Lydia's suggestion had opened a floodgate in Stiles' mind. The only hitch was that Stiles couldn't quite believe that no one else had seen the girl. Danny had, hadn't he? Could all of it really have been a hallucination? Hallucinations didn't leave hickeys.
All the same, bits and pieces of what had alluded him after waking from his dreams began to knit themselves back together. It wasn't a complete picture, but along with his previous ones, whole new ideas were occurring to him.
One other thing Lydia had suggested – when Stiles agreed that this dream girl didn't seem like ghost-Peter in the evil or hallucinatory sense, and they'd both agreed she'd been mostly helpful – was sleeping pills.
Stiles tore out of the parking lot on squealing tires, eager to get home and research, and get to bed.
He poured over paranormal theories and ghost mythology until his mind couldn't take in any more of the paranoid rantings of the "I want to believe" crowd, set out a note and dinner for his dad, then downed some ZzzQuil, climbed on the bed, and texted Scott.
"Got lead on bite-thing. Taking Zquil & searching 4 dream girl. NEED 2 TALK 2MORO!"
When Stiles was satisfied with the message he pressed send, turned out the lamp, and settled back to wait for sleep.
There was no desert, no sand or sparse grasses whatsoever. There was just the darkened room with Stiles in it. And the girl.
He wasn't sure he was actually asleep, or actually seeing the girl until she moved slightly into the light cast by the moon through the window. Everything was dark, but he couldn't seem to move to reach for the lights. His dream limbs felt heavy and immobile like it was time to wake up but he was too stubborn to get out of bed just yet. Except she was there, so he had to be asleep. And he did want to get up.
She stepped closer and observed Stiles' eye on her. One hand grasped the dark outline of her sword hilt as she seemed to probe the darkness with her eerie blue eyes.
"Your body's useless like that," she whispered, sniffing the air as she moved in again. She towered over Stiles, and all he could do was stare up at her from his pillow. "You're smart to take the sleeping meds, but it paralyzes the spirit body when you use so much."
Stiles was hearing her words, but they didn't fully make sense. He worked to form some sort of response, but found his mouth unable to function any better than his hands and arms.
She sat at the edge of his bed and stared intimidatingly into his eyes.
She was slightly different again. Her complexion had a healthier glow about it, even in the dark. And her mouth flicked up slightly at the edges while he watched her think. The once dark bruise against her collarbone was now little more than a sick yellowing smudge with a heart-shaped mark beside it. It matched the one on her arm. The one both she and the "real" girl had shared.
"If you stop trying so hard and relax, you might be able to get your words out," she seemed to soothe, though her eyes remained hard and piercing. She placed her hand back over Stiles' chest, as she'd done in his previous dream, and it felt cool and pulsing even through the sheet. Her gaze softened ever so slightly and traced a comforting circle against the bite-damaged skin.
The gesture reminded Stiles of his mother, which was at first startling. However, he soon felt his body relax and he seemed to sink back into his own skeleton.
"I know what you are," he whispered, carefully shifting his weight into his hands as he sat up in bed.
"So you are as smart as you look after all. Tell me what I am."
Stiles hesitated only for a moment.
Her eyes hardened, her smile a little bitter. But she sighed and nodded in confirmation. "What else?" she questioned as her gaze returned to his face.
"Ly-Lydia thinks-" he choked on the shallow air in his lungs as she pulled her hand away - "you're some kind of hallucination, as well as being dead. But you said that you and that other girl weren't the same anymore. And I think you've been dead a lot longer than she has."
There was that bitter smile again.
"She's not dead any more than you are, Stiles."
He couldn't remember ever hearing her use his name before. It was strange, and sounded critical on her tongue, like his father sometimes sounded.
"Then what the hell was she?" Stiles' energy and mobility seemed to be returning, and his mind felt clear, yet the pharmaceuticals continued to hold him unconscious. He was going to get the answers he needed.
"She's like you," the woman evaded his question.
Or maybe he'd have to weasel it out of her after all.
"Then if she's like me, and I'm alive, who are you and why are you dead?"
She sighed again and turned away, staring into the darkest corners of Stiles' bedroom. There was still no desert, no howling wind, and her sword remained dark and still at her hip.
"As you say, I'm probably dead. I'm between your world and the next, whatever it might be. I can't reach one or the other. So I exist in the dead space until I can exist again through another. Or until I'm deemed worthy to move on.
"I guess you could say I'm more of a 'spirit' than a ghost."
Stiles watched her thoughts play across her face in shifting flickers of emotion. She was going to tell him everything, he was sure of it. But Stiles got the sense that her bad-ass act was just that, an act, and that there were more troubling things on her mind. Stiles would have to draw it all out of her slowly, and he was grateful that his mind was sharp through his medication-induced sleep.
"Probably dead?" he questioned gently.
The woman pulled her gaze away from the window and focused on Stiles again.
"Yeah, probably. I never found my body after I left it." She studied Stiles' eager and curious expression and sucked in an unnecessary steadying breath. "You want the whole story, I know. With Claire I just needed her body to find you, so I didn't try to show her everything. But you'll need all of it, I'm sure."
Pain flashed across those blue eyes as she straightened, rose from the bed, and drew her sword. Stiles' anxiety rose with the gesture, but he willed himself to remain calm enough to move and speak without succumbing again to immobility. The blade caught fire as the woman plunged it into the wall where the corner of the room came together.
"What the-" Stiles shouted, but she cut him off.
"Between this," she gestured to the flickering light of the sword, "And the sleepy-time drugs, we should be safe."
"Safe?!" Stiles' fear was locking his limbs and pulling him back toward the mattress.
"Shhh, Stiles, calm down. I'll try to explain everything. Not all at once, because there just aren't enough hours in a night. But this time I promise you'll remember."
Stiles' head was spinning. He really, really wanted to wake up, but time was all wonky in his unconscious, and the sleeping drugs were keeping him under a little too well. The girl stood across the room, surveying the night outside the window. Stiles was managing to stay calm enough to be mobile, but the way he used that freedom to pace up and down the carpet betrayed his anxiety.
The young blonde woman was probably dead, and definitely non-corporeal in the waking world. She hopped from person to person, borrowing bodies in an attempt to find her own. That's how she'd found Stiles.
Stiles was what she called a conduit, predisposed to attracting the supernatural simply because he'd been born. The girl he'd met, danced with, and made something like love to at the party was also a conduit. The dream girl called her Claire. She'd appeared as more Claire-like in Stiles' dreams in order to ensure that the two of them came together, marking Stiles for a sort of transfer of spirit from one conduit to another. It helped that the girls actually did look a fair bit alike. It was meant to soften the transition for Stiles.
But because the supernatural was already wreaking havoc on Beacon Hills in the form of werewolves, it was more difficult and dangerous for the transfer from Claire to Stiles to occur. There were ghosts all around them, all the time apparently, but some of them were thicker than just ghosts, like she was. And the ones that had roamed too long were rarely happy spirits. Stiles' dream body shuddered as he thought of the way Peter's spirit had manipulated Lydia in order to bring his body back to life. But this was different, Stiles was sure.
This girl wasn't looking to return to the living, not any more. But she felt she needed to redeem herself in order to join the dead. She had the epitome of unfinished business.
And to accomplish said business she needed access to a conduit with werwolf ties.
"So why?" Stiles had paused mid-pace and was once again trying to pierce the heart of the matter by staring intently into the blonde woman's face. "Why here, why werewolves, why now?"
The girl sighed and slid from her perch atop Stiles' dresser. "Because... I need to know what happened, to me and my family. And be sure that no one else get's hurt the way I did. Because I was like you, Stiles: a human amongst wolves. It's hard for me to explain because I'm already losing the details of how I ended up like this. But if you let me, I can share everything with you. You'll see everything I see, and maybe understand why this is so important."
"By completing the connection. If you let me in, I can keep you safe and figure this thing out before anyone else gets hurt."
Stiles nervously chewed his thumb nail.
"What'll happen?" he asked, attempting to mask the fear in his throat.
She drew closer. She quietly observed his wide-eyed expression before replacing her hand over his chest.
"I'll be attached to you. I'll be silently with you at all times. I'll be able to observe your pack through you, and see if they know mine. You'll be able to share my memories and see the ghosts I see. But I'll protect you from that." She felt him inadvertently shudder. "Don't worry, it's not all at once. I won't overwhelm you. In fact, you might feel stronger. Like the way this healed over."
She pushed gently against his chest and Stiles couldn't help noticing the heart-shaped marks on her skin again. They mirrored her conduits. He wondered if there were more marks like that hidden beneath the fabric of her dress.
"Please, Stiles? I'd prefer to have your permission."
Stiles' mind was still racing, but a new thought had occurred to him as she'd spoken. Was it worth it?
He had to find out.
"Alright, let's do it." He exhaled slowly, tasting the words as they came out. "You have my permission."