Dedication

Saturday

The three teenagers didn't notice when the clock turned past 12 o'clock on the wall.

First they had played video games. Then they had dinner of warmed up Hale mac'n'cheese, after which Lydia declared she was providing the startup money for the Triple S, and a dessert of baked goods followed by a round of board games.

Then the cards were retrieved from the cubby hole in the kitchen, and a chaotic game of Egyptian rat screw commenced.

After that they elected to watch movies.

Terminator Salvation was Scott's choice.

Lydia selected Arabian Nights, at which point it was roughly three a.m. when they started it but no one noticed.

After the two hours and fifty-five minutes long movie was done Stiles decided it was time to watch a tv show. Upon learning that Lydia was unfamiliar with the BBC drama shows he decided that The Musketeers was as good a one as any to start with.

So it was that at eight a.m. on Saturday morning Sheriff Stilinski entered his house to find three teens sprawled on his living room floor with the third episode of The Musketeers playing on the TV with no one watching it.

Smiling fondly he carefully took out his phone, snapping a picture of the trio before he ascended the stairs and changed out of his uniform. Softly treading down the hall he gently opened Derek's door to check on him, smiling when he saw the Were-Wolf sleeping soundly for once. Slipping into the room he laid a blanket on Derek's still form before taking his leave and retiring to his own bed to catch a few hours of well needed sleep.

Scott was the first to wake, blinking rapidly and yawning as he stretched, smacking his lips to get rid of the odd cotton mouth feeling in it. Carefully standing he went to the kitchen and poured himself a glass of water to hydrate his mouth, sitting down at the kitchen table to watch the tv show.

He inevitably found his attention wandering to watch his brother sleep, the hyperactive buddy that had been by his side through thick and thin.

Scott knew that he could never truly understand what Stiles went through when he lost his mother, but part of Scott - a part that felt traitorous and petty - almost envied Stiles. After all, it wasn't like Stiles' mother chose to leave. She was sick. The sickness killed her.

Nobody could stop it or change it.

Scott's dad . . . well. It was a sore point, for Scott. Something that he had dealt with as best he could, moved on from as well as he could, and tried not to think about too often. For a while he'd been mad; blaming everyone, everything, finding someone or something that he could fault for making his dad leave.

Even Stiles. He remembered one day in particular that Stiles had taken a little too much Adderall and Scott just snapped. Middle of home class. Screamed and yelled about how if Stiles hadn't been the hyperactive idiot that he was Scott's dad wouldn't have needed to leave in order to get some peace.

Then he had run home and locked himself in the bathroom with a pile of junk food. His mom tried to get him to come out, even the Sheriff had sat down and talked to Scott through a wooden door.

But it was Stiles that got him out. Stiles was the one that sat down and didn't leave, no matter what Scott yelled or what Scott did, Stiles didn't leave. He stayed until the sun came up, and finally, when he was sick of not being able to talk to Scott face to face he unscrewed the hinges and took the door down. Something no one else had thought to attempt.

And that's when Scott knew that he was being an idiot. He was looking for a reason; an explanation that could shine a light of logic on his father's actions. But that light had left along with his father, and he was never going to find it - no matter who he screamed at or what room he locked himself in.

That was the turning point of that episode. Well, that and a stern lecture about how locking yourself into a bathroom with nothing but junk food and no rope to descend down through the window was the dumbest plan on planet Earth, and that blocking out the people that were still there was not going to bring back the one person who wasn't.

So Scott moved on. He recovered, and learned to get along without his father. He had father figures in his life - the Sheriff being the most prominent. The insanities that man put up with while they were arguing over who had impressed the teacher more, or the fights about which house to sleep at.

And then Scott had found himself in the middle of the woods, alone and lost, and that night changed his life forever.

But he was wrong. It didn't change his life forever - it changed Stiles' life as well. Because Stiles was the one that never left. Sure he ran, but that was what any sane person would do when faced with what Scott could become.

But he never stayed gone. Even when he was mad at Scott, the silence didn't last more than two days, tops. He always came back. Like a boomerang. But he was a lot more than just a person who stubbornly refused to abandon Scott.

Stiles was a support, really the only constant support - aside from his mom and the Sheriff - that Scott had ever had. And Melissa and John were all well and good, and he loved them, but there were just some things you couldn't talk about with them. They were older, outside of high school, the generation specific trials faced by their children that they had never specifically come up against.

Yeah. Stiles was his brother, in all but blood. And he was also the most stubborn, selfless person Scott knew.

Stiles could however come across as selfish. In fact, most people believed he was nothing but a selfish, self-centered, unempathetic spaz.

Scott knew better. He had memorized Stiles' defenses long ago. He knew every wall that Stiles had built.

And he knew the reason behind the walls.

Fear.

Stiles didn't want to let people in when they were just going to leave again. He didn't want to be one of those who was loved then left. So he guarded himself. He hid behind a smart mouth and a quick tongue and he taught himself to look after the people in his circle first. And he rarely let anyone new into that circle.

Which is why Derek and Lydia took Scott by surprise.

Okay, Lydia - he understood. Stiles had had a crush on her since the first time they met, and now that his chance to actually know her was open, he was leaping at it. He was extending the support he knew she needed, and learning to trust just a little bit more while he was at it.

Derek, though. That took Scott by surprise. As did the fact that Derek seemed to be accepting Stiles into his own tight circle.

Stiles had been quite ready to let Derek die, and had even asked Scott to consider leaving him to die. But now, Derek seemed to have won a place in Stiles' circle. And vice versa.

Scott remembered the first months with Derek, the doubting, judging, forever alone wolf that fended for himself and his interests first. Now, it seemed, that philosophy had been weakened.

Scott's musings were interrupted when Lydia yawned and stretched, sighing.

"Morning," Scott greeted her softly.

"Morning," she smiled, carefully getting up so she didn't disturb Stiles, and joined him at the kitchen table.

They sat in silence for a short time, before Lydia turned her back on the tv and faced Scott with a 'we need to talk' look.

He sat up straighter and set his glass off to the side, mentally preparing for whatever was coming.

"Wow," she laughed quietly. "I really do have an aura sometimes."

He chuckled. "What's up?"

"Stiles is going to be okay, right?" she asked hesitantly.

Scott smiled, nodding. "Yeah, he's gonna be fine."

She accepted his words with a nod, fidgeting with her hair. "So . . . should I do anything, or not do anything, or-"

"Just, be yourself," he assured her. Taking a deep breath he decided she needed a little bit of an explanation for the sake of her peace of mind. "Stiles, has some trust issues. Not really trust issues, it's just . . . his mother's death. . . . the way his mother died. It scarred him. And that's not a scar that any amount of time or counseling is going to erase completely. It's a bit of an open wound, especially this month."

She gave him a qestioning look.

"It's the month she died."

Her mouth formed a silent 'o' of realization.

"He has this fear of abandonment, which . . . has kind of been reinforced once or twice."

"How so?"

Hesitating he took a sip of water, thinking. "My dad left. And, it kind of . . ."

"Got him thinking 'who's gonna leave next'?" she said understandingly. "I know what you mean. My parents are divorced - I don't know if you knew that, you probably did. It was the happening of the year when it started. Two years in court contesting different things. He wanted the Van Gogh he'd given her and she wanted the autographed baseball . . . purely spiteful petty little disputes that neither was going to let the other one win."

Scott nodded, remembering the bomb shell that news had been, shocking the whole town; the Martin's had always seemed like the happiest couple in Beacon Hills.

"The only thing they didn't fight over having custody of was me," she laughed bitterly. "They fought over who'd be stuck with me - mom said I needed a father figure in my life and dad argued I was a girl, so he wouldn't know what to do."

Scott silently reached over and took her hand, offering a modicum of comfort.

Breathing deeply she sighed, leaning back in her chair. "I guess we've all lost something in our lives, huh?" she smiled.

"I guess that's how we know we've lived."

"But seriously, with Stiles. I don't mean to sound so helpless, but . . . what do I do?"

Considering for a brief moment he squeezed her hand. "Just be his friend. That's all he wants from you."

"You're sure?"

"Positive. I know he may seem like batman, all 'alone is what I have and love', but the truth is he's a little bit of a lonely soul. He loves people, and he loves solving problems, but he's been rejected so many times by people . . . all he wants is someone to accept him."

"Friends it is. That works perfectly for me," she nodded resolutely, withdrawing her hand to wipe away a few errant tears that had slipped out.

"I'm glad," Scott smiled, turning his head slightly to look at Stiles out of the corner of his eye.

"Do you think they'd mind if I showered?" Lydia asked.

"No problem, I'm sure. Go ahead, I'll tell Stiles where you are when he wakes up," Scott assured her. "Stiles' bedroom is the one to the left then immediate right at the top of the stairs. Bathroom is adjacent."

"Thanks," she smiled, trotting up the stairs.

Scott waited until he heard the bathroom door close and the water start before turning to address Stiles' still form. "Don't even bother continuing to pretend."

"Aww man," Stiles flopped over onto his side, his wide open eyes shining with alertness. "How'd you know?"

"I do have super hearing, you know. I knew the moment your breathing and heart rate changed."

"Bugger," Stiles frowned. "I'm gonna have to work on perfecting the Ranger's technique."

"Still won't be able to fool me," Scott threw a balled up napkin at his friend's head.

"Batman? Really?" Stiles tossed the napkin back and got up, going to the fridge to retrieve the milk and grab the cereal from on top.

"You were quite free to weigh in at any point," Scott shrugged.

"I only heard half the conversation," Stiles pointed at. "Which you know, since you know when I woke up."

"So how do you know it was half the conversation? What's to say we didn't sit up and talk about you all night long?"

"I can hear when people are talking in my vicinity and it always wakes me up. I can't sleep through conversations," Stiles returned the milk, grabbing a spoon before sitting down to breakfast.

"Yeah," Scott huffed a laugh in agreement. Going about fetching his own breakfast he heard the door to Derek's room open and close.

"You know it really sucks that they didn't fight over Lydia," Stiles said.

"Mm-hmm," Scott agreed whole heartedly.

"What were you guys talking about anyway? that brought that up I mean."

"Morning boys," Derek spoke softly, stretching at the bottom of the stairs.

"Morning," they greeted in synch before returning to their conversation.

"Ask Lydia," Scott told Stiles.

"What? No!"

"Why not?"

"'cause then she'll know I was awake for part of the conversation."

"Oooooh," Scott wiggled his fingers spookily.

Stiles levelled a glare at him, not impressed.

"Am I seriously going to have to lock you two in a room and leave you there to get you talking?"

"We talk!" Stiles defended instantly.

"Have you spoken about the Jeep incident?" Scott pressed.

"Jeep incident?!" Stiles snorted. "You named it!"

"Yes, I named it! It's an important occurrence, I named it."

"How on earth is that event an 'important occurrence'?"

"Well, you had a meltdown-"

"Not that rare of an occurrence."

"In front of Lydia-"

"I'll admit that was a first, except for my first panic attack, but a panic attack isn't really a meltdown-"

"At the end of which you abandoned her in the Jeep at the side of the road and ran to the cemetery while it was pouring freezing rain."

"It wasn't pouring," Stiles corrected. "It was drizzling a rather cold liquid form of precipitation."

"All precipitation is liquid," Derek pointed out.

"Snow isn't," Stiles retorted without missing a beat.

"Snow can melt," Scott threw back.

"Exactly!" Stiles brandished his spoon in victory. "If it were already liquid, it would be incapable of melting. Hence, it is a solid precipitation that later transforms into a liquid once the temperature rises."

"Oh my word I can't believe I actually walked into that," Scott put his head in his hands.

Stiles cackled with laughter, setting his bowl in the sink to wash later.

Derek shook his head at the boys' antics, smiling slightly when he saw Scott was eating a bowl of macaroni and cheese for breakfast.

Getting a bowl of cereal for himself he sat down and listened to their joking banter.

Danny was in his room, sitting at his computer, surfing the web. It was his Saturday morning routine that he had fallen into - a cup of coffee on his right, radio playing on his left, just relaxing from the stress of life, school, and . . . life.

His Mom still wasn't home, which wasn't out of the normal, and the neighbors were actually being relatively silent for once on the weekend.

Hearing a knock on the apartment's front door he frowned, checking the time. Eleven o'clock. His mom usually wasn't home until one or even two.

Getting up he grabbed his baseball bat from the corner of his room on his way to the door, leaving the chain on while he cracked the door open. "Jackson?"

"Hi," Jackson's voice was raw, reflecting his haggard appearance of dark circles that were beginning to resemble new moons, red rimmed eyes shot through with visible blood vessels and mud caked clothing that was wrinkled and torn.

Danny immediately unchained the door, setting the bat to the side and ushering his friend into the apartment. "What happened? Are you okay?" taking a deep breath he tried not to gag as the smell of alcohol swept over him as he walked behind Jackson into the living room.

Sitting beside him on the couch Danny's mind spun, wondering what was going on. He stilled, heart speeding up when Jackson reached under his jacket and pulled out a gun, setting it on the coffee table.

Remaining stock still Danny stared at the weapon, his mind flying into overdrive. "What's that?"

"A gun," Jackson said matter-of-factly holding his head in his hands so that his voice was slightly muffled.

Swallowing Danny nodded. "What's it for?"

"Killing things," Jackson's tone remained neutral.

"Jackson," Danny fought to keep his voice steady, unafraid, even as his pulse raced and he had to wipe his palms on his pants. "Jackson what did you do?"

"Nothing yet."

"Yet?!" Danny's shout made Jackson flinch away, leaning backwards while running a hand down his face.

"Do you have any painkillers? My head is killing me," his voice was soft, noncombative and defeated.

Thrown by the question it took Danny a moment to respond. "Yeah, sure. Stay here." He stood and went to the kitchen, fetching the alieve from the cupboard and filling a glass with cold water. His mind spun with unanswered questions - what was Jackson planning? was Lydia okay? should he call the police right now, or wait and see what happens? was Jackson going to kill him?

Returning to the living room he froze, nearly dropping the glass and bottle. His heart resumed beating after a split second, his blood running cold. "Jackson?"

"Yeah?" Jackson's eyes never left the barrel of the gun pointing at him as he held it in his hands, thumb stroking the handle, fingers dancing on the edge of the trigger guard.

And it all clicked. Everything, all of Danny's worries melted away in sight of this new, un-thought of, unthinkable course of action playing out in front of him. "Jackson," Danny walked towards him slowly. "Give me the gun."

Jackson didn't respond. He just sat, staring at the crafted metal in his hands, lost in a world of his own thoughts.

"Jackson," Danny ignored that his voice was most certainly not steady and had a definite waver in it now as he begged, terrified. "Please, just . . . give me the gun. Just hand it to me."

Jackson's lack of response made Danny stop think. "Okay, okay, okay," he retreated from pressing in that way. "You don't have to give it to me. It's okay," he sat down next to Jackson, eyes locked on Jackson's face. "Hey, here buddy. Here's the pain meds and water for your head, okay?"

Jackson reflexively set the gun down on the coffee table to accept the glass of water and bottle of pills.

Forcing himself not to leap at the gun Danny waited until Jackson had handed the pill bottle back before casually reaching down and grabbing the gun, standing and walking several steps away before he checked the safety. Mouth dry he clicked it on, pulling the magazine out to unload all of the bullets from it. Relaxing slightly once it was completely unloaded, he took a deep breath, turning to face Jackson. "Can I call someone?"

Jackson shook his head emphatically, setting the water down and watching Danny with a guarded expression.

"Okay, I won't," Danny promised, searching for a place to hide the gun. Spotting a likely place in his mother's room he slipped in and locked the bullets and magazine in two different places, stashing the gun on the top shelf of her closet. He'd retrieve the items later.

Returning to the living room Jackson was in roughly the same position he'd started in - head in his hands, face hidden, shoulders hunched. Broken.

He tensed when Danny sat down close beside him.

"Shh, it's just me," Danny assured him. "It's just you and me here, Jackson. Just us. Talk to me, Jackson. Please? What's going on in that head?"

"You hate me," Jackson muttered.

"No I don't, Jack-"

"Yes you do," Jackson cut him off, turning to face him. "You, McCall, Lydia, Stilinski, even Coach. She's the pretty victim and I'm the evil bad guy!"

"NO," Danny spoke firmly, confidently. "Jackson that's not true! You are not the bad guy, there is no bad guy in this okay? We may not agree with what you're doing, but you don't hate you, hey, look . . . look. Jackson. I'm sorry," Danny laid a hand on Jackson's shoulder, half expecting his friend to recoil. "I'm sorry, oaky? I - I shouldn't have said what I said to you, I shouldn't have did what I did. That was stupid, I, was stupid and harsh, and I overreacted, but . . . . . you know what, there is no but. I have no way to justify what I did, what I said, I had no right, I have no right to treat you like that, Jackson. You're my best friend, and I threw you to the wolves and I'm sorry for that okay? I'm so sorry for that." Danny didn't fight the tears that gathered in the corners of his eyes as he thought of what he'd done, what he'd almost pushed Jackson into doing. "I'm here now buddy. Just, talk to me."

"I was scaring myself," Jackson whispered. "I went out to shoot some cans at the preserve in a clearing by a creek, and I got to drinking and I just - I started scaring myself!"

"Okay, it's okay now," Danny soothed, rubbing his hand up and down Jackson's arm. "I won't let you be stupid, I promise. Guns up, unloaded. Safety's on."

"You're sure it's on?" Jackson's eyes were fear filled, wide, searching.

"I turned it on myself, you want me to check?" Danny offered, though he was careful to not hint where exactly the gun currently was.

"No, I believe you," Jackson relaxed marginally.

"Okay," Danny resumed running his hand up and down. "That's good. I'm glad you trust me; what scared you?"

"I just got to thinking," Jackson shrugged. "What would happen - you know? what would happen if I just . . . pointed and pulled," he mimed with his fingers.

Danny quickly pulled Jackson's hands down, stopping the motion and grounding his friend with his own very shaky hands. "Hey, don't do that." Swallowing he took a deep breath to ground himself. "That scared you?" he asked to make sure that was all that had happened.

"I just thought, what would happen? Would it matter?"

"Yes it would matter! Jackson it would matter - YOU matter, to so many people. Lydia loves you, Stiles and Scott - you guys have never been best friends but forget that, because you know what. I would miss you. You, are my best friend. You're the one who never laughs at me, you've never left, you stood by me, you stand by me, and Jackson I'm sorry I failed you - when you needed me the most I failed you, I walked away and left you and I'm sorry Jackson, I am so sorry. But don't leave me. Don't leave me, don't make me live without you, please. Please Jackson."

"Okay," Jackson cut in, tears in his eyes as he shook from emotion. "I won't, and . . . and I'm sorry, too. I panicked. When Lydia told me. I panicked and I started trying to find a way out of it. An easy way out where we all won and nothing changed, and-"

"There is no easy way out," Danny spoke softly. "There's no way out of this changing things, Jackson, but - but. Lydia's said, you don't have to be involved in the child's life if you don't want. Just . . . just remember that, Jackson. She isn't going to make you do something you don't want to do, okay? Remember that for me, okay?"

Jackson nodded, swallowing thickly and leaning back into the couch exhausted from lack of sleep and too much alcohol.

"Can I call someone?" Danny asked after a moment.

Forcing his eyes open Jackson frowned. "Who?"

"The Sheriff."

Jackson immediately shook his head, stilling when it aggravated the throbbing in his temple. "No."

"Hey, look," Danny protested. "I think you need to talk to someone a little older than me, okay? someone a little more weathered. Please? For me? For you?"

Thinking it over Jackson slowly nodded, relenting.

"Alright,” standing he went to the kitchen and unplugged his phone. Dialing the Sheriff's office he waited as it rang, fingers crossed.

Beacon Hills Sheriff’s Office, this is the Sheriff speaking,” the stolid voice of Sheriff Stilinski greeted Danny.

Breathing a sigh of relief Danny rubbed his eyebrow with the back of his thumbnail. “Hello Sheriff, this is Danny.”

Hey Danny, what can I do for you?

“Would you be free to come over to my apartment?”

There was a moment of silence. “What's going on son?

Biting his lip he glanced at Jackson, who appeared to have fallen asleep. “Okay, shortened version of events is this - about forty minutes ago Jackson showed up at my place, hung over and looking like someone dragged him through a more mud than water creek. He had a gun-”

Are you-”

“I'm fine! The gun's unloaded, safety on hidden in a room. Jackson's still here, and he's . . . he's in pretty bad shape. I don't think he's been sleeping lately, and this whole thing has his head spinning. You, you know what's going on right?” Danny's gut clenched at the thought that he was going to have to explain that too.

Yeah, Stiles told me . . .” pausing the Sheriff sighed. “Look, I've got a thing to look into, it'll take me ten minutes tops. I'll be over there as fast as I can. DO NOT leave him alone, under any circumstances. You understand?

“Yes sir. Thank you, sir. We've talked, it's just . . . I'm really worried about him.”

You made the right call Danny. See if you can get him to sleep.

“I think he already drifted off,” Danny checked on him again - he was in the same position as before. “He's either asleep or dozing, 'cause he hasn't moved. His breathing is even also.”

Good, sounds like he could use some sleep - stay with him, call the station if anything happens you can't handle, okay? Keep that gun away from him.

“Yes sir, see you in ten minutes,” Danny locked him phone after seeing the Sheriff had ended it first, going out to sit on the couch.

Jackson didn't stir, so Danny just sat and watched the clock on the wall, giving up after three minutes had passed and starting a game of mazes on his phone.

Adjusting his gun so it rested easier John knocked on the apartment door fifteen minutes after his call with Danny ended. He waited anxiously for the door to open, smiling a greeting to a rather stressed looking Danny as he entered the dwelling. “Living room?”

Danny nodded, pointing the way. “I'm making tea; peppermint, it's a stress reliever. Figured it might help him, get some liquid in him at the same time.”

“Good thinking,” John patted his shoulder. “You've handled this well, Danny. You've got a good head on your shoulders. Go ahead, I'm gonna check Jackson over.”

Ducking his head Danny went to the kitchen, leaving the Sheriff to make his own entrance.

Pausing in the doorway John took in the sight before him. He'd seen Jackson on several occasions of course, at Lacrosse games, around town. He didn't know the kid particularly well, but he was familiar with the story. Parents left, raised by his loving grandmother - rich, and privileged, and a little bit of a snob. John had always gotten the impression that he was a good kid though. A bully, if Stiles' stories were anything to go by, but he had the potential to be a good person; he just, didn't act on that potential.

Some people in the world, they wanted to be the best they could be because they believed that was their rightful place. They believed they were gods on earth and that was their status, nothing changed that opinion - ever. Jackson on the other hand, struck John as the type who wanted to be the best he could be so that people would love him.

Somewhere along the line of his parents leaving and his grandfather dying he got it in his head that as long as he was the best at everything people would stay and never leave.

And this whole fiasco had reinforced that philosophy. Cursing under his breath quietly he ran a hand through his hair, clearing his throat as he moved over to the couch and sat down.

"Hey son," he spoke after Jackson opened his eyes.

"I'm not your son," Jackson's voice was thick, and John would swear he saw tears pricking the corners of the boy's eyes.

"No, but your somebody's son, and that somebody treasures you, I'm sure."

Jackson snorted, and John could practically see the rich brat walls going up. "Have you been paying attention to my parents? 'Cause, uh, I don't know if you know, but - they aren't around."

"Well then they're aren't your parents, are they?" John posed the question to him, imperceptibly nodding in approval when he saw that make Jackson stop and think. "You don't get to call yourself a parent for having a kid and dropping them at the nearest doorstep. Do you think I'd be called a father today if I had just, dropped Stiles off at Mrs. McCall’s front porch and said 'you raise him?'. No. Melissa would be his parent. Because she would be the one who was always there for him and never gave up on him and never gave in to all of the doubts spinning in her skull caused by fear.

"Fear that you're gonna screw up. That you're gonna scar them for life and ruin them completely. Destroy a life that isn't even yours. Being a parent is terrifying."

"Then why do it?" Jackson interjected, fidgeting.

"That's a good question," John leaned back, confident that he had Jackson's full attention now. "You do it because children are gifts. They have a way of lifting a burden we never knew we bore. But, they bring their own weight of responsibility with them. And there is nothing wrong with not being ready to shoulder that weight."

"If I don't, Lydia will be alone."

"No, she won't - and she isn't. Trust me Jackson, Lydia is not alone in this; and neither are you. Don't let yourself think that you are alone - that mentality is a dangerous place to be in, especially when you're mixing it with booze and bullets."

Jackson eyed the Sheriff, weighing his words. "What do you know about it? You've always had it together."

John laughed, shaking his head as he just laughed at the ridiculousness of that idea. "Me," he pointed to himself. "You think I have always had it together? Jackson I still don't have it all together."

Jackson gave him an unbelieving look, clearly indicating he didn't buy it.

"Look, when . . . . when Claudia died - my wife," John sighed, clasping his hands. "When she died, I was lost. Up was down, sideways was black, right was white, nothing made sense . . . I mean, I was out of it. I put the plates in the toaster and the bread in the dish washer and couldn't figure out why Stiles refused to eat his breakfast or unload the dishes, I mean," he laughed, running his hand through his hair. "I couldn't do it. Life, after Claudia, I couldn't see a way through, a way . . . onward. Facing a life without her, a possibility I had never really truly faced, I . . . . I was lost.

"Stiles, was my anchor. Every time I got drunk, every night I started eyeing that gun sitting on the coffee table I forced myself to stumble upstairs and watch my son sleep. The steady rise and fall of his chest, his eyes fluttering with dreams . . . snoring occasionally. Children really are gifts, Jackson. For me, Stiles is the only reason I'm standing here, employed and sober - not to mention breathing. But," he stressed the word. "Children, can also be the reason our world falls apart. Look, Jackson . . ." he turned to face him better, prompting Jackson to sit up properly and meet his eyes. "This thing, between you and Lydia, this child. It's part of both of you."

Jackson nodded, dropping his eyes.

"But, I realize that neither of you planned on this. It's a reality neither of you expected to wind up living, and that's scary. Shoot, it's terrifying. It's upending both your worlds and you can't find your feet, and it's okay to admit that, Jackson. Lydia, has made her choice. She wants to keep the baby, and that's fine. It's her choice. Now. It's your turn. Now, you have to make a choice, Jackson. But listen to me, and listen to me carefully before you make a decision - nobody has to die. Death, is not a solution here; it isn't a solution at any time, in any situation whatsoever. No life has to be ended in order for people to be happy. All death brings is tears and pain and loss, okay?"

Jackson nodded emphatically, fighting tears.

"Come here," John reached out and pulled him closer, hugging him tightly. "It's okay to cry, Jackson. Nobody's gonna laugh at you. The week you've had, you deserve to cry."

Danny stood in the doorway, tears silently tracing their way down his own face as he watched the Sheriff rock Jackson back and forth as the boy sobbed. Quietly coming over he set the hot tea on the coffee table, going over to Jackson's other side and hugging him from behind, sandwiching him between Danny and the Sheriff.

Several minutes later Jackson was calmer, as well as emotionally and physically - not to mention mentally - drained.

"One more thing before you go to sleep, Jackson," the Sheriff smiled as Jackson yawned widely, sobering he sighed. "Do I need to put you on a suicide watch? And," he forestalled the instant denial. "It's okay to admit you need help, Jackson. I know Danny is a trusted friend, but I don't want you two boys trying to deal with things on your own. If you need help, if you want help, I want you to speak up, 'cause I can't help if I don't know."

Jackson sipped the warm tea, savoring the flavor of peppermint before swallowing and slowly nodding. "I . . . I think . . ."

"You're scaring yourself, and you're not sure if you trust yourself to be alone," John spoke for him, putting a comforting hand on Jackson's knee. "I'll have Parrish stop by and keep an eye on you. He's laid back guy - easy going and supportive. Which is what you need. You gonna stay here?"

"Yeah, I think I will," Jackson looked to Danny.

"Of course you're staying here, don't be silly."

John couldn't help but smile and think of how similar they were to Scott and Stiles.

"Don't worry, we'll get this sorted out," Danny smiled, an arm around Jackson shoulders supporting his friend. "No worries last forever, right?"

Jackson smiled tiredly.

"Okay," John clapped his hands together softly. "First order of business is to get you in a bed sleeping until you wake up on your own. How much sleep have you been getting?"

"A few hours?" Jackson sounded unsure.

"Okay, that's . . . that's pretty good," John looked impressed.

"This week," Jackson clarified shyly, wincing as he said it.

John's eyebrows shot up. Pursing his lips he nodded, processing that. "Straight to the shower, out of those clothes," he pointed at the muddy apparel Jackson was wearing. "Get yourself scrubbed down and into some clean, comfortable and warm clothes, then straight to bed. I'll stay here until Parrish arrives and you're asleep."

Jackson nodded, handing the mug to Danny as he stood, swaying slightly. Danny steadied him, setting the cup on the coffee table before guiding his friend to the shower and grabbing a pair of pajamas that would fit him.

Leaving Jackson to the warm water he rejoined the Sheriff in the living room, smiling shakily.

"You're a good friend to him," John observed, sitting down.

"Eh, not as good a friend as you're thinking," Danny sat down opposite the Sheriff.

"What do you mean?"

Danny hesitated. "I abandoned him," he admitted. "When this all started, when he told me, and told me he was trying to convince her to abort the baby, I . . . I blew my top. Called him a self-centered bastard who was worse than his own father, I . . . . it was ugly. Knock down drag out, nearly ended in fists. Only reason it didn't is I left. I just, walked away - the moment he needed me the most, and I just. . ."

"You did what you thought was right," John interjected.

"But -"

"No," John cut him off. "There are no buts in situations like this. No, sitting down and looking back to see what you could've done differently, what you should've done differently. Mistakes were made, these are the consequences. Don't compound the consequences by making another mistake. And you know the biggest mistake you can make?"

"What?"

"Second guessing your own loyalty," John stated firmly. "Look; obviously, mistakes were made. Learn from them, face them, deal with them. I'm guessing you already have to some extent. Although you might want to revisit that later when he's not falling asleep while talking."

Danny laughed, nodding.

"And look at it this way. No true friendship is without conflict. It's the conflict that reveals the true depth of the friendship. I mean, when Jackson was in trouble, who'd he come to? You. And when he asked, when he showed up, what did you do? Did you turn him away and say sorry, no thanks, not interested? No. Of course not. You brought him in, sat him down, and took the gun away. Where is the gun, by the way?"

"Oh, it's - it's in here," Danny led the way into his mom's room, retrieving the gun from the closet and the magazine and bullets from their separate drawers.

"Smart," John nodded in approval at the lengths Danny had gone to. Smart kid. A little over the top, but a smart kid. Efficient, and intelligent. Taking the bullets he loaded them into the magazine and then tucked that into one pocket while he tucked the gun into the other pocket. "I'll keep hold of this. Tell Jackson that."

"Yeah, I will," Danny nodded, following the Sheriff back into the living room.

"I'm gonna call Parrish, 'kay?"

"I'll check on Jackson," Danny left the Sheriff alone, reaching the bathroom door just as Jackson opened it. Looking bleary eyed and beyond exhausted Jackson was swaying on his feet, yawning almost continuously.

"Hey buddy," Danny gently grabbed Jackson's arm, guiding him into Danny's room to collapse on the bed. Tucking Jackson in he smiled when he saw that Jackson was already fast asleep.

"We'll talk when you wake up, 'kay bud?"

He didn't get a reply, but he was satisfied. He had his friend back, and he vowed to himself that he was never going to turn his back on Jackson again.

Lydia licked the fork and spoon before setting them down on her plate, smiling in thanks when Stiles took it to the sink. "You seriously need to set up a restuarant," she grinned at Derek.

Derek rolled his eyes, pointing an accusing finger at Stiles. "You see what you've done?"

"I do, and I'm quite proud of the fact, honestly," Stiles grinned at him.

Scott laughed, helping Stiles load the dishwasher.

"Well, I hate to eat and run . . ." Lydia stood, smoothing her skirt out a little nervously.

Stiles laughed. "Eat and run? Lydia, you've been here all night, all morning, and a portion of the afternoon, seriously. It's fine. We all have our lives," he pulled her into a hug.

Chuckling she hugged him tightly. "Thanks, for, you know. Being my friend, and supporting me like this."

"Hey," he shrugged, pulling away. "What are friends for?"

"Yeah. Anyway, I'd better go get my bags," she trotted upstairs, retrieving the suitcase from Stiles' room before coming down stairs and snagging the pan the waffles were hauled in to stuff it into the tote bag. "You're sure you don't need me to take any of the baked goods home?"

"Nah," Stiles shook his head. "Dad'll probably take some to the station, share 'em with the deputies. They'll love it. Maybe you could open a bakery beside the Triple S. You know; dinner and desert side by side sort of thing."

Lydia laughed, nodding, "Maybe."

Derek just shook his head and sipped his coffee, pointedly ignoring them.

"Well, I'll help you out to the car then," Stiles picked up the suitcase and went out to her car while she slipped her boots and coat on.

Scott sat down opposite Derek, leaving Stiles to bid Lydia farewell.

"Bye Scott," she waved. "See you later. You too, Derek."

"See you Monday," Scott waved in return, turning his attention back to Derek after she had shut the door. "Are you okay?" he asked the reticent wolf. He had noticed Derek seemed withdrawn; quiet, reflective, shy almost, which wasn't unusual for him, it was just unusual to see him so . . . morose and depressed and still around people. Usually he stayed away from people when he was in those moods.

"No, I'm not," Derek leaned back and sighed, staring at his coffee cup.

A little surprised at the quick confession Scott clasped his hands and leaned forward. "What's wrong?"

Derek shrugged, his eyes flicking up to meet Scott's for a split second before returning to the mug. "Just, not in the mood for people right now."

"Oh," Scott nodded, understanding the sensation. "What do you usually do?"

"Honestly I haven't been around people this much in . . . in a while. Seriously, I've been here, all week long. Stiles is a - . . . . look, I'm not slamming him, he's just -"

"He's a barrel of energy that gives the energizer bunny a run for its money when he's tired," Scott nodded. "What do you usually do when you get feeling overwhelmed? I mean, you know what's wrong, so you must know . . ."

"How to fix it?" Derek finished the sentence and sighed. "Yeah, I do."

"So . . . . what's the sticking point?"

"The Sheriff has declared my house a danger zone and has motion sensors surrounding the perimeter of the land," he stated matter-of-factly. "I go out there, I get trailed by a bunch of nervous probably trigger happy cops who think will be looking for a mass murdering sociopath."

"Ah."

"So what other release is there?" Stiles startled them both by speaking up from behind Scott. Raising an eyebrow he shook his head in mock disappointment. "Honestly, and you two are supposedly werewolves with super senses," hefting himself up to sit on the corner he tapped his heels against the cupboards lightly for a couple of seconds. "But seriously, answer my question. Is there someplace else you can go to just, be alone. Breathe the air and listen to the clouds move without anyone stumbling upon you and volunteering to cheer you up."

Derek shook his head. "Not in this area."

"So leave the area, Derek," Stiles spoke in a 'don't be an idiot' tone of voice.

"And what is your dad gonna say to that?" Derek challenged.

"Oh, what, you wanna play 'the world is against me everyone hates me' fine, fine, let's see how reasonable you're being okay? You're insinuating that my dad is going throw a fit because you happen to want a mini vacation so that you can calm down and exit the danger zone of blowing your top and taking someone’s head off. That sound about right? Okay, well you know what? Kiss that reason good bye," Stiles pulled his phone out of his pocket, hitting the speed dial for his dad.

"Hey Stiles, what's up?" John answered quickly.

"Yeah, I'm fine Dad. Listen, Derek is having a conniption; wants to be away from civilization for a day or two-"

"Just, an evening and night. I know it's dangerous with Kate out there, and I'm not underestimating her," Derek cut in.

Stiles shifted the phone away from his mouth. "I thought your bounty hunter buddies were gonna catch her?"

"What bounty hunter buddies?"

"I haven't heard from them."

"Heard from who, Stiles?"

"Scott, I'll tell you about it later," Stiles assured him, returning his attention to the phone. "Yeah, he says just an evening and night. He'll be back tomorrow morning. That kosher?"

"Oh, let me think," Stiles could hear the sarcasm in his father's voice and could easily picture the expression on John's face at that moment. "Duh. Yes, it's fine. He's not under house arrest, just keep his phone on, on him or near his vicinity at all times."

"Thanks Dad," Stiles ended the call, shooting a 'you're such an idiot' look at Derek.

Derek rolled his eyes, smiling briefly at Stiles. "In that case," he stood up. "I'm taking my Camaro. Be back in the morning."

"See ya," Stiles bid him farewell a little saucily.

"So," Scott leaned back in his seat. "Bounty hunters? And how much of that conversation did you hear?"

"Come on, I'll explain the Bobba Fett and Zam Wesell reference upstairs while you try and beat this energizer bunny's record at Skyrim," Stiles jumped off the counter and smacked Scott's shoulder lightly as he walked past him.

"Zam who?"

"Oh my gosh!" Stiles groaned. "Have you still not seen Star Wars! Dude, you promised you'd watch it!"

"Sorry," Scott held up his hands and ran past Stiles before he could get hit again. "We can watch it next weekend!"

"Or, you can spend the night again and we can do a marathon tonight."

"Mom'll never allow it!"

"She'd better allow it! This is a vital part of your pop culture education we're talking about here! Seriously."

Lydia stopped by her house, dropping off the tote bag with the pan inside it before driving on to Alison's. Putting her teal automobile into park and turning it off she sighed, leaning her head on the steering wheel for a moment to breathe deeply and brace herself. She hadn't slept a lot last night, and the morning had been taken up with poring over research with Stiles which was something she really appreciated and was beyond grateful for but . . .

Her head hurt, her mind felt like mush, and she just wanted the world to shut up for a couple of hours, at least.

A sudden knocking on her window made her jump. "Hey you," Alison greeted with a smile, laughing at her surprise. "Come on," she opened the door. "Let's get inside."

Unbuckling and getting out of the car she got her suitcase out of the back seat, following Alison up the steps into the house and into the living room.

"So," Lydia set the suit case down, a little at a loss. "What are we doing today?"

"Relaxing," Alison pulled Lydia down onto the couch, enveloping her friend in a hug. "I figure we can clean our nails, take a bubble bath . . . or two," she grinned, glad to hear Lydia laughing so freely. "Then paint each-other’s nails and talk."

"About?" Lydia relaxed into the hug further, feeling the tension she had been ignoring melting out of her body.

"Movies, actors, who's hotter - Chris Pine or Jay Ryan, boys, school, teachers," Alison shrugged. "Girl talk."

"Oh, how I've been craving girl talk," Lydia grinned in anticipation of losing herself in meaningless conversation for the remainder of the day.

"Well, you're getting your fix tonight," she got up. "Now, everything's in my room, so do you want to move it down, or move us upstairs?"

Debating for a moment Lydia pointed up. "Move us up. Where are your parents?"

"They're doing some, thing, for helping the authorities figure out where my aunt is."

"Ah," Lydia bit her bottom lip. It looked like she wasn't the only one who could use a distraction. "And by the way," she hefted her suitcase, following Alison up the stairs. "Jay Ryan is definitely the cuter one."

"What?" Alison gasped in mock outrage. "Have you heard Chris Pine's voice?" she demanded.

"Have you seen Jay Ryan in Beauty and the Beast with Kristin Kreuk? Seriously? I don't care how blue Chris's eyes are, or how deep and amazing his voice is."

"Oh, so we're basing this off of the characters they play?" Alison laughed, ushering Lydia into her room.

"I guess. Vincent is so handsome, and I'm referring to his personality here. He's so . . ."

"Tortured, mysterious, and wreathed in mist as far as getting to know him goes?" Alison gave Lydia a knowing look.

"What?" Lydia flopped onto Alison's bed, closely followed by Alison.

"Oh come on. I have been biting my tongue all week," Alison rolled over onto her stomach and propped herself up on her elbows.

"Biting your tongue about?" Lydia wasn't sure where this was going.

"You, calling me to get Stiles' number so you could 'check up and see how he was doing'."

Lydia's mouth dropped open in shock. "Alison Argent, you are not insinuating what I think you are!"

"What do you think I am?" Alison gave her a look that spelled pure innocence.

Lydia snorted. "You know, that look is way to over worked for nefarious purposes to be taken seriously as the plea of innocence it is intended to be. There is no quicker way to make me think you're playing me or trying to trick me than to pull an 'aren't I so innocent and cute' face on me."

"Oh, come on, Lydia. I'm not trying to trick you, or manipulate you, I just want to help. You've got a million feelings rolling around inside of you and I doubt the boys were open to discussing them last night. Especially since one of said boys is the source of several of those confusing feelings."

"I'm not confused!" Lydia defended, immediately realizing her mistake. "You've got to be kidding me," she groaned, burying her head in a pillow. "Can we just do our nails? You promised mindless girl talk, not torturous interrogation."

Alison laughed. "Oh, alright. But this is not the end of this discussion. It is to be continued."

"Fine," Lydia huffed, throwing the pillow at Alison's head. "But if I'm talking about Stiles', you're going to talk you're feelings."

"What feelings?" Alison sounded genuinely confused as she pulled out the manicure/pedicure kit she had stuffed under her bed.

Lydia levelled a look at her. "The ones you never talk about. About this whole, your aunt is a mentally unstable possible sociopath who has been implicated in the recent murder spree and the fire that killed the entirety of Derek Hale's family."

"Not the entirety," Alison argued, defending her aunt marginally. "Just . . . the majority . . ."

"Okay, that's it," Lydia took the kit away and unzipped it, spreading it between them on the bed. "Hands or feet first?"

"Feet, then we won't mess up our hands," Alison decided after a moment, shaking herself out of the thoughts that had started to surface.

"Wise logic," Lydia slipped her shoes off, throwing her socks on top of the suit case. "So, what did I miss Thursday?"

"Nothing much. Though Scott did punch Cody Johnson."

"What?! You say I didn't miss anything and then say Scott punched Cody Johnson," Lydia was shocked, selecting a pair of nail clippers. "How did that happen?"

"Well . . ." Alison cringed, picking up her own set of nail clippers.

"Oh my word, Scott was defending my honor, wasn't he?"

"Let's just say I have the distinct feeling that had Stiles been at school we would be trying to figure a schedule that fit weekly visits to see him in prison into our college plans, because Stiles probably would've wound up killing Cody."

"Do I even want to know what he said?" Lydia asked slowly, processing that.

Alison shook her head. "I'm not repeating it, under pain of death I wouldn't repeat it. I will say this - I'm never, ever teaming with Cody Johnson on any assignment what so ever, and if you ever speak to or acknowledge him I'm going to strangle you myself. That man has the mind of a sewer rat and the tongue of a racist viper."

Lydia was wide eyed, pausing in her trimming. "Are you sure Cody's still alive? because it's sounding like you wanted to kill him yourself."

Alison sighed, nodding. "Yeah, I was furious. I wound up having to physically restrain Scott, with the help of Danny and Coach, though, so me slugging Cody wouldn't have helped the matter. I think part of what made Scott so mad was Cody insulted Stiles too. Not that Scott wasn't defending you, it's just-"

"Scott is a loyal guy. Once you're in his circle, you're never getting out," Lydia smiled,

"Not alive," Alison grinned.

Lydia laughed. "Yeah," she shook her head. "If Cody insulted me and Stiles?" she winced. "I almost wanna say I pity him, but then I decide that I really don't. I am so sick of being what everyone else thinks I am. They're all so shocked that I have a brain, it's like . . . ugh. I'm regretting ever wanting to be popular." she laughed a little awkwardly.

"Hey," Alison reached across and poked her in the nose lightly. "Don't regret that. You're a powerful personality, Lydia. Leading is where you belong. So, you had to hide a little to beat the stereotypes. Now, you can show them that stereotypes are bull crap. Just because you're pretty and can knock any guys socks off doesn't mean you have to be shallow, selfish, and stupid."

"Thanks," Lydia ducked her head, smiling shyly. "That . . . that's really encouraging."

"Good," Alison smiled back.

The two lapsed into silence, but it wasn't awkward.

Moving to trimming their finger nails Alison cringed. "I always suck at this."

"Let me," Lydia offered.

"Really?" Alison perked up, grinning. "That would be great!"

"Get over here you," Lydia grinned back.

"Sooo . . . ." Alison settled in beside Lydia, giving her hand completely over to Lydia's control.

"Oh my word, you are seriously not going to leave me in peace until I talk about it, are you?" Lydia moaned.

Alison smiled shyly, shrugging. "I'm honestly a little shocked, I mean . . . Stiles is nice, and sweet, and gentle . . ."

"An absolute dork extraordinaire that knows the difference between geek and nerd who is so not my type? Yeah. He's not my type, Alison. We're just friends," Lydia focused on Alison's nails. "Now time your questions carefully or I'll wind up butchering these poor things."

Alison chuckled, rolling her eyes. "Uh-huh. So what he's not what you think of as 'your type'? Didn't we just get done talking about forgetting about stereotypes?"

"Isn't the popular girl falling in love with the utter geek a little to Disney trope to not be a stereotype?" Lydia reached for the file, having cut all of the nails on Alison's right hand.

Alison just pursed her lips and cocked her head, remaining silent.

"Oh my gosh," Lydia threw her hands up in despair, looking towards the ceiling with a beseeching expression. "I am not in love with Stiles Stilinski! How would you like me to phrase that so it gets pounded through your skull the fastest way possible?"

"Isn't denying it sort of, like, confirming it?" Alison shifted to Lydia's other side so she could do her left hand.

"I am not denying it," Lydia went back to trimming again, leaving the fine filing for Alison to do.

"Then what are you doing?"

"I'm . . . " she sighed, gathering her thoughts. "I'm finding out that stereotypes are not always true," she finished quietly. "The cocky, awkward, sarcastic, hyperactive people in our lives are not always the flawless idiots we originally perceive them as. Everyone has something locked away in their hearts that they don't want anyone else to see. I mean, even Derek - brooding, terrifying, suspected murderer, Derek Hale - is . . . vulnerable. I mean," she laughed. "Okay, if you tell anyone this I will hurt you."

"I won't tell," Alison gave her instant word.

"Monday, before you guys found out and a day after I found out myself, I was an absolute mess. Jackson was hounding me to agree to abort, I was all alone, no one to turn to, to lean on. I went driving - I had to get away from people, just sit and bawl privately by myself, or I was going to lose my mind. So I drove to this remote little overlook of a lake that I don't think even Google maps has marked.

"So there I was, sitting there bawling my eyes out when who knocks on my window but Derek Hale. Scared the life out of me, and it made me mad. For some reason I got this ridiculous notion in my head that Stiles had somehow contrived to have Derek follow me," Lydia laughed at Alison's face of disbelief. "I'm not kidding! I started yelling at him, demanding to know what his business was there. He stated that he was just getting some air, escaping from a house of teenager energy. Then, he guessed what I was thinking. He knew, exactly, why I had reacted that way. That I had thought Stiles had him checking up on me. Which is ridiculous, really, because yeah Stiles might have been a little creepy in fourth grade with following me around like a literal puppy dog, but . . . he's changed.

"Anyway, Derek told me to go home because I was on the edge of being in danger of catching hypothermia. Apparently he didn't trust me to drive though, so he offered me a ride home. I was all snotty and like 'how exactly am I gonna explain that one' and he . . ." she laughed at the memory. "He looked thoughtful for a moment before grinning at me and stalking over to my car. He popped the hood, took the distributer cap off of the engine and threw it into the woods."

Alison gasped. "He did not!"

"He did!" Lydia giggled. "Then he just strolled over to his car like, coming princess? and . . . well, I had no choice then. Because I was really cold, and he'd just disabled my car, so . . . I threw his jacket at him and got in the car, although I gave him the silent treatment all the way to my house, aside from giving him directions, and then threatened to crucify him if he ever told anyone of the incident."

"Wait, how'd you wind up with his jacket?"

Lydia hesitated, thinking. "Oh, right. Well, I was ice cold, having kept the engine off. And it was Monday, so you know - it was pretty cold, like, courting the negative range via wind chill, cold. So, yeah. He offered his jacket to me while we stood outside the car looking out over the lake, and then . . . I was so mad at him for doing that to my car, I just."

"You didn't need the jacket anymore, you had the fire of wrath inside of you," Alison joked.

"Yup!"

"So . . ."

"So?"

"Studying the lake? Really? You were studying him weren't you?"

"What?! No! I -"

"You totally were," Alison giggled as she filed her nails down, watching Lydia as the girl trimmed her own nails.

Sighing in defeat Lydia nodded begrudgingly. "Yeah, yeah, I totally was," she laughed.

"So, what did your studying reveal?" Alison asked, genuinely interested. She had never spent much, if any time, around Derek - well, aside from that dinner at the Stilinski's, but . . . other than that, he was a stranger to her. A stranger that she had shot, twice, but it wasn't like she could talk to Lydia about that.

"Well, it got me thinking about what he was hiding."

"Hiding?"

"We all hide something. Usually we hide who we really are, especially around strangers. It got me thinking of how lonely he must be. He lives all alone in that creepy house. His entire family is dead, and the one member who actually survived to make a miraculous recovery turned out to be part of the reason his family died, you know? That . . . that just sort of steals your breath, you know what I mean?"

"Yeah, I do," Alison whispered.

"Oh Alison, I'm so sorry,” Lydia froze. “That was thoughtless of me to-"

"No," Alison hurriedly reassured her. "It's fine, I . . . I need to talk about it. To face it. To deal with it. I just . . ."

"You're lost at sea and have no idea how to anchor yourself because all the anchors you trust no longer seem trust worthy."

"Exactly."

“Well,” Lydia chewed on her lower lip in thought, switching the trimmers to the other hand. “I know how you feel.”

Alison smiled. “That means a lot,” she admitted. “Not being alone, in this . . . I mean. I feel alone. I'm an only child, to a family who . . . .” well. She couldn't really tell Lydia what her family did, for real.

“Who what?” Lydia was intrigued, and concerned. It wasn't like Alison to keep things back like she was obviously doing now. “Alison, what were you going to say?”

“I can't tell you,” Alison looked to her with tears in her eyes. “I really want to Lydia, I . . . I can't though.”

“It's nothing illegal is it?”

Alison shook her head, although she admitted to herself that technically it was. It wasn't like murder was sanctioned just because the victim was a different race.

“Alison?” Lydia prodded, getting really worried.

“I thought I knew my family, you know?”

“I thought I knew myself, my friends . . . the resident king geek.”

Alison laughed at that, a bit teary still.

“Look, I don't want to press you into telling me something that you can't, but . . . everything's alright, right?”

“Yeah,” Alison nodded readily. “Just this whole episode with Aunt Kate, it . . . it makes me wonder if I really know my family, I guess.”

Lydia reached over and took her hand, giving it a comforting squeeze. “I know you and your Aunt were close . . .”

“She was kinda a big sister to me,” Alison nodded, sniffing once before reaching over and grabbing a kleenex.

“I am so sorry you're going through this Alison,” Lydia whispered. “I wish I had a magic phrase that would just, lift the world's weight from your shoulders, but I don't. Your Aunt loves you, I know that. For as much as her mind has slipped, that is something that is very clear. She loves you, like a little siter I dare say. She's probably sorry for all of this. Ugh, I'm sucking at this . . .” Lydia trailed off, sitting in silence just watching Alison cry softly for several minutes, feeling at a loss.

Taking a deep breath she shifted the kit out from in between them, moving so she could pull Alison to her side and run her hand up and down her back as her friend cried.

“I hate this!” Alison blew her nose. “I hate feeling helpless like this, at the mercy of my emotions, I . . . . I just hate it!”

“Powerlessness,” Lydia spoke with understanding in her voice. “I read a quote once, I think it was on the internet. 'You are not born a winner; you are not born a loser. You are born a chooser. Choose wisely.' That is true. We are not predestined for insanity, or the best life, or the worst life, or loneliness . . . loss. We are given choices. And the choices that we make shape the people that we become, the lives that we lead. And after a choice is made, it can't be undone. Sure, things can be done to make amends for mistakes, but . . . your actions can never be erased or completely undone. And you therefore you will reap the consequences of what you've done.

“Your Aunt . . . she made a choice. And that choice doesn't make sense. It is confusing, and terrifying, and sickening, and it just doesn't make sense. And now she is facing the consequences of her actions.”

“And I can't save her,” Alison whispered. “I mean, I shouldn't want to save her, after what she did? To Derek, to his family, I-”

“She's your family,” Lydia cut her off. “She's your . . . she's your Aunt, Alison, she's your family. You love her, of course you want to save her. To shake sense into her and make it all go away. Because that's who you are. You love her, Alison. She's important to you, and you want to protect her, just as your parents want to protect you and are protecting you as best as they can. But . . . and this is where it starts to suck . . . we can't always protect and save the people we want to. Because we can't save them from themselves. There is such a thing as too far gone, and your Aunt has passed that point.

“That doesn't mean you stop loving her. And that means that this is going to hurt. It's going to be an open wound and it probably won't ever feel healed for a long time and I really, reallly wish I could do something to change that. But I can't,” her throat closed, choking her momentarily on tears and emotions.

Alison slipped her arms around Lydia's waist and buried her head in the strawberry blonde's hair.

Tightening her arms around the brunette Lydia pressed her cheek to the top of Alison's head, beginning to rock them both.

“You'll only wind up hurt if you think people will do for you as you do for them. Not everyone has the same heart as you do. Another internet quote, but still powerful. Each heart is unique, and . . . when you have a heart full of love like yours, Alison. You get hurt easily. But don't let that make you cold, please. . . The world needs more people like you. Loving, joyful. Eager to face the day and see what lies ahead and meet it with a smile. Don't let your Aunt steal that from you.

“I know you love her, and you always will, but . . .”

“I need to let her go,” Alison spoke, her words muffled by the hair. Shifting so she was sitting up a little more, still leaning on Lydia's shoulder, she sighed, feeling a little lighter. “I need to just . . . find a way to let her go.”

“Yeah,” Lydia smiled sadly, running a hand through Alison's hair. “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% of how you respond.”

At that Alison gave Lydia a sideways look. “How many internet pick me up quotes do you know?”

Lydia shrugged, then grinned. “I couldn't sleep last Sunday night, so I sat up and surfed Google images and tumblr until I literally could not keep my eyes open any longer. I only got a couple hours of sleep.”

“Mmm,” Alison bumped Lydia's shoulder lightly. “So, how are things between you and Jackson?”

Lydia made a face.

Alison laughed. “Sorry. Light topic of conversation, I know.”

“Yeah, but I need to talk about it, so . . .” she examined her nails, pursing her lips. “Not good.”

“What happened? It looked like you two were actually being civil Friday,” Alison's forehead crinkled with worry.

“Well, that's before I kind of cornered him at his locker and said I needed to talk to him. He was so . . . hostile.” she felt a shiver run through her at the memory. How he'd been so, not himself. “He looks like he's sleeping worse than I am, if he's sleeping at all. I just . . . I wish there was a magic wand that I could just wave through the air and fix this whole town you know? Just fix it!”

“Hey,” Alison immediately hugged her when Lydia burst into tears.

“I didn't even want this!! Why did this happen to me?! Me! My life was fine, Jackson's was perfect, and then we go and do this!!”

“Hey, shh, shhhh,” Alison rocked her back and forth, rubbing circles in her back. “Shhhhhhhh.”

Lydia started sobbing. “Why does life always fall apart when you're just getting used to it being good!” she wailed.

“Oh Lydia,” Alison hugged her tightly, cooing and rocking her.

A knock on the door was the only herald before Chris Argent stepped in swiftly, taking in the scene before him. “Oh boy,” he was barely audible, but Alison read his lips fairly easily.

He stood undecided for a beat before slipping his jacket off and slinging it over the back of a chair before he moved over and carefully sat down on the edge of the bed, a little unsure of what to do.

“I just,” Lydia hiccupped. “I want this to go away, I want it all to go away! But then, I don't, I just . . . I want to hide in a corner and leave the world to its own insanity! Just leave me out of it!!”

“Hey, it's gonna be okay,” Alison assured her, soothing her as best she could.

Chris reached out and gently touched Lydia's shoulder, motioning for Alison to shift the two girls closer to him. Moving more to the edge of the bed Alison got Lydia sitting in between them, still sobbing. Carefully Chris slid his arm around her, pulling her to lean on his shoulder. Alison kept rubbing her back, leaning into her to effectively sandwich her in between the two.

“Lydia,” Alison spoke quietly over her friend's low sobs, running a hand over Lydia's hair. “You know you can call me, right? No matter what time, where I am. If you need me, or need to talk to me, or talk to somebody, you call. You call me, you call Stiles, or Scott, or Danny.”

“I don't have Scott's number,” Lydia accepted a kleenex from Mr. Argent, resting her head on his shoulder.

“I'll get it to you,” Alison rested her chin on Lydia's shoulder as she quieted down. “Just promise me you won't . . . promise me you won't be stupid?”

Lydia hiccupped again. “What?” she shifted a little so she could breathe easier and see Alison a little bit better.

“Lydia, I'm asking you to promise me you'll call me, or Danny, or Scott, or Stiles, or somebody, anybody, if you ever think of hurting yourself, or that child. Okay? Promise me that.”

“I promise,” Lydia nodded, reaching out and grasping Alison's hand. “I swear, I'm not gonna be stupid, Alison. And I promise, I will call you when I get low.”

Alison nodded eagerly, reassured. Wrapping her arms around Lydia again she leaned on her rather heavily.

“Wait, why do you have Danny's number?” Lydia's brain caught up with what Alison had said.

Alison smiled. “We had a chemistry assignment together, he had chores to do at home . . . we collaborated over the phone. It was kind of fun, actually, working with him.”

“He's good guy,” Lydia sighed, then frowned, stiffening slightly. “Who am I leaning on?”

“My dad,” Alison laughed quietly.

“Oh,” she relaxed. “I hope Jackson's okay,” she whispered.

“He probably is,” Alison assured her sitting up and absently beginning to braid Lydia's hair.

“I still love him, you know. Even after all of this, I still love him.”

Alison thought for a minute. “There's nothing wrong with that. And this child doesn't mean things will end between you two, I mean -”

“I told Jackson he could tell people I'd cheated on him and that's why we break up,” Lydia cut in.

Alison was caught off guard by that. “You what?”

“Before our final class,” Lydia sighed. “I . . . I needed to talk to him about this whole mess. But, I didn't want to invade his home and texting is just so - detached. So, I approached him before our last class. He was defensive, understandably so . . . especially after what happened on Wednesday, I just . . . I don't want him to panic, you know? I don't want to lose him, and I feel like I have, like I am.”

“Do you want me to call him?” Chris offered suddenly.

“I doubt he would take kindly to such a call,” Lydia said slowly.

“I can call Danny, check up on how Jackson's doing,” Alison countered, frowning when Lydia shook her head. “Come on, you're worrying yourself sick here,” she played with the braids gently.

“Okay,” Lydia relented begrudgingly.

Alison fetched her phone from her bag, quickly thumbing through her contacts to Danny's number. Pressing call she waited for him to pick up.

“Hello?” Danny answered the phone hesitantly. Why would Alison be calling?

“Hey Danny,” Alison smiled, trying to reassure him through her voice. “So, uh . . . how's Jackson?”

“Umm,” Danny looked to the side and shrugged in a 'I have no clue what is going on save me please' gesture to Jackson. “He's fine, I guess?”

“Have you seen him today?” Alison was instantly worried.

“What? Yeah, yeah, I'm looking at him right now. What's going on?”

She sighed in relief, smiling and giving Lydia a thumbs up. “I was just, curious; you know . . . wanting to, make sure he's doing alright.”

“Right,” Danny didn't even try to hide the skeptism from his voice.

Alison sighed and gave up. “Lydia is kind of freaking out right now and she's really worried that Jackson's, well, not coping well. With all that's going on.”

“Ah,” Danny nodded in understanding. “How's Lydia?”

“She's, well . . . she's a hormonal teenage girl who just recently found out she's pregnant and has been battling to keep her life at least halfways normal since then . . . I'd say she's been doing pretty good at it.”

Danny laughed a little forcefully. “Yeah, I guess we're all messes.”

“Well, I'd probably best let you go. But really, Jackson's safe, he's . . . he's okay?”

“Yeah, he's doing well,” Danny appraised his friend, relief flooding him anew at Jackson's alertness and improved appearance. “A few speed bumps, but nothing we can't handle together.”

“Good,” Alison nodded a little awkwardly. “Well, we'll see you Monday I guess?”

“Yeah, sounds good -” he stopped when he saw Jackson holding a hand out for the phone. Covering the mouth piece he sent a puzzled look at him.

“Give me the phone,” Jackson pressed.

“Hold on, Jackson wants to talk to you,” Danny told her before handing the phone over.

“Oh, okay,” Alison frowned in slight confusion.

“What?” Lydia mouthed.

“Hey Alison,” Jackson greeted her.

“Hey, Jackson,” Alison returned the greeting.

Lydia frowned, hesitantly holding her hand out for the phone.

Hesitating, Alison debated just handing the phone over or asking Jackson if he wanted to talk to Lydia. Jackson answered the question for her.

“Is Lydia there?”

“Yeah, she's right here,” Alison handed the phone to Lydia.

“Hey Jackson,” Lydia' voice was rather subdued as she picked at a loose thread on Alison's bed spread.

“Hey,” Jackson felt a little lost. “How are you?”

“I'm good. Doing okay,” she nodded, chewing her lower lip. “You?”

He hesitated, debating whether he should tell the truth now, tell the truth later, or just lie and be done with it. Danny kicked him. “Ow, Danny!”

“Tell her the truth,” Danny mouthed, pointing at the phone. He'd seen what was running through Jackson's head.

“Jackson?” Lydia was immediately aware that there was something he either wasn't telling her or didn't want to tell her.

“I'm, doing okay. Hit a rough patch, but . . . . I'm working through it.”

“I'm glad,” she smiled. “That you're working through it,” she hurriedly qualified. “Not that you hit a rough patch, I mean . . . obviously, I'm not glad about that. The rough patch I mean. I -”

Alison took the phone away, taking mercy on Lydia's frazzled brain before she could make it even worse. “I don't think Lydia's been sleeping the best, so I'll clarify for her,” her voice was tinged with amusement. “Lydia is overjoyed that you're working through this and getting your bearings again, and she's really concerned about you. You know she loves you right?”

“Alison!” Lydia gasped in horror.

Alison shrugged, innocent expression firmly in place.

Licking his dry lips Jackson nodded. “Yeah, I . . . I love her too,” he spoke around the lump in his throat. “She doing okay?”

“Yeah. She's wanting to talk to you, to get this all sorted out. Maybe, Scott's mom could sit down with you, so that you both have an objective party present?”

Jackson stayed quiet, thinking over that.

“Oh, and yeah . . . Scott kind of told his mom . . . . I think it was a good idea though, that she knows. I mean, if Lydia needs to see a doctor for anything, I think it's a good idea to have one of the staff know what's going on, just in case,” Alison mentally slapped her hands as she went to chew on her nails.

“Yeah,” Jackson heartily agree with her. “Yeah, that's a good idea. And yeah, we could meet at Scott's house, or your, your house would work too.”

“That's great,” Alison smiled.

“Maybe, tomorrow?” Jackson tried not to sound to hopeful.

“Tomorrow?” Alison checked with Lydia quickly. Hesitating only for a second Lydia nodded. It was something that needed to be done, even if she was dreading it. “Tomorrow works for Lydia. So . . . not to kick you off the phone, but . . .”

“Yeah, no - no problem. Thanks, Alison.”

“You’re welcome Jackson,” Alison ended the call. “See? Painless.”

Lydia groaned. “This is impossible,” she put her head in her hands.

“Hey,” Alison immediately knelt in front of Lydia, pulling the strawberry blonde's hands away from her face. “Hey, you'll get through this, okay? Okay?”

Lydia tiredly nodded, stretching and rolling her neck. “I am so stiff,” she sighed.

“That's why bathtubs were invented,” Alison grinned, looking to her dad.

“You run the water sweet heart,” he smiled, glad to see Alison looking so lively and . . . being needed. It was good for her, to have someone to look after. Alison was always a caretaker; she loved looking after people and solving their problems. “I'll keep Lydia company.”

“Thanks daddy,” she kissed his cheek before running out of the room.

Lydia flopped back onto the bed, feeling spent and drained. “I am so sick of crying,” she muttered.

Chris shifted so he could see her face easily, thinking. Sighing quietly he slid farther onto the bed and gingerly lay back so that he was beside Lydia with a good foot between them. “You know, Kate had this poem . . . I don't know where she found it or how long it took for her to memorize it, but I've never forgotten it.

Don't be afraid to cry, to let away your pain

To let go of hurt that's driving you insane.

Embrace these mini waterfalls, sliding down your cheek.

It won't make you seem fallible, it won't make you weak.

Taste the salt that lingers, and slowly shut your eyes

Know that these tears will simply pass you by.

This pain will wear away, and you tears will soon dry.

You've practiced all your life, to accept mistakes as they come

So don't let this mistake cause you to feel numb.

Open up your eyes, and let those tears fall -

Recognize your pain, don't put up this brick wall.

So don't be afraid to cry, just let away your pain . . .

Let go of the hurt that's driving you insane."

Lydia lay thinking in silence for a moment, memorizing the poem. "That's . . . that's a very beautiful poem."

"Yeah it is," Chris agreed, propping himself on his elbows when he heard Alison slip back into the room. "Well, I've got dinner to make, and you've got a date with a bath tub."

They both laughed.

"Thanks daddy," Alison kissed his cheek as he passed.

"Thank you, Mr. Argent," Lydia smiled genuinely at him.

"No problem," he smiled back. "Piece of advice?"

"Gladly."

"Don't fret over things you can't change or fix. It's okay to relax and forget about the world for a few hours," he smiled kindly at her, beginning to realize that he was starting to see her as a daughter.

"Thank you," Lydia nodded, taking his words to heart.

"Dinner will be ready in about an hour and a half," he pulled Alison closer to kiss the top of her head before going down the stairs.

"Your dad cooks?" Lydia stage whispered in awe.

"Oh, yeah. He's a great cook. Bubble bath?" Alison grinned.

"Yes, like . . . beyond yes. Just get me in the water already."

Laughing, the two young women made their way to the hot tub, joking and jesting and just ignoring the world in general.


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