Dedication

Friday

Derek walked up to the Stilinski residence, treading as silently as possible. It was still mostly dark out, but he knew the Sheriff could be an early riser, especially when he was worrying over Stiles.

Retrieving the hidden key to unlock the door quietly he returned it to its place, then carefully turned the door knob and slipped through, guiding the door shut with minimal noise. Stepping in to the kitchen he immediately came up short.

"Cold out?" John inquired conversationally from behind the newspaper, coffee in front of him with a cup across from him and the chair pulled out.

Derek closed his eyes briefly in an 'oh crap' expression before taking the seat and sipping the coffee. The still hot, coffee.

"You wanna tell me what you were doing outside Gruff's Bar last night?"

"His name is Griff," Derek didn't answer the question.

"The bar's name is Gruff's Bar, and you didn't answer my question," he set the paper aside, holding up a hand to forestall the question he knew was coming. "The answer to yours is I am the Sheriff, and I am Stiles' father. All the investigative techniques he knows, he learned from me. And that includes pinging a cell phone for a location."

Taking a deep breath Derek braced himself. "Sir -"

"Listen, Derek. I'm not faulting you for trying to get to the woman first. In fact I don't take issue with it at all because maybe you know a better way to find her and catch her. What I take issue with is you sneaking out of my house at one a.m. in the morning to chase down a woman who's responsible for the death of a lot of people, without telling anyone where you're going or what you're doing."

"I haven't laid a hand on her, sir."

"You don't have to lay a hand on them to kill someone, son," the Sheriff took a sip of his own coffee.

"She's fine, sir. In total health."

"Where is she?"

"I don't know."

"You know she's fine, in complete health, but you don't know where she is?" he was unbelieving. "What were you doing last night?"

"Planting a tracker on her car," Derek answered honestly. He knew honesty was the only way he was getting out of this conversation without cuffs on.

"Trackers can be tracked. Pull up the data."

"I don't have access to the data, sir."

"Are you sir-ing me because you're afraid of me?"

"No sir, I'm respecting you."

"Well good. How about you respect me with a straight answer right about now?"

"I don't have the tracking data. I don't have access to it. I arranged with someone to put a tracker on her car, they'd handle it from there."

"Handle what? Killing her?!"

"I don't want her dead," Derek met the Sheriff's accusing glare with a glare of his own. "I want justice for my family. I will not give her the satisfaction of me throwing the rest of my life away just to see her dead. I want her behind bars, where she belongs, in a cell or a straightjacket I'll leave that to the judge."

"So bring her in," the Sheriff leaned back, crossing his arms. "I don't see her in the back of your car, Derek."

"I'm not law. An arrest by me leaves to many legal holes."

"Who'd you hand her to, Derek."

"Bounty hunters."

"Bounty hunters?"

"They're trustworthy, sir. They'll track her down and arrest her legally. They'll take all credit for the capture, my name will never enter the trial room as helping get her caught."
"'Cause if the jury found out the sole survivor of the Hale family helped capture her they'd look to closely?"

"Because I don't want to have to go on the stand. I don't want to have to be in the room with her, because if I have to look at that smug, self-righteous, high on her own power witch in the face just once I'll snap her neck without a second thought!" the force behind Derek's words shocked John, as did the man's sincerity.

"Alrighty then," Stiles chirped from the stairway. "Appreciate the enthusiasm, but I've only got one dad - I'd appreciate him continuing to live even more."

Only then did the Sheriff realize that Derek's eyes had morphed while he spoke, glowing gold angrily.

Closing his eyes and looking away the wolf took a deep breath, letting it out slowly.

"Okay," John stood, guiding a still sleepy Stiles to sit in the now vacant chair. "Thankyou, Derek."

"No problem," he stood and walked upstairs.

"Yeesh, dad," Stiles yawned, rubbing his eyes. "You realize testing him right now could get you a little more than yelled at, right?"

"I needed to know he hadn't done something stupid," John told him, pulling out a bowl and box of cereal before snagging the milk out of the fridge.

"Yeah well, I need my dad," Stiles stated, automatically pouring himself a bowl of cereal and accepting the spoon his dad handed him.

"You're not gonna lose me kiddo. Derek would never hurt me," he roughed Stiles' buzz cut hair.

Stiles hummed in acknowledgement as he poured milk into his bowl expertly, handing it back once he was done.

"Feeling better?"

"Much," Stiles nodded, yawning once before digging into his breakfast.

"You're not going to school today," John told him while putting the milk back in the fridge.

"I feel okay," Stiles stated

"I don't want you relapsing," his father said firmly. "It'll be fine. Just one more day this week and then you can go back to school Monday."

"Four day vacation in the middle of January - I might have to buy you a thank you card dad," Stiles grinned.

"Mm-hmm," John shook his head in a heaven help me gesture. "That's not permission to go nuts. I expect you to recuperate fully."

"Yes sir," his son saluted him.

Heading up the stairs to change into his work uniform he shook his head. "What is it with 'sir' this morning?"

Scott woke several minutes before his alarm even went off, laying on his back staring at the ceiling until it did. Hitting snooze he tossed the covers back, dressing quickly in clean clothes before running a comb through his hair and brushing his teeth thoroughly before turning the alarm off completely.

Packing his school work in his back pack he went down stairs and dropped the bag beside his shoes just as the phone started ringing.

"McCall residence," he answered, guessing it was Stiles.

"Hey buddy."

He knew it. "Hey Stiles -"

"Oh what, am I not your buddy?"

He snorted, shaking his head. "You are impossible to have a conversation with."

"No I'm not, I'm fun to converse with. Now what were you going to say?"

"Can we talk, later - you know, after school?" Scott crossed his fingers, a little nervous.

"Of course," Stiles sounded unsure, but sincere. "I'm not going to school, but you can drop by after school. I'm gonna be going stir crazy so . . . what's up?"

"Nothing."

"Scotty, what's wrong? Seriously. You sound . . . worried."

"I'm fine, Stiles."

"Freaked out Insecure Neurotic and Emotional. Yeah, that's reassuring."

Scott sighed loudly. "I'm . . . nothing's wrong, I'm just . . . a little worried."

"About?" Stiles drew the word out.

Biting his lip he considered how he should answer.

"I don't believe it, you're worried about me!"

"What? No! I mean . . ." Scott trailed off, pulling his toast out of the toaster oven and buttering it.

"You are, you're worried about me aren't you?"

"Look, can I just come over after school and talk?"

"Umm, let me think . . . . Yeah! Duh! Dude, seriously, what's bothering you?"

"I'll tell you later, okay. I gotta eat breakfast and then go to school. Talk to you later," he prepared to hang up.

"Yeah. Hey, say hi to Lydia from me, 'kay? Since I'm, you know. Home-bound."

"You're under arrest," Scott rolled the r's like Timothy Dalton.

Stiles laughed, agreeing. "Exactly."

"I'll say hey to her. Talk later, 'kay?"

"Bye. Talk later, definitely. Tah!"

"Tah," Scott mimicked him, ending the call. Pouring himself a glass of orange juice he hoisted himself onto the counter to eat his breakfast, planning out his day.

The halls were bustling with activity as Lydia strode down the middle, her acquaintances a gaggling herd behind her snickering about some poor idiots failed attempt at setting a trend. Honestly, Lydia wasn't paying much attention to their blathering.

Spotting the person she wanted to talk to she squared her shoulders and took a deep breath, like a diver before a plunge.

And then she turned on her heels and walked away as fast as she could in the opposite direction.

I can't do this, I can't do this, how on earth can I even think about doing this! she found her thoughts spinning in a self-doubting circle, taunting her and dragging her down. You can't do this alone. You're going to be miserable for the rest of your life. A failure.

"Hey Lydia," Allison chirped as she easily fell into step with the strawberry blonde, immediately realizing something was wrong when she didn't get a response. "Hey, what's wrong?"

"Nothing," Lydia managed to choke out, surprised when her voice sounded normal and the smile apparently passed muster because Allison just shrugged and then launched into reviewing her notes out loud.

You're a failure. Her thoughts whispered to her, practically drowning out everything else. It made her want to curl into a ball on the floor and scream until it stopped. Shaking, she walked into her first class, heart racing, breathing quickly. I'm about to have a panic attack. She thought distantly. Dropping her books at a desk behind Scott she retained her purse and walked as quickly as she could into the Coach's office, closing the door behind her.

"Hello," Coach’s greeting fell on deaf ears as she leaned on the door, forcing herself to breathe as she slowly sank to the floor.

"Hey," a gentle voice beside her startled her, making her jerk sideways and hit the wall.

"Ow," she muttered, rubbing her now sore shoulder.

"Sorry," Coach grimaced, looking at her with open concern. "You okay?"

"Yeah," she breathed out, inhaling and exhaling as deeply and slowly as she could. "Just, freaking out momentarily. Give me a moment."

"Take all the moments you need. I've got a study plan to touch up," he patted her knee kindly, then returned to his desk.

You're a failure. The voices were back, whispering incessantly in the back of her mind. You'll never amount to anything. You'll fail. At everything. You can't even get through a day without falling apart!

I am a strong person, she mentally tried to pep talk herself. I can do this. I am strong enough. I am Lydia Martin.

No you can't. Lydia Martin's a lie. You'll never graduate, you'll never succeed . . .

Shaking violently as she lost her inner battle with barely a fight she fumbled with her purse, clumsily extricating her phone and flipping it open.

"707-555-0139," she recited under her breath as she dialed.

"Stiles, your phone’s ringing. Unknown number," John handed the phone to his son who had ensconced himself on the couch.

Frowning at the caller ID he answered anyway, curious. "Hello?"

"Stiles," she breathed his name in gratitude. "You answered."

"Oh, hey Lydia," he smiled brightly, then frowned in concern at her tone. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah . . ." she picked at the hem of her skirt, watching her fingers tremble as they toyed with the fringe. Taking a deep breath she sighed, leaning her head back to rest on the door. "No."

"I can tell. You've got this holy crap freaking-out-epically call-the-white-coated-men-already will ya I need a straightjacket thing going on with your voice."

She laughed, a touch hysterically but quietly, already feeling herself relax. "I . . ."

"You have a plan to deal with Jackson, don't you?"

"How'd you know?"

"Because . . . I . . . . honestly I have no idea. It just kind of popped into my head last night that you'd need a permanent solution and I kind of figured you'd be thinking the same thing, so it makes sense. Sorry, I'm talking a lot," he ended in a rush.

"Hey, don't apologize for talking. Listen to me Stiles - don't you ever, ever apologize for talking. Do you understand? Ever. I'll slap you the next time you do."

"Really? You can slap people through the phone? Epic powers dudette."

She laughed again. "That would be an epic power."

"So, what's the hang up with Jackson?"

"I'm . . ." nervous, unsure, unconfident, worried. They all rang false in her head. "I'm terrified, Stiles."

"Mm-hmm," he shifted around, pursing his lips in thought. "Of what? Jackson?"

"I can't do this," she whispered.

"Of course you can do this, Lydia-"

"No, Stiles. I can't do this. I'm going to fail, I-"

"What?! Nonsense. Fail at what?"

"School . . . being a mother . . . dealing with Jackson, raising a child-"

"Okay, whoa-whoa-whoa slow down, Lydia. One day at a time, and you know what screw that philosophy. One breath, one second, one step, at a time. You can't look at the future right now, okay? Your future is so full of unknown and variables that right now all it is gonna do is drive you nuts. As evidenced. Just, face one thing at a time."

"How?"

"Just . . . do school. Just, ignore everything, and . . . and deal with your classes, okay? Focus on that. Be in the moment, Lydia, okay - just live in the moment, moment by moment, be present. Don't think, don't plan, just act and react, and respond. Careful just reacting to Jackson though."

She nodded, breathing more evenly and slower, more relaxed. "I need to talk to Jackson."

"Okay, about?"

"A possible solution that gives us both what we want."

"Coffee shop," he instantly stated. "Or, well . . . coffee shop for a delicate topic isn't the best, especially with him being as - volatile - as he's been acting, so . . . I don't know. Alison's house maybe? Or Scott's house. You know I bet Melissa would be more than willing to mediate."

She hummed, unconsciously rocking herself back and forth. "Yeah. Well, I need to get to class. Thanks."

"No problemo," he responded, smiling. "Just tell Jackson that you need to talk to him. That you two need to talk. Then leave the ball in his court for a while. Make him come to you, when he's ready he will."

"Thanks," she smiled, breathing a lot easier. "Talk more later." she hung up, returning the phone to her bag before standing up.

“Ready?” Coach looked up, already gathering his papers.

She nodded mutely, biting her lip.

He wordlessly came over and hugged her tightly.

Breathing deeply she closed her eyes and leaned into the comfort.

Releasing her and stepping back he smiled genuinely. “You know, there's something that I didn't tell you yesterday that I think you really need to hear.”

“Oh?”

“I respect you,” he stated, shocking her. “I didn't used to, but honestly I don't think I've seen the real you before yesterday. You, are going to be a wonderful mother.”

She nodded wordlessly, mute with emotions.

“Now let's get this class over with, shall we?” he opened the door and immediately started bellowing at the teenagers to calm down for crying out loud, just because they breathed caffeine didn't mean he did so such energy levels were unfair to say the least.

Making her way to her seat unnoticed Lydia smiled a greeting to Scott.

“Stiles asked me to say hi,” Scott said softly as she sat down.

“Hi back,” she smiled, relaxing in her seat.

“There you are,” Francesca bounded over, a bright smile plastered on her face. “We lost track of you there for a while.”

“Just, asking Coach some specifics on an assignment,” Lydia lied smoothly, having rehearsed it in her head.

“You wanna sit with Georgette?” Francesca started walking away.

“No I'm comfortable here,” Lydia said, keeping her eyes on the board where Coach was currently drawing a diagram.

This threw Francesca off for a moment before she shrugged and took the seat next to her wordlessly. “What's up with you? Are you and Jackson fighting again?”

“Nothing. And . . .” the word no was on the tip of her tongue, but really. That lie was something that would affect Jackson as well, which wasn't exactly fair.

“Oh my word you two are fighting!” Francesca whispered in shock. “What about? Seriously, I haven't seen you this upset in . . . well . . .”

“You've never seen me this upset, because I've never been this upset,” Lydia snapped.

“Are you two breaking up?”

Lydia didn't answer.

Francesca's eyes bugged. “Are you pregnant?” she whispered so quietly she was barely audible.

“What?!” Lydia couldn't stop the reflexive panic that flared in her chest as her head whipped around to face the girl.

Francesca's face was a mask of shock mixed with horror.

“Francesca Malone you shut up this instant, do you hear me? This instant!” Lydia hissed.

The girl nodded emphatically, turning her attention to her textbooks as Coach called for the classes attention.

“Hey Lydia,” a hand on her shoulder distracted her.

Turning, she smiled a greeting to Danny as he passed her and sat next to Scott. “Morning Danny.”

“Does Danny know?” Francesca whispered.

Oh for crying out loud. Lydia grit her teeth together, clenching her jaw. “Francesca.”

“Okay, sorry. Just curious. Look, you - you know I won't tell anyone, right?”

This made Lydia look at her again. She couldn't help but show a little disbelief.

“I won't tell, I swear! You have my word, my lips are sealed. And if you need help with anything . . .”

“I'll keep you in mind.”

“Good,” her friend breathed, relaxing.

“Hey Lydia,” Jackson's voice sounded behind and to the side of her.

Closing her eyes and breathing deeply she swallowed before turning around. Seeing him up close made her notice something she hadn't before. Dark circles under his eyes, a little more subdued than usual. Crap. “Hey Jackson.”

“If I could have the whole room's attention please,” Coach interrupted the short interaction. “Thankyou. Now, today in Economics we're learning about . . .”

And the school day began.

When the bell sounded for the beginning of the last class of the day Lydia knew that this was it - her last chance to speak with Jackson privately today. She didn't want to risk a confrontation in the parking lot, and knew that going to his house would be unwelcome right now, as would any texts.

Spotting him by his locker she breathed deeply and forced herself to approach, noticing that none of his friends were anywhere around.

"Hey," she greeted softly.

"Hey," he didn't look at her, noticeably stiffening with tension.

"Look, um," she bit her lip nervously. "We . . . I need to talk. To you."

"We're talking now," he slammed the door closed, turning to face her yet still avoiding her eyes.

She sighed heavily, frustrated. "Look, Jackson. I'm sorry, okay? I didn't mean for this to happen and I know that you didn't either -"

"And yet you are the one insisting that the mistake continue!" he snapped.

Her eyes widened in shock. "Mistake! Mistake?" she hissed, her anger rising quickly. "This is our child we're talking about, Jackson Whittemore!"

"Your child," he pointed at her, eyes flicking to someone behind her.

Looking over her shoulder she saw that Danny and Scott had come to back her up. Yay. Now Jackson probably felt like they were ganging up on him.

"Look," she started.

"No," he went to brush past her.

"Hey!" she grabbed his arm and pulled him to face her, hands trembling with adrenaline. "I didn't ask for this, okay? And as much as it terrifies you to admit it, this child is half you! I know, I know, you don't want anything to do with it. Fine!" she growled, anger coating her words. "If you want to be the sixty year old billionaire left hiring private investigators and search teams for the opportunity to crawl on your hands and knees into the life of a forty year old woman and beg her to forgive you for abandoning her and not being her father, that's fine by me! But you are not going to rule me and control me and force me to do something that I don't want to do because this is my child too! And therefore I have a say in what happens! You, are not king of me!"

"Right," he ripped his arm out of her grip. "I'm just the, what was it? Brawn bound dopey ogre that you 'picked out of the pack'."

Biting her lip and breathing deeply before responding she ground her teeth in frustration. "That was harsh, I'm sorry. You have to understand, Jackson . . . I was terrified."

"Of what?!"

"Of you!" she snapped, fighting the urge to slap him. "I was terrified that I was going to give in to you, that I was going to let you make me do something that would've killed this child and my sanity along with it! Abortion is murder, that's my opinion, that's my view, and I am as entitled to it as you are to yours! So yeah, I snapped. I got defensive. I reacted when I should've responded and I'm sorry, okay. I'm sorry! I didn't want to hurt you but it was the only way I knew to make you back off!"

"Oh, you didn't want to hurt me? You are the one who got in Danny's head!" he accused her, breathing heavily in barely contained rage.

"What?" she gasped, horrified. "I did not!"

"You did to!"

"I did NOT! What Danny did was his decision, I hadn't even spoken to him until Wednesday when he helped insulate me from you. I don't know what went on between you two, I don't care. It's not my business and it's not my responsibility!

"I have enough of my own problems right now without you trying to shove more onto my plate to juggle! If you two are having a spat, that's between you two, don't drag me into the middle just because you're letting your life go to crap because of one mistake."

"I'm scared too!" he hissed, getting in her face.

"Why?" she challenged. "You want nothing to do with the child, fine! I won't hold you responsible, we can sort out a private contract later. I'm not going to tell anyone you're the father -"

"They're gonna guess!"

"Not if you break up with me and claim I was cheating on you," she blurted before she could truly think it through. "Seriously, Jackson, did you - do you really think that I was, that I am, going to drag you down with me on this? I am not a petty witch, thank you very much, although I am beginning to regret ever fashioning such a facade for myself!" she finished with a quavering voice, unshed tears pushing at the edges of her eyes as she shoved past a speechless Jackson and equally dumbstruck Danny and Scott, making her way to their last class.

She had finally composed herself enough that she was outwardly calm by the time she reached class, with Scott following behind her as silent support once he'd recovered from his surprise at her outburst.

Taking a seat behind Allison she counted the seconds of each breath in her head, desperate to keep it together. She was going to fail, she just knew it.

"Hey there," Francesca bounced over, seriously that girl bounced everywhere - it was her only mode of transportation - sitting down beside Lydia while eyeing Scott. Leaning over conspiratorially she whispered, "Are you sleeping with him or something?"

Lydia turned her head very slowly, fixing her with a glare. "No," she stated in a tone that broached no argument. "Because unlike you, Francesca, I do not set my calendar by whose bed I sleep in."

Francesca gasped, then stood up agrily and stormed away to the seat farthest from Lydia.

Scott burst out laughing, quickly stifling it as best he could though he couldn't stop laughing entirely.

Smiling thinly at Allison to assure her friend she pulled out her phone, carefully concealing it in her lap as class began. 'HELP' she typed, sending it to Stiles' number and praying he had his phone with him.

She completely zoned the teacher out, confident in her study skills and Allison's willingness to help her, waiting for a reply with baited breath as she ran the confrontation in a loop in her head. She could feel her heart slowly beginning to speed up, her control over her emotions slipping, when the screen of her phone lit up.

'What's wrong?' was his reply.

'I'm freaking out!!' she responded, hoping that he would know how to help her keep her head on straight.

'I remember tears streaming down your face.'

'WHAT!!' She was confused; this was not the help she expected.

'What song?'

She furrowed her brow in further confusion.

'I'm distracting you.' He elaborated. 'Play! I remember tears streaming down your face when I said I'll never let you go.'

Pursing her lips and sinking into her chair, after checking that the teacher was truly ignoring her, she thought for a few moments, the tune coming to mind easily. 'Safe and Sound, Taylor Swift. End credits of the Hunger Games.'

'All you gotta do is rub that lamp and I'll say "Mr. Aladdin sir what will your pleasure be?"'

This time her response was faster. 'Friend Like Me. Aladdin.' And as an afterthought she sent 'Duh.'

'Heaven's sake is that a spot! clean it up, we want the company impressed.'

Frowning she started playing with ways to sing it in her head, trying to place it. Then it hit her. 'Be Our Guest, Beauty and the Beast. Come on! Challenge me.'

'Out of the mists of history, there comes a man - sailing on ships across the sea to a wounded nation.'

This one stumped her. 'Huh?'

'You said challenge you.' he smart mouthed back.

'Sorry, I don't know it.'

'WHAT!!!' was his instant response. 'HOW CAN YOU NOT KNOW THAT SONG'

She smiled, biting her lip lightly to keep herself from laughing out loud.

'YOU ARE MISSING A PART OF YOUR SOUL.' he continued. 'WE HAVE TO REMEDY THIS IMMEDIATELY.'

Shaking her head she thought for a moment, typing quickly without looking at her phone. 'Can I come over tonight?'

'Pretty sure I'm over being contagious, if I ever even was.'

'Cool. I'll bring baked goods and we can share notes on the research.'

His response puzzled her. 'Ummmmmmmm.'

'That sounds great.' came a moment later. 'But - Scott is gonna come over and talk.'

'Well, I can come over after you two are done talking about whatever you need to talk about and then we can make it a sleep over. I'll sleep on the couch, obviously.'

'Nah, you can sleep in the bed. Scott and I will sleep on the floor. That should work. I'll text Scott.'

The last part made her heart beat a little faster. 'WHAT! NO!!' she sent that immediately, hoping to stop him. She sent 'We're in class, and I doubt his phone is silenced.' on its heels.

His response nearly made her laugh out loud. 'WAHT!!!!! YOU'RE TEXTING IN CLASS . LYDIA MARTIN WHERE ARE YOUR MORALS?!!

Covering her mouth with her hand to keep herself from laughing she didn't respond immediately. His next text was calmer. 'Wait, whose class are you in?'

'Chemistry. Harris.'

'HARRIS!' he sent back. 'HARRIS.'

She was about to ask what was so wrong when he texted multiple times in a row.

'ARE YOU CRAZY'

'HE'LL TAKE YOUR PHONE AND READ THE TEXTS OUT LOUD'

'JUST LIKE HE DID TO ME'

'HALKFJSLKADHFHASFASDFJ'

'DON'T TEXT ME 'TIL YOU'RE OUT OF CLASS'

'you seriously need a straightjacket.'

She couldn't help but laugh silently, wondering what text messages he was referring to. Deciding to mess with him a little she sent 'So . . .I'll sleep on top of the covers in between you two.' quickly followed with 'will that work?'

'STOP TEXTING ME THIS INSTANT YOU CRAZY WOMAN.'

'I MEAN IT.'

'anybody want a peanut?' she sent back, smiling.

'LYDIA MARTIN FOR THE LOVE OF LIFE.'

'STAHP'

Huffing a quiet laugh she tucked her phone away, breathing deeply and freely as she turned her attention to what the teacher was saying for the first time.

Stiles watched his phone with slight apprehension after his final text, hoping she would get the hint and stop. After two minutes of silence he relaxed, setting the phone down and returning to his game.

An hour later there was a knocking at the door before whoever it was came in right away.

"Hey Scott," he called to his best friend.

"Hey," Scott answered, quickly shedding his winter gear. Entering the living room he stood a little awkwardly.

"Dude, if you tell me Alison is pregnant, I'm throwing you off the roof," Stiles deadpanned.

"What! No!" his instant reply reassured Stiles and his overactive imagination.

"Good," he nodded, eyeing his friend.

"Can, uh, we go to your room?" Scott asked, not really wanting anybody to be able to just walk in on the conversation he was about to start.

"Sure thing," Stiles immediately shut his computer, sensing that whatever Scott needed to talk about was serious. He was a little apprehensive, but he knew that if Scott needed to talk, they needed to talk. They had spoken on serious matters throughout their friendship, guiding each other, supporting each other. Scott helping Stiles recover from his mother's death and illness and Stiles helping Scott recover from his father's abandonment. It was a give and take friend relationship, always had been.

With that as it was, Stiles had a feeling he knew what the topic was going to be in this up and coming conversation, and he did not feel ready to talk, but . . . he knew Scott. And he knew that Scott knew him. They were brothers like that.

"So," Stiles drew out the word as he shut the door, quickly moving to join Scott on his bed, back to the wall side by side, as was their pose for such discussions where emotions were a prominent topic.

"So," Scott echoed him. "I've been thinking." he began.

"Uh-oh," Stiles joked, lightening the mood a little bit.

Scott laughed, elbowing Stiles. "Yeah, right. Anyway. How are you holding up with all this?"

Stiles pursed his lips, immediately bringing his knees to his chest with his arms crossed, his fingers finding the strings to his hoodie and fiddling with them unconsciously.

Scott let Stiles think, recognizing the signs of turmoil in his friends stance, and his silence.

Searching for some clarity in his own heart Stiles sighed, knowing that this talk was gonna be a long one. "I have no idea."

"Just talk to me," Scott leaned over so he was lightly leaning on Stiles, bracing Stiles physically and emotionally. "Just let it out, all of it."

"I don't want to burden you with something that's not your burden to bear," he said slowly, feeling insecure and unsure.

Of course you don't, Scott thought, wishing for a brief moment that Stiles would stop trying to carry the world's weight on his own two shoulders by himself. "You have helped me shoulder a very large number of burdens in the past year that neither one of us ever saw coming. And yet, you never faltered. Even when I was quite literally trying to kill you, even when I intentionally hurt you, you stood by me and stayed by my side, even though you were mad as all get out at me."

Stiles snorted, remembering those days well.

"Do you think I'm blind to that loyalty?" he asks softly. "You think I'm unwilling to return that love?"

"What? No, of course not. Don't be ridiculous," Stiles looked at Scott sharply. "The last thing I'm doing is questioning your loyalty to me, I just . . . ugh." he ran a hand over his short hair. "I don't even know how to articulate it to myself, how am I gonna tell you?"

"Just pick a thread and pull," Scott shrugged. "It'll all straighten out eventually so you can see the strings clearly."

"Why does that sound familiar?"

"'Cause it's what you said to me when my dad left. So," Scott let silence fall for a few moments, sighing as he put an arm over Stiles' shoulders in support and comfort. "Stop burying it and tell me, please. Just talk Stiles. I'm worried about you, I wanna know what's going on it that head of yours. So talk to me, let me in."

"I don't know . . ." Stiles leaned his head back to stare at the ceiling. "Will o the wisps," he finally said after several minutes of silence, a million thoughts spinning in his head begging to be spoken. He settled on that one.

"What?" Scott was, understandably, confused.

"Will o the wisps, you know. Swamp gas, that floats around and, if you try to catch it, always escapes your grasp, never letting you get close."

"Okay," Scott nodded.

"Well . . . can you think of a better fitting description for Lydia Martin?" Stiles looked at Scott briefly, looking down as he started twiddling his thumbs with nervous energy. "Because I can't. I . . . I know I've, obsessed, over her - for a while now. And . . . and, it's like . . . like, she's not who I thought she was. I mean, she's a genius, brilliant. But," he put his hands over his ears, squeezing his head in frustration. "It's like I've built this image in my head about who Lydia Martin is, and I was okay with that because I was never gonna get to know her, you know? So it was okay to obsess, and . . . and build a delusion, because . . . I was never gonna meet her. I was never going to get to know her . . . I mean, she's the queen of the school and I'm, well . . . I'm me. But I have gotten to know her, and she's not matching the image in my head.

"She's . . . she's better. Kinder, sweeter, real. She fears and cries and makes mistakes and screws up and gets scared and she's real, Scott. And I don't want to screw up a friendship with her. I know, you think I'm nuts, that I'm obsessed with being her boyfriend, romantic relationship, all that, but the truth is . . . . I was obsessed, I am, was, whatever, obsessed with what she represented, or represents. To me.

"Control, over myself. My life. She has everything together, everything lined up and figured out, perfectly in control at all times and then . . . and then there's me.

"I fall apart once a year, drag my dad with me, and leave you to pick me up and put me back together. I'm humpty dumpty set on repeat and I just . . . I don't know how to break that pattern Scott, I don't know how to stop this, and I don't know how to get over mom, and I just . . . I need control! I need that control over my life, and Lydia symbolized that. And now, I see that she doesn't have control. She's not the perfect machine who never makes mistakes. Lydia Martin makes mistakes, and if she can't control her life what hope do I have, Scott? What hope is there for me?"

Scott bit his lip, fighting to control the tears that welled up at his friend's pain as Stiles started shaking, voice cracking as tears traced their way down his face while he spoke.

"Control is over rated," Scott told him after his friend fell silent. "I know you want control of your life Stiles, you're human. Every person wants to know what's coming in life, what to expect next, what they're gonna do, and I wish I could point you to the perfect answer in the world, but . . . there isn't one. Life is chaotic, and you can't even really rely on those around you because any human is gonna break any promise they make, because honestly when we promise something we're hoping - nothing more. We're hoping we're gonna be there when it all falls down, and we hope that we can help when it happens but really it all comes down to hope.

"You don't need to be in control of life, Stiles. If you keep trying to do that it will break you."

"It already has."

"No it hasn't," Scott's refusal of that statement was firm and instantaneous. "Nobody has broken you Stiles, you're not broken. You have walked through fire, for yourself and for me. And you came out stronger because of it."

"You suck at pep talks," Stiles sniffled, wiping his nose on the sleeve of his hoodie.

"Yeah I do," Scott begrudgingly agreed. "Listen, I . . . I know what you mean when you say you want control, and . . . and Lydia represented that. Role models are important, but . . . they can also be dangerous," he sighed. "When we finally see the human underneath the varnish, it can shake us, to our core.

"After I got bit, when I was changed, that first night I turned? I wasn't in control. I couldn't even remember what had happened. I asked Derek for help because he was the one who had all of the answers, all of the control in the world; all I wanted to be, was embodied in him - mostly. Controlled, powerful, content. Happy with his life," Scott snorted. "He's no more in control than I am. I mean sure, he can control the wolf, but he can't control life. He can put up a bullet proof facade but as soon as you start shooting at him he's gonna fall down and bleed.

"That's something that has made me sit down and reevaluate my perception more than once. But I'm glad, you know. Because it has shown me quite a few things. One; nobody's perfect. Everybody makes mistakes, everybody screws up, everybody has their life story full of pot holes, pit stops, dead ends, back tracks, and burning wrecks. The secret is to learn from the pain. Learn from the mistakes. Sure, you might repeat some of them; you might wind up feeling like you're spiraling out of control in a cycle that you can't stop, control, or escape, but even that teaches you a lesson. It teaches you to lean on those around you.

"If you rely on your own strength for getting through life, you're not gonna make it. Look at Lydia. She was trying to make it on her own and she was completely falling apart. If she had tried going it alone this morning instead of calling you? She would've probably wound up running out of the class room."

Stiles gave Scott a look.

"Yes, I listened in. She seemed really upset and I wanted to make sure she wasn't calling her mom or something. Anyway . . ."

"Number two?" Stiles prompted.

"Two; we can't fix the world, and we aren't responsible for its problems. All we can do is find ourselves, get our own two feet on the ground, and trust time to help us heal from the wounds life leaves. Because life does wound. It inflicts pain, and that pain isn't something that gets better when buried - if you bury it, it just festers, and infects you. All the anger, and the hurt, and the loneliness, and helplessness, it gets into your core and just poisons you from the inside out as you wonder why you weren't smart enough, or fast enough, or whatever.

"You're struggling, Stiles, because I think there are things that you haven't faced. Your mother's death? You still blame yourself for that. You see yourself as responsible for it and you spend every day of the month she died second guessing everything you did in those final days, wondering and speculating, and hating yourself for doing something wrong - for driving her away," Scott stopped to snag the kleenex box, wordlessly setting it beside Stiles.

"Listen to me, and listen to me good Stiles," he shook him lightly, encouraging him to look at Scott. "You, did nothing wrong. There's is nothing you could've done, and there's nothing you can do to change what happened. You have to let go of her Stiles, you have to let go of this guilt and self-hatred you carry around. You have to let go of your fear, and your doubt, and just embrace life.

"Life is not something we are meant to spend berating ourselves for the past, or worrying ourselves sick about the future. We are meant to enjoy it, step by step, breath by breath, dedicating our time and effort and energy to the people and things we love.

"Your mom's not here. And I'm sorry for that Stiles, I wish I could change that, I wish I could change what happened but I can't, and neither can you. And this . . . this avoidance you're practicing is just hurting you, more and more the longer it goes on. You have to face it, Stiles. Whatever it is that you are avoiding, burying . . . you have to face it."

Scott fell silent, just hugging Stiles as the boy cried softly, finally settling down after a little. Struggling for words he sat up, pulling out of Scott's embrace.

"What?" Scott kept his hand on Stiles' arm, refusing to lose contact with his friend. "Just tell me Stiles, just spit it out." he encouraged when Stiles seemed to be refusing to form words.

"I shouldn't be allowed to live," Stiles blurted, completely avoiding looking at Scott.

Scott's mouth fell open in shock. "What?" he breathed in horror. "Stiles, why would you think that?"

"Because she died!" Stiles shouted, standing and stepping away. "She died and it isn't fair! It isn't fair that I get to live and she doesn't!"

"Stiles that's not true," Scott reached for his best friend.

"Yes it is! It is true!"

"No it isn't!" Scott raised his own voice in return, feeling himself lose his temper at the ridiculousness of what his friend was saying.

John had gotten off of work on schedule, humming along with the oldies station as he drove home. Pulling into the drive he saw Scott's bike beside the garage, smiling. Those boys were inseparable, sickness or no.

Walking into the house he checked the living room but they weren't there, turning to check upstairs something caught his eye on the couch. Stiles' laptop. But why would that be downstairs if they were upstairs . . .

Worried now he ascended the stairs and, seeing the bedroom door closed, went to knock. Just before his knuckles touched the wood he heard voices in the room. Holding his breath to hear better he cocked his head to the side, catching a few snippets.

"You suck at pep talks," that was Stiles.

"Yeah I do."

Smiling in amusement he carefully stepped away from the door, not wanting to disturb their talk.

Smiling softly he descended the stairs as quietly as he could, setting about loading the dish washer before sitting down with some reports he needed to finish.

John lost track of time, not noticing as the minutes passed while he was engrossed in his work. A shout from upstairs caught his attention. Frowning he stood and moved to the stairs.

"Yes it is! It is true!"

That was Stiles; a very upset Stiles. Running up the stairs he knocked once perfunctorily before turning the nob and opening the door when he heard Scott say "No it isn't!"

"Everything okay?" he interrupted before Stiles could retort. Looking closely he could see that no, everything was not okay. Stiles was crying; had been crying for a while looked like, and Scott looked mad. Very mad. "Guys, what's going on?" he stepped into the room, reaching out to comfort his son.

Stiles stepped back, refusing the comfort.

"That's not true Stiles, and you know it," Scott said in a low voice, clearly upset by whatever Stiles had said.

"What is not true, come guys fill me in here so I can help," he tried to reach for Stiles again but he just withdrew further, bumping into the wall.

"Why don't you hate me?" Stiles spoke first, eyes locked on his father as he slid down the wall to sit with his knees to his chest.

"Why would I hate you, son?" John whispered, kneeling so they were eye to eye.

"Because I'm why she died, and . . . I don't deserve to live, because she died," Stiles hiccupped.

"Stiles, that is not true," Scott practically growled.

Running a hand over his face John internally cursed. "Stiles," he breathed, moving so he was more beside his son. "Look at me, son. Look at me please," he gently placed a hand on Stiles' knee, grounding him and pulling him to look at his father and see him. "Son, no life is worth less or worth more than any other life. Your mother loved you, with all her heart, and -" he had to stop to breathe deeply and scooted closer. "And I don't blame you for what happened Stiles. She was sick . . . okay. That's not on you, that's not on anybody."

Sobbing Stiles shook his head.

"Stiles," Scott carefully moved to sit beside him, sandwiching him in between the two. Biting his lip he thought over what Stiles had said, sorting through for something that was tickling in the back of his head. What was it? I don't know how to get over mom. That was it. "Hey buddy," Scott slid an arm around Stiles' shoulders. "Your mom loved you. I know it's hard to remember, and hard to believe, but she loved you. And I know you loved her, and I know you miss her, and . . . and I know you want her back, but -"
"I can't have her back," Stiles spat, wiping his face and nose on his hoodie's sleeves. "She's gone, and there's nothing I can do about that! I just . . . I don't understand!"

"Understand what, son," John pulled Stiles to lean on his chest, running a hand up and down his back in an effort to soothe him slightly.

"I don't understand," Stiles hiccuped lightly. "Why this is still effecting me. It was over a decade ago, she's been gone, I just . . . why can't I get over that?!"

"Because the death of a loved one isn't something you get over," John told him. "You miss your mom-"

"I barely knew her!"

"And that is supposed to, what? Rob you of the right to miss her? Stiles Stilinski," John pulled back and tipped his sons head to look him in the face, eye to eye. "You are a human being, you have emotions, you are allowed to be confused, and hurt, and miss people you don't remember."

"Sometimes it's the people you don't remember that you miss the most," Scott spoke up, speaking softly. "Instead of thinking, she used to do that, or that's how they did that, you're left wondering . . . is that how they laughed? How did they write? What did they sound like singing in the kitchen? Did they like dancing in the streets to their favourite songs? Did they belt Weird Al out at the top of their lungs while staging a food war?"

Stiles sniffled, snuggling further into the two people on either side of him.

"And it's okay to wonder," John picked up the thread. "So long as you don't get lost in the past. Now, I'm not saying you can't think of them, or wonder, or feel sad and miss them every now and then, but . . . putting your life on hold for them - it's not fair to you."

"And it's not what they'd want either," Scott punched Stiles in the arm very lightly.

"Gotta keep moving forward," Stiles whispered.

"You have to keep living," Scott sat up and faced Stiles. "You can't let the grief paralyze you, Stiles. You can't live your life hating yourself and thinking that you don't deserve to live. That someone else deserves to live in your place. We . . . nobody deserves to die, Stiles. Everybody deserves to live, but you see . . . the thing is, we don't get to decide who lives and who dies. And if we don't have the power to grant life then we have no right to hand out death like it's candy to those who, quotation marks 'deserve death'. Everybody has their own life story-"

"Some are just filled with more wow moments," Stiles finished for him, nodding in agreement as he breathed deeply, sniffling and rubbing his nose.

"And sometimes, in order to get to the good times and lots of laughter you have to trudge through a million swamps that you really, really don't want to deal with."

"What's that pick me up tumblr post? Something like, imagine if your life was a book, and all the, what was it?"

"If you ever feel bad about yourself," Scott started, recalling the details quite clearly. "Just remember that if you were a fictional character people would probably love you for all your flaws and quirks and mannerisms that you probably hate. And, you are the gutsy sidekick in one story, the protagonist in another, someone's antagonist, and somewhere out there, there is a group of people who are being held riveted with what is going to happen next."

"Those people are right here," John spoke up, squeezing Stiles tightly. "I love you, son, and I know . . . I know this has been tough on you-"

"It's been tough on you too," Stiles cut him off, a bitter edge to his tone.

"Life's tough. It has its challenges, and trials, and we all go through them Stiles. Just because I struggle sometimes doesn't mean you have no right to have problems that you need help with."

"And it doesn't mean you have to get through it on your own. We lean on you, we rely on you . . . you can lean on and rely on us. It's not a crime to need help and need to just sit down and bawl every now and then," Scott watched Stiles intently, making sure his words, and John's words, were reaching the young man.

"I know," Stiles sniffed, staring at his hands while fiddling with the draw strings to his hoodie. "I know that . . ."

"Just not comfortable with practicing it," Scott finished for him.

Stiles nodded mutely.

"One day at a time," John unconsciously echoed what Stiles had told Lydia that morning. "Just deal with what comes as it comes. Stop burying things, son - face them. We're here for you, whenever you need us."

Nodding emphatically Stiles sat forward, swallowing thickly.

Sitting like that for several minutes while John rubbed soothing circles on Stiles' back, he was able to settle his breathing down and they just offered silent support to him.

"Now," Scott sighed in slight relief as John stood. "What do you want to do?"

"Lydia was wondering if she could come over tonight," Stiles said softly, snagging the kleenex box off the bed to blow his nose several times.

"What like all night, here?" Scott was surprised. "She really has changed."

"No," Stiles disagreed, shaking his head while he tossed the used kleenexes into the trash can. "She's just letting herself be herself around us."

"That still scares me," Scott smiled, bumping Stiles' leg with his foot.

"What does?" Stiles looked over his shoulder at him, confused.

"The way you can see right through Lydia like that."

Shrugging he stood, turning to face his dad.

John pulled him into a tight, long hug, not letting him go for several minutes. "I love you son," he whispered. "And . . ."

"I know," Stiles nodded, smiling.

"Good," John nodded back. "I got paperwork to finish up, so . . ."

"Go ahead; Working tonight?"

"Yeah; we've got overtime to use up or lose so we're all pulling long weeks. You two keep safe, you hear?."

"You too. Come back."

"I always do," John shut the door with a farewell wave to Scott.

Standing Scott moved to hug Stiles.

"Oh come on man, really?" Stiles dodged him.

"Yes really, now hold still," Scott dragged him backwards and bear hugged him, squeezing tightly but not too tight.

Sighing Stiles relaxed into the hug, feeling better although he did not feel quite comfortable with all the hugging and crying and touching that had been going on this evening.

"Wanna text Lydia and ask when she's coming over?" Scott finally released Stiles.

Breathing deeply Stiles nodded, pulling his phone out of his pocket to do just that. 'Hey Lydia, still wanting to come over?'

Lydia hummed under her breath while she danced in the kitchen, gathering ingredients and measuring utensils as she whipped up a quick batch of waffles to throw in the fridge and take with her to the Stilinski house.

She was a little apprehensive, now that she'd stopped and thought about all the possible repercussions of her actions.

Stiles' words, words that he probably didn't remember saying, had been popping into her head all afternoon.

There are four things that can't stay hidden for long - the sun, the moon, the truth, and Lydia Martin's disdain for Stiles Stilinski.

Did she really act like that?

She knew she acted like a snob. She was a snob - had been called that to her face and behind her back quite frequently. She wanted her room just so, she needed this specific locker, and everything had to organized just so, and whenever she was partnered with someone or a group of people she usually wound up being the one to give orders and organize the whole thing.

She was a leader. People naturally allowed her to lead, and she was quite happy to take the position. And acting that way, being the snob, had ensured her a place . . . rather it had secured her the place of school queen. She was the popular girl. The one who everyone wanted to be friends with. And she liked that. She liked that attention.

She didn't want to be the nerd who wore baggy shirts, shredded jeans, and had two pony tails that served as rat nests, with braces and bulky glasses covering half her face. To be the outcast of the community. To be alone with nothing but numbers for company . . . such a reality terrified her. She loved being loved, having everyone like her and pay attention to her.

Which is why she played dumb. She didn't flaunt her smarts. Sure she aced her classes. She aced them effortlessly, that was expected. But nobody paid any mind to it, because she showed no ambition outside of the classroom.

She excelled in every class, but everybody put it down to pure study and dedication to school, because outside she was an utter ditz. She worried about make-up and boys and what skirt got her the most attention, and had the Lacrosse Captain as a boyfriend.

Nobody ever looked past that.

Nobody saw the notebooks upon notebooks filled with theories and conjectures such as Hilbert's problems and the Riemann hypothesis, the twin prime conjecture, (failed) proofs that ten is a solitary number, Euclidean geometry, the algebraic number theory . . . the list of problems and conjectures she spent every second she dared poring over proofs and methods, trying to solve them, to find the rhythm behind them, the order in the chaos.

Nobody saw that, or so she thought.

It turned out somebody did see that.

Stiles Stilinski saw Lydia Martin for who she really was. A smart girl who hid it in order to be in the spot light. Turned out she wasn't that smart, because she had been ignoring the one person who saw her.

How many times had she just walked by him, never deigning to reply to his hello, never reacting to his kind compliments, or verbally acknowledging him in any way whatsoever. No wonder the guy was so insecure around her.

Part of him must wonder if the girl he saw really exists.

Part of her wondered the same thing. After all, what kind of girl deliberately made people think she was a shallow, spoiled rotten brat? A human one.

Sighing she tucked the dishes into the dish washer, sticking the plate of waffles into the oven to keep warm and headed upstairs to pack a bag for that night. And maybe write something, as an apology for being so . . . ditzy. And vague.

She smiled. Yeah, she was definitely going to write something.

Sitting reading through her handiwork Lydia blindly reached and grabbed her phone when it started vibrating, her text alert going off. Wow, it was later than she had thought it was.

'Hey Lydia, still wanna come over.'

'Sure.' was her instant reply.

'Cool. When should I expect you?'

'Give me fifteen minutes.' she sent, then carefully folded the piece she'd written before putting it in her bag and zipping up the suitcase with her jammies, brush, toothbrush, journal, notebooks, and tablet, along with other miscellaneous items she had packed. She hated getting bored when away from home.

Trotting downstairs she set the suitcase by the door and went to the kitchen, wrapping the pan of waffles in foil before stuffing it into an insulated carry bag as well as grabbing the tote bag of baked goods she had packed earlier.

Carrying those two items to her car she shut the door and locked it after grabbing the final bag, her mother pulling into the drive as she put the bag in the backseat.

"Hi mom," she greeted, walking around the car to the driver's side

"Hey honey? Sleep over?" her mother fished out the car keys, barely looking at her.

"Yeah," she replied, not elaborating. "I have my phone. See you!"

"Love you honey!"

"Love you too, mom," she muttered, starting the car and putting it into reverse.

She arrived at the Stilinski house a little under a quarter of an hour later and was greeted by Derek pulling in beside her.

"Hello," she greeted, opening the back door.

He gave her an unsure look, like he wasn't sure if he should run or help, but then he saw the three bags she had and walked around to assist her.

"I can handle it," she assured him, but didn't protest further when he took the pan of waffles.

"Dinner?" he inquired, raising an eyebrow.

"Thought I'd help pull my weight in the household. And waffles sounded really good to me, so . . ."

"They smell good," he opened the door for her, letting her go in first.

They were greeted by the sound of Scott and Stiles singing, rather well, along with the Prince's 'Agony' from Into the Woods.

Lydia couldn't help it. She burst out laughing, stepping out of her shoes and continuing on into the house.

The singing immediately stopped, with the music stopping shortly afterwards as Stiles barreled into the kitchen and nearly collided with Lydia as he sock surfed on the tiled floor.

"Lydia!" he crowed, engulfing her in a hug.

She laughed, returning the hug warmly.

"John working?" Derek asked, sliding the waffles into the oven to keep them warm.

"Yeah," Stiles finally released Lydia from the hug, silently offering to take her suitcase upstairs.

"Yeah, just let me get something," she knelt and pulled out the folded paper before handing the suit case over. "Hey Scott," she greeted him as he peeked around the wall.

“Hey,” he greeted kind of shyly. “Sorry about, that. We thought you'd be a little later . . .”

“Oh,” she laughed. “It's fine. I love that movie, saw the play on Broad Street for my fifteenth birthday as a matter of fact. The movie is fabulously done - and I have to admit I fell in love with Chris Pine's voice. My word, he can sing.”

“Yeah, I think that kind of took everyone by storm,” Stiles joined in the conversation, leaning on the door jam.

The room was silent momentarily as they all realized just how awkward this was.

"Feeling better?" Lydia asked after a few moments.

"Much, yeah," Stiles rubbed the back of his neck lightly. "Was a little feverish and unsteady yesterday, but after some food and a lot of rest I'm a lot better."

"Cool," she smiled, rocking back and forth on her heels a couple of times. "Oh, here," she thrust the paper at him, a little nervous now that she was actually giving it to him. "This is for you."

"Thanks," he took it, a little hesitantly, unfolding it and beginning to read.

Unable to take the nerves watching him read caused she unzipped the tote bag, pulling out cellophane wrapped plates and tuber-ware containers.

"What is all of this?" Scott walked over and watched, lending a helping hand as much as he could. Taking stock he saw cupcakes, muffins, dozens of cookies, a couple of pies . . . the woman seemed intent on opening a bakery from the Stilinski kitchen.

"Oh, I was bored yesterday, with no school and my mom was at a get together with her friends so . . ." she trailed off, looking it all over. "I think I might have gone overboard a little . . ."

"It looks delicious," Derek spoke up from sitting on the steps.

"Is everything alright with you?" she inquired. "You seem a little, off."

"Yeah, he hasn't been sleeping well," Stiles spoke up, folding the paper.

Biting her lips nervously Lydia took a deep breath, fighting the urge to hug him tightly when she saw unshed tears in his eyes. He wordlessly handed the document to Scott, who opened it with a puzzled look and then started reading.

The people in our lives are the ones who build us.

Our mothers make sure we have a good foundation;

we can cook and brush our teeth and comb our hair.

Our fathers make sure we can ride a bike,

throw a ball and host a barbecue.

We know how to help out and eat cookies

thanks to our Grandmothers,

listen to stories told by Grandfathers,

and learn different games from our cousins and uncles.

Aunts also do things for us,

along with the family friends,

the kindergarten teacher,

the music instructor,

the librarian.

We truly don't understand how much we rely on them,

how much we trust them and lean on them for support

until they aren't there anymore.

Sometimes we get a warning,

a chance to say goodbye,

but other times they're just . .

Gone.

But they aren't gone.

They are inside us;

in our memories,

in our hearts.

We are their legacy,

their memorial.

They may not be there any more,

but their mark will never fade -

their mark is on our heart.

We ask ourselves how can we go on

how can we continue,

what are we going to do without them.

We can go on because they built to do so

they gave us the strength to get through life

We willl continue because that's what they equipped us for -

they gave us the tools they thought we'd need in this life

What will we do without them?

We will never be without them,

because they will never leave;

We will always remember them.

They are the ones who built us.

Scott had to clear his throat after reading it, feeling his eyes moisten at the heart felt truth that was in her words. Spontaneously reaching over he dragged her into a tight hug, make her laugh nervously before returning the hug.

Smiling as he pulled back he saw a matching smile on her face as her eyes danced, happy to have helped, even a little.

"Thanks," Scott voiced what he knew Stiles was unable to say right now.

"So," Stiles piped up. "Anybody up for a video game?"

"We can't all play on your computer," Scott protested.

"Which is why I fished out the link up to the tv and always know where the controllers are. They're up in my room, I'll go get them," he hurriedly ran upstairs, eager to have an excuse to compose himself in private.

"Thank you," Scott said once more after Stiles was out of hearing distance.

"No problem," she assured him. "Just something that came to mind when I was thinking of him earlier. How's he doing? Really?"

"He's doing good," Scott nodded, leading her into the living room to sit on the couch while he took a seat in the chair. "We, uh . . . we talked. Earlier. About, things."

"Yeah," she nodded, clarifying at his slightly puzzled look. "He had mentioned, in a text, that you had wanted to talk."

"Ah. When did you guys text?"

"Chemistry," she answered, pursing her lips. "Honestly, I missed the entire first half of that lesson."

"Chemistry! Really?" Scott seemed shocked, and terrified.

"Oh my word, it was a text to you that Harris read aloud wasn't it?"

"Wha-"

"Found them!" Stiles came around the corner brandishing the three controllers and a long cord. Noticing the sudden silence he frowned. "What'd I miss?"

"Oh, nothing," Lydia relaxed into the couch, feeling her nerves ease slightly. "I was just going to try and get Scott to tell me what conversation Harris read aloud that has you so terrified of the man."

Stiles winced, visibly and dramatically. "I knew I shouldn't have told you that."

"What, is it that embarrassing?"

"No," Scott shook his head. "It's just . . ."

"You'll think we're crazy and need help," Stiles set about setting up the computer so they could play. "Like, actual, medication - mental health - help."

"Uh-huh," she nodded. "To late, I already know that's true. But, we're all crazy to our own degree."

"We all have a spark of madness in us," Scott joked.

"Nice, Mark Twain," Lydia was impressed.

"Yeah, I like his stuff. He was a pretty good writer."

"You 'like' his stuff," Stiles levelled a look at his best friend from where he was trying to untangle the TVs wires. "Dude, you obsessed over him for five years straight."

"Oh, really?" Lydia smiled, curious. "So, what got you interested in his writing?"

"A satirical essay," Scott answered readily, moving to lend Stiles a hand with all the wires he was wrestling with. "I can never remember what it's called. Ummm . . ."

"The Devolution of Mankind," Stiles answered for him. "Or, something like that."

"No, that doesn't sound right . . . the, the, the," Scott tried to job his memory. "The Lowest Animal!"

"Oh! I loved that essay when I read it," Lydia exclaimed, grinning. Spotting Derek in the kitchen looking in the fridge she got up and slipped around the boys as they sorted out the connections. "You're welcome to the cookies. I know they aren't the healthiest dinner to have, but . . ."

"Thanks," Derek smiled, but it faded quickly.

"Are you alright?" she laid a concerned hand on his upper arm.

"Fine," he quickly reassured her.

"Mm-hmm," she didn't believe him for a second.

Sighing he looked to make sure the boys were occupied before leaning against the fridge and crossing his arms. Hesitating slightly he sighed again.

Leaning against the table behind her Lydia crossed her ankles, cocking her head in an inviting gesture. "I won't judge."

"I . . . arranged, for something to be done," he admitted softly.

"A bad something," she inquired, concerned.

"No," he shook his head, then stopped. Looking torn he tipped his head back and closed his eyes. "Maybe?"

"Do you regret it?" she asked.

Looking at her sharply he seemed to consider the question.

"I mean, why do you think maybe it's bad? Is it what you think, or is it what someone else thinks and is projecting on you?"

"I was mad - not really mad . . ."

"Seeking vengeance?" she asked, getting an inkling of what this was about.

"Yes."

"Vengeance is understandable."

"It is right?" he asked, his question catching her off guard.

Considering the question she weighed her words carefully. "I think, that . . . if someone hurts your family . . . you have every reason to hate them. And you have every reason to react. But . . . that being said, it's better to respond than to react. They do something you do something. That's reaction. They do something, you stop and think and then respond in such a way that you win. That's responding. It's kind of . . . confusing, but I think you get what I mean."

He nodded wordlessly, mulling over her words.

"Is she dead?" Lydia asked after a beat.

"No," he answered honestly.

"Then you made the right call," she smiled, turning to go.

"What's the way to win?" he asked softly.

Turning back she pursed her lips. "The way to win? By responding? Never let them drag you down to their level. I failed in that, with Jackson. With this whole mess, I initially failed. Don't take a life for a life, Derek. It won't be worth it. It'll just add weight to a burden that is heavy enough as it is."

He nodded, swallowing as he seemed to be looking for words.

"Now," she pulled out the last plate from the tote bag, holding it out to him. "Go eat some of these and then collapse in bed. You look like you haven't slept soundly in days."

Leaving the plate in his hands she turned and walked back into the living room, taking the chair as Stiles and Scott sat side by side on the couch setting up their characters.

"Everything okay?" Stiles asked, concerned about Derek.

"Yeah," Lydia answered honestly. "He's just tired. A little hungry."

Derek took his leave of the three teens, trusting the boys and knowing they would never, ever, even think of hurting Lydia. Making his way to his room he shut and locked the door, slipping his jacket off and hanging it on the door knob. Unwrapping the plate of five cookies, three muffins, two cupcakes, and a turnover, he saw a note tucked under the baked goods.

Furrowing his brow in confusion he pulled the note out from under the baked goods, sitting down on the bed to read it after setting the plate down on the end table.

Dear Derek, this is odd.

I just, wanted to say - Thank You. For the ride home Monday. And, for not judging. And . . . I just, feel that I owe you a Thank You. You've been through so much, and you're still standing. Still caring. So thank you, for being an example I can follow. And for Stiles and Scott as well. I can see you're like the older brother neither knew they had.

Lydia

Re-reading the note for good measure he folded it again and took a deep breath. Wow.

He was way too tired to deal with all of this.

Changing into a clean pair of flannel pants and a looser shirt he collapsed on the bed, not even bothering to pull a blanket over him. He was exhausted, and quickly drifted off to sleep to the muted sounds of the three friends’ good natured competition.


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