After that first successful message, Lydia crashed hard for twelve hours, and felt groggy the next few days. Fortunately, Deaton had taken it upon himself to pass the name she'd found to Sheriff Stilinski. Four days later, when she finally felt a little rejuvenated, she went to the station to get an update. By now she was a well-known face there, and they let her make her own way to the Sheriff's office.
She found him sitting at his desk, head in his hands. He hadn't heard her knock so she let herself in and called his name.
He jerked his head, giving her a startled, “Lydia?” that made her suspect he'd been dozing off. His desk was littered with empty coffee cups and sandwich wrappers. Stiles would have a coronary if he could see that. The Sheriff looked like he'd aged years in the span of two months, his face lined and sallow, his eyes shadowed. Chris Argent and Melissa McCall looked the same whenever Lydia saw them.
“Hi, Sheriff. I was coming to see if you had anything about... the name Dr. Deaton gave you.”
“The scientist's name?”
Lydia's heart stuttered—there was nothing in the message about that person being a scientist, unless the fact that the periodic table had been used was part of the message, so... It meant the Sheriff had found something. They had a lead—a lead Lydia had given them.
“Yes,” she said in a short tone.
“Yeah, about that...” Sheriff Stilinski was looking at something over Lydia's shoulder, and she turned to follow his look through the glass panes that allowed the Sheriff to observe what was going on in the station. She narrowed her eyes.
“Is that—Scott's father?”
“Yeah, that's Agent McCall,” the Sheriff said, making the words one long sigh.
Lydia knew from Stiles that Scott's father—a FBI agent, apparently—had showed up in Beacon Hills just at the time of the whole debacle with the Nemeton. Neither Stiles nor Scott had looked particularly happy about it. When his son and his friends had been declared missing he'd suddenly split town, to his ex-wife's vocal outrage. Lydia hadn't spared him a thought since then.
“He's been nagging his superiors to take the lead in this investigation,” Sheriff Stilinski said. “Normally the FBI is only directly involved in a kidnapping when the missing person is a child of about 12 or less, although they can offer their assistance in other kidnapping situations.” The Sheriff raked a hand through his short hair. “Which is good, of course, they have means that we don't and anything that can help us find the kids.... He's trying to get me to lose my job and pretends I'm doing a crap job at this investigation, but I don't care about that anymore. I just want to get Stiles, Scott, and Allison back.”
“But Agent McCall doesn't know the whole truth. He's missing half the story,” Lydia completed for him. “At this point, his involvement can hurt our chances to find them as much as it can help.”
“Yeah.” He sighed again. “And one of the things he wants is to talk to you. I tried to avoid that, but now that both of you are in the station, there's no—”
“Then let him,” Lydia said. “I can handle him.”
Sheriff Stilinski sat back in his chair and squinted at her. “Are you sure?”
“I wouldn't say it if I wasn't sure.”
“He doesn't know you're the one who provided us with the name. It's better he doesn't—”
“—because I have no satisfying way to explain how I got it. I know. I'm not stupid.”
Sheriff Stilinski's lips formed something that could pass as a smile. “I know you're not. I had to hear my son wax poetic about your brilliance for years.”
Lydia felt herself blush and cursed her pale skin. “Stiles talks too much for his own good,” she said bitingly.
“No arguing that. Okay, if you're sure, then I'll call him in.”
Lydia hadn't really thought the interview would be right now, but, she reasoned, they might as well get it over with as quickly as possible. Sheriff Stilinski came back in a few minutes later with Agent McCall in tow, and Lydia clasped her purse tight on her lap.
“Miss Martin,” Agent McCall greeted her, and she greeted him back politely.
Sheriff Stilinski started sitting behind his deck, but Agent McCall stopped him: “You're going to stay here for the interview? No, I don't think so.”
“This is my office.”
“I can take her to one of the interrogation rooms. I don't want you to breathe down my neck and try to influence the witness. She's seventeen. She doesn't need an adult to be present for this.”
“I don't want you trying to intimidate her! If Lydia wants me here—”
The tension was high between the two men, both of them getting a little red in the face, and Lydia felt she had to butt in before the fight got physical. “I'm right here!” she snapped, and they both stopped arguing to look at her. “I can speak for myself. I'd rather stay here—” She was doing her best to stay composed, but she'd prefer to avoid the cold, sterile atmosphere of an interrogation room. “—but I don't need you to hold my hand, Sheriff. I'll be fine. Thank you,” she added with a little more warmth.
“Okay,” the Sheriff said, although from his tone Lydia could tell he thought it was anything but okay. “Okay, I'll just—find something to keep me busy.”
“Yeah, I'm sure there's a cat you can talk down from a tree,” Agent McCall said snidely.
Sheriff Stilinski ignored him. “If you need me, Lydia—” He completed his sentence by looking Lydia straight in the eye, clenching his jaws in a way that conveyed how fast he'd be there if she needed it.
“I know, Sheriff.”
When he'd shut the office glass door behind him, Lydia asked Agent McCall, “Why do you feel the need to put him down like this?”
Agent McCall's mouth curved down. “I think I'll be asking the questions, if you don't mind.”
“You're friends with Scott, Allison, and Stiles, right? All three of them.”
“Can I ask how that happened?”
She frowned—she hadn't anticipated that kind of question at all. “What do you mean?”
“Let me speak plainly: you're a beautiful, rich, successful girl. The kind of girl who's probably high in the school's hierarchy. I've been to high school too, I know how it works. I don't know Allison Argent, but I know Scott and Stiles. My son... has many qualities, but I know he's never been the popular type. And Stiles Stilinski...”
“Your son has changed a lot since you last saw him,” Lydia said. “So has Stiles. But I'll answer your question: Allison and I have been friends since she came to Beacon Hills during the school year. We immediately clicked. Scott and she dated for a while, so that's how I got to know him and Stiles better. Then I went through some difficult times...”
“What happened at the formal.”
“Yes. People looked at me differently after that. But Scott, Allison, and Stiles were there for me during that period, and that kind of support transcends high school's supposed hierarchy.” She emphasized the last word with her eyebrows, trying to convey how ridiculous she thought his argument was.
He remained impassible. “What happened that night, anyway?”
“I don't remember.”
“You went to the formal with Stiles, but it was your ex-boyfriend, Jackson, who found you. What was Stiles doing this whole time?”
“I don't know,” she answered, more or less truthfully—she only had the broadest strokes of what had happened that night.
“Are you dating Stiles?”
“What? No!” A flash of herself kissing Stiles flickered through her mind. “I don't understand what you're aiming at, Agent McCall. I thought you wanted to find Scott and the others.”
“I do. But I need some context to understand what could have happened to them.” He leaned into the space that separated their two chairs, as though sharing a secret with her. “Very strange things have been going on in this town, and your friends seem to be at the center of it way too often to be a coincidence. I just can't put my finger on what it is—something gang-related? Drugs?”
“That's ridiculous. Can you imagine Scott taking drugs?”
The thought struck her that all the werewolf shenanigans that had plagued Beacon Hills recently could actually be thought of as gang wars, if looked at from a certain angle, but she pushed back the idea.
Agent McCall sat back up. “As you told me yourself, my son has changed a lot. I can't pretend I know what he would or would not do.”
Lydia caught a glint of something raw and vulnerable in his eyes when he said that, but it passed in a blink, and it wasn't enough to put a dent into her growing anger.
“And what does it have to do with my dating life?”
“I need to know if you might be lying to protect your boyfriend,” he said bluntly. He was clearly looking to get a rise out of her, but she didn't care anymore because it was working, the fury bubbling in her chest, looking for an outlet.
“Stiles is not my boyfriend,” she bit out, “but he's my friend, and I would protect him if I thought he needed it, just as I would protect Allison or Scott. But I wouldn't lie to protect him if I thought it was putting Scott and Allison in danger. Not that he would want me to—they're his friends, too. Why are you so bent on trying to prove Stiles is somehow responsible for what happened?” she asked pointedly, feeling that attack was the better defense. “What do you have against the Stilinskis? Stiles has been kidnapped too! He's a victim too! You'd rather waste your time on a false lead, just so you have the satisfaction of pinning that on your son's best friend!”
She paused for breath, and also because despite the genuine tears of frustration in her eyes, she was curious to see how Agent McCall was reacting to her words.
To his credit, he wasn't taking the bait and getting mad in return. His pinched face betrayed displeasure, but he still seemed in control. He gave her an assessing look, as if he had his suspicions about her outburst, and she felt her stomach clench uncomfortably, hoping she hadn't made Stiles look more guilty by protesting his innocence. She'd wanted to add that Stiles would never put Scott and Allison in danger, but it wasn't exactly true. He would never do it on purpose, because he was protective of the people he loved, but he had a way of getting himself into impossible situations, and he didn't always measure the consequences very well. Whatever Stiles, Allison, and Scott had been doing out that night—Lydia suspected it had something to do with Malia Tate, the girl coyote still wandering in the woods—it had very likely been Stiles' idea in the first place.
“What do you know about Dr. Cara Robinson?” Agent McCall asked, obviously judging that a change of topic was in order.
She'd been waiting for that particular question, and was careful to only let vague interest show on her face. “I know that the Sheriff asked me if I knew that name already, but I didn't. Does she have anything to do with my friends?”
“She's dead.” Lydia's heart sunk at the reveal. “You didn't know that.”
“Of course not. I just told you I didn't know that person.”
“The FBI has been looking into her death. She was working on the DNA, and it looks like some of her work wasn't exactly legal.” He waited a beat, maybe expecting Lydia to ask for clarification. “Human experimentation.”
Lydia didn't have to fake her horror. She felt it swirl inside her belly, cold and slimy, as her mind parsed the implications of what Agent McCall had said: were her friends being experimented on? She knew way too much about science and a thousand of terrible things that could be happening to them assaulted her all at once.
“Are you saying—” Her voice came out squeaky and breathless. “Do you think this has something to do with their kidnapping?”
Her reaction seemed to have softened Agent McCall, because when he answered, he did it in a much less accusatory tone than before: “I don't know. But cases of kidnapping were already being linked to Dr. Cara Robinson's death, so when the name came up in this investigation too—”
“I don't know anything about it,” Lydia said. And it was the truth—all she knew was that Cara Robinson had somehow been involved, and Agent McCall already suspected that much.
He sighed, letting her see for a moment his own weariness. “Okay. Thank you for your time, Miss Martin. Don't leave town in case I have more questions.”
“I'll be here every day, asking if there're any news on my friends. I want to find them, Agent McCall.”
He nodded, but it was absent-minded, like he was thinking about something else already. “We all do.”
It was a sad fact of their new lives that the more fights they won—the more they killed—the better their accommodations became. Scott hadn't missed the fact that they'd acquired their blanket just after his first kill. When they fought a chimera who secreted a poison that had Stiles and Allison puking for two days straight, Scott managed to talk the guards into allowing them more bathroom breaks than their usual two. They were even given water to clean up their cell, which didn't keep it from stinking like vomit for days. With time they got more food, sometimes a bit of real meat, a supplementary blanket, a couple of pillows, disinfectant and clean bandages when they were hurt, and the hours they were taken out of their cell for training were always a blessing. Scott wanted to feel moral disapproval about it, but he could never quell the pleasure he felt at each improvement, not just for himself but also for the smiles they put on Allison and Stiles' faces. If it made them a little more zealous when they fought, well, it was one more thing they avoided talking about.
He honestly couldn't have said how long it had been since their kidnapping, but one morning after they woke up, Stiles looked at the square of blue sky they could see from the hatch in their cell, and said, “It's been almost four months.”
“Really?” Scott said, surprised. “You kept count?”
“Four months...” Allison said in an odd voice. “You think that—you think our parents are still looking for us?”
“A person can be declared dead in absentia after 7 years of being missing,” Stiles droned out. He smiled derisively. “I think we have some time left.”
“Our parents will never give up,” Scott tried to reassure Allison, reaching for her hand. “They'll keep looking for us.”
“Mmm.” Allison didn't look particularly comforted, but she still squeezed Scott's fingers. “Imagine if they have to do this for years. How terrible it has to be, not knowing what happened to us, not even if we're still alive.”
That declaration put the three of them in a gloomy mood as they thought about their respective parents. All of them were single children, raised by single parents. There would be nothing to stop their parents from ruining their lives over trying to find their missing kids. Scott could see his normally cheerful, upbeat mother become drawn and despondent, as real as if it was happening right in front of him. And what about his father? Was he there for his mom, or were they tearing each other apart, fighting over which one of them was responsible for their son's loss? It was unbearable to think about it and not know for sure, to be so utterly helpless. If only he could reach out to his parents, tell them he was alive, that he was fine—for a certain definition of fine, anyway.
Because, on a more selfish note, Scott couldn't help but try to imagine Allison, Stiles, and him living this life for years, and he felt his mind short-circuit from the horror it inspired in him.
Stiles cleared his throat. “Okay, so that was cheerful. Let's do this again next month.”
Allison snorted her amusement, and they forced the conversation onto a different topic.
Later that day, they were taken out for a fight. Walking there, feeling the burn of his silver chains, pangs of hunger mixing with nerves and making his stomach flip-flop, Scott was reminded of the first time they'd been led down that way, back when they didn't know what was awaiting them. Four months, if Stiles was right about that, was both such a long and such a short time. It was barely any longer than summer vacations. And yet it was long enough that they'd turned into people capable of things they would never have imagined before. Even being turned into a werewolf didn't feel to Scott like it had changed the core of who he was quite as deeply.
The crowd cheering for them—they were well-known by this point, the audience knew they made for a good show. The blinding lights, the cage. The over-the-top announcement for their fight: “Welcome to our favorite trio: the True Alpha!” Cheers. “The Huntress!” More cheers. “The Mastermind!”
Allison and Stiles exchanged their customary glance of wry mirth at hearing the nicknames they'd acquired a few weeks back. They'd both snickered a lot at the cheesiness involved in their naming. “Who's in charge of this shit?” Stiles had questioned. “Come on, guys, have a little imagination!” Scott hadn't been able to join them in their laughter—he didn't find anything about their situation funny—but at his disapproving look Allison had huffed and said, “If we can't laugh about this, what do we have left?” He'd had nothing to reply to that.
Their opponents of the day were a pair of short teenagers, a guy and a girl, who looked enough like each other that they might be related, with teeth a lot more pointy than a regular werewolf. A lot sharper too, as Scott soon discovered at his own expense when he felt them bite into his forearm.
“Avoid the teeth!” he yelled to his teammates after he'd cursed a blue streak from the pain.
“Copy that!” Stiles yelled back. He still had a weirdly-shaped scar from their fight against the two chimeras with little mouths on their hands. Stiles blew on a strand of his hair to get it out of his eyes, looking irritated, and ducked low, narrowly avoiding the claws of the girl he was fighting.
They'd divided the way they usually did: Scott took on one of their opponents on his own, while Stiles and Allison teamed up on the second one and worked on driving him or her crazy. The pair were fast, and even Scott was having some trouble keeping up. His attention was divided between his own fight and his monitoring of Allison and Stiles' heartbeat and breathing, listening for any abnormal increase. At some point he felt a jolt of alarm from Allison and glanced aside, in time to see that she'd lost her knife but that Stiles had just tossed her his, which she caught swiftly. She proceeded to attack her opponent with renewed ardor, giving Stiles the opportunity to do a controlled skid on the ground to get Allison's knife back.
Scott breathed a small sigh of relief, but he felt unbalanced, worried about the exhaustion he could hear in Allison and Stiles' wild heartbeats. He could also smell blood that wasn’t his own and knew that one of his friends, or both, had been hurt too. His opponent took advantage of his distraction several times by cutting him deep with his claws. The cuts bled a lot, and even though they healed quickly, the blood loss accumulated until Scott felt faintly light-headed, and he realized he needed to end that fight sooner rather than later.
He was gathering all his remaining energy for an assault violent enough to overpower his opponent when his focus was shattered by the sound of Allison's scream. His heart jumped into his throat. He looked to the side and saw that Allison had fallen to her knees, and was trying to make her opponent trip to gain enough time to get back up. Stiles was also picking himself up, bleeding from several cuts on his arms, and didn't look ready to help Allison right away. Without giving it a second thought and forgetting all about his own exhaustion, Scott leaped at her rescue, throwing the chimera off balance and down to the ground. Almost in the same movement he tore the girl's throat with his claws in a spray of warm blood.
He heard a roar of pain and fury behind him: “You asshole!”
“Scott! Look out!”
The warning came too late, because immediately Scott felt a weight on his back, an arm coil around his throat, and the burning pain of claws biting into his chest. He folded himself in two, trying to flip his aggressor over him, but all it did was to get the guy's claws buried even deeper into him. He deliberately tumbled to his knees, hoping he could wrestle the chimera off him, and they started tussling on the ground, rolling together in a tangle of limbs and claws and teeth, intermingled with bursts of white-hot pain. Scott's vision was starting to blacken; dimly, he could hear his friends yelling his name with increasing desperation somewhere in the background.
He found himself on his back, the grimacing face of his opponent filling his entire vision field, and for a moment some of the fog that had started to blur his mind lifted up, letting him see his own death in that hurt, hateful expression. The chimera's face reverted to human, with normal brown eyes and normal teeth, a long straight nose and weirdly thin eyebrows for a guy. It took Scott's breath away to see him look so normal, so much like him, and Stiles, and Allison. He really couldn't breathe—and suddenly pain exploded in his chest and he realized that the not-breathing also came from the chimera digging into his chest, tearing through the skin, crushing the bones in his way. He felt blood gurgle in his throat and tried to cough to get it out of the way, but it only made the pain more excruciating.
The last thing he saw before blacking out was Stiles, a grim-faced Stiles with fiery eyes, stabbing his knife into the chimera's neck.
They threw Scott's body in the cell like a rag doll before shoving Allison and Stiles inside, foregoing their usual shower. Allison fell to her knees beside Scott, hearing Stiles hammer against the door: “Hey, are you just gonna leave him like this? Where's Miller? I wanna talk to her! Are you listening, you assholes? You gotta give us something to help! He's going to die! Hey, motherfuckers!”
Stiles' shouts dissolved into half sobs, half helpless cries of rage, and it sounded like he was trying to break the door down, having upgraded to kicking at it. Allison tuned him out to focus on Scott: he lay there pale and still, his face human again, and his chest was... Allison breathed through a wave of nausea. The scratches on her arms hurt, but it was a remote sort of hurt, unimportant in the face of Scott's wounds: his chest was a gory mess of blood, torn clothes and flesh, and bones—Allison could see broken ribs poke out like brambles on the forest ground. Could he heal like this? Would he heal wrong unless—unless she—With trembling hands she tried to bring the edges of his wounds closer together and align the bones, but there was so much blood that she couldn't see what she was doing very well, and wasn't even sure where everything was supposed to go. The smell of blood was overpowering. She didn't know if she was hurting him because Scott wasn't making a sound, wasn't moving. Wasn't moving at all.
Behind her Stiles must have exhausted himself, because he wasn't raging against the door anymore and all Allison could hear from him was him breathing harshly, hissing like an old engine. She leaned down, trying to listen for Scott's breathing, couldn't hear anything and placed her face in front of his mouth and nose—nothing. She tried to feel for his pulse but her own heart was beating so hard that she wasn't sure what she was feeling.
“Stiles!” she called, her voice quaking. “Stiles, come here, please.”
She heard him move, then he kneeled down on Scott's other side, looking at his friend with wide, tear-filled eyes. “He looks—”
“I'm trying to find his pulse, but I can't—all I can feel is my own heart.”
Stiles pressed his fingers against Scott's neck, hands shaking as much as Allison's, eyes roving over Scott's body. “I can't feel anything,” he said eventually. “Allison.” Now he was looking at her, begging her for God knew what. “I can't feel anything.”
“Maybe—are you doing it right?”
“I've seen Scott's mom do it tons of times—yes, I'm doing it right! His heart's just not beating.”
“No,” Allison said. “No, no, this isn't happening.” Of the three of them, Scott was the one who was supposed to be near invincible. “He's not dead. He can't be.”
Stiles rubbed a hand over his face. “We've seen—that night at the school, do you remember, when the wolf, Peter, chased us around the school? Scott and I saw Derek get torn apart, and we thought he was dead, but he survived. Scott's an Alpha. Maybe—maybe we just need to wait.”
“Okay,” Allison said, nodding along. “Okay, we can do that. We'll wait.”
So they waited. Both of their clothes were stained with blood, both from their wounds and from Scott’s, and in Stiles' case, from the chimera he'd stabbed in the neck. They had some bandage, gauze, and disinfectant saved from a previous fight and they numbly patched each other up. Allison tried not to dwell on the fact that Scott was usually the one who did that for them. The one who always got out of a fight intact. Once they were done they huddled together in a corner of the room, wrapped in one of their blankets. Together they watched Scott's unmoving body until there was barely enough light left for them to see anything.
“If he dies,” Stiles said darkly at some point, “I'll kill them. I don't even care. I swear to God, I will kill them all.”
Or die trying—but Allison agreed with the sentiment, and she nodded against his shoulder. Killing was all they were good for anymore. She was exhausted. She had been physically exhausted for weeks, months, but this was something more. This was a mental exhaustion that drained her of her will to keep going. What were they fighting for, anyway? Why were they killing all those kids? Saving time until they were rescued, or until one of Stiles' escape plans worked out? Was their survival really worth the price? Besides, if Scott died, survival didn't seem like such an enviable option.
“I'm sorry,” Stiles murmured against Allison's hair, startling her out of her thoughts.
“I don't know. For not being the one lying there, I guess?”
Allison straightened up and elbowed him sharply in the ribs.
“Ow! What was that for?”
“For being stupid!” Allison whispered furiously. “If you were the one lying there, then there would be no hope for you to still be alive. You'd be dead for sure! Scott and I would be watching over your dead body!”
He looked at her, mouth open like a fish out of the water. “Yes, but—”
He was interrupted by a gasp, the desperate sound of someone fighting for breath.
“Scott?” Stiles said.
Scott's body was moving with halted jerks, like he was trying to sit up but was too weak for it.
“Oh my god, Scott!” Allison exclaimed, and she scrambled to his side.
His eyes were wide open and panicked, his mouth gaping like he was trying to speak or maybe just breathe, but couldn't quite make sense of it. Allison clutched at his hand, feeling it tremble in hers, and when his eyes latched onto her he became less frantic.
“Alli—Allison,” he croaked.
“Yes, it's me, Scott. I'm here, I'm here with you. You're going to be just fine.”
“I'm right here, Scotty.”
Stiles wasn't trying to touch Scott, though. The back of his hand was pressed against his mouth like he was trying not to puke.
“What—what,” Scott stammered.
“You were hurt,” Allison explained, lifting a quivering hand to stroke his hair. “You were hurt really badly and we thought—Stiles and I thought that you were—We thought you were dead.”
She was crying, now. There was no keeping the tears in, and ugly sobs were shaking her frame, tearing her chest from the inside out. She felt a warm touch against her cheek and it was Scott, stroking her face. He was trying to smile, saying, “I'm okay now,” even though he looked barely a level above dead. “Don't cry, please.”
It only made Allison cry harder and she cupped the back of his head to draw him in, bringing her lips to his. His mouth felt achingly familiar, and the way he responded to her, both sweet and eager, this was familiar too, felt like coming home. He hadn't had as much facial hair before, so the scratchy feeling was new, but not in a bad way. She pressed a series of hurried, nibbling kisses to his lips, trying to make up for lost time, and tasted the salt of her tears mixed with metal from his blood. His hair was now even longer than when she'd first met him, and she buried her hand in his thick curls, knitting her fingers into them. She'd missed this, missed having him like this—why had she ever stopped?
When she started to get out of breath she pushed them apart, and for a few seconds she and Scott looked at each other with short-winded chuckles, like they'd just found each other again by chance after years of being out of touch and couldn't believe their luck. Then Scott tried to twist out of her grasp, calling for Stiles.
Stiles shuffled closer and said, “Yeah, I'm here. I guess congratulations are in order. “
“Hey.” Allison moved away so Scott could sit up fully. “Hey. Are you okay?” Scott asked Stiles, who was picking at one of the bandages on his arm.
Stiles made a choked off sound. “Am I—? Jesus, Scott. You're the one who—” He gestured at Scott's bloody front. “Christ.”
“Not anymore. See?” Scott ripped a bit more of his t-shirt and wiped away some of the blood so they could see the flawless skin underneath.
“Okay, okay,” Stiles said, looking away like he couldn't stand the sight of the blood. Allison felt a bit queasy herself. “Point taken.”
“Hey, look at me.” Scott gently pressed a hand to the side of Stiles' face to force his friend to look back at him. “I'm fine.”
“See, my eyes can confirm that, and my head knows it, but I just—”
Scott grabbed Stiles' hand and spread it on his chest. “Feel that? That's my heart. Beating.”
“It wasn't beating earlier,” Stiles said feebly.
Allison rested her hand next to Stiles' so she could feel it too, the steady, strong pound of Scott's heart, anchoring him to life.
“I'm fine,” Scott repeated, inching closer to Stiles.
Stiles looked at him, breathing heavily, and, without warning, caught the back of Scott's neck to pull his friend in, and kissed him. At first he simply smashed their mouths together without finesse, like he was in a hurry to feel him, then he drew back a little and gave Scott another softer, more tentative kiss, pinching Scott's lower lip. One of Allison's hands was still on Scott's chest and her arm found itself squashed between the boys in the process, so that she could feel both of their heartbeats ratchet up.
When Stiles let him go, Scott blinked slowly and said, “Okay. So. That happened.”
“God, dude, I'm sorry, I just—”
“No, no, it's fine. I'm glad—” Scott took the hand Stiles had over his heart and gave it a squeeze. “Glad to be alive, I guess.”
“Allison,” Stiles said, wriggling his hand out of Scott's grip and turning to Allison. They were sitting so close to each other that his knees bumped into hers. “Allison, I don't know what got into me—”
“Stiles, sshh.” Allison raised a hand to cup Stiles' jaw. “It's okay. We're alive, right?”
“Yeah,” Stiles said, his voice scraping a bit on the word. “We are alive.”
Allison hooked her arms around both Scott and Stiles' necks, leaning into them, breathing in the smell of blood and sweat that had become their daily lot. It shouldn't have felt this good to be alive, not with all they had to do to stay this way, but she couldn't bring herself to worry about it right now. Stiles and Scott's hearts were thumping in unison with hers, and each beat pumped new life into her.