July 17, 2014

Drove Through Ghosts To Get Here 29/32

Title: Drove Through Ghosts To Get Here
Fandom: Teen Wolf
Rating: NC-17
Authors: Sxymami0909 and Xtremeroswellia
Timeline: Takes place 1 year after the end of ‘Beyond The Sea’
Series: Post Finale AU
Pairings: Stiles/Lydia, Scott/Kira, Isaac Lahey, Sheriff Stilinski, Melissa McCall, Chris Argent, Derek Hale, Cora Hale, Aiden, Ethan, Danny, Braeden, Alan Deaton, Peter Hale, Malia Tate-Hale, mentions of Scott/Allison, mentions of Derek/Lydia, mentions of Stiles/Braeden
Part: 29/32
Summary: The one year anniversary of Allison's death is right around the corner just in time for a new threat to make it's way to Beacon Hills. With Lydia's banshee powers growing, and dead bodies piling up near the Nemeton, Scott and his pack need to work together to figure out who's behind the latest attacks and what knew evil is on the lose. Tension is mounting in the pack and relationships will be tested when an old ally returns to town with information that could help the pack. But can the pack trust their old friend or has the year passed hardened him to a point of no return?
Author's Note: This is a Stydia story, but it's a slow burn because a lot needs to be rebuilt and there are mentions of other couples and other friendships along the way. One year has passed between this story and 'Beyond the Sea'. You will get to see the missing year in a series of one-shots taking place between 'Beyond the Sea' and this story later on.
Previous Chapters: One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six | Seven | Eight | Nine | Ten |
Eleven | Twelve | Thirteen | Fourteen | Fifteen | Sixteen | Seventeen | Eighteen | 
Nineteen | Twenty | Twenty-One | Twenty-Two | Twenty-Three | Twenty-Four | 
Twenty-Five | Twenty-Six | Twenty-Seven | Twenty-Eight |

Chapter 29

Lydia held the Russian for beginner’s book in her hand, her back resting against Derek’s side as she stretched out on the couch. It was early afternoon and she’d called the Stilinski house twice when she couldn’t get a hold of Stiles or Scott earlier in the morning. They’d called and texted yesterday to let her know Stiles was okay and everything was fine.

When she talked to Stiles last he said he’d call her and let her know what time he’d be stopping by, but she hadn’t heard from him yet. Then again her cell phone was all the way upstairs, and she would go and get it, but she was still feeling a bit tired and there were a lot of stairs.

Lydia sighed and shook herself from her thoughts focusing on her book as she learned the basics of the language so she could have a stepping stone to intermediate Russian.

She could feel eyes on her and she tilted her head to the side, but didn’t look away from her book. “What?”

Isaac shifted in his seat as he set a card down and picked up another continuing his game with Cora, “Nothing...just Russian? When are you ever going to use Russian?” He asked making a face.

“Knowledge is power,” Lydia commented lightly and turned the page.

Isaac snorted, shaking his head and looking at Cora with raised eyebrows. No wonder she and Stiles were sort of together. Maybe. He didn’t really know. The two of them confused the hell out of him.

And speaking of Stiles. He glanced toward the door right before the knock sounded.

“Lydia, your not-boyfriend or...boyfriend or...whatever is here,” he announced.

Lydia perked up, “Russian can wait,” she said letting the book fall from her hand as she pushed herself up fast pausing briefly at the hint of soreness in her muscles. She glanced down at her outfit, a pair of shorts and a sweater, and sighed. “Of course,” she said as she stepped over her book and walked towards the door.

Lydia brushed some of her hair out of her face, the bun on top of her head slightly lopsided. She didn’t have any make-up on, but she was sure Stiles wouldn’t care. She took a deep breath and slid open the loft door, a soft smile pulling at her lips when she saw him. “Hey.”

Stiles met her eyes instantly, a smile touching his mouth, too. “Hey,” he whispered, stepping forward and winding his arms around her and hugging her close to him. He closed his eyes, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly.

Lydia sunk into him and wrapped her arms around his neck, standing on her toes as she pressed her face to his neck. “You didn’t call me back,” she stated softly as she tightened her grip on him.

“I texted. Three times,” he informed her with raised eyebrows. “You never responded. I figured you were asleep.”

Lydia smiled sheepishly. “I left my phone upstairs on the nightstand,” she admitted, “I was going to get it...But there were a lot of stairs.” She ran a hand down his arm. “I’m sorry, how are you feeling?” She asked as she clasped his hand and tugged him gently into the loft.

“A little tired. But I’m all right. How are you feeling?” he asked quietly, stepping inside the loft and lifting his hand to wave at Isaac, Cora and Derek.

“I’m good,” Lydia said simply, “Definitely better than I was a day and a half ago.” She said and pursed her lips at his facial expression. “No I died jokes for you either then I take it.” Lydia was pretty sure she needed to joke about it or it would just be another one of those things that dragged her down and made her slightly less mentally stable.

“Maybe in a few days,” he said, looking down. Stiles understood it. Humor and sarcasm were how he lived his life. They were his first line of defense. But thinking about her dying in any way, shape or form left his stomach in a tight knot of guilt and anxiety even though she was alive. “I thought maybe we could go for a drive if you were up to it.”

Lydia squeezed his hand gently, “Sure,” she said softly. “Just let me grab some shoes and we can head out.” She released his hand and made her way towards the stairs to grab shoes and her phone.

Isaac glanced up from his game and gave Stiles a once over, “How’s the side?” He asked as he tossed another card out to Cora.

Stiles smiled faintly. “Let’s just say I’d rather avoid getting on any of your bad sides in the future because you guys really are in desperate need of manicures.”

Isaac grinned, “We like you, none of us would use you as a scratching post.” He commented.

Cora snorted and shook her head. “You’re terrible,” she said to Isaac as she glanced over her shoulder and glanced at Stiles. “It’s healing okay though, right?”

“I think scratching posts are mostly for cats, but duly noted,” Stiles told him, patting his shoulder lightly and looking at Cora. “Yeah. At a painfully slow human speed.” He held her gaze. “Thank you guys. For everything the other night.” He glanced over to Derek. “You too.”

Derek glanced up from his book closing it and nodding at Stiles. “You’re welcome,” he said his tone light, “But you don’t have to thank me.” He told Stiles. He’d helped because Stiles was right and because it was Lydia and like he’d told her yesterday if Stiles hadn’t of done what he did, he would have.

Stiles met Derek’s eyes, nodding slightly as understanding passed between them. His gaze flickered toward the stairs when he heard her footsteps coming back down.

Lydia got to the bottom and she took a deep breath, her hand lifting to her chest. She felt a slight twinge of pain and pursed her lips. She paused there momentarily before stepping forward. “All ready,” she stated with a smile.

Lydia paused at the couch, bent down and picked up her book. She set it on the coffee table and straightened up. She patted Derek’s knee as she moved past him. “I’ll be back later.”

“All right,” Derek said, picking up his book once more. “See you later.” He paused, looking at the two of them as they headed for the door. “Try to stay out of trouble.”

Lydia glanced over her shoulder and grinned, “Always,” she said before slipping her hand through Stiles’ arm and stepping out of the apartment with him.

Stiles guided her down the hall and to the stairs. “You okay enough for more stairs?” he asked softly.

Lydia nodded, “Yeah, let’s just...go slow.” She said softly. “Sorry,” she rubbed his arm, “It’s weird if I do too much too fast I get an annoying little pain in my chest,” Lydia admitted. “It doesn’t stay or anything, but I’d prefer not to have it.” She told him with half a smile. “How’s Scott?” She asked changing the subject as they started down the stairs.

Stiles looked at her with worried eyes. “Maybe we should go to the hospital and get you checked out, Lydia,” he said, feeling suddenly uneasy.

Lydia glanced at Stiles. “I’m fine,” she said softly. “It’s going to take a while for me to get back to normal. I know that. I’m not sure about what happened and how I can stop it from happening in the future,” she added, “But I’m okay. Everything is fine.” She repeated.

Stiles was silent as they walked slowly down the steps. “I’m not,” he said quietly.

Lydia frowned pausing on the steps and turning to him. “What’s wrong? What happened?” She asked worry clear in her voice as she shifted and cupped his cheek turning his face so he was looking at her.

“No, that’s --” He reached up and covered her hand with his own. “I’m fine. Physically I’m fine.” He paused. “Mostly.”

Lydia frowned, “Okay...then what is it?” She asked softly, “Talk to me.” She glanced down and tugged Stiles gently down the last few stairs so they could sit at the top of the next set of stairs. “What is it?” She asked when they were both seated on the step.

Stiles exhaled as he laced their fingers together, not really sure how to start. “I’m ready to talk about everything. I want you to know everything,” he whispered. “Everything I did, everything that happened while I was gone. I want you to know all of it...if that’s what you want, too.” He swallowed hard.

A hint of surprise crossed her face and her chest tightened. Was that what she wanted? Lydia pressed her lips together hesitating briefly as she made up her mind and nodded. “That’s what I want,” she told him softly.

Stiles nodded and drew in a breath, looking down at their hands. “Okay. So the day after Allison’s funeral…” He shut his eyes for a moment. “I walked home from the McCall’s. My dad was already awake and up for the day. I told him that I needed to get away for awhile. He didn’t...he didn’t like it. He didn’t want me to leave,” he admitted. “But he understood that I needed some time. I think if he’d known that I was going to be gone for as long as I was, he wouldn’t have let me.”

Stiles chewed his lower lip. “But he drove me to the bus station the next day and I got on a bus to Van Nuys.” He shifted slightly, trying to get more comfortable on the step. “Shortly after the bus pulled out of town I ditched my cell phone out the window. Just in case anyone decided to try and GPS my location.”

“You shouldn’t have walked home...you could have hurt yourself,” Lydia told him, but realized it was a stupid thing to say. Obviously he hadn’t hurt himself. She swallowed hard and nodded. “Okay,” she said quietly keeping her expression neutral knowing that there were probably going to be things that she needed to brace herself for and nodding for him to continue.

“I didn’t actually have a plan,” Stiles admitted quietly. He looked down at his hands. “I just got a motel room when I got there. Two days later, Ms. Morrell showed up on the doorstep and told me it was time. I didn’t even know what the hell she was talking about at first. I was kind of out of it.” He’d still be exhausted and weak. “She told me I was an emissary. Or that I would be.” He glanced at her. “Like her. Like Deaton. It made sense in that weird kind of way that when your life is really bizarre nothing halfway normal seems anything but normal, you know? So I just kind of went along with it because…” He shrugged. “I didn’t have a plan.”

Lydia rested a hand on his leg. “You already said that,” she told him softly. Lydia hadn’t loved Ms. Morell before this, but now, she despised her. If there was a word strong than despise, she’d use that. “So you left with her.” Lydia stated, her heart clenching.

“Right.” He drew in a breath, glancing at her sideways. “I mean, about me having said that. I didn’t leave. We didn’t go anywhere at all in December. I mean, she and I didn’t.” He rubbed a hand over his face. “I met my dad for Christmas in Colorado, though. It was just the two of us. My mom was born there,” he whispered.

Lydia shifted closer to him winding her arms around his arm and resting her chin lightly against his shoulder. “I bet you guys had a nice time.” She responded softly. Lydia knew he wanted to share things with her and she wanted to be open to them even though a part of her didn’t want to hear it. Lydia knew she had to; they needed to be honest with each other.

“It was good. Quiet. Kind of tense,” he admitted, leaning his head against hers. “After, I headed back to Van Nuys and he came back here.” He shut his eyes for a moment, holding his breath. “And then I found out with a little help from Danny that Scott was in trouble.”

Lydia tensed slightly, but forced her body to relax. She pursed her lips. “The hunters,” she responded. It had to be that was the only thing that had happened around that time frame.

Stiles felt her tense and he nodded slightly, sliding his arm around her, and resting his hand on her back. “Yeah. I got an alert on my phone that he was out of the bounds of Beacon Hills and I knew something was wrong. Morrell has a lot of contacts all over the globe. It wasn’t hard to find out what was going on.” He let out a breath. “As soon as I realized where they were taking him, I contacted Cora because...she was already there, in South America. And I got on a flight the same day.”

“You went to South America?” Lydia asked tilting her head slightly and shaking her head. “Of course you did, Scott was in trouble.” She stated. “That’s how you and Cora got close...you kept in touch with her when she left.” Lydia murmured.

“Sort of,” Stiles said quietly. “We texted once in awhile. We didn’t really get close until I was gone from Beacon Hills.” Guilt tugged at him and he looked away. “The pack didn’t get there when we did,” he admitted. “They were hurting him, so I came up with a plan. I’d distract while she got him out.”

Lydia swallowed heavily. “That was smart.” She said quietly. “And it obviously worked,” she added.

Stiles nodded. “Yeah. She got Scott out and he was okay.” He chewed his lower lip for a moment. “I killed two of them that day. I wasn’t...really good with weapons at that point, but I was good enough I guess.”

Lydia’s chest tightened and her heartbeat picked up speed. She was silent for a minute before nodding. “They were trying to kill Scott.” she said at the same time reminding herself of that as well. If the situation was reversed and someone was trying to hurt Stiles or Derek, Lydia would do what she needed to in order to protect him-them.

“Of all the things I’ve done that I regret…” His jaw tightened. “That’s not one of them.” And maybe that made him cold-hearted. But he’d already known that he had the propensity for that since he was younger.

Lydia nodded, “I don’t blame you for not regretting it.” She said quietly, but she didn’t want to dwell on it either. “So you helped save Scott...what happened after that?” She asked as she glanced down at her hands brushing over Stiles’ skin.

Stiles hesitated for the briefest of moments. “There were a lot of them. The hunters. A lot more than I think anyone knew about?” Truthfully he hadn’t cared that much once Scott had been freed. It just hadn’t mattered anymore. “I sort of...didn’t exactly have an exit plan.” His voice was hushed.

Lydia glanced up with a frown, her brows drawing together, “What do you mean you didn’t-oh god,” realization hit and she caught his gaze, “Did they...did they take you?” She asked with a shake of her head.

Stiles pursed his lips, giving a short nod of his head. “Yeah. It wasn’t a good time. Cora realized something was wrong when I wasn’t responding to her messages, and she and Braeden got me out. It was the first time I met Braeden. Morrell sent her after me.”

Lydia’s hand tightened on Stiles’ leg. “How long were you there?” She asked quietly, her chest tight.

Stiles rubbed her back gently, soothing the blow he was about to deliver. “Three days,” he admitted.

“Three days?” Lydia’s voice was high pitched when she spoke. “How did no one realize you were missing for three days?” Lydia asked before pursing her lips. She tried to calm herself down, but it was easier said than done.

“I wasn’t really in touch with anyone,” he pointed out quietly. Morrell had known. He was pretty sure it was his punishment for taking off, though.

Lydia arched an eyebrow, “Oh really? Because you said you were with Ms. Morrell, she should have known…” Lydia was quiet for a minute, “We would have known.” She said her voice hard. Lydia pursed her lips and trying to push aside the anger she was feeling.

“She wasn’t happy about me leaving,” he admitted, pulling his hand away from her and folding both of them in his lap. Stiles was silent for a moment, trying to choose his words carefully. “Someone else could have gotten hurt or worse. It worked out the way that it was supposed to.”

Lydia pursed her lips when he pulled away from her and she rested her hands on the steps beside her body. She arched an eyebrow at him, “So you’re defending her now?” She asked, “Because if you’re saying she did nothing on purpose, that is not okay and she better not step foot in Beacon Hills again, or I’ll have to show her just how not okay it is.” Lydia said annoyed that he could ever think that was okay.

“No. I’m not defending her,” Stiles said honestly. “I don’t know if it was on purpose or not. I’m just saying that it turned out okay. Scott’s safe and alive and so am I.”

“I hate that woman,” Lydia said her voice quiet. “I’ve never liked her, but you realize now, I hate her.” Her voice was hard. It was an emotion she wasn’t exactly used to. She’d disliked people before, was annoyed with them, and a bunch of other emotions, but Lydia had never truly hated anyone. But ever since she found out Ms. Morrell was the one who dragged him into this whole year of training or whatever it was, her hate for the woman had been building.

“Lydia.” Stiles voice was soft and he looked down at his hands again. “She’s done some -- questionable things. But so have I. Even before I ever met her, I did a lot of questionable things. And she didn’t keep me away from here.”

Lydia kept her eyes forward as gaze on her knees. “I don’t care.” She told him. “I don’t care what you’ve done Stiles. It doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t change how I feel about you,” Lydia responded.

Stiles sincerely hoped that was true. More than she probably realized. He nodded slightly, chewing on his lower lip. He drew in a breath. “So the rest of January and all of February we stayed in Van Nuys. Braeden helped me train for physical defense. Taught me about weapons. Got me on a regular workout regimen. Coach Finnstock has nothing on her when it comes to whipping someone into shape,” he said wryly.

Lydia rubbed her palm on the step, the rough surface scratching her skin, “Yes, I can see that,” she said with a hint of amusement. “Working out was definitely had,” she joked, though her voice wasn’t quite so light.

“Lydia, do you want me to stop?” he asked quietly, feeling her tension like it was his own.

Lydia shook her head, “No,” she told him quietly as she angled her head in his direction, a piece of hair falling from her bun. She brushed it away, “You can keep going.”

Stiles gazed at her for a moment, nodding and looking at his hands again. “We spent March in Alaska. Like, the entire month.” It had been his favorite month of the whole year he’d been gone. The only month that wasn’t full of nightmares and terrible things, really. “We pretty much just observed a wolf pack there. Like -- actual wolves, not werewolves. They’re strikingly similar in a lot of ways. It’s where I got my second tattoo, actually.” He shifted slightly on the step and pulled his shirt up just a little to reveal the wolf tattoo there so she could see.

Lydia’s gaze dropped and she glanced at the tattoo. She reached out and brushed her fingers against it. “I like it. I didn’t notice if before,” she told him softly.

Stiles wasn’t surprised. He knew she hadn’t seen his back yet. The times they’d gotten naked together had been kind of rushed and he hadn’t even taken his shirt off except the first time. He smiled faintly. “Yeah, it’s my favorite one,” he admitted quietly.

Lydia glanced up, “How many do you have?” She asked realizing she honestly didn’t know and that kind of bothered her. A lot bothered her. Technically she’d known Stiles since she was a kid and even though they didn’t exactly circle into each other’s orbits until a couple of years ago, she still knew almost everything about him...or she had until he left. But...he was trying to fix that now and part of Lydia was grateful.

“Three visible ones.” He paused. “There was...a ritual in June. I have some etched onto my rib cage, too. Protection and uh…” He looked away. “Anti-possession ones.”

Lydia arched an eyebrow, “You and your rituals...this is going to become a thing. I’m hiding all of your books.” She told him, though her gaze dropped to his stomach as if she could see through his skin, even though obviously she couldn’t. “What else?”

Stiles smiled very faintly at that comment. It had already kind of become a thing. He drew in a breath, rubbing a hand over his face, because now was when things were going to get more difficult to talk about. He rose to his feet, moving off the steps because he was achy and needed to stretch and stand. And possibly pace. “Most of April was more training with Braeden. But...the last couple of weeks we traveled a lot. Spain. Russia. Then Montana.” He swallowed heavily.

“There was...a rogue Omega in Spain,” he said, voice growing quieter. “She was killing people. There wasn’t any kind of discernable pattern to it. It had been going on for awhile. Morrell -- stopped her.” He shut his eyes for a moment, remembering with vivid clarity the nightmares he’d had that same night.

Lydia watched Stiles pace as he spoke and she inhaled deeply at his words. She thought back to Peter and all the trouble he had caused. Sometimes...killing the enemy was the best route. It wasn’t the one she’d prefer, but they all had their boiling points. Even Scott had apparently helped to kill Peter the first time. He had deserved to die and Lydia was sure the omega in Spain did too.

She swallowed hard as she felt a rush of emotion from him. “I’m sorry you had to be there for that,” she told him quietly.

Stiles winced at the sympathy in her voice and shook his head. “Don’t -- don’t feel sorry for me when you haven’t heard the worst of what I’ve done,” he whispered.

Lydia pursed her lips at his words. “Stiles...I don’t feel sorry for you,” she lifted her hands and rested them on her knees, “I feel empathy,” she corrected. “You made your own choices...but that doesn’t mean you always liked them or that it wasn’t hard,” she responded quietly. Lydia stayed where she was sitting, not feeling so great at the moment otherwise she would have gotten up and tried to calm him down.

“You can skip Russia...and the hunters. I know about both.” She told him.

Stiles winced at that, too, nodding and rubbing a hand over his face as he started pacing again. “After Spain -- that’s uh -- that’s when I decided to work on my GED. I kinda needed something halfway normal because I sort of felt like I was spiraling,” he admitted. He was silent for a moment. “And...Braeden and I sort of...slept together.” He swallowed hard.

Lydia glanced up and opened her mouth, but closed it immediately. She pursed her lips and nodded. “Everyone needs something normal especially when there’s absolutely nothing normal around them,” she paused arching an eyebrow, “Though the Braeden thing you probably could have kept to yourself,” she said a hint of humor in her voice.

Stiles let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. “I don’t want any more secrets between us,” he admitted. “I didn’t want that to end up coming up at some point and you wondering why I never said anything. I’m not -- I’m done hiding things.” His voice was quiet.

Lydia tilted her head, “So you’d like a list of the people I’ve slept with then?” She asked, arching a brow before glancing back at her knees, her tone implying she knew he didn’t. She had no right to be annoyed, so she was going to go with that and not let the Braeden thing bother her...Besides she was friends with Stiles...she’d saved Derek’s life and most importantly she wasn’t staying in Beacon Hills for long. “I’m not sure why it would come up, but...the honesty is appreciated,” Lydia admitted. “I agree, there shouldn’t be any more secrets.” She told him, not that she was keeping any.

“No, that’s not --” He realized she was kidding about the list and he sighed, rubbing his hands over his face. “Yeah.” He filled her in on how another emissary had let him know that the same Spanish hunters who’d gone after Scott were now targeting Cora. How he’d texted her to tell her she needed to vacate and had urged her to go back to Beacon Hills so she’d have a pack to watch after her. He’d known, of course, that Scott would accept her without hesitation.

“And then in May...I found out that vampires were real. And not as fun as they might seem in books and on TV. In June I actually got to experience a bite. Also not as fun as it might sound.” He sighed, rubbing his neck unconsciously. “Then I got to behead it with a sword. Which…” He grimaced. “Not...pleasant. At all.”

Surprise crossed Lydia’s face. She should have known other things were real especially with everything they’d dealt with. She’d read books about vampire lore and all kinds of other mythology about random things. Lydia pressed a hand against her neck in the same spot where she’d seen the scar on his neck. “So they don’t sparkle then?” She joked needing to lighten the mood. The whirlwind of emotions coming from Stiles mixed with her own was actually starting to make her nauseous and she wondered briefly if this was how it was going to be now that she was back. Lydia would table those thoughts for later though, when they were done with their talk.

Stiles snorted involuntarily. “No. They also don’t poof into dust like they did on Buffy, either unfortunately. Can’t be deterred by garlic and stakes don’t do a thing, either. It’s pretty much just beheading.” He exhaled. He went on to tell her about how witches and demons were also real -- of course she’d known that demons were a thing because the Nogitsune had been a demon. But there were other kinds, too. A lot of them.

By the time he made it up to October, he’d stopped pacing and settled for leaning against the wall. “And that’s where I met a woman named Sarah Fisher.” His voice grew quieter. He gazed at her. “She’s...a banshee, too.”

Lydia glanced up, “Like me...did she, was she like me?” She asked as a hint of anxiety built in her stomach. “What kind of abilities did she have?” Lydia asked her brows furrowing.

Stiles pushed himself away from the wall and moved to sit down beside her once more, reaching out and resting a hand on her shoulder. “She’s older than you. In her thirties or so. Her abilities didn’t kick in until she was in a car accident in her late twenties.” His voice was soft. “Mostly she just hears the voices of other banshees. She’s not connected to any werewolves and she doesn’t have a tether of any kind to someone else. So it’s...a lot different,” he explained. “She helped us track down a Striga.”

Lydia’s shoulders dropped slightly and she sighed, nodding. “And what happened with the witch?” She asked glancing at Stiles as she rested a hand on his leg again trying not to be too disappointed.

“We stopped him from killing a bunch more kids,” he said quietly, looking down at her hand. “And then Braeden and I wound up back in South America because there was a conflict between some pissed off elves and a tribe down there.” He shook his head a little. Really. What were their lives?

“Elves?” Lydia lifted her free hand to her head. “God this conversation is headache inducing,” she joked, though she wasn’t entirely sure she was joking. It was a lot of information to take in all at once. “I’m glad you were able to save the kids.” She said softly, “At least she was able to help with that.”

Stiles drew in a breath and let it out slowly, nodding in agreement. It was headache inducing. There wasn’t anything about the conversation that didn’t induce headaches, really. “Me too,” he said softly. He was quiet for a moment. “And...that leads right up to Budapest. There was a new pack being formed. Mostly it was just...kind of keeping watch and making sure nothing went wrong. Observation. It’s...when I had the dream about Allison. When that earthquake happened at the same time I had that dream….I knew it was a sign that I needed to come back.” He looked down.

Lydia glanced up at him sending Stiles a thoughtful look. “What did you say?” She asked softly, “You had a dream the night of the earthquake?” She asked softly.

“Yeah? I was dreaming about the nemeton. Allison was there,” he told her, looking at her sideways. “It happened the exact time of the earthquake here.”

“I had a pretty terrible nightmare that night,” she admitted, “Allison was in mine too. She saved me from the daevas in my nightmare, though I wasn’t sure what they were then. Derek thought it was probably because the anniversary was so close...but she was really there that night.” Lydia said softly. “The earthquake happened literally ten minutes later.”

Stiles fell silent for a long moment, absorbing that information and letting out a breath. “She’s the reason I came back here,” he whispered. “If I hadn’t had that dream, I wouldn’t really have thought twice about an earthquake in Beacon Hills. But the two things together…”

Lydia tried to ignore his words and the way they stung. She nodded and glanced at her hands again which were back on her lap. “Yeah...I didn’t know it was really her. I just thought...the same things I always thought,” she admitted. “Is that everything?” She asked.

“Yeah. Yeah, that’s pretty much it.” He chewed his lower lip for a moment. “You can read the journal if you want to.” He hesitated. “I let Scott read it. He knows everything, too.”

Lydia hesitated, “I’d rather not...if that’s okay.” She said softly as she glanced sideways at him. “You were honest with me, that’s good enough.” Lydia was silent for a minute her hand back on the step. She gripped it tightly and pushed her mouth together. “Can I ask you a question and have you answer it honestly no matter what the answer is?” Her words were soft as she glanced at him.

“It’s fine,” he said just as softly. “I’ll probably start typing a lot of it up so we’ll have it more handy for reference. Maybe exchanges notes with Mr. Argent.” He exhaled slowly, looking at her once more at her question. “Yeah. Yeah, go ahead.”

“I’m sure Chris would find that helpful,” Lydia offered. She moistened her lips hesitating for a second before speaking, “If you hadn’t had that dream with Allison, would you have eventually come home? At some point?” She asked quietly, her hands clutching on the stair as she kept her emotions calm waiting for his answer.

Stiles fell silent, not entirely sure how to answer that. He drew in a breath and looked down at his hands. “I wouldn’t have come home then, for sure. Eventually?” He pursed his lips. “Maybe. Probably? I don’t know if it would have been for good.” His voice was quiet. Honest, but a hint of sadness to it.

Lydia pressed her lips together taking in his answer and not able to help the tinge of pain that filled her chest. She nodded and gave him half a smile. “Thanks for being honest.” Lydia said finally. She let out a breath. “So, that’s everything then?” She asked again quietly.

Stiles looked at her sideways, and hesitantly reached out and laid a hand on her back. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, feeling her pain easily, without effort. “Yeah. Yeah, that’s everything.”

“It’s fine.” Lydia said immediately glancing at him, “If we’re being honest...I didn’t think you were coming back.” She told him softly, but he already knew that because she’d told him.

“I know.” Stiles looked down at his hands, nodding. He was silent for a few moments. “I just...honestly believed at the time that it would be easier for everyone if I wasn’t here. That it would be easier to move on without the walking visual reminder of that thing that was responsible for all of the awful crap that happened.” He swallowed hard. “And I was scared.”

Lydia was quiet for a minute before she lifted her hand and rested it on Stiles’ leg. “You were the only one who felt that way. None of us did. We could have helped you through that fear…” Lydia paused there was no point in bringing all of that up again. It couldn’t be undone. “But you did what you thought was right or best for us. Your heart was in the right place,” she offered.

Lydia glanced in front of her at the stairs a slight breeze ruffling her hair. “Is there anything you want to know about from when you were gone?” She asked quietly.

“I know that now,” he admitted softly, resting his hand on top of hers. And he did. He wasn’t really sure he’d ever understand it, but he did know it.

Stiles chewed his lower lip for a moment. “If there are things you want to tell me, or that you need to tell me, yeah,” he whispered. “I’ll always listen. But I...kept an eye on things here while I was gone? Like...trouble kind of things. So I pretty much know about that kind of thing.”

Lydia glanced over at him trying to curb the hint of annoyance that sparked inside of her because she knew he’d feel it. She shrugged, “I don’t have any secrets. If you’ve been keeping an eye on things, then you know everything.” She told him keeping her tone light.

“I know it’s unfair,” Stiles admitted, meeting her eyes. “That I was keeping an eye on all of you and you had no idea where I was or what I was doing. I’ve always been kind of an asshole, Lydia. But you already knew that.”

Lydia frowned, “No, you haven’t and I’m not really sure where this notion came from that you are or that you’ve always been one.” She responded. “I never thought you were an asshole before, between the two of us I’m pretty sure I fit that role better in the past,” she admitted.

A short chuckle escaped Stiles. “No, trust me. You might not have thought so, but I was. Scott’s second full moon he wasn’t...exactly himself.” He arched an eyebrow. “I figured out that the two of you made out in Coach’s office. I handcuffed him to the radiator and poured a bottle of water into a doggie bowl with his name on it.”

Lydia winced and glanced briefly at Stiles. She hadn’t realized he knew about that. “Well, he deserved that.” She told him matter-of-factly. “He never should have let me kiss him...and I was...hurt and angry at Jackson. I wanted to do something to make him mad. Not my finest hour.” She mumbled.

“It’s just an example,” Stiles told her honestly. “I’ve been an asshole to a lot of people over the years. I think...maybe you’re under the mistaken impression that I was just this really nice guy because I was nice to you. And that’s...not the truth of it. Truthfully, I’ve manipulated a lot of people and done a lot of things for the three people in my life who’ve always meant the most.”

Lydia arched an eyebrow, “Have you ever manipulated me?” She asked watching him closely.

He met her eyes. “You’re one of the three people,” he whispered.

Lydia’s expression softened. “I know.” she told him honestly. “And the truth is...I don’t care who you’ve manipulated as long as you haven’t done it to me.” She admitted. “I think you forget sometimes who you’re talking to. You think I’m going to judge you for manipulating people? Stiles the things that I’ve made people do or done to people,” Lydia sighed. “I haven’t always been the nicest person. You can attest to that. And I’ve manipulated my fair share of people…At times I probably still do.”

Lydia frowned, “It’s second nature to me. But I don’t do it to the people who really matter to me. So as long as you don’t go around manipulating me, I don’t really care who you’re doing it to. And that probably makes me sound like a cold hearted bitch, but sometimes you need to do what you have to, to get the end result you need.” She said simply.

“I don’t think you’re going to judge me, no.” Stiles looked at her for a moment. He was fully aware that she hadn’t always been a very nice person. That she could manipulate people with the best of them. Because she was right -- as terrible as it sounded, sometimes you had to do what you had to do.

“It’s second nature to me, too,” he said quietly. “When it comes to keeping you or Scott or my dad safe. I’m always going to do whatever I have to do. It doesn’t make you sound like a cold-hearted bitch. I mean, unless it does me too, which…” He shrugged. “I’ve never really cared that much what other people think of me.”

Lydia shook her head, “It doesn’t.” She said quietly, “And I’ve never really cared what people think either.” If she had life would have been a lot harder for her after Peter attacked her. Other than the obvious way in which it was hard. “So, is this the part where we weigh in on the future and where exactly we go from here?” She asked glancing over at him.

Stiles turned his head to meet her eyes. “Do we need to reevaluate that?” he asked softly. “We can if you want.”

“You don’t think we need to?” Lydia asked curiously.

“Nothing’s changed for me,” Stiles said quietly.

Lydia was silent for a minute. “We’ve wasted a lot of time,” she said quietly, “Because of me...and then because of you...I don’t really want to waste any more time.” Lydia rolled her tongue in her mouth. “I died the other day and it occurred to me I never even got to tell you I loved you before that. It also occurred to me that we’ve never been on a date or done anything remotely normal. I died with too many regrets.” She admitted softly as she glanced down at her hands.

“We live a dangerous life, all of us. And it’s very possible one of us could die tomorrow...again.” Lydia glanced over at him. “So maybe waiting or taking this slow is just stupid. I love you and you love me...that should really be all that matters...right?”

Stiles’ chest tightened at her words, at the memory of the agony he felt the moment he felt her die, and he rubbed his hands over his face. She was right about that. She usually was. “Trust matters, too,” he whispered. As much as he wanted to agree with her -- that the fact that they loved each other should be enough, that it was all that mattered -- he wasn’t going to allow himself to manipulate her by simply agreeing. Not with Lydia.

“And I’m willing to do whatever you need, whatever you want, to make this work, because it’s...I need you. I love you.” He’d always loved her. “But I don’t want you to just jump into this because you’re scared,” he whispered. “I don’t want you to have regrets when we do this.”

Lydia watched him for a minute as she contemplated his words. “I can learn to trust you again,” she responded, her voice low. “Trust takes time, it isn’t built over night. And yes, I know you know that, but what are we supposed to do until then? Because what we’ve been doing is ridiculous.” Lydia stated.

“Trying to stay away from each other...being too close. It’s either been one extreme or the other. We need to find a balance. I don’t know how long it’s going to take for us to get to the point we were with trust...And I don’t want to waste that much time. I do trust you Stiles...Just not with everything.” She said apologetically.

She wasn’t wrong. “So then that’s what we work on. Finding a balance,” he said softly. “What if...we do this right?” He pursed his lips. “What if I asked you out to a movie next Friday night and we do the date thing? Just...try to work on being normal teenagers who happen to have some not so normal lives in a town that’s definitely not normal?”

Lydia smiled, “A movie on Friday sounds nice.” She told him softly, “You planning on picking me up and everything?” She asked her expression soft.

Stiles couldn’t help but smile at that. “Yeah. You can pick the movie. We can do dinner before or after if that’s okay, too.”

Lydia arched an eyebrow, amusement on her face. “Dinner and a movie huh? I hope you’re not planning to get lucky, I’m not that easy…” she paused, “I am that easy, but again we’re doing this right so I’m thinking we’ll have to wait the standard amount of time to get a little more physical.” Lydia tilted her head to the side and leaned into Stiles, “What’s the standard amount of time?” She asked her voice a whisper.

Stiles laughed softly, wrapping his arm around her. “Hell if I know, Lyds. I’ve never been on an actual date,” he admitted.

“That’s terrible.” Lydia said, “Well that will change on Friday.” She told him matter-of-factly. “You can pick me up here at six. And I will obviously make you see some wonderfully girly movie and then we can grab some food.” She responded with a smile squeezing his leg gently.

“It is terrible. I’m terribly deprived in the dating department and it’s shameful.” He nodded, pressing a kiss to her temple. “That sounds great to me. Even the girly movie part.” He smirked.

“That’s why I like you; you don’t fight me on my movie choices. If only there were more guys like you,” she said with a soft sigh even as a grin pulled at her lips. Lydia studied his face for a minute, “This is going to work...right?” She asked softly.

Stiles smiled at her comment, holding her gaze. “If I get any say in it, yes,” he said just as softly.

Lydia nodded a small smile pulling at her lips, “Good. So, everything’s out in the open now...no more deep dark secrets or things that are going to pop up causing trouble,” she commented glad that they had finally talked.

“You pretty much know every deep dark secret I’ve ever had,” Stiles assured her, taking her hand in his and lacing their fingers together.

“Good, and I don’t have any deep dark secrets,” Lydia joked, “So we’re good.” She replied as she lifted a free hand to cover a yawn. She turned her head to the side, scrunched her nose, and then glanced back at Stiles. “Sorry,” she said sheepishly.

“You’re still tired,” Stiles said softly. He pulled her close, leaning his head against hers. “You wanna...come back to my house? Take a nap?” he asked hesitantly.

Lydia squeezed his leg gently hesitating as her gaze darted briefly up the stairs. “Are you sure your parents would be okay with that?” She asked lightly, “And Scott? I know he’s got to be tired after everything that happened.” Lydia remarked calmly.

“They’re working today,” he told her with a slight shrug. “And if Scott’s tired, he can nap, too. I doubt your snoring will keep him awake.” He bit his lower lip to keep from laughing.

“Hey, I don’t snore.” She said glaring at him, but the weight of her glare was most definitely diminished by the pout forming on her lips. “You’re mean.” She told him matter-of-factly, though she was only joking. Lydia tapped her finger softly against his leg. “Maybe we should hold off on the sleepovers for a little while,” she said softly.

Lydia wanted to go with him, but at the same time she was hesitating, which made no sense. Maybe it was just that she felt more comfortable at the loft than she did at Stiles house, but that wasn’t exactly something she wanted to mention either. Then again if they were going to be in a relationship and work on their trust this would probably be a good start. “Unless...I mean if you’re sure you don’t mind.”

Stiles looked down when she said they should hold off on sleepovers. He chewed his lower lip, thinking about what Scott had said earlier, that if he had an issue with her sleeping in Derek’s bed with Derek, he should say something. But he was conflicted anyway.

“I don’t mind, Lydia, but if your first instinct is that you’d rather be here at Derek’s then…” He let out a breath. “I want you to be comfortable.” He wanted her to feel safe.

Lydia watched him looking down and her chest tightened. She hated upsetting him and she felt some kind of conflict coming from him, but she wasn’t sure what that meant. “It’s not that,” she said immediately and then backtracked because they were being honest with each other.

“It’s not just that.” She told him softly. “Hey, look at me. What’s this...what am I feeling?” She asked her brows furrowed in confusion. “Are you upset?” She asked softly.

Stiles hesitated. “Not upset, no. It’s kind of stupid,” he admitted quietly, looking back at her. “Okay, it’s really stupid, actually.” He chewed his thumbnail for a moment. And he still didn’t feel like he had a right to say anything about it. “It’s...this whole you and Derek...sharing a bed thing.” He winced, rubbing a hand over his face and moving to stand up. “See? Stupid.”

Lydia opened her mouth and reached for his arm, but he was already standing. She pressed her lips together, something that was becoming a habit. “You don’t like me sharing a bed with Derek.” She stated. “Derek’s my best friend; you share a bed with Scott.” Lydia said with a shrug. “That’s not really a big deal.” She added keeping her tone relaxed so Stiles would know she wasn’t judging him or getting angry, just trying to understand.

“Scott and I have never had sex with each other,” Stiles said, giving her a look. He winced at how that sounded. “I know how it sounds. But what if I started regularly sharing a bed with Braeden whenever she was around?” he asked more quietly.

“Derek and I haven’t had sex since things between you and I started happening,” Lydia told Stiles pointedly, “And you know that.” But then she paused, not getting angry because the truth was she wouldn’t like that. She was actually looking forward to the other woman leaving so she wouldn’t be in the same town as them let alone the same bed.

Lydia sighed. “You don’t like me staying at the loft.” She stated.

“I don’t mind you staying at the loft,” he said, shaking his head. “I’d just...like it if you slept in Cora’s bed instead.” He looked down, letting out a breath. “And I know you haven’t. And I have no right to say anything, and I know that too. But...you’re not the only one who feels jealousy, Lydia,” he said softly.

“And let’s be real here, I have a lot more to be jealous about than you do.”

Lydia glanced down at his words, “The problem is, it’s not just the loft that makes me feel safe,” she said quietly before glancing up at him. Lydia considered his words. “I know I’m not, but Stiles, you don’t have anything to be jealous of,” she said softly.

Stiles fell silent at that, then nodded slightly. “Okay.” His voice was quiet.

Lydia sighed and pushed herself up. She closed the distance between them and rested a hand against his chest. “I understand how you feel and if it’s that important to you,” Lydia swallowed hard, “Then I won’t share a bed with Derek anymore.” She told him quietly.

“But I love you. I don’t know what you think you have to be jealous of, is all I’m saying.” Lydia whispered softly. “I don’t know what you’re jealous of, so I can’t fix it or ease your mind because...I don’t know what’s going through your head,” Lydia explained.

“I’m not going to ask you that,” he said softly. “I’m not gonna be that guy. You’re right. I trust you. And I’m not going to ask you to change everything in your life because I’m uncomfortable. I don’t have that right.” Stiles exhaled. He’d never had that right with Lydia.

Lydia frowned, “You’re asking for one thing,” she told him, “And if you hadn’t noticed I love you,” she repeated, “and there isn’t much I wouldn’t do for you.” Lydia responded softly. “If our situations were reversed I wouldn’t like it.” She admitted.

“And if we’re going into a relationship I want us to be honest about what we’re feeling even if one of us might not like it. I don’t want to be in another relationship where I have to hide things.” Lydia said quietly. “That being said there are a few things I should be honest about if we’re going to do this.”

And one thing still felt like too much under the circumstances. “I know. I love you too,” Stiles said softly, feeling like a jackass.

Stiles didn’t want to have that kind of relationship with her, either. He’d seen those kinds of relationships growing up. Melissa and Rafael McCall sprang to mind immediately and he grimaced. He drew in a breath and let it out slowly. “Okay. I’m listening,” he said quietly.

“The year you were gone...it was really hard for me,” Lydia admitted, “And I’m not telling you that to make you feel bad or anything. It’s done and over with and your back. But things have changed, which I know you know and Derek is a big part of that for me.” She said softly. “He’s my best friend and maybe that sounds silly because a year isn’t that long. But it was a year that felt like decades to me.” Lydia’s chest tightened.

“I didn’t handle things well and he was there. Every angry tantrum, every breakdown, every nightmare. He was there and it’s something I’ve come to depend on...something I’ve grown attached to.” Lydia paused, “I’m not in love with Derek, I never was and I never will be because I’m in love with you. But I do love him.” She told him shifting closer to him and resting her hand against his side.

“And whenever something is wrong or bothering me my first instinct is to come here to him. It’s home. I know that’s not fair and if the situation was reversed I would hate you not coming to me. And I’m going to try and work on that, I promise...but it isn’t going to happen overnight and I’m going to need you to bear with me while I try to work on that.” Lydia told him quietly.

“Derek has always been safe because he doesn’t have the same kind of power over me that you do. Being here at the loft with him...it’s easier than letting myself get attached to you again Stiles. Because Derek won’t leave. And I know you said you won’t either...but you’ve said that before and then.” Lydia’s heart clenched, “I know the circumstances were different. I know you left for us, I get it I do. But as much as I understand it, it doesn’t change the fallout, you know? And I’m scared.”

Stiles listened closely, not surprised by anything she had to say. “Maybe...your first instinct to go to Derek isn’t a bad thing.” His voice was quiet. “Like you said, he’s your best friend. And my first instinct...it’s always been to go to Scott.” He got that. His first instinct was probably never going to change. It had developed when they were five and he was being picked on by Jackson and Scott stepped in between them time and again.

“I’m okay with that,” Stiles said softly. “I really am. I’m not...expecting you to not go to Derek. I don’t even want you to feel like you can’t stay here. Lydia, I want you to feel safe. And I know that it can’t just be the two of us against the world because that’s not how the world works. I don’t think it would be a healthy thing if it was literally just the two of us. We need other people, too.” He gazed at her.

“And I do understand.” Stiles always had. He knew even before he came back what the fallout with Lydia was likely going to be. He hadn’t planned on sticking around at the time. But things just didn’t tend to work out the way people planned for them to. And maybe sometimes that was better anyway.

Lydia leaned into him. “It used to be,” she said softly, “Not just the two of us, but...You used to be that safe place,” she whispered quietly, “And ever since you left it’s been the only thing that I’ve wanted, was to just walk into your room and for you to wrap your arms around me and tell me everything is going to be okay.” Lydia admitted.

“But-” she paused, “I feel like we might not be able to get back to that point and I know that’s my fault. The thought of being that way again...it scares me. I don’t want you leaving to always be a thing. I don’t want to bring it up like I’m holding it over your head, because I’m not. I swear. But at the same time you’ve even said if the whole thing with Allison and your dream didn’t happen...you don’t know when you would have come back or if even. That makes a part of me think that the only reason we're together right now is because of this whole mess with Peter and that’s probably my own insecurities at work, but I can’t shake it.” Lydia said quietly.

Stiles looked down, letting all of that sink in even though he’d already known it. “I know,” he said softly. “And it isn’t your fault. Hopefully...hopefully we can figure it out together,” he whispered. “Because I really want that.” He swallowed hard, pressing a kiss to her forehead and letting his eyes close. “But for now...one step at a time.”

Lydia wrapped her arms around him and let out a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding. “One step at a time,” she repeated, leaning into him and closing her eyes. Lydia would get her stuff together in a day or two and head back home and she guessed they’d take things one day at a time from there.

Stiles wound his arms around her, wincing slightly as pain flickered through his side. He pressed a kiss to her temple. “You should get some rest. I can feel how tired you still are.”

Lydia frowned feeling the flicker of pain inside of him. “It seems like you need to rest also,” she said softly. “Do you still want me to come with you?” She asked softly.

“Yeah, I probably should,” he admitted. Stiles fell silent. “I do. But if you’re more comfortable here, that’s okay.” And he knew she was. That she would be. He reached up and tucked some hair behind her ear.

Lydia’s grip on him tightened slightly, “I’ll bring my stuff home in a day or so,” she told him softly. “I promise.”

Stiles met her eyes, nodding slightly. “Want me to walk you back up?”

“Will you?” Lydia asked stepping back and threading their fingers together.

“Absolutely,” he said softly, giving her hand a gentle squeeze.

Lydia smiled and leaned into him as they made their way back up the steps towards the loft.

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