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let me keep you safe (let me just keep you)

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Everyone goes silent when there’s a rap on the door to Jackson’s flat.

“You said your parents wouldn’t be back for a month.” Miles’s voice is low, a hint of a growl underlining it. He flashes red eyes before he looks pointedly from Jackson to the door and back again.

“They won’t.” Jackson isn’t sure they’ll even be back then. Things have been… weird… ever since he came to London with them, and now that he’s been here a year, he’s not sure things will ever improve. It’s summer, he’s on holiday from school, and they’re off on some cruise or another. He’s got the place to himself before he goes back in the fall for one final useless year of schooling, and he’s been enjoying it.

It’s given him a chance to make his own place in a pack that doesn’t seem to like him, and he’s taken advantage of that. After all, if they aren’t going to just fall in love with him, he can buy his place in the pack. Right?

He pushes up from the couch, tries to ignore the way seven wolves watch him yank the door open.

“Hey.”

The rough scent of home and pack is an assault on his senses. Jackson twists a hand into Stilinski’s hoodie, yanks him in through the door and slams it behind him by shoving Stilinski into it. “What the hell are you doing here?” he growls.

Stilinski blinks. “Aren’t you going to introduce me to your friends?”

A throat clears roughly behind them, and Jackson catches the scent of nerves from Stilinski, a raw and sour smell. “Yes, Jackson,” Miles says, voice still low. “Aren’t you going to introduce us?”

The smell of home is overwhelming, and Jackson takes a step closer, pushing Stilinski back against the door, pressing his mouth to his throat and inhaling, drinking it in. He hears the small whimper, and he knows he only has a moment to take control of this, before Stilinski somehow does something that brings the whole house of cards that is Jackson’s pack membership tumbling down.

“He’s my ex,” Jackson mutters, letting his eyes flash, baring teeth where only Stilinski can see them. He holds the grin, sharp and warning him to play along, for just a moment before he covers Stilinski’s mouth with his own, pushing his tongue in, gagging him with the kiss.

In the background, Felicia whistles and someone claps and stomps, and there’s a general round of laughter and cheer.

Jackson doesn’t care.

He grips Stilinski’s hips tightly trying to take back something that has slipped out of his control when Stilinski immediately started to kiss him back. Hot breath and warm lips, a tangle of tongues that is enough to leave him panting and his dick half-hard in his jeans. A flush rises to stain Stilinski’s skin, leaving his cheeks hot and red beneath the dotted moles; when Jackson pulls away, he has the urge to dive right back in, lick from mole to mole, and that’s just… that’s just wrong

He struggles not to pant as he watches Stilinski’s tongue dart out to wet his lips.

“Well. That’s… that’s a hell of a welcome, Jax.”

Jackson glares. “I told you not to call me that.”

Stilinski shrugs, nudging at Jackson until he can peel himself off the wall and make some space. There’s a bag at his feet, and the stale scent of airport and plane clinging to him that Jackson hadn’t noticed before. “I’ve been on the road for hours and I’m ready to pass out,” he says, scrubbing a hand through his hair. “You can forgive me for falling into old habits and using an old nickname.”

It’s not an old nickname. It has never been a nickname. Stilinski has always been Stilinski and Jackson has always been Jackson. Jax makes them sound intimate.

Which is what Jackson just implied.

Right.

Stilinski’s two beats ahead of him, rolling with a plan that Jackson hadn’t even fully settled on in his mind. “It’s been a year,” he manages to say. “We’re not together anymore.”

“I decided to surprise you.” Stilinski’s eyes go wide, like Bambi-fawn eyes that make Jackson’s wolf rise up and want to hunt prey. He hears a growl from another in the pack and he flashes blue eyes, gratified for once at the way they fall back in fear from the killer wolf.

“You know better than to surprise a pack of wolves,” Jackson mutters. He threads his fingers together with Stilinski’s because that’s normal, right? When he takes his seat again, Stilinski falls on top of him, sitting sprawled across his lap like they’re something more current than ex, and Jackson holds his thigh, anchoring him there.

It’s uncomfortably comfortable.

And Stilinski still smells so damned good. Jackson drops his head to mouth at the bare strip of skin above Stilinski’s hoodie, tasting pack in the sweat on his skin, layered under the travel scents. He wants to lick it from him, to swallow it whole and use it to salve the irritating remains of homesickness that Jackson hasn’t been able to shake, even after a year. 

He wants to hear another whimper, his wolf rumbling happily when Stilinski whines, body shifting as Jackson tongues at his pulse, licking a stripe along it.

Miles clears his throat, and Jackson jerks his head up, eyes bright and shining in warning.

“No one’s going to touch your boy,” Felicia assures him, smirking. “Even if he is so utterly lickable.

Jackson flushes at the word, because he’s supposed to be acting. It’s barely a plan and he falls into it so easily, like there could actually be a thing between him and Stilinski other than old enmity and a restraining order. “It’s been a while,” he mutters, and most of the other wolves rumble in amusement.

“I could just go lie down, babe,” Stilinski says, yawning. “Get some sleep. You could wake me up when you’re done with this pack thing. Because I’m assuming these are wolves, right? The London pack you’ve been telling me about? I brought some things from Scott, some letters from the others. I’ll give you those later, yeah?”

“This is Miles.” Jackson gestures towards the alpha of the youngest of the London packs. There are four packs in central London, three more on the outskirts, and of them all, this is the smallest and the only one without an alpha over the age of thirty. They’re more like a gang of teenagers than a proper pack, and Miles always seems to have something to prove. He was also the only one willing to accept a blue-eyed, untaught werewolf into his pack. If this could be called acceptance.

“Felicia.” Miles’s second introduces herself with a feral grin, eyes glowing yellow. “S’good to meet you, niblet. These are Jeffrey, Shelly, Brock, Simon, and Mel.”

“My name’s not niblet.” Stilinski doesn’t bother to move, just waves a hand. “Call me Stiles.”

“What kind of a name is—”

“One you can hear more about later.” Shelly hooks an arm into the crook of Felicia’s elbow, tugging her towards the door. “I think our Jackson wants to get a reunion shag, and we can bloody well leave him alone to get it, yeah?” She grins wickedly. “Don’t worry, I won’t let Fe sit on the steps and listen, even though you know she wants to.”

“Can’t blame me. Haven’t seen Jackson show an interest in anybody around here. Maybe it’ll warm up those cold eyes of his.” Felicia knocks her shoulder against Shelly. “He’s our ice prince.”

“He’s always been cold.” Stilinski nudges his nose against Jackson’s throat, curling in closer, wiggling his bottom over Jackson’s crotch. “Just not in bed. Don’t feel offended if he’s an asshole; it’s his nature.”

“Pot and kettle,” Jackson bites out.

“Yep, there’s a reason we always got along the way we did.”

It’s a subtle dig, reminding Jackson that Stilinski is right there with him on the ploy, and reminding him that he could blow it all apart. There are so many ways he could play it, so Jackson decides to touch his cheek, and when Stilinski turns his head, Jackson kisses him again.

It’s strangely like drowning.

He hears the door in the background, footsteps heading out. They disappear in the distance, and by the time Jackson resurfaces, trying to catch his breath, they are alone.

Stilinski pushes at his chest, hand sliding down to linger over his crotch before flattening against his thigh as he leverages himself to standing. He wavers on his feet, exhaustion clear in his features and soaking his scent. “I’m going to bed,” he says. “Point me towards your room.”

Jackson stays on the couch, trying not to think about the hand that just casually squeezed his dick, or the fact that he can still smell him from a distance. “You’re not sleeping in my bed, Stilinski,” he snarls, falling back on being an ass in the face of not knowing what to do.

Stilinski has the gall to laugh. “Call me Stiles,” he says slyly. “If we’re sleeping together, we should probably be using first names, Jax. And of course I’m sleeping in your bed. Think about it—your alpha comes in, and your bed doesn’t smell of me and spunk? He won’t believe a thing.” He shakes his head, wobbling from the motion. “I don’t know why you didn’t just say member of my old pack, but if we’re going with ex-boyfriend instead, we’ll play it up. Now excuse me while I go take a nap and consider jerking off in your bed.”

The worst part is, Jackson can’t argue with that analysis. He growls sharply as Stilinski—Stiles—stumbles a few steps, then comes to his feet and grabs Stiles’s arm. “It’s this way,” he mutters. “And you are not jerking off in my bed.”

“Shower then.” Stiles leans into him, letting Jackson take his weight as they walk. “We can have pretend shower sex. Quicker clean up. They aren’t outside the door listening, are they?”

It’s possible, but Jackson’s pretty sure they’re gone, so he shakes his head. It’s none of Stiles’s business why they’re pretending to be formerly attached, and it’s none of his business about anything to do with Jackson’s pack. “What the hell are you doing here?” He repeats his first question, not really expecting an answer.

He doesn’t get one. Stiles simply pats his arm before leaving him in the hallway and walking into Jackson’s room. “Later,” Stiles says. “When I’ve slept. Because planes? Suck. They really, really suck, and I hate being separated from the ground, and the worst part is, eventually I have to go back. After this, I don’t ever want to go anywhere I can’t drive my Jeep to again.”

Jackson would push the issue, but there’s no point, not with the way Stiles flops onto the bed face first and ass in the air, legs spread-eagled and arms wrapped around Jackson’s pillow, burrowing into it like he belongs there. He’s asleep in seconds, and Jackson’s stuck in a lie that he doesn’t know what to do about.

Not to mention stuck with a reaction that he doesn’t know what to do with.

The shower idea doesn’t sound so bad. At least it’ll pass the time until Stiles is awake.

#

Two hours later, Jackson is on the sofa watching television when Stiles stumbles out of his room, rubbing at his eyes. Hair is stuck up everywhere and his t-shirt rides up while he scratches at his belly and yawns. “Fuck, that was not enough sleep, but if I sleep any more right now I’ll probably never get rid of the jet lag. Don’t know how long I’m going to be here, so I should probably put myself on normal human time.” He blinks at Jackson, then the TV. “Are you watching a soap opera?”

“No.” Jackson turns it off, because it’s not his fault that he prefers character-oriented plot lines rather than that science fiction and horror crap that Stiles prefers. He lives that every day now; reruns of Being Human are not going to be on his top to-watch list. His nose flares; Stiles’s scent is stronger now, mixed in strange ways with his own, and he doesn’t like it. “Go shower, Stilinski. Down the hall, third door on the left. There’s a towel under the sink.”

He tries not to think about how using his soap and shampoo will make Stiles smell more like him and less like the McCall/Hale pack. He tries not to think about how he jerked off in that shower two hours ago, because he couldn’t get rid of his problem without that. Jackson tries not to think about a lot of things, just gestures again and growls, “Go.”

And Stiles finally goes.

The fall of water isn’t enough to mask the sound of Stiles in the shower, the slide of soaped hands over his body, the distinct hitch in his breath as he… Jackson turns on the television again and turns the sound up, tuning everything else out.

The water stops eventually, and Stiles returns with a cloud of warm steam and a rush of familiar scent. Jackson clicks off the television and listens to the movements of Stiles through the flat—first to Jackson’s bedroom, then returning to the living room. Stiles drops onto the couch next to him, putting a laptop onto the coffee table.

“WiFi password?” Stiles tilts his head. “I’m assuming you have WiFi. I even brought the adapter for my charger; can’t go without being able to get online. Not now.”

“Is this where you explain why you’re here?”

Stiles presses his lips together, shrugs one shoulder. “Your pack’s gone, and I’m assuming they trust you enough that no one’s got a watch over you. Two hours should’ve been long enough for them to get bored anyway. So yeah, this is where I explain. We need to get in touch with Derek and Scott, so… WiFi password?”

Jackson tells him, and Stiles makes a surprised noise at the complexity and obscurity of the code. “What?” Jackson asks snidely. “Did you think it would be Lydia? Not everyone is as obvious as you and the other testicle.”

“Maybe I thought it would be Stilinski, since you’ve obviously been pining after me for a year,” Stiles shoots back, and Jackson just glares at him.

“Don’t,” he warns, and Stiles smiles.

“Do you think they’ll check your bed when they come back? Or do they trust you enough to be satisfied with you telling them that we fucked like bunnies?” Stiles asks idly, fingers moving over the keys. He establishes the connection, then loads Skype, a ping coming in as soon as it’s ready.

“Have you two been sitting by the phone just waiting for butthead’s call?” Jackson asks as soon as Derek and Scott come into view.

“Good to see you, too,” Scott says. Derek merely raises one eyebrow, and just like that, Jackson feels like a kid who’s been called to the carpet for doing something wrong. Derek may no longer be an alpha, but he will always be the one who bit Jackson.

He doesn’t like that anyone has that kind of hold over him.

He lifts the corner of his lip, snarling. “Tell me why I have Stilinski in my home.”

“In his bed. Jacking off in his shower.” Stiles leans in, laughing at the shocked expressions from Derek and Scott. “Jackson told his pack that I’m his ex, coming over for a booty call. Isn’t that sweet?”

In the background, Derek pinches the bridge of his nose. Scott’s brow furrows. “Um. Why?”

“Unsurprisingly, packs don’t take well to blue-eyed omegas moving in and asking to join,” Jackson growls. “Having someone show up unexpectedly isn’t going to breed trust. Especially when I know he’s bringing trouble.”

Scott’s expression twists serious. “Oh, dude, you have no idea. Ever heard of a family named Águila?”

“Are they related to that Mexican family that was after you?” Jackson’s pretty sure he could search online and find a number of families in London by that name, but he has no idea why it’s significant. “It’s Spanish for Eagle.”

“See, he’s an asshole who speaks Spanish.” Stiles throws his hands wide. “I told you this plan would work.”

What plan?” Jackson feels the wolf rising, the way it gets under his skin that he’s still in the dark about what the hell is going on.

“The Águila family is old,” Derek says quietly. “Spanish-born hunters, raised outside of Madrid. They stayed in Spain for a long time, but recently they’ve started traveling to other countries in order to enforce their code.”

“We hunt those who hunt us?” Jackson asks, because that’s the only code he knows. Allison made a new one, from what he understands, but he’s not sure that would affect anyone other than the Argents.

Stiles shakes his head. “Perseguimos a quienes no deberían existir.” He gives Jackson a beat to translate it on his own, then his words echo Jackson’s thoughts. “We hunt those who should not be.”

“They hunt the most monstrous of us,” Derek says, his voice still mild and low. “They hunt the ones who are different, who are unnatural, even among the supernatural. They came through here and destroyed Kate.”

Aberraciones,” Jackson murmurs, his mind still caught up in the Spanish translation. It’s all too easy to see in the words, the idea of someone who should never have existed running from pursuit. And it’s chilling, creating a twisted, cold feeling deep in his gut.

Next to him, he catches the look Stiles gives him, feels a small shudder go through him, and wonders at it.

“We think they’re after you, dude,” Scott says. “You’re a wolf now, but you spent enough time as a Kanima to get on their radar.”

“And I don’t think they’re the kind of people who forgive and forget just because a guy’s died and come back to life a little furry,” Stiles adds, nudging Jackson’s shoulder. “It is possible that they’re not after you. There’s a gargoyle who likes to roost on Westminster Abbey and a wildcat that used to be a witch out on the moors somewhere. That last one might be hard to find, and the first one only talks to people at night, which complicates things. Or they could be after the easy access kill—the former Kanima. You may be an asshole, but Lydia and Danny would never forgive us if we let you die, so…” He spreads his hands. “Here I am.”

“Here you are,” Jackson says dryly, because he can’t refute that. Stiles is all too present, taking up space on the sofa, pushing himself against Jackson and making himself into a nuisance. He is there, and Jackson still doesn’t get why. What is one human going to do against a hunter family? “Now what?”

“Now we make a plan,” Stiles says. “Just you and me against the world—well, against the Águila family.”

“Is there a chance they’ll go against my pack?” Jackson asks. He might not feel like he belongs—might not feel much loyalty to a pack that has yet to trust him—but they are still his pack here, and he doesn’t exactly have anyone else.

“Who’s your pack again?” Derek nudges Scott to the side, leaning in. Scott might be the alpha, but Derek holds onto the werewolf lore; even Jackson figured this out a long time ago.

“O’Loughlin,” Jackson says, not expecting Derek to know who that is, young as they all are. “Miles O’Loughlin is the alpha. There are seven of us betas.”

Derek blinks and sits back. “O’Loughlin.” If anything, his voice goes softer, and that sends a sinking feeling into Jackson’s gut. “I thought they were all dead. Killed by hunters about a dozen years ago.”

“Miles is my age.” Jackson swallows hard. “He’s seventeen, and he’s very much alive. And he’s an alpha. He’s definitely not dead, Derek, so rumors must be wrong.”

Derek smiles tightly. “History isn’t wrong in this case, Jackson. Either Miles survived when he was no more than five years old, or he’s not Miles O’Loughlin. Either way, there are things you don’t know about your pack, and we’ll see what we can dig up for you. It also makes me wonder if that’s who the hunters are after, and you’re just a side point.”

Or maybe Jackson fits in better than he ever thought, although he’s sure he’s the only blue-eyed wolf in the pack.

Unless Miles had blue eyes before he turned alpha.

Jackson’s gaze drops to the floor, his hands twisted together over his knees. Stiles puts one hand over his, long fingers sliding across Jackson’s in some attempt at comfort, and Jackson doesn’t give in to the urge to pull away. Instead he puts his mask firmly back in place and looks up, meeting Derek’s gaze, then looking to Scott. “Fine. Stilinski can stay here, and we’ll deal with the hunters. But he’s going back as soon as this is over.”

“Wouldn’t have expected anything else, dude,” Scott says. He shifts his attention to Stiles. “No heroics. Just get back here alive, okay?”

“Pretty sure Lydia would murder me all over again if I let myself get killed, buddy,” Stiles says easily. “I’ll be back soon.”

Jackson wonders if Scott can hear the lie in his heart even over the Skype connection. Derek’s gaze narrows, but Scott’s doesn’t change except for a slow smile. “Good,” Scott says, and that’s that. Stiles touches the keyboard and the connection closes, leaving the two of them alone and cut off again from Beacon Hills.

“So,” Stiles says, stretching until his arms rest along the back of the couch. “What next?”

“You’re the one who came here, so the plan is your responsibility.” Honestly speaking, Jackson has no idea what to do next, but he’s not going to admit that to Stiles. He’s always been a follower playing at being a leader, and not having a decent alpha hasn’t helped him settle in to London. He’s best leading when he knows where he’s going, like on the lacrosse field. This sort of problem isn’t his strength.

“Well, the pretending to be your ex part is your problem,” Stiles says. He turns the laptop toward himself, long fingers gliding across the keyboard. It’s almost like a dance, and for a moment, Jackson is mesmerized by the motion. “I’ll do what I can to figure out where the Águila family is hiding out in London, though. And Danny managed to get his hands on some of their private records for us, if you want to have a look. See if anything in there sounds like your pack.” He looks at Jackson. “Just how much do you know about your pack, dude?”

As if he would just say not much. Jackson shrugs one shoulder. “Enough. Miles is an asshole sometimes, but that’s not uncommon.” His sharp look makes Stiles smile.

“Bet it’s just like home.” Stiles knocks his shoulder against Jackson. “Let me get those records for you; got a printer I can hook up to? Then you can make notes that I can read, because my Spanish is not good enough for muddling through these texts. Lydia promised me a translation, but she and Cora obviously haven’t finished it yet.”

Jackson helps him set it up, pushing up from the couch when he hears the printer whir to life. “I’m only doing this because I need to save my own ass,” he says.

“Selfish dickwad, yep, that’s you,” Stiles agrees. “Remember to jerk off in your bed tonight, too. For appearances’ sake. Wouldn’t want your pack to stop trusting you.”

Jackson growls, because it’s the only reaction he’s got that makes sense right now. He is not going to jerk off because Stiles said to, and he’s not going to think about whether they should just both do it later, spread their mixed scents in his room. Because no.

That’s never going to happen.

#

They go through the records for hours, until Stiles is tilting towards Jackson on the sofa, his head resting against Jackson’s shoulder. He’s close enough that Jackson doesn’t have to try to catch his scent, it’s right there every time Jackson inhales. And thanks to Stiles’s nap in Jackson’s bed, every breath carries the scent of musk, Stiles, and Jackson. It’s like Stiles took the blankets and wrapped himself up in them to make the scent stronger, as if he tried to make it seem like Jackson had rubbed himself all over Stiles’s body.

That’s an image Jackson doesn’t need, the idea of them in bed together, Stiles budging up close, rutting against Jackson in his sleep.

He mutters to himself, knocking an elbow into Stiles to push him away. He’s half-hard and he just wants to get some sleep, and he needs some time away from his fake ex-boyfriend. “I’m going to bed.”

“Mm.” Stiles slides down onto the couch, rolling to face the back of it. “Need blankets.”

There’s an afghan in the hall closet—something his mother brought from the States because her mother had made it a long time ago. Jackson pulls that out and carefully lays it over Stiles, not wanting to wake him up and risk Stiles following him back to his room. He stands there watching—making sure that Stiles really is completely asleep—before he heads to his room.

He smells Stiles as soon as he steps through the door. Not the thick musk of an orgasm, but an idle scent of teenage boy and vague arousal, left behind from the nap. He tries not to think about what he didn’t listen to earlier, and what the bathroom is going to be like when he goes in. He can’t avoid it, not unless he goes into his parents’ room to use theirs. There’s only one rule he actually follows when his parents are out of town, and that’s staying out of their space. As long as he does that, they leave him alone, and they can all pretend that their lives are normal.

He strips down quickly, throwing his clothes on top of Stiles’s bag. After a moment’s though, he opens the bag, shoves his shirt inside it so that it will leak scent all over the clean clothing. He refuses to resort to actually rubbing himself against Stiles, but there are tricks they can use.

The annoying thing is, Stiles is right. The bedroom needs to smell like sex.

Jackson yanks on a pair of pajama bottoms and stalks into the bathroom, breathing as carefully as he can, shallow inhalations through the mouth, then out through the nose. He still can smell Stiles here, swears he can see traces on the shower wall even though he knows it must have washed away. He readies himself for bed as quickly as he can manage, but by the time he escapes his dick is harder than before, irritating and annoying as he climbs into bed.

Jerking off would be a good thing.

It’d help, just in case the pack tests them, tries to see through the ruse.

Jackson needs the pack to trust him, so he needs them to believe. If they catch him in a lie… then he might not have a pack at all in the end, and he can’t be an omega. Not here.

He reaches into his pajamas, wraps his fingers around his dick and closes his eyes. It won’t take long, his senses full of the scent of someone else in his bed, and his mind’s eye helpfully providing the image of Stiles asleep on the sofa, his lips slightly parted.

Jackson doesn’t think about what it might be like to rub his cock against those lips, see his mouth open to let Jackson press inside. He doesn’t think about the way those whiskey eyes would warm, the way his tongue would feel as Jackson fucked his mouth. He closes his eyes tight and resolutely doesn’t inhale to remember the way his musk smells, and imagine it deeper, stronger, as pungent as it is in the bathroom when his arousal was full.

He doesn’t think about the whines, the moans, the little sounds Stiles would make, or the way he might talk through it, letting filthy words spill from his mouth, begging Jackson to fuck him.

He refuses to let himself think of any of that, while his hand moves over his dick in faster and faster strokes, until he has to shove his pajamas down so he can spill onto the bed.

Jackson relaxes, eyes still closed, and stretches under the covers. He grabs the pillow and pulls it in as if it were another person, holding it close as he wraps around it. He doesn’t imagine that it is Stiles, and he doesn’t take ease in his scent as he slowly slips into sleep.

#

Jackson wakes to the feel of the bed dipping, someone stretching out behind him. An arm wraps around his waist, a wash of scent rushing over him as someone leans against his back.

“Go with it, sweetums,” Stiles murmurs, and it’s too late or too early or too not time to get up yet to argue with him, so Jackson lets it go and falls back into a dream.

He wakes the second time when the sun is high enough to push past the cracks in the heavy fall of curtains, leaving streamers of light across the room. He’s lying on his back with Stiles sprawled over him, and Jackson’s arm is wrapped around him to hold him there. Stiles’s mouth is slightly open, breath warm against the skin of Jackson’s throat, lips just grazing him on every inhalation.

Jackson can feel the hard ridge of Stiles’s prick against his thigh, can smell the early morning arousal mixing with his own spent fluids from the night before.

Fuck.

“Wake up, asswipe,” he mutters, shoving at Stiles until he rolls off, taking the pillow with him and curling around it. He’s shirtless, Jackson realizes, and his boxers ride low on his hips, baring the cleft between the cheeks of his ass. They’ve managed to kick off all the blankets, and from this angle, Jackson can clearly see Stiles’s erection as he moves in his sleep, rutting idly against the bed.

He’s not going to watch this.

He’s sure as fuck not going to help.

“Lay around in bed all day, fuck the mattress, I don’t care,” he grumbles before he rolls out of bed. “I need coffee.”

He doesn’t do any more than he absolutely has to, wanting coffee more than he wants a shower or clean clothes. He stumbles into the kitchen still wearing only his pajama bottoms, his reflection in the shiny side of the toaster showing that his hair is sticking up in every direction. He bares his teeth at his own image, flashes blue eyes before he looks away from the distorted image.

He’s just pouring his first cup of coffee when Stiles stumbles in, scratching at his chest, boxers almost sliding off slim hips as he moves. Jackson doesn’t watch the way they hang on his ass when Stiles pushes past him, rooting around in the cupboard for a mug of his own before pouring coffee. “I thought you civilized people drank tea,” Stiles mutters.

“Do you want tea?” Jackson rolls his eyes; as if he’d gone native enough to give up coffee.

“Coffee’s good. M’head’s all fucked up between the time change and my meds.” Stiles scratches at his belly with one hand, raises the mug to his lips with the other, all while watching Jackson through hooded eyes. “Your bed’s more comfortable than the couch.”

“You’re a fucking octopus when you sleep,” Jackson snaps. “Go back to the couch again tonight. Or the guest room.” He doesn’t think they’ll be done with whatever the fuck they are doing by then, and he’s not letting Stiles back in his room, even if it means cleaning out the storage closet that doubles as a guest room in this flat. “Either you stay there on your own or I’ll lock the door. We are not sharing a bed.”

Stiles snorts softly. “Nice way to have a reunion with your ex. But we could fuck on the couch if you’d rather. Be creative. Do it all over the house, since your parents aren’t around.”

“Shut up, Stilinski.” Jackson doesn’t even try to hold back when he feels his fangs slip into place, knows the growl means his eyes are flashing blue and Stiles doesn’t even move in response. “Let’s figure out a plan for your hunters, and go from there.”

“I was thinking we could confront them,” Stiles says, fiddling with the mug. His gaze drops away, and Jackson hears the uptick in his heartbeat; he’s not sure why Stiles is lying, or what part of it is the lie. “You went through the records, and you can read them, and hey, you can even talk to them in their own language. Cora and Lydia seemed to think they liked the kind of people who are upfront. Blunt.”

“If Cora and Lydia have already been through those records, why did you have me read them?” Because that last little bit was truth, at least.

“Because you should know what you’re walking into with this family,” Stiles says. “And because maybe you’ll tell me what they say. Cora and Lydia start reading, then they start talking—and have you ever heard them speaking Spanish to each other? Probably not, but let me tell you, it’s fucking beautiful. They don’t even hesitate, the words just trip off their tongues like music, and next thing I know I—” Stiles stops abruptly, but Jackson can finish the sentence.

Stiles is turned on when they speak Spanish. It amuses Jackson to think about it, and he smirks as he turns away, pulling open the fridge and going through it on a hunt for breakfast.

Eres tan imbécil ,” he says quietly, testing the waters to see if Stiles understands the insult. When he glances back, Stiles is staring at him, and Jackson raises one eyebrow. “ Podría simplemente estar aquí haciendo esto todo el día y se te pondría tan dura que tendrias que ir al baño a hacerte una paja. Esto va a ser la leche.

The chair scrapes as Stiles shifts, his hand in his crotch. “What was all that?”

Jackson shrugs one shoulder. “Grocery list,” he lies, because this is just too entertaining. If he can spend the day calling Stiles a moron and watching him squirm until he has to go somewhere private to get off, it’s going to be good. Much better than he’d expected.

He pulls out eggs and starts putting something together for breakfast. “Croissants are in the cupboard over there,” he says. “I just picked them up on the way home yesterday, so they’ll be good. It sounds like the Águila family is—” He cuts off as his phone buzzes, and he picks it up to check the message coming in, frowning.

Pack meeting. Hunters in town. Alliance discussion. Bring your boy.

“Fuck.” Jackson tosses the phone onto the table, sinks into a seat. “That’s not what we wanted.”

“Eggs are going to burn.” Stiles gestures at the stove, and Jackson jumps up to get them. “What’s wrong?”

“I know exactly where the Águila family is. They’re with Miles, and they want an accord.” Jackson scowls. “They’re cutting deals, and Miles wants me there. I wonder how much they’ll pay him to take me off his hands.” He glances at Stiles. “They want you there, too.”

“Why me?” Stiles manages to cram half a croissant into his mouth at once, crumbs spilling out as he chews. It shouldn’t be attractive in any way, except it somehow is because Jackson’s got pack on the brain, and the lie, and the fact that he still has to convince his pack that he’s trustworthy.

“They don’t trust me,” he says bluntly. “And that means they don’t trust you being here. Remember, I’m a blue-eyed wolf, and they know at least some of what I did back in Beacon Hills. And they know that things are bad there, and that things were still bad after I left.”

Stiles’s mouth falls open, clapping shut long enough to chew and swallow the remains of the croissant. “Do they know my part in that later bad bit?”

Jackson shakes his head. “I didn’t bother going into details. That’s Beacon Hills and I left it behind, and this is London and I need to make my place here. I need to be the werewolf I’m going to be, not the Kanima that I was.”

“You sound like you’ve been listening to self-help tapes.” Stiles snorts.

He hasn’t. Not exactly. But he’s been reading, and listening to an actual therapist that his parents force him to see every week. He had to do something about the nightmares, but that’s not the kind of thing he’s going to discuss with Stiles.

Jackson scowls, lips twisting angrily. “My point is, I have a pack and they think I’m a fucking murderer and lying to them, and they’re just waiting to see it all go tits up and I’m not going to give them the pleasure of believing that they’re right. So you’re coming with me, and you’re playing the doting ex, and that’s it.”

“And if they can tell?” Stiles pushes at his face, brushing crumbs away. “Or if the hunters recognize me? I don’t think any of them saw me in Beacon Hills, but I could be wrong. They could guess that I’m here for them, not you.”

Jackson smiles tightly. “Then we’d better put on the best damned show, babe. Come here.”

Stiles pushes to his feet, crosses the room in just a few steps, getting into Jackson’s face. “Is this the part where we make out?” He smirks, but doesn’t reach for Jackson, so Jackson does it for him. 

He grips Stiles’s shoulders and pulls him closer, gives him a minute to back out before he slots his mouth over Stiles’s. He takes it slow, because he’s not going to force this; it’s more like asking permission without words. When Stiles’s tongue touches his lips, Jackson opens and deepens the kiss, sinking into it.

Stiles isn’t a bad kisser. He’s not Lydia—no one would be—and Jackson honestly doesn’t have a lot else to compare it to. Jessica, back in middle school, then Lydia for high school. A few random hookups in London, but nothing serious. Nothing that involved the intimacy of kissing

And it’s weirdly nice, now that they’re just doing it, intimate in a good way, in a way that Jackson hasn’t been recently and that makes the wolf inside him preen happily. He twists them both around, nudging Stiles back against the counter, fitting one leg between his, pressing up against him. He can feel the ridge of Stiles’s arousal, and isn’t entirely surprised to realize that he’s hard as well. He doesn’t think about what it might be like to rut up against him, to pin him there with claws caught in his shirt, to get them both off in a haze of lust. He doesn’t think about what it would be like to let himself go to his knees, press his face into Stiles’s crotch where the scent is strong and to lick it off of him.

Oh fuck, he really can’t stop thinking about this.

Twenty-four hours ago, Stilinski hadn’t even crossed his mind in months. Now he’s rubbing against him like they’re actually something to each other, and he’s so fucking hard he can hardly think.

It’s the lack of sex in his life. It has to be. It sure as fuck can’t be Stilinski.

Stiles nudges him back, and Jackson breaks the kiss, ending with his forehead resting in the crook of Stiles’s shoulder. He nuzzles because he can’t help it, needing to spread his scent and knowing that leaving it all over the pulse point will definitely mark Stiles as his own.

“Is that so the pack will accept me as yours?” Stiles mutters, his hands on Jackson’s head, threaded through his hair and holding him there. The snark is gone, something vulnerable in his voice instead, and Jackson wonders how long it’s been since Stiles had someone to be close to.

He doesn’t want to think about that, doesn’t want to think about the idea that either of them could need anything from each other. Instead he nips, sucks, makes a mark right over Stiles’s collarbone where it’s visible. “Marking you,” he mutters, rubbing his cheek against Stiles’s skin, twisting his head so he can encourage Stiles to mark him in return. And Stiles does so, mouthing kisses along the line of Jackson’s neck, as if it’s nothing that he’s trusting him with the most tender parts of his throat.

It’s only necessary. That’s all it is.

Jackson pulls back finally, trying to be surreptitious as he adjusts himself. Stiles doesn’t bother with subterfuge, grabbing his dick and moving it so that it isn’t peeking out through the hole in his boxers. Jackson coughs, and Stiles looks at him.

“Get dressed,” Jackson orders. “I’ll finish making us something to eat before we go.”

“Aw, such a good pretend-boyfriend, taking care of me.” Stiles pats Jackson on the cheek. “So sweet, babe. Knew there had to be a reason I pretend-loved you once.” He cocks his head, pauses. “Wonder why we pretend-broke up… bet it’s because you’re a complete asshole.”

“So are you,” Jackson points out dryly. He’d think it was more of an enticement that they’re both asses, because he can’t imagine anyone else being able to stand Stiles long enough to put up with him. But Jackson gives as good as he gets. That’s one of the things he could always depend on back home in Beacon Hills: Stiles would always be ready with a sarcastic cut, no matter how much Jackson pushed at him.

He might have even liked verbally sparring with the asswipe.

Jackson picks up his phone to glance at it again, seeing a fresh text from Miles: Don’t be late. They’re already here, and we’re the first pack they’re talking to. Don’t fuck this up for us.

He reads between the lines, that an accord with hunters could be a way to get the other two older, and much more entrenched, packs out of London. That this could be a way for Miles to claw his way to the top and into power.

It makes him think again that according to Derek, Miles died when he was five. That either this isn’t Miles O’Loughlin, or else Miles somehow survived to become this. Neither option makes Jackson feel good about things, and he doesn’t like the idea that his alpha is lying to him about something. Maybe lying to the whole damned pack. And the thing is, there has to be a reason for the lie… and he’s pretty damned sure he won’t want to know what it is.

#

Stiles squeezes in behind Jackson on the Tube, pressed in close by the crush of morning commuters. It is an onslaught of sensation and scent, but Stiles presses his hand against Jackson’s chest from behind. Jackson dips his head and inhales roughly, and just like that he smells Stiles more than the crash of a dozen different perfumes and deodorants. He closes his eyes, leans back against Stiles, and sways with the movement of the train until their stop comes.

He doesn’t thank Stiles; that would be admitting his own weakness. But he does glare at the people who block their way from the exit so that a path opens and Stiles walks out easily.

He catches Stiles’s wrist as they exit the station, twisting them both so he can push him up against the wall. Jackson nuzzles into his throat, huffing a small exasperated sigh.

“Feel like making out and being late?” Stiles asks dryly. “Or just getting your werewolf scent all over me before we go back into the breach.”

“We don’t talk about it again,” Jackson whispers, taking the time to nip another mark into Stiles’s skin. It’s the second bruise, the first a deep red and this one slightly lighter. He teases it with his tongue, then nips again. “Don’t fuck this up.”

Stiles pushes at him, and Jackson steps back, gaze narrowed. Stiles rolls his eyes. “I’m not going to fuck it up. Think about it. I came here to save your little lizard ass from the hunters. Why the hell would you think I’d want to cause you trouble with your pack? Fine, rub your scent everywhere. Let’s just get this over with so I can get home.”

Fingers brush as they walk again, side by side, until they reach the small coffee shop where Felicia has the opening shift, and Miles is meeting with the hunters. Stiles turns his hand, and Jackson tangles their fingers together, making a statement as they walk through the door.

The shop is empty except for the pack sitting sprawled over chairs and tables, and in Felicia’s case, perched on the countertop. “It’s a good thing no one ever comes here for the coffee,” Jackson points out.

“That’s because in this country, we drink tea,” she counters quickly. “I’ve got a pot put on for you behind the counter. If you want a cup.”

He has to let go of Stiles to get there. He gestures at a table, and Stiles sinks into the chair, kicking it back and putting his feet up. Because of course he’ll make himself at home, as if this pack won’t rip his throat out just for being a stranger. Jackson shakes his head and busies himself finding two mugs and pouring coffee.

“You smell like sex,” Felicia whispers, teeth catching on his earlobe as she leans in close, words almost pressed against his throat.

Jackson’s gut twists. He doesn’t smell like sex, he smells like sharing a shower after Stiles jerked off, and he smells like dried jizz and Stiles’s scent from twisted sheets. But there’s a flush to his cheeks as warmth rises, and she laughs when she nudges his shoulder. 

“It looks good on you,” she says. “You’re more relaxed.”

He gives her a startled look because she isn’t lying. She really thinks he looks different, and the flush intensifies. Because he doesn’t feel more relaxed. If anything, he feels irritated and tense, like his skin pricks with the constant awareness that he has to mark Stiles as his to keep him safe. He forces himself to smile blandly, then call out, “Did you hear that, babe? Apparently fucking you into the mattress is good for me.”

“Thawing the ice queen,” Stiles deadpans as he pulls his feet down, letting the chair hit the floor with a thunk. “That would explain why we ended up so soaked, although I wouldn’t have thought melting ice would be so sticky.”

Jackson’s mouth quirks, trying to make a smile into a smirk before it escapes. If he didn’t find Stiles so irritating, he might actually like the guy. He remembers details and he gives as good as he gets. That’s worth a cup of coffee at least. Jackson pushes the cup towards Stiles on the table, then drops into the other chair, legs lazily extended and tangled with Stiles. “Okay, Miles, you didn’t want us to be late. Where are the hunters? I thought you said they were already here?”

“They’ve stepped out.” Miles bares his teeth, leaning back against the counter. Felicia tilts her head and he leans in closer, his fingers sliding along her neck. It’s an unconscious thing the way they mark each other; Jackson looks away but notices that Stiles is watching, taking it all in. “We’ve already discussed the terms of an accord.”

“What do you know about them?”

“Spanish.” Shelley ticks off items on her fingers as she states them bluntly. “They have an online trail, but it’s hard to follow. Someone else tried to trace them recently, and we followed those tracks in through some holes they left behind. Name means eagle, and they are known for being quick to anger and quicker to kill, not to mention finding things that might otherwise remain unspotted. They arrived here two days ago, fresh out of California. Near your home.” She says it blandly, as if it doesn’t matter, but Jackson can feel the way Miles looks at him. He sees Brock’s fist curl, claws flexing, and watches Jeffrey shift his stance, ready to pounce.

“My previous pack’s fine.” He answers the question that hasn’t been asked.

“All present and accounted for,” Stiles says. “In at least one case, unfortunately.” He tilts his head. “Sorry, Jax, I know Danny’s your best friend, but his taste in men is terrible.”

“Ethan’s been better since he lost the connection with his twin.” Since he lost his twin. Jackson can’t even imagine having a bond that close and then simply having it severed like it never existed. According to Danny, Ethan’s a pale shell of his prior existence, working hard to make a place in a pack that never really seemed to want him.

“Don’t talk about people you know nothing about.” Anger rolls off of Stiles in waves, and Jackson’s hackles rise. He growls and Stiles just looks at him.

“Trouble in paradise?” Felicia asks.

“We broke up for a reason,” Jackson says dryly. “Great sex doesn’t mean he’s not an asshole.”

Stiles relaxes by inches, settling back against the chair. “Glad to know you think the sex was great, babe.”

“Anyway, if you two are done with your foreplay for round two—”

“Three.” Stiles interrupts Shelley with a smirk. “Night and morning. Really, what else did you expect?”

“If you’re done,” Shelley repeats, glaring at him. “They’re a violent, quick family of hunters, but they are also loyal and strict when it comes to alliances and their creed. Which means if we get an alliance set with them, they’ll leave us alone.”

Stiles glances at Jackson, and he can guess what he’s thinking. All of them? Would that protect Jackson, or would it give Miles a way to write into the accord that they get rid of the blue-eyed wolf along the way? Stiles reaches out, his hand covering Jackson’s, thumb lightly brushing along his skin. “What about the other packs?”

There’s a sharp flash of red, echoed by the drop of Miles’s teeth. “That depends on if they work out their own accord with the hunters.” His ears flick and he turns to the door. “They’re back.”

“With coffee,” Stiles observes as the door opens.

“I wasn’t joking about this being a crappy coffee shop,” Jackson says. “The owners let Felicia and Shelly do whatever they want with it.” The shop is mostly a pack meeting place that’s only open when they feel like it. Jackson is also fairly certain that Simon and Mel sleep in the back most nights, but it’s one of the things the pack doesn’t talk about. They’re all broken teenagers in their own ways; no one wants to acknowledge it out loud.

“Your last wolf.” The first of the hunters speaks in thickly accented English, fingers curled tightly around a take away cup of coffee. Jackson can smell it—vanilla caramel cream with a dash of cinnamon—and it seems not to match his tough image. He can also smell gunpowder and the metal of knives hidden away. There’s nothing innocent about this man. He’s a predator, and enough of one that Jackson growls before he thinks about it, his eyes flashing blue.

The hunters exchange looks—two men, one woman, and all deadly serious as they look back at Jackson.

No puedes confiar en un lobo con ojos azules,” the woman says. She has one hand in her pocket; Jackson can see the faint motion of her fingers as she touches the blade hidden there. He wants to bare his teeth and growl again because he is more than simply a blue-eyed wolf, but that won’t help anything.

Una vez te conviertes en asesino, siempre eres un asesino,” the man in the lead agrees. His gaze shifts to look at Stiles again. “Tiene un humano.”

Once a killer, always a killer. Jackson’s jaw is tight, and he sinks into the feel of Stiles’s thumb against his skin, anchoring himself there rather than letting anger take hold.

Pareja, o fue su pareja una vez ,” she agrees, voice low. “ El alfa nos lo dijo, ¿te acuerdas?

Jackson follows the rapid-fire Spanish easily, but the others are looking between each other in confusion. He tries to keep his own expression blank as well, not wanting to give away just how much he knows. He doesn’t like the way the focus shifted from his own past as a killer to the way Stiles is with him, they way they see him as a partner or mate, not to mention the way Miles apparently linked the two of them together in his description of them. He and Stiles need to seem as innocent as they can to try keep the suspicion that Jackson can hear in their tone from becoming dangerous.

“English,” Miles snaps. “As long as we’re in discussions over an alliance, you will speak English.”

“Of course.” The woman’s voice is liquid, words coming more easily to her than to the leader, or their still-silent friend. “We forget ourselves and our manners,” she says. “Perhaps you could introduce me to the remainder of your pack.”

“Abercrombie over there is Jackson, and the other is his human boy, visiting from the States.”

Stiles sneers at Miles over the description, and Miles bares his teeth back. Jackson hasn’t thought about it before, but every single person in Miles’s pack is a wolf. They have no use for humans other than as a means to an end; humans are the people who buy the coffee and pay the bills. Humans are the parents that provide Jackson’s home where they meet. Other than Stiles and the hunters, Jackson can’t think of another human that knows that he’s ever seen interact with the pack.

It’s a sobering thought, and one he should have had months ago.

Stiles raises a hand in a slow wave. “Stiles,” he says. “Since apparently being human means not worth introducing.” Jackson isn’t sure where the dig is meant to go, but it does get the point across that if Miles doesn’t respect Stiles, he won’t respect the hunters either. Jackson just isn’t sure if that helps or hinders the situation.

“Are we going to talk politics all day?” Shelly stands up, stretches. “Because this is deadly dull, and I don’t want to be around for it. Miles, Felicia—you do the work. We’re going out to play. Let’s take Jackson’s boy out for games.”

“Jackson’s boy has a name.”

She flashes him a grin. “I’m sure you do, but right now you’re just in the way. This is pack business, niblet, and I’m getting you out of Miles’s way.”

The problem is, they haven’t learned anything. But they also aren’t going to learn anything by listening to Miles. Overhearing the honest conversations in another language will help them most, but Miles isn’t going to let them get away with that. On the other hand, the hunters meeting with Miles means that their plan to try to infiltrate the hunters on their own isn’t going to work, either. They need time to regroup. Think. Plan.

Stiles tangles his fingers into Jackson’s. “Come on, Jax. Take me out. Show me a good time before I have to go home again.”

Jackson’s mind is still twisting over the details. They’re going to talk to Miles about the blue-eyed wolf. They’re going to ask where Stiles is from, and Miles is going to tell them. The hunters are going to track them both down and kill them quickly.

It’s not a pleasant future to see stretching out in front of them, and Jackson can’t think his way around it, not yet. So he simply lets Stiles pull him to his feet, sliding an arm around Stiles’s shoulder, burying his face in his throat as he holds him for a moment, claiming him in front of everyone. He catches his earlobe, tugs until Stiles shivers. “I’m not in this for the politics,” he murmurs loud enough for the hunters to hear. “I’m just in this to be the hottest shit in London.” He lifts his head, grins toothily at the strangers. “Which we already are. Have a great time, Miles. I’m sure it’s going to be fun.”

He lets Shelley guide the pack out of the shop and back towards the Tube and tries not to think about how much he needs to get Stiles alone right now. So they can plan, of course. So they can plan.

#

“You want to go on Seaquarium.” Brock’s the one that calls bullshit when Jackson brings it up, already starting to tug Stiles away from the rest of the group. “You said before—and I quote—you don’t give a bloody damn about fish unless they’re on your plate, and most of the time not even then.”

“Fish is good for the heart. And the eyes,” Stiles points out.

“It’s also not red meat.” Jackson flashes a hint of fang to get his point across. “And yes, I’m going. It has nothing to do with the fish, Brock.”

Shelley smirks. “If you get caught doing anything more than a quick snog on the ride they’ll toss your arse out of the park,” she points out. “And no climbing out of the boats to do it in dark corners, either. They’ll bloody well ban you for life for that.”

Stiles waggles his eyebrows. “Don’t worry, we won’t get caught. One of the joys of hanging around with folks who get furry—you get really good at being quiet enough to not disturb the wolves.”

Shelley laughs, while Jeffrey makes a face, twisted up with distaste.

“Jealous?” Stiles needles.

“You’re not my type,” Jeffrey shoots back.

“I’m everyone’s type.” Jackson lets the words fall lazily, then tugs again to pull Stiles towards him. “Come on. You guys go scramble your brains somewhere else for a while.”

“I’m not bailing you out if you get caught!” Shelley yells over her shoulder, and Stiles counters with his own yell that they won’t get caught before Jackson pulls him in close, arm around his shoulder, making it look for all the world like he’s silencing his boyfriend with a kiss.

Ex-boyfriend.

And yeah, it is a kiss. A long, slow, deep kiss that seems to get deeper as the moments go on. Jackson doesn’t mean it to be this much and yet he has Stiles’s tongue in his mouth and he hears Shelley’s hoot of approval in the distance as it feels like Stiles tries to swallow him down.

“We’ve probably got a good half hour before they come hunting for us,” Stiles murmurs against Jackson’s lips. “Maybe less for Shelley. Probably more for the asshole.”

“Homophobic git,” Jackson mutters. He remembers talking about Danny and Ethan once, and Jeffrey’s comments. It’s obviously not going to be any better with the evidence right in front of him. Not that this is real; Jackson isn’t even into guys. But Jeffrey obviously thinks it is real, which means they’re pulling it off.

Stiles pulls away and tangles his fingers with Jackson’s. They start walking just like any other couple, threading through the crowd, budging shoulders up against each other occasionally. Stiles licks his lips, opens his mouth, closes it again.

“What?”

“One, are we really going into the Seaquarium, and two, what did you want to talk about?” Stiles puts the words out there quickly, not quite a blurt, but obviously speaking as if being faster will mean they aren’t overheard.

“We don’t have to go to Seaquarium, but we will go back looking like I fucked your mouth,” Jackson says, and there’s a twist in his gut when Stiles flushes faintly at his words. “Second, no matter what accord Miles sets, the Águila family doesn’t trust a blue-eyed wolf, which means they don’t trust me. They seem to think I’m going to go on a killing spree any second now.”

“Did they recognize me?”

“Not that I could tell. They referred to you as mine.” Jackson rolls over the words, the seriousness with which they were said. “They seemed to think we’re a lot closer than we are—probably even closer than we are saying we were. Which means that if they want to take me out, they might want to take you out too.”

“From what I’ve seen of Miles, I don’t think he’s got any love of humans either,” Stiles says dryly. “I don’t think he’d feel terrible if I happened to kick the bucket while defending you.”

“What about Scott?”

“What about Scott?” Stiles shrugs. “Your pack and his don’t care about each other at all. Miles isn’t going to care if Scott shows up and gives him a fight, and honestly, the fact that Scott can go all true alpha on him and kick his ass isn’t going to help us when we’re already dead.”

“Fatalistic.”

Realistic.” Stiles sucks in a breath, lets it out slow enough that Jackson swears he can hear the way his ribcage narrows, second by second as the air goes out. “This means we can’t go back to our original plan. They know who you are, they know you’re a werewolf and that you’ve killed, and they know I’m associated with you. Neither of us can play innocent any more. So what do we do with that?”

“Can’t tell Miles I can translate, because that will tell them that I know what they said earlier.” Jackson shakes his head. He has no good ideas at this point.

“Then we just stick around, and you try to shadow Miles every chance you get,” Stiles says. “Find out what they’re saying to him and what they’re saying to each other, and where the two discussions don’t match up. If they think we can’t understand a word they’re saying, they’ll slip up.”

“Didn’t you take Spanish in school, too?” Jackson remembers Stiles sitting there in classes, chewing on pencils and tapping his feet. He also remembers Stiles shoving it in his face, being obnoxious when they were running from things.

Stiles shrugs. “Took the class, didn’t pay enough attention. I get maybe one word in three when they’re talking that fast.”

“But it turns you on.” Jackson bumps Stiles’s hip, still amused by that.

Stiles stutters, tripping over his own feet. “Not when they’re talking,” he admits.

And that… that’s better than anything else he could say right now. It twists deep inside Jackson’s gut to hear it, to know that he is in the same class as Cora and Lydia, winding Stiles up tight and leaving him hard and aching.

Of course he is. He’s everyone’s type.

Not that he wants to be. Not that he’s thinking about what could happen if they did go into Seaquarium, and Jackson started murmuring in the dark, whispering anything at all in Spanish into Stiles’s ear and palming him to see just how hard he gets.

He’s not thinking about that at all.

Fuck.

Stiles tugs on Jackson’s hand and he follows along without thinking, pulling up short when Stiles stops at a vendor’s booth. He pulls out his wallet, buys the candy floss that Stiles wants and opens his mouth when Stiles offers him a bright pink bite. The sweet melts on his tongue and Stiles chases it with his own, while the people around them murmur and make approving noises.

“There’s no one watching,” Jackson murmurs, because this charade shouldn’t be so easy, or so constant.

“There are plenty of people watching,” Stiles counters.

“No pack.” Which is true. Jackson could smell them if they were here, could even smell the other packs. He knows their scents, knows what to look for and is constantly on guard. He wonders if it would be the same way in Beacon Hills, or if he would have trusted his pack and not have to watch his back, wondering what they’re thinking of the killer wolf.

“Practice.” Stiles offers another bite of candy floss, and Jackson lips at it, licking it into his mouth before he kisses Stiles this time, sharing the sweet. He hears a whistle and ignores it in favor of yet another kiss. It doesn’t feel like kissing Lydia; it’s easier in some ways, without that angsty pull to his heart where he clung to her, knowing that if no one else loved him, she did. It’s just… it’s easy. Easy to fall into it, easy to taste Stiles and sweet and pull him in, hungry for more.

And it makes his wolf coil comfortably warm until he growls softly, eyes flashing for a moment as Stiles pulls away. “Tu boca va a acabar conmigo, cabrón.” Jackson grumbles, letting him go. Because fuck… that mouth.

“Whatever that was, I’m going to take it as a compliment.” Stiles pats his cheek. “C’mon, cabrón. If we can’t plan, we might as well pretend that we’re actually doing all the things your pack thinks we are, so they believe it when we meet up with them again.”

Jackson’s phone buzzes in his pocket. “That may be sooner than you think.” He fishes it out, checks his messages. There are a stream of them coming in, Miles first, followed quickly by Felicia, then each of the pack checking in after that. Mel includes a selfie of her and Simon at the top of the ferris wheel, and Miles responds with a selfie showing himself and two strangers at the gates to the amusement park. Hunters, Jackson assumes.

“What is it?”

“Accord’s been reached, and we’re going to party with the hunters,” Jackson mutters as another text comes through. His lips press thinly together, displeased with the latest news. “And take them home. They have more people than they have places to stay, so they’re staying with us as part of the alliance. I’ve got an empty house, so we’re taking four of them.”

Stiles hesitates, and Jackson can see the wheels turning. “Just how many of them are there, anyway? We only saw a half dozen or so in Beacon Hills.”

“Miles is splitting ten of them up between our spaces. And that’s none of the leaders, just the outliers. I’d say there are thirty total, if not more.”

Stiles gives a low whistle, and that’s how Jackson feels. They start walking hand in hand, aiming for the front gate while Stiles’s thumb rubs idly over Jackson’s skin. Thirty fucking hunters. Thirty hunters, living among them, sharing space with wolves. Hunters don’t do that. Not unless they’re the Argents, and they aren’t hunters, not like Jackson usually thinks of them.

The Águila family is up to something.

Miles is up to something, and the rest of the pack is just accepting it.

Jackson doesn’t like it, and for the first time, he’s glad Stiles is here. Glad he’s got someone on his side, someone who’s an asshole, but who is also smart and able to take this on. Someone who came here to warn him like he might give a shit.

Fuck, he’s grateful for Stiles Stilinski, and when the hell did the world get this weird?

He sees Miles in the distance, sees the moment that Felicia spots them both. He bumps his shoulder into Stiles’s, doesn’t say a word, but he turns when Stiles tugs, taking another kiss like it’s normal by now. In the distance he can hear Jeffrey’s disgust and Felicia and Shelley’s amusement, and he has to believe that somehow, everything’s going to work out fine.

Because if it doesn’t, he and Stiles might not get out alive.

#

They end up spending the rest of the day with the pack and the hunters in the coffee shop, hashing out details of who’s going where, and what is expected of everyone. It is late evening before Jackson herds his four hunters into his space. They are all younger, between the ages of 17 and 20, and they are more forthcoming than he expects hunters to be to a wolf. Three are siblings—Carmina, Isabella, and Domingo, and Juan is Isabella’s best friend and boyfriend, not born into the Águila family, but expected to marry into it. The girls prefer throwing knives and speed as their weapons of choice, while Juan is a dead shot and Domingo claims to work best with his hands.

“Isn’t it dangerous to get in that close with werewolves?” Stiles asks nonchalantly, as if he’s not scoping out the danger level of these killers in their midst.

“Absolutely.” Juan’s grin is as sharp as if he were a werewolf himself. “Es una locura. That’s what makes it so good.”

Stiles swallows hard and Jackson sees what Juan means; Juan’s the sort who fights the wolves because it makes his blood pump hot and he probably fucks Isabella after. Stiles glances at Jackson, and Jackson just smirks back at him, and Juan nods knowingly.

Sabes a lo que me refiero, maricón de lobos,” Juan murmurs, and Jackson does his best not to bristle at the insult to Stiles.

“We’ve got a guest room, and my parents’ room,” Jackson says, turning the conversation around and not thinking about Stiles as a whore, on his knees, that mouth of his… fuck, no, he will not think about it. “And there’s the couch.”

“I’ll take the couch,” Domingo says, tone firm and voice heavily accented. “Girls will take your parents’ room, Juan in the other.”

“No.” Isabella’s voice lilts, and she smirks. “Juan and I will share the guest room. Carmina in his parents’ room, and you, yes, on the couch.”

“I’m tired,” Stiles announces abruptly. “And I don’t actually care who takes what room as long as you keep it down and promise not to scream when you get off. Jackson, I’ll be in bed waiting for you.” He raises one eyebrow, his hand sliding over Jackson’s shoulder, then down his arm. Jackson’s pretty sure there’s a message in the gesture, and it isn’t come fuck me like Stiles is pretending it is.

Isabella’s smirk just widens; the ruse is alive and well and believable.

Jackson reaches out, grabs Stiles by the collar and pulls him back in close, kissing him hard. “Don’t start without me,” he murmurs, and he feels Stiles’s grin against his lip.

“Don’t make me wait,” Stiles counters, giving him one more kiss before he leaves and the door to Jackson’s room slams.

Vete a follarte a tu novio.” Domingo gestures when Jackson stares blankly, refusing to admit he understands a word of the language. The hunter laughs, repeating in slow English. “Go fuck your boyfriend, wolf. We do not care that he hungers for your kind. Someday you might kill him; that is his risk.”

“I’m not going to kill anyone,” Jackson tells him.

Tus ojos me cuentan otra historia .”

Jackson turns to look at Isabella, his hands curled slightly, claws hidden. These hunters won’t let it go; they keep pushing at his unplanned and unwanted blue-eyed heritage, blunt when they can hide behind words they think he doesn’t understand. He blinks twice, then asks, “What?” Shaking his head, he gestures, cutting her off before she can reply. “Nevermind. I don’t care what you’re rambling about, I’ve got someone waiting for me. And he’s right: I don’t want to hear the two of you going at it, or anything else. This place is for sleeping. You aren’t guests, we aren’t friends, and I am more than happy to toss you out on your collective asses if I need to. So keep it down.”

They don’t lower their voices when he walks away, and they aren’t idiots. Isabella knows he can hear her, but she doesn’t seem to care, not as long as she’s speaking in her native language. 

Deberíamos matarle esta noche .”

No.” Domingo issues the order sharply. “ Esta es una rara oportunidad y vamos a ser los primeros en aprovecharla. Una vez acabemos, él será el primero en morir .”

Jackson slips into his room and pulls the door closed behind himself, leaning against it, eyes closed as he listens for a reply. It helps a little, knowing that however much Isabella wants to kill him right now, Domingo wants to wait, even though it sounds like attempts at his death are inevitable as soon as they’re done with whatever plan they have with Miles. The voices drop away, too low for him to hear clearly enough to translate. Maybe if they were speaking English he could pick up enough of it, but he’s not that good at Spanish.

“Jackson’s here.” Stiles’s voice is low. “Hey, Jax, are they coming down here to try to listen in on us?”

“No bugs, no footsteps. They’re still all in the living room talking about the order they plan to kill us in, I think.” Jackson opens his eyes, stares at where Stiles sits on the bed, cross-legged and wearing only borrowed pajama bottoms. “Don’t call me that.”

“It’s a term of endearment, babe.” Stiles grins. He pats the bed, waits for Jackson to settle into the space before he starts talking again, voice low enough that it’s pitched for werewolf ears only. “I’ve given the names of our new best friends to the pack and asked them to look into them. Lydia and Danny will make sure they’re only human; we don’t need any surprises like supernatural creatures as hunters.”

“It would go against code,” Scott says from the computer, leaning in slightly. “A hunter has to kill himself if he’s bitten.”

“That doesn’t preclude a born creature deciding to hunt for whatever reason they might have,” Lydia objects. Jackson stares at the screen, losing track of her next words. They’ve spoke on the phone, texted, but it’s been ages since they’ve bothered with Skype. 

He realizes she’s stopped speaking when she snaps her fingers. “Sorry,” he apologizes. “I’m sorry about Aiden.” He isn’t, but at the same time, he is, because it hurt Lydia.

“I’m obviously cursed,” she says dryly. “Two boyfriends and one best friend dead, and only one of them has been bothered to come back to life.”

“They can’t all be me.” Maybe it’s slightly tasteless, as teasing goes, but it makes her smile fondly so Jackson is glad he said it.

Stiles knocks against his shoulder. “Later,” he says quietly. “We’re trying to keep anyone else from dying, remember? Which means checking on everything, no matter how ridiculous it seems. If these guys go after the aberrations, they might be willing to push harder than your typical hunter. Think about Kate; I don’t think she was any less a hunter after she was turned.”

Scott makes a face while Lydia nods sagely. Jackson can’t contribute; he never saw Kate before she was dead for the second time. It seems to be a theme in Beacon Hills, coming back from the dead. He doesn’t even have the best resurrection story out of them all.

“So what now?” Jackson asks. He shifts, and ends up tilted slightly towards Stiles, his arm braced behind Stiles’s back. Stiles leans back, letting Jackson take his weight.

“Now we let them do the research while we do the field work, and we wait for Danny and Lydia to get back to us,” Stiles says. “Scott’s got it all under control on his side.”

“Which leaves you two playing adorable and in love and trying not to die,” Lydia says, tone going sharp at the last. “I mean it, Stiles. If you die, I am coming over there to bring you back and kill you again myself.”

“I can feel the love, Lydia.” Stiles touches his lips, blows her a kiss. “Don’t worry, I’ll keep Jackson safe, and he’ll watch my ass. He has to, in order to convince everyone we’re in love.”

“Don’t enjoy it too much.” Lydia pins Jackson with a look he can’t interpret except in ways that make no sense. He simply tries to keep his expression flat, a little sour, and whatever he does seems to work well enough that she relaxes. “We miss you, Stiles,” she murmurs, and his expression softens.

He reaches out to the screen, touches it lightly. “Miss you too, Lydia. And Scott, keep everyone safe there. Try not to get into dire trouble while I’m gone and can’t save your ass, okay? Especially Derek. No drowning, being stabbed by evil were-creatures, finding pockets of hunters… tell him to hide in the loft or something.”

“He can take care of himself, and if he can’t, I’m the alpha.” Scott laughs. “Just take care of yourself, both of you. We’ll see you soon, Stiles.”

Nothing about Jackson. Not about his capabilities, not about taking care of himself (only that Stiles can take care of him). Nothing from Lydia, who used to love him. It’s as if he doesn’t exist for them anymore. He definitely isn’t part of that pack, doesn’t belong. It’s a sobering realization. It used to be something remote, but seeing Scott and Lydia interact with Stiles is like picking at a long healed scab, opening it up to the point of pain, and he doesn’t like it.

Belonging has always been Jackson’s issue.

Stiles closes the laptop lid and sets it aside, pushing into Jackson as he twists to get it on the nightstand. He doesn’t pull back after, leaning into him as if he means to be there. “Hey,” he says quietly.

That almost sounds like sympathy, and that’s not something Jackson needs from Stiles.

“So,” he counters. “You and Lydia.”

Stiles’s laugh is dry. “It’s not like that.” When Jackson raises one eyebrow, Stiles flushes. “No, really, it’s not. First of all, she’s coming off of two heartbreaks of an extremely brutal nature. Yes, you broke her heart when you left.”

Jackson swallows past the lump in his throat. “It wasn’t exactly my idea. Dying or moving.”

“She got over you.” Stiles drops the words like they don’t mean anything to Jackson, like they don’t push into the freshly opened wound and rip it apart even more. “She had her distractions, then she had Aiden, and she lost him.”

“And now she has you.”

Stiles laughs, the sound louder than their voices have been. He reigns it in, shaking his head. “She doesn’t have me. We’re friends, Jackson. Good friends and nothing more than that. I was dating another girl for all of about a week, but that didn’t last. She’s a were-coyote, and we’re friends now, but it just wasn’t working out.”

Jackson can hear the lie in his heart, the way it hammers abruptly. “Why not?”

Stiles chews on his lower lip, scratches at his chin. “She wanted more than I did,” he admits. “Coyotes like to fall into immediate intense, deep relationships, apparently. Maybe wolves do, too, considering Derek’s history. And Scott’s history. But that wasn’t what I felt for her, and it was kinder to just break it off before it got worse. Also, she’s Peter’s daughter, and that just felt weird.”

“Hm.” Jackson doesn’t know what to say to any of that, particularly considering his own failed attempts at just fucking and forgetting. “Did you at least manage to punch your v-card?” He moves quickly enough that Stiles’s elbow slides against his side while Jackson tumbles off the bed, coming to his feet like he meant to do it. He spreads his hands, a slow smirk starting. “Loser like you, needs to take any chance you’ve got—”

Stiles is on his feet and in Jackson’s face, pushing him back. He reaches down, palms Jackson’s dick with one hand while the other anchors Jackson’s head so he can kiss him thoroughly. “Yeah,” Stiles breathes over Jackson’s lips. “I’m such a loser that kissing me gets you hard. Feel free to keep insulting me; I’m not sure I believe you.”

It’s a momentary overload, that’s the excuse Jackson keeps in his mind when he mutters, “Besame,” and hauls Stiles back in again, fingers tangled in his hair as he kisses him hard. He is not attracted to this asshole. He is not getting harder by the moment, to where he aches for relief. He is not using Spanish solely because it means he feels Stiles’s arousal pressing against his thigh. He is not.

They part, both breathing heavily, and Jackson takes a step to put space between them. Stiles turns away, his hand at his crotch, adjusting the erection that Jackson can see through the thin pajamas.

“Get ready for bed,” Stiles says. “We should sleep.”

As if Jackson can sleep like this. As if he takes orders from Stiles.

Still. He yanks his shirt off and shoves his jeans down, leaving only his boxers on. Stiles is already in the bed by the time Jackson crawls under the covers, and it seems somehow even smaller than it had in the morning when he woke up entangled. It’s too premeditated like this, like they have no choice but to cuddle or make room that doesn’t exist between them.

With a sigh, Stiles rolls onto his back, arms bent and hands behind his head. Jackson manages to arrange himself on his side, avoiding pointed elbows and not quite touching Stiles at any point.

“What do you think they’re up to?” Stiles murmurs, and Jackson follows his train of thought back to the Águila family.

“Killing off the other two packs in London,” Jackson says quietly, fingers ticking things off against the bed as he speaks. “Probably taking out any other supernaturals that Miles thinks might be a threat, then they’ll kill me. They’ll break the accord last and destroy Miles’s pack; they don’t plan on honoring it. I’m pretty sure that at one point earlier I heard them say the only good beast is a dead one.”

“I thought they just hunted the worst of you.”

Jackson snorts. “I think they hunt those first. But I’m pretty sure they like killing, and they’ll take any chance they get to wipe a few more of us off the face of the earth.”

Stiles rolls over, his hand falling where Jackson’s lies on the bed, covering him and holding on. His thumb is light over Jackson’s skin, soft and soothing and comforting. “I’m not going to let them kill you.”

Jackson lifts one corner of his lip in a sneer. “I don’t need you to protect me.”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “Maybe not. But we’ll do better if you watch my back and I watch yours. So shut up and work with me here.”

He worries the words around in his mind, trying to tease out the insult, but there isn’t one there. Stiles is asking him to watch his back, and Jackson can’t argue with it. It’s the two of them against the hunters, and maybe against the pack itself. Jackson has to accept that if they’re going to make it through alive.

“When you get back a hero, maybe Lydia will want you then,” Jackson muses, and he can’t say why the words slip out, but they do. Stiles’s fingers go still over his, and he pulls away, rolling onto his back again.

“Maybe. Probably not.” Stiles shrugs. “It doesn’t really matter because I’m not into her like that any more. I don’t think she’s really my type.”

Jackson doesn’t believe that, not after the way Stiles tagged after Lydia for years, always there in the shadows, watching the two of them together. He snorts softly. “Right. Then what is your type?”

“I’m not sure I know anymore.” Stiles rolls again, his back to Jackson, body curled around itself. His voice is low, as if he’s talking to the pillow rather than Jackson. “I’m still trying to figure that out, and besides, what does it matter to you?”

I’m everyone’s type.

The words rise unbidden, and Jackson flushes, glad Stiles can’t see him. “Just making conversation, considering everyone out there thinks we’re fucking.”

“At least these house guests won’t be sniffing the sheets in the morning to make sure we’re not lying,” Stiles says. He sounds as if he’s drifting, jet lag probably catching up to him all over again.

“Smells like us in here.”

Stiles sniffs. “I should jerk off.” His voice trails off, and by the end of it, Jackson’s sure he’s asleep. It leaves him lying there in bed, still awake and uncomfortable, a little hard from before and no way to deal with it. He tosses and turns, trying to find a place to fit into the empty spot next to Stiles.

He goes quiet when Stiles flails a hand out, capturing Jackson’s hand and threading their fingers together. He tugs, rolling and pulling Jackson’s hand to his chest, leaving Jackson no choice but to roll towards him, spooning behind him until they are fit hip to hip, Jackson’s head resting against the curve of Stiles’s shoulder.

It’s comfortable.

It shouldn’t be comfortable.

Jackson tugs lightly, but Stiles doesn’t let him go, so he tries to relax. He tries to just breathe and close his eyes, and it only takes a moment before sleep claims him, and he goes loose and soft, curling into Stiles’s warmth in slumber.

#

Jackson wakes twice in the middle of the night, once to his own nightmares, once when Stiles jerks sharply in his sleep, crying out. Both times he wraps himself around Stiles again, anchoring himself in the feel of another body in the bed, in the scent of Stiles and trying not to think about why.

He wakes with his face buried against Stiles’s shoulder, his lips moving idly over skin as his hips rut against the curve of Stiles’s ass without any conscious thought on his part. Jackson is hard as a rock, leaking and aching, and it feels good to be where he is right now.

Stiles murmurs, rolling over and throwing an arm across Jackson’s chest, hand splayed against his side. Hips press to hips again, and Stiles moves in his sleep in that same idle rutting motion that Jackson made just moments ago, this time pressing right against the sharp planes of his hip.

It wouldn’t take much to bring them together, to slot them perfectly so they could slide against each other until they got off.

Jackson doesn’t think about it, doesn’t imagine exactly how Stiles might look with his mouth slightly open and skin flushed with that rush of pleasure. His dick twitches with just how much he doesn’t think about it.

He needs to get out of bed, and he needs to get out now.

He tries to breathe shallowly, hold perfectly still as he listens for movement in the rest of the flat. He can identify where people are: two bodies in the master bedroom, one in the guest room and one in the living room, all breathing the long, slow breath of sleep. Good. He won’t be disturbed.

Jackson manages to get out of bed without waking Stiles, touching his cheek before he thinks, feeling the way Stiles nuzzles closer to his hand. His fingers graze Stiles’s lips and they part just enough for the tip of one finger to slip inside, and Jackson stares at it. No. No, he can’t think about it, can’t consider it.

This isn’t real, it isn’t him, it isn’t them.

He leaves the room as quickly as he can, closing the door quietly and slipping into the bathroom. He turns the water on before he dares even breathe fully, gasping as he shudders, body itching to be touched. He climbs into the shower and stands there with hot water pouring over his head, his hand on his dick as he strips it quickly from root to tip. He slows down after two strokes, uses soap to lubricate and make his hand slide more easily.

He doesn’t think about Stiles on his knees in front of him, those lips parted just like they were in bed.

He doesn’t think about the way Stiles makes little sounds when he sleeps, when he’s touched, when he moves against Jackson.

He doesn’t think about the way their fingers tangle together, or the way Stiles idly strokes his skin like it’s nothing at all to anchor him in the moment.

He closes his eyes and he tries not to think at all about coming all over Stiles’s skin and rubbing his scent into him, rather than shooting off against the tiled wall and watching it run down before being washed away into the drain.

Jackson showers quickly after that, cleaning himself with efficiency and doing his best to forget everything he was so carefully not thinking about.

The door clicks open and he turns the water off just in time to hear Stiles says quietly, “They’re waking up. I’m going to go see if you have anything that can feed six in your kitchen, unless you’d rather give me some money to go out.”

He only has a moment’s hesitation—he doesn’t know if he’s just being an asshole, or if there’s some ulterior motive when he yanks back the curtain, standing there dripping wet and totally naked before he grabs a towel and rubs it against his face. When he looks at Stiles, he sees flushed skin and smells the scent of rushed arousal. Stiles twists away, leaning against the door and not staring.

Jackson smirks. “It’s not all that much more than you had in bed,” he says, keeping his voice down.

“Don’t cross a line,” Stiles mutters. “This is fake and I know you’re not interested, so just… I don’t need to see you naked, dude. Keep it in your pants.”

It’s an interesting choice of words, a phrasing that Jackson tucks away to worry at later when he’s not thinking about Stiles and this weird situation they’re in. Instead he shrugs and wraps the towel around his waist. “I could probably put together pancakes and eggs.” He steps into the space around Stiles, crowding him against the door. “Once I’m changed. Go ahead and shower if you want.” Jackson lets his gaze drop, looks at the tent in Stiles’s pants, then back at his flushed face. “Take care of yourself. Don’t want you to be uncomfortable.”

Stiles’s mouth opens slightly, his tongue darting out to wet his lips, leaving them shiny and plump. His heartbeat skyrockets, and Jackson can’t resist the way he smells, so he leans in, rubbing his face along Stiles’s cheek. He presses his mouth to his throat, waiting until Stiles tilts his head to the side, bares his skin for Jackson to lick and nip. Stiles whines, and Jackson closes his teeth over tender skin, sucking a mark there until the whine grows loud enough to be heard through the door if anyone’s listening.

“What was that for?” Stiles’s voice is barely a whisper when Jackson steps back, his hand sliding down over Stiles’s abdomen, almost teasing at his groin before he pulls back. But not before he sees those stomach muscles flex, before he sees just how much he affects Stiles by touching him.

“Someone was walking by,” Jackson lies. “Figured we should have a reason for being in here together.” He lets his gaze drop one more time, mouth twisting into a smirk. “Like I said. Take care of yourself.” His voice goes even lower. “Think of me.”

He pushes through the door, closing it behind him and leaning against it to hear the rustle of fabric and the satisfied quiet groan as Stiles fists his cock in a familiar slap of skin on skin.

Jackson doesn’t think about it. He doesn’t.

But it’s so easy to imagine Stiles standing there, unable to stop himself from jerking off before he even gets in the shower.

Jackson swallows hard and tries to will his dick to go soft again as he goes into his room and finishes getting dressed.

He escapes as soon as he hears the water cut out, making his way to the kitchen and pulling ingredients down, ignoring the way two hunters already sit at the table, talking in low voices and glancing at him. He gives them a sharp smile. “I’m not a maid or a bed and breakfast,” he tells them. “If you want anything more than cereal after today, go buy some food.”

It’s not that he can’t cook. He can, and he actually likes to. He learned long ago to be self-sufficient because the maid back in Beacon Hills would leave elaborate dinners that didn’t interest him, so he found his own food as soon as he felt comfortable turning the stove on. She helped him once he started getting out of school before her shift was done, and he’s not bad at cooking at all. But he’s not someone’s personal assistant. He’ll cook for himself. And for Stiles, as long as he’s around.

He lets his mind wander while he mixes up some batter and starts a pan heating over the cooktop. It’s easier to listen this way, when he’s not focused, and he can pick up the low murmur of voices. Domingo and Carmina aren’t discussing anything interesting in the kitchen—it’s Isabella and Juan who have his attention. They are still in the master bedroom, their voices not at all guarded while they speak in Spanish.

It’s good to know Isabella thinks he’s an idiot and Juan stands by the idea of Stiles as a wolf-lover, someone who gets off on the danger and not Jackson himself. It’s not even all that far off-base. Jackson’s more intelligent than he lets on, or than his grades show, and Stiles has always gotten high on danger. Jackson knew that long before he was a wolf. He putters around, pouring out the first of the pancakes, hoping they’ll say something more useful, but the sounds turn to something else and he shakes his head. He doesn’t need to hear that.

“Good morning, babe.” Stiles slips into the kitchen, wraps an arm around Jackson’s waist, his palm warm against skin as it finds its way beneath Jackson’s shirt. He presses a kiss to Jackson’s cheek, leans in and rubs against him as if he could scent mark him.

Jackson’s wolf rumbles with pleasure at the behavior, and he roughly shoves it down.

He is not getting attached.

Still. He can feel the eyes of the hunters upon them, so before Stiles can turn away Jackson tugs him closer still, presses mouth to mouth and swallows the taste of him. He wants another whine, another loud whimper, and he gets it, working Stiles’s mouth open to take his tongue and teasing him from the inside out.

“Once in the shower wasn’t enough?” Stiles teases, tongue flicking against Jackson’s lips before he pulls back. “Or is it the guests thing? Feel like you need to constantly scent mark me?”

“Just a preview.” Jackson’s words feel thick around his teeth, and he holds out the spatula. “Put yourself to work, okay? You handle the pancakes, I’ll get the eggs.”

The cooktop is small—even in an expensive flat, the kitchen is smaller than what Jackson grew up with. He works side by side with Stiles, their shoulders brushing regularly as Stiles flips pancakes and Jackson makes eggs to order for each person. As soon as Isabella and Juan join the other two, the murmurs begin again, easily audible to Jackson’s were-enhanced ears. He catalogs it all—the discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of Miles’s pack, and discussions of the other two packs in London. He tries to memorize the names, things he’s never paid attention to before, so that he can look up the other packs later, or at least tell Scott and Derek about them. He notes that they think that out of all the wolves in London, he and Miles are the most dangerous.

He’s not going to tell them again that he doesn’t want to kill ever again. He might have to, to get himself and Stiles out of this alive. The thought turns his stomach, but he shoves that down somewhere far away. He’ll cross the bridge when he comes to it; there’s no point in anticipating it beforehand.

When he and Stiles finally crowd in around the table, they both smile, leaning into each other with Stiles’s hand on his knee. They play up the relationship, and Jackson flashes fang to watch Stiles flush before he leans in to kiss him. If it weren’t for the four hunters watching their every move, it would be almost a good way to spend the morning.

It makes Jackson think about it as real, which it isn’t. And he wonders what Stiles thinks of it, why his heart stutters when Jackson runs a finger up the inside of his thigh. He makes a mental note to scent mark him again later, before they have to see the pack, even while he inquires where the hunters plan to go for the day.

It’s all too domestic and almost normal, and Jackson keeps waiting for the other shoe to drop. Or maybe the better analogy would be that he’s waiting for the gun to fire. He knows the gun on the mantle has been picked up by the hunters; the question is which one of them plans to shoot him in the heart with wolfsbane.

#

The problem is, they don’t have a plan, and Jackson has no way to make a plan now that they are already known to the hunters. So he and Stiles have to simply fit into his usual life and go on with the rest of the pack as if there is no danger hanging over their heads. He could say something, but he’s not sure who to say it to, not until he figures out if Miles is trying to kill him, or if the hunters are just planning that on their own. He has a feeling no one would really miss him if he were gone, and it makes Jackson wary to know that Stiles is the only true ally he has here.

They end up in the coffee shop, sprawled across sofas and chairs with Felicia, Shelley, and Brock. Stiles is acting like Jackson’s a pillow as he lies down on the sofa. Jackson idly cards his fingers through Stiles’s hair because he’s right there, and it feels nice on his fingertips and the idea that he’s leaving traces of his scent behind amuses him. When Stiles grabs his other hand and pulls it to his chest, it reminds Jackson of sleeping and he’s suddenly half-hard and glad Stiles is blocking any view of his lap.

Shelley purses her lips, amused, and Felicia outright laughs.

“There’s a reason Jeffrey isn’t here,” Brock says dryly, and Shelley smacks his shoulder.

“You’re just jealous that you don’t have someone’s head in your lap,” she teases. “Bloke, bird, bet you wouldn’t care which it was if they were sucking you off now, yeah?” She laughs when Brock flushes.

Stiles nuzzles against the inside of Jackson’s thigh, and the problem with his dick gets worse. “It’s not bad as pillows go, but you guys are not getting more of a show than this,” Stiles murmurs. Jackson’s fingers in his hair tighten in warning; Stiles squeezes his hand in response before rolling onto his back, the back of his head lying right atop Jackson’s hard dick. “Is this honestly what you guys do all day? Because if this is the lazy rich person life, it’s boring as fucking hell.”

“This is the lazy poor person’s life.” Felicia rolls her eyes. “Jackson’s the only one of us with any money. Pack of orphans and runaways, and he might as well be one for all his folks are around.”

“Poor little rich boy, that’s my Jax,” Stiles says. “You should’ve seen him in the excess of home, driving his Porsche and waving one hundred dollar bills around like they were nothing.”

Things are more complicated in London. He doesn’t have as much money in his pocket, and he definitely doesn’t have a car. But his life looks good compared to the rest of his pack, even if he’s on his own much of the time.

He wonders if maybe that’s why Miles wants him—solely to finance the pack. It’s not the first time the thought has occurred to him, and he’s spent more than his share on things for them. It is, however, the first time that he’s not so sure he wants to just buy his way in.

He pushes at Stiles’s shoulder. “Fuck you, asshole.” The words come entirely without heat, and are punctuated with a kiss when Stiles reaches up to drag Jackson down so he can reach.

“Did you two break up because Jackson moved to London?” Felicia nudges Stiles with her foot. “You two blokes look good together. A pair of sodding pretty arseholes. Seems like you’ve gone and made up since you’ve been here.”

Stiles touches his tongue to his lips, and Jackson avoids answering by kissing him again, chasing that tongue while he tries to figure out exactly what to say. Stiles gets there first, speaking as soon as they part.

“I didn’t want to do a long distance relationship,” Stiles says, tilting his head back to stare at the ceiling. “It was complicated, and him leaving the pack felt like a betrayal. His ex-girlfriend took it hard, too. I thought it’d be easier if we weren’t together.”

“Was it?” Shelley leans forward, and Jackson wonders when he became the week’s entertainment. Probably when he brought a human into this pack and protected him. 

“I dated other people.” Stiles shrugs one shoulder, the motion pushing into Jackson’s crotch. “There was this girl, then this other girl, and there was a guy I liked, but none of it panned out. There’s no one like Jackson, honestly.”

“Of course there isn’t,” Jackson smirks, pasting on the expression because he knows its expected. His hand rests against Stiles’s chest and it bothers him that the heartbeat there is as fast as it ever is with its Adderal enhancement, but it’s also steady, as if the story Stiles tells is nothing more than truth.

He supposes that in a way it is, but at the same time, it’s entirely framed around a lie.

Stiles reaches into his pocket and rolls over and off, coming to his feet while he fishes his phone out and makes a face before he puts it away again. “Jax, we’ve got to go. I forgot my meds and if I don’t take them, I’m going to get bad. The jet lag’s already been hell.”

“What is that?” Shelley gets into Stiles’s space, inhaling his scent. “You reek of something—”

Jackson growls roughly, the sound pulling at his throat before he even realizes he’s doing it. He’s on his feet, claws flexed by his side, and he’s sure his eyes flash from the way Shelley steps back abruptly.

He doesn’t even mean to do it.

The thought of Shelley touching Stiles digs into his gut, twists around, and he growls one more time for good measure.

“Put the claws away, she was just asking.” Stiles wraps his hand around Jackson’s, curling their fingers together and waiting until his hands turn human again. Stiles smiles and uses his free hand to pat Jackson’s cheek. “Good boy.” To Shelley, he explains, “It’s Adderal. I’ve got ADHD and if I don’t want to start spinning out of control, I need to take it regularly. Sometimes I take too much, that’s why my scent—” He waves a hand to indicate the way the sharp scent of medication suffuses his odor. “The wolves back home hate it.”

“It smells like part of you,” Jackson mutters. “You wouldn’t be you without it.”

“I knew you missed me.” Stiles pats his cheek one more time, then tugs him toward the door. “And like I said, I need it now, so let’s go get that taken care of. We’ll meet up with your pack again for dinner. Maybe take them out to that noodle place the hunters wanted to try.”

Brock rolls his eyes. “I’m not eating with hunters. No matter what Miles says.”

“No, you’re sleeping with them.” Felicia kicks at his chair, making it tilt and send him off-balance. “Do what Miles wants. He’s trying to keep the pack safe.”

Jackson’s not sure he agrees with that, but Stiles yanks and he stumbles to the door and out, following in Stiles’s wake. They make it halfway down the street before Stiles stops pulling and glances back, expression dubious.

Jackson tilts his head, listening. The sound is distant, but he can hear arguing, and the distinct sound of chair legs hitting the floor hard again. “They’re not following,” he murmurs. “But we’re still too close for comfort.”

He shifts his grip on Stiles’s hand and together they make their way past the nearest Tube station, walking three more blocks to the next one before they pause and sit on the curb outside. “What is it?”

“Text from Lydia.” Stiles pulls his phone out and unlocks the screen. He reads intently, thumb gliding over the screen to scroll, and with every screen-length of text, his expression goes tighter. “It’s not good. I need to call her.”

He dials and Lydia’s face comes up on the screen, her lips pursing when she sees Stiles and Jackson both crowded close to see her, and the crowds behind them. “Are you sure you want to have this conversation in a public place?” She arches one eyebrow.

“We don’t have a choice. My flat’s filled with hunters, and the coffee shop has wolves, and honestly, no one in London pays much attention to crazy people talking on phones in public.” Jackson smiles tightly. He sees worry and concern in her expression, hears a small hitch in her heartbeat and he knows her well enough to know that off-screen, her hands are probably clenched tightly together. She’s protective, and he knows it isn’t him that sets it off anymore, so it has to be for Stiles’s sake. Jackson curls his hand around the nape of Stiles’s neck, lets his claws tip out when Stiles leans into his touch.

It’s a silent declaration, and Lydia’s eyes narrow slightly in response, her nostrils flaring. None of them comment.

“Well, then.” She huffs a small breath in preparation. “Derek was right: Miles should be dead. In fact, for three years there are absolutely no records about him until he showed up on the streets one night, filthy and feral, and ended up in an orphanage once they managed to figure out that he wasn’t completely off his rocker. Although that may be wrong; I don’t think he’s ever been entirely human. I’ve read the reports from when they picked him up and some observers claimed that the child’s eyes glowed.”

“Not surprising for a born werewolf if he was eight years old and scared,” Stiles points out.

“They glowed blue,” Lydia says flatly. “He was eight years old, and he’d already killed an innocent. And it doesn’t end there, Stiles. He’s a blue-eyed wolf who ran away from the system when he was fourteen and if I look hard enough, he never stopped killing. I can provide you with records. He’s an alpha at seventeen and he did not ascend in a true alpha manner. He’s willing to crawl over the backs of innocents to get where he’s going, and he’s a master at manipulating people around him. His pack is ridiculously loyal to him. He collects the dregs of the streets and gives them a home and a way to get by, and they would do anything for him. He bit Felicia when she was thirteen and he was fourteen, so he was an alpha even then. And he’s been slowly stealing territory from the other two London packs for the last three years. He’s willing to do anything to gain ground, and we are certain that he’s going to use the Águila family against the other packs. Once he takes over, he’ll kill the hunters and be done. He’s ruthless, Jackson.”

Jackson blinks, but doesn’t say anything, not yet. He needs time to assimilate this, to work through his options. He doesn’t want to kill anyone. Not now, not ever again. But at the same time, not interfering means someone’s going to die. The thing is, he’s not sure saving either side is the right thing to do. If he saves Miles, he’s going to go on and kill someone else. Same with the hunters.

“Talk about a rock and a hard place,” Stiles mutters, and Jackson glances at him, nodding slowly.

“Screwed either way,” he agrees.

Lydia purses her lips and looks between them. “I do not want to know details about any screwing,” she tells them. “Stiles, I’m sending more information to your laptop. You and Jackson can go over it when you want. However, in the meantime Scott and Derek are going to start talking to the other two packs and set up an alliance. That way Jackson will have a place to go if he needs safety in London, and they can guarantee that neither pack is caught unawares by Miles’s grab for power. You two get to deal with Miles and the hunters.”

“If it turns out the other packs want to get involved, let us know before I become the squishable human being in the middle,” Stiles says dryly. “Neither Scott nor Derek are known for their brilliant plans.”

“They have me.” Lydia’s tone is matter-of-fact. “I’m not worried, Stiles. You’ll have this done in a few days at most, and we’ll see you soon.”

The connection cuts off before either Stiles or Jackson can say more. They stand there, shoulder to shoulder, staring at the blank phone.

“Miles wants to kill two packs of wolves, and a huge family of hunters. And the hunters want to kill three packs of wolves, starting with the most dangerous. The other two packs of wolves presumably just want to be left alone and have nothing to do with blue-eyed ex-killers.” Jackson shakes his head. “What are your thoughts?”

Stiles chews on his lip, leaning into Jackson and letting him take his weight. “Honesty,” he finally says. “We give Derek and Scott their chance to talk to the other packs, and we play innocent until tomorrow. We go home, we entertain your pet hunters, maybe take them bowling or whatever the London equivalent is. Then tomorrow we tell Miles what’s up, drive the hunters out of town, and leave Miles to deal with the other packs being pissed off and fully aware of what an asshole he truly is.”

“And me?”

Stiles reaches up, palms Jackson’s cheek. “You’ll be safe because you’re the one who’s going to play hero by letting Miles know what’s going on. You’re going to prove your loyalty by spying on the hunters, and your strength by showing that you’ve created an accord with the other two packs. He can’t underestimate you, and since you’ve protected his people, he can’t just kill you either. You’ll be set and maybe they won’t just like you because you’re rich.”

It sounds… surprisingly perfect. It can’t be that easy—it never is—but at least it’s a plan that should get Jackson in the pack’s good graces and cement his stability here in London.

This should make him happy, he knows, but it doesn’t. The plan makes his skin itch and something about it bothers him and he can’t even say why.

When he looks back at Stiles, he sees him on a travel site on his phone, making reservations for a flight back to Beacon Hills in three days.

“That confident?” Jackson asks.

“Yep.” Stiles pops the P and grins. “Looking forward to getting rid of me?”

“Of course I am, asshole.” Jackson keeps his words biting and snarky, but he’s lying. Thankfully Stiles can’t hear his the skip in his heart and make a guess at why.

#

Jackson wakes from a dream in which Stiles is stretched out over him, grinding their hips together, dicks pressed close and separated only by the cloth of his pajamas and Stiles’s boxers. He is hard and aching and just about to come, reaching to pull Stiles close for a kiss when he wakes, and he groans into the early morning sunlight.

He is lying on his back, his arm wrapped around Stiles’s shoulder while Stiles humps his hip. His own dick is weeping, a wet spot stick on his pajamas, and it wouldn’t take much to reach for it and get himself off.

He’s tempted. He’s so fucking tempted.

He can smell the musk of Stiles’s arousal, can feel the damp press of his prick against his leg. He presses back and Stiles whines in his sleep; Jackson’s claws slip free and tip against Stiles’s shoulder, digging in.

It makes Stiles whine louder.

Jackson needs to get away before he loses control and does something they’ll both regret later.

His bites his lip, feeling the press of fang against skin, and nudges Stiles off of him. When he looks back after scrambling out of bed, Stiles’s hips still move lazily, grinding against the sheets. Jackson knows that by the time he’s done, Stiles will be a sticky mess and his room will smell of him.

He wants to stay and watch. Maybe help.

He can’t think about it.

Jackson changes into a pair of sweats and shoves his dick down as best he can before he yanks open his door and moves into the hallway. There’s a girl there—one of the two hunters—standing just outside the bathroom. She blinks at him, and he growls at her, surprised by the way she doesn’t flinch back.

“You love him very much,” she whispers, voice lilting from her accent. “Why do you not just enjoy him this morning?”

There are so many answers to that, and so many ways to spin it, ranging from truth to the things Jackson is definitely not thinking about. He sighs roughly and tries for some version of truth and the fantasy that they’ve spun. “Technically we’re not together.” At her confused look, he clarifies, “He’s my ex, visiting from back home. And besides, he’s still asleep.”

She smirks. “Wake him up. And if you think that you are not still together, all you need do is look in the mirror. Or look in his eyes when he stares at you. He wears his heart there for all to see, as do you. Wolves love once, and they love hard. It is humans who can be fickle, and he is not.”

Jackson’s gaze narrows because this is not a conversation he would have expected to have with a hunter. Carmina, he remembers. Not Isabella, who is almost fanatically attached to Juan. This is the quiet one, who has hardly spoken since they’ve arrived. “Why do you care?”

Carmina blinks. “I do not. Yet, I only state the obvious.”

He nods slowly, not entirely sure what to do with this conversation. “I need to shower,” he mutters, and she steps away from the door but stays close when he approaches.

She touches his arm and he goes dead still, looking down at where her fingers rest against his bicep. He raises his gaze to meet hers, lets his eyes flash once in warning, but she doesn’t back down.

“He is going to die for love of you,” she says quietly. “When we kill you, we will kill him as well. Humans who run with wolves never live long.”

There’s no reason for her to tell him this. It’s a clear warning, and her expression is quiet and honest, her heart steady and true. “Are you killing me before Miles?” he asks quietly.

“You have a pack meeting today.” Her voice goes lower, barely a breath above non-existent. “You will all die then.”

“I see.” He glances down the hall to where the door to the master bedroom remains closed, then in the other direction, where he can hear Domingo’s soft snuffles of sleep from the couch. He presses his lips, considers his options for a response. “You might want to get lost on the way to the battle,” he offers gently. Because he doesn’t want to kill anyone, but he really doesn’t want to kill the one hunter who has gone out of her way to try to protect him and Stiles. Whatever her reasoning, he appreciates it.

She nods once and lets go, her footsteps becoming stronger as she makes her way into the living room and apologizes for waking Domingo. Jackson ducks into the bathroom quickly so he can shower and think in peace while the rest of the flat awakens.

By the time he emerges, Stiles is waiting to get in and pushes past him without a word. Jackson hears the water start up immediately, and can smell the scent of Stiles lingering in the hallway. He leans against the door and inhales, still trying to work through their next move in a way that doesn’t involve that scent disappearing forever.

Maybe he doesn’t want to go into his room, either.

So what if he looks like he’s pining. It’s good for show, right? He touches the door, leans into it and closes his eyes. There are murmurs beneath the fall of water, but he’s not going to listen to Stiles. He tunes his hearing to the low voices now gathered in the kitchen, almost muffled by the sound of the hunters rifling through the kitchen and making breakfast.

Miles planea encontrarse con su grupo al mediodía. Rodearemos el café con cenizas de montaña, entraremos y acabaremos con ellos. Tenemos cinco minutos para destruir tanto como podamos antes de prenderles fuego.” Domingo lays the plan out simply, but the idea of the pack being trapped in a fire with mountain ash while the hunters walk in to kill them before burning the remains sends a shudder down Jackson’s spine and leaves him shivering, the imagined scent of old smoke in his nose.

Juan’s voice lilts in excitement. “ Gritarán mientras arden, sacrificados como los monstruos que son.

Pienso que es cruel ,” Carmina says.

Juan is a fucking sadist, the way he seems thrilled to imagine the pain of Miles’s pack burning. But Carmina, she sounds sympathetic. Upset. Jackson hopes she heeds his warning and isn’t anywhere near the attack when it happens.

He keeps his eyes closed, listening to them go back and forth, ironing out the details of the plan in excruciating detail. He commits it to memory, repeats it under his breath until he’s sure he can’t forget.

The door cracks open, steam flowing over his skin, and a hand presses against his chest. “Move,” Stiles orders.

Jackson keeps his eyes closed, wraps an arm around Stiles’s waist to bring him in and kiss him lightly. “Listening,” he says quietly. “Kiss me.”

Maybe that wasn’t his best idea, because the taste of Stiles’s mouth is a drug and it is distracting to the point where he misses a part of the plan and has to pull back, breathing hard, and try harder to pay attention.

“What are they saying?” Stiles moves his mouth to Jackson’s throat, teasing along the line of his neck with his tongue. He licks up to the spot behind his ear, then catches his earlobe with his teeth.

“Miles is calling us for a pack meeting soon.” Jackson pushes Stiles back, presses him against the wall with his entire body. He won’t think about the way Stiles’s hips jerk forward, rubbing against him. He can’t think about it. “Everything happens now. You’ll make your flight no problem.”

Stiles threads his fingers through Jackson’s hair, anchoring himself there and holding on tight, twisting his head to the side, teeth closing over the exposed tendon. He holds on, tongue flicking against his pulse until Jackson whines because oh fuck that feels good. Hips shift again and Jackson presses back, grinding against him, conversation forgotten. Everything forgotten except how good it feels (it can’t feel this good, it can’t). He growls softly, grips Stiles’s hip with his claws tipping out, and Stiles tightens his teeth lightly.

Jackson groans.

Footsteps warn him that someone is coming, and he pulls back in time to see Carmina’s amused smirk. “Is the shower free?” she asks.

“Sure.” Stiles pushes the door open and disengages enough to go grab his things. “I think we’re heading out soon. Make yourself at home. Have breakfast, drink all the coffee. I’m taking Jax here out to eat.”

Out to eat. Jackson’s gaze drops to Stiles’s mouth, imagines feeding his dick between those lips and his gut tightens. “We’ll see you later.”

“I may have something I need to do.” Carmina inclines her head, and Jackson nods at her words, glad that she might manage to stay away.

Stiles tugs and Jackson follows. “We need to get to your pack before they do,” Stiles says quietly.

“We need to make sure that we have all of them under control so no one dies,” Jackson responds. “We start with Felicia and Shelley. I trust them. I don’t trust Miles.”

Stiles nods once in agreement. “Sounds good to me. Let’s go.”

#

Stiles texts Lydia while they heading down into the Tube, and by the time they emerge he has a response saying that while there is not a solid accord yet, both packs are definitely interested in an alliance with the Beacon Hills pack. “Dude, one of them says that if things don’t work out with Miles, you should come by. They’re in Notting Hill.”

Jackson gives him a look. “I’m not going to change packs.”

“You can’t stand Miles.”

His lips thin. “I like Felicia.” If Jackson’s honest, he likes everyone in this pack except for Miles and Jeffrey. Even Brock has his good points. He hears the low answer, and has to smile, because apparently she’s listening for them. “Who has met us, as requested.”

“This had better be good, Whittemore.” She cuffs him lightly as she comes up behind him. “You telling me to go behind Miles’s back is not endearing me to you.”

This is where it could all go to hell. “How do you feel about destroying the other packs in London?” Jackson asks.

Felicia’s brows furrow. “Why? That would be idiocy. They’re bigger, more established, and we’d be starting a war we can’t win. Jackson, why would you think—”

“It’s not Jackson.” Stiles interrupts with quick words and Felicia falters, glancing between them. “It’s Miles. And the Águila family. Everyone’s planning a double-cross here. Miles wants to use the hunters to kill the other packs. The hunters want to use Miles and your pack to get after the others, then kill your pack. Either way, it ends up with all the wolves dead and the hunters going on their merry way looking for the next abomination.”

“That’s against the code,” Felicia whispers.

Jackson snorts softly. “Not all hunters follow the code. This isn’t even the first time I’ve heard of hunters trying to burn a pack alive. The thing is, we’re not going to let them.”

“Let me get in touch with Miles—”

Jackson wraps his fingers around her wrist, shakes his head. “No. He’s been pitting people against each other all along, and he’s a vicious wolf. He’s also my alpha, and I’m not going to go after him. I’ve had more than enough of death. But if we want to finish this without bloodshed, we need to work against the Águila family ourselves and get everything to end before people start dying. The longer Miles stays out of the loop, the less likely he is to try to get this work out in his best interests.”

“You don’t want to kill the hunters.” She looks at him, staring into his eyes, and Jackson stares right back.

“No, I don’t. Not all hunters are bad. And these guys aren’t good, but they don’t deserve to die right now, either.” Jackson lies, but he manages it with a steady heart. From what little he knows of the Águila family, they probably do deserve to die in payment for wrongs done in the past. But Jackson doesn’t want to be responsible for it. He just wants this to be over with and the hunters to leave. That’s all.

“I’m Miles’s second.” Felicia says the words slowly, and Jackson feels his heart drop. Her ears flick forward, and he knows she hears his heartbeat. He leans back against Stiles, clasping his hand to present a united front. “He’s my alpha,” Felicia continues quietly. “He made me. He rescued me.”

“He’s been killing people since he was five.” Stiles matches her low, serious tone. “He has no use for humans, and not a lot of use for wolves that aren’t part of his pack. If you let this just happen, a lot of people are going to die. Not you, not him. But Jackson and I are probably dead men walking.”

Felicia worries at her lower lip and Jackson waits, trying not to think about just how wrong this could go. She slides her phone from her pocket, and Jackson stops breathing for a moment as she taps something out.

“I’m getting Shelley,” she says, not looking at him. “We’re supposed to be at the cafe in thirty minutes, and you’re going to tell me everything you know and how you know it. Then we’re going in like we know nothing, and we’re going to end this. Just tell me you have something on the hunters so we can get rid of them after it’s done. Without killing them.”

“We can take care of it,” Stiles says. Then Jackson starts talking and he tells her everything he knows, from listening in on their conversations to the few things Carmina had told him that morning, to the research the Beacon Hills pack has done into Miles’s past, as well as the other two packs in London. By the time he’s done, Shelley has arrived and they do it all over again, even faster.

They barely have time to make a plan, and in the end, Jackson doesn’t think it really qualifies as a plan, not even by Beacon Hills standards.

But it’s something, and it’s the best they’ve got, and they have to try. The hunters are coming, whether they’re ready or not.

The four of them travel together to the cafe, Stiles bumping Jackson along the way, threading their fingers together and Jackson takes comfort in the quiet anchor. He’s worried in ways he wouldn’t be if Stiles weren’t there. It’s one more thing to watch out for, to keep Stiles safe. He’s only human, but neither the Águila family nor Miles care.

Stiles disengages as they approach, untangling himself and jerking his chin as if to say he’s going somewhere else. They haven’t talked about it, but Jackson thinks he can read him and guess. He’s the only human they’ve got, and the only way to break the ring of mountain ash. He’s not a liability; he’s their ace in the hole.

“Ice cream break,” Stiles says as he heads down the street, giving a flick of his fingers in farewell. “My ADD really doesn’t need more coffee right now, and it’s not like Miles wants me there anyway.” The words aren’t for Felicia and Shelley; they’re for the people inside and those who might be hiding nearby.

“Your brain doesn’t need sugar either,” Jackson says dryly. He wants to yank Stiles back in and kiss him, tell him to be careful, but that wouldn’t work right now. It doesn’t make sense, so he doesn’t and just lets him go. Shelley touches his arm and they walk the last two blocks and head inside.

His mouth is dry, heart as slow as he can manage to keep it through constant concentration.

“Where’s your human?”

Jackson glances at Miles, smiles thinly. “Off for ice cream, and I’m hoping I don’t lose him to London completely. He doesn’t have a great sense of direction.”

Miles lets it go, and Jackson is sure he doesn’t actually care where Stiles is and prefers that he’s not there for business. Jackson tries to keep his breathing even, ignores what Miles says while he listens for the small sounds that might mean the hunters are there, that everything is about to begin.

According what Domingo said, they only have five minutes before the flames begin. A five minute brutal massacre, then the place goes up in flames and the trapped wolves die.

Jackson’s claws flex where he has them curled against his palm. No one is going to die.

There is a small scratching sound that Miles doesn’t even notice. Felicia’s head jerks up, and Shelley is on her feet, claws extended and teeth bared. By the time Miles reacts, the hunters are already in the room, too many to count.

Complacency is a bitch, and Miles is definitely guilty of it.

The fight is a blur, punctuated by low growls and the sight of Felicia knocking Miles back before a hunter can deliver a lethal blow. Jackson hears a shout of broken! from somewhere outside just before he smells smoke, and he yells for everyone to get outside. The hunters are surprised when the pack scrambles after them, emerging into the bright sunlight just before the first flames lick up. The fire is going to draw attention, which Jackson thinks might help.

Stiles finds Jackson and joins them again, palm to palm, fingers tangled. “That went better than I expected.”

There’s a soft snikt and it happens too fast, blood bursting from Stiles’s shoulder in a bright wash of metallic scent. Stiles groans, falling into Jackson, and someone shouts while Jackson curls his arms around him, bearing him to the ground. When he looks up, Carmina is standing over them both, facing off against Juan.

“He is human,” Carmina says sharply. “We do not kill humans. We do not kill those who have not harmed us.”

Perseguimos a quienes no deberían existir,” Juan sneers.

“We hunt those who hunt us.” She steadfastly speaks in English, words slow and confidant as she corrects the Águila family code to the one Jackson knew from the Argents. “No puedo continuar siguiendo el código de esta familia. Es una equivocación.”

“I appreciate your denial of the Águila family code, but that doesn’t change the fact that Stiles is bleeding badly.” Jackson curls his fingers against Stiles’s cheek, lightly touching the pale skin that he swears is getting paler. 

“I’m okay, Jax.” Stiles reaches up, squeezes his hand. “Might need stitches, but I don’t think so. Needs treatment, though.”

“He’s only human.” Miles doesn’t look down, stares at the hunters who turn their weapons on him and smiles full of teeth. “Humans are not worth the time—”

“No.” Felicia pushes her way forward. “This human saved your ass, Miles. He broke the mountain ash barrier that these hunters set so they could burn us. As for you,” she curls her lip, sneering at the hunters. “These two insisted that we leave you alive. You have both benefited from what Jackson and Stiles have done.”

“We have a stand-off.” The hunter who speaks is the one Jackson remembers from the first meeting. Someone related closely to Domingo, he guesses, by the way his house guest lingers nearby. He’s the leader, an older gentleman who speaks with authority. He glances at the gathering crowd, taking note of those who are paying attention to the hunters and wolves. He gestures, and the hunters put up their weapons, hiding them from view.

“The accord is broken,” Miles says darkly.

“No shit.” Stiles laughs, the sound turning into a whine when he uses Jackson to leverage himself to sitting upright. “Look, here’s where things stand. The other packs in London know what a little shit you’ve been, Miles. They are aware that you tried to use hunters to kill them, and they are aware that the hunters are here in town and out for blood. You’re not going to take them out now. And they know you’re dangerous and actively trying to gain power, so they’re not going to allow it.” He smiles thinly. “And best of all, they are in alliance with my pack back in Beacon Hills, which means if anyone steps wrong, we are going to get involved, true alpha and all. Not to mention witnesses. See all those people? They’ll be happy to tell the cops exactly what happened here, who killed who. It’s not hunting, it’s not the way of the wolf: it’s flat out human murder.”

There are sirens in the distance, getting closer. Jackson wedges an arm around Stiles, helps him come to his feet and lean against Jackson. “We’re getting out of here.” The flames are hot and getting hotter; the cafe is going to be a loss. If Miles knows what’s best, he’ll leave now, before the authorities come in and complicate things. He sees the hunters hesitate, neither them nor the pack willing to make the first move.

Honestly, he doesn’t care if they decide to kill each other anymore, as long as he and Stiles aren’t caught in the crossfire.

He doesn’t wait for permission from his alpha, just turns his back on all of them and walks away. There are steps just behind him, and he realizes it’s Carmina staying a few steps back, following them. He stops outside the Tube station, looking at her. “Why did you help us?”

“What my family does is wrong,” she says, “and I am not afraid to tell them so. I am not as sheltered as they think, and I have known wolves who are people, like you. If they cannot see that, then they need to be told. If we hunt aberrations, then that is what we do, but not those who do not hurt us first.”

“You remind me of a friend I once had,” Stiles tells her, and Jackson tucks him closer, knowing exactly what it means. “Trust me, that’s a good thing.”

She smiles. “I am glad. Be safe now.” Carmina holds up a key and tosses it to Jackson. He folds his fingers around it, feeling the press of warm metal and glad she’s the one who had the key to his flat so he doesn’t have to think about the hunters barging in unexpectedly. He may still change the locks.

The idea of his parents coming home from their wanderings to find themselves locked out amuses him.

“Let’s go,” Stiles says, bumping his hip. “The sooner we get this wrapped and I stop bleeding, the better.”

They still have to navigate their way through the Tube and get back to his flat, but for now, Jackson can at least believe that it is over.

Of course over just means that Stiles is about to go home.

#

Jackson tries one more time to convince Stiles that he can go to the hospital rather than risking an infection without stitches, but Stiles refuses. Jackson tries to point out that the health care system in Britain doesn’t just apply to people who live there, but they end up back in the flat anyway. Jackson sends Stiles to the bathroom with orders to clean up, and goes to find his parents’ authorization letter and their credit card where it’s stored in their room.

It only takes a few minutes to contact a locksmith and have them promise to stop by in three hours to change the locks. Jackson spins a story of a jilted lover and jealous stalker, and he has them eating out of his hands with concern for the poor teenager who is on his own until his parents return in a few weeks.

He sets the phone next to the card in the living room, then makes his way slowly and with plenty of noise down the hall to the bathroom. He nudges the door open to find Stiles sitting on the edge of the sink, his shirt off and body twisted as he tries to look at the injury in the mirror.

“It just grazed me,” he says without turning to face Jackson. “I told you it looked worse than it actually was.”

“It was a lot of blood.” Jackson refuses to think about the sinking feeling in his gut when Stiles went down, the sheer terror that he could be dangerously hurt. “You still might need stitches.”

“Might,” Stiles agrees. “But I’m not getting them. So I end up with a badass scar, so what? It’ll make me attractive to the ladies and gents who are into that sort of thing.”

“And it will worry the people who care about you.” Jackson wraps his fingers around the curve of Stiles’s arm, just above the elbow, long fingers stretching to touch the margins of the injury. Stiles hisses as Jackson parts the edges of the wound, inhaling deeply—no wolfsbane or other potential poisons. He drops his free hand to Stiles’s hip, anchoring him. “I need to wash this out. We can either do this here, or I can throw you in the shower.”

“That’s just your way of trying to get naked with me,” Stiles grins.

Jackson growls, refusing to look at those lips, the way Stiles has his mouth slightly open in a smile, waiting for Jackson’s response. “No. It’s not.”

“Well, if you’re going to clean the wound for me, that means we’re both getting in the shower.” Stiles hops down, moving stiffly. He reaches for the fly of his jeans and hisses when the motion of his arm pulls at the wound. “I might not even be able to get naked on my own,” he admits.

“This is above and beyond the call of duty,” Jackson mutters. He doesn’t need this. Shouldn’t be doing this. Not now, not when he can smell Stiles’s scent around him and the vague lingering odor of their morning orgasms in the shower. Not when he feels a flare of heat in his own body, answering to sweat and musk and arousal. But he does it anyway, fingers picking at the button on Stiles’s jeans, then yanking the zipper down before pushing the jeans over Stiles’s hips and past his bum.

“It’s nothing you haven’t seen and ignored in the locker room,” Stiles points out, thwapping at Jackson’s stomach. “Help me out here, dude. If you want this thing bandaged, let’s get clean.”

Jackson finishes stripping Stiles, helping him step out of his jeans and yanking off his socks. He doesn’t watch when Stiles turns away, his ass right there in full view and his dick already half hard. He focuses instead on removing his own clothes, leaving them in a ragged pile as he tries not to let claws cut through the fabric by accident. Steam rises when Stiles starts the shower, and is already fogging the air when Jackson pulls back the curtain and joins Stiles under the water.

He’s pretty sure he hasn’t seen exactly this before. Not up close and personal. Not these abs that look like Stiles has been trying to keep up with the wolves in the time since Jackson left. Not standing right in front of him while Stiles reaches out, puts a hand against Jackson’s chest just over his heart. 

Stiles looks down at him, amber eyes slightly wide. “Are you that worried, Jax? Your heart’s going a mile a minute.”

“I told you not to call me that.” Jackson growls. He shuts him up the only way he can think of, fingers threading into his hair, yanking him close so Jackson can shut his mouth with his own. He teases at him, prying his way between Stiles’s lips until a groan lets him in, responding hungrily.

He has never seen Stiles exactly like this, wet and naked and hard where he leans against Jackson’s thigh, hips pushing against where Jackson is hard too, and sliding on wet skin.

He shouldn’t be here. He shouldn’t be thinking about this.

Jackson shouldn’t want the way he does, with a desperation that pushes him to beg. To take.

It doesn’t mean anything, he reminds himself. They’re naked. They’re vital young men, and they’re close to each other physically right now. Of course they’re hard.

It’d be easy to fix it, and he barely thinks it when Stiles’s hand is there, wedged between them, stroking along the length of Jackson’s dick. He thrusts into that hold before thinking better of it, loving the way Stiles tightens his fingers and rolls over the head.

Jackson groans, and he sees Stiles smirk.

He is not going to let this be something Stiles controls.

Jackson slides down to his knees, hands gripping Stiles’s hips. He nuzzles in, not thinking about how strong Stiles’s musk is here, or that way his hard dick slides against Jackson’s cheek. He doesn’t let himself listen to the low whine, or think about the way Stiles’s fingers grip his hair, tugging to a point that almost hurts. He won’t let himself want to taste, flick his tongue at the seam of Stiles’s groin, teasing away the remains of sweat and the taste of nerves while Stiles shifts his hips, thrusting into nothing.

“Fuck, Jax.”

“I told you not to call me that,” Jackson growls, his eyes flashing as he looks up Stiles’s body. He has just a moment to see Stiles’s eyes go wide, pupils dark, before Stiles yanks him closer, shoving his head into Stiles’s crotch.

He doesn’t let Stiles control it, he doesn’t. But his dick is right there and if Jackson takes the tip into his mouth, that’s all his idea. He doesn’t do it because he loves the way Stiles groans in response, or the way he holds him and thrusts deeper into Jackson’s mouth. Jackson doesn’t open wide and let Stiles fuck him because he wants to hear another groan, and taste his jism when he comes. Jackson lets his claws tip out, biting into Stiles’s hip, feeling the jerk of his pelvis in response.

Jackson wraps a hand around his own dick, rubbing roughly. It’s just about getting off. It’s about releasing tension after a nerve-wracking day. It’s about that moment of flying during an orgasm.

It has nothing to do with Stiles. Nothing.

He tilts his head back, going where Stiles positions him, eyes flying open to watch the expression on Stiles’s face as he thrusts into Jackson. Words flow over him—fuck, Jackson, oh fuck, baby, your mouth is so fucking good, flash those eyes, oh my god, your claws, oh fuck, yeah, hold me like that, let me fuck your mouth, oh my fucking god, I’m going to, I’m going to…

Jackson comes the moment bitter fluid hits his tongue; he swallows Stiles down while he spills onto the floor of the tub, water washing his jism down the drain. When he pulls back, he sees the neat little line of pinprick bloody marks along Stiles’s hip, and he leans in to kiss them, touching each with his tongue before he thinks better of it.

“That was…” Stiles’s voice trails off. “Fuck.”

Jackson pushes to his feet, reaching for the flannel and soap. “You should be more relaxed now,” he says curtly. “Endorphins will cover the pain as I clean your wound.” 

It sounds like as good an excuse as any other he might be able to come up with.

It sure as hell sounds better than the worry that Jackson might be getting attached.

That way lies madness; Stiles has already said he doesn’t do relationships, not the way wolves and coyotes do. And Jackson—why the fuck would he ever want a relationship with Stiles Stilinski? They aren’t the right type for each other. It’s not something Jackson would ever consider.

He washes the wound out carefully, making sure there is nothing left inside it, then he offers the flannel to Stiles to clean the rest of his body while Jackson steps out, wrapping a towel around his waist. He hears the phone ring from the living room, and he mutters, “Probably the locksmith.” He lets the phone ring once more while he digs around for some bandages and leaves them on the counter before he goes to get it.

He could bring back the phone and watch Stiles dress, if he wanted, but he won’t. Why would he need to see Stiles naked anyway?

“Hello?” He picks up without looking, assuming it will be the locksmith calling to confirm his imminent arrival.

“Jackson.” Miles speaks with an even tone, but Jackson can hear his heartbeat even through the phone, ratcheted to a notch above normal.

“Miles,” he replies, not bothering to give him a conversational opening.

“Is your human all right?”

Jackson snorts softly. “Stiles is fine. He’s not my pet, Miles, he’s my—” He stutters to a stop because the cover of ex-boyfriend seems wrong to say, considering the show they’ve been putting on in front of the pack.  It tastes too much like lying.

“Boyfriend, I know.” The sense of pursed lips comes through in the way the words are twisted. “I don’t have any use for humans in my pack, Jackson, you know that. But he’ll be going home soon to his own pack, and you’ll be here. I’d like to extend an offer to you.”

Stiles is not anything to Jackson, but in the interest of protecting him, Jackson will lie to Miles. And he won’t think about the taste of him, or the musk and rising excitement, or the way it felt to swallow him.

He’s not thinking about that at all.

“An offer?” Jackson makes himself stay on track, speaking quietly into the phone. “What kind of offer?”

“As you know, Felicia is my second. She is my word in all things when I am not there.”

Miles sounds like a pompous fucking asshole, and Jackson knows pompous and asshole. He sounds like a self-important slug, and Jackson wonders how he has not noticed this before, or if it just made him feel at home in the past so he ignored it.

He can’t figure out how to ignore it now.

“Yeah.” He doesn’t say anything else, just waits for Miles to continue.

“I would like for you to fulfill the same capacity, working closely by our sides.” He can hear the smile in Miles’s words, imagines the sharply bared teeth when Miles speaks again. “You are intelligent, quick, and you saved my life.”

“No thanks.” The words slip free before Jackson thinks, and he instantly knows that they are not the right words. Not if he wants a place in this pack, not if he wants Miles to believe that he is completely loyal. “I’m happy with what I already am to the pack,” he explains. “I don’t want more power, or more responsibility. I’m fine as we are.” He smiles then himself, stretching his mouth over fangs that appear, his words going rough over his teeth. “As long as you leave Stiles—or any other human I designate as under my protection—alone.”

“Done.”

Jackson wonders if he detects relief in Miles’s voice, then decides he doesn’t care. He’s safe in his own pack, safe in London. His gaze drifts to the hall, to the door to the bathroom that opens and closes as Stiles walks out, fully dressed and toweling his hair dry, a bandage haphazardly placed over the wound on his arm. He might be something else, but that would take looking hard at what just happened, and Jackson isn’t going to do that.

His gaze drops to the floor. “I’m going to take a few days to show Stiles London. Just me and him, no pack. I’ll let you know when he’s gone.”

He doesn’t say call if you need me and Miles doesn’t say anything more than fine, then the connection breaks. Jackson drops the phone on the table; he has to get dressed before the locksmith arrives.

Stiles sits on the edge of the bed, his own phone in his hand as he taps something out on the screen. He glances up when Jackson comes in, expression unreadable.

Jackson sneers. “Don’t worry, nothing’s changed.”

Stiles purses his lips, looks away. “Good.”

“Good,” Jackson echoes, and he goes searching for clothes. Because of course nothing has changed. He doesn’t want, doesn’t need, can’t even think about what else could happen with nudity and proper bed. “I’m going to take you on the London Eye. Since we’ve got some time before I have to put you on a plane.”

Stiles stares at his phone; Jackson can just barely see that he’s on a text screen, reading someone’s response. Then he thumbs the screen and it disappears before he pockets it. His smile is bland as he stands. “Sounds good to me. Let’s go.”

Something in those words is a lie, but Jackson has no idea which part. And it isn’t worth thinking about.

He won’t think about it. He can’t.

Except that he can’t stop, either.

#

The day passes quickly, bleeding into the next in a whirl of sight-seeing and uncomfortable sleep patterns when Stiles moves into the tiny guest room. Jackson tosses and turns, able to smell him in the flat and irritated that he can’t reach out and touch him and pull him in close. Not that he wants to. Not that he wants Stiles Stilinski in his arms, in his bed.

In his life.

Fuck.

On the morning that he has to bring Stiles to the airport, Jackson sits on the edge of his bed, elbows on his knees, staring at the floor. He wants Stiles Stilinski. He can’t lie to himself anymore; it isn’t working. His skin itches with need, his wolf roiling under his skin when they’re out together and Jackson can’t touch him. Without the pack around, there is no need for pretense and Stiles has kept careful distance between them.

It’s driving Jackson absolutely mad.

He sits there, listening to the sounds of Stiles moving around the guest room, gathering his things together and packing them away. Jackson will go in there later, pull the blankets from the bed and bring them into his own room so he has that at least.

He glances at his closet, where he knows his suitcase is stored. He could pack, buy a ticket. He could go with him.

Except Stiles doesn’t want that. Whatever this was, it wasn’t anything real. No matter what Carmina thinks she saw, no matter how well they fooled the pack. It’s nothing. And even if it was, Stiles said it himself: he doesn’t deal with clingy, over-possessive relationships. He wasn’t interested in someone simply because they were more invested in Stiles than he was in her.

Jackson is positive that he’s more invested in Stiles than Stiles is in him. It’s obvious.

He pushes to his feet, doesn’t bother to get dressed past the boxers he slept in. He pads on bare feet down the hall, nudging the door to the guest room open. “Do you want to change your bandages before we go?” he asks.

Stiles’s gaze drops from Jackson’s face to his chest, then lower before it quickly snaps back up. “I’m good; I took care of it in the shower. You should probably get dressed, though. I don’t think they appreciate guys wearing boxers around London.”

“I’m a trend-setter,” Jackson says dryly. “I go out like this, tomorrow six people imitate me, and by the weekend it’s the latest fad.”

Stiles barely smiles, a brief flicker of emotion. “Well, then we should just head out, so all of London can run around in their underwear by Saturday. They’ll enjoy the comfort, and the nice cool breeze.”

Jackson takes a step back, looks at the suitcase lying there, closed and full. “You’re all packed then.”

“I’m all packed.” Stiles spreads his hands. “That’s me, packed and ready to go. I’ll be out of your hair and you won’t have to deal with me again unless I come back to try to save your ass another time.”

The words are tight in his throat, because every little thing he says is one step closer to Stiles leaving. “Thank you,” Jackson says quietly. “I appreciate that you came all this way. You can get back to your girlfriend now.”

“She’s my ex,” Stiles reminds him. He arches his eyebrows. “Kind of like you. There was sex, and now there isn’t.”

Because one of us was getting too attached.

Jackson hears the accusation clearly even without Stiles saying the words. His wolf growls, the sound slipping free as Jackson ducks his head, refusing to let Stiles see the irritable flash of his eyes. “Exactly.” He takes another step back, lifts his head to search out something on the ceiling, the wall, anything but looking at Stiles. “Let me get dressed, and I’ll get you to the airport.”

“I could get there myself.”

There’s something in his voice that makes Jackson look at Stiles. He looks at the way he sits, the fact that he’s sunk down onto the bed, his pose almost mirroring the same way Jackson sat earlier. He is hunched in on himself, staring at the floor.

“No,” Jackson says quietly. “You could, but I’m going with you.”

Maybe it’s torture for his heart, but it’s the right thing to do. Much better than simply pointing Stiles in the correct direction on the Tube.

He dresses quickly and they leave in silence, Stiles carrying his bag and refusing to let Jackson touch it.

“I can handle myself,” Stiles mutters.

“I’m sure you can.” Jackson snorts, but Stiles doesn’t push back, doesn’t fall into the innuendo. It makes the ride awkward, standing close enough to touch on the Tube and swaying with the motion of the train, but not actually talking. Jackson would say it’s like returning to their lack of friendship from Beacon Hills, but this is worse. This isn’t enmity. There’s no snark, no growling. This is simple silence, and he hates it.

When they get to the airport, Jackson can’t go through security to the gate. He catches Stiles’s arm, holds on until Stiles looks at him.

“It didn’t entirely suck,” Jackson says quietly. “The part where you got hurt wasn’t good, and the part where they were trying to kill us definitely kind of sucked. But you and me? That part didn’t suck.”

“You sucked.” Stiles looks like he wants to take the words back as soon as he says them, a flush staining his pale skin. He smiles wryly. “Which didn’t suck at all.”

“Now you’re trying to be confusing.”

“That’s because it was confusing,” Stiles admits. “Jax—Jackson—you’re right, it really didn’t suck.” For a moment it looks like he’s going to say something else, his mouth hanging open, tongue touching his teeth. Then he flattens his palm against Jackson’s cheek, leaves it there while he gently strokes Jackson’s skin with his thumb. “Try not to get yourself killed,” he murmurs, before leaning in to lightly brush his lips against Jackson’s.

It’s almost too fleeting to be called a proper kiss, Stiles stepping away before Jackson can respond. He wants to say something—goes to call out—but Stiles is already disappearing into the crowd that moves to security. Whatever chance he had to speak is gone, lost to the hustle and bustle of the airport.

With the crowds around him, the scent of Stiles quickly fades.

Jackson fishes his phone from his pocket, searching through his contacts as he walks toward the lobby, needing to escape from too much perfume and too much noise from the people all around him. He finds himself a quiet space, tucked into an alcove, and leans back against the wall as he presses the button on his phone to start up a video call.

Lydia’s expression is pinched with worry when she answers. “It’s too early,” she says. “What’s wrong? Is Stiles all right? Did his plane have a problem?”

“Stiles hasn’t even left the ground,” Jackson tells her. “He went through security, he’s on his way. You’ll have him back soon.”

She relaxes slowly. “Then why the early morning call?”

Of all people, it is even harder to admit this to her. To the woman he loved once, to the woman that Stiles loved once, too. He can’t find the way to make his jaw work, to form the words. Instead he looks at the wall instead of her face. “He has a girlfriend?”

“Not really.” Lydia hesitates. “Her name’s Malia, and you’d like her. They were really close for a while, but it just didn’t work out. She’s becoming one of my best friends.”

“Maybe someday I’ll meet her.” He thinks about it, about what it might be like if he walked back into the Beacon Hills pack. Except he’s stuck here in London, where his parents keep leaving him. If he weren’t dependent on them, he’d leave.

He could leave.

He worries the words around in his mind, trying them on for size, tasting them. It wouldn’t be difficult to get a plane ticket; he certainly has the money. The problem is parental consent.

“She’s probably not going to visit you in London any time soon,” Lydia says. He can hear the searching in her tone, and when he glances back, she is watching him intently, as if there is something fascinating in his expression. “She’s a coyote,” Lydia explains. “I’m not sure she’s going to like planes, but I’m not going to be the one to suggest that she close herself in a metal box that leaves the ground.”

Jackson is sure there’s more to the story than that, but he doesn’t really care. She’s not Stiles’s girlfriend. He doesn’t have to care about her. “Then maybe I’ll have to come there.”

Lydia sucks in air, a rough twist of sound. “Are you coming home?”

He meets her gaze. “I’m thinking about it.”

“When?”

That’s the question, and the problem. There are so many things that he has to do, arrangements that need to be made. He has to convince his parents, or file for emancipation if there even such a thing here in Britain. He needs to figure things out, and the person who plans just left London and will be on a plane back to California soon.

“Soon,” he says quietly. “When I can figure things out. At least—at least for a little while. Just—don’t tell anyone.”

“Not even Stiles?” There’s a knowing twist to her smile, and he glares at her for good measure. She is jumping to conclusions, and even if they are correct, he doesn’t want her to do that.

“Especially Stiles. In case it doesn’t work out.” There are too many possible places where the plan could go wrong. “Miles offered me a place as his second—working with Felicia—and I turned it down. I don’t feel comfortable in that pack, even though I’ve earned my place.”

“You have other options.” Lydia’s voice is gentle. She gives him a soft look, and it reminds him of when they were dating, when she was the only person in the world that he trusted to look beyond the walls and see the boy beyond. 

Jackson shakes his head. “Not really. They’re willing to talk to me, but in the end, I’m a blue-eyed wolf looking for sanctuary, and my most salable point is that I helped keep the hunters and my own pack from killing them. They don’t want me. They just want to reward me.”

“Once you would have preferred that,” Lydia reminds them. “You would have taken every accolade and expected more.”

He can’t refute the charge. He just shrugs and lets it go. “I need to get home. Call my parents. See if I can even find them.”

“Jackson.” She says his name quietly, waits until he looks her in the eye again. “It’ll be good to see you again.”

He smiles wryly, lips pressed together for a moment before some emotion that he can’t handle slips free. “I miss you, too,” he tells her, then he closes the call before anything more can be said.

He stays where he is, listening to the crowds that are closer than comfort. He breathes evenly, tries to get his thoughts under control. He’s going to do this.

He opens his contacts, touches dial for his mother’s name. He doesn’t want to use a video call, not for them. He doesn’t want them to see him, and he doesn’t want them to worry. He just wants them to listen, and maybe for once, understand.

It rings seven times before his mother picks up, her voice tinny with distance. “Jackson, honey? Is everything okay?”

“I’m fine,” he says quietly, hands cupped around the phone. “But we need to talk. I’m tired of being stuck here in London on my own. If I’m going to be alone all the time, I could be anywhere, and I want to go home, to Beacon Hills.”

She hesitates, but he doesn’t push, waiting for her to find a voice for her reaction. “It’s dangerous there, honey,” she says quietly.

Jackson laughs, because if only she knew. “It could be dangerous anywhere,” he counters. “And I hate London. I miss my friends. Lydia, Danny.” Stiles. “I want to go home.”

#

Renting a car turns out to be easy; when Jackson flashes his American Express Platinum card and pre-pays for a week, they overlook the fact that he is underage and on his own. It isn’t a great car, but he won’t have it for long. If he’s staying, he’ll make sure to buy another one as soon as he gets everything he needs transferred.

It’s good enough to get him through traffic out of the airport and the hour long drive to Beacon Hills. He pulls into the familiar neighborhood and pulls in behind Lydia’s car in Stiles’s driveway. He can hear the voices inside raised in curiosity, wondering whose car has just pulled in.

“It’s some guy,” a girl’s voice says. “He reeks of stale air and other people. I can smell him from here.”

“You can’t possibly smell him through the door, Malia.” The front door is yanked open, Stiles’s back to Jackson as he talks to someone inside. “Not even your nose is that—Jackson.” His name falls out on a breath as soon as Stiles sees him, his mouth hanging slightly open in his surprise. “What the hell are you doing here?”

Jackson stands next to the car, listening for heartbeats inside the house. He can’t identify who they belong to, but he can count them, ticking them off on his fingers and making his own guesses. He expects that Lydia, Danny, Derek, and Scott are there. He doesn’t know about Stiles’s father, or Chris Argent. Or whether Isaac ever came back from France. There may be people in there that he doesn’t know, and he doesn’t know what they’ve heard about him.

It’s not as if his part of pack history is a good one.

He takes a slow step forward, and Stiles doesn’t move, waiting.

“Who is he, Stiles?” A girl appears over Stiles’s shoulder, her hair long and mostly blond, waving down over Stiles’s shoulder as she leans into him. Jackson can’t help the growl that slips free, and she grins, baring her teeth at him and growling back. “Is he feral? Is he going to be fun to play with?”

“He’s my…” Stiles blinks several times, and Jackson wishes he could read minds to know what options he’s considering. He just keeps walking, ending right in front of Stiles, looking slightly up at him and wondering about the girl who is in Stiles’s personal space. “He’s my… Jackson,” Stiles finally says.

Jackson reaches out, fingers touching the side of Stiles’s neck. He moves slowly, giving Stiles the chance to back away or say no, waiting after every movement to see if he will be rejected. He finishes with his hand curled around the back of Stiles’s neck, thumb sliding along his pulse while Stiles tips his head slightly to the side and down, angling himself perfectly. 

And Jackson takes advantage of it, moving that last little bit to slot himself closer, meet Stiles mouth for mouth, tongue flicking against the seam of his lips in silent question. He hears a soft whine, a low vibration in Stiles’s throat, then hands grip his hips and yank him closer, the kiss going deep.

“Oh, you’re the reason he smelled like sex and sorrow when he got back from Britain,” the girl says.

“Malia,” Lydia hisses, pulling her away.

Another female voice Jackson doesn’t recognize says slowly, “I’d say we should leave, but they’re blocking the door.”

“We can go out the back,” Scott offers. After a small pause—Jackson never stops kissing Stiles, never answers—he adds, “We should definitely go out the back.”

“Wave goodbye, Jackson,” Stiles whispers against his lips, and Jackson does it without thinking, not wanting to break this kiss. He hasn’t tasted Stiles in days and this time it feels like permission to keep doing so. Footsteps move to the back, through the kitchen and Jackson hears a door slam in the distance.

It’s as good a time as any to wrap his arms around Stiles, walk him backwards to the door and push him up against it, leaning into him with his whole body. Stiles whines, and Jackson loves the sound of it, nuzzles at his neck to make him do it again and again. He nips lightly, and Stiles groans, hips tilting forward; Jackson wedges a leg between Stiles’s legs, letting him rut into him as the scent of musky arousal rises rapidly.

Stiles manages to get his hands up, tangled in Jackson’s hair, enough to tug lightly as he pushes him back, breaks the kiss. Whiskey brown eyes are wide as he stares at Jackson, and Jackson feels his eyes glowing in response, his body heavy with the ache of wanting to transform.

“What is this?” Stiles asks. “Why are you here?”

Jackson doesn’t want to talk about this now. He growls softly, wolf urging him to take what is offered. He wants and he can smell how Stiles wants. But he is still human enough to respect that Stiles needs an answer. The growl grows as he tries to wrestle the wolf under control, teeth thick in his mouth.

“I’m coming home,” Jackson says, as emphatically as he can manage. “I hate London. I like Felicia, I like Shelley, I like everyone except Miles and Jeffrey, but they don’t feel like pack. I need my pack. I didn’t know how much I needed it until you walked into my flat and now all I can smell is you, Stiles.” His lips curls, irritated at the admission. “You left a hoodie behind. I wore it on the plane all the way here so I could sleep.”

Stiles smirks. “Missed me that much, huh?”

Jackson feels like his heart is laid bare; he hasn’t felt this vulnerable since Lydia, and look how that ended. His wolf comes to his defense, eyes flaring bright blue before he drops his gaze and closes his eyes. “Yes,” he admits. He raises his gaze in challenge. “What about you?”

Stiles shifts his grip, one finger sliding between Jackson’s lip, over the ridge of his canines that have dropped, making his mouth feel too small for his teeth. “And these?” he asks quietly.

“Answer the question,” Jackson growls.

“Answer mine first.” Stiles palms the nape of Jackson’s neck, his other hand sliding down his arm, long fingers tangling around his hand, finding the claws that are exposed there, and touching them lightly. Jackson growls, and Stiles just watches him. Waits.

Jackson struggles, not wanting to say the words out loud. If he doesn’t admit it, Stiles has no power over him. But he wants and even more than that, he needs. He needs Stiles Stilinski and he can’t let this slip through his fingers. He twines their hands together, lifts them so that they can look down to see human fingers tangled with werewolf claws. “I want you,” he whispers, words muffled around his teeth. “I want you. I need you. I want to push you up against the wall, I want to mark you, I want your scent all over me. I want to know that you smell like me, so when the pack comes back, they know you are mine. I want to bite your skin, leaving little trails to match those stupid freckles of yours. I want to hear you scream my name. I want to bury myself inside of you, fuck you so hard that you never forget me. I’m staying in Beacon Hills, because my flat smelled wrong when you were gone.”

His eyes fall back to human, quiet and vulnerable, waiting for acknowledgement. Or worse, for a laugh, that sharp sound that means Stilinski has him over a barrel, knows all his secrets and can exploit them. He licks his lip, watches Stiles follow the path of his tongue, and he hopes.

“I missed you,” Stiles says quietly. “And I am on board for all of that, Jax.”

“Don’t call me that.”

Stiles snorts. “If we are fucking, I am going to call you a pet name, and if you’d rather I can go for baby or pumpkin or sweetums. I’m thinking you’ll vote for Jax.”

Jackson growls, nuzzling in close again, hand sliding up under Stiles’s shirt, drifting across his abdomen and feeling the muscles jump. “I think we should have less talking.”

“I’m okay with that.” Stiles leans in, manages to steal a kiss. “And like I said, I am on board for all of that, eventually, Jackson. Maybe not fucking today—I’ve never gone that far with a guy and I might need some time to work up to it. But I want to strip you and lay you out on my bed. I want to taste you. I want to see your eyes flare, and feel your claws because I’m just that good and you can’t control yourself. I want you.”

“Upstairs,” Jackson growls, and Stiles laughs. “Now.” He doesn’t give Stiles a chance to argue, hitching him up in his arms and carrying him bridal-style toward the stairs. He can feel something in Stiles’s pocket vibrating, but he can barely bring himself to care when Stiles tugs the collar of his shirt aside, mouthing at the line of his collarbone. “Fuck,” Jackson swears.

“I love that you sound like you’re going to lose control any second,” Stiles murmurs, a whisper against his skin, and Jackson can only growl in response.

He sets Stiles down just inside his room, turning them both as they close Stiles’s door, slamming him back against it. Stiles grunts, reaching for Jackson to yank him in, one hand on his ass as they fit hip to hip. Jackson grinds against him, feeling the answering hardness, and oh fuck. “Stiles,” he growls, and Stiles answers with another kiss, driving his tongue into Jackson’s mouth.

“Is that enough of a yes?” Stiles asks. “Because fuck, I want you, Jackson. I kind of hate how fucking much I want you.”

“Was it this good with her?” The words come out before he means to ask them, but as soon as they do, Jackson needs to know. Stiles broke up with her because she wanted him more than he wanted her. Jackson doesn’t want to be abandoned, doesn’t want to be second, doesn’t want Stiles to want anyone more than he wants Jackson.

Stiles laughs, the sound dry. “No. Fuck, no, Jackson. The sex was good, but it wasn’t like this. I didn’t feel…” His breath hitches. “I didn’t feel.”

Jackson doesn’t need grand admissions, not at this point. He doesn’t know how to put what he feels into words, not yet. It’s still building, growing, but he knows it’s different. It’s more than just sex, it’s… he feels. He nods and pushes Stiles’s shirt up, because that’s enough. He’s more than she was. He’s first. And that’s all Jackson needs to know.

“Off,” he mutters, and Stiles raises his hands, lets Jackson yank the t-shirt over his head. It’s not the first time he’s seen him shirtless, not even the first time he’s been able to touch him, but it’s the first time he’s doing it with eyes wide open, leaping into whatever this is. His hands glide up over Stiles’s chest, claws just barely skating over skin with light scratches until Stiles’s head falls back and he groans.

“Are you trying to kill me?” Stiles asks, dragging him in for a kiss, and Jackson smiles against his mouth.

“Maybe,” he says thickly, pulling back so he can lick at his skin.

He wants to taste Stiles all over, to lick the scent from his skin and memorize every inch of him. He wants to touch him, to leave his own trace on every part of Stiles, leaving no doubt that they are together. He drags the flat of his tongue along the line of his throat, loving the way he tilts his head to one side, giving him the tender skin, the vulnerable place when he knows how close Jackson’s teeth are to the surface. When he knows that Jackson is wolf as well as human. Stiles trusts him, and that is more arousing than anything else.

Jackson closes his teeth over the artery, just enough to give pressure and leave tiny indents before he sucks a mark, a thick bruise that comes quickly on pale skin. He licks at it, kissing his way down to Stiles’s collarbone, exploring the line that leads to the hollow of his throat. He inhales him, groaning at the way it goes straight to his gut.

“Jackson.” Stiles’s voice is only a whisper now, rough and hoarse, dragged through lungs ragged with quick breaths. He grips Jackson’s head, nudges him, and Jackson is only too willing to dip lower.

He nuzzles at Stiles’s chest, sucking one nipple into his mouth, nipping lightly before soothing it. His hands are at Stiles’s waist, undoing the button of his jeans and pushing them open. He slides one hand in, palming Stiles’s erection, stroking as best he can. “Do you want me to swallow you again?” Jackson whispers, teasing at his other nipple. “Do you want to fuck into my throat, leaving your scent all over my skin?”

“I want to be on the bed before my knees give out,” Stiles mutters. Jackson grabs him, lifts him up so that Stiles straddles him and carries him to the bed, putting him back on it with Jackson stretched out over him.

“Get undressed,” Jackson tells him. He drags himself down Stiles’s body, mouthing at the bulge in his open fly, soaking the fabric of his boxers. It’s distracting, being that close to his crotch where the scent is heaviest, and maybe it doesn’t matter if Stiles is naked. Maybe it doesn’t matter at all, as long as Jackson can nuzzle in, mouthing along his dick, feeling Stiles lift his hips with a low whine, pressing against Jackson’s tongue.

“Fuck, no, I’m going to… you are not going to make come in my underwear.” Stiles pushes at him. “I want you naked, too. Please, Jackson.”

He loves the way Stiles sounds wrecked, voice taut and hungry. He pulls back enough to strip his shirt over his head, watches the way Stiles can’t stop looking at him. He has to roll back off the bed, coming to his feet as he yanks his jeans open, shoves them down while kicking off his shoes. It doesn’t take long before he’s naked, erection bobbing in the cool air of the room, and Stiles is still lying there, his hands on his open jeans.

“Is this real?” Stiles asks quietly. “Is this because we were faking it, or is it real?”

Jackson smirks because it’s Stiles’s turn to be insecure and that makes him feel better. He hooks his fingers into the belt loops of Stiles’s jeans and tugs them down until his erection bobs free. He mouths at the tip, teasing it with his tongue, waiting for that moment when Stiles lifts his hips, tries to push in for more. “It’s real for me,” he says, then takes him all the way in, nose pressing into the thick curls, tongue sliding along as he sucks him in.

Stiles cries out, one hand holding Jackson’s head, pushing him closer. “Oh fuck. Real for me. Too. Yes. Fuck. Don’t stop.”

Stiles’s jeans are still at his hips, and Jackson doesn’t care. He wants to make him come, wants to taste him, get his scent all over his skin. He goes to work, not letting Stiles have a moment’s rest, nuzzling his balls, sucking them into his mouth, licking at the tender spot right behind them, until Stiles is whimpering, begging for him to take his dick back in his mouth. And Jackson does, swallows him right down into his throat, growling softly around it, teeth held at bay by sheer will. He loves the way Stiles holds him there, the pull of his hair, the way Stiles directs him with wordless sounds, fucking into his mouth until he spills over and Jackson swallows him down.

Jism drips from his mouth over his chest, and Stiles reaches lazily to rub it into Jackson’s skin. “There,” he says quietly. “Now you smell like me.”

“Good.” Jackson stretches over him, licking a path up his sternum, his dick brushing against Stiles’s thigh. “I want to always smell like you. I want you to smell like me.”

Stiles reaches between them, his gaze lax and easy in the aftermath of orgasm. He strokes Jackson’s dick, hand loose at the base, tighter when he reaches the head, rolls over it with a slight twisting motion. “Do you want to come all over me?” he asks lazily. “Cover me in your scent, rub it into my skin, then do it all over again until I can’t get it out no matter how much I wash…”

Fuck yes. Jackson growls, the sound rough in his throat, vibrating in his chest. His hips shift, pushing his dick into Stiles’s hand, loving the feel of his warmth, the way Stiles is trying to drive him closer to the edge. He lets his wolf slip free, sees the way Stiles’s mouth opens, lips parted in a pleasured sigh when Jackson bares his teeth.

“Yes…” Stiles whispers, and Jackson kisses the word away, swallows it in like a benediction.

“I won’t fuck you,” Jackson promises, because the wolf is rising, stronger than he is. “I promise. Do you trust me?”

Stiles nods. “I trust you.”

Jackson rises up over him, yanks his jeans the rest of the way off, tossing them to one side. He stretches over Stiles one more time, rubbing his cock against his crotch, reveling in the feel of dick against dick. He wants more, though, wants something to slide through, and his wolf knows exactly what he wants.

He flips Stiles over, his cock sliding between his thighs as Stiles keeps them close together, and oh fuck it feels good. He arches over him, letting his hard length slide along Stiles’s skin as he kisses dots along his back. Stiles pushes back, gives him something to fuck into in the slickness of his thighs, and Jackson groans. “You feel so good,” he whispers, tongue flicking against him. “You taste so good. Te deseo. Te necesito.

“Fuck… Jackson. Jax.” Stiles arches back against him, whines softly. “Don’t stop.”

He couldn’t stop. He can’t not do this, can’t not touch Stiles. Just like he can’t stop thinking about him, can’t stop wanting him. His hips move, stroking against him, surrounded by his scent and loving every moment of it. Stiles whines when Jackson’s cock grazes against his balls, pushes back to feel more of it. Jackson puts one arm around him, hand against his heart to feel the wild beat of it as he nuzzles into his shoulder, sucking a fresh mark there. He’s close, so fucking close, and when he feels his orgasm boiling up the wolf rises as well. He bows, taut and tense, then spills all over Stiles’s thighs, jerking back to shoot over his ass and back as his eyes flash bright and he howls.

He comes back to himself slowly, his fingers sliding over Stiles, massaging his scent into his skin.

“Come here,” Stiles orders, falling to the side and dragging Jackson with him. They end up tangled together, wrapped around each other, and Jackson loves the way he can’t tell where one ends and the other begins. There is no scent of Stiles or Jackson, only them. He inhales roughly, huffing the breath out against his neck.

“So,” Stiles says, fingers tracing a pattern against Jackson’s shoulder. “You’re coming home?”

“There are still details being worked out,” Jackson admits. “It took some time to convince my parents—they flew home to try to talk me out of it. But if they’re not staying with me, why should I be there? I need a place to live. A car. They’re working with a lawyer and an accountant to manage my life until I turn eighteen.”

“But you’re staying here,” Stiles repeats, and Jackson thinks he knows what he’s getting at.

“Why, are you attached?”

“Stuck to you at the moment by gluey jism,” Stiles quips. His expression softens after that. “I might be. I don’t want a boyfriend if he’s going to be half a world away.”

Jackson fights a smile. “I thought we were exes.”

“Not any more.”

Not that they ever were. Not that anything was anything before Stiles showed up on his doorstep to keep him from being killed. “Thank you,” Jackson tells him. “For coming to make sure I didn’t get hunted. For going along with what I said to Miles. For being the asshole that you always are.”

“You love it.” Stiles nudges him.

“I do.” It doesn’t hurt as much to admit now, especially when he feels Stiles smile against his mouth when they kiss. He hears something outside—sticks breaking, the sound of footsteps on the walk, pacing nearby. “Did you know there’s someone outside?”

“Probably Malia. She’s still protective.”

And if you hurt him I will rip your throat out.

Jackson cocks his head at the words that he knows were meant for him. “She’s been hanging around with Derek.”

“They’re cousins.” Stiles shrugs one shoulder. “Don’t worry, it doesn’t matter. She’ll get used to you. They’ll have to get used to this. To us. Because I’m not going to let you go.”

“Possessive.” Jackson rolls back and Stiles goes with him, sprawling comfortably on top of him. “I like it.”

Because he does. He likes this feeling that Stiles is his and he belongs to Stiles and that nothing’s going to come between them. They’ll fight—he knows it will be loud and epic when they do. But this things feels real and strong and he nips at Stiles’s shoulder and sucks another small mark there, just because he can.

“And if I go to sleep right here, wolf?” Stiles nuzzles into him. “It’s like having a heated mattress that’s all muscle and bone.”

Jackson wraps his arms around him, holding on. “You sleep, I’ll hold on. And you’ll do the same for me.”

“Post-sex nap, mm, love it.” Stiles’s voice is lazy and low, and Jackson’s breath slowly starts to match him. It’s been a long time since he’s felt this wanted and this safe, and as weird as it is, this is where it all works for him.

They’ll deal with tomorrow when it comes, right now this is all Jackson needs.