"Hey, Lydia, what's wrong?"
She turns, honeyed hair tossed over her shoulder, and replies with an Everything's Fine Smile perfected in high school. "Nothing. Everything is just peachy."
"Cut the bullcrap, Lydia. I know you. Lydia Martin is highly fashionable and can wear anything she wants, but those jeans only get brought out when you're stressed as they're the comfiest thing you know. So tell me what's wrong."
"I don't have to tell you anything."
"You're right; you don't. But when did telling me things ever not help?"
She hums, and Stiles feels a ping in his chest. It's such a familiar twist of the lips and sound he knows almost as well as his own hands.
"Am I allowed to count the times with dead bodies?"
"When wasn't there a dead body involved?"
Now there's a genuine smirk. "So. Spill."
She huffs, almost a sigh, before squaring up to him. "Well if you must know, double-majoring in mathematics and biochemistry is difficult work - thank God I don't have to worry about keeping scholarships on top of everything else because if I did I just might crack. Plus, you know, there are still dead bodies to send anonymous tips about to the police, and I'm still the perfect post-divorce bargaining chip with my parents even at twenty one - which oh when my mother backslides on all the progress we've made it's just the worst." Lydia takes a deep breath, blinking quickly. "And to top it all off, Prada-"
Her voice cuts off, though her lips keep moving, trying to force the words out and fuck she's crying.
Stiles there, as always, his arms around her, pulling her tight as if he could bend his collarbone to better hug her. Lydia almost vanishes into his flannel shirt, flannel as always, the soft fabric warm and smelling of him and oh she missed him she missed him she missed the pack. Fuck college.
"I imagine she was pretty old."
His voice is cautious, soft and rumbling in his chest she feels it as much as hears it.
"She was, but some bigger dog-"
Her sobs crack her voice, and Stiles pulls her closer. She breathes with him, has to, her lungs have to follow his rhythm of in and out, and so she is saved from hyperventilation.
"How did I end up alone?"
"You're not alone, Lydia, I'm-"
"Miles away becoming the next in the Stilinski line of sherrifs. Scott's becoming a vet. The rest of the pack is scattered to the winds, and you're only visiting because of the cop book convention."
His reply comes out muffled through her hair. "It's a great convention."
"I know. I went with you the last two years. Only now we're all drifting apart. What happened?"
"I'm sorry, Lydia."
He doesn't mention the growing anxiety, the thought that she's growing annoyed or bored with him, and how unchecked it will ravage his sanity. He doesn't mention hanging onto hope by fingernails as he comes face to face with the worst the world has to offer, over and over, pulling away to shield the pack.
He just holds his best friend, the woman he has loved longer than any jeep, hoping to suck away some pain.
When the convention is over, and he is miles away again, he wraps that sad memory around himself as armor and texts her:
Hey. :) How's your day going?
It's not much.
But it's a start.