Every night in her sleep, Lydia Martin dreams about running away.
Early on in high school, it's from ordinary things: her parents, school, Jackson, Beacon Hills, but towards the end of sophomore year, it's suddenly about running away from creatures that are trying to kill her. From Derek. From Peter.
She knows it's a metaphor for her life, but she doesn't really want to think about that.
It's a miracle that they even manage to put the fire out, and after it's done, they all sit, exhausted, back to back, outside of the motel just breathing for a full ten minutes before Allison finally says, "Okay, so there's no way we are going back into that motel."
"Agreed," Stiles says, and Lydia and Scott both nod their heads, too exhausted to process many words. "So where do we go? Just sleep out here all right?"
"No, you idiot," Lydia manages to mutter, rolling her eyes. "The bus."
"Ah, right," he says, pushing himself onto his feet and reaching over to give his best friend a hand.
It's not even ten minutes before Scott is onto the bus and out like a light, and Allison, refusing to let him out of her sight, curls up across the aisle from him and falls asleep shortly after. Relieved of best friend duties, Lydia exits the bus to where Stiles sits on the stairs, head in his hands. Cautiously, she sits down next to him. She isn't really very good at feelings; not her own, and especially not the kind that come from a person like Stiles, who feels far more than he would probably like. But something about the way he's hunched over - or maybe something in his voice, earlier, when he said the words "best friend" - make her want to comfort him now.
"You would really do anything for him, wouldn't you?" she says, finally. Stiles looks over at her, wiping the tears from his eyes.
"Uh, yeah," he says. "I mean, he's my best friend. Wouldn't you do anything, for Allison, if you could?"
She considers this, studying his face; she's never noticed how clear his eyes are. "Yeah," she replies. "I guess I would." But the truth is, she doesn't think she'll ever really understand the kind of love that Stiles feels for Scott. It must be like having a sibling, maybe - or deeper, a soul mate.
Lydia isn't sure she has a soul mate. Or even a soul, for that matter.
"He'll be okay, Stiles," she promises, not breaking eye contact. She heard once that if you want to convince someone of a promise, eye contact is key, and this is a promise more vital to Stiles' being than probably anything else.
"I wish I could be so sure."
"He will," she insists.
"How can you know that?"
"Because he has you. And you'll never give up until he's all right," she explains simply. "As long as you're around, he'll be okay."
She wants to bite her tongue off as soon as the words are out of her mouth. If there was ever a way to damn someone, that's it.
"So this is going to become a thing now, is it?" she says as she answers the phone. It's a Wednesday night, and she's got a history test the next day, but she'd much rather be out battling the supernatural any day, which is exactly why she still answers the phone, even when she notices it's Stiles.
He stutters on the other end of the line, and she pretends that it doesn't make her smile just a little bit. "I - uh, what? What thing?"
"You, dragging me out of bed at ungodly hours to explore whatever half-baked theory you've most recently come up with?" she prompts, tossing her history book aside and lying back on her bed. If any other words were coming out of her mouth, this could be the witty banter of a teen comedy or - oh god - a romcom. As it is, it's just her life instead.
"Well, I mean, it's - it's hardly an ungodly hour, Lydia. It's only nine o'clock, and - would you just come outside, please?"
"What?" Tossing herself from the bed, she whips back the curtain of her bedroom window and looks down upon Stiles, who is leaning against the hood of his car, gazing up at her. He offers a slight wave that she does not return. "Stiles, you're outside my house? You know, some people would qualify this as stalking."
"Oh, come on, Lydia. I'm not stalking you. I need your help."
Stiles rolls his eyes. "No, I need to go shoe shopping and I wanted your opinion - obviously, Druid stuff!"
"Well, I just wanted to be sure! You could have wanted shoe advice," she says as she searches for her own shoes. Under her breath, she mutters, "You sure do need it."
"Hey! I heard that! Ugh, just get down here, will you?" Stiles huffs.
"I'm coming, calm down! A-ha!" Pulling her other shoe from under her desk, she slips them on, grabs her purse, and rushes down the stars. Stiles is still leaning against the hood of his car when she appears outside.
"Hi," she says, suddenly and inexplicably self-conscious. The last time they were truly alone together was on the bus, and Lydia isn't sure exactly how much ground they covered in that last interaction, but she's pretty sure there's no going back at this point.
"Hi," he replies. "So shall we - ?"
"Why me?" she demands suddenly, causing Stiles to pause in his walk toward the driver's side door.
"Uh, I'm sorry, what?"
"Why did you call me? Why do you keep calling me?" She takes a step forward. "Why not Scott? Is it just because you want to keep an eye on me and all my...supernatural weirdness?"
"Uh, no!" Stiles insists, taking a step toward her around the hood of the car. He runs a hand through his hair, sighing. "It's just - Scott, he's got enough on his plate, with, you know, the werewolves and the whole almost committing suicide thing, and, well, besides - no offense to Scott, I mean I love the guy, but you're smarter than him any day. Smarter than most everyone, actually."
His eyes are wide and honest when he looks at her, and Lydia is oddly touched.
"True," she replies snappily, not wanting this moment to become laced with too much feeling. Moving to the car and opening the passenger door, she adds quickly, "But - you're not so dumb yourself."
Stiles' grin is big enough to make her a little nervous. Not that anything about Stiles makes her nervous. Ever. "Lydia, did you just give me a compliment?"
"Not if you keep grinning like that!" she snaps. "Now get it the car and drive, Stilinski!"
"Yes, ma'am," Stiles answers, chuckling.
"And don't call me 'ma'am'!"
"I'll just drive now."
Their supernatural investigations soon turn into tri-weekly escapades that sometimes end in blood and mystery and other nights end in ice cream. At first, the ice cream is begrudging on Lydia's part because spending time with a social pariah like Stiles is more than somewhat damning to her image, but somehow, after about the fourth night of this, she can't decide which she likes more: the running or the ice cream or the way Stiles runs a hand through his hair when he's nervous.
No, she thinks. You don't care about that, Martin. You will not develop feelings for Stiles, physical or otherwise.
She won't, she promises herself. This is a partnership, that's all. Not even a friendship.
The first time he calls her just to get ice cream, she declines with a huffy, "As if," but she has no doubts he'll ask again. She knows how persistent he can be.
She's sort of counting on it.
"So what's going on with you and Stiles?" asks Allison one day at lunch. Lydia drops her spoon at the bluntness of the question and blushes at her clumsiness. Since when is she clumsy?
"What? Nothing," she insists. "Nothing's going on."
"Really," says Allison, nonplussed. "You two spend an awful lot of time together."
"We're just doing research," Lydia assures her, returning to her yoghurt. "Stiles is the only one with an IQ anywhere close to comparable to mine, which makes him somewhat useful in trying to figure out all of this Druid stuff, that's all."
"Sure... So I guess I can tell Amy Miller that he's free as a bird, right? Apparently she's interested."
Lydia shrugs. "I guess so. It's none of my business."
Allison shakes her head. Lydia sets aside her yoghurt; she's suddenly not hungry anymore.
Hooking up with Aidan comes to serve a dual purpose.
On the one hand, he is a stunning specimen of a human being, and Lydia has made it her mission in life to closely study all such men. It doesn't hurt that he's a great kisser either, even if every word that comes out of his mouth is idiotic.
On the other hand, and this is really the important part, she has a plan. If she can get close to one of the Alphas, there's sure to be a situation in which she can use it to best aid Scott, Isaac, and Derek, especially if she continues to plead ignorance about the whole werewolf thing altogether.
She doesn't tell Stiles about it, though. She doesn't really want to deal with the hurt she knows she'll find in his eyes when he finds out.
They expect everything to go to shit on Halloween. It only makes sense that creatures of the night would come out to play on a holiday dedicated to them, but, by some benevolent force of nature, absolutely nothing supernatural whatsoever occurs. Instead, it's a blissfully normal teenage night in Beacon Hills, and everyone who's anyone flocks to Lydia's house for her annual Halloween party. She's dressed as Daphne, her outfit a near-perfect match to the cartoon. Allison, dressed as Katniss (bow in hand, just in case of an attack), sticks by her side and helps serve drinks to guests as they enter the house.
Stiles and Scott appear early on in the evening. Lydia sees Allison's face as Scott walks through the door, and that's when she's sure that there will never be anyone else for her best friend.
While Allison and Scott go off to talk or whatever it is they do when they're alone that supposedly definitely isn't making out, Stiles joins Lydia in her hostess duties.
"Daphne," he acknowledges, taking in her outfit. "Nice choice. Very fitting given the…rather bizarre turn our high school careers have taken."
Lydia grins and hands him a platter of drinks. A year ago, she would have hated this, would have tried her best not to even let Stiles into her party, but if she's honest with herself now, Stiles is probably the greatest friend she's ever had. Not her best friend, by any means, but she's never doubted that Stiles will always coming running whenever she needs him. She needs someone like that in her life. Not that she would ever say that – ever – to him or anyone.
She surveys him once up and down, noting his lack of costume. "And you're supposed to be?"
"Ah," he says, lifting up the front of his shirt to reveal a Spider-Man suit underneath.
"Spider-Man?" she asks, quirking a brow.
"Peter Parker," he supplies, shrugging. "I figured, since I'm usually just the one along for the ride, I could be the hero tonight. Scott, of course, refused to dress as Mary Jane, so we know what a horrible best friend he is. "
Lydia smiles a little sadly. "You're not just along for the ride, Stiles," she says quietly but firmly.
He's taken aback at this. "Uh, I - what?"
"You're just as much of a hero as Scott, you know."
Stiles chuckles, running a hand through his hair. "I'd say that's a bit of an overstatement."
Lydia frowns at him. "Heroes come in all shapes and sizes," she reminds him as she fills more drinks. "Scott might be the brawn, but you're definitely the brains of this whole operation."
"What does that make you?"
"Me? I'm the looks. And the fashion sense," she adds, surveying Stiles' wardrobe once again. She pauses thoughtfully. "I'm...Daphne." He laughs, looking at her in that way she tries not to notice, like there's no one else in the world worth seeing at all.
"Lydia, do you want to dance?" he asks. It's so smooth, so straightforward, and he's not even scared, not one bit, and Lydia hates him for that because suddenly her knees feel like jello and she isn't really quite sure that she remembers how one even goes about dancing and -
"Yes," she says before she can even think.
Stiles is surprised. "Really? O-okay. Uh, cool. Well..." He leads her out onto the patio where the dancing is taking place and suddenly they're spinning to the music and laughing, and Lydia can't really help herself, she enjoys it. She enjoys Stiles, in ways she didn't imagine it was possible to enjoy another person.
"You know," says Stiles in her ear, his voice elevated just slightly over the heavy bass of a new song, "people might think you're Daphne…" Lydia looks at him, curious. His eyes, when she meets them, are almost too sincere. "…but, underneath all of this, I know you're really Velma. With, y'know, that – that impressive brain."
Lydia doesn't know what to say.
I want to kiss him, she thinks and instantly curls in on herself.
It's something she's felt before, this flutter in her chest that threatens to spill out of her, but never acknowledged. Because she can't. She can't kiss Stiles; hell, she can't want to kiss Stiles. It would be the last straw in her already dwindling social image and, more than that, it would be too much. Too easy. Too everything. She's never known a boy quite like Stiles Stilinski, and she doesn't think she would survive the heartbreak that would inevitably come when she lost him.
And she's going to lose him. In such a fleeting existence - one plagued by murder and werewolves and nightmares - how can she keep him?
She pushes away ever-so slightly. "I - need to go check on Allison," she says, practically running away from him.
"Lydia - " he calls after her.
She doesn't look back.
end part one