Danny and Jackson first meet when they're seven years old, when Jackson's mother throws a garden party to welcome Danny's family to the exclusive Beacon Hills community to which they've recently moved. Jackson and Danny are seated next to each other at the children's table, and the only thing more ridiculous than the starched white table cloth and tiny fish egg hor d'oeuvres sitting in front of them, are the knee shorts, button ups and ties they're both sporting. Danny's mother had done her best to hide her eye roll as she'd adjusted the tie around his neck, muttering something Danny hadn't understood about “when in Rome,' before smiling, kissing him on the cheek and ushering him out the door.
For some mysterious reason, no one has bothered to introduce Danny to any of the children, and after a minute, Jackson looks at him imperiously and says, in as haughty a tone as a seven year old can manage, 'I'm Jackson Whittemore.'
He's obviously expecting some response, so Danny nods wisely and answers. 'Okay. I'm Danny.'
The space between Jackson's eyebrows crease in confusion – apparently Danny's response was not what he anticipated – but he only says, 'Danny who?'
The other boy just shrugs. He can barely pronounce his own last name; he's given up trying to pass it along to other people. 'Just Danny.' He pokes at the food on the plate in front of him and cautiously takes a bite, then makes a gagging noise and spits it out. Jackson almost smiles before he catches himself. He points to the house that the carefully manicured and decorated lawn belongs to.
'That's my house.'
Danny nods again, picking around on his plate before selecting a chocolate covered strawberry and stuffing it in his mouth all at once, juice dribbling out the corner of his mouth and landing on his tie. Luckily, the dark blue color hides the worst of it. 'Cool.' He's hot, and his shirt is itchy, and he surreptitiously toes his loafers off underneath the table.
Jackson looks disappointed, but tries again. 'My dad is a stockbroker.'
Danny doesn't know what that is, but if they're trading dad information...
'My dad makes computer software.' For a company named after fruit, which always makes Danny giggle furiously, but he does his best to reign it in; he's new, and he wants to make friends, even if Jackson keeps looking at him like he's a bug he can't figure out how to dissect.
Jackson makes a low, growling noise and then shoves him arm out, under Danny's nose, where he can't miss the watch on his wrist, glinting silver in the sun. 'My watch cost $79.97.'
Now they're on a subject Danny can contribute to. He sticks his own arm out, displaying his pride and joy, a plastic Star Wars watch that his mother indulgently lets him wear everywhere, whether it clashes with his outfit or not. 'This is my favorite watch! It cost $9.99!'
For some reason, his words cause frustration to leak from every pore on Jackson's body. The blond boy – and back then, Jackson's hair is so light it's almost white – stares at him for a long moment, body tense and teeth gritted, and then says desperately, 'I can hold my breath for thirty seconds!'
'Really?' The longest Danny has made it is twenty seconds, and by then he's gasping and red faced and screaming for air.
Jackson nods jerkily. 'Wanna see?'
'Yeah!' Danny pushes the buttons that switch his watch face to seconds, and says 'Go!'
In actuality, Jackson makes it 32 seconds before his cheeks bulge and buckle and he slumps in his chair, grinning.
Jackson looks over at him from the corner of his eye. 'Yeah?'
Danny nods emphatically. 'Hey, watch this!' Danny grabs his thumb and bends it backwards until it's pressed against his wrist, one of the freaky awesome things about being double jointed.
'Dude! That's sick !' Admiration is evident in the tone of Jackson's voice, so Danny shows him how he can make his fingers crook down on just the first knuckle, too, like claws, and then Jackson demonstrates his ability to spit into the air and catch it in his mouth. And yeah, it's disgusting, but pretty cool, too.
Danny gives his food one last, sad look before confiding to Jackson, 'This food is gross.'
Jackson looks like he's thinking about arguing, but really, that would just be a pointless lie, so he concedes. 'Yeah.' He tugs on his tie. 'It's hot.'
'My shirt itches.'
'My mom wanted me to wear knee socks .' Jackson spits the words out like the abomination they are and Danny's face clearly shows his horror at the very thought.
Jackson brightens. 'Hey, do you play lacrosse?'
Danny shakes his head in the negative. He's not even sure he knows what lacrosse is.'
'I do. When I'm older, I'm going to be First Line. I'm gonna kick ass!' He ducks his head a little as he curses, looking over his shoulder to make sure no adult hears. 'Want me to show you?'
Danny finds him mom and dad in the crowd, busy talking to people he doesn't know, surrounded by more people he doesn't know, and he knows he's probably supposed to stay where he is, eat and smile and behave until they come rescue him and take him to the movies, but really, he's seven, and this is the most boring thing his parents have ever asked him to do, and who makes kids dress up in the middle of ninety degree weather?
So he nods instead, and he and Jackson slowly slide down in their seats, until they slip completely out of them and are underneath the table, hidden by the long cloth that hits the ground. They crawl carefully between the legs on either side – pausing only once to tie two pairs of shoes together – and emerge victorious at the far end. The kid sitting there starts to shout, until Jackson fixes him with a look that makes his lips snap shut, and then they're away, running pell mell around the side of the house, and through the fence. Once through, the noise of the party fades away, and Jackson shows him the can he's nailed to the side of a tree, and a stick with a makeshift net attached to it.
They take turns, and they both suck , but it's better than sitting down, and it's better than fish eggs, and by the time their parents find them, they're both sweaty and sticky and barefoot, ties abandoned over a branch. Even as Jackson's parents scold him for getting dirty and disappearing, he grins at Danny madly, a grin that will become a trademark in all their later misadventures, and Danny smirks back from his seat on his dad's shoulders.
Once he's securely seat-belted in the car, and they pull onto the road, the air conditioner blasting blessedly high, his mother turns around in her seat and reaches back, using her thumb to rub the smears of dirt from his face.
'Did you have a good time?'
Danny considers for a moment, then nods.
'And you made a new friend.'
Danny takes another minute to think and then nods again. Yeah, he's pretty sure he and Jackson are going to be friends.