Disclaimer: 'Teen Wolf' isn't mine. Shocking, right? But it's true. If there are any similarities in content or dialogue, it has probably originated with the show.

I just couldn't stay away! I was going to work on other stories for a while, but I just couldn't not write Charlie. I think she's my favorite of my characters, so I've decided to feed my obsession by continuing. As per usual I want to thank BrittWitt16 and her story 'The Wild Side' for the inspiration that was her story. She began her story with a friendship with Lydia, and that idea inspired my and gave me the foundation to start this little adventure. I never would have started this if it wasn't for your brilliance, and you have no idea how grateful I am.

Chapter 1 – Sweet Dreams

White. Everything around her was a dazzling white. Not that soft glow that could be considered comforting, but that painful, stabbing glare that made your eyes ache to look into it. And she was cold. Freezing cold.

"Hello?"

The sound of Charlie's voice echoed in her ears, like it was hitting the walls of a cave. But as loud as she called, nobody answered. She was alone. Lifting her hands out in front of her, she began to walk forwards, reaching blindly into the light. The ground beneath her was flat and smooth, almost like tile. Her feet slapped loudly against it as she moved, but that was the only sound that she heard. "Is anybody there?"

Once again, she received no response. Without anything to see or hear, she lost all sense of time. She groped around in the blinding white for what could have been minutes or days. Lost. She was completely lost. And not only that, she had no way to find herself. Charlie's heart began to pound in her chest, making it feel as though it was going to break through her rib cage. Her breaths became heavier and deeper, and suddenly her head started to spin. She was having a panic attack.

Charlie tried to slow her breath down—to take it in quick, short pants—but it was spiraling out of control. She began sucking in air at such a high rate, she felt as though she was swallowing it. Her ears were ringing and where there was no sound before, she now found it deafening. But over everything else she heard the piercing noise of a familiar beeping sound. It wasn't long before she realized it was beeping in time with her heart rate.

It was the sound of a heart monitor. A sound she was all too familiar with.

Gradually her heartbeat began to even out and the sound of that beeping slowed down with it. Her breaths became calmer. And as the overwhelming anxiety began to leak out of her, that impossibly white light shining in her eyes began to fade away. At first everything was washed out and blurry—all she could see were shadowed outlines. The light had made tears spring up in her eyes, and when she blinked them away, she could see clearly.

She was in the hospital. Only it wasn't bustling with doctors or patients or loved ones waiting to hear good and bad news—it was completely empty. Charlie looked up and down the corridor she found herself in. She was completely and totally alone. A strong breeze whipped through the hall, making Charlie shiver. She wrapped her around her waist and tried to pull the flimsy fabric closer in. It was only then that she realized she was wearing one of those flimsy, faded blue hospital gowns.

Charlie's eyes darted around, looking for any other sign of life. She began picking her way down the hall, and as she moved the beeping noise began to grow louder and louder. It was like a homing beacon, pulling her towards it. Finally she found herself standing in front of room 254. Reading that number made her body physically shake. Her father had died in room 254.

Taking a deep breath, she locked down that feeling of panic clawing at her throat. She reached for the handle and pushed gently, making it swing open with a resounding squeak. She held her breath as she walked through the door, unsure of what she would find inside. And then when she saw it she knew it could never have been anything else. Lydia.

"Please be okay," Charlie whispered, taking small steps towards her friend's still form. "I need you to be okay. Please, please be okay."

She was lying on one of those hospital beds, those sterile white sheets carefully tucked in around her. She looked almost peaceful with her red hair fanned out around her. She could have been sleeping instead of fighting for her life. There were no bruises or cuts, there was no blood. The serene look on her face turned her into one of those Disney princesses. Except Lydia would make damn sure she had better footwear.

Charlie almost didn't want to go near her—didn't want to find out how she was—because the answer she got might not be the one she wanted. As much as uncertainty hurt, not getting the right answer would be even worse. Letting out a shaky breath, Charlie approached her and wrapped her hand around Lydia's wrist. Her skin was warm and her pulse was strong. Charlie let out a soft sight of relief. Until she realized something. Lydia wasn't hooked up to any machines. The beeping was coming from somewhere else.

Slowly, Charlie turned around. There was another bed in the room, but someone had pulled one of those separating curtains around it. She wasn't sure why, but her heart began beating more quickly. There was something on the other side of the curtain—something important. She grabbed hold of the fabric and pulled it to the side, and what she saw made her heart plummet into her stomach. Lying on the bed next to Lydia's was a familiar-looking little girl. Charlie was looking at herself.

The little girl was lying on top of the sheets, wearing a worn Star Wars T-shirt and ripped jeans, her hair pulled into two messy braids. She was surrounded by tubes and wires and machines—a tube jammed into her throat, electrodes stuck to her, and Leonard the kangaroo tucked under her arm. At that point Charlie thought her heart stopped, but the persistent beeping told her different. She reached forward and pushed some of the hair out of the smaller version of herself's face, ignoring the slight shaking of her hand.

"Ugh, how cliché."

The sound of another voice in the room made Charlie jump in surprise, snatching her hand away from the girl. She spun around and her eyes locked on the other person there. She must have walked straight past him—she didn't know how she didn't see him. Sitting there in one of the guest chairs, legs crossed and idly flipping through a copy of Us Weekly, was Peter Hale. In that moment, something in Charlie's mind changed, like she had been shocked. She was aware—she knew that all of this, the hospital, Lydia, the little girl, Peter…she knew none of it was actually real. She was dreaming—it was all some construct inside her head. But that didn't mean the fear went away. Peter shot her that smug smile of his before continuing.

"I mean honestly, Charlie," he sighed out. "Are we really going with metaphorical insecurities like this? I thought it would be a little more interesting in your head. Instead I get shoved in a room with blank walls, a coma girl and this—" he waved around the Us Weekly "—this sad excuse for reading material. I mean since when is Brangelina a thing? Brad and Jennifer were perfect for each other. What happened?"

Charlie stared at him, eyes wide and frozen in fear. Peter Hale, a man she had watched die hours before, was sitting in front of her making snarky commentary about tabloid headlines. After a few moments of gaping like a fish out of water, her lips found a way to work again. "You—you're supposed to be dead," was all that she managed to force out.

Peter let out a small scoff and rolled his eyes, like he was disappointed. He flipped the magazine shut and tossed it on the chair next to him. "Really?" he demanded, his voice dripping in contempt. "Our big reunion and that's all you have to say to me?"

"What the hell did you expect to hear?" she whispered back, still reeling from his sudden reappearance. "Were we going to hold hands and sing songs? Skip off into the sunset? Go on a road trip and drive off a cliff Thelma and Louise style?"

Peter smirked and jerked his head to the side noncommittally. "Would I get to be Thelma?"

"The cute and stupid one?" Charlie muttered, narrowing her eyes at him. "Sure. That seems to fit."

He let out a laugh and clapped his hands together. "And there it is. That conversational spark that I love oh-so much. You know, I think you would have missed me. At least a little bit."

"Just because you like listening to yourself talk doesn't mean everybody else does," she growled. "Why are you here?"

"I told you," Peter insisted, looking at her earnestly. "I just want to talk."

"What could we possibly have to talk about?"

Peter pursed his lips and stared up at the corkboard ceiling, a pensive look on his face. "Oh, I don't know. We've had some good times. We could sit back…reminisce. Maybe an apology. You know, for shooting me. Repeatedly." When she didn't respond, he rolled his eyes again. "You don't have to worry—we're not in the throes of a zombie apocalypse. You're dreaming."

Charlie let out a bitter snort. Finally she found her voice, and her rage. She folded her arms across her chest and did her best to look intimidating—not an easy feat given the hospital gown she was wearing. "Yeah," she said with a passive aggressive laugh. "I know I'm dreaming. You know how I know that? Because the last time I saw you were being grilled like a fourth of July hot dog." She paused waiting for a response, but all she got was that same blank, slightly judgmental stare. "Get it?" she prompted. "Because you were lit on fire and you're a were—"

Peter gave her a withering look. "Yes, Charlie," he sneered. "I understood the joke. I just thought that kind of tasteless humor was beneath you."

"So the mass-murdering psychopath is judging me," she shot back, her lip curling slightly. "Wow. I wonder how much I care. Spoiler alert: Not a lot."

"Please," Peter replied, shaking his head at her. "Can we at least try to be civilized? I mean look at me." He gestured to himself. "You shot me. I'm not holding a grudge."

Charlie stared at him, her mouth hanging open slightly. Peter was slick, she had to give him that much. And somehow whenever she spoke with him, she felt dirty. "You put Lydia in the hospital," she growled back. "You tried to kill pretty much all of us. Twice. What can I say, that's not the type of thing I let go of easily. I'm petty like that."

Peter chuckled, and the sound of it sent a chill running down her spine. Every time she saw him, she got the distinct impression he knew something she didn't. He stood up from his seat and wandered over past Charlie, coming to a stop next to the bed the younger her was lying in. That nagging feeling of anxiety bloomed in her chest. She knew she was dreaming—that none of this was real—but she still felt like he could hurt her. "I've got to say," Peter said, peering down at her small form. "You were a cute kid."

Charlie watched him carefully. He braced his hands against the side of the bed and leaned forwards, hovering over little Charlie. "Why are you here?" she demanded angrily.

"It's your subconscious, Charlie," Peter murmured, not bothering to look at her and not moving from his threatening position. "You tell me."

"Maybe I just wanted to punch you in the face one last time," she muttered.

Peter snorted and a knowing smile at the corner of his lips. "Maybe," he said, nodding to himself. Then he lapsed into a silence. It was like the air was crackling with electricity. Slowly, Peter turned his head so that he was looking at her. "Or maybe I'm here to finish what I started."

Instinctively, Charlie's hand flew up to the back of her neck, feeling for the point where Peter's claws had dug into her neck. She expected to feel a row of four large scabs, but the skin was totally completely smooth. Fear shot through her veins, but she didn't even have the time to panic. Before she knew what was happening, Peter was standing directly in front of her, staring down at her with that cruel smile. "You might feel a slight pinch."

He opened his mouth and those teeth of his—the ones that had always seemed pointy to her—extended into sharp fangs. Peter lunged forward and grabbed her by the hair, yanking her head back. A strangled cry erupted from Charlie's throat and she struggled against him, but he was too strong. And she was left waiting for the feeling of teeth cutting through skin.

"Holy shit!"

Charlie gasped for breath and twitched violently as she woke. It had all felt so palpably real. Even when she was dreaming she had known none of it was real, but everything had just been so vivid. Her heart was still racing and a thin sheen of sweat coated her forehead. Immediately her hand went to the back of her neck, her fingers probing around to the skin covering her spine. They came into contact with rough, raised scabs, and she winced heavily at the ache that radiated from the point. But as much as it hurt, Charlie couldn't help but give a sigh of relief. That pain meant that she was still her—that she was still human.

Gradually, that dream she had been so violently ripped out of began to fall away from her like shards of broken glass and she became more aware of her surroundings. Her eyes roved around, taking everything in while her confused brain pieced everything together. At first she felt a twinge of alarm when she realized she wasn't in her room, but then, piece by piece, everything snapped back into place.

She was at the hospital. Not wandering around the hallways chasing ghosts and phantom beeping noises, but sitting in a chair in the middle of the waiting area. The same place she had been all weekend. It made a weird sort of sense that she was in the hospital waiting room. She was in a hospital waiting room the first time her world had imploded, sitting in a chair equally as uncomfortable as the one she now found herself in now. Only that time she had sat there for a few hours. This time it was days.

The longer she sat there, the more convinced she became that waiting rooms were like purgatory. The TVs stuck on that one mediocre cable channel that played nothing but soap operas and the unnecessarily chipper Kelly Ripa, the inescapable smell of industrial cleaning solvents, the annoying squeak of the linoleum cushioning on the chairs—all of it was horrible. But none of it was worse than the faces. You would look around out of every three or four people you would find one with that look—the puffy, purple rings under the eyes from the sheer exhaustion, the stooped shoulders, and the creased foreheads. Those were the ones who had to sit there in suspense—no information, nothing you can do to make things better—and wait for some external force to decide your fate and the fate of the people they cared about. Then that doctor would come out with the white lab coat and clipboard and tell them something that could save them or destroy them. Charlie had been one of those people.

As Charlie slowly blinked her eyes and forced herself into consciousness, she felt her pillow shift underneath her. Charlie blinked against the harsh, fluorescent lights, but she was still forced to squint as it assaulted her retinas. As it turned out, her pillow was especially mobile because it happened to be another person.

Stiles. He had been there as long as she had. The two of them had sat in that waiting area yards away from Lydia's door since the epic showdown at the Hale house, talking, playing cards, or just staying with each other. That is until the bottomless cup of bitter, acidic-tasting hospital coffee stopped doing its job and her eyes started to droop. Charlie's stomach jumped slightly as she looked up at him. Her head was resting on his chest. She could feel it rise and fall as he breathed and the soft, slow thumping of his heartbeat sounded in her ears. He was sprawled out across the seat next to hers in an almost impossible position, with his mouth hanging open and a little stream of drool trailing out of his mouth. Objectively it wasn't the most flattering of poses, but Charlie still couldn't help the tiny smile that pulled at the corner of her lips. Despite everything that had happened to her the past few days—being strangled, stabbed, watching Lydia in that hospital bed, having Allison basically disown her—Charlie somehow felt at least a little bit safe. And she really, really didn't want to move from that spot. Which meant that she probably should.

Charlie tried to get to her feet, but found it a little more difficult than she had anticipated. Stiles's arm was slung over her shoulder and somehow while sleeping he managed to tangle his fingers in her hair. It took about ten minutes and some ridiculous contortions to avoid waking him up, but somehow she managed to do it, leaving him snoring and drooling on the seats. As soon as the weight of her body was gone, Stiles smacked his lips and muttered something incoherent before readjusting so that his leg was draped over the armrest of her seat in a position that couldn't be comfortable. Charlie gave a light snort and watched him for a moment, shaking her head at him. And then she looked next to him, at that slightly deflated 'Get Well Soon' balloon with giant yellow smiley faces on it. He had gone and got it at the hospital gift shop as soon as the doctors said that Lydia would make a full recovery. But it had been almost a day since Stiles bought that balloon,-Saturday had disappeared into Sunday—and Lydia still wasn't waking up. Which was why, as confident as the doctors seemed to be, Charlie had that constant undercurrent of anxiety flooding through her veins. Beacon Hills might have excellent medical facilities, but she doubted very much that any of the staff had taken a course in Lycanthropy 101 during medical school.

Then, all of the sudden, something changed. The lights around her seemed to flare and stabbed at her eyes while an impossible pain erupted behind her forehead. It felt like her head was caving in and about to explode all at once. And then the flashes came. Fire, screams, pain—all of it was existing in her head all at once. Her vision swam and black began creeping in, leaving her with nothing but those images in her brain. Charlie wobbled on her feet, almost falling over before her hand managed to find a nearby chair, steadying herself. She pressed the heel of her other hand to her forehead, like she was trying to push back the pain, and gritted her teeth to hold back the scream. Just as she thought she couldn't bear it any more, just when she thought she would fall to her knees and scream, it vanished.

Charlie opened her eyes and she could see reality again. Her sweaty palm slipped against the smooth plastic of the chair, making her cling on even tighter. She let out some shaky breaths as she steadied herself. The pain subsided, but it left behind a sinking feeling of worry. Why was this still happening? Peter was dead—why was all of that still in her mind?

"Excuse me?" a kind voice said from behind her. Charlie spun around to find an older woman staring at her with concern. "Are you alright?"

Charlie swallowed heavily and nodded. "Y—yeah," she stammered out, still feeling a bit out of breath. "Yeah, I'm fine. Just a stress headache." The woman didn't seem to entirely accept the weak explanation and opened her mouth to speak again, but Charlie cut her off. "I just, um, I just need to get some water."

Immediately, she spun on her heel and tripped down the hallway to the bathroom. Luckily the path from the waiting room to the bathroom was a well worn one by that point, otherwise she might have ended up running into a hell of a lot of people. Or walls. Once she stumbled into the room, she kicked open all the stall doors, said a silent thank you to the universe that it was completely empty. She moved back to the front door and threw the deadbolt into the locked position before going to the sinks and splashing an impossible amount of cold water onto her face.

Charlie gripped the sides of the sink, digging her fingers into the porcelain and staring down the drain, like maybe—just maybe—the answers to everything could be hiding down those pipes. But she didn't see anything new. Except maybe for a bit of black mold that probably shouldn't be in a hospital bathroom.

Slowly, Charlie lifted her head and looked at her own reflection. She had certainly looked better. There was a purple bruising color under her eyes from lack of sleep, her skin had a pale, sallow color to it, every last trace of makeup was gone, and her hair was stringy and knotted. Overall not the picture of youthful exuberance she was apparently supposed to be. Hell, even her freckles looked pale. But all that could be chalked up to a couple of sleepless nights in an uncomfortable chair. What really gave her away were the eyes. They looked hollow. Not empty, but there was a sadness behind them that Charlie had never really seen before.

"Suck it up, Oswin," she whispered to herself. "If you break now that would just be pathetic."

Charlie took all those thoughts—the dream, Peter, the flashes that kept invading her mind—and shoved them away, filing them in the 'shit not to be thought about file' in the filing cabinet that was her brain. She splashed water on her face a few more times and made a lame attempt to comb through her hair with her fingers before stepping back and observing her full appearance in the mirror. For some reason the only thing she could think was that Lydia would probably have thrown a fit. She was wearing her usual Converse, a pair of ratty old jeans, and the turtleneck that Mel had dropped off for her earlier that day. She grabbed that hair tie out of the bottom of her pocket and pulled back her hair into a tight ponytail, grateful that the turtleneck could properly conceal her bruises, and took one last breath before walking out the bathroom.

Once out, Charlie pressed herself against the corridor wall and watched for a few moments as people walked back and forth before turning down the hall. To the left, she would find herself back in the waiting area. To the right, she would find herself at the door to Lydia's room. And that scared the crap out of her.

Over the past few days, Charlie had been pretty much everywhere in that hospital. Hell, she had even tried to sneak into the on-call room for a nap. But not once had she ever gone to Lydia's room. She had harassed Lydia's doctors and stolen the charts out of their hands to get a look at the information they had, but she hadn't dared go anywhere near the girl herself. Because each time she took one step towards that door, a tsunami of guilt would crash into her, leaving her breathless.

It was her fault when it came down to it. Peter might have been the one to bite her, but Charlie put her on that field. Those words Peter said to her when she begged him to let Lydia live. 'You're the ones who care about her.' That was what he had said. Which meant that this—all of it—was on her. Lydia was the unwitting collateral damage in Charlie's fight. And the thought of it made Charlie want to vomit. But as bad as seeing Lydia would be, failing her a second time would be even worse.

"Suck it up, Oswin."

That phrase was becoming her mantra now. Like she had to convince herself not to fall apart. Charlie took another deep breath and shifted to the right before heading down the hallway. Her feet felt heavy, like they were encased in lead, as she trudged towards the room. That cold pit she felt building in her stomach grew with every step that she took. By the time she found herself staring through that window into the hospital, her veins had turned to ice.

The Lydia she saw on the other side of that window was not the one she had seen in her dream. She didn't have that perfectly glossy hair, bright red lips, or glowing skin. Quite the contrary. Her hair was a matted, tangled mess and her lips were pale and dry. Again, that sick feeling lurched through Charlie's stomach. Lydia didn't look like Lydia, and Charlie hated it. She hated that bed and those sheets and the needle sticking out of her arm. She hated it all.

The only other person in the room was Lydia's mother. Charlie still didn't know much about the woman, but she was fairly certain Mrs. Martin didn't look quite herself either. She was sitting in a chair next to Lydia's bed, leaning an elbow on the side table and propping up her head as she stared at her daughter through drooping eyelids. Exhaustion was written into every line of her face. By chance she glanced up and saw Charlie in the window, making the girl twitch with surprise and anxiety. The softest ghost of a smile appeared on the woman's face and she lifted a hand, beckoning Charlie to come in. Charlie's stomach began tying itself into knots again as she timidly walked through the door.

"Hi, Charlie," Mrs. Martin murmured in a tired-sounding voice. "It is Charlie, isn't it?"

Charlie swallowed heavily and nodded. She and Mrs. Martin still didn't know each other very well. Or at all, really. For some reason Charlie never ended up spending much time at Lydia's house—they always went to hers or Allison's—and during the time they did spend at Lydia's house, her mother was never there. Though that was probably by design. Lydia did like her privacy. So when Mrs. Martin greeted her, Charlie strode forward. "Yeah," she muttered as Mrs. Martin took her hand and gave it a firm shake. "Yeah, um, I'm Charlie."

"Lydia's told me a lot about you," Mrs. Martin murmured, her eyes straying back to her daughter. She let out a sharp breath that sounded like a cross between a snort and a sigh of frustration. "And by that I mean she's mentioned your name once or twice at the dinner table."

"Yeah," Charlie said, bobbing her head along with her words. "That sounds like Lydia. She's never been much of a 'sharer' I guess."

"No," Mrs. Martin murmured, more to herself than to Charlie. "No, she most certainly is not."

Charlie's eyes were dragged back to Lydia's limp form. There was no movement. None. No signs of life except for the slight movement of her chest. The only real indication of life was the beeping of the heart monitor, and she wasn't even sure she trusted that.

"I'm sorry," Charlie whispered, sending a few fleeting glances in Mrs. Martin's direction. "For not visiting till now—I'm sorry. I….don't do well in hospitals."

A sad, sympathetic smile crossed Mrs. Martin's face. "That's alright," she murmured. "I saw you in the waiting room when I went to get my coffee. I know Lydia would appreciate you being here." A strange look crossed Mrs. Martin's face as she looked at Charlie. Like she had seen something in Charlie's face. "I'll tell you what," she continued. "Why don't I give you a little time alone with her?"

For some reason a sensation of panic suddenly shot through Charlie. Like she was afraid she might break Lydia if she was left alone with her. "W—what?" she stammered out in confusion.

Mrs. Martin grabbed her purse and stood up. "I need to get another cup of coffee. Would you mind watching her till I get back?" Mrs. Martin didn't allow for an answer. She strode to the door with determination but paused as soon as she got to the doorframe, sparing Charlie one more look. She sighed and rapped her knuckles against the door a couple of times. "You should try talking to her," she said, her voice barely a whisper. "It helps."

And with that Charlie was left alone in the room. For some reason she felt like a thirteen-year-old on her first babysitting gig. What if something went terribly, terribly wrong? Charlie bit her lip and folded her arms across her chest, bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet. Seeing Lydia like that—it made her want to run. To sprint out the door and keep going until she got home. Or to Maine. Anywhere to get her as far away from the guilt as possible. And there was a time not so long ago when she probably would. But she couldn't to that. She couldn't run—not anymore. Lydia deserved better than that. And she was better than that now.

Gnawing on her fingernails, Charlie slowly shuffled towards Mrs. Martin's now vacant chair. She perched on the seat and quickly lifted her feet from the ground, drawing her knees to her chest and wrapping her arms around them. She sat there for a few minutes, just watching her, and an ache began to form in her throat and in her chest. It physically hurt to look at her. And everything in the room was so unbearably quiet. Lydia was supposed to be talking and laughing and criticizing her footwear. Charlie sat there a long, long time before she said anything. One minute turned into five turned into twenty. "I'm sorry it took me so long to show up."

"You can't hear me," she muttered, never taking her eyes off her friend. "I know you can't hear me. I never really got why people would talk to people in comas—you know, in the movies and stuff? It's not like it served any purpose. I always just thought it was a narrative tool the writers would use to reveal information to the audience. Turns out I was wrong. They did it because it made them feel better." At that point Charlie's eyes started to sting as they filled with tears. She sucked in a long breath and squeezed her eyes shut, causing one small tear to leak out of each eyes. She didn't bother to wipe them away as they coursed down her face. "So the doctors said you'd be totally fine like a day ago," Charlie continued, forcing her voice to stay casual and idly playing with her shoelaces. "I know you like being 'fashionably late', but this hardly seems like the time, does it? So would just wake the hell up and be okay? For me? Please?"

Charlie's voice cracked on that last word. Even to her own ear she sounded desperate. And why shouldn't she? She was desperate. She sighed heavily and pinched the bridge of her nose. The heart monitor only served to show just how quiet everything else in there was. It was oppressive, and she felt a need to fill that silence.

"So a lot happened since the last time we talked," she muttered under her breath. "I shot a guy like eight times, so that's new. Plus there's a fairly decent chance that I'm going completely batcrap crazy. I'm talking the whole deal—hallucinations and everything. And now I'm talking to myself, which isn't exactly disproving that theory." Charlie wrapped her arms even tighter around her knees, curling into a ball like she was trying to block out the rest of the world. "Allison's not talking to me," she continued, her voice barely a whisper. "I've left her like a hundred messages, but she hasn't picked up or called me back. Honestly, I think she might never call me back after." Charlie dug her nails into the flesh of her calves, that slight pain providing a bit of an emotional release. "I've told a lot of lies and I've hurt a lot of people. And honestly I'm not even sure I want Allison to forgive me. Because I deserve it. For what happened to you—I definitely deserve it."

Charlie paused and stared at Lydia, like she expected to get a response. Part of her was sure Lydia would suddenly sit up, let out a loud, musical scoff, flip her hair over her shoulder, and tell Charlie she was being a total idiot and to stop whining. But that didn't happen.

"So Allison and Scott are back together," Charlie barreled on. "Or at least I think they are. Neither of them have told me specifically, but I think the spit-swapping was a fairly good indicator. And speaking of all that gooey romantic crap, there might have been a bit of development." She pressed her lips together into a small 'o' and blew out a long breath. "Remember how you kept saying that I some sort of emotionally stunted mutant alien because I never really had a crush on any of the drooling cavemen that occupy Beacon Hills High? Well that's sort of changed."

"Remember how I got you to go to the dance with Stiles? Well there's kind of something I didn't tell you about that. I didn't like that plan. I know I came up with it, but I didn't like it at all. And my emotionally constipated self didn't really get why. Until I kissed him."

"I know, right?" Charlie exclaimed with false enthusiasm. "I mean who the hell would have expected for that to happen? He definitely didn't. I'm actually pretty sure the only person who expected it less than him was me. And now I don't have any freaking clue what to do with these…..feelings. You know me—I need a decoder ring when it comes to this sort of stuff. You're my decoder ring. So you need to wake up. Right now."

Still nothing. "Okay," Charlie murmured almost anxiously. "Okay—that's not enough incentive for you? You need more than that? Try this on for size. Lydia, if you don't wake up, I'll start wearing orthopedic shoes. I'll start wearing Crocs. I swear I will."

Even that wasn't enough. Charlie uncurled from that little ball and placed her feet back on the ground before dragging the chair up to the side of the bed. Leaning forwards, she rested her arms on the bed in front of her, laying them out flat and resting her shin on her folded hands. After a few minutes she reached out one hand, linking some of her fingers with Lydia's cold, motionless ones. "You know, this is probably the first completely honest conversation I've had in months," she whispered. "And the only person I can have it with is unconscious. How sad is that? But then again I guess you can relate. I mean I know you better than pretty much anyone else, and I've just scratched the surface. Who knows, maybe someday we'll be able to sit down and be totally open. No secrets." Charlie felt her throat begin to ache, that sob of anxiety and grief threatening to burst forth at any moment. "I love you, Lydia. I can count the number of people I've said that to on less than one hand. And half of those people are dead now. Don't make it two-thirds. I need you to be okay—please be okay."

Charlie's vision began to cloud as her eyes began to fill with tears again. She rested her forehead against the cool sheets and tried to keep it all in—to force it all back inside of her. Then, all of the sudden, there was a resounding squeak as the door to Lydia's room swung open. Charlie quickly threw herself up into the sitting position to see who the intruder was only to find Mrs. McCall walking in, staring down at her clip board. Her hair was frizzing slightly and her shoulders were stooped like she was tired. She was probably nearing the end of a shift. After closing the door behind her, Mrs. McCall looked up from her notes. As soon as her eyes fell on Charlie she jumped in alarm, placing her hand over her heart and breathing heavily. Charlie quickly wiped those last few tears again to hide them, but she was too slow.

"Oh my God!" Mrs. McCall said, holding a hand out in some sort of gesture of apology. "I'm—I'm so sorry! I didn't see anybody in here—I would have knocked—" The shocked expression on her face quickly morphed into one of sympathy. "It's—it's Charlie, right?"

"That's what my aunt keeps telling me," Charlie murmured. "She doesn't have any reason to lie, so I believe her most days."

Mrs. McCall gave her a weird look and nodded. "Right. I remember you from the last minute super-secret chemistry project that I'm pretty sure was fake. Scott said you gave him a suit for the dance. I mean one that wasn't salvaged from a garbage disposal. That was—that was really nice of you."

"Not really," Charlie said with a snort that was probably a little to flemmy. She wiped at her eyes again and cleared her throat. "It was more of a public service type thing. Lydia here—" she jerked a thumb in Lydia's direction, her hand tightened into a fist to keep it from shaking "—she probably would have had a seizure if she looked directly at that other one."

"H—yeah," Mrs. McCall breathed out, issuing forth a slightly relieved laugh. But then that relief disappeared again. She looked down at the chart scanning it carefully. "This says that she's going to be fine. There's no reason she shouldn't be awake right now—the doctor's are coming in to do some tests and—" Mrs. McCall suddenly looked up from the chart, a wince carved into the lines of her face. "Right," she bit out pointing a finger at Charlie awkwardly. "That's not going to make you feel better, is it? What I'm trying to say is it's just a matter of time. Before she wakes up, I mean."

Charlie pulled nervously at the end of her ponytail and nodded in understanding. "Yeah, I know," she whispered. She lifted her eyes from Lydia to look up at Mrs. McCall. "Do you guys have a stopwatch or countdown clock or something? Crystal ball? Hell, I'll take a Ouija board or Taro cards."

"I'm afraid they didn't figure crystal balls into this year's budget," Mrs. McCall said with a sheepish shrug of the shoulders. She pressed her lips together in a thin line and walked around the bed, placing a reassuring hand on Charlie's shoulder. Charlie twitched slightly upon feeling it there, but Mrs. McCall didn't remove it. "I know it seems like forever now, but I promise as soon as she's awake it'll seem like nothing at all. Like the blink of an eye, or, you know, the length of a Sarah McLaughlin song. Time's funny like that."

"Yeah tell me about it," Charlie murmured. "Sarah McLaughlin songs can't be more than four minutes, but they feel like they last forever."

An involuntary snort forced it's way out of Mrs. McCall's nose and she squeezed Charlie's shoulder. Normally Charlie would have shrugged the hand away, but for some reason this time she let it rest there. As jumpy as Mrs. McCall seemed, there was something calming effect about her. Like some sort of aura of maternal comfort. After a few minutes, Mrs. McCall gave a sigh. "I hate to do this to you," she said carefully, "but we do need to run some tests. Just standard stuff. Nothing you need to worry about."

Charlie's hand reached forwards and wrapped around Lydia's. The differences between them were startling. Lydia's was small, cold, and limp, the fingers perfectly manicured. Charlie's on the other hand was a bit larger and warm, and the nails had been bitten to the quick. "I'm going to worry anyway," she muttered.

"Yeah. Yeah, I figured as much. I mean, I would too."

Slowly, Charlie released Lydia's hand and got to her feet, dragging them as she moved back towards the door.

"Charlie," Mrs. McCall called out after her, making her pause in the doorway. "As soon as anything changes—as soon as you can come in—I'll let you know."

Charlie's lips quirked up in the faintest attempt at a smile and she nodded. "Thanks."

Upon exiting Lydia's room, Charlie didn't immediately return to the waiting area. Her head was aching. Somewhere between the fever-inducing dreams and the crying, she had become dehydrated. And if there was one thing that she learned after everything she had been through with her dad, it was that chocolate kind of helped. She filled that empty void inside of her with more Snickers than should under normal circumstances be physically possible. She came up to the machines and quickly shoved some coins into the drink machine. Snatching up her water, she turned to the next machine over and pressed her lips together in a thin smile. "'Sup, Bob," she muttered, patting her hand against the glass of the now familiar machine. "Old, dependable Bob." She shoved in the asked for $1.25 and watched as that little corkscrew thing twisted and dropped a Snickers in the bottom. As per usual, it spun a little bit too far, but this time the usual second Snickers didn't fall with that satisfying thunk. Instead it stayed there hanging precariously over the edge, but remained firmly in place. And then a swooping feeling of disappointment washed through her. Like this was yet another mini-betrayal. "Seriously?"

Charlie banged her hand against the front of the machine, making it shift slightly. The extra Snickers wobbled slightly, but once again didn't move. So Charlie hit it again. And again. Until she wasn't sure what she was hitting anymore. Maybe it was Peter, maybe it was herself. But she just kept slamming her palm into the machine until long after her hand began to hurt. She wasn't sure what made her do it—some bizarre mix of rage, guilt and heartache. And she would have gone on for much longer—probably until her hand started bleeding—but then she heard something that made her stop. A light thunk.

That second Snickers had fallen to the bottom of the machine and was waiting for her. Charlie frowned down at the candy bars, still breathing heavily from the exertion. Strangely enough, she felt the tiniest bit better. She had needed a release, some way to let go, at least a little bit, of all those things she was bottling up inside of her. And Bob had just given her that. Again, she patted her hand against the glass again. "Thanks, Bob."

Shoving one of the candy bars in her back pocket and tucking the water bottle under her arm, Charlie made her way back to the waiting area. By the time she got there the first Snickers was already long gone, the wrapper tossed in one of the trash cans on the way. Or maybe Charlie had swallowed it. She really couldn't be sure. When she did finally arrive at that row of chairs, she found Stiles awake again, drumming his fingers against the armrest, craning his neck and twisting his head around like he was looking for someone. When his eyes fell on her, his face collapsed into one of confused relief. "Where did you go?" he demanded. "I woke up and you were just like 'poof'!" He waved his hands around theatrically. "Gone."

Wordlessly, Charlie shoved her hand in her back pocket and pulled out the Snickers bar, holding it out for him to see. "Sustenance run," she replied. "Gotta keep those blood sugar levels up." She strode over and collapsed into the chair next to him, pulling up both her legs so she was sitting cross-legged. She began to open that second candy bar, but she felt Stiles's eyes on her, studying her.

"It takes you that long to buy a candy bar?" he demanded skeptically.

"I went to the bathroom," she continued with a shrug of her shoulders. Charlie wasn't sure why she was being so evasive. But if Stiles hadn't noticed her creep out of Lydia's room, she wanted to keep her thoughts and actions to herself. For now at least.

"So you spent like twenty minutes in the bathroom?" His voice wasn't totally devoid of judgment, making Charlie give a loud groan. "Man, what the hell do girls do in the bathroom?" he mused. "Is there like some sort of magical door that leads to Narnia?"

"You'll never know," Charlie said with a prim shrug. "Girls aren't allowed to tell guys what goes on in the bathroom. It's a part of the girl code. Sacred."

Stiles snapped his fingers and pointed at Charlie accusingly, giving her a weird look. "Hey! I made you an honorary bro!"

Charlie frowned and made a face at him. "Does that mean you want to be an honorary chick?"

Stiles's stared at her for a moment, his mouth hanging open slightly. "Yeahhhhhh, I think I'll give that one a pass. Otherwise I think you'd make me start talking about 'Downton Abbey' and I don't think I'm ready for that now. Or, you know, ever."

A cheeky smile spread across his face. That one that always made her want to smile too. Only today she didn't feel like smiling. Charlie chuckled, trying to seem as normal as possible, but Stiles seemed to pick up on the fact that there was something off. He shifted in his seat so that he was staring directly at her. "What's wrong?" he demanded.

Charlie bit her lip and shrugged her shoulders casually. "Nothing."

"Bullshit," Stiles said, shaking his head at her. "I am well versed in all the faces of Charlie Oswin and that—" he waved a finger in her face "—that is your 'something's wrong' face. Though at this point I should probably start calling it you 'something's more wrong than usual' face."

There were so many things wrong Charlie wouldn't have known where to start even if she wanted to tell him. She should tell him about the dream. She should tell him about the hallucination. She knew she should. But she also knew Stiles. If she told him, he would go into his frantic conspiracy theory phase and try to fix her when she wasn't even sure there was anything broken yet. And at the same time she just didn't want him to know—she didn't want anybody to know. Because then they might start looking at her differently. "I told you," she insisted. "Nothing. Other than the obvious."

"No," Stiles persisted. "There's something wrong. I know you enough to know that."

Charlie looked away from him and gave a long, shaky breath. She would tell the truth, but she would really freaking vague about it. She looked up at him, her eyes filled with hesitancy. "You may have noticed this about me be now," Charlie murmured, "but I'm not very good at being vulnerable."

Stiles's mouth dropped open in mock shock. "What?!" he exclaimed. "This is totally new information! I always thought you were a giant, fuzzy pile of hugs and love and adorable baby kittens whose ears and feet are too big for their body!" He scrunched up his face into a perplexed expression. "That metaphor might have gotten away from me."

Charlie let out a light snort and rolled her eyes before continuing. "The point is, my dad always used to tell me that life doesn't give us anything that we can't handle. You just need to be strong. No matter how much it hurts, just suck it up and—and soldier through. That's the only way you can deal with it. And that's what I did, I—I handled it. That's what I've always done. I always thought that whatever came my way, I could handle it."

Stiles's jaw twitched as he listened to her speak, his eyes filling with concern. "And now?"

"What if it's too much?" Charlie wasn't looking at him as she said the words, instead staring at her hands in her lap as she idly picked at her already nonexistent fingernails, but she felt his eyes on her, like they were boring into her skin.

"You're Charlie Oswin," he said suddenly, as if it explained something. "When life gives you lemons, you throw the lemons back in life's face and tell it to bring you something that's actually useful! And then something usually bursts into flame. It's not too much. Not for you."

Charlie's eyes fell shut and she let out a light snort. Apparently Stiles had some sort of confidence in her. And she really couldn't understand it, seeing as she didn't have it herself. "How do you know that? I'm not a freaking robot, Stiles, I can't—"

The look in his eyes suddenly shifted from complete surprise to something much softer—sympathetic, even. "Hey," he murmured, looking at her pointedly. "All that stuff that happened to you before? Your dad? You had to go through all of that by yourself. You have no idea how—I mean after my mom died if I had to—" He suddenly cut himself off, making a strange expression. "Look, all that other stuff," he continued, "you had to go through all of that alone. You've got something now you didn't have then."

"What?" Charlie asked in confusion, folding her arms across her chest and sinking lower in her seat.

"Wha—are you serious?" The look Stiles gave her next could only be described as offended. "Me," he growled, waving a finger at his own face. "I'm talking about me—you've got me."

"Oh," Charlie whispered, bobbing her head slightly. She glances at him slyly out of the corner of her eyes. "Is that supposed make me feel better?"

Stiles narrowed his eyes at her, his mouth hanging open a bit. "Wha—yes!" he spluttered, almost angrily. "That's totally supposed to make you feel better! I give support—I can support you! I—I am very, very, very supportive!" Charlie bit her lip to fight back the laugh, her face scrunching up from the effort. When Stiles saw that now familiar expression, he let out a loud scoff. "Seriously? You're seriously messing with me now? I hate you, you know that? I freaking hate you."

"Wow," Charlie exclaimed. "You're being really insensitive during a difficult time for me."

At that point Stiles's face reached a new shade of red. He shoved his fist in his mouth to block the sound of a strangled scream. And then, to Charlie's surprise, he wrapped an arm around her, pulling her in so that her head was resting on his shoulder. Charlie's stomach clenched slightly at the sudden proximity, but she didn't pull away. "What are you doing?" she whispered.

"I'm comforting you," Stiles replied bluntly. "Now deal with it."

At first it was kind of uncomfortable. Charlie sat there completely rigid, all her muscles tensed up. She was highly aware of her body and his—their proximity, where they touched, her head on his shoulder, his arm around her. It created a sort of internal anxiety. Her heart started beating a little faster and her skin was tingling slightly, like she was hyper-aware. This was why she tried to avoid feelings, especially unrequited ones. They made everything awkward, like every single action had an agenda, intentional or otherwise. Like there was a constant subtext to every word spoken or gesture made. It sucked. It sucked because it meant that she couldn't just hang out with him anymore.

But then something changed. Stiles's arm tightened around her and she relaxed into him and they were both just there. They sat that way for a long time, not saying anything or moving at all. And Charlie felt a warmth spreading through her. She did feel comforted. She felt protected. That wasn't really something she was used to feeling.

"Hold on," Stiles said suddenly. Charlie looked up to find him staring at that TV in confusion. "Since when is Angela with Damien?" he demanded, gesturing at the soap opera currently playing. "She and Richard just got engaged. They were totally in love! What happened?"

Charlie snorted and shook her head. Being stuck in that waiting area was messing with their brains. "That's not Angela," she replied. "That's her long-lost evil twin Nikki. She and Damien are gonna kill Angela, have Nikki take her place, and then steal all Richard's money."

"Wha—since when is there an evil twin?"

"That's what happens when you fall asleep for a few hours," Charlie said with a shrug.

"But they can't get rid of Angela and Richard—those two are the best part of the show!" Then Stiles seemed to hear the words coming out of his mouth because he paused, giving Charlie a sheepish look. "What? I'm invested now."

Charlie smiled and rolled her eyes. "You're an idiot."

Stiles just shrugged. "You know when you say that, it kind of sounds like a compliment."

The two of them sat like that for a long while, watching 'Giant Explosion of Romance and Murder'. Or at least that's what she thought the soap was called. And Charlie realized why they always played soap operas in hospital waiting rooms. It was a good distraction. Those shows were like Stockholm Syndrome—no matter how much you hate them, if you watch more than two episodes, you end up getting sucked in whether or not you want to. It numbs the thoughts.

As time dragged on, Stiles fell asleep again. It was actually pretty impressive, his ability to fall asleep anywhere and everywhere. And he had started drooling again. Once he was asleep, though, all those anxieties started coming back. There was nothing to distract her anymore. Charlie watched to door to Lydia's room intently, watching who exited and entered. Mrs. Martin got back with a huge cup of coffee, doctors and nurses, including Mrs. McCall, filed in and out, and some man she didn't really recognized walked in and never came out. But as soon as that man went in, Mrs. Martin left again, leaving Charlie the conclusion that she might actually meet Lydia's father. After a while she stood up again and stared at the floor as she paced back and forth. But when she finally looked up, she found Mrs. McCall walking towards her. Immediately Charlie stopped her pacing, spun on her heel and walked directly towards the woman.

"What is it?" she demanded, not letting the nurse get a word out. "How is Lydia—is she okay? What's changed?"

"Slow down," Mrs. McCall said lifting her hands in the air. "Lydia's awake. The doctors have run the usual diagnostics and she's fine. She's in some pain—she's lost a lot of blood and she's still weak, but—"

"But she's going to be okay, right?" Charlie stammered out, interrupting her. "Lydia's going to be okay?"

Mrs. McCall reached forward and grabbed both of Charlie's shoulders, forcing her to calm down. "She's fine. She's going to make a full recovery."

Charlie's shoulders sagged as some of that impossible degree of tension flooded out of her. She lunged forward and wrapped Mrs. McCall into a tight, unexpected hug. "Thank you. Thank you so much."

Mrs. McCall patted Charlie's back awkwardly. "It was my pleasure. Believe me."

Charlie released the woman and took a step back, running her hands through her hair. "Can I see her now? Please?"

Mrs. McCall nodded urgently. "Absolutely. She's ready for visitors. You can go right—"

Charlie didn't bother listening to the end of the sentence. She immediately darted around Mrs. McCall and sprinted the few yards that divided her from Lydia's room. Grabbing hold of the door handle, she wrenched it open violently, making it slam loudly into the wall. She ignored the sound, her eyes searching for the one thing she cared about at the moment.

Lydia was sitting up in bed, propped up by a few pillows. Some more color had returned to her cheeks, but she was still pale and her hair was a mess. But she had that expression on her face—the sarcastic, slightly displeased one that she should probably have patented. When Lydia saw Charlie, a look of mild relief spread across her face. "Charlie, thank God," she said with a small roll of the eyes. "Finally somebody who might actually be able to answer my question. Where are all the hot doctors—the McDreamys and McSteamys? Television has promised me hot doctors." She lifted her hands in the air and looked around questioningly. "Where are they? Because I don't see them." For the first time in what felt like years, a full grin split across her face, making Lydia wrinkle her nose at Charlie. "What's that look about," Lydia said, gesturing at her face.

Ignoring her, Charlie strode forward, brushing past that unknown man, and threw her arms around Lydia, pulling her into a tight, but careful hug. Lydia didn't hug back, leaving her arms hanging at her sides. "Um, Charlie," she trilled in that musical tone of hers. "Your arms are doing something weird."

"I'm hugging you," Charlie mumbled into her friend's shoulder. "This is a hug—we're hugging."

"Yeahhhh," Lydia drawled out, "but we don't hug."

"We do after near-death experiences," Charlie replied bluntly. She continued to hold on to Lydia, and after a few more moments she felt arms wrapping around her as well. And soon Lydia was clinging to her. As much as she tried to be that cold, unflappable, invincible fashionista, deep down she was just a scared little girl who had almost died.

It was the sound of a throat being cleared that made them finally separate. The two girls pulled apart to fins a man standing over them, his arms folded across his chest. "Sorry to interrupt this—" he pointed back and forth between the two of them before turning to Charlie "—but who are you?"

Charlie made a face at him and crossed her arms as well. "I could ask you the same thing."

The man blinked in surprise, a bit taken aback by Charlie's standoffishness. Lydia let out a loud groan. "Oh my God," she whined. "Dad, this is Charlie, my best friend. Charlie, this is my dad."

"Okay," Charlie said, nodding to herself. "I think I've seen pictures of you. I guess I didn't recognize you without the giant 'x' in red Sharpie on your face."

Mr. Martin ignored her and turned to face Lydia. Charlie watched the following interchange like it was a tennis match, her head snapping back and forth with each exchange of commentary. "Why have I never heard of her before?" Mr. Martin demanded.

Lydia quirked an eyebrow at him. "Let's go with 'proximity'. Or 'presence'. Or maybe 'lack of interest'."

"Lydia, I'm your father," he insisted. "I think I should know who you're spending your time with."

"Really?" Lydia said, looking at him with wide eyes. "Since when?"

"Since you were attacked and spent the weekend in a coma," he growled.

Lydia pursed her lips and jerked her head to the side noncommittally. "A girl needs her beauty sleep."

Charlie looked Lydia up and down, taking in the sweaty hair and remainder of eye makeup that had crusted under her eyes, and eyed her skeptically. "Really? That's what you were doing?"

Lydia turned to Charlie, smiling that 'I fantasizing about killing you' smile she sometimes wore. "Yes, Charlie," she bit out through bared teeth. "That was exactly what I was doing. And can you do me a favor? That turtleneck? Burn it. Right now. The incinerator's in the boiler room."

But Mr. Martin wasn't done yet. "Look, Lydia—"

"Dad," Lydia interrupted, flashing him a tight smile. "I think I need another blanket. Would you go get me one? They keep them way, way at the other side of the hospital. All the way on the other side."

Mr. Martin sighed in resignation and scratched absently at his forehead. Charlie almost felt bad for the guy—he was just trying to help—but she knew better than to say anything. Lydia didn't hold grudges for no reason. "Alright," he said, nodding in defeat. "You girls talk amongst yourselves. I'll be back soon."

An audible sigh of relief escaped from Lydia when the door closed behind Mr. Martin, and Charlie soon found out why. She needed answers. The trauma of what had happened to her, physical and mental, had left a giant, gaping hole in her memory after she left Stiles to find Jackson. And she was asking Charlie to fill it. Before she knew it, Charlie was lying again. Well, not lying per se, but leaving out the biggest truth of them all. As far as Lydia knew, she got attacked by an animal and Jackson found her and brought her to the hospital. That was it.

By the time her dad got back again with that entirely useless blanket, exhaustion had crept up on Lydia again. But, as Lydia did with everything, she decided to fight it, declaring that she was going to take a shower.

"You—you want help getting in the shower?" Mr. Martin asked, desperate to help in some way.

Lydia paused for a moment where she was perched on the edge of the bed. "Maybe if I was four," she bit out as she shuffled by him to the bathroom door. "And still taking bubble baths."

"R—right," Mr. Martin stammered out as she pushed past him. "I'll just wait outside then. Where it's…..slightly less sarcastic."

The door to the bathroom slammed, leaving Charlie and Mr. Martin alone together. He looked at her questioningly, like she could somehow unlock the secret to Lydia's bitterness towards him. "Dude, don't look at me," she said, throwing her hands in the air. "I haven't got any explanations for you. I just got here."

Mr. Martin gave a small grunt of disappointment and turned to the door that led out into the hall and waiting area, followed immediately by Charlie. Mrs. McCall was right outside, sorting through some medication. Charlie gave her a warm smile of thanks and mouthed the words 'thank you'. Mrs. McCall returned the smile and murmured a quiet 'you're welcome' before her eyes shifted to something right over Charlie's shoulder. Mr. Martin was waving her over. "Excuse me?" He gestured towards the waiting area, indicating at none other than one Stiles Stilinski.

Charlie had to physically repress a guffaw when she observed the scene before her. Somehow in his sleep Stiles had managed to drape himself over three separate chairs, the wooden armrests digging into his back in a way that could not be comfortable. His head was sagging to the ground, his mouth was hanging open and an arm and leg were both dangling off the side of the chairs. It was kind of a miracle that he hadn't careened off the side. He kept smacking his lips and murmuring something under his breath that she couldn't quite hear.

"He's been here all night?" Mr. Martin demanded.

"He's been here all weekend," Mrs. McCall corrected. "Both of them have."

Mr. Martin's mouth opened and closed a few times, clearly confused, making Charlie roll her eyes. "I'll take care of it before the drool causes a slip hazard or something." Leaving the two adults, she strode across the waiting room and nudged his leg with the toe of her shoe. "Stiles, wake up. I've got news.

But Stiles didn't wake up. He shifted on the chairs and let out a low moaning sound. "You're dirty," he said, followed by a suggestive chuckle. The nurse who was emptying the trash right by Stiles's head gave him a strange look while Charlie's hand flew up, clapping over her mouth. Holy crap. Holy crap. It didn't take much to realize what was happening. Stiles was having a sex dream. Charlie shoved her fist in her mouth to force back the sobs of laughter. Stiles chuckled lewdly again and started unconsciously blowing kisses at the unsuspecting nurse, who now looked more than slightly perturbed by the situation.

"Don't worry," Charlie said, nodding at the woman. "I've got this."

It was Charlie's turn to be on the receiving end of a strange look. The nurse quickly collected the trash and scurried away, leaving Charlie and Stiles alone. Charlie snatched her half-empty water bottle from where she had left it under her seat, removed the cap, and upended it over Stiles's head. The reaction was instantaneous.

"Gaah! Wha—what's happening! Oh my G—Ugh!"

Stiles lifted his hands above his face, trying to protect himself from the stream being poured over him, but he just ended up fighting with the 'Get Well Soon' balloon and almost falling out of his seat. Charlie righted the water bottle again before bringing it to her lips and downing the rest of the contents. Wiping at his face, Stiles blinked the rest of the water out of his eyes.

"Rise and shine, Stilinski," Charlie sang out. "Sorry about the cold shower, but it kind of sounded like you needed it."

"Mmph—Charlie?" Stiles muttered, peering up at her. Then all of the sudden, his eyes shot open, going so wide she almost thought they were going to pop out of his head cartoon-style. Stiles began to flail about slightly as he tried to sit up straight. "Ch—Charlie! Hey, how's it going? What are you doing here? In the waiting room. Where we—where we were….waiting. And that's all."

Charlie wrinkled her nose slightly at his rambling answer, but went ahead and shrugged. "I was performing a public service," she replied lightly. "Preventing the nurses from being harassed by an unconscious sixteen-year-old."

Stiles, who was still in the process of waking up, looked up at her in confusion. "Huh?"

Charlie sighed and perched on the seat next to him. "Stiles, has anybody ever told you that you talk in your sleep?"

His mouth began opening and closing, like a fish dying on the floor of a boat. "What—what did you hear?" he asked, his eyes darting around evasively. "Not that there was anything to hear. But if you did hear something it totally, totally wasn't what it sounded like—what did you hear?"

"Oh," Charlie snorted, "I heard enough."

Stiles paled visibly. "Enough—what do you mean by that? That's, like, super-vague and anxiety provoking."

"Enough to give you crap for at least a week," Charlie said with a smirk. "Gladys looked pretty traumatized."

"Oh," he muttered. For some reason he seemed to regain his calm, or at least some of it. He was still flushed with embarrassment, but not freaking out. "Okay. That's—that's, I mean, wow, that's—that's—" He jumped up to his feet and pointed down the hall. "I'm—I'm gonna go get myself some food. Over there. Far, far away from—" he waved his hand around, indicating at the waiting area "—from right here. So, yeah. Okay, then."

With that he jumped out of his seat and careened down the hall, leaving Charlie staring after him. "Stiles!" she called out after him. "Stiles, wait! There's something I've got to—! Lydia, she—!"

But it was too late. At that point Stiles couldn't hear her and she was totally alone. Charlie let out a low groan and pulled her knees up to her chin. She drove her hands into her hair and pulled slightly, letting it be a release for her frustrations. "That's just great, Charlie," she muttered to herself. "Start teasing the guy you like about the sex dream he had. That's definitely a totally solid plan. It makes perfect sense. Why would anybody not do that?"

Letting out a loud huff, Charlie curled up in a tight ball and snuggled into the cushion of the seat. Why had she never learned to be an actual, proper human being with normal feelings, appropriate comments, and at least some degree of verbal filter? Why couldn't she just be a functional human being for half a day? It was like there was something deep, down inside of her that was just….off. She looked up at that balloon with all those smiley faces staring down at her. "What the hell are you looking at?" she muttered bitterly. "Stop smiling." She batted the balloon away from her, trying to get it to leave her alone, but it slowly floated back into place. Like it was mocking her.

She wrapped her arms around her legs, pulling them in close and rested her forehead on her knees. "I'd like to disappear now."

The seconds ticked by, and Charlie began to wonder if Stiles was actually going to come back. She began to drum her fingers against her legs impatiently, her mind going in a circular track of regret. Until something suddenly broke through it.

CRASH!

Charlie's head snapped up suddenly at the sound of crunching metal and shattering glass. "What the hell—"

Frowning in confusion, Charlie got to her feet and began moving in the direction of the noise to investigate. She passed Lydia's door and was just about to turn the corner into the next hallway when she heard something else. Something much more harrowing. An otherworldly, piercing shriek ripped through the hospital, making Charlie skid to a stop. She knew that scream.

"Lydia?!"

Turning on her heel, Charlie sprinted back down the hallway. She collided with door to the hospital room and exploded through it. She spun around, her eyes raking over every single corner of the room looking for somewhere Lydia could hide, but the room was completely empty. Then she heard the shower running and careened into the bathroom.

"Lydia?!" She ripped the shower curtain back, but all she found on the other side was an empty tub, slowly filling with clear water. The droplets from the shower head sprayed outwards and clung to her hair. Charlie slowly stepped back from the shower, and as she did, a cold gust of air hit her in the face. She turned to find herself confronted with a single window thrown wide open and leading out to a dark forest of menacing, twisted branches. Charlie ran to the window, leaning out of it as far as she could go and looking for anything—a broken branch, a discarded towel, a set of footprints—anything that could tell her where her friend went. But there was nothing. "Lydia!"

The only reply her cry received was its own echo, reverberating against that wall of trees. Her heart began to hammer in her chest and she looked up at the moon. It wasn't quite full, but she felt it staring down at her like a threat. Charlie's breaths started to come out quick and panicked and she called out again, even though she knew there would be no response. It was only when she heard the slam against the wall behind her that she finally turned around.

Stiles and Mrs. McCall had forced their way into the tiny bathroom as well, and they were both looking at her with wide eyes. It was Stiles who spoke first. "Charlie, wha—what happened."

Charlie had to suck in a few breaths before she had enough oxygen to speak the words. But the way Stiles's eyes were delving into hers, he already knew the answer. Charlie swallowed heavily and shook her head. "Lydia," she said, her voice breaking. "She's gone."

Alright, so there isn't a ton of 'action' in this chapter. It's more focused on Charlie's emotional and mental state than everything else. I just wanted to set the tone for her and her relationships for the rest of the story.

The chapters will be coming more infrequently than they used to I'm afraid (every 2 weeks or so). My job has me working 12+ hours a day, so there's not a ton of 'writing time'.

PLEASE REVIEW! It makes me so happy!

Soundtrack Update

Charlie's dream, wandering around the empty hospital.

-~-~-~Ransom – Son Lux

Charlie goes to Lydia's room to visit and talks to her.

-~-~-The Loved Ones – Sanders Bohlke

Stiles comforts Charlie in the waiting room.

-~-~-~The Match – The Eastern Sea (I LOVE THIS SONG. And the band. I kept going back and forth between this song and another one called 'The Snow'. Seriously, give them both a listen. The lyrics kind of make me want to cry.)

Everybody runs into the bathroom and finds Lydia missing (picture the action in slow motion to the song; the door would open and they would find the bathroom empty at about 1:54).

-~-~-How'm I Supposed to Die – Civil Twilight