom bathed in sunlight, but it was a Saturday so the school was empty.

It didn't take long to find Noshiko next to a choking Mr. Yukimura in his classroom.

"Kira, did you bring it?" she demanded.

The young kitsune dug through her bag and passed over what looked like some sort of fungus.

Noshiko stuffed the mushrooms through his lips and forced him to swallow through his coughs.

Stiles' eyes were sweeping the room, noticing the mess of books on the floor by the bookshelf and the way the desks were pushed off from their organized line.

"Lydia did this?" Scott asked, seeing the black blood Mr. Yukimura coughed into a tissue.

"Void wanted the last kaiken. I've kept this near me ever since I heard you were leaving Eichen House." Noshiko said, looking to Stiles now.

"What is a kaiken?" Isaac asked.

Kira was the one who spoke, watching her mother carefully. "A sort of dagger-looking thing, although it depends on the kitsune. It's a physical representation of a kitsune's tails. The older it is, the stronger. I'm betting that one is the oldest?"

Before she could answer, Stiles started in, agitated. "Look, we need answers, and you need to start telling us what you know. You may think you're on the opposite side of this war, but if you want us on your side—"

Noshiko interrupted. "I am not naïve enough to believe that you will so easily switch over to this side just from stories around the campfire!"

"Well if you think I'm going to help you kill someone I love because of a mess you made then you are sadly mistaken!" Stiles shouted back, clearly just as furious.

"What? Mom?" Kira asked, confused.

Noshiko's eyes narrowed at Stiles, but he was done playing nice.

"Yeah, I learned a few things while he lived in my head. I remember everything he did, every thought he had. And I know he knows you well. And standing in front of you, it's all flooding back. I just need you to fill in the blanks he left out."

Stiles could feel the others' stares on him—it was the first he really spoke about what went on when he was possessed.

"I know you are the one who summoned the Oni. You control them. Now tell us what you know."

He held a hand out for the picture. Allison passed it over and he handed it to the Japanese woman.

Her eyes widened. "Where did you get this?"

"Where you left him." he replied simply, fire dancing in his eyes.

"Stiles, what are you…?" Scott started, but Kira cut in.

"Mom, is it grandma?"

"No, it's me."

"What? That's not possible. That would mean you're almost ninety years old."

She sighed. "More like nine hundred."

Kira's face made it very clear that that was all news to her.

Her mom seemed to notice the sword casing she had strapped to her back. "What's that?"

Kira handed it over silently.

Noshiko ran her hands down it before upturning it and pouring the contents on the desk. A splintered blade scattered across the wood.

"The power it took to slay a nogitsune shattered the blade."

Scott caught on immediately. "All of this, it's all happened before, hasn't it?"

"Yes. It was at an internment camp in World War II. In Oak Creek. Not too far from here."

"I don't remember learning about that one." Kira said, looking to her dad.

"That's because all of the records of Oak Creek were erased. They covered it up after what happened there." he explained.

"So, where did the nogitsune come from?"

Noshiko turned back around. "Isn't it obvious yet? It came from me."

It was a long story. Noshiko seemed to remember it like it was yesterday.

A group of Japanese Americans were at Oak Creek, a concentration camp during World War II. She started the story explaining how she would sneak things off of the supply truck, grabbing things for the others like a baseball for a little boy to play with and some painkillers for a woman named Satomi who got monthly migraines and spent all her time playing the Japanese board game Go. She disapproved of Noshiko's stealing habits, saying she took too much and too often, and that she preferred to suffer.

When the little boy, Michio, accidentally tossed the ball through the window, breaking the glass, some of the soldiers came in to find out what was going on.

Corporal Rhys pushed the inspection off until the following morning, despite his comrades', Merrick and Hayes, protests, and ended up tossing the ball back to Michio on his way out.

Later, he met with Noshiko, and the two were revealed to be having a forbidden romance. He stole chocolate for her, being one of the men responsible for maintaining and receiving the camp supplies. Noshiko helped tutor Rhys in French, and while hiding in one of the trucks for privacy, they overheard Merrick and Hayes talking to the camp doctor – Dr. Liston. Money was exchanged but they weren't sure why.

Present day Noshiko then sliced open her hand, causing Kira to exclaim in distaste, but her mother wiped away the blood to show the wound had healed. She said her healing ability, one that Kira would learn to use, is what saved her from the bacterial pneumonia that soon swept the camp.

As the pneumonia took down many of the Japanese group, Rhys learned that the camp was all out of M&B Sulphapyridine which effectively treated the disease. Noshiko remembered seeing three boxes of the drug when she was stealing things, but Rhys says the doctor was claiming they only got one.

It wasn't long before they figure out the doctor, Merrick, and Hayes had been stealing the drugs and selling them on the black market.

Michio, the boy who played with the baseball, died with no medication available to treat him. His father, distraught, learned with the rest of them what happened to the life-saving medicine, and started a riot with the inhabitants of the camp.

They had burst out into the street as a mob, surrounding the doctor's car as he was trying to leave the camp with Merrick and Hayes. Satomi, as it turned out, was a werewolf and became so angry that she lost control and attacked the soldiers trying to protect their people. She was a bitten werewolf, so she had a harder time maintaining control. It was then Noshiko understood why her headaches happened once a month and that she stayed out of all the drama normally, sticking to a calming boarding game instead.

Merrick and Hayes slipped out of the car, trying to push people back so the doctor could escape, and Rhys was trying to calm the craze.

Michio's father lit a Molotox cocktail, but Satomi grabbed it from him and threw it. Instead of hitting the car, it struck Rhys and he went up in flames. The other soldiers open fire, killing dozens of people.

Rhys was taken to Eichen House for treatment but died there, his screams echoing through the halls. Amongst the pneumonia medication, all of the morphine was sold, so he died in immense pain and suffering.

Noshiko, amongst the others, was shot several times. While her healing ability kept her alive, it took time for the bullets to exit her body and her vital signs dropped so low everyone believed she was dead. Her body was transferred with the others to be burned to cover up the evidence of the corruption at the camp.

As she lied amongst the other bodies, Rhys of all people next to her, she called out to the spirits of her ancestors. She asked that a Nogitsune inhabit her body so that she could seek vengeance for all the death at the camp. Instead, with its sick sense of humor, the trickster spirit inhabited Rhys' dead body.

Merrick and Hayes, about to destroy the evidence, were attacked as the Nogitsune rose from the pile and killed them. He took the truck, and when Noshiko arrived at Eichen House, she discovered everyone dead there and at the camp.

Knowing she had a responsibility, she confronted the spirit and attempted to kill it with her katana, but she was only able to get the upper hand with the help of Satomi who attacked it from behind.

The host now killed, a fly came out of its mouth, and Noshiko caught it before it got away. She put it in a jar and buried it under the Nemeton, which, in 1943, was a fully grown tree.

It remained there, until Allison, Scott, and Stiles surrogate sacrificed themselves to save their parents, recharging the Nemeton's power and causing the jar to be uncovered and the nogitsune to break free.

The story now over, although the questions still buzzing in all of their heads, Noshiko turned to her daughter.

"Kira. I need your help on this. There isn't much time before people start arriving to the school. And this is something that needs to be done in the daylight."

She gestured towards the sword, where she had placed all of the broken pieces into their original spots so the blade resemble the sword it once was.

"Why do you need me?"

"Because I am not a thunder kitsune, and your foxfire is the only way to make the sword whole again."

Kira obeys, standing beside her mother and following her instruction. She gripped the blade with her, concentrating as electricity surged through the metal until the blade fused into one piece.

Noshiko handed it to her. "You must use it to get rid of the Nogitsune."

Kira crossed her arms. "You told me why the nogitsune came to be, but we want to know how to save Lydia."

"That's what I was telling you."

"Your Casablanca story with a Shakespearean ending?"

"No. The fact that, like it or not, your friend is gone."

"I don't think you know that for sure." Scott cut in. "You brought the Oni. Can you call them off?"

"It's not her fault." Allison pleaded.

"Lydia may be your friend, your best friend, your girlfriend even…" Noshiko said, eyes drifting over Stiles. "But she is nogitsune now."

"He switched hosts. He can do it again." Stiles said seriously.

"So you wish it on someone else?"

"NO! But there has to be another way outside of killing him. Lydia is alive. Rhys was gone. It isn't as simple as you're making it out to be."

"Nogitsunes are not made from rhyme or reason! They are tricksters! And they won't stop until the world burns."

"We'll see about that." he growled, turning away from her and leaving the classroom.

The others followed.

"We'll figure something out, Stiles. Now that we know more, maybe we have a better chance." Scott said reassuringly.

Stiles nodded. "We still need more though. We need all the answers we can get."

"What do you think we should do?" Kira asked.

"We need to get that scroll translated. Now."

The group headed to the animal clinic, hoping to elect Deaton's help since they weren't sure about trusting Noshiko with the scroll.

Deaton read the tiny scroll, squinting as he contemplated the message.

"There isn't much here, unfortunately."

"Does it say anything?" Scott asked hopefully.

"My Japanese isn't great. But it appears to say that one method of expelling a nogitsune is to change the body of the host."

"Change the body? But it already changed hosts by possessing Lydia, and it doesn't seem to be any weaker." Stiles said, absent-mindedly rubbing the spot on his head where it hit the table.

"Which begs the question, how do we change Lydia's body?" Deaton suggested.

Scott understood. "By turning her into a werewolf."

Allison shook her head. "But Lydia is immune. She can't turn into a werewolf. We've been through that already."

"Do you think that's why the nogitsune switched hosts, switched to her? Because it knew we were searching for answers on how to save the host but defeat the nogitsune, and it likely knew the scroll was out there. It didn't say so in so many words, but it knew you guys were determined to save me, so maybe it wanted to cut off our only option." Stiles said exasperatedly.

Stiles' phone beeped and he looked down at it in surprise.

"What is it?" Allison asked, seeing his confused concern.

"It's our alarm system—apparently someone's breaking into my house."

He pulled up the video for all of them to see and flipped through the different rooms. He stopped on his bedroom, seeing the strawberry-blonde perched on the edge of the bed.

As if sensing his eyes, Lydia raised her hand in a wave, smiling sinisterly.

Chapter Text

Stiles raced home with the rest of the pack in tow, telling his dad he had it handled when he called.

"Wait, Stiles. We can't just rush in there." Scott warned him, grabbing his arm before he opened the front door.

"That's Lydia trapped in there. I want to know his motive."

"What, do you think he's just going to spill his guts to you because you shared a body?" Allison reminded him in a fierce whisper.

"No, but I do think there's no way to prepare for this guy. He's a trickster mastermind who thrives off of pain and chaos. He's not going to start murdering us left and right—he's more the type to get us to try to turn on each other."

"Well we know that isn't going to happen."

Stiles raised his eyebrows. "Don't underestimate his power; that'll be our first and last mistake."

A car pulled up to the house, and the three of them turned to look at the newcomer.

"Derek?" Scott said in surprise, the older ally coming to join them.

"Your dad got me out." Derek explained, looking to Stiles. "Said I could be of help here."

"My dad's out too?" Allison asked.

He nodded. "Cleared both of us from the investigation. Your dad's getting weapons."

"Excuse me?" Stiles interrupted. "Weapons for what?"

Derek sent him a look. "Stiles, maybe you've already forgotten in your newfound freedom, but this thing has already killed people. That was just the beginning. You know better than anyone how this thing thinks. It's only a matter of time. We need to be able to stop it."

"You're not putting bullets into Lydia."

"We're not sure how much of Lydia is still in there."

"I'M sure. She's in there. Probably screaming herself raw, trying to be heard."

"Look, like your dad said to me, it's more than a fight for her body. It's a fight for her mind. It tried to use your mother's disease to make you give up hope—we have no idea what it will do to Lydia. He said he was once told that if you want to defeat your enemies, you don't take away their courage, you take away their hope."

Stiles looked like he was ready to interrupt again but Derek held up a hand.

"Don't bite my head off yet, Stiles. Your dad sent me to help trap it, not kill it. And even Argent said he'd feel bad putting Lydia down."

"But not a nogitsune." Allison spoke up, and Derek looked at her in surprise. She rolled her eyes. "I know my dad. I'm not that easily fooled by selective, out-of-context quotes."

"We have to be prepared for the worst case scenario. No one is hoping we kill an innocent teenage girl."

Stiles made an irritated noise at the back of his throat.

"Well, I guess that's the best I can ask for. Let's go."

The four of them entered the Stilinski house together.

Lydia hadn't known where she was going, but that wasn't new. The uneasy feeling of unfamiliarity deep inside her never really lifted, seeing as she had absolutely no control of her own body or any way of reaching out to the ones she loved.

Instead, she was forced to watch the dark fox spirit use her body as a vessel as it acted out its instinctual mission. Despite being inside, Lydia didn't know the plan for anything; she just knew they had reason to be afraid. She could feel Void's emotions, and he was exhilarated, brimming with energy, so she knew managing to get into Stiles' house was only the beginning of the plan going the way he wanted.

She heard the front door open, and her lips curved into a sinister smile. Part two of the plan was clearly going well. Void had lured her friends there. But for what?

The bodies, whoever had come, were moving through the house, all heading upstairs first.

Void sighed through her mouth, springing up to sit on the edge of the counter, fingers fiddling with the dagger they had stolen from Noshiko.

It hadn't been a hard feat, but Lydia didn't understand that significance of the weapon. As far as she could tell, it was something that could work against the nogitsune. So besides to keep it away from its enemy, why else would it want it in such easy reach of the others, when it was possible they could steal it back?

The footsteps returned downstairs and slowly the group entered the kitchen. Scott walked forward first, keeping Stiles protectively behind him, eyes flashing red. Lydia was perched on the kitchen counter, legs kicking out in front of her and she dropped her chin to her chest in exasperation at the sight of them.

"Finally. I was beginning to think I was going to have to hang a banner to get your attention." Lydia said in a bored, condescending tone, sounding much more like the popular mean girl she once was. "You know, for being the so-called supernatural protection pack of Beacon Hills, you certainly don't use your powers very well. You should've been able to smell Lydia's damn shampoo a mile away."

"What do you want?" Scott asked.

"Now Scott, I thought we were over this?" she simpered, letting out an impatient scoff. She jumped down from the counter, and Scott immediately released a warning growl. "Oh, stop that nonsense. You and I both know you won't hurt me while I'm in this body."

Derek, who had been staying in the sidelines, stepped further into the kitchen.

Lydia grinned at the sight of him.

"The whole original pack together! How sweet."

Allison subtly raised her taser gun, stepping out slightly to have a clear shot.

Lydia turned in her direction.

"Oh, Allison. Really going to electrocute your best gal pal? That's sort of breaking the girl code, isn't it?"

Allison sent the wires flying, a determined look on her face, but she blanched when Void snatched up the wires before they could hit her chest and twisted them until it sprung the gun from her hands.

Derek lunged forward, ready to pin her, but she launched him across the room until he smacked against the cupboards, falling limp.

Lydia swiped her hands against each other as if brushing off dust. "So. Moving on…"

"What do you want?" Stiles demanded, Scott sending him a warning look, but he ignored his best friend and kept his eye trained on her.

"I thought we had been over this. You of all people should know, Stiles."

His eyes narrowed.

She stepped forward. "Chaos." Another step. "Pain." Another step. "Strife."

"You were called upon at a different time. No one here wants that. Even Noshiko." Scott reminded it.

"Oh, Noshiko. I suppose I should thank you, by the way. Getting her to call off the Oni has really saved me from having to keep a nightlight on to get to sleep. My beauty rest comes much easier."

"Let's skip the fake pleasantries. Give Lydia back." Stiles demanded.

"Why would you want such a weak creature? Humans… so fragile. So… mortal." She smirked. "She's been more accepting than you, though. For that, I should be grateful. But still, listening to her whimper and whine is getting old. I suppose I should try to find someone stronger. So, sure, you can have her. Let me just free her."

Suddenly, before they could catch up to what was happening, Lydia dragged the hidden kaiken down her forearm in a gruesome zigzag, slicing open her skin. The dagger fell from Lydia's hand as she collapsed to her knees, blooding pouring from the wound, staining the floor.

"No! What have you done?!" Stiles screamed, pushing past Scott to get to her.

Void was laughing maniacally, eyes alight with sick joy, as Stiles tried to put pressure on the wound and stop the bleeding.

She was losing consciousness as Allison crowded next to him, trying to help.

"You asked me to free her. I'll free her from you all." she whispered, giggling psychotically before she fainted.

"What do we do? What do we do?!" Stiles panicked, hands drenched in red now. He didn't need Allison's first aid training to know that if they didn't get control of it soon, she was in serious trouble.

Derek was watching, looking a little ill. "We can't just take her into the hospital. That's probably exactly what Void wants."

"My mom. Let's take her to my house. She'll be able to help." Scott suggested.

"Let's go. Let's go now. Before she comes to." Allison said, helping tie the hand towel around her wrist to slow the bleeding.

Derek moved forward to lift Lydia, clearly the strongest of the four, and lead the others out of the house to head to Scott's place.

Derek and Scott manoeuvered the unconscious girl's body into the McCall residence.

"The couch, put her on the couch." Stiles said, hands scrambling to help but knowing Scott would likely scold him for touching the villain in his girlfriend's body.

The alpha helped place her gently down on the cushions in the living room as his mom and boss came through the door.

"Guys, this is crazy. She needs to be in the hospital." Melissa said, seeing the blood-soaked towel.

"Mom, remember what happened the last time the nogitsune went to the hospital?"

No one bothered to respond. It was obvious that everyone remembered very well.

Deaton approached and peeled back the towel, examining the open wound.

"It doesn't look like she's bleeding now. I think she might even be healing."

Derek looked intrigued. "You mean healing like we heal?"

"That's good, right?" Scott asked earnestly.

"For her, yes. Us? I'm not so sure." Deaton admitted.

Melissa clapped her hands together. "Well, if it means not having to perform a hospital procedure on a psychopath, I would call that a win for now. But I still want to keep an eye on it." She dragged her eyes away from the wound to look to the pack. "What are you guys going to do with her? She could wake up any minute."

Stiles stepped closer to her protectively.

"I didn't mean like that, Stiles. She needs to be restrained."

"It'll need to be something formidable. He's stronger than you think." Stiles said quietly, eyes completely focused on Lydia's face.

A few of them stared, not used to him dropping facts from his possession so absent-mindedly, but it was clear his head was elsewhere.

Before anyone could move, Lydia suddenly lunged, eyes snapping open, and her hands went immediately to Stiles' throat. She grinned maliciously, squeezed tighter as he choked and struggled against her, and the werewolves in the room moved forward to tackle her off of him.

She was cackling as they forced her down onto the couch again.

"Oh, that was fun. I like it when boys play rough."

Stiles massaged his throat, coughing, with Allison by his side trying to get a proper look at it to make sure he was okay.

"You should hear the way Lydia is screaming inside right now. She begged me not to hurt you."

"Well, as she can see, I'm fine." Stiles spat, anger flashing in his eyes at the mention of Lydia's distress.

"Ah, to be a teenager in love." she sighed patronizingly.

Deaton approached her, meeting Scott's eyes and nodding as if to ask for his trust. Derek and Scott held her as still as possible as he poured a clear liquid into Lydia's forced-open mouth.

It didn't take long to take effect, and, though Lydia didn't understand the cause of the sensation spreading through her body, it was clear Void did.

"Kanima venom. Nice touch." he said with her voice, scoffing.

Deaton simply backed away, the werewolves letting go once they were sure Lydia's body was paralyzed.

Lydia's eyes roamed around the room, seeming to enjoy the crowd's attention.

"Now, where is the rest of the pack? Seems we're missing a few members."

"They're not your concern." Scott said.

"Hmm… okay, alpha. I'll play along." she simpered. "Still, I hope Kira gets to her mother in time."

His eyes narrowed.

Her grin stretched, knowing she had guessed right about where Kira was. She had been alerted that Void had found the kaiken and that Noshiko must have had a run-in with him. "She's like a mother to me too, in a way. After all, she too brought me into this world. She may be ancient but she's a lot more fun than you bakemono trying to save the world every day."

"Doc, you brought something to paralyze her body. You got anything for his mouth?"

"Yes I do." Deaton ripped off a piece of duct tape and covered her mouth.

Void screamed in anger, muffled by the sticky barrier, but her eyes were still dancing with laughter.

Derek guarded the nogitsune while the others talked in the kitchen.

They weren't sure how long the kanima venom would last, and the nogitsune did not seem as bothered by their trapping of him as he should have, which made them all wary. He seemed almost happy about it, which meant that it may have been what he was planning all along, and those plans never ended well.

"If my dad is coming with weapons, we should hurry this along and figure out an alternate plan to putting a bullet through Lydia's brain." Allison said lowly, brow furrowed in worry.

Scott interjected. "The only lead we had was the scroll, and the scroll said to change the body of the host."

"That's if I translated it correctly. We're looking for a cure in something that might not be anything more than a metaphor or proverb." Deaton reminded them.

"Even if it is right, it's already been established that Lydia can't turn into a werewolf, because of whatever she is. Does Void possessing her change that? It's still her body." Stiles said.

"Either way, it could kill her. I've never done this before. What if I bite her and accidentally hit an artery or something?" Scott said.

"That venom is not going to last long. Something needs to be done sooner rather than later."

"Maybe we should call someone. Someone else who knows how to get into people's minds." Derek said, stepping back to appear in the doorway, looking apologetic, and Stiles groaned in time with the others.

Melissa sighed. "Do what you must. I have to clean up that wound, just in case it's not healing the way we expect. I don't want Lydia ending up with an infection."

Stiles nodded in gratitude, running a hand through his hair and exhaling heavily as he turned back to the others to continue working out a plan to separate Lydia and Void.

Melissa headed into the living room and sat across from Lydia, jerking her head to the side. "I think they need your help in the kitchen more than out here. I'll be fine. I'll yell if I need anything."

Derek didn't look like he wanted to budge at first but he acquiesced, sighing and going to join the others, making sure to stand on an angle in the doorway to keep an eye on the situation.

Melissa opened her first aid kit and adjusted the makeshift bandage so she could get a better look at the wound before getting to work.

As she cleaned, her eyes flickered up at the change in breathing and she saw the pain in Lydia's eyes, the tears brimming on the edge of her eyelids, and her mouth fell open.


She nodded, sniffling still, and Melissa carefully removed the tape.

Lydia licked her lips, pushing back her tears, and then her eyes focused on Melissa. The glint in them changed—her lips were twisted in a smirk again.

"Really, Melissa? I shed one tear, and that's all it takes. Come on. You can't crumble that easily. How are you going to hold up when Scott knows the truth?"

"What are you talking about?"

She seemed even more amused by her question. "Oh come on. When he finds out why his dad really left? You know Stiles was there, right?"

Melissa paled instantly.

"Oh dear. You had no idea. You called Stilinski right after it happened. You didn't tell Scott, but you told the Sheriff. Hmm. But Stiles heard it like he hears everything. And then there was that night after your fight, when you knew you'd have to tell Scott that you two were talking about divorce, and you went to pick him up from Stiles'…"

"Shut up. You don't know what you're talking about." Melissa growled.

She grinned. "Oh, but I do. See, the best part of this whole possession thing? I still remember what I learned while we shared a brain. So I know that Stiles—young, nosy, ten-year-old Stiles—caught the two of you having your heart-to-heart by the front door. And he didn't miss you kiss him, despite still being married to another man. Instead, you told Scott that you and his dad just weren't right for each other, that right now things weren't working. You didn't give him any reason not to hope for one day, even though you knew you had fallen for another man. Stiles, perceptive kid that he is, knew right away, even though he listened and supported Scott over the years as he talked about the whole thing from his naïve perspective. But you want to know why he never told Scott? Because he knew that Scott would never forgive you. He knew how much Scott would hate you. The mother he looked up to, who he believed to be so brave and independent, was really just a cheater and a liar. You weren't some innocent woman left by an alcoholic jackass. You were the cause of his fatherless upbringing."

"This isn't you, Lydia." Melissa said, but Lydia wasn't sure whose benefit it really was for.

"Didn't you know Lydia used to be a gossip? Used people's secrets to gain power? Oh come on. Don't tell me you fell for that nice girl act." Void said patronizingly, raising an eyebrow.

Without another word, pushing back the moisture in her eyes, Melissa replaced the tape on Lydia's mouth and kept working at the wound.

Lydia, inside, though surprised by the revelation, knew that it wasn't so black and white and Melissa definitely didn't deserve that sort of judgment for the past. She had done right by her son and was an incredible mother. She didn't even need to see it firsthand to know. The way Scott looked at her confirmed it. And she knew that nothing would change that for him.

She would never think poorly of her—her warmth since she met her was beyond anything she was familiar with. And she would never use that secret to hurt her, to gain power over her or manipulate her. She wasn't that girl anymore. She never really was.

If only she could speak and offer words of comfort, instead of being paralyzed in every way.

It was a strange concept, being possessed. Lydia was aware of everything that Void was seeing and experiencing, but it was like she was trapped in a different part of the mind. Almost aware on a subconscious level of what was going on.

The other part of her was in a duel with him, sitting across from the bandaged man as they played pieces on a game board. She didn't remember ever learning the rules of the Japanese game Go, but clearly she had picked them up in some way or another, since she placed her pieces strategically against his.

It was unlike anything she could explain, being in that state. It was like her mind was being split into pieces. Sometimes she was so fully encompassed with old, painful memories, playing on a reel in her head, it was like no other part of her existed. Other times, she was watching Void live out its movements like some sick TV show. And then there were the times she was trying to figure out her next move, trying to figure out how to beat him, trying to find a way back to being in control.

She was somewhat aware that there was tension in the reality she was absent from, amongst her friends, some new visitor that was causing their guards to go up. Void was eating it up like a five-year-old with a chocolate sundae. But there was nothing she could do about it.

She placed another piece down on the board.

In reality, the group was taking instructions from Peter Hale, an enemy since he went on a murderous rampage and was the one to turn Scott a few years back.

Not one they liked trusting, but his experience was above their own, and his loyalty to Derek, his nephew, wasn't missed.

"So he's going to enter Lydia's mind and try to lead her out of his grasp? How the hell does that work?" Stiles asked.

"It's supernatural, not science." Peter reminded him, guiding Scott to stand behind where Lydia was sitting and placing his claws along the top of her spine. "He'll need someone to go with him, of course. Someone who has a strong connection to Lydia, a sort of… emotional tether. Might I hazard a guess that that will be you?" His eyes roamed back to Stiles.

Stiles' eyes narrowed and he walked over to sit next to Lydia, casting his eyes to his girlfriend.

Peter moved to position Scott's other hand over Stiles' neck. "This isn't going to be easy. But focus on finding Lydia. Focus on bringing her back. This is more a battle of her mind than her body. Don't get caught up in what you see in there."

"This is going to be some weird Alice in Wonderland shit, isn't it?" Stiles said.

"Say hi to the Cheshire cat for me then." Peter said cheekily before forcing Scott's claws into both teenagers, all three of them letting out a pained gasp.

It was like being stuck in a weird home movie. That's what Stiles could remember.

It was like a dream—you couldn't really see the flaws until you were out. But Stiles knew he had been there before, that there was something familiar about this.

Lydia's hand was intertwined with his as they walked along campus, her pink dress shining in the moonlight. They had left the party a few minutes before.

He found the amused words leaving his mouth as if he was reciting some sort of script. "So we should really do this again sometime. Attend a crappy party, get abandoned, wallflower in the corner, leave early. We're fulfilling all of college students' dreams."

Lydia giggled and rolled her eyes at him.

Stiles was stepping closer to her before he could stop himself, her eyes widening in anticipation, and he touched a strand of her hair.


There was so much he wanted to say, but he had no words. It's as if his mind went offline. He was suddenly completely blank, forgetting everything.

And then she was leaning up and kissing him, pulling him down to her height, her lips soft but eager against his.

Stiles let himself get lost in her, his heart clenching with how badly he had wanted this, how long he had been her friend and thought this was impossible. His hand fisted her dress at her waist.

She pushed closer to him, hands in his hair, and their kissing grew more serious.

Her lips found his neck, and he inhaled a deep breath, their make-out session outside her dorm building stealing any air in his lungs.

He could smell her shampoo. Apples.

She was kissing him again. But he wasn't as into it this time. The gears in his mind were turning.

"This isn't real." he said.

"What?" she asked, lipstick smudged as she pulled back and furrowed her brows at him.

"This isn't real. Your hair… wrong scent. This is wrong."

"Stiles, what are you talking about—"

"This isn't… you're not Lydia." he said, backing away from her. "I have to get out of here." His eyes caught sight of the dorm building behind them. He suddenly knew where he needed to go and started to move.

"NO!" Dream-Lydia shouted, and Stiles watched as blood poured from her side, slash marks appearing like an invisible slasher attacked.

But Stiles was already running.

He burst through the door to find himself in a completely different place—a huge room that seemed to go on forever. He found Scott stumbling in, likely from another invisible door, next to him.

"Well, this has been weird."

Scott shrugged. "Isn't it always?"

They seemed to see the same thing in the distance simultaneously.

Lydia and Void, cross-legged across from each other, playing some black-and-white board game on a giant stump. The Nemeton stump.

They ran in that direction, but the distance only seemed to stretch further. It didn't seem like it was possible for them to catch up to where she was.

"Lydia! LYDIA!" they both started shouting as loud as they could. Maybe she could come to them.

She didn't seem to hear a thing.

"How in the hell are we supposed to get her attention?"

They stood there, staring off at the dueling pair, until Stiles clapped Scott on the arm.

"Wait. Lydia is part of the pack now, right?"

"Well, yeah?"

"So think like an alpha, Scott. How do you alert the other members of the pack where you are?"

It took him a moment and then he understood.

Baring his fangs as he turned, Scott let out a calling roar to his lost friend.

Lydia, who had been completely oblivious to the newcomers, engrossed in the game before her, knowing if she just won that this would be over, suddenly stopped. She heard it – the distinct roar of the True Alpha of Beacon Hills. She understood now how Stiles recognized the differences—she suddenly just knew that was Scott.

She turned from the shaking game, only to see they were in a huge white room, hundreds of yards of emptiness stretching in all directions.

And in one of those directions stood Scott and Stiles.

How had they…?

Void, too, turned to see the interruption.

"You can't save them, Lydia. I've shown you how this all ends." he murmured.

Lydia gritted her teeth and, with all her strength, swiped the game pieces off the board so they scattered across the tile floor.

Void growled, metallic teeth flashing, but Lydia suddenly felt the pressure building inside her. All the frustration, all the anger and pain and fear, built up to an unstoppable pressure. She screamed in retaliation, loud and ringing and with a force she didn't know she had. Even Void seemed surprised, as he went tumbling off the stump they sat on as if the very sound had a physical gust to it.

Lydia felt like her mind snapped like an elastic band, stretched and tugged in her head as she lost consciousness.

When she came to, she felt shaky and weak and like she was dragged under water. Or maybe something thicker, like mud or quicksand. With heavy limbs, she tried to pull herself out, choking for air. She felt like she was mummified. She started scratching at the bindings around her, her body going into panic as it was deprived of oxygen, still unsteady on her feet.

She felt hands on her, but they were pushing her, forcing her down, and she tried to fight them off to get to the bandages on her face, she just needed to breathe, but she was weak and outnumbered.

"Wait, wait, WAIT!"

She recognized that voice. Allison.

Lydia stopped fighting. Was she back with her friends?

She only just clued in that her body had been listening to her directions. Was she free of the nogitsune?

Her friend's gentle hands worked on pulling the wrappings off her face.

"Allison?" she whispered hopefully.

She smiled. "Lydia."

"Scott." Deaton's voice came, like a warning.

Lydia followed his gaze to see the front door was open. She didn't understand.

Scott seemed to catch on instantly. His face paled. "Where are they? Where are they?! Stiles! STILES!" He raced out of the door but it was too late.

Void had kidnapped Stiles. They were gone.

Lydia was weaker than she had ever been, barely able to stand up on her own.

She didn't miss the hesitance Melissa showed when it came to touching her to check her vitals—she hadn't forgotten the previous wearer of her face's cruel actions or words. Lydia understood, but it still hurt a little.

How she could tell was surprising in itself—she ached all over. It was as if the pain had manifested into every single cell in her body. Maybe it came with the territory of belonging in an entirely fabricated body that was made from some sort of weird supernatural voodoo.

Melissa forced a smile. "Well, medically, you seem okay. You're definitely a real person."

She nodded. "Okay, but am I really me?"

Scott came into the room.

"She's here?" Lydia sat up.

"Lydia, I don't know about this."

"We have to do this, Scott. I know what I'm doing."

She followed him downstairs. Noshiko was waiting in the living room.

"Do you recognize me?" the older woman asked.

She nodded.

Kira was with her. "Mom, don't do this."

"I asked her to come." Lydia explained.

"You're the one who is going to get stabbed with swords! Mom—"

"It's already done."

Lydia felt them before she saw them. The Oni came out of the shadows, surrounded her. She remembered the way they had seemed to suck something out of her at the Argents that time. She wondered what would happen if they found something reminiscent of the nogitsune in her veins.

The yellow firefly eyes bored into hers and her whole body seized up, a gasp escaping her lips. And just as quick, she collapsed on the floor, the Oni disappearing into the darkness.

"Check behind her ear." Noshiko instructed.

Kira had raced next to her and folded back the skin to see the etched marking.

"I'm me?" Lydia asked, struggling to get herself upright. Scott helped her to her feet.

"More you than the nogitsune." Noshiko answered with a nod.

Scott was confused and looked back and forth between his friends. "So why did Void take Stiles? Do you think he's going to try to repossess him now that you're free?"

"He has his own body now. I don't think he can if he wanted to. But he must have taken him for some sort of advantage." Allison suggested.

"Do you think Void's body is, like, a direct copy of mine? Will it have the same abilities?"

Deaton looked intrigued. "That is the question, isn't it? It may not have the same resistance to the bite."

"But the banshee powers… could they be helpful to him somehow?"

They all stared at her. She finally remembered that they hadn't been privy to that information.

"I… when Void took over, when he heard me scream when I sensed he was going to let Oliver kill Stiles… he told me I was a banshee. The Wailing Woman. I'm connected to death, can sense when it's coming. Especially when its supernatural related. That's why I scream."

"That's how you got him out of you." Scott said suddenly. "You screamed."

She shrugged. "He told me I have more power than I think I have. I don't know what to do with it yet."

"We'll figure that out. For now, we should focus on finding Stiles." Allison reminded them.

"We better move quickly. I don't have a good feeling about any of this." Lydia admitted, wondering if Stiles was okay, wherever he was.

Chapter Text

Stiles shivered as he leaned against the cold stone wall.

He didn't know how long he had been there. It was a dark corridor, underground he suspected, and as cold and dank as if it was a sewer canal. But even he could feel the strange atmosphere. Something supernatural was present here. He wasn't sure what, but the hair on the back of his neck was standing at full attention.

He rubbed up and down his arms. If he had known he was going to get kidnapped by Lydia's murderous doppelgänger, he would have at least worn a sweater. T-shirt and jeans weren't really making him feel warm and cozy where he was.

"You feel it, don't you? Even though you're just a human." a familiar, taunting voice came. It was made chillier by the fact that it had Lydia's tone interlaced with it.

She was several feet down the hallway, but Stiles shuffled away from her on instinct.

"What do you want from me? You have a body now. You don't need me anymore."

She was walking slowly towards him, amused, as he rushed down the hall, trying not to look as scared as he felt. He knew exactly how Void thought. He had every right to be terrified. "Ah, but I do. Because I need Lydia to come here. And you and I both know the one person she'll do anything for is you. She'll be here."

"So let's say she figures out, somehow, your cryptic location. What then? What is she going to do for you?" Stiles spat. He was only finding dead ends, gated doorways that didn't open. The only way out was through Void.

He had a feeling Void was well aware of that, but had had more fun watching Stiles figure it out than telling him outright.

Void descended the stairs after him, slowly, knowing he had all the time in the world. He stepped up next to Stiles, Lydia's curls brushing Stiles shoulder as her lips settled next to his ear.

"I want her to scream."

He swallowed, his mind already running races on all of the horrible things he would do to her to get her to scream for him. "I won't let you hurt her."

Void cackled. "Oh right. You're still oblivious. You've poured through the Argent's bestiary and some library books on the supernatural, looking for some relative of a werewolf. But Lydia was a supernatural being long before you came into her life, Stiles. The interaction with the supernatural just kickstarted the banshee in her."

"Banshee?" Stiles said in surprise, his fear forgotten as his curiosity peaked. He bit his lip, trying to remember the few things he knew about the folklore, most of his facts from fictional TV shows.

"The Wailing Woman. Lydia is connected to death—lets out a scream to silence and narrow down the other banshee whispers she hears in her head that indicate what will happen and to who."

"So when you say you want her to scream…. What you really mean is…"

Void grinned. "She will know your death is coming."

Stiles felt a single tear slip down his face. His own feelings aside, it wasn't just Lydia he was worried about. His dad. Scott. It couldn't end like this. His dad couldn't lose his only son.

Void was watching his emotional reaction with disinterest, as if discussing his imminent death was as dry as discussing the weather. "You know, it was fun watching you blame yourself, Stiles. Torturing yourself over the idea that this whole thing was your fault, that I only came to power because of your weakness. Humans, so weak. Fragile little creatures, always looking for someone to blame. You had your eyes on the wrong person. It was Lydia that brought me to life."

"What the hell are you talking about? How could she have? She didn't even live here until recently."

"Oh, so quickly you forget. Well, let me lay it out for you. You may have reignited the power of the Nemeton, but the banshee was drawn to it once she came further into her powers. The werewolf attack ignited her spark, and then what happened next?"

Stiles blanched. At the hospital, when she ran away. Something spooked her, he had thought, and she had never remembered what it was.

Void smiled. "You're guessing right. The Nemeton drew her in, called out to her in its mystical way. But it was more than that. I had been unearthed thanks to the earthquake that nearly erupted the night you all saved your parents. Lydia was drawn in, naked and vulnerable, and it wasn't long before the banshee cries told her stories of the tragedies they had witnessed thanks to the Nemeton. Her powers coming to strength, all the banshee cries suddenly could be heard more clearly than ever, and once she arrived, their volume increased tenfold. She curled up on the stump and was driven mad for days, screaming herself raw to try to silence the noise. One scream managed to break the glass jar my other form was contained in and released me into the night."

Stiles remembered the state they had found her in—unable to remember anything, shaking all over, looking like she had been through a trauma of some sort. She had been missing for days. How had she survived that, someone new to her powers and being put under such stress?

"That's when I knew she was strong." Void said, as if reading his mind. "Her mind had been weakened though, and I needed an in. Between the two of you, it wasn't a hard choice. You, Stiles, with all your mama drama and your inferiority complex compared to your superstar best friend, your inability to feel like you make your father proud… you were the easy choice. I could have chosen someone stronger, someone with supernatural strength, but you didn't disappoint. I had been right—you craved the power more than anyone, and I overran you before long."

"I never wanted that." Stiles growled.

She laughed, almost a schoolgirl giggle, unnaturally chilling. "You forget we shared a mind. I know you enjoyed feeling so powerful, how you ate it up the way I ate up your guilt from such a feeling. That, and your turmoil over blaming yourself for being so weak to let me in in the first place, or agreeing to the sacrifices that put everybody in this town, this world, at risk. But don't worry. Lydia's guilt, now that she remembers who is at fault, is even greater. You and your friends may have dragged me to the surface, but Lydia is the reason everything is happening."

"It's not her fault. She didn't know what she was doing. She was overwhelmed by something she didn't even understand!" Stiles shouted.

Void shrugged. "Does it matter? You've seen my plan, Stiles. You know how this all ends. Even if you won't be alive to see it."

Lydia startled awake, gasping for air as she scrambled to her feet, but before she got far, Scott caught her and held her steady.

"Whoa, whoa. You're okay. You're all right. You're at my house and you're you." he told her soothingly, leading her to sit back down on the couch she had been sleeping on.

"How long have I been asleep?" she asked, closing her eyes as she tried to steady her panicked breaths from before.

"Only an hour or so. Your body has been through a lot; it needs rest, Lydia." Scott reminded her when he saw the look of disdain on her face.

"I can rest after we find Stiles." she said shakily with a sigh, leaning back into the cushions.

Scott crouched in front of her and went to grab her hands reassuringly when blackness travelled up his veins and he inhaled sharply.

"You're in pain." He didn't phrase it as a question, and Lydia felt guilty immediately. Scott was not really someone she felt she'd ever be able to lie to, and it had nothing to do with his supernatural abilities.

"It's just sort of an ache… since the separation. I'm fine." She did her best to hide the tremor in her voice.

"Your skin is like ice." he said, his face full of concern.

"I've just been having trouble getting warm." she dismissed, not looking him in the eye.

She grabbed the blanket hanging off the couch and wrapped it around her as a way of saying 'see? I have it covered.'.

He didn't look all that convinced, so she changed the subject. "Any progress on Stiles?"

Scott grimaced. "Not much. But it's not just finding Stiles. There's no way this won't end with a showdown against Void. And if we go in there unprepared, especially when Void will know we're coming, we're never going to all make it out alive."

"Has Noshiko been any help?"

"Kira is with her now. Texted me not long ago – said her mom's training involves a Japanese board game, so she's not feeling very hopeful, but her mom is adamant about it so she doesn't have much choice."


He looked confused. "Go where?"

She couldn't help but giggle a little. "No. Go. The name of the board game. The Japanese game Kira is probably learning. I remember… that's what we played. In… I don't even know the mechanics of that possession, but when you guys found me, that's what we were playing. I mentioned it to Noshiko when I called her, so maybe it's more significant than we thought. Her mom probably has a point."

"But how will it help?"

Lydia shrugged. "It's a kind of strategy game – you can play it in tons of different ways but it really reveals what kind of player you are. Aggressive, passive, orthodox, etc. You work your way around by claiming territories, surrounding your opponents pieces. Tell Kira to pay attention. It might not hurt to see what kind of player Noshiko is. I have a feeling her involvement with stopping him is going to be a lot more ruthless than our plan, and she won't be as concerned with keeping all of us alive as we will be."

Scott pulled out his phone and texted Kira quickly, brow furrowed in concentration as his fingers flew over the keys.

Lydia adjusted herself on the couch, wincing as pain shot through her every nerve ending.

Scott, perceptive and supernatural as he was, was not oblivious. He looked at her in concern as he slipped his phone away.

"Lydia… tell me the truth. How much does it really hurt?"

Her eyes grew wet as she gazed back at him, the words lost in her throat.

Before she could gather the courage, Allison came in the room.

"Hey, you're awake."

Lydia forced a smile as Allison sat down next to her.

"Any luck tracking Stiles?"

Allison shook her head. "I just spoke with the Sheriff. They tried tracking the GPS in his phone but wherever he is it's either off, dead or out of service range. Figured as much considering he wouldn't answer our calls and hadn't tried to contact us. But they're still trying to figure things out. Derek and Isaac are trying to track his scent, but they haven't found anything yet."

"It's getting late. It'll be dark soon."

"How did things go with your dad?"

Allison sighed. "Good. Feel like I now know every weapon there is to have we dug through so many. I'll be sticking with my arrow though—even added some of my handmade arrowhead ones to the group."

There was a knock at the front door.

Scott left the girls alone to answer it, looking confused. They weren't expecting anyone.

"Stay with Lydia." he told Allison, who slid a hand under the couch to grab her bow and quiver in preparation.

It wasn't as if Void being bold and just showing up at the door was that unlikely.

"Uh, hi. Can I help you?" they heard Scott ask.

"I was told to come here." a female voice said.

"Told by who?"

"By the voices."

Lydia was on her feet and moving, Allison grabbing for her arm as she struggled to catch her.

There was a petite girl with short curly hair in the doorway. She smiled at the sight of Lydia. "I'm here for you. I knew it."

Lydia recognized her instantly. "Meredith."

Lydia was startled by the sight of her, but even more by her words before she discovered her. She hadn't known what she was when she was at Eichen House, but if Meredith was hearing voices that led her to Lydia, then maybe they had more in common than the room they shared at the mental institution.

Her Eichen roommate now sat across from her in Scott's living room, her smile shy but clearly happy to be there.

"So Meredith, what are you doing so far from Eichen House?" Lydia asked as politely as she could.

Meredith wasn't really looking at her, focused on her folded hands in her lap, intertwining and undoing her fingers repeatedly.

"Trying to help. I can hear them. They scream."

"Why do they scream?"

"They scream when someone is about to die."

"Are they screaming right now?" Scott inputted.

Meredith nodded.

"How many of them?"

She looked up then. "All of them."

The other three looked at each other uneasily. Lydia swallowed, inhaling a breath to keep herself calm.

"Who is about to die? Is it Stiles?"

"What's a Stiles?" Meredith asked, brow furrowed in confusion.

Scott sighed, rubbing his forehead. Lydia could tell he was thinking he should be joining the others in actively searching for Stiles.

Lydia was determined. If Meredith was a banshee and was listening to voices enough to get her to break out of Eichen, there had to be a reason she had found them. She knew more than she realized. She was their connection; Lydia had to believe it.

She had yet to feel Stiles' death, even though her own anxiety was skyhigh and hard to decipher from her banshee powers in terms of sensation. She did know enough to know the difference.

"You came here to help us, right, Meredith? You're here to help?"

Meredith nodded quickly, face breaking out into a smile. "Yes I want to help."

"Okay, then I need you to concentrate, okay? I need you to try to listen and figure out who is about to die. I need you to block out everything else and try to focus. Try to see where they are. Some sort of indicator of where they are. Can you do that?"

Meredith shook her head, breaking her gaze away from Lydia to look at the floor. "They won't tell me."

"Yes, they will, Meredith. You just need to focus." Lydia said, trying to be encouraging but her stress seeping into her tone.

"Isn't anyone going to get that?"

Allison, Scott and Lydia exchanged glances.

"Get what?"

"The phone." Meredith said, nodding to the phone in Scott's hand.

"OH. Right. My phone. Let me… get that…" Scott said awkwardly, bringing the silent device up to his ear. "Hello? Uh, yes, she's right here. It's for you, Meredith."

Meredith nodded and accepted the phone. She nodded as if listening to someone, then passed it back.

"What did they say?" Lydia asked.

"Coup du foudre." Meredith stated.

"Bolt of lightning? Or love at first sight?" Allison said in confusion. She had been taking French for years thanks to her family's influence.

Scott understood though. "It's a phrase Noshiko taught Rhys back before everything happened. Back at Oak Creek…"

Lydia caught on about in time with him. "You don't think Stiles…"

"It's our best bet." he said seriously.

Lydia grinned. "Meredith, you did it! Thank you!" she exclaimed, pulling the petite girl into a hug.

Meredith seemed alarmed by the gesture and was stiff in her hold, but a small smile appeared when she let go. "I helped?"

"You did! You helped so much!" Lydia said excitedly.

"We should go. Let's call the others from the car." Allison said.

"What about Meredith? It's not safe to bring her where we're going but we can't just leave her here…" Lydia reminded her.

Meredith stood up. "I've done what I came for. I've got more to do elsewhere."

"Okay…" Lydia said slowly, looking at the others, but Meredith left the house like she was on a mission so they let her go.

"Okay, that was really weird, but oddly helpful." Scott admitted.

"Come on. We don't have much time." Allison reminded them, grabbing her keys and leading the way outside.

Scott picked up the phone as he clambered in the passenger seat of Allison's car. "Kira? We need to go where everything started with your mom and the nogitsune. Void has Stiles at Oak Creek." He listened for a minute then nodded. "Meet you there."

Pulling up to the abandoned, crumbling once-concentration camp would have been just a historic marvel, except Lydia immediately doubled over, clutching her head.

"Lydia? Are you okay?" Allison asked worriedly, coming over to her.

"I think we're in the right place." Lydia said through gritted teeth. "A lot of bad things have happened here."

Scott stood in front of them protectively as he spotted Noshiko across the lot. She was coming towards them, looking none-too-pleased.

A motorbike revved its engine as it joined them, and they all turned to see Isaac and Kira had arrived.

Kira leapt off the bike and ran towards her mother. "Mom, you can't do this! Someone is going to get hurt!"

"I was not the one that reawakened the Nemeton!" Noshiko exclaimed with a murderous look towards Allison and Scott. "They were told there would be great consequences. I brought Void into the world in the first place—he is still my demon to bury. Now all of you—turn around and go home!"

"We are here to save Stiles." Scott said.

"Do what you must. Just stay out of my way. And theirs."

The sun had gone down now, and the Oni appeared in clouds of black smoke.

Stiles' shivering had increased and he sunk back against the cold wall anyways, determined to keep his distance from Void.

Lydia's doppelgänger smirked suddenly, as if amused, and let out a long satisfied sigh.

"Finally. They're all here."

Stiles straightened up instantly. "What? My friends?"

Void nodded. "And Noshiko with her army of Oni."

Stiles cocked his head to the side, feeling the unease spread across every vein in his arms, hairs standing up. "They're here to kill you."

As if hearing him, the Oni suddenly appeared in the room surrounding them.

"I know." Lydia's voice said.

The swords aimed directly at her body, glowing eyes focused, they charged.

But Void slipped out a familiar dagger, and right before they hit, snapped it in half.

Stiles saw the mystical smoke sparkle out of the broken middle, and he knew deep in his bones that whatever just happened was all a part of Void's plan.

The Oni stopped just before hitting him and seemed to wait.

They were waiting on his orders. They were under his control.

Stiles couldn't breathe.

Lydia's doppelganger grinned. "And now the fun really begins."

Outside, the group was looking for a way in to the building to look for Stiles when the sudden appearance of the Oni made them stop. Their eyes were focused on the pack, and their sword's directions soon followed.

Noshiko let out a gasp and unfurled her fisted hand. A dying firefly disappeared into smoke.

"What's happening? What does that mean?" Kira asked in a whisper, too afraid to speak louder.

"It means there has been a change in ownership." Lydia's voice called out across the yard, and they saw Void stepping up from a crumbling set of stairs to overlook them all. "They belong to me now."

Noshiko looked furious, but her eyes betrayed her fear, and it hit them all at the same time that this was what she had been afraid of. They had known how to beat the Oni when it was looking for the nogitsune, but now, without a mission besides to kill them, they really would be unstoppable.

The Oni all came at them, and the battle began.

Lydia rushed out of the way, hiding behind a broken wall, as her friends pulled out their weapons and claws to fight.

Void observed as if watching an entertaining theatre production, looking pleased and sickly proud, and Lydia knew she could never let this monster win.

She watched in fear as Kira did some impressive sword tricks, and Isaac was twisting and slashing with his claws. She didn't have anything like that to work with.

She wasn't good with a bow, a sword, and certainly didn't have any supernatural strength or claws to help her out, so she knew the only thing she could do was go rescue Stiles while the other held off the enemies until they could all escape. There was no winning this fight. It was all about simply surviving.

The supernatural ability in her was not helping reassure her that they would all make it out alive. There was a growing pulse beating around her ribcage and somehow she knew it wasn't for Void. It was someone she cared about, someone close to her. And if she was feeling it now, it must be coming soon.

She was feeling so weak, it only worse now that she worried about the oncoming defeat, and one glance at Void told her that he was only getting stronger. She wondered if their statuses were connected, her weakening state assisting in his strengthening one.

Stiles had been missing for hours. No food, no water, nothing to help him survive. It was cold and damp—he could be sick or worse by now. Could he be the one she was losing?

She looked around from her cover spot, finally discovering what looked like an open tunnel. It was a way in—it may not lead where she needed but it was a start.

Before she could go, something grabbed her arm and she nearly screamed. But it was just Scott, looking apologetic for startling her.

"They have it handled for now. Let's get Stiles. Quickly."

Lydia nodded and pointed to the opening she found, the two of them sneaking away.

It was cold and damp, a rat causing Lydia to squeak in surprise when it ran across their path. They were clearly underneath where the building used to be, sewer pipes and other industrial evidence that it was only used for its surface area nowadays. She hoped Stiles had had a tetanus shot recently.

It wasn't until they rounded a corner that they saw a tired looking man trying to reach up to where a barred window was to take a look at what was going on.

Stiles. He was alive.

Lydia couldn't stop herself. She was running. She could see him and he was breathing and looking ghostly pale and she had to reach him. Her feet slammed against the concrete as she closed the distance between them, but the metal gate kept them apart.

Scott followed quickly, using his strength to help rip it off the wall, and Lydia threw herself at Stiles, his arms reaching out as she crashed her body into his.

"Hey." he breathed as a greeting, the tension leaving his body.

"Stiles… god, I thought I might lose you." she told him, not meaning to cry but unable to help herself. His t-shirt was fisted in her hands, his body cold, but he was alive. He was here. It was okay. Her scream wasn't for him.

He was clutching her to him, nosing into her hair as he held her. He let out a sigh of relief, as if he had been checking something.

They broke apart, and Stiles moved to tug Scott to him, the emotions present on his face. Scott nodded, a small smile present, his acceptance of his implied gratitude clear.

"We need to get out of here." Stiles reminded them, coughing a little. He hadn't exactly been living the star treatment. If he got out of the whole thing without pneumonia, he sure was lucky.

They rushed down the hallway, but Lydia suddenly stopped, a hand against her chest as if something painful was throbbing beneath.

"Oh god." she whispered. "No."

"What is it?" Stiles demanded.

Lydia looked to Scott. "Allison."

Stiles and Scott looked to each other before it dawned on them. Scott took off faster than Stiles had ever seen him run, even with his werewolf powers, as he and Lydia followed.

"Stiles…" Lydia said hoarsely, grabbing the wall for support as her knees gave out. "I can't… go on without me."

"I'm not leaving you." Stiles said seriously.

He hooked an arm under hers and pulled her to him, helping guide her out. She was too weak. She couldn't walk even with his assistance. She stumbled and nearly fell to the ground again.

Stiles wrapped her arms around his neck, placing his hands under her thighs and lifting so she was nestled into his front. He tried to hurry to help his friends. Whatever Lydia had sensed, it definitely wasn't good.

They made it to the end of the tunnel, just in time to see Scott catch a falling, bleeding Allison and cradling her.

Stiles was sure it was one of those times he would've let out an animalistic roar, if his whole world hadn't just fallen to the ground.

The Oni backed away, as if they had done what they had hoped to accomplish, and Void smirked in triumph.

But none of them were concerned with them. Everyone's eyes were on the fallen warrior.

Derek must have joined the fight while they were inside, since he was standing next to Isaac, transformed and sweating from exertion.

Stiles weakly passed Lydia off to him, stumbling to get closer to his best friends.

"Allison." Scott was crying. Scott never cried. Dear god, this couldn't be happening.

She was limp in his arms, having difficulty breathing. Her hands were clutching her abdomen.

"I'm okay. Scott, I'm okay. It's just… it's a slash, okay? It's just a wound. They'll get me all stitched up, okay?" she promised, tears in her eyes but her usual sweet smile forced onto her face.

There was a lot of blood, but she was right. She had been sliced with one of the Oni's swords across her stomach, and it was deep and bleeding, but Scott was helping put pressure on it.

But Lydia's scream…

She was unconscious now in Derek's arms, unable to be asked anything let alone let out a banshee scream.

"I love you. I love you, Scott."

"I love you too. I love you so much. Allison, please. Please don't… I need you. God, I need you so much. Don't leave me."

"I'm okay. It's okay." she promised. "You're here. It's perfect. Is Stiles okay? Did you find him?"

He nodded, tears flooding his cheeks. "Yeah, yeah, he's okay."

Stiles pushed closer so she could see him. "Hey, warrior princess, I'm right here. I'm fine." he promised.

She smiled weakly at him, nuzzling closer to Scott.

A truck suddenly pulled up, and Chris Argent jumped out of the driver's seat.

"Get her in here!" he shouted.

Allison closed her eyes, smile stretching, and leaned further into Scott's hold.

"She's losing consciousness. We need an ambulance!"

"No time. Get her in the car. I'll drive her to the hospital."

Scott acquiesced, picking her up with ease, and Stiles followed immediately, Derek with Lydia on his heels.

"Meet us at the hospital!" Scott shouted to Isaac and Kira, who nodded and headed to the bike they took in earlier.

Allison's dad briefed them on how to handle the conversation with the police—it would only have been a couple of them present, the rest just came because they were concerned, and they were to give vague details as much as possible. The scenario was that two masked attackers tried to steal their car and then pulled a knife on her when she fought back. He called Chris first.

"And what do you say when you're stuck?"

"It all happened so fast."

The hours that followed were full of waiting and fearing, exhausting the group. Allison had been rushed into surgery, but she was still alive when they made it despite the blood loss, so they had hope. Deaton had provided Argent with some counteracting herb for the Oni poison which definitely helped their odds.

Kira, Isaac and Derek eventually left, requesting immediate updates as soon as they heard something.

"You two should go home. You look barely human." Scott told Stiles and Lydia.

Lydia was curled up practically in Stiles' lap, her legs across his and her face buried in his neck. Her body was still in a lot of pain, made only worse by her fear for Allison.

Neither of the pair responded.

Scott sighed. "Stiles, you need food and a good night's sleep. You haven't exactly had an easy day either."

"I can't leave until I know she's okay." Stiles argued. "And your mom checked me over and said I was fine."

"Well, actually, she said you were dehydrated and your vitals were borderline acceptable, but that you needed rest and a decent meal." Scott said pointedly.

Stiles understood what Scott was doing. He was taking care of everyone else the way he always did. He was the kind of person, pack leader, that would take the late watch and not wake up the next person until he absolutely had to. He was always going to put others' needs above his own, even if Stiles knew Scott was even more scared than them that Allison wouldn't make it.

As if on cue, Melissa came down the hall. Scott had leapt to his feet before Stiles could even turn his head in her direction.

She smiled. "She's okay. She's going into recovery now. They managed to give her some blood transfusions and she's going to be okay. Okay? She's going to be okay."

Chris Argent let his head fall back against the wall behind him, closing his eyes in relief as he no doubt thanked whatever higher power allowed his daughter to live to fight another day.

Lydia hugged Stiles close, letting a few tears slip out in relief, while Scott hugged his mom.

"You guys should go home. Sleep. It'll be a few hours before she can see anyone. We've got her hooked up to an antibiotic drip to stem off any potential infection and she's going to need a lot of recovery time and low activity for her wound to heal properly."

"We'll make sure she does whatever needs to be done." Scott said immediately.

Melissa laughed. "I don't doubt it. All right you guys, go home. I'll let you know the second I get the all clear on when she can have visitors. Chris, do you want to come with me? We've got some paperwork to fill out."

Argent followed her down the hall, clapping a hand on Scott's shoulder warmly before leaving the three of them.

Scott exhaled in relief. "Let's make a pact to stop spending so much time in hospitals from now on, deal?"

The other two laughed and nodded in agreement as they headed towards the parking lot.

Chapter Text

Lydia followed Stiles weakly upstairs, trying to hide the wince she experienced when she took her coat off. It was hard not to shiver, even in the California climate.

Stiles misunderstood the look on her face as being exhaustion from the night they had had, all the emotional ups and downs, and sent her a small smile as he took her hand in his.

"Let's sleep."

She nodded, following his lead up the stairs to his room.

They didn't speak much. Stiles pulled his blinds down and turned on the lamp near his bed.

He scratched the back of his neck. "Uh, I'm gonna shower. Gotta get this grime off of me. Do you want to borrow something to sleep in?"

Lydia contemplated it before shrugging one shoulder. She intertwined their fingers again and pulled him towards the attached bathroom, making it clear that she wouldn't mind cleaning herself up too.

Stiles got the water going and they slipped out of their clothes and into the secluded shower. It was a small space for two, but they made it work.

He helped her wash her hair, easily sensing how weak she was feeling. She couldn't help leaning against him for balance as they stood under the stream, water flooding down their naked bodies and pooling into the drain below.

Once both were clean, they just remained under the warm water, holding onto each other, letting the day wash over them. Showers were therapeutic for more than one reason.

Lydia turned in his arms, her back previously against his chest, and pulled behind his neck to meet their lips.

Stiles tugged her close, kissing her back softly, his thumb stroking her cheek.

It would've been too easy to get carried away, but Lydia was barely managing to stay upright as it was, and Stiles' energy was zapped from the day he had had. They needed sleep.

He shut off the water and they got out, Stiles passing his girlfriend a towel so they could both dry off.

Heading back to his room, Lydia accepted a t-shirt from him, and, once both were dressed, the pair climbed into bed.

They lay facing each other, Stiles watching her closely. He could sense something was wrong, something even bigger than a tough few weeks. There was something heavy weighing on her mind.

"Are you okay?"

Lydia forced a smile. "I'm trying to be." She looked at the sheets, twisting her fingers around the hem. "Stiles, we need to talk about something."

"That doesn't sound good." he said, straightening himself up further on his elbow.

"Well, to be fair, it's not really. But I feel like I need to say something. I need to know that I said it."


She inhaled deeply and looked him straight in the eyes. "Stiles, we both know tonight was an extremely close call. Things could have ended very differently with Allison. And it didn't have to be Allison; it could have been any one of you. And we both know that I'm not getting any better, but Void is. He's getting stronger as I get weaker. Whether that's connected, I don't know, but I do know that, since we split, I can feel death getting closer. Stiles, I can sense it." She grasped his hands in hers as she saw the water form in his eyes. "I don't know if Void switched us as some sick joke so I could predict my own death, but here's what I do know. I know you, Scott, Allison, the whole pack, can beat Void. I know it. I know you're all stronger than any dark force. And I know that I have been blessed to be welcomed so openly into your world, so blessed to have all of you. And you especially. You've changed my world in so many beautiful and wonderful ways, Stiles. I wish you had a clue what you've done for me. I want you to know… no, I need you to know, that no matter what happens, no matter if I don't make it…"


"No, Stiles, if I don't make it… know that I'm okay. That it's okay. Because you've given me so much. I wouldn't change a thing. And that if someone has to die, I'd rather it be me."

"Lydia, I won't lose you. I can't." He was crying now, but she knew it was because he was well aware that she wasn't wrong to want to say these things. That it was a very real possibility that they all had been avoiding saying out loud.

She cupped his cheek in her hand. "There's one more thing I know. I know that I love you with all my heart. That you are the love of my life. And that if we make it out of this, both of us, I will love you until the end of my days."

"I love you too, Lydia. God, I love you so much." He pulled her hard against him, hugging her tight, like if he just held on hard enough she couldn't possibly leave him. But he knew better. He knew the world was a cruel place and you couldn't hold on to something just because your heart begged.

Lydia clutched him just as tightly, burying her face in his chest, trying to commit his heartbeat to memory. She never imagined facing this kind of turmoil, especially so young, but she meant what she said. Stiles had given her a life worth fighting for. And she wouldn't give up without the fight of her life.

The next day, Lydia hugged Allison after placing a bouquet on her bedside table. She already had quite the collection forming.

"How are you feeling?" she asked as she sat next to her, squeezing her hand.

"Uh, kind of like I got sliced open, but overall pretty good. Morphine is nice." she teased. "How are the plans coming?"

Lydia smiled. Leave it to Allison to get right to business. She was like a soldier in a lot of ways.

"Well, we're working on it. Scott talked to Deaton this morning and worked out that even if we do beat Void, we still need something to trap his other form. Something magically strong enough to hold a force of his nature. So Derek said he thought he made have something that was made from wood from the Nemeton back when it was powerful that held his mom's claws. Deaton looked awkward according to Stiles and said that would work. Apparently Deaton made it."

Allison giggled. "Yeah, well, Deaton and Derek's mom sort of had a … thing. He was in love with her even though he was her emissary."

Lydia chuckled. "Ahh, I see. So forbidden love is a common thing in the supernatural world?"

"You mean me and Scott?" Allison asked amusedly. "I suppose it is. But we managed to make it work."

"I'll say. Prepare for him to propose after this is all over."

Allison laughed, but she turned pink, and Lydia knew that was what she was hoping for despite their young age. Then again, Lydia figured they'd been through enough to test their relationship by now to know they were in it for the long haul.

"How's your dad holding up?"

Allison grimaced. "Better than expected honestly. Although he's good at compartmentalizing. Just considering how many of our family have been wiped out due to the work we do… it was just a little too close."


"What about your mom? You've had quite a crazy few days."

Lydia sighed. "I saw her before I came over. Just to reassure her I was alive. I told her I came down with something and Stiles has been taking care of me. Couldn't exactly explain everything, and it's clear I'm not exactly in the best shape." she added. "But I think seeing me helped a little. All I was doing beforehand was texting her so it made her feel less like I had been abducted."

"You do look really pale. Are you feeling okay?"

Lydia forced a smile. "I'm hanging in there. This paralyzing anxiety that the world is about to end is getting a little old, but what can you do." she joked.

Allison rolled her eyes at her. "We are going to beat this."

"Even though Void has the Oni under his control now?"

"Well, I did beat one of them somehow. We can figure out how to beat the rest."

"You did?" Lydia asked in surprise.

"Right, I forgot. You guys were inside saving Stiles. Isaac was practically being slaughtered by two of them, and I shot one with one of my homemade arrowheads. Somehow, it made it disappear into a cloud of smoke and firefly light. But my reward was this from one of the other's." she explained, gesturing to her bandaged abdomen.

"That's… that's gotta mean something. Your dad's story about breaking that Oni's mask… was that homemade too? Maybe something to do with the process is the reason?"

Lydia suddenly swayed on her feet, gripping the side of Allison's bed to keep her from keeling forward.

"Lydia? Lydia, are you all right?" Allison asked worriedly.

She raised a flexed hand to stop her from getting out of bed. "Something's happening. I just got this sudden rushing feeling. Like we're running out of time."

Before Allison could respond, there was a voice down the hall that interrupted. "Can you page Melissa McCall please?"

Lydia's blood ran cold. She knew that voice. It mirrored her own, but the deception in it was clear.

She gripped her shirt over her chest. That wasn't a good feeling.

Allison met her panicked eyes with her own.

A sudden slumping of a body sounded. Void let out a bored sigh. "Well I guess I'll just find her myself."

Lydia moved to close Allison's door, shutting off the lights and drawing the blinds. "Hide!" she whisper-shouted at her hurt friend.

"Don't worry about me. I can handle myself." Allison said, slipping her hand into her bag next to the bed to pull out some ring daggers. "Get out of here!"

Lydia hesitated but then realized she was right. Allison, even disabled, was a better fighter than she was.

Lydia cracked open the door barely an inch to peek out. She could see the tail end of Oni cloaks as they turned the corner, no doubt following Void. She knew it was her chance.

She tried to cover her ears as she ran full speed towards the elevator. She could hear the screaming starting, and she knew she herself would be screaming soon. She had to get out of there, or Void would know exactly where to find her.

She texted Scott and Stiles simultaneously as she stomped her thumb against the elevator buttons.

Void at hospital. Asking for Melissa McCall.

Stiles texted back right away. The Oni are at the sheriff station too. My dad's in trouble. Looks like he's after our parents. You should call your mom.

Scott wasn't much longer. Thanks for letting me know. Deaton's not answering so they may have paid him a visit too. You should check on your mom just in case.

Lydia immediately dialed her mom's cell as she ran to her car.

Lydia entered Stiles' house in a rush, running upstairs when she heard him call out to her. She found them in Stiles' room, surrounding his bed where his chessboard was laid out.

"Are we seriously strategizing by using chess?" she asked.

"Not us." Scott said pointedly.

Then she noticed the layout of the board and the sticky note labels sticking up. It was more like a game of Go, sections of black pieces cornering white in each corner. One section was labelled Beacon Hills Hospital, Sheriff Station, Animal Clinic, and finally Beacon Hill's High School.

"You know, I think part of this thing's evil is making us repeatedly go back to high school." Isaac piped up, and they all sent him a look.

"Is this why you guys aren't rushing off to help your parents?" Lydia asked.

Scott nodded. "They're okay for now, but the Oni won't quit until Void is defeated. It's dark now, thanks to the looming evil he's brought down on the town, so we only have one option. Sheriff and Parrish are holding them off with guns, but it won't defeat them. My mom is locked in an elevator with my dad, so take her comfort level as you will. And Deaton can hold his own. Did you find out about your mom?"

"She's out of town at a conference. She's fine."

Scott nodded. "Good. I don't think the Oni can go that far from Void."

"Why the high school of all places?"

"Well, we were in high school when we made our sacrifices. And a lot of supernatural stuff has happened there. Maybe the past helps heighten his power."

"Isn't this just a trap? And why wouldn't he use Noshiko's Go board, since that's his game?"

"Because chess is YOUR game, Lydia. Yours and Stiles'. It's to taunt you both." Scott said. "And even if it is a trap, what choice do we have but to play into his game. We need to find him and stop him."

"Not to be a downer, but do we even know how to do that?" Kira asked.

"Argent said he's working on something. Allison gave him an idea. And Derek's getting the Triskelion container and meeting us at the school. We're just going to have to wing it. It's not like our plans usually go the way we hope anyways." Stiles reminded the group.

"Well, here goes nothing." Scott said, leading the way out of the house.

Chris Argent and Derek were already at the school when they arrived. They got out of the car when the others pulled up.

Stiles helped support Lydia, her strength lacking too much to keep herself upright at this point.

"You okay?" he murmured to her. She nodded quickly, not wanting to draw more attention to herself. She didn't need the others worrying about her state when they had bigger fish to fry.

"So, what's the plan?" Derek asked.

"We don't… really have one." Scott said awkwardly.

"Stay alive. That's the plan." Stiles inputted, nodding.

"Well, that we can agree on." Argent said. "Derek, Isaac and I will work on the Oni. You four focus on Void."

"Was Allison's advice any help?" Scott asked.

"She thinks the arrowheads are the key – our homemade process, we use silver. Lead is a better weapon despite the legends, so it's the default, but the Argent ritual involves silver like our name meaning. She thinks the silver is actually a poison in the Oni, and that it worked with the arrow better than the bullet I shot so many years ago because it remained in the body."

"So we can stop them?"

"No. We can kill them. Or we're about to find out." Argent said suddenly as two black figures appeared out of smoke and raised their swords at them.

"Come on. Let's get inside. Be careful!" Scott added to the others as they charged forwards, Argent hanging back with his crossbow.

"Do you have any idea where we're even going?" Lydia asked, leaning into Stiles for support as they headed up the stairs to the front doors. She was getting progressively weaker with every passing minute. She hoped she wouldn't pass out.

"I think we'll know—" Scott started to say, but stopped short as the doors closed behind them.

She understood immediately why he had. They weren't inside the school. It was some snow-covered garden in the outdoors, no evidence of any rooms or doors or anything except the ones they had come through.

A familiar scratchy voice came from across the yard. "So nice of you to join us."

Void, in fully bandaged form that Lydia and Stiles had only ever seen in their heads, was standing across from them with a sinister silver smile glinting between wraps.

"So, you got my message…" Void said amusedly, the sinister voice fitting the figure much better than when in Lydia or Stiles' body. It felt like the room dropped several degrees below even the snowy temperature.

"We came like you requested." Scott said. "Now tell us what you want."

"Such a leader, Scott." Void drawled. "But you'd think you'd have caught on by now. What I want is simple. Chaos. Strife. Pain. Just like I promised Stiles and then Lydia. The plan is, together, we will kill ALL of you. One by one."

"We won't turn on each other, no matter what."

"I'll be the judge of that."

"We aren't going to back down from a fight. That's why we're here."

"Oh I don't doubt it. But do you know where 'here' is? Hmm?" Void smirked. "You're currently between life and death. Lydia knows though, don't you, Lydia? You can feel it."

She gritted her teeth, but didn't allow him the satisfaction of responding.

"You're dying, Lydia. And now everyone you've grown to care about is dying too."

Stiles clutched her closer to him, stepping one foot in front of her protectively.

"Oh, Stiles, you forget I've seen how weak you are. You don't stand a chance. But… if you do want to prove your courage… I know how we can end all of this right now."

"Don't listen to him, Stiles." Scott said, but Stiles ignored him.

"What do you want me to do?"

"I want you to take Kira's sword and kill Lydia with it."

"What?! No freakin' way!" Stiles shouted, looking scandalized. For someone who knew how sick Void was, he still managed to be shocked by the suggestion.

"Stiles…" Lydia said quietly, grabbing his arm to calm his flailing. She had been expecting something of the sort. They had been saying all along that Void would want them to turn on each other, rather than kill them himself. And the looming doom she could feel in her bones made it clear that her end was coming soon. She wouldn't make it out of this garden alive.

"See. Lydia knows. She feels her death coming. She knows if she doesn't die first, everyone else will. I won't stop." Void said. He turned to Lydia specifically now. "I'm going to make your boyfriend kill you, Lydia. And you're going to let him. Because just like your inevitable death, you're all gonna die. Everyone touched by an Oni blade. Unless Stiles kills you first."

"Why are you doing this?" Stiles demanded, voice shaking now.

"To win the game." Void said simply. "I've captured almost all of the territories on the board now. The hospital. The Sheriff's station. The Animal Clinic. All of your beloved parental figures have been cut with an Oni's poisonous sword. They don't have long. You need to make a decision, Stiles. And Lydia."

"I am not murdering my girlfriend for your sick pleasure!" Stiles screamed at him.

Void shrugged. "Have it your way."

And the Oni moved forward.

Stiles pulled Lydia out of the way, and she stumbled behind him as Kira and Scott surged towards the oncoming warriors. Kira's katana clashed against their swords as Scott pulled some impressive combat moves with his claws.

They were outnumbered, two Oni to each of their friends, and Lydia knew this wasn't a battle they could win.

Lydia wondered briefly how the other three were coming along, if the Oni had disappeared from their fight to join theirs, or if there were simply more Oni now than before now that Void had control.

It wasn't long before Kira's katana was knocked out of her hands and landed near the huddled pair, both looking with fear towards the Asian girl.

Scott was still back-to-back with her, helping her fight and making sure they both were safe like the true alpha he was.

But Lydia knew this wasn't going to end well. She could feel it. And she couldn't have them die because of her.

Squeezing her eyes tight, she broke away from Stiles and grabbed the katana, holding its blade tip against her abdomen. She had to end this. It was the only way.

"NO! LYDIA, NO!" Stiles screamed.

The Oni had stopped fighting now, and Scott and Kira looked just as terrified.

"Do it, Lydia. You know how this all ends." Void called out.

"Don't, Lydia. We'll find another way. We always do." Scott promised compassionately.

"We have to end this. Before you all get hurt because of me…" Lydia said.

"Lydia, how do we know it's not just another trick? Please, Lydia… please don't do this. It won't stop him. He's not just going to give up and leave us all alone because you die… he wants to watch the world burn." Stiles said desperately.

Lydia looked between each of them, her hold on the sword trembling. She knew she was dying. Stiles may not realize, but she knew she wasn't making it out of this alive. She never was. Not since Void separated them. That's why she had done her goodbye to him the night before, so he knew where she stood.

She tightened her grip on the sword handle, trying not to think of her mother and how they would explain this. Or of how she hadn't said a proper goodbye to Allison, or Scott, or any of the others. Life doesn't always give you the chance to say what you need to say before your demise. Sometimes you need to be proactive and speak up regularly just in case.

The others were still trying to convince her to drop the weapon, while Void looked like Christmas had come early, but an image in the metal of the sword caught her eye.

A snow-covered school desk.

She tilted it further. A bookcase full of snow. A pile of textbooks in the corner.

Then questions started popping up in her head.

How was Void suddenly in the form of Rhys' bandaged, burnt body when he had been in her body all this time? Why were the others not barging in when the Oni left to join them to attack Kira and Scott?

They had entered the high school and ended up in some snowy Japanese garden.

It was all in their heads. Somehow, all of them, but there was no other explanation.

This wasn't real.

Lydia dropped the weapon into the snow.

Stiles let out an audible exhale that sounded like he had been holding it for five straight minutes.

"You have no moves left!" Void shouted.

Lydia smiled then, looking more like her possessed counterpart than herself. "I do. A divine move."

Void seemed irritated by that, but she could only base that on his posture and snarl of distaste since his face was covered in wrappings.

"Lydia…?" Scott asked hopefully.

"Look, it's an illusion. It looks real and it feels real, but you guys have to trust me, okay? It's an illusion. You have to stop fighting them."

Stiles looked intrigued, catching up to her thoughts. "Fighting them is just keeping the illusion alive. That's what he wants. For us to get trapped here, turn on each other, end each other. But we can rise above that. We have to push through."

Lydia nodded. "Trust me." she pleaded to her friends.

Scott looked at Kira and then nodded. "Let's go."

The two fighters lead the way, getting slashed by Oni in the process. Blood spurted in the air, and Lydia feared she had been wrong. That they really were being maimed.

But then they made it through the double doors they originally entered and stumbled into the hallway.

"Didn't we come in the front door?" Stiles asked.

Lydia sighed. "Don't ask questions, Stiles."

Scott patted himself down, looking down at his intact and unstained shirt. "We're okay!"

Before he could say anything else, he was yanked from view as his body flew into the lockers next to them.

Void, resembling Lydia again, slammed his fist into Kira so she too collapsed to the ground.

Only Stiles and Lydia stood now against him, both defenseless, and Lydia still leaning into Stiles for physical support.

"This is my game. Think you can beat me at my game?" He started advancing at them, and Stiles pulled her backwards with him. "A divine move? You think you have any moves at all? You can kill the Oni, but me? ME? I'm a thousand years old. YOU CAN'T KILL ME!"

Stiles was stumbling now, Lydia nearly slipping with him, but Void slowed his advance, grinning now.

"What, did you think you were just going to pull out an ace and shock me with the fact you guys had the Shugendo scroll? I lived in two people's heads, you silly children. I know everything. That may have worked when I was in Stiles' body, but I'm in the banshee's now. You can't win. I'm too powerful. You gave me a vibrant body full of life, health and youth – not some dead, burnt carcass like last time. It will take a lot more than that to defeat me. And your alpha is down for the count."

Lydia didn't know what to do. They were cornered, they were powerless, and Void was right. She wasn't like the others. She didn't have glowing eyes, or fangs, or claws. She just had voices in her head. She was useless.

"Now, who wants to go first?"

Except Void was in a body just like her own. And if her banshee powers could protect him from a werewolf bite than he must have the other abilities too. But how would that help them? She couldn't force banshee whispers on him.

He said once that she was more than just a pretty little thing, but she had no idea how to use her powers besides that her scream silenced the noise when death was approaching.

The pressure was strong in her chest. Maybe if she just screamed, she could hear advice or something from other banshees? Other deaths of Nogitsunes?

"Well, normally I'd say ladies first, but it'll be more fun to start with Stiles once Scott wakes up…" Void said before reaching out for Stiles' shirt and yanking him out of her grasp.

No, not Stiles. She couldn't let him die.

Suddenly feeling much more grounded despite her crutch being removed from her grasp, Lydia felt the power deep inside her build, and she knew what was forming was more than a predicting scream. It was pulsing through her very veins, causing her whole body to shake. The lockers on either side of the hallway began trembling too.

Void looked around at the noise, clearly lost on what was happening.

She couldn't stop it. It was too powerful.

"Cover your ears!" she shouted, and Stiles did what he was told instantly.

Void looked confused, but then she opened her mouth and let out a scream.

Stiles shuffled out of Void's grip when his hands went up to cover his ears, scuffling across the floor to cower next to the lockers.

Lydia screamed so loud she felt like a physical force was exploding out of her. She swore, but maybe it was the light-headedness, that she saw some sort of sonic boom looking wave radiate from her.

The lockers rattled at the force, some doors flying open, and she felt like all of the energy was zapped out of her as she finally quieted.

When she finally looked up, she wasn't prepared for what she saw standing in front of her.

Void, her mirror image, with half her head blown off like it had been hit by a grenade.

Void collapsed to his knees, coughing hard once, and a firefly slipped out between his lips. It buzzed away in a sort of drunken stupor before Isaac snatched it up at the end of the hall, twisting the top of the wooden Triskelion box shut.

Void's body fell completely to the floor and burst into a spray of aged dust and smoke. Lydia heard the ancient whispers dissipate with the smoke.

Then Lydia felt uneasy on her feet. The force of the scream was too much. The ground came up to meet her and everything went black.

Stiles' ears were bleeding slightly, but he was oblivious as he stumbled over to where Lydia was.

"Lydia." She was eerily still. She didn't respond. "Lydia? Lydia, come on."

She didn't move. He wasn't even sure she was breathing.

Stiles stroked her face, trying to stimulate a reaction, but nothing. He felt tears fill his eyes. "No, no, no, no. Lydia. Wake up. Come on. Wake up."

His voice was shaking now. "Lydia, open your eyes. Lydia… please. Hey. Hey, open your eyes for me, okay?" He looked to Scott, searching for some semblance of hope, and then back to Lydia's unmoving face.

Finally, she gasped awake.

"You okay?"

She nodded slightly, increasing her grasp on his hand. He hadn't even realized he had grabbed it.

He caught his breath. Lydia reached up to touch his face, wiping the wetness away. She smiled softly at him.

He pressed the back of her hand to his lips, closing his eyes in gratitude that she was still there with him.

He corrected his throat, remembering they had an audience. "Do you want to sit up?"

She nodded and he supported her into an upright position.

"Sorry... for fainting."

The rest of them cracked up, and Lydia realized she was surrounded by Derek, Mr. Argent and Isaac now too.

"We're alive. Are we all alive?"

"Yeah. We're okay." Scott said with a smile.

She let out a long exhale and leaned her head into Stiles' chest. It was finally over.

Once the battle was won, things mostly got back to normal. Besides Stiles using every opportunity to boast about his girlfriend's badassness, even though she constantly reminded him that she had no idea how she had done it and frankly wasn't looking to do it again any time soon, things were pretty much the same as before all of the possession chaos.

Still, it was clear she had a lot to learn about her banshee powers, and her friends were more than happy to help her figure them out in time.

Speak of the devil, Lydia could see the pack from where she was sitting at the reception table.

Stiles' dad and Scott's mom had finally tied the knot, and it was the perfect opportunity for everyone to have a happy excuse to celebrate something good in the world. After such a heavy doom on the town and especially the pack, it was a breath of fresh air to have something positive to look forward to.

"Are you ever going to dance with me?" Stiles asked from his place next to her.

She smirked and feigned nonchalance. "Eh, debatable."

He stood up, not one to back down from an argument. "Lydia. Get off your cute little ass and come dance with me."

She rolled her eyes. "Interesting tactic… fine."

He grinned triumphantly and took her hand, leading her onto the dance floor where most of their other friends were.

"Shocking that Derek's not dancing." Stiles commented amusedly, seeing the oldest of the group leaning by the drinks table talking to Isaac and his cousin Malia.

"Yes, normally he's such a party animal." she said with a laugh. She noticed the brunette he was with and smiled. "I'm glad he brought Malia. She seems pretty cool."

Stiles smiled. "She is. I'm hoping now that we've gotten through the awkward meet-and-greet we can go back to being friends and have her as part of the pack again. She mentioned she's planning on switching back to school here like we did, and she looked pleased when we sounded enthusiastic about the idea."

Lydia raised an eyebrow. In another time, her red flags would've flied to the top, the green dragon of jealousy leading the mob, but she knew better now. Stiles wasn't going anywhere.

"Good. There's power in numbers. We needed every single person for that last fight. And who knows what we're up against in the future."

"Talking shop, are we?" Allison teased as she and Scott shuffled over to where they were. "Come on, it's a wedding! Save that depressing talk for later."

Lydia smiled and looked over at the beaming bride and groom. Melissa and the Sheriff really were adorable together.

"All right, all right. How's your dance moves with that injury?"

Allison shrugged. "Not slowing me down. You know I've been cleared for a few weeks now, right?"

Lydia scrunched her nose at her. "Fine. So are you guys taking notes for when you have one of these?" she teased.

"A few. I like the centerpieces and the table runs." Allison said casually, and then giggled at Scott's expression. "Kidding. I don't plan on getting married to you for at least a few more years."

"But you are planning on marrying me at some point?" he asked.

"No, I'm just dating you because I'm planning on dropping you on the side of the road someday and never looking back."

"My girlfriend has been spending too much time with you, Stiles." Scott said.

Stiles shrugged. "Hey, it rubs off."

Lydia rolled her eyes but couldn't keep the smile off her face.

She never would've imagined this would be her life. A supernatural force of nature herself, amongst her other supernatural friends, an ever-growing family of people that cared about her and fought alongside her.

It hadn't been an easy feat, getting to where they were now. Defeating Void and his possession was only the half of it. It had been quite a year.

But Lydia truly felt like she was where she belonged now. In Beacon Hills. In the pack. In Stiles' arms.

And she wouldn't trade any of it for the world.

She couldn't wait to see where their lives lead them in the future. She knew, as long as she had Stiles and her friends, they could conquer anything.

The End