The woman steps out of the car into the cool night air. She pulls out her gun and looks around. The street, a row of neat houses, is empty. They haven't found her yet. She can feel them, though, not far behind. She doesn't have much time.
She puts the gun into her waistband. Dangerous, but she needs the extra hand. Finally, the woman opens the back door and unstraps the baby's seat. He opens his eyes at her sleepily, but doesn't cry. He is as tired as she is from all this running and doesn't have the energy for it. Too thin and too worn out, the both of them. She hasn't stopped running for over a week, pausing only to feed her son and catch her breath. She can't keep this up much longer.
It has never been like this. Her family has hunted monsters for generations, but such a massacre had never happened in all their history. The wolves have taken her parents. Her sister. Cousins. Nephews. They were picking off the family piece by piece, every one of their line that can resist the bite. Even her husband just because he was there. They are not going to take her child as well. If she just keeps running, he will never be safe. This has to end and she will end it.
She doesn't take much time making her decision because time she doesn't have. She can feel the monsters closing in, her family's gift and curse. Instead, she looks in the window at the couple eating dinner. They look decent, caring, and she has to trust that this is the case. They will make sure he is alright.
She sets the baby on the doorstep and rings the bell, before running down the street back to her car as fast as she can. She'll be back for him if she can, but he won't die if she can't. She pauses after starting the engine. The man who opens the door stares down at the child. He yells out into the night, as if the person who would do such a thing would answer. The woman comes to the door and looks out. The hunter pulls out onto the road.
She knows where the nest is. They have hunted her for far too long. "We hunt those that hunt us," she whispers to the house behind her as she drives. It is time to turn the tables, to stop being soft. "I'll be back for you as soon as I can. I promise."
Soon is a very long time coming.
Names are power, Diana's grandmother had always said. Use a fairy's name and, if you are very clever, you can get something you want. She believed her. Their family and their neighbors remembered the old ways. Diana isn't a Whittemore yet. That comes later. Her husband, Jack, isn't a Whittemore either.
The garden is dark as they make preparations. Diana delegates most of these tasks to her husband, because her heavily pregnant belly makes it hard to continuously bend over and draw the circle properly.
"Are we sure we want to do this?" Jack asks.
She looks at him for a moment in disbelief. "How can you even say that?"
"We could hide him."
"Do you think that we can hide from *her*? She will always find us. And I will not lose another baby. Not again."
There is no other choice. They hadn't intended it to be this way, but when the child had grabbed Diana's finger and smiled at Jack's surprise all those months ago, the pair realized that their bargain had been a poor one. They couldn't return him to his fate.
Jack pauses and looked at the house were the boy was sleeping before, finally, nodding his agreement. Diana then calls out the name she had spent most of the past year searching for. A second time. And, finally, a third. For a moment, nothing happens and she fears that she has gotten the name wrong.
"Why did you call me?" The voice is not a happy one. It sings like bells in the darkness. It makes the hairs of her neck stand on end. She knows why the voice does not ask who she is. It does not need to ask her name. The creature already knows her.
But they had come into this with a purpose. She looks at the shadow. "We want to keep the boy."
"Humans are always so greedy. You want everything. A year and a day, you were to feed and keep my son. It was a fair bargain."
She feels anger then, because she had lost her first born and would have done anything to keep him and this creature still calls the baby hers even with what it will do to him. "How can you call him your son when you intend to murder him?"
"A tithe must be paid. Magic for blood. For life. For a pure soul. Who are you to say who it should be?" The fairy steps closer, stopping at the edge of the circle. Diana can see her in the lights from the child's bedroom window, golden hair and fair skin and eyes green as the trees surrounding her in the dark. Eyes black as pitch. Diana stays where she is. As long as she doesn't break the circle, it can't touch her.
Jack answers for her. "Not him. Let us keep him. Take it back. Let us keep the boy."
It turns to her husband and, once those inhuman eyes are gone, she shivers in relief. "And will you be so fickle again? Will you change your mind? I wonder if you realize what you are asking for. He is one of us and always will be."
Diana snarls and said the name once more. The being flinches. "No. He will be our son. Keep your luck, we will take the child instead."
She smiles at Diana and Jack at the words, gently and speaks as if talking to children. "A bargain has already been made. It cannot be undone.” Hair glistens in the light as it tilts its head. “Except, of course, for a new bargain. I will not come for him. Do you agree to it?"
Diana looks at Jack. He is worried, but they both had agreed to come here for the same reason and that reason lay sleeping even now under a pair of steel scissors to keep this very being at bay. She turns and looks back at it.
The fairy's smile grows a little and, if it had been on anyone else, Diana might have called that look satisfaction. "Luck in business, wealth, is what you asked for. That you shall receive. But it will bring you no happiness. Since you ask for this child, I will not come for him." It pauses and Diana thinks the fairy will make its demands now. It doesn't. Instead the creature waits for that realization of horror that Diana has agreed without knowing the price, rather than entering negotiations. Diana's eyes widen. *Remember, my dear, that the wording is what matters,* her grandmother had always said. Its teeth grow longer in the shadows, a shark's mouth in a face that would make angels weep. "I will not come for my child, I shall take yours instead as payment and there shall be no others from that womb. That is my price.” One hand points to her belly, to that womb filled with the life of her second son. “So agreed, so done."
"Diana! No, we didn't agree to anything yet." Jack yells, but it is already too late. Diana doesn't say anything, instead looking down. There is blood, blood everywhere and her insides feel like they have been scooped out. She falls to the ground and her husband tries to grab her. He's crying, frantic to see if she and the baby are well. Diana already knows that they aren't so she doesn't look at him, she looks at the thing even from where she is lying on the cold earth. Jack is saying something about this not being what they agreed. It isn't true, of course. One must never forget a fairy's nature and she had. She had thought that knowing its name was enough protection and she had walked into its trap as one walks into an open door.
As it disappears into the shadows, she can still hear it. "Enjoy your bargain while you can. I said I would not come for him again. I made no promises about anyone else. You cannot change a fairy's nature. He will always be ours."
Diana is ill from the loss of the baby. As she recovers and begins to see the outside world she realizes that while their neighbors don't say anything, everyone knows what they have done. When she walks down the street carrying the boy, people cross to the other side. Some point. And the priest always has another engagement when they bring up the idea of baptism now after they had spent so long making excuses. They know they can't stay here. Family won't protect them and their neighbors would hand the boy over if it would make the fair folk pass them by. So, Jack and Diana decide to leave and go somewhere no one will know what they have done.
They go far away to a place where even fairies won't think to look for them. They change everything, become another couple that no one who knew them would recognize. And Jack's luck holds, he meets the right people and the necessary deals fall into his lap.
As if by magic.
Money, connections, new lives are all within reach. But, while it is easy to leave the place, it is much harder to leave the memories of her mother warding off the evil eye when she sees the only son that Diana will ever have. They don't tell her where they are going.
The boy they call Jackson, Jack's son, because there is power in a fairy's name. He watches so intensely her every move and smiles so wide when he thinks he's pleased her that her heart aches. It isn't his fault he looks nothing like the son she could have had. The Whittemores purchase a finer house than Diana has ever dreamed of owning because they might as well spend what they have bought. It is sleek and modern, nothing like a home, because that is the kind of people they are now. They hang iron over every doorway.
Jackson hates being sick. He especially hates it when he has to go to school anyway because his parents can't take the time away from work so he can stay home. It doesn't occur to them to just call someone to look after him, because Whittemores are self sufficient.
"It's just a cold, Jackson. Nothing serious."
"Yes, mom." His head hurts and he has to breathe through his mouth. He just wants to curl up under the covers and go back to sleep, but mom bundles him up, makes sure he has some extra Kleenex and takes him to school.
Math class might as well be about counting sheep for all the amount of attention he manages to pay to what they are supposed to be learning. He is just concentrating of getting in air and not falling asleep when it happens.
It feels like his brain is going to explode and Jackson curls up around his desk, trying to hold the contents of his head in. The only other thing he notices is Danny grabbing onto him and making sure he doesn't hit his head. He thinks they lay him on the floor, but it is hard to be sure because it just hurts so much. Then, as suddenly as it came, its over. For him, at least.
Jackson blinks as the world comes back into focus. His ears are ringing. Except, it isn't his ears. He sits up and everything is wrong. Mrs. Richards is screaming, she's fallen against the wall and is slowly sliding down it. She isn't the only one. Everyone seems to be in pain except Lydia, who is doing her best to get up and get to the teacher, and Stilinski, who has wrapped himself around McCall. Danny isn't saying anything, he is just whimpering. Jackson grabs his hand and his friend squeezes it tight enough that he thinks Danny is going to crush it. The whimpering stops and his friend loosens his hand a little. He doesn't let go.
It doesn't last long, only a few minutes, but when everyone comes back to themselves, the real chaos begins. Of course, children don't really care about possible terrorist attacks and the cleanup that follows. For Jackson, two things of interest happened that day besides a blinding pain behind his eyes:
1)He notices, really notices, Lydia Martin for the first time.
2)His cold is gone.
It had been an accepted fact among the student populace that Lydia Martin was smart. But because he is looking, Jackson is probably one of the few people who notice afterward that Lydia Martin is smarter, because she also becomes self aware enough to hide it. Stilinski, on the other hand, just gets weird(er) and more easy to distract. Of course, that could be blamed on his mother's death from driving off the road that day.
A few years later, a recruiter for some private school for gifted children comes by his parents house. "Jackson, dear, this is Mr. Summers."
The man is wearing red glasses and doesn't take them off inside. It is a little weird, but he seems nice enough. They sit through an entire spiel on the school and what it can offer. His parents look interested, but all Jackson can think is that they are just after his parent's money. The truth hurts, but Jackson knows he isn't gifted. Lydia is gifted, even Stilinski might be bright enough to qualify if he could keep his mind on something for more than 5 minutes and he'd vote for Danny in a second for an opportunity like this. Jackson just works harder than he lets anyone know.
His parents say that it is his decision and Mr. Summers leaves some pamphlets with them so that he can make up his mind. He also gives Jackson a number that he can call if he has questions or just needs someone to talk to. "I know that being different can be a real burden at your age." Jackson gets the feeling that he is talking about something else, but doesn't want to say so in front of his parents. The entire thing might have been a bit creepy if Mr. Summers hadn't been so sincere.
When he visits Lydia a few weeks later, who is home sick with mono and generally uncomfortable, he sees the the familiar literature on her desk. He looks at it for a few seconds too long and Lydia notices.
"Are you going to go?" he asks her, looking it over.
Lydia, even sick with a fever, is still too sharp by half. She knows that he has the same literature sitting at home. "No. I don't need to move half a country away to be special." He feels the words like a knife in the gut.
Sometimes, he doesn't like Lydia very much.
Before she can see something else about him that he would rather keep buried, Jackson decides to change the subject to something more pleasant. For him, anyway.
"You know, you're mother warned me not to kiss you," he says.
Lydia smiles at him. "Normally I'd be all for breaking that rule, but I don't want anyone else to feel this awful."
"No, don't worry about me. I won't get sick." He doesn't. When he gets home he throws out the pamphlets and the phone number. Lydia is back at school two days later.
Jackson doesn't believe in miracles. He believes in strategy. His parents taught him that. Both sets of them.
The ingredients are laid out systematically and he cuts the carrot with swift, practiced motions. Only one carrot, there is no need to be wasteful with food. He tosses it in the dish with the rest of the vegetables, then turns on the heat. As no one else in the house needs to eat, he ends up doing the cooking unless the Whittemores are having company. Then it is expected that mother *not mom, never mom, he only had one of those* will cook. He cleans up the counter and thinks about what is coming. There are many students, he supposes, that dread parent-teacher interviews.
He's waiting for mother and father *no, they aren't, they aren't* to come back from the school, answers to every question he can think of them asking already prepared. They have been given an opinion outside his own reports of his progress and he knows he will need to expand on it. Carefully. He always misses something. There is always some aspect that he fails at, no matter how hard he tries. That doesn't mean he can't go through it again.
It isn't his real name. He was a number for so long, in the camps, that he isn't sure what mom and dad had called him. He doesn't remember very much about them, just the way mom used to push the hair out of his eyes and tell him she loved him. Just the way dad was always so very large, but how his hugs were never scary.
Sector 365, Current name: Beacon Hills. Future designation: Coltan processing facility Gamma 6. Probability of damage on Judgment Day: 15%. Probability of extensive damage on Judgment Day: 2%.
Beacon Hills will survive Judgment Day and that makes it a good place to store coltan. No one notices if James Whittemore builds an extra storage facility or two for his business here. The humans care more about animal attacks than unexplained materials and wealth from almost prescient investments.
That storage facility makes this town a likely target of the Connor family.
Infiltration. If John Connor makes an appearance, Jackson's job is to integrate himself into their resistance organization. His life has been carefully planned to let no one suspect who he reports to. Jackson has too much history to be anything other than human.
To place himself with the operations of one of several corporations or facilities upon adulthood and to ensure the creation of Skynet. He is required to succeed in the terms of this society, to attend the right schools, to meet the right people. To be excel, but not enough to stand out for anyone looking for anomalies.
Fair. This one he usually manages well. It was one of the reasons he was chosen, of course. His looks. They had dragged him away from his mother, screaming, because he is unscarred and destined to be aesthetically pleasing to human sensibilities. Statistically, humans trust beautiful faces more than ugly ones.
If he had been older, perhaps, he would have thought to damage himself, but Jackson had only been a child. By the time the thought occurred, it was years too late. Or too early, depending on how one measured it.
His health, however, is an issue. He has been vaccinated against known pathogens before arrival, but one can't prepare for everything. He mentally pauses and rubs the back of his neck. He can feel the marks from Derek's claws hot under his fingers.
He is still dating Lydia. He knows that that mother and father approve. She's smart, smarter than him, but too caught up in her own projection to worry about his. Lydia plays the games of popularity and manipulation much like Jackson does, even if she doesn't realize that their goals differ. If the Connors do come here, she would be the perfect disguise and distraction. Jackson can meekly follow in her shadow. If the Connors don't come here, she will push Jackson in the right directions to move up in the world when he forgets himself. Really, Lydia is the perfect girlfriend for him. That he cares about her is, perhaps, an unfortunate and inevitable result.
They don't like Danny, but that was a battle that Jackson somehow managed to win years ago and it isn't going to be brought up again now.
In athletics, however, he finds himself deficient. He has gone from being the youngest team captain in twenty years to co-captain. When it comes down to it, Scott is a better player than Jackson. Still, McCall is certainly going to be in for a surprise when he tries to lead the team simply by being better than them. He rubs the back of his neck again and thinks about wolves. Maybe he's just going crazy.
Jackson had heard rumors in the camp, like every other child, of things that weren't metal, but could fight like them. He stopped believing in fairy stories after they took his parents away.
However, he is generally well liked except by the people that just help his position by hating him.. Jackson wonders, for a moment, if those jealous of the Whittemore's worldly possessions would appreciate them as much as he does. In some ways, the past is like a good dream that he doesn't want to wake up from. Is it any wonder that Jackson loves and relishes wealth and its advantages? The sheets of his bed, good clothing against his skin, the rush of a fast car under him. And apples. Especially apples. You'd never find something like that in the camps, where growing anything edible was a challenge. He sniffs the air. He's hungry. Dinner should be ready soon. A full meal of real food.
Acceptable, though he suspects he needs to be more careful in English. It is far too easy to write what he really thinks when asked for opinions rather than facts. His last essay may have raised the teacher's suspicions about his home life. It may be necessary to play up the adoption angle again.
The adoption is used to explain so many things. That was its purpose. Here, it is unusual for a child to be an orphan and to be raised by other than biological family. It allows for the forgiveness of missteps that others wouldn't be granted.
(Addendum) Home life:
Mother and father treat him well, but they are still only machines. They don't know what love feels like. They don't care about him, except within their specified parameters, no matter how well they can fake it in front of others.
He is just taking the food out of the oven when they arrive. The car pulls up the driveway. He sets the food aside. It will cool, a bit, but he will need his full attention on the questions to come and eating is too distracting.
He will need to answer everything carefully.
He doesn't want to go back to that world of dirt and hunger and pain. He wants the camps to never be built, for humanity to either win or lose cleanly and totally.
Jackson doesn't believe in miracles. He believes only what he can see. He has witnessed too many failures to take anything on faith. He doesn't believe in myths and legends that are going to come and save humanity.
Jackson doesn't believe in John Connor or the resistance.
When he makes his report, though, he doesn't tell mother and father about McCall or Derek.
Jackson lifts up his shirt and looks at the bite mark. He feels different, like something under his skin has changed, but there is only one way to be sure. He knows exactly where he's going. Jackson starts off at an easy run. He lopes through the woods, his body smelling like fear and sweat and anticipation. He catches his shirt on a tree branch. Jackson pulls it off, not caring that it tears until it isn't much of a shirt at all.
Derek doesn't know him, thinks that all Jackson cares about is his hair, his car and being the team captain. That no one cares enough to save him. Neither is true. There are more important things than cars. And Derek can't know it, but he has done in his indifference exactly the opposite of what people have done to him with care. He runs faster.
Jackson reaches the edge of the rock and pauses, looking at the water below. It taunts him. Kids have been swimming here for years. Most kids except him. He pulls his shoes off and tosses them aside. Jackson's toes dig around the edge of the rock, feeling the texture and he closes his eyes and breathes in. The woods are quiet. There is no one else here and all he can hear is the wind through the trees.
He is going to do something he has never done before. Jackson is going to jump in and *swim*. Most people think that Jackson can't. Swim that is. Which isn't true. Or that he has some sort of weird phobia about water. Which is true. In a way. It is easier to forget how wrong he feels in his own body on land.
He'd once tried swimming in the school pool in gym class because everyone was watching him and he felt he couldn't back out of it. From what people told him afterward, he'd nearly drowned. A miracle, his parents had been told. Lucky he hadn't breathed in anything in his panic. The therapist called it aquaphobia. His parents told the therapist that they were paying him for other things and they'd make sure he was exempt from that activity.
If he had been anyone else, he might have gotten flack for it from the other kids, but he is Jackson Whittemore. Danny, once he knew he okay, said that it was proof that he was human for everyone else, ironically. *I already knew you weren't perfect, so that's nothing new.* Jackson told him he didn't want to talk about it after that, so they didn't. Some things are just too painful and Danny is good like that. He can tell when Jackson is being serious and Jackson doesn't want to say anything that might hurt Danny's feelings. Of everyone who loves him, Danny is the one who doesn't deserve it. After that, if anyone who doesn't know better suggests that they go swimming, Danny is always ready with another idea.
There had also been that strange incident where Stilinski had tried to corner him afterward to talk. After slamming the door in his face twice, he realized that Jackson was not interested in bonding with him over shared pain or whatever. As if he knew anything about what had happened. As if he has ever had anything like that ripped away from him by people who tell him that they love him.
And that had been that. The first and last time Jackson has tried to go swimming since he came to Beacon Hills. Since the Whittemores had left their summer house permanently for someplace that didn't smell and sound like the sea with their new, perfect little boy.
At least until now.
He jumps, arching in the air far more gracefully than anyone who had witnessed the previous incident would have suspected, and enters the water. It is cool and surrounds him like Jackson has always thought a mother should. He opens his eyes and the moonlight filters through the surface. And then he swims.
His arms move against the dark blue and gray, bloodless looking when the moon hits them. He pumps his *legs* under the water and it is perfect and beautiful, not that longing for something that he knows he should forget.
Jackson sinks to the bottom and looks up. It takes a long time for his lungs to burn, but they do sooner than he expects. He comes to the surface and pushes himself out into the night air with a splash.
This is what joy feels like. This is satisfaction. He had forgotten it was something other than petty victories over people he doesn't even really view as his peers or collecting things with the money his parents give him when they feel guilty.
Jackson climbs up out the water and stands up on his own two feet. The toes curl wetly around the rock and they don't feel like foreign objects. His pelt is hidden in a safety deposit box on the other side of the country, somewhere he knows he will never find, but Jackson doesn't care. His hand goes to the bite on his side. He'll have a new pelt soon.
He's been standing in the rain for what feels like hours, leaning against the vehicle. The second time he'd lifted the truck, he'd realized it wasn't a fluke, but Jackson wasn't sure what it meant. He tries again to call up the wolf, like he's seen Derek and McCall do. Nothing happens, there are no fangs, no claws. He's just himself, as much as he's been since this whole thing started.
Jackson looks across the field. There is a man sized shape under the trees looking in this direction. Derek, he thinks. The guy has ignored him ever since the bite had failed to take, no explanation as he moved on to other pastures. Considering who Derek has pulled into the pack since, Jackson has stopped thinking of it as much of a loss. The wolf was, sure, but he wouldn't have put up with the guy anyway with his little harem of losers.
What Derek witnessed, he doesn't know, but he isn't going to just let it go. "You really seem to enjoy watching me, don't you? If you want to play games with me so badly, why don't you come over here to my face?" The rain has washed away the tears of frustration long since and, even if he is afraid of the werewolf, he wasn't going to let it influence his actions.
There isn't an answer to his yell. Not that he really expected one. Well, if this is what gets the guy off, he isn't going to waste his time on it. Jackson turns his head up to the sky and closes his eyes. The rain washes down his skin in a cold trickle. When he looks again, Derek is gone. Good.
Then the hair on the back of his neck stands on end. Something is behind him. Jackson turns to look.
It isn't Derek.
A lizard-like man is sitting in the back of his truck, looking at him. It is sniffing the air as if trying to get his scent over the rain. Its eyes are flat black and its skin looks like it is covered in scales. There are long claws at the end of each finger.
Jackson puts the lacrosse stick between them in a defensive position. It isn't much of a weapon, but it is better than nothing.
The lizard moves fast, but he can see it coming. It jumps out of the truck towards the ground beside him, like the distance is nothing. He takes a swing and, surprisingly, manages to hit it as it lands. The thing rolls on the ground and is back on its feet and beside him before he can make another move. The stick is twisted out of his hands. Jackson backs up. The thing, the lizard, is watching him as he moves. It doesn't try to chase him, but places itself between him and the cab.
There is no way he is going to be able to get into the truck without a weapon. This thing is faster than him and he won't manage to open the doors, let alone start driving, before it has him. He's heard what had happened to Isaac's father and he has a sudden intuition that it wasn't Isaac that was responsible. If this thing could tear off a car door, he doesn't want to let it get that close. Jackson has been dealing with werewolves for months. He knows when he's outclassed, as much as he hates to admit it.
Instead, he takes off in another direction. He needs to get to the school, get inside and call for help.
Then it's there again, in front of him, cutting him off. This thing would make one hell of a lacrosse player. He's ending up farther and farther away from where he wants to go.
Okay, if he can't get back to the school, he'll have to aim for something else. The Hale house. The forest. Maybe the Argents are still there. They have enough guns to take care of this thing. It's a long shot, but it is the only one he has.
He doesn't bother with anything but pure speed. He's been jogging here for years, even on a night like this, he can find his way through the woods. Not that it is that hard to see, strangely, even with the clouds blocking most of the moon.
He is almost halfway there when Jackson has a a sudden certainty that it is in front of him and, in desperation, veers off the path. It follows. He can't see it, but he can hear it moving. It is herding him away from civilization and he has no choice but to go deeper into the trees. It only takes a moment to realize that this is a mistake. The cliff edge in front of him is coming closer.
He can't go around, but there is no way that he is going to let this thing tear him apart either.
For far too long there is nothing under his feet. It feels nothing like flying.
By some miracle, he lands on upright and manages to stay balanced. The fact that he's not dead takes a moment to sink in, that he's somehow alive and well after deliberately going over a 15 foot incline. Jackson's not even hurt.
He looks up, stunned. The thing is looking back at him.
Then it jumps down too. Like it's nothing.
It touches him on the chest with one hand and stops. He doesn't know why and he doesn't care. Jackson runs again. It sits still for a full minute, and when he looks back, he can see it standing in place, a dark shape in the trees that isn't bothering to hide. He glances around again to get his bearings. When he looks back to that spot, it's gone.
It does this one more time, like some vicious game of tag. They are playing cat and mouse and Jackson, once again, is the mouse. He feels that rage well up inside him, burning away the fear. Jackson is panting and his legs are aching, but he keeps going. He isn't going to die here.
He can see lights, a car on the road. He doesn't have the breath to yell, but he might be able to get out near it. They can save him. Jackson dodges over a fallen tree. His foot sinks into the mud and slides backward and out to the left. There is a squelching sound and his foot pulls free, leaving the shoe behind, but he is has used too much force and is overbalanced. Jackson lands face first in the mud. He pushes his hand into it, he needs to get back up. But he isn't fast enough.
The thing lands beside him and pushes him down with one hand.
It holds him down for a moment, then pulls him up by the back of his collar, like a cat would with a kitten, only Jackson doesn't have any fur and the shirt digs into his throat, making it hard to breathe until he manages to get his feet under him. It lets him go and waits.
He backs up, eventually hitting a tree, but doesn't run. The car is long gone. And Derek was right. He is going to die alone and no one is going to come for him.
Whatever it is, it certainly isn't a werewolf. The thing is just standing there looking at him. It tilts its head, as if confused that he's just standing there.
"Play?" At least that's what Jackson thinks it says. Maybe. The mouth doesn't seem to be made right for the English language.
"Fuck off," he growls back as best he can. He isn't going to play a game he can't win if it just means he's going to die at the end. It tilts its head again and takes a step closer.
"Stay the fuck away from me." All he has left are words for weapons, he doesn't think he could move if he tried. To his surprise, it works. The thing stops coming towards him and just stares at him.
He looks back, he can't afford to show fear, even as it bares its teeth. But it makes no moves and holds its hands out like it is trying to calm a skittish horse. He suddenly has the impression that the teeth aren't an aggressive display. This is a smile from something with no real lips and only a notion of what a friendly face looks like.
"Brother," it says, making a statement, as if trying to comfort Jackson in his fear and confusion. It tilts its head down and to the side and turns slightly away from him, and if Jackson hadn't realized how fast this thing could rip his throat out, if he thought he could go more than a few tottering steps, he might have tried to run once again. Claws tap the back of its own neck. "See?"
On the back of its neck, starkly pale against the dark of its scales when it catches the light filtering through the trees, he can see parallel bands. Almost like a bar code.
It clearly thinks that this is supposed to mean something to Jackson. When he doesn't react, it walks forward again and Jackson stands a bit straighter the closer it comes. It reaches one hand, claw, around his neck and taps it lightly. His vision whites out. Jackson can't help it. This is too like the alpha for him to sit there and he jerks his head back, trying to get away. It tightens its grip momentarily and he can feel the claws dig in, before it lets go and he falls against the tree, tripping over the roots and tumbling over once again. His neck hurts. For a moment. Then he can't feel it. Actually, he's having trouble feeling much of anything and his feet and arms don't seem to be cooperating.
"Sorry," he thinks he hears, but his vision is going black and he can't hold his head up. Jackson does what anyone would do under the circumstances. He faints.
He comes to groggily. *What a dream,* Jackson thinks. *I thought I was done with all those wolfs-bane poisoning nightmares.*.
He opens his eyes and he sees trees. His forehead is itchy and he reaches up and pulls off a leaf. It is caked with what feels like dry mud and he wipes at his face with his sleeve. It doesn't do much good, because the shirt is hardly clean. Then, he takes a look around. He's sitting upright in the hollow of a tree and outside it is still raining in a slow drizzle. Here, he's mostly dry. Only his feet are sitting out in the rain. One foot is bare. He puts his hand down to push himself up and, instead of touching plain earth, he locates his missing footwear. As carefully placed out of the rain as the rest of him. Jackson swallows nervously and revises the dream theory, as comforting as it had been.
Instead of killing him, the thing had dragged him out of the rain and even gone back to find his missing shoe. Because it thinks that he's family. Or that he gave it an invitation to play when he had yelled at what he thought was Derek. He doesn't know and doesn't have enough information to guess. If Derek won't talk to him, maybe, as much as he doesn't want to ask for help from the boy he despises for not appreciating his gift, McCall will. But first, he needs to go home before his parents realize that he's missing.
He doesn't bother going to get the truck. Instead, he heads for home. When he gets there, he can hear his parents having breakfast from the end of the drive. Even though the door is closed. He stops, light headed once again and he can taste bile in his throat. He shouldn't be able to hear anything in the house. He swallows and keeps walking. By the time he reaches the steps he hears every word like they are speaking directly into his ear.
They're talking about work, of course. They do that a lot when they think that Jackson isn't listening. Given that he accepted years ago that their jobs came first, he isn't really surprised. When he was younger, he had thought it was cool to have parents that worked on classified projects, like something out of a spy movie and he would try to get something out of them. Except, their conversations were boring and he's stopped paying attention to them years ago. Discussions about putting down lab specimens and medical testing regimes are only interesting the first time.
This time, though, is different. Because Lydia and Manticore should not go in the same sentence. He takes his hand off the door handle and steps back so they won't see him out the window.
"We were lucky she didn't die. Imagine what a fuss that would have made."
"Not to mention what it would have done to Jackson."
"She's his ex-highschool girlfriend. He would have gotten over it," mom says.
The world stops. *He would have gotten over it. He would have gotten over it.* His mother's voice repeats over and over in his head. *He would have gotten over it.* This time when Jackson can taste the bile in his throat, he bends over and throws up in the bushes.
Mom's still talking when he straightens, leaning against the wall for support.
"This could be my career on the block, here. I've been doing damage control for Jason's mistake in letting the damn X3 loose and they are going to come down on me. Who is the one that got a doctor in to take samples from Lydia and discovered that the poison is mutating? Who's the one that prevented her dead body on the front page with that X5 blood transfusion when the antidote failed and got people to stop asking questions about it? And am I getting rewarded for my quick thinking? There's talk from above about bringing in a specialist task force and they may decide to shut down the facility, move it somewhere more secure."
"Secure like where? Seattle? That place is a training camp, not meant for experimental work," dad says and Jackson slides down the wall and sits down. It's wet and less comfortable than the tree had been.
"I know, but I might not get the final say. As I said, outside specialists."
"Lydecker." The voice was flat. Mom doesn't like him, whoever he was. Jackson thought that his mother liked Lydia.
"They're going to bring in a team of X5s, aren't they?"
"Probably. We'll see how well that works out. It won't exactly be under the radar."
"What about Jackson? He's been acting very strange the last little while. Odd hours, not talking as much as he used to. You don't think that..."
"No, I don't think there is anything to worry about. I spoke with Dr. Song about it, and she says that this kind of acting out is quite normal for children his age, especially given all that's happened over the last few months. He'll tell us when he's ready."
"It's just that Lydecker is a little too enthusiastic about his job and I don't want him getting caught up in all of this." His dad actually sounds worried and Jackson wonders who, exactly, this Lydecker is.
"He has no reason to see Jackson as anything other than a failed prototype. Completely human. We tried everything and didn't manage to trigger any X traits. And if we couldn't make him something more, what could? He's no more exceptional that anyone would expect given his donors. And if Lydecker gets to close, I'll remind him that I went through all the proper channels. He won't be able to touch him."
"And are you sure about that?"
"Of course, honey. He'll be perfectly safe. Right now I'm more worried about what is going to happen if they start transferring personal. We've been doing really good work here and I don't want to lose it just because someone unfamiliar with the safety protocols took it upon themselves to countermand my authority."
A prototype. A failed prototype. A prototype of what? That thing in the woods? He almost runs, except, where could he go? No, he has to go into the house and act normal. Because otherwise this Lydecker will come after him.
He stands up and jumps up onto the step. Jackson's hand sits on the handle for a minute, then he opens the door.
His parents conversation goes silent and they look over at him. His mother's eyes widen and, for the first time, he thinks about what he must look like.
"Jackson, honey, what happened?" his mom says, as she takes in the coating of mud. It sounds nothing like her voice when she discussed Lydia.
He ducks his head, trying his best to act sheepish, not meeting her eyes. He doesn't think he could and not give himself away. "I went for a run and, um, fell in a puddle."
His mom seems satisfied, but his father looks unconvinced. "You were up early, Jackson. We didn't hear you leave." If he hadn't just heard their conversation, maybe he'd take it as a casual comment, but he knows better now.
He gives a half shrug, as unconcerned as he can manage. "Yeah, couldn't sleep." He doesn't wait for a response, because he isn't sure he can look at his father right now either. *Maybe it has it wrong. Maybe you misunderstood. Yeah, maybe your parents didn't build the monster that is running around tearing people to shreds. Maybe they didn't build you either.* "I need a shower."
He doesn't run from the room using shear strength of will, but, while his mom goes back to her cereal, he can feel his father's eyes on him. He rubs the back of his neck with one hand just to cover it. Jackson gets to his room and shuts the door and leans on the frame. *Failed prototype,* he thinks, and grips the frame for support. It isn't quite the same thing as finding out you're adopted. He wonders if he looked at his neck there would be the same bar code pattern there now.
When he lets go, there is a crack running up the entire length of the opening and five deep, distinct finger-shaped indentations embedded in the wood.
*And if we couldn't make him something more, what could?* He thinks of the thing in the woods, with its dark eyes and toothy grin. Derek couldn't make him a werewolf, but he might have made him something worse.
It isn't that he doesn't trust Danny enough to tell him about the werewolf thing, it's just that, quite frankly, this whole thing is too embarrassing to put into words. Or thoughts. And that's saying something, considering all the shit he's put up with since he discovered his true nature 8 years ago. The small woodland animals, the sparkles, the rainbows...
..the TMI on everyone's sex lives. No, seriously, there are some things that an 8 year old should just not find out about that way, as handy as it became since puberty started.
Of course, today is up there when Danny takes one look at his face and orders everyone out of the locker room before practice, coach included. Like, seriously, you don't do that. Except Danny, apparently, does because the coach doesn't even make a joke at Greenburg's expense, just stares at Danny for a moment before telling Greenburg that he's going to be subbing in as goalie. Everyone *looks* at them and Jackson grinds his teeth and closes his eyes. He survived the disastrous camping trip of '09 and the squirrel incident and managed to come back with his dignity and status intact, he can get through this so opens his eyes again and looks right back as they all leave.
McCall pauses at the door, like he wants to say something. It would no doubt be an insipid platitude except, of course, Stilinski grabs him and pulls him away. At least he is good for something.
"Jackson?" Danny asks. "What's wrong?"
Jackson sits down on one of the benches and puts his head in his hands. "McCall, if I find out you are listening, I will have you neutered," Jackson says aloud, punctuating the last few words with deliberate pauses. Danny starts a bit at that, but he is used to Jackson's weirdness so doesn't comment. Instead he sits down beside him and waits.
Once Jackson starts he doesn't stop until he's told Danny everything, about Derek, the alpha, the hallucinations, Lydia and, finally, the bite. And the truck with that loss of control he hasn't had in so long.
He isn't sure what reaction he expected, hadn't really thought that far beyond the instinctive *Danny will figure this out* that he's had for years because it keeps proving true. Of course, from Danny's reaction, he's never done anything quite so stupid before either.
"No, seriously? A werewolf? Predatory creature of darkness? As in, completely incompatible with your nature?" Danny asks. "And you thought that was a good solution? You're lucky all you did was cough up black blood for a day."
Jackson looks at the ground sheepishly. "Sorry?" he says, more a question than a statement. "I just wanted to be..." Well, *normal* isn't the right word and *human* is categorically wrong, but they are all he can think of so he lets the sentence sit in the air unfinished nervously for a moment and starts again.
"I wanted to have something that wasn't because of something *I've*..." There isn't a good way to end that either, but his friend gets it, he can see that when Danny's eyes widen just a little too much and he stops trying to look for the right words.
The teen huffs out a breath. "You are the most exasperating person I have ever met and that includes both my ex-boyfriends. You didn't become the captain of the lacrosse team because you didn't work for it. Seriously. And I'm not your lab partner just because I like you, right? I mean, it helps, but if I had to do everything myself you'd be out on the curb. Also, look at the people you hang around with and think about this for a minute. You aren't doing *anything* to anyone and you aren't going to." The emphasis shows exactly what Danny means by *anything*. He pauses and looks at Jackson. He isn't smiling. "Jackson..." Danny stops and Jackson can almost hear him rehearsing what he is going to say in his head and he pulls himself back because he shouldn't be listening. "Jacks, sometimes you are a self-centered, selfish idiot, but you're my best friend. I love you and I wouldn't want you to be anyone else, okay? Or any*thing* else."
Jackson bites his lip and nods when he sees that his friend appears to be waiting for a response.
"And next time you get some plan like this that could *possibly kill you* you're going to tell me, right? You are not allowed to go and die on me." Jackson is almost expecting that sentence to finish in a joke, something to lighten the tone, but it doesn't.
"Okay," he agrees, a little frightened of the look in his friends eyes. He can feel Danny reaching out for him, deliberately, something he hasn't done since they worked out how to control their auras because Jackson had been terrified of influencing Danny too, like he had with his parents. Like he does with all the humans who get too close to him without that protective layer of hatred and resentment. He freezes, doesn't even breathe and his heart feels like it is going to beat out of his chest. He can hear it thumping in his ears so loudly that if Danny is saying something, he can't hear it.
*you won't hurt me you are good enough like you don't hurt yourself promise me you won't do something so stupid again?* Danny says, or asks, or whispers, or thinks, or a thousand other words that aren't quite right for what happens when the other boy deliberately brushes his horn, or metaphysical shape-shifted representation thereof.
His horn. *And that will never not be ridiculous,* Jackson tells himself, themselves, except it is such a relief to know that someone cares about *him*. Not because he made them do it, but because he's *Danny* and they've been friends since they traded sandwiches in first grade, long before all of this started. *I promise,* he whispers back to Danny's question and this is more binding than anything said out loud could be. Because human's lie all the time to get what they want, but he can't lie when he's being something other than human.
"Good." Danny leans back again and punches him on the shoulder. A purely human male method of bonding and Jackson tries to smile at him, though he isn't sure if he managed it. He knows that Danny isn't going to push this any farther because he doesn't need to.
His friend waits for him to make a move and Jackson straightens his shoulders then stands up as Danny does. Danny gives him an encouraging half-smile and he nods back. Jackson can do this. He isn't crying.
"Also, if you tell me that rainbows aren't badass I might have to hurt you. Now embrace the power of sparkle motion and let's get some practicing done."
Danny is, quite frankly, the best friend he could ever ask for. And that is more than enough because he can feel how much Danny cares and worries and wants Jackson to be okay, under that layer of annoyance he's trying to project. He still is wide open and hasn't pulled away. Okay, maybe Jackson is crying. A little. Stupid unicorn powers.
Once upon a time there was a boy named Jackson Whittemore. His birth parents gave him up as a baby and he has never known if it was for a good reason or not, though he often made up stories about them doing it for heroic reasons. He has always suspected that his adoptive parents really only wanted him because they were trying to fill in the next item on the list that said success, not out of any strong parental feelings. The way he was treated like some sort of alien being when he was young made more sense when he finally found out he was adopted.
Not that he was discontent from his lot in life. Young, wealthy, healthy and good looking, he had everything he could ever ask for. Except, sometimes, most of the time, he felt like he didn't deserve it and other times, the rest of the time, that he had to prove to his biological parents that they had made a mistake by leaving him. He managed to do that pretty well until he realized that no matter how hard he worked, there would always people, or werewolves, who might be that little bit better.
The hallucinations and random acts of terror that kept getting thrown his way hadn't really helped with that.
So, he tried and failed with the whole werewolf route, remaining stubbornly and normally human, the one time that having a good immune system had let him down. He then acted out on a bunch of people around him who probably didn't deserve it. Also, objects. Adrenaline is a pretty weird thing.
It got to the point where even his parents began to notice that something was wrong.
Finally, he talked to a friend about everything, because he had managed to lose his girlfriend, his self image and his place as the sole captain of the lacrosse team, not to mention dealing with a kind of creepy stalker. All of which kind of sucked.
In the end, at least he still had a really good friend to call him on his shit when he got his head too far up his ass.
Things could have been worse.