"I am the sex that you provide; and I control you.
I am the hate you try to hide; and I control you.
I take you where you want to go,
I give you all you need to know,
I drag you down I use you up,
—Nine Inch Nails, Mr. Self-destruct
Jackson was at the mall with Lydia when the red haired woman approached him. They'd just been coming out of yet another fantastically expensive shoe store—shopping for Lydia, obviously, not him. The whole trip had been planned that way, to shop for her. Jackson couldn't afford things from the sort of stores they were looking in, not anymore. In fact, it seemed insane to him that anyone would spend that kind of money on anything. $300 for a pair of shoes? And they were on sale, too—an excellent price, Lydia thought. Had Jackson ever had that kind of money? He knew he had, years ago... it just seemed, like he'd said, insane. Lydia had rolled her eyes and made a face while she'd handed over her credit card to buy the shoes.
All day long they'd gone into stores that sold things Jackson would never be able to afford, and all day long Lydia had tried to buy him things. Jackson, that shirt would look so handsome on you, and Come on Jackson, it's just one tiny book bag! You have books, don't you? Yeah, one small book bag. For $250. He'd told her no, over and over again. Jackson might have been struggling with money, but he wouldn't take hand outs. Not ever.
Not that Lydia saw it that way.
It had been four years since they'd broken up, right at the end of their senior year at high school. Jackson still loved her, of course, and was glad they'd been able to stay friends... but she just didn't understand. Never would, if she was lucky. Not having money blew. He constantly felt like he was lesser, somehow, because he couldn't afford anything.
It was even worse since he'd lost his job. Sure, working as a barista at Starbucks hadn't exactly payed big bucks, but it had still been money coming in. His parents wouldn't let him help with tuition fees, but he'd been able to pay for his own books and transportation. It had been something, at least. And now that was gone, too.
Jackson was frustrated, frustrated with his life and everything about it. There had to be more than this, more to life than this crushing feeling that what he had was not enough.
"Excuse me, sir, could I speak with you for a moment?"
Jackson looked up as he left the store, arms full of Lydia's bags. He was being spoken to by a woman with bright red hair, tied back in what looked like a painfully tight bun. She had a black bluetooth phone accessory in her ear, and carried a crisp black briefcase. Jackson looked around, wondering if he was in trouble.
As if reading his mind, the woman smiled. "You're not in any trouble," She said. Her mouth was the same blood red colour as her hair, and there was something tight and vaguely sinister about her smile.
"What's this about?" Lydia asked, eyes judgmentally roaming over the woman.
"My name is Jennifer Hall, I represent Peter Hale, CEO of Hale Realty," She said, handing him two cards. Hers was white, and stated her name and position in black ink. A standard business card. The other was smooth and black, and Jackson thought it was blank until he tilted it to the side and saw words reflecting light. The difficult to read lettering said Peter Hale in glossy letters. Jackson thought the card was more fashionable than actually informative. "Mr. Hale has a business proposition for you,"
Jackson blinked a few times, and stared at Jennifer. "A business... you mean a job?" He glanced at Lydia, who looked surprised and suspicious. "He wants to offer me a job?"
Again, the tight, sinister smile. "In a manner, yes," She said.
"I don't know anything about real estate,"
"You wouldn't have to,"
"Why wouldn't he have to?" Lydia asked, her eyes narrowed. "I don't like this, Jackson,"
Jennifer acted as if she hadn't spoken. "If you would give me your contact information, I'll give you a call and arrange a meeting between the two of you," She removed a phone from her briefcase, opened to a screen reading NEW CONTACT.
Jackson took it from her. "Why can't we set up a meeting now? I mean, you're right here. Why do you have to call me?"
"I'd prefer to arrange the meeting over the phone,"
Jackson sighed, and went to enter his number. "Jackson, you're giving her your number? Seriously? She could be a serial killer?!" Lydia hissed. If Jennifer heard her, she gave no indication. Jackson ignored her as well, entered his name and number and handed the phone back to Jennifer.
"Thank you, Mr. Whittemore," She said, not glancing at the phone before putting it back into her briefcase. "We'll be in touch, shortly," She turned away and walked off.
Lydia gaped at him. "I can't believe you did that,"
Jackson shook his head. "Lydia, when the CEO of a massive corporation offers you a job, you don't turn it down on the off chance that they might be a serial killer," He said.
"Do you hear yourself right now?" Lydia asked. She sighed, and shook her head, looking off towards the direction Jennifer Hall had walked. "She knew your name," She mumbled.
"That woman, she knew your last name. She called you 'Mr. Whittemore,'"
"I put it in the phone..."
"She didn't look at the phone, Jackson," Lydia said. "She already knew it,"
Jackson was nervous the day he met with Peter Hale. The meeting was set for 3:30, and Jackson arrived an hour early. He paced around in the lobby of the hotel, watching the minutes tick by on his watch. Questions were running around his head at break neck speed, and it was giving him a bit of a headache. Why were they meeting in a hotel? How had this guy known who he was? Why did he want to give him a job? What job at his realty company could possibly be done with no knowledge of realty?
Jackson shook his head, and glanced at his watch again. 3: 25. Time to go.
Jackson took a series of deep breaths, and then headed over to the elevator. The ride up seemed to take forever and at the same time was much too short.
At 3:27, Jackson was standing outside the room where he was supposed to meet him. He took another deep breath, and knocked firmly. After a moment, the door was opened to reveal a good looking man with bright blue eyes and a chiseled jaw. He was cleanly shaven, and probably in his early thirties, although Jackson wasn't all that great at guessing ages.
This, Jackson assumed, was Peter Hale. He didn't know why, but there was something familiar about him. Jackson thought he'd seen him before.
"Jackson," Peter greeted, a enthusiastic smile on his face. "Please, come in," He took a step back, and Jackson entered the hotel room. It was a large room, divided up into three areas: the kitchen, a small living room area, and behind a sheer white divider, the bedroom.
Jackson walked into the living room area, looking around. Peter closed the door behind him, and then offered Jackson his hand. "It's good to finally meet you,"
Jackson shook his hand. Peter's grip was hard, and he squeezed Jackson's hand like he was trying to break it. It ached slightly as he pulled it back. "I'm sorry, but have we... we haven't met before, have we?" He asked uncertainly.
Peter smiled. "I'm surprised you remember—I came into your coffee shop once, a little while back," He said. "You made me a non-fat latte with extra foam," Jackson nodded, vaguely recalling the meeting. Peter gestured to the table and chairs in the middle of the room. "Please, have a seat,"
They sat down across from each other, and Peter began to speak. "You're probably wondering why I've asked you here today—I assume my assistant told you that I have a business proposition for you?" Jackson nodded. "Well, that's not exactly true. The proposition I have is more... personal, than business," Peter paused, as if waiting for Jackson to say something. When he didn't, he continued. "As CEO of a multimillion dollar corporation, I'm a fairly busy man. I don't have time for things like relationships, or dating..."
Jackson raised his eyebrows, wondering at where this conversation was going. Was he going to ask Jackson out on a date?
"That being said," Peter went on, "I am still... human. I have certain needs, certain desires," He raised an eyebrow, as if trying to gauge Jackson's reaction. Jackson was still trying to figure out where the hell this was all going. "Now I know what you're thinking," He went on. "I'm rich, surely I have the means of buying what or whoever suits my pleasures. And you'd be right, of course..." He licked his lips, and looked Jackson over. "But for a while now, I've found that what I desire isn't necessarily for sale," He paused. "At least, not at first. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
Jackson did not. Peter was saying he was rich, and he could buy what—or who—ever he wanted, Jackson had got that much. Did he mean... "You're talking about sex," Jackson said slowly. "You want to pay someone for sex. Someone who's not for sale,"
Peter sat back in his chair and raised his eyebrows. For one stupid moment, Jackson wondered if this was about Lydia. That Peter was going to ask him to arrange something with her. But then he locked eyes with Peter, and the truth finally dawned on him.
Peter wanted to pay him for sex.
Once he'd got it, it seemed so incredibly obvious that he felt like a moron for not having understood immediately. Of course, of course that's what this was about. The stiff assistant, the hotel room...
"Do you understand what I'm asking, Jackson?" Peter said once more.
Jackson swallowed. "Do me a favour, run it by me again?"
Peter smiled slyly. "My proposition is this: sleep with me, and I promise I will make it worth your while. Financially speaking,"
Jackson shook his head. "This is, this is nuts..." He said. His mind was turning again, asking a million questions. But this time, one towered above them all; how much money? Jackson swallowed. He couldn't ask. "How much..."
"Name your price," Peter said, the smile widening on his handsome face.
"I..." He couldn't think. How much money did he need? For school, for books... what was his number? And was he really considering this? Jackson knew the answer. "Can I get back to you?"
Peter nodded, and stood up. "It's a lot to process, I know," He said. "Take some time, think about your answer. When you know what you want, give me a call," Jackson nodded, got to his feet, still feeling numb. He walked towards the door, and Peter put a hand on his shoulder, stopping him. "'No' is a perfectly fine answer too, Jackson," He said quietly. "I don't want you doing something you're not comfortable with. So think about it, and if the answer is 'no,' then no hard feelings,"
Jackson nodded. He managed some kind of smile, and then left.
Jackson added up how much money he would need for school, to pay for his books and his transportation for the rest of the year. He added in the cost of occasionally grabbing some food at the cafeteria. He totalled it all up, and then he had his number. And he had his answer, too.
In some ways, Jackson thought he'd made up his mind the moment he'd been asked. He'd stumbled and tripped over himself in front of Peter, had felt numb and ridiculous, as if what had been happening couldn't have possibly been real... but even then, he'd known he was going to say yes. Why wouldn't he? Peter was gorgeous, and he was going to pay him to have sex with him. There was no foreseeable downside.
Jackson felt calm when he called Peter back. No more stumbling, no more confusion or fear. He knew what he was getting into, and he was more than fine with it.
He wouldn't regret the decision for months.
When he arrived at Peter's mansion for the first time, he was much less nervous than he'd thought he would be. There were nerves, yes, but it was more like a feeling of tingly anticipation than anything.
Peter greeted him at the door himself, took his coat and hung it up in a closet that was big enough to be a whole separate room. Jackson tried not to gape too much at the massive home he was standing in, with the marble floors and gilded walls and expensive artwork. Still, it wasn't easy. Even when his family'd had money, they'd never had this much money.
Peter took Jackson upstairs and into his bedroom. It was painted a dark red, and was so big Jackson thought he could fit the first floor of his house into it. Peter dimmed the lights, placed a hand on Jackson's face and kissed him. He breathed in deeply, as if he wanted to savour Jackson's scent. "I'm so glad you said yes," He mumbled.
Jackson smiled, and kissed Peter back. "Me too," He said.
Peter all but tore off Jackson's clothes. They moved down onto the bed as shirts, pants and underwear were discarded and thrown aside. Peter's mouth and hands roamed over Jackson's body, making him cry out. There was an intensity to his movements, a sharpness that was both exhilarating and frightening. Jackson couldn't explain it, but there was a hunger inside Peter that made his kisses sting. When his mouth moved down Jackson's body, Jackson felt as if he were prey about to be devoured.
It was hours before Peter was done having him, hours before his voracity abated and he rolled off of Jackson, breathing heavily and covered in sweat. And as Jackson lay beside him, sore and aching and exhausted beyond belief, he realized he had never been so thoroughly satisfied. He was drenched in sweat and sticky with his and Peter's cum, but he could hardly recall a time he'd felt more wonderful.
"That was amazing," Peter mumbled, echoing Jackson's thoughts. He picked himself up and gave Jackson another harsh kiss, biting at his bottom lip. Jackson nodded, too tired to kiss Peter back. He wondered if he would ever be able to move again. He wondered if he'd ever want to move again.
Peter pulled away and lay back down, and in a few moments he had fallen asleep. Jackson smiled into the darkness of the room, closed his eyes and did the same.
It was a little past midnight when Jackson woke up, still sticky and sweaty in Peter's bed. After stumbling around in the darkness for a few minutes, he managed to locate his boxers and t shirt, and headed to the bathroom the clean himself off. There was a low growling in his stomach, and after getting cleaned up and partially dressed, he went in search of food.
Most of the lights were off in the house, and it was very difficult to figure out where he was going. It took him ten minutes to find the kitchen, which seemed like forever to his hungry mind. Finally he located it, flipped on the lights and began to look through the cupboards for something to eat.
He was pulling out a box of Apple Jacks when he discovered he wasn't alone. "Hello,"
Jackson jumped at the sound of the voice, causing Apple Jacks to fly everywhere. He turned around and found someone sitting at the kitchen table, an amused look on his face. "Sorry," He said.
"I—I didn't realize someone else lived here," Jackson sputtered, his heart racing in his chest.
The guy at the table smirked slightly. Like Peter, he was very good looking. He had dark hair, a slightly scruffy beard and what looked like a very well built body. "Two other people live here," He said. "Me and my sister Laura,"
Jackson knelt down and began scooping up the cereal that had fallen on the floor. "And who are you?" He asked.
"I'm Derek. Peter's nephew," He said. "The garbage can is to your right... it pulls out from the counter,"
Jackson stood up, cereal cupped in his hands. He pulled at the section of the counter Derek was talking about, and dumped the cereal into the trash. Then he turned around, and stood their awkwardly, unsure if he should leave or not. His stomach gurgled noisily, making him hesitant to do so.
Derek raised his eyebrows, still smirking, and after a moment Jackson had realized he'd heard his stomach growl. His face turned red. Derek was a complete stranger, and here Jackson was standing in front of him in his underwear, stomach growling and face florid. It was beyond embarrassing.
"Bowls are in that cupboard," Derek said, obviously oblivious to Jackson's embarrassment. "Cutlery is in that drawer. Milk is here," He said, picking up the carton in front of him to emphasize it.
Jackson nodded curtly. He decided that running away now would be the even more embarrassing option, and that the only thing he could do now was finish what he'd started.
Jackson got what he needed from the cupboards and poured some Apple Jacks into a bowl. Then he stiffly took a seat across from Derek at the table.
He could feel Derek watching him as he poured milk into the bowl, and began to eat. Along with the milk, there was also a box of Cocoa Puffs on the table, and Derek had a bowl of the stuff in front of him. Evidently, Jackson hadn't been the only one with a midnight cereal craving.
They ate in silence for a few moments. It occurred to Jackson that Derek seemed far too casual about running into him like this. He swallowed a spoonful of Jacks, and cleared his throat. "He does this a lot, huh?" He asked tentatively.
"Peter, I mean," He clarified. "He must do this a lot,"
"What makes you say that?"
Jackson shrugged. "It just doesn't seem like this is the first time you've had some kind of late night run in with someone in their underwear,"
Derek chewed his cereal and shrugged. "It's not the first time, but it doesn't happen a lot, considering," He glanced down, as if he'd realized he'd said something he shouldn't have.
Jackson smiled. "You mean, considering how often he does this,"
Derek glanced back up, and nodded. "Yeah, that's what I meant,"
Jackson nodded. "I figured this was a regular thing for him. That's how it seemed when he approached me..."
"He approached you? Usually he gets Jennifer to do his dirty work for him," Derek said, shovelling more cereal into his mouth. Jackson glanced down, suddenly feeling a little empty. He thought of Jennifer handing out Peter's business card to hundred of other people, wondered if they were as quick to accept as he was.
Derek seemed to realize the effect his words had, and he tried to correct himself. "I'm not judging you," He clarified. Jackson snorted. "I'm not. I get it," He said.
Jackson raised an eyebrow. "Oh, you do?"
"Well... no," Derek sat back in his seat, trying to explain himself. "I've never needed to worry about money," He said. "I've always just sort of had it. It's not a problem for me. And since I don't understand what it's like to not have it, or to worry about how to get it... and that's what I get. That there's no way for me to understand. So I'm not judging you..."
"Because there's no way for you to know what's it like to be this desperate for money?" Jackson finished.
Derek shrugged. "Essentially,"
"Thanks, thanks a lot," Jackson muttered, stirring his cereal around. "Honestly I think I'd prefer judgment over pity,"
"It's not pity,"
"Oh? What would you call it then?"
Jackson looked at him. "Fine. So long as it's not pity," He took a few more bites of his cereal, staring down at the swirling red and green O's. He wished Derek would leave already, so he could glower in peace.
A few minutes passed, and Derek finally finished up his cereal. He stood up and cleared away his bowl. "We should do this again sometime," He said dryly.
Jackson snorted. "Yeah, see you around," He muttered.
The corner over Derek's mouth turned up into a wry smile, and he left the kitchen.
A few minutes after Derek's departure, Jackson finished up his own cereal. He cleaned his bowl and headed back to Peter's room, where Peter was still soundly asleep. Jackson slipped silently back under the covers. It took him a while to fall asleep.
Peter called Jackson two days later, saying he wanted to see him again. He couldn't stop thinking about him, he said. Flattered, and not uninterested, Jackson agreed.
This time, Jackson had barely gotten through the door when Peter pulled him in and kissed him, mouth hot and eager, hands fumbling with his belt buckle as they backed towards the stairs. By the time they slammed the door in Peter's bedroom, Peter was shirtless and Jackson had his pants down around his ankles. At first they didn't even make it to the bed; Peter fucked him up against the wall, kissing and biting his shoulder from behind as he nails dug into Jackson's hips.
Peter came before Jackson, still inside of him. Before Jackson could even get his hands around himself to finish himself off, Peter yanked him backwards and threw him back on the bed. Then he got on his knees and sucked Jackson off until he came, arms wrapped around Peter's head and back arched in fucking bliss.
Everything they would do that night would leave him raw and aching for days.
Hours and countless orgasms later, Jackson once around woke near midnight with hunger in his gut. He wrestled with it for a few moments, not wanting to move from his comfortable place under the covers. But eventually hunger won over laziness, and he swung his legs over the bed. This time, before he left the room, he pulled his pants on over his boxers, just in case.
As to whether Peter's nephew Derek would be in the kitchen again, Jackson had his answer before he'd entered the room, seeing the light on as he approached. Last time Derek had been sitting in the dark with his cereal, but this time Jackson found him at the table reading a book while he ate.
"Fancy seeing you here," Jackson said, walking into the kitchen and heading over to the pantry. He felt none of the embarrassment or awkwardness he'd felt last time they'd met. He supposed not being half naked may of had something to do with it. Whatever feelings of resentment he'd gathered towards him in their first meeting seemed to be gone as well. After all, what did he care what Derek thought of him?
Instead of Apple Jacks he pulled out a box of Frosted Flakes. The Cocoa Puffs, he noticed, had been left in the cupboard as well. He saw that tonight Derek was eating Lucky Charms.
"You're back," Derek noted, looking up over the top of his book as Jackson poured himself a bowl, and then sat down next to Derek. "I guess Peter liked you,"
"Guess so," Jackson agreed, pouring milk onto his flakes. "What are you reading?"
Derek closed the book and showed him the cover. It was an old looking book, and depicted a beast ripping into someone's body. "The Book of Werewolves, by Sabine Baring-Gould," Derek said.
Jackson raised his eyebrows. "What?"
Derek glared at him, and put the book down. "It's the first serious academic study of shape-shifters in mythological lore." He said. Jackson continued to stare at him, waiting for him to say he was joking. "Look, you asked okay,"
"Okay, okay," Jackson said, sensing he'd hit a nerve. "I'm not judging you..."
"Uh huh," Derek muttered.
"Really. I mean, I think it's really weird and a little bit creepy, but I'm not judging you. You can like whatever you want,"
"Thanks, I appreciate that," Derek drawled.
"No problem," Jackson said. He took a few bites of his cereal, looking at Derek. "So, is it just werewolves or are you into all kinds of things like that?"
"Like supernatural stuff. Vampires, ghosts, witches, whatever," He said, shrugging.
Derek spooned some cereal into his mouth, and chewed slowly. "I guess," He said. "I mean, I'm not a fanatic or anything, but it interests me. It's kind of a hobby,"
"Most guys just watch sports," Jackson advised.
Derek rolled his eyes at him. "I watch sports, too," Derek said.
"Really?" Jackson asked. Despite Derek's appearance, Jackson had just been mentally chalking him up to a massive dork. Of course, he should know better than most people that being into sports didn't necessarily negate dorkdom. His best friend Danny was proof of that. "What sports?"
Jackson nodded. "Lacrosse is my favourite," He said.
Derek snorted. "Lacrosse? With the sticks? Seriously?"
Jackson glared at him. "Yeah, with the sticks," He said. Derek snorted. "Shut up, it's a good game. I used to play in high school,"
"The best," He said, grinning. Derek rolled his eyes. "I was, really. But uh, the best in a small high school league isn't exactly the same as being good enough to go professional, so..." He shrugged. "I couldn't even get a scholarship. Matt was so smug about it, I wanted to punch him,"
Derek raised an eyebrow. "Matt?"
"Oh..." Jackson glanced down. He hadn't meant to mention Matt. "My ex... I don't want to talk about it," He muttered.
Derek nodded. "Yeah, I've got an ex like that too," He said. "So what are you doing now, since lacrosse didn't work out?"
Jackson shrugged again. "I'm in school, I'm an undeclared major, taking some classes on philosophy, and psychology, and a bunch of different crap, I don't know,"
"I've been there," Derek mumbled.
"Yeah? What'd you do?"
"Dropped out early and took a job in the family business," He said.
"Thanks, that's helpful," Jackson replied.
Derek shrugged. He paused, looking at Jackson. "You know, I never got your name," He said, surprising Jackson.
"I thought you were indifferent to me," Jackson replied cooly.
Derek rolled his eyes. "Holding on to that, are you?"
Derek shook his head. "Fine, forget it,"
"Jackson," He said. "My name is Jackson,"
Derek looked up at him. A hint of a smile appeared on his face, and he reached across the table, extending his hand. "Nice to meet you, Jackson," He said. Jackson shook his hand firmly. Derek's grip was easier than his uncles, still firm but without the same crushing intensity. His hand was warm, and his skin surprisingly soft. Jackson withdrew his hand, and they went back to their cereals.
Jackson began to see Peter regularly. If sleeping with him once had been able to pay for his books, transportation and food all year, then sleeping with him a few times a week would be able to make a serious dent in his tuition.
The sex continued to be incredible, although Jackson couldn't help but notice that Peter seemed to get more ferocious and esurient each time. It was if he was searching to satisfy some deep need that he didn't quite understand, and growing more and more insistent each time they were together. Jackson quickly came accustomed to leaving Peter's house sore and limping, and sometimes remaining that way for days. It wouldn't have bothered him so much, if he hadn't reminded him so much of him.
But the pros vastly outweighed the cons. For the first time in forever, Jackson had some money. Most of it would go to school, of course... but some he could still use on himself. If he wanted to go out to lunch with Lydia, he could. When the went to the mall, if something caught his eye he could buy it for himself. It felt wonderful, like freedom.
Jackson was happier than he'd been in a long time... but something else continued to nag at him. He couldn't describe what it was, only that it gnawed at him in the middle of the night. He supposed it was a kind of emptiness, a craving for something Jackson couldn't quite place. He didn't know why, but what he was doing with Peter, even with all of its perks, it was leaving him wanting more. What that meant, Jackson couldn't say. He wondered if that was what Peter was searching for in him. Something more.
As sleeping with Peter became a regular thing, so did his midnight cereal dates with Derek. Each night Jackson would make his way down to the kitchen, and every night without fail, Derek would already be there. They would talk for a while as they ate their cereal, about whatever was on their minds; sports, Jackson's school, Derek's trouble at work—he wasn't thrilled about his job, as he thought his superiors coddled him and gave him less difficult work than he knew he was capable of doing—whatever happened to come up. Sometimes they would discuss Derek's strange fascination with the supernatural.
"It's called a kanima," Derek explained, a light in his eyes that Jackson only saw when they discussed strange mythical creatures and lore.
"And it's like a werewolf?" Jackson asked.
"Not exactly—it's more like a mutation of the werewolf gene," He said. "See, the kanima is supposed to be a werewolf, but something went wrong when it got turned,"
"What exactly? I mean, what causes someone to be a kanima?"
Derek shrugged. "It's difficult to say. Certain bits of lore say that the shape you take reflects the person you are inside, so it would vary... I found one text that was more specific. It said that the kanima doesn't know who it is, it hides from itself. That's why the kanima doesn't know its own reflection, and has no will of its own. And why when the wolf seeks a pack, the kanima seeks a master,"
"That sucks," Jackson mumbled. He sighed, and ran his fingers through his hair. "I bet I'd be a kanima, if some werewolf ever bit me,"
Derek rolled his eyes. "Shut up,"
"I'm serious. Doesn't know who it is? Got that. I've got no idea of who I'm supposed to be and crap. And as for seeking a master, well, I do have Peter..."
Derek made a noise of disgust, and focused on his cereal. "Don't say things like that," He muttered. "I don't want to hear about the things you and Peter do,"
Jackson grinned. "Alright, sorry," He said. Jackson tilted his head to the side. "Can I ask you a question?"
"If I said no would that stop you?"
Derek sighed. "Go ahead,"
"Do you really believe in this stuff?" Jackson asked. "I mean, the supernatural? Kanima's and werewolves? Do you think it's or real, or is it just stories to you,"
"No I don't think it's real Jackson," Derek grumbled. "I know it's all stories, I'm not a moron." Jackson raised his eyebrows. Derek glared at him, and then looked away. "I used to believe it," He said. "When I was younger, my Mom was really into this stuff too. She used to tell me all kinds of stories, and I always thought that they were real. Obviously now that I'm older, I know better... but..."
"But... ?" Jackson pressed.
Derek shrugged, obviously trying to seem nonchalant. "I don't know. I guess there's still a part of me—a small, stupid part—that wishes it were real. I mean, I know it's nuts but, I can't helping wishing there was more out there, more than just jobs in an office building and making money and paying bills and living a mundane life..." Derek shook his head. "I'll shut up now,"
"No, it's cool, I get it," Jackson said, feeling a familiarity in Derek's words. "I think about that sort of thing too. I mean, not werewolves and junk, but the part about wishing there was more... I get that,"
Derek nodded, and stirred his Froot Loops.
"So, your Mom... where's she?" Jackson asked, changing the subject. "Do your parents have a mansion down the street from here?"
Derek shook his head. "No, they're dead. Most of my family is," He said. "There was a huge fire when I was about 16. Me, Laura and Peter were the only survivors,"
Jackson's mouth opened as the horror of Derek's words washed over him. He'd had no idea, not a clue. "I—I'm sorry—"
Derek just shrugged. "I still have Laura..." He said. "And Peter, I guess. We get by," Jackson continued to stare at him, at a complete loss for what else to say. How do you move on in a conversation from something like that? What could he possibly say next? Derek looked up sharply, as if he could sense Jackson's thoughts. "Don't get all weird now, alright," He demanded. "I know it's a fucked up thing to hear, but can we just skip the part where you walk on eggshells around me and get back to a normal conversation?"
Slowly, Jackson closed his mouth. He nodded. "Yeah," He said. "Yeah..."
"You mentioned you were thinking of dropping your philosophy class? How come?" Derek asked, steering the subject back to something safe. "No interest in uncovering the secrets of our universe?"
Jackson snorted. "It's Philosophy 101. I don't think they let you tackle the secrets of the universe until at least 502. But it's not that. It's my teacher, Professor Gibson. He does this really irritating thing with his mouth whenever he ends a sentence—like he's sucking in his saliva." Jackson shuddered. "I can't take it,"
Derek stared at him, unimpressed. "So you're going to drop it because the teacher annoys you?"
Derek shook his head. "That's stupid,"
"Thanks a lot,"
"You're welcome. It is,"
"Yeah," Derek agreed. "Says me,"
They'd been fucking for a little over a month when Peter finally asked him. It was early in the evening, and they were lying in Peter's enormous four poster bed, breathing heavily and waiting to be recovered enough to go again. Jackson was on his back, the sheets tangled around his waist. Peter was propped up on one elbow looking at Jackson with his usual hungry expression, but not touching him. Outside of sex, Jackson found that Peter rarely did touch him. It was as if there was no point to it, if it wasn't going to lead to fucking.
Out of the blue, Peter asked "Where do you go every night?"
Jackson blinked a few times, pulled out of his thoughts by the question. "Oh... uh, the kitchen," He replied, feeling strangely embarrassed, as if he were admitting to doing something he shouldn't have been. "I get hungry... so I have a midnight snack," He shrugged, trying to seem casual. It wasn't a big deal, after all.
"Mmm, I make you hungry, do I?" Peter leaned in and bit the lobe of Jackson's ear. Jackson figured that meant he was ready for another round.
Jackson nodded, strangely relieved that the conversation was already over. He couldn't explain why, but there was something about his midnight talks with Derek that he didn't want Peter to know about.
Peter put his hand against Jackson's chin, tilting it upwards to expose Jackson's throat to him. They talked no more that night.
The rain was coming down in sheets, and the harsh wind stung Jackson's skin. Thunder rumbled and lightning crackled above him as he ran up the driveway from the taxi, covering his head with his jacket. When he got to the massive double doors he rang the bell once, then again when he received no response. Jackson wiped at his face, then realized there was no point; amongst the rain, no one would be able to tell that he had been crying. He suspected his puffy red eyes may give him away, but there was nothing he could do about that.
When no one came to the door, Jackson rang the bell again a few times, and pounded on the wood. The rain had soaked through all of his clothing, and he couldn't stop shivering. A fresh wave of tears began to trickle from his eyes, mingling with the rain water. It had been a long time since he'd felt quite so hopeless and lost, and now he was standing in the rain crying like a little bitch. He added pathetic to the list, too. Hopeless, lost and pathetic he stood outside of the Hale mansion, desperately praying for someone within the massive home to hear him.
Finally, just as Jackson was on the verge of calling yet another taxi to take him somewhere—Lydia's, perhaps—the door opened. Derek stood in the doorway, frowning. "Jackson?"
"Can I come in?" Jackson asked, his voice sticking in his throat.
Derek stepped back to allow Jackson to enter, and he rushed inside to the dry and the warmth. "Christ, you're soaking wet. How long were you out there?"
"A few minutes, I think," Jackson muttered, pulling off his sopping jacket. He shivered slightly.
"I was in the basement, it's hard to hear the bell from there..." Derek apologized. He looked him over. "You know, Peter isn't home..."
Jackson closed his eyes. "Of course he isn't," He mumbled, feeling like an idiot. He should have called first, should have made sure Peter would be there when he showed up. "I'll go,"
He began to pull his coat back on, but Derek stopped him. "Don't be stupid, you're not going anywhere. It's crazy out there," As if to emphasize his point, there was a clap of thunder so loud that Jackson actually felt the house rumble slightly. Derek raised his eyebrows. "You're staying, give me that jacket,"
After Derek hung his jacket up in the closest, he turned back to Jackson. "Come upstairs, I'll give you a change of clothes to wear. The ones you're wearing are completely soaked, you'll probably catch a cold and die in them,"
"I doubt I'd die," He mumbled, but followed Derek upstairs anyways. There Derek gave him a pair of sweatpants and a long sleeved black shirt. Jackson changed in the washroom, closing his eyes as he pulled the warm dry clothes over his goose-pimpled skin. Warmth.
When he was changed, he handed Derek his wet clothes, and Derek put them in the dryer. "I'm surprised you know how to work that thing," He commented. "Don't you have a maid to do your clothes for you?"
Derek glared at him. "That doesn't mean I've never done laundry in my life," He said. "I have... a few times,"
"And where are the maids tonight?" Jackson asked, thinking that if one was around then they probably would have answered the door faster than Derek.
"Peter gave them the weekend off, since he and Laura are out of town for the next few days,"
Once again Jackson shut his eyes. "Fuck," He muttered. When he opened his eyes again, Derek was giving him a questioning look. "I knew that," He said. "Peter told he would be away and I just—I completely forgot. I shouldn't have come here, I'm sorry,"
"It's okay, really," Derek insisted. "I was sort of bored, anyways. Besides, I ordered some chinese food and I think I got enough for about six people, so it's good to have someone else here to eat some, since leftovers usually just get thrown out,"
"Well, I can usually eat for about three people, so you may not have as much leftovers as you'd think," Jackson said.
Derek nodded, "I can eat about the same,"
"Then I guess we'll have the perfect amount of food,"
Derek grinned, and Jackson smiled back. Suddenly he didn't feel so lost or hopeless after all.
Derek had not been lying when he'd said he ordered food for six people. Six hungry people, too.
"Why would you order this much food?" Jackson asked, taking in the kitchen table, buried under what seemed like dozens and dozens of flimsy chinese food containers. "I mean, you thought it was just going to be you right? Do you usually eat this much by yourself? Because if you do, you should be like a thousand more pounds than you are,"
Derek glared at him, and then shrugged his shoulders. "I just got what we usually order," He said. "It didn't really occur to me until afterwards that two thirds of the people who are usually here to eat it all... aren't,"
Jackson shook his head, and they sat down and began to eat. Jackson piled his plate high with all of the different dishes, his stomach grumbling ravenously. He hadn't realized he was so hungry until the food was in front of him, and he began to scarf things down as quickly as he could.
"Slow down," Derek cautioned, sounding amused. "The food isn't going anywhere,"
Jackson swallowed a large mouthful of lemon chicken and wiped his mouth. "Sorry, I just... I'm hungry,"
"I can see that,"
Jackson made himself go slower, not wanting to choke in front of Derek. They ate in silence for a few minutes. As he ate, Jackson could feel Derek watching him. "Okay, what?"
"Are you going to tell me what happened?" Derek asked.
Jackson stirred his beef fried rice around with his fork. "What happened with what?"
Derek gave him a look. "Jackson, come on. You show up here out of the blue, you look like you've been crying... something happened. What?"
Jackson sighed. "It... it's nothing," He said. "Just a fight, with my parents..." He sighed, not wanting to get into it. Derek continued to look at him. Jackson put his fork down. "I tried to give them money for my tuition. They wanted to know where I got it from,"
"And you... told them?"
Jackson put his face in his hands, and nodded slowly. "They did not take it well," Jackson mumbled, his words muffled by his hands.
"Can't imagine why,"
He took his hands away from his face. "I just, I wish they would just understand! It's not a bad thing—so I'm sleeping with someone for money, it's not a big deal. We—we need the money, and I like Peter and—everyone wins. It's just—I need to do this,"
"Why, do you think?"
"Because I refuse to be helpless, or useless," He snapped. "My parents are stretching themselves so thin to be put me through school and I hate sitting around not being able to do anything to help. And—and I hate not being able to afford anything! Not my books, or the bus or a fucking book bag if I want it! I hate it, and I won't do it anymore," He took a deep breath. "I need to do this. To help my parents... and... and to help me,"
Derek nodded. "Did you explain that to them?"
He ran his fingers through his hair. "No, not in so many words," He said. "They were shouting, so I started shouting and things got out of hand... I said some things I didn't exactly mean,"
"You'll fix it," Derek said. "They're your family, you'll sort things out. You'll talk, explain things properly..."
"They still won't understand,"
"Probably not, no," Derek said. Jackson made a grumbling noise. "Come on Jackson, it's not exactly an easy thing for people to just deal with, I mean they're your parents for christ sake how did you think they were going to react?"
"I don't know—I guess I knew they wouldn't like it, but I didn't think they'd get as mad as they were..."
"Can you blame them?"
"Yes, I can,"
Derek gave him a look, and Jackson waved a hand at him. "Fine, fine, so I shouldn't, I know that. Doesn't mean I don't anyways,"
"Whatever, do what you want,"
"Thanks for that, I will,"
Derek shook his head, moving his food around on his plate with his fork. He didn't say anything. The only sound was the growing storm raging outside, the rain beating against the windows and the wind howling. The rumbling thunder was growing closer, and the bright flashes of lightning were more frequent.
Derek's silence bothered Jackson. Derek was quiet a lot, but it was usually more of a comfortable, unassuming quiet. This silence felt like a judgment. "Look, can you not be pissed at me too? I know I'm not handling this right, alright? I just... don't how how else to handle it,"
Derek sighed, and looked up. "I'm not mad, I just... I'd hate to see something like this fuck up your family,"
In lieu of saying something, Jackson slowly twirled his fork in some lo mein. He got why this was so important to Derek, it was pretty obvious: Derek's family was gone. He would never have another fight with his parents, never see them again or hear their voices. And here Jackson was turning away from them...
"I'll talk to them," Jackson said. "I will, I'll try and explain as best I can just... not tonight. I need some time, they definitely need some time..."
Derek nodded. "Take some time," He said. "And you can stay here as long as you need to,"
"Seriously?" Jackson asked, furrowing his brow. He thought he'd been overstepping his bounds by staying the night.
Derek shrugged. "Why not? It's a huge house, it's not as if we don't have the space for you..." He glanced down. "Peter would want you to stay," He muttered.
Jackson blinked. "Okay," He said. "If that's what Peter would want..."
They finished eating, and began the annoying process of cleaning up. There was little to no space in Derek's enormous fridge, and it was like a game of tetris trying to fit all the half-empty containers inside. Finally they were able to fit everything in, though Jackson suspected that opening the fridge again might cause an avalanche of chinese food to spill forth. Hopefully it would be okay.
"Want to watch a movie?" Derek asked, once the kitchen was clear of food and plates.
Jackson shrugged a shoulder. "What'd you have in mind?"
"I don't know, I'm sure we can find something. Laura is a serial movie-downloader, she has everything," Derek walked out of the room, gesturing for Jackson to follow. They went down a spiral staircase into the basement, and Derek flicked the lights on.
Jackson blinked a few times, surprised to suddenly find himself inside a movie theatre. "What the...?"
Derek smiled. "The Laura Theatre," He said. "Her 2007 pet project. She was obsessed with having the perfect home theatre,"
Jackson turned around on the spot, taking it in. It looked like an honest to god theatre—rows of seats, four chairs wide, ascended in front of a huge hanging screen. Off to the side was a full concession stand, complete with a popcorn maker, a fountain drink dispenser and all kinds of different chocolate bars and candies. "She did a good job," He said, impressed.
"Sometimes she has screening parties, and gets one of the maids to run the concession stand," Derek said. "It's fun," He went over to a ledge by the screen and picked up a tablet, began scrolling through it. "All her movies are on this thing, it controls the screen and the projector," He explained. "Name a movie,"
"Hoosiers," Jackson said, naming the first movie that came to mind.
Derek punched something in on the tablet. "Got it," He said. "Want to watch it?"
"Have you seen it?"
"Yeah, a couple of years ago,"
"We don't have to watch it then," Jackson said, walking over to where Derek stood. "Let's find something neither of us have seen,"
They wound up settling on the movie Sin City. Derek said Laura had been trying to get him to watch for a while, and he hadn't gotten around to it. Jackson agreed, because he'd never seen it either and he was curious about it... but he felt uneasy.
"Would it be alright if I grab some Maltesers?" Jackson asked, gesturing towards the concession stand.
"You're not seriously still hungry?" Derek asked, over top of the tablet. Jackson shrugged, and Derek shook his head. "Help yourself to whatever you want,"
"Thanks..." Jackson grabbed the chocolate from the stand, and walked over to a seat in the middle of the theatre. Derek sat down next to him, still fiddling with the tablet. The screen in front of them turned bright blue, and then switched to a black and white menu screen.
"Ready?" He asked. Jackson shrugged, and nodded. Derek frowned. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine," Jackson said, knowing he didn't sound convincing. He didn't really want to talk about it... but somehow, it seemed like a part of him did. It was a confusing way to feel. "I just... it's stupid," He mumbled. Derek didn't seemed bothered. "Sin City was Matt's like, all time favourite movie."
"Matt... that's your ex?" Derek asked. Jackson nodded. "We can watch something else, if it reminds you of him,"
"It's ok, I want to see it, I just... I don't know, I feel weird finally watching it. He'd be pissed, probably, because I haven't read any of the comics it's based on," Jackson rolled his eyes. "He was always moaning about that crap..."
"Screw him," Derek said. "You can watch whatever the hell you want,"
Before Jackson could respond there was a ferocious crash of thunder, and everything went dark around them. The blue glow from the tablet was the only source of light left in the basement, and Jackson saw Derek shut his eyes. "Power outage," He muttered.
Derek glared at him, and stood up.
They made their way back upstairs, and Derek walked into the living room, which had a large window that took up almost the entirety of the wall. He stood in front of it with his hands in his pockets, watching the rain pelt the glass. Lightning flashed, a violent bolt cutting across the stormy sky. A moment later, another powerful clap of thunder shook the house.
Derek sighed. "Tea?" he asked.
Derek made them some tea, and they sat in the dark living room and watched the storm.
"Probably better this way," Jackson commented, as another flash of lightning lit up the room.
"I don't know, I felt sort of weird watching the movie anyways..."
"Then why did you agree to it?"
Jackson shrugged. "I do want to watch it—I just, I don't know. I feel weird about it, too. But I wasn't going to let that stop me, I mean I can't let him control my life, can I? 'Oh, Matt liked that movie, guess it's ruined for me forever now.' It's dumb,"
"It might seem dumb, but sometimes that's what happens. Not much you can do about it. My ex always had spearmint gum on her. She chewed the stuff all the time. Now I can't stand it. I smell spearmint and I get angry. It might be dumb, but it's not like I can help it. And I'm not going to go out of my way to smell spearmint gum. That would be really dumb,"
Jackson frowned. "I guess..." He muttered. "I mean, that makes sense. I just... I don't, I mean it was high school when we dated, I shouldn't still be carrying him around like this in my head, right? Sometimes I think he's haunting me..."
When the lightning flashed, Jackson saw Derek giving him a strange look. "Haunting you?"
Jackson turned his mug around in his hands, gripping it. "Did I not mention that he died?"
"No, Jackson. You left that bit out,"
He sighed. "We weren't dating at the time... we'd been off for about 3 months. It was raining, he lost control of his car, swerved off a bridge into the lake. Drowned,"
"It's... I mean, it's..." He shrugged, knowing Derek wouldn't be able to see him. He shook his head. He didn't want to talk about Matt, hated going over this. "If you knew him, you'd know it was even worse than it sounds. He... when he was a kid, he fell in this guys pool. Almost drowned. He had nightmares about it, his whole life. He was convinced he'd died, just for a moment. It really... it messed with him, you know? He wouldn't even take baths. For him to go that way..."
Jackson felt Derek's hand on his shoulder. "That's awful," He said.
"Yeah, well... don't feel too bad for him, the guy was an asshole. I mean, a real asshole. He had problems, there was something seriously wrong with him. So it's shitty he had to die, and especially in that way, but... I'm not as broken up about it as you'd expect..."
"Did he... he hurt you?"
Jackson looked up sharply. "What?"
"Sorry, I just... the way you sounded, made me think..." Derek paused. "It's not my business,"
Jackson was quiet for a minute. "He did," He said quietly. It occurred to him that he'd never really talked about this before. "He used to..." Jackson breathed in through his nose. "Sometimes he was fine, you know? I mean, we never exactly had what I'd called an idyllic relationship—first of all, I was seeing someone else the entire time we were together,"
"You were cheating on him?"
"No, I was cheating with him, on a someone else... Her name's Lydia. We're actually still friends,"
"Does she know? About Matt?" He asked.
"She knows I cheated on her, yeah... she doesn't know about the other stuff,"
Derek's voice was soft. "You don't have to tell me about it, if you don't want to,"
Jackson sighed. "I don't know, I mean—I don't want to talk about it, ever... but I guess part of me does. I don't know," He muttered. He ran his hand over his hair, messing it up. Derek was quiet. "I spent a lot of time blaming myself for it... I know how that sounds, and on some level I get that it wasn't my fault... but I also can't help thinking, if I'd been better to him..."
"You mean, if you weren't cheating with him?"
Jackson shrugged a shoulder. "That too, but there was more. I mean, we were both in the closet—really, really in the closet. For the first few months, we couldn't even look at each other without being drunk. That's how it started, really. We would get drunk and screw, then pass out. And then at school, I wouldn't even look at him. He was on my lacrosse team, and I never... I ignored him as much as possible. So when he started... doing what he did, I blamed myself. I thought 'if I could just own up and be with him properly, he wouldn't do this,'" He sighed. "I know, it's stupid,"
Derek's found it's way to his shoulder again. "It's not stupid," He said. "It's wrong, but it's not stupid. If he hurt you, it's because of something wrong with him, not because of anything you did. And didn't deserve it,"
"I know I didn't deserve it, I just... I know he was wrong, I know what he did was wrong, but for some reason I can't make myself stop thinking that it was my fault, in some way. Even now, even all these years later... even now that's dead... "
"I know," Derek said. His hand gave Jackson's shoulder a gentle squeeze. "I get it,"
"That ex I mentioned, with the spearmint... she was the first person I ever dated. I was 16, she was... older. We had to keep it a secret. She didn't want people to get the wrong idea," He snorted bitterly. "After the fire, she left me. It turns out she was a lawyer, working for my family's business competitors. They were trying a build a case against my father, charge him with embezzling. She was only with me to try and get evidence. After they died, she told me the truth. Said there was no point anymore,"
Jackson's mouth opened slightly. "That's... that's awful,"
"I know..." Derek mumbled. "Even after I knew the truth, I still... I mean, I still loved her. And I blamed myself for her leaving. I thought, if I'd been better, she would have stayed. Despite everything, she would have stayed with me..." He took a deep breath. "It took me a long, long time to realize that I'd done nothing wrong. She used me, she lied to me and she manipulated me. And that wasn't my fault. And it's not yours either. Whatever he did... nothing you did deserved that. Nothing,"
Jackson stared through the darkness, at what little of Derek he could make out. "I just wish I could get him out of my head..."
"You will, one day," Derek said. "I promise,"
The lights flickered back on then, and Jackson squeezed his eyes shut and groaned, unaccustomed to the brightness.
Derek looked at his watch. "It's almost midnight, we should probably head to bed... come on, I'll show you to the guest bedroom,"
Jackson followed Derek upstairs, down the hall and around the corner from Peter's bedroom. "There should be some basic toiletries under the sink in the washroom," Derek said. "Toothbrush, toothpaste..." Jackson nodded. They stopped outside the bedroom. "Well... goodnight, Jackson,"
Jackson looked up at Derek, giving him a half smile. "Goodnight, Derek," He said quietly. "And... thanks. For listening to me whine and crap,"
"It was no problem," He said. "And if you ever want to talk, I mean... I'm here,"
Although he'd said goodnight already, Derek continued to linger. He looked Jackson in the eye, and Jackson had the strange idea that Derek was thinking of kissing him. The thought surprised him... even more surprising, the thought that he wouldn't have minded if he had.
But Derek just gave him a small smile, and then turned away and left him standing alone in the hallway.
That night, Jackson lay awake in bed, listening to the rain and thinking about the night he'd just had. It seemed impossible that he'd really talked about everything that he had with Derek. Even though he hadn't given him any specifics, he'd told Derek more about what Matt had done than he'd ever told anyone. What was about Derek that had made him open up like that?
And what Derek had told him... that couldn't have been easy for him. Jackson felt strange, having heard something so personal. He wondered if this would change things between them, if the easy banter and talk they'd used to have would be gone now, now that they knew these serious things about each other.
As Jackson drifted off to sleep, he thought about that moment at the end of the night, where it had seemed like Derek was going to kiss him. In the last moments before he fell asleep, he wondered what Derek would have tasted like.