just let me be here (I won't tell anyone)
Notes: I almost wrote the kiss in but then I got nervous and didn't.
Title comes from one of my all time favourite Snow Patrol songs: An Olive Grove Facing the Sea (2009 version)
Stiles' research stamina is truly impressive, and this is coming from a girl who picked up archaic latin because of boredom.
Ever since her "official" induction into packs Hale/McCall – challenging the kanima and winning counts right? – Lydia finds herself up with Stiles more often than not, helping him keep a grip on ideas and theories that sometimes seem to pass through his mind in bursts – like vapour or pouring rain – hard to catch and keep steady.
"There's something to this, there has to be…"
Her eyelids are heavy as Lydia watches Stiles run his hands through his now-long hair, gritting his teeth and refocusing determinedly on his computer screen; printouts and beastairy excerpts are strewn all around her on the bed.
She's losing track of his words even more than usual, which is probably a sign, Lydia thinks briefly, before the edges of his room go dark and sleep pulls her down.
When she comes to, she is only faintly surprised to find herself curled beneath a blanket, a pillow supporting her head, while he is still on the floor, slumped probably in mid-keystroke over his laptop.
His scent is all around her, and it is comforting in a way she cannot explain.
Shoes in one hand, Lydia crouches down and puts a hand on his shoulder. He doesn't wake, just snuffles in a way that is not adorable, so Lydia pulls the blanket from the bed and drapes it over him, exchanging his laptop for the pillow.
The Sheriff is thankfully nowhere in sight when Lydia tiptoes into the hall and closes Stiles' door as softly as possible behind her.
She doesn't want to let go of his arm.
Lydia feels vaguely dizzy, staring down at the rows of awful vinyl seats in the dark school bus, tinged with the strange, eerie glow of the fluorescent motel sign.
The gasoline explosion is burning out on its own; by some miracle no one came tearing out at the sound of four teenagers nearly lighting themselves on fire, and now everything is quiet.
Stiles is peering at her, one hand on her shoulder. She starts, wondering if he can tell how fiercly her face flushes.
Lydia doesn't trust herself to speak - not yet. So she nods instead, sliding almost automatically into a seat beside Allison. Stiles' eyes are still on her though, probing and bright in the dark. Isaac and Boyd slip past, blending into the shadows in the far end of the bus.
One by one everyone nods off, until it seems Lydia and Stiles are the only ones left awake, here and everywhere. He's looking forward at the slope of Scott's ear, and there is something raw and fragile in his gaze, a kind of vulnerability that makes Lydia's heart stutter and wish that she were asleep too, so Stiles could just have this moment in peace.
"It's okay, Lydia."
Stiles turns to look at her, one corner of his mouth tilted up in an almost-smile. "I'm not going to disappear if you fall asleep, you know."
She wants to object, but those four seconds before she reached him were the longest nightmare she's ever had. So Lydia just settles a little deeper into her seat, tilting her head towards Allison.
"If you ever do that again," she says, her words slow as exhaustion presses in, "We are no longer friends."
She smells gasoline in her dreams.
Lydia is familiar with sleepovers – she and Allison have them practically weekly.
Pack piles, on the other hand, are new.
The first time they lose Boyd.
Derek's still gone – Lydia is riding in Stiles' jeep with him after school, combining his need to grocery shop with her desire to comb through heavy tomes at the library and see if there are any legends they'd missed that could possibly help them figure out the alpha pack.
She's trying not to think about the last time she'd been in the jeep when Lydia and Stiles' phones blip with message tones, almost simultaneously.
"Can you check that for me?" he asks, frowning as someone cuts them off. Stiles' hands visibly tighten around the wheel. There is so much anger in him these days; every flash of passing streetlamp is like watching hard lines in his face dig deeper and deeper.
It's Scott, twice.
Can you guys come over? Isaac could use company right now.
Something in Lydia's stomach drops.
"What is it?"
Stiles has gotten almost frighteningly good at reading her face.
"Isaac. He needs us."
She doesn't understand what that means, not really, but Stiles just nods, switching lanes to turn left towards Scott's, instead of right towards the library.
"Wolf thing," he says softly before Lydia can even ask. "Sometimes they just need – people. Pack."
Stiles' gaze is quizzical, amused even. "Pack, of course. God, Lydia, what do you think we'd been doing all this time without you?"
There's a darker answer here, but Lydia pushes it aside. She recalls with sudden clarity the way Stiles had screamed for her, running full tilt onto that field. He'd always cared, of course. Always tried to look out for her.
It's not his fault.
"Failing miserably, of course."
His smile is so fleeting that she wants to freeze time so she can hang onto this image of a Stiles who isn't burdened by so much.
When they knock on the McCall's door, it's his mother who answers, looking a little harried and dressed for work.
"Hi kids," she says, smiling. There is just something so motherly and familial about the greeting that Lydia feels her throat tighten. She can't remember the last time her mother's expression was so genuine.
"The boys are in the basement, there's money for pizza on the counter, try not to break anything okay?"
"I'm never going to hear the end of that, am I?" Stiles calls as she waves and disappears into the evening air.
Lydia quirks an eyebrow, to which Stiles flushes and runs a hand over his head.
"Long story." He clears his throat. "Shall we?"
This should be weird, she thinks, as they trek down the stairs to find Isaac and Scott on the floor surrounded by blankets and pillows, their faces pale and blue in television light.
Herself and three boys, just hanging out together as though they were going to have a slumber party or something, but then Lydia looks at Isaac. She sees that a flicker of that broken boy in Stiles' jeep and knows this is exactly where she needs to be.
They watch movies and order in and somehow Lydia finds herself tucked between Isaac and Stiles on the couch, a shirt she borrowed from the former slipping off one shoulder and soft past her shorts on her bare skin.
It should be embarrassing, or empowering perhaps (Lydia recalls with a tight kind of fondness the heat of Jackson's gaze when she stole his clothes to wear to bed) with the way Stiles' Adam's Apple bobbed in his throat at the sight of her, but she doesn't feel indecent or exposed.
She feels safe. She feels safe here with them, Scott lounging horizontal at their feet, doing something as completely mundane as eating pizza and watching cartoons so old it feels odd to be watching them in the small hours of the morning and not at seven am with a bowl of cereal.
Scott nods off quickly, sleeping open-mouthed and snoring softly. Stiles' eyes are closed too, though she can't quite tell if he's asleep. Lydia almost jumps when she feels Isaac turn towards her, his mouth just touching her hair above her ear in an almost kiss so small it may be a whisper.
"Thanks," he says quietly, and she is back in the jeep again, swallowed by Isaac's grief.
"For what?" she's whispering too, she's too afraid not to.
She doesn't know what to say so Lydia just puts her hand on his and leaves it there. Isaac turns away and goes silent; now he too is asleep, leaning on the armrest, and Lydia is left to deal with this twisting in her chest.
"Told you," comes a murmer from her right – Lydia almost shrieks before looking at Stiles, slumped so low he's nearly peering up at her. They're pressed together from shoulder to hip and she is warm all over. He smiles briefly. "Pack."
"Go to sleep, Stiles," she says for lack of anything else, to which he smiles again and closes his eyes.
If she leans forward even two inches, Lydia realizes, they'd be touching foreheads. But she falls asleep before she can convince herself that it's a bad idea.
Lydia gets used to sharing space with the pack like it's nothing. Ever since beginning her training, she and Isaac are touching practically every second they're together – even as innocuous a touch as brushing knees on Derek's back porch.
She and Scott are closer, too – squeezing shoulders and hands, grabbing arms – her heel had broken once at school at he'd just wrapped an arm around her waist to keep her standing, before she could even stumble.
Derek even smiles at her, sometimes.
Lydia and Allison have always been tactile friends, holding hands and leaning heads on shoulders.
So why should Stiles be any different?
The pack is convened at Scott's – Derek's still getting water out of the loft, Stiles is still wary of letting him anywhere near his father, and Lydia would never hear the end of it from her mother if she just came home with all these boys she'd never so much as mentioned before.
Mrs. McCall had barely batted an eyelash as they'd trooped through her kitchen, though no one missed the stern look she shot Derek as he held the basement door open for Allison.
Sometimes Lydia forgets that he's supposed to be the adult here, that he's supposed to be doing more than just blindly stumbling along with the rest of them.
He'd just nodded, and something had clearly been settled between him and Scott's mother, much to everyone's silent relief.
Lydia's watching Isaac try to be subtle about looking at Allison, who is determinedly not looking at Scott, who is digging around his television for the last N64 controller.
Isaac's thumb is smoothing circles around Lydia's ankle, her feet propped in his lap. It's easy, the two of them, and it makes her feel warm all over.
But then she realizes who they're missing.
"He's upstairs," Isaac says, before her lips can form the words to ask.
Is she that easy to read?
His gentle squeeze of her ankle is probably an answer. Lydia leaves her spot on the couch with only small reluctance, having convince herself all the way up the stairs that she's just checking on him, there's really no need for the butterflies.
Lydia opens the cracked door to Scott's room slowly, not sure what she's expecting to find. Stiles is laying on his best friend's bed, hands behind his head, staring at the ceiling.
He looks so tired.
Lydia follows his gaze to dozens upon dozens of glow in the dark stars, and has to smother a fond smile.
She can see his face screwing up to tell a lie, before he thinks better of it and stays silent. Lydia coaxes herself further into the room, flexing bare toes on Scott's carpet. She has to count to three before she can say it.
"Okay, move over."
His surprise is clear; Lydia takes advantage and shoves him over, sliding next to him in the middle of Scott's bed. It takes another count to three before she has the courage to lay her head on his chest to hear the kick drum rhythm of Stiles' heart.
He's so still that she's almost sure he's holding his breath.
Neither speaks for a long time.
"I have to tell my dad," Stiles says, barely a whisper. Lydia presses herself a little closer. "I'm scared."
"I know." What else is there to say? She could lie and tell him it was all going to be alright, but this is Stiles, and he sees the truth in her that no one else can.
His hand moves down to her hair, her shoulder, her waist and back up again, and it takes all of Lydia's concentration not to shiver.
"Did you know the universe is supposed to be infinite? Like, there could be the same Earths and Milky Way galaxies and even us, copies or versions, over and over–"
He laughs, a tiny puff of sound. "Sorry."
Stiles' fingers brush idle patterns in her hair; Lydia closes her eyes and tries to stitch a forever between his heartbeats.
Neither of them probably mean to fall asleep, but Lydia wakes with the warm weight of Stiles' arms around her, his nose buried in the soft hair at the base of her neck.
It feels like home, and that thought is more frightening than any alpha or sacrifice plot could ever be.
No no no no no–
She barely feels Isaac crowding close, his hands brushing her shoulders, his nose burrowing close to her throat. What does her fear smell like? Lydia wonders, almost outside herself. Is it acrid? Sharp? Does bitterness even have a scent?
Lydia cannot tear her gaze from Stiles, who stands in front of the shattered window as if simply willing his father back to him. Allison is close too – did they come together? Where were they?
Did they hear her screaming?
A banshee, right before my eyes.
It's a dull thought, faint on the edges of Stiles' raging despair and the realization that she'd almost been garotted by her English teacher.
"Isaac," she says, because he's still folded towards her; Lydia can practically see the invisible markings of his safe space in the darkness of the classroom, but she can't give into that desire right now.
"Isaac, I'm okay. I'm alright."
Not when Stiles looks as though his entire world has just been ripped away. He spins back towards them, and his eyes find hers, and the brusing mark still red and angry around her throat.
"I'm fine," she cuts in, even though it's a complete and utter lie. "We have to go. The map–"
The map will tell them.
Lydia practically has to shove at Isaac, who seems to start and follows Allison out the door. Scott is leading Stiles, one hand on his shoulder.
"Give me his keys," Lydia demands, flexing her proferred hand to keep it from shaking. Scott just dips his hand into Stiles' pocket like it's nothing.
"Meet you at Allison's," he says, not tearing his eyes away from Stiles' pale and haunted face.
She grabs Stiles by the hand and drags him out to the jeep, probably breaking a law or two as the pack rushes to the new home of the Argents.
By the time they arrive, Stiles' eyes are hard and Lydia has to push back against the prickle of fear that crawls up her spine. He practically shoves Allison out of the way, eyes wide as he stares down at Chris Argent's secrets.
"Where?" he demands, as though he's choking on the word. The hand gripping the blacklight shakes so hard it sends eerie flashes all over the desk; Allison reaches out and guides him.
"We have to find him, I have to–"
His words cut off, his chest heaving in a breath – Scott and Lydia leap forward in unison as Stiles drops the blacklight, hands on Stiles as they push him to sit on the floor.
"Stiles, look at me."
Lydia forces a kind of calm she didn't even know existed in herself as Scott keeps his hands on Stiles' shoulders, keeping him still. Stiles' eyes latch onto hers and she feels the pain of it as though their gazes could really touch – his is hot and she is burning.
"Stiles, I need you to breathe with me okay? Can you do that?"
He's clutching at one of Scott's hands, a whimper escaping as he trembles, but Stiles nods, and Lydia takes his face in her hands to keep them both steady.
"In and out, okay? Just breathe with me. In, out, in out."
His breath comes in shuddering gasps, but it's working, she thinks, and Lydia tries to smile her encouragement. "That's it, in and out. In and out."
It feels like an age and a day that they sit like that on Chris Argent's office floor, until that awful darkness beneath Stiles' eyes seems to win out and he slumps, eyes half-closed against the wall.
"You guys go," Lydia says, swallowing down her panic. "Call me when you–when you find him, when you find anything."
"No…" He's trying to bat them away, trying to get up, but he's still shaking so hard and his limbs betray him.
"Stiles, you can barely stand." She wants to yell at him but she'd hate herself for it. "You need rest, you need sleep."
It takes all her strength to pull Stiles to his feet, slinging his arm over her shoulder. He's not going to sleep of course, but if he passes out from exhaustion that has to count, right?
They sway, but Scott is there to help haul Stiles out of the room, turning left where Allison opens her door without a word. They ease onto the bed still sitting; Lydia would let go but her body refuses, and Stiles has begun to clutch at the fabric of her dress at her waist, breathing tremulous but steady into her shoulder.
Isaac's expression is too much, not now, and Lydia has to force herself to look back at him, imploring.
"Please. Isaac, go. Find him."
He looks for one heartbeat longer before surging foward, tilting Lydia's head forward with one hand on the back of her neck to press his lips to the top of her head.
"Promise me you're okay," he says, low and rough against her hair, and she feels tears burn in her eyes.
"I'm okay. I promise. We'll–We'll be right behind you."
"Isaac," Allison calls from the door. Her eyes are so hard, cold like steel, what happened to that joyful new girl?
Isaac peels away and slips out the door, one hand on the small of Allison's back. Scott looks at the two of them on Allison's bed for a long moment.
"The second we know anything," he promises, and then he's gone.
It takes a minute of deep breathing for Lydia to be rid of the knot in her throat. She smooths a hand down between Stiles' shoulder blades and back up again.
"He didn't believe me," Stiles breathes into her skin, hoarse as though the confession hurts him. "Mom would've, that's what I told him, I can't believe that's the last thing–"
She tightens her grip around him instinctively, and then Stiles just breaks, shaking as he sobs, and as they fall back into the mattress, it's all Lydia can do to hold him as Stiles curls around her, his nose cool on her collarbone, running her hand through his hair and mummuring things she doesn't believe.
"It's going to be okay, I promise, I'm here, Stiles, I'm right here, shh it's okay, it's going to be okay."
Lydia can feel his grasp slacken around her, but barely; she couldn't get away if she tried. "Five minutes alright?" she whispers, throat tight with tears. "We're just going to rest for five minutes and then we're going to go rescue your dad, okay Stiles? Just five minutes."
And then everything is quiet and Lydia feels too weighed down by everything that haunts them. She can't sleep, perhaps she'll never sleep again, but Stiles' breath is steady, his body still warm and safe despite their umpteenth brush with death, and it's only to the darkness that Lydia has the courage to think,
I might be in love with you. Don't you die on me Stiles, not before I get a chance to say it.
Four minutes and twelve seconds later (according to the timer on her phone), Stiles shifts, his lips brushing her collarbone, before he blinks awake.
Her heart aches, and Lydia brushes her knuckles over his cheek, instinct taking control before her brain can tell it 'no.' Stiles leans into the touch and there is a silent conversation in which they agree to never speak of this moment ever.
"Time to go, Stiles," she says, soft so her voice can't break over the words. "Let's go get your dad."
His eyes grow dark and flinty and he pulls away, sitting up as Lydia does the same, picking up her shoes in one hand and trying to ignore the feeling of his gaze on her.
She turns, too slow do anything when Stiles leans across the bed and kisses her cheek, lingering there a beat before puling away.
Her heat pounds so loudly she can feel her pulse in her ears. She has never been more grateful for Stiles' perfect humanity than in this moment, her blush high on her cheeks.
"Let's go," she says, before he can something even more ridiculous like thank her, and Stiles just nods, picking up his keys.
Scott texts hospital just moments after they climb into the jeep. Stiles' knickles go white around the steering wheel as the spedometer climbs and climbs.
Lydia reaches over and puts a hand on his knee; Stiles relinquishes the wheel in one hand and grips her fingers. His eyes are bright – Lydia looks out at the dark street.
And they just hang on.
More Notes: I swear to god if the Sheriff dies I am never watching tv again.