Boyd snores. Erica talks, whole nonsensical monologues about porkchops and water parks. Scott has a tendency to steal blankets and roll himself up in them like a human burrito. Isaac has trouble with night terrors. Allison's tossing and turning is... athletic, to say the least. Derek comes in late, after the rest of them are mostly asleep, and flops down in the middle of the pile with no regard as to who's already there. They've learned to leave him plenty of room.
Out of all of them, though, Stiles is the worst.
Stiles gets up early.
"Guys!" someone yells from downstairs.
Urgh, Jackson thinks. Then, wha?
Oh, God, fucking Stilinski. Has to be. The day after a full moon, very few of the Hale house residents have that kind of ludicrous pep.
Definitely Stiles. Who the hell else would fake-howl at a bunch of werewolves?
"Yummy yummy, you know you want it!"
There are very few idiots of that caliber running around, is what he's trying to say.
"Guys! I have bacon !"
The warm body on top of Jackson grumbles, and one of the legs looped over his hip twitches.
"Fuuuuck," Scott whines, close to his ear.
"Me," Boyd adds, face mashed into Jackson's ribs.
"Sideways," Derek rumbles, somewhere beyond him on the bed.
Stiles' voice floats up from the kitchen, ridiculously bright and cheery. "You know how much you love bacon!"
"Can I kill him?" Erica sounds deadly serious, but not particularly hopeful.
"Oh, what will I do with all this lovely delicious bacon?"
"My job," Derek mutters, and heaves himself up and off the mattress. That's why he's the alpha, Jackson thinks muzzily, trying to find the will and coordination to drag a pillow over his head. Derek's just made of sterner stuff than the rest of them.
"Mmmm, bacon. How so tasty?"
Isaac refuses to let go of the pillow but whimpers pathetically when Jackson growls at him, and they end up sharing it.
"GUYS— oh, hi Derek. Did you want some—ack, wait, what are you—?"
And then, silence. Bliss.
It's unfortunately a scant five minutes before Derek is back, ripping the blankets off the bed and snarling, "If I have to be up, so do you."
Mornings after the full moon are always fucking awful. Jackson feels like he's been trampled by a herd of deer— in Beacon Hills, very possible— and his mouth tastes like something died in it, which is also distinctly possible.
He hopes it was the deer who trampled him.
The quiet, peaceful master bedroom has been transformed into the bustling kitchen, and he's not quite sure when or even how it happened. Everyone is talking at once. The brutally bright sunlight assaults his corneas even through closed lids, and really, huge heaping plate of bacon be damned, he just wants to slink off to a dark corner and wait out the fogginess still clinging to his mind. Jackson sleeps like the dead, has a hard time waking up and always has, but on full moon mornings it takes twice as long for his thoughts to reach any level of rationality.
He takes another sip of fancy coffee, cradling the mug in both hands, and then just holds it there, breathing in the rich bitterness and steam. Caffeine is God, he decides woozily. He's building an altar to Derek's espresso machine.
The bodies on either side of him (Stiles, Speedstick, bubblegum and ugh, alpha-scent; Lydia, powder, green things, cherry sweetness of lip gloss) are currently the only things keeping him upright, the three of them crushed in close on one of the benches in the breakfast nook. The nook's just been finished, every noseful of food and pack underscored by the scent of fresh paint and new wood. It hadn't been a part of the kitchen originally, but Stiles had mentioned it offhand and somehow in the rebuilding of the house, the south wall of the kitchen sprouted an extra twenty square feet of bay windows and bench seating. Derek indulges him too much, but it does have a fuction— it's become the de facto gathering place for the pack.
Around him, conversation continues with a really unfair amount of cheerfulness and coherency. "— expect to see that, you know? I was like, 'Awww, Jackson,'" Allison says, giggling, and there are answering laughs from all around the table.
He twitches, startled out of a half-doze by the sound of his name, and squints around the room suspiciously. No one's looking at him like they expect an answer though, so after a moment his eyes drift closed again.
"You really do take forever to wake up, don't you?" Stiles asks suddenly, and pokes him in the cheek. Jackson can't even summon the energy to snap at him.
"F'k off," he grunts, and takes another sip. It only makes Stiles laugh, and Lydia snort delicately.
"I'd say twenty minutes, minimum," she says, with the air of an expert. "I remember in one instance—"
Jackson makes a protesting noise, but she only speaks more loudly. Goddamn it.
"—in my closet. And then my mother comes in."
What the hell is this, Kick Jackson While He's Still Mostly Unconscious Day?
"She asks, 'Lydia? What was that sound?' And he's still—"
Everyone at the table is listening now, Erica snickering and Isaac making unattractive horse noises. Even Derek is smirking, and Jackson gives up on defending himself and just clings to his mug, letting Lydia's mocking tone wash over him like so much noise.
Really, the only saving grace of full moon mornings is that he's usually not awake enough to remember them.
Jackson attains full consciousness sometime after his third cup of espresso, and gets to finish all the leftover bacon while smacking Stiles around under the pretense of helping him clean up after breakfast— two things that immediately make his day a little brighter.
"Do it again and I eat you," Derek says mildly from the upstairs bathroom, quietly enough that Stiles won't hear. Jackson rolls his eyes, safe where his alpha can't see him, but pulls back from the covert kick he was about to deliver. Stiles keeps flinching whenever Jackson makes a sudden move, which is almost as good.
He regrets his fun a few minutes later, because Boyd is lurking in the back hallway when he steps out of the kitchen.
"Hey, Jackson," the beta says, and straightens from where he's leaning against the wall, subtly moving to block Jackson's path forward.
"Hey," Jackson says cautiously. Boyd is Derek's enforcer when the alpha can't be bothered to knock heads together himself, and Jackson wonders if he's about to be bodily lectured on respecting human pack members in general and Stilinski's rarified stature as the alpha's boytoy-mate-thing specifically. Again.
"So. I wanted to, ah..." Boyd starts, then sighs, looking at his feet. "Look. I know I'm kinda breaking bro-code, but I wanted to say thank you. I was having a pretty rough time, with my mom and sister and everything, and you. You really helped. And I appreciate it a lot."
"... what?" is the only response Jackson has for that, caught completely off guard. Boyd doesn't appear to notice.
"Yeah. So, thanks," he says, and it's hard to tell with his darker complexion but Jackson thinks he might be blushing. Boyd. Blushing.
"Seriously, what the fuck are you talking about?" Jackson asks, spooked, but Boyd just gives him a small, almost shy smile.
"Right, this never happened. Still... yeah. I'm gonna," he points to the door, and with a last slap on the shoulder he walks away, leaving Jackson staring after him.
"You really don't know?" Lydia asks skeptically, and Jackson rolls his eyes for the fifth time in as many minutes, digging around in the leaf litter for another rock to toss.
"Would I be asking if I did?" he says, and when she arches a brow and opens her mouth to answer he says, "No. The answer is no, Lydia."
"I just don't know if we're the people you should be talking to about this," Allison says distractedly, resetting her crossbow with a single smooth tug.
It's late afternoon, and the shadows of the trees stretch long and dark over the forest floor. They're at the bottom of a narrow ravine, mostly for Allison's benefit—or, rather, the benefit of the poor woodland creatures she might accidently impale while practicing. She's strapping on her pads and testing fletches a few feet away, straddling the thin trickle of the creek where it winds through the mud. Close to the ravine wall, and thus as far from that mud as possible, Lydia sits prim as a duchess on a fallen log, a book on shamanism open in her lap.
At Allison's comment, Jackson throws a glare over his shoulder. "Excuse me, I think some concern over gaps in my memory is perfectly justifiable, considering the dozens of nights I don't remember spent as a murderous scaly revenge monster. If you know something, tell me."
"Oh, jeez," Allison says under her breath, a hint of a laugh in her voice. The crossbow releases with a sharp twang, and forty feet away a paper target sprouts an arrow dead center. "It wasn't anything bad. You're just... well, in bed—"
"While you're asleep," she corrects herself hastily. "You get sort of..."
Nothing about the way she tries to suppress her smile, or how Lydia openly smirks, is reassuring. "What? I get sort of what?"
"You know..." She looks away, bites her lip. Looks back. "Clingy?" she tries.
Jackson stares at her. "Clingy."
She grimaces apologetically. "Maybe affectionate?"
"Affectionate?" he repeats, much less calmly. "What the hell does that mean?"
"You sort of... hug people? In your sleep," she says. "You're very, um. Cuddly."
"Don't shriek, darling, it's not very attractive," Lydia says, making a show of examining her nails.
"That was not a shriek, I do not— cuddly? With Boyd?"
"Like an attention-starved octopus," Lydia says sweetly.
Allison is quick to add, "But that's natural, Jackson. We're your pack!"
Jackson gets to his feet, trying to escape the tight, trapped feeling settling over him. "Natural," he mutters, beginning to pace. "Have you ever cuddled with someone who wasn't Scott?"
"Well," she prevaricates, and he gestures angrily.
"Great. Just— fucking great."
"Is it because it's Boyd?" Lydia asks. "I know you two aren't the best of friends but I thought—"
"It's not Boyd," he says, and at her arch look elaborates, "It's that I'm not clingy. I don't cuddle. Or hug."
"Ever?" Allison asks.
"Not even with Lydia?" and Allison sounds so surprised by the idea.
"Especially not with me," Lydia says lightly. "Not while conscious, anyway."
Her tone is bland, but she's dropped her gaze to her book and her eyes aren't moving on the page. Jackson hears her heart beat faster and watches her fingers clench in her skirt, and swallows against something taut and painful in his throat.
"Oh," Allison says softly, and with his face turned away Jackson sneers. Fuck Allison, the girl lives in a land of candy rainbows and McCall-puppies and has no idea how real relationships work. How they can break.
There's a supremely awkward pause, into which Jackson finally coughs, and turns back to them. "Whatever," he mutters, eyes on the ground. "I'll just— sleep on the other side of the bed from him. Or something."
"Well..." Allison starts again, and Jackson groans and puts his face in his hands.
"Oh my fucking God, what?"
"It's not just Boyd," Lydia says bluntly, tension giving the words sharp edges. "It's everyone."
"That's impossible," he says flatly.
She gives him a pitying look and he says, "Oh, come on. There's no way I'd—"
"I'm sorry!" Allison says, hands up. "I really don't understand how you couldn't know this! I mean, you're the whole reason the pack started sleeping like this, all of us in one bed."
And Jackson, gearing up for full-out denial, suddenly finds himself without a foothold in this horribly uncomfortable conversation.
"I— what?" he says blankly. "But... no. That just happened. It was instinct."
Even in the very beginning, when he'd still been scared of the wolf, of himself, of Derek and pack and everything it meant, he'd still felt that need to draw close. It was the only place he'd felt safe.
"Instinct for you, maybe," Lydia retorts, and starts to count off her fingers. "First, you started sleep-walking into bed with Derek and Stiles, which, awkward. Then when Derek didn't beat you to a pulp, Isaac and Erica copied you, and Boyd followed them, and Scott felt left out but didn't want to sleep apart from Allison so she came too." She flicks an invisible piece of lint off her blouse. "Somehow I've resisted the urge."
"I don't believe you," he says. Because if it's true—
Lydia gives a careless shrug."We have pictures. We have a lot of pictures, actually, because Stiles decided he was going to make a pack scrapbook and Derek thought it was the most precious thing he'd ever heard."
"He said that?" Allison asks.
"It was all in the glower," Lydia answers, framing her face with her hands and scowling forcefully.
Jackson isn't paying attention. Lydia's words have struck something loose, and it echoes off the insides of his skull.
For you, maybe.
In the echoes, he hears that little niggling voice that says Don't know what you're thinking, can't be good enough, won't ever be good enough, drag everybody down with you, the one he thought the wolf had silenced, start to laugh.
They're a strong pack. They're strong enough now that when they run, they run as true wolves, and Jackson has never felt anything as joyous and free as shedding his humanity and leaving it behind him, on the porch where Stiles and Allison sit and give off the sharp tang of worry, the sweeter smell of love.
That night, the pack runs all the way to the far western border of their territory, where the waves crash against the base of the cliffs so fiercely that it sends a pulse through the earth like a heartbeat. Their strides adjust until their paws strike the ground to its rhythm, and for a blissful few hours Jackson's mind empties and he is nothing but the waves, and the earth and the beat and the waning face of the gibbous moon.
They're exhausted when they finally circle back to the house, staggering into the kitchen with twigs and leaves in their hair, bodies spattered with mud. Erica and Derek don't bother to turn, just trot into the kitchen on all fours and start nosing around for post-run snacks. Jackson spares a moment to enjoy the royal bitchface Stiles makes at the dirty pawprints all over the tile, but doesn't stick around for the inevitable loud lecture.
The rest of them make for the stairs. Allison waylays Scott at the top landing, leaving Jackson, Boyd and Isaac to draw straws for first shower. Jackson wins, and he's quick, ten minutes between stepping into the bathroom and falling into bed. Still a bit damp, wearing someone else's clean boxers and a t-shirt that smells like Scott, he flops facedown on the comforter and doesn't move, not even to pull the sheets back. He's not thinking about clinging or cuddling or being compared to a lonely octopus, just how soft the bed is and how comforting it smells, like alpha and packmates and home.
He's asleep before anyone joins him.
At three am, Jackson abruptly realizes the reason he's so hot is because he has three limbs wrapped around Derek and one arm caught behind Boyd's head. It's an embarrassingly long time before he remembers why this is a bad thing, and starts the long, involved process of pulling free.
He's so tangled up it takes nearly half an hour to extricate himself, wiggling slowly out from under arms and legs and creeping awkwardly backwards off the end of the bed. At one point Derek gives a low questioning grunt and Jackson freezes, holding his breath with one foot already on the floor as his alpha leans into the empty space where he'd been. After a breathless moment, though, Boyd rolls over and settles against him, and Derek subsides. Jackson eases the rest of the way off the mattress and makes for the door, closing it softly behind him.
It's cold in the hallway and he almost immediately wishes he was back in the bedroom, a pup in the den—but he has his pride, damn it.
Granted, at the moment he has less than usual. The wolf makes sleepy mournful noises that Jackson has to grit his teeth against as he lies back on the couch, drawing one of their knotty old afghans up to his chin.
Obviously he has a problem, but it's nothing sleeping on the couch can't at least temporarily fix.
At six am, he wakes up with Erica sandwiched between his chest and the sofa back, and Isaac sprawled out over both of them.
"Hey, I was just down here to get a glass of water," Erica says irritably. "You grabbed me."
"I couldn't sleep," Isaac mumbles, rubbing his eyes. "Not with both out you gone."
"Oh, for the love of God," Jackson grits out, and shoves his way free of both of them.
"Wait, where are you going?" Erica yells after him as he yanks open the front door.
"Away from you," he snaps, and flees to his car.
"Let me get this straight," Danny says, dry as the proverbial desert. "You call me at ass o'clock in the morning, on a Saturday, because you need to know right this minute if we've ever cuddled? In our sleep?"
"I think I'd remember hugging you while awake!" he bites out.
A long sigh. "Jackson. You are not, nor will you ever be, my type. Seriously. Stop."
"Oh, for— just answer the freaking question!"
Another sigh. "Yes."
"Yes? Yes? What the—"
"Yes. When we were kids and had sleepovers, I practically had to pry you off with a crowbar if I wanted to piss in the middle of the night. Let me tell you, it got really awkward once I realized I liked guys." He makes a pensive noise. "Actually, I think it might have been one of the reasons I knew I liked guys."
Jackson is practically speechless. "Are you fucking serious?"
"Goodbye, Jackson," Danny says firmly, and hangs up.
Jackson did not force the entire pack to fucking snuggle with him. The idea is so stupid it's comical, like a bad sitcom joke. Someone would have said something. Derek, at least, would have done something.
But... the more he thinks about it, the more plausible it seems. The pack's been sleeping together as long as Jackson remembers, meaning that they'd started right after he became a wolf—right after he'd stopped being the kanima.
Of course no one said anything. Of course Derek didn't beat him to a pulp. They were probably scared to tell him no, too afraid he'd relapse or something, and how fucked up is that? That he'd all but made them, that they'd let him?
He slips into his parents' kitchen at seven, and his mother does a double-take glancing up from her crossword. "Oh! Good morning, honey."
"Morning," he hedges, aware of how weird he must look coming out of the garage in just a shirt and boxers.
But apparently she's decided that ignorance is bliss, because after a worried glance that takes in everything from his bare feet up, her only comment is, "I made some toast," with a nod towards a full plate near the sink.
"Thanks," he says, and takes the whole thing.
"Jackson!" she protests. "Maybe I wanted some too!"
"Too late," he says, with a hollow attempt at playfulness, and takes the stairs two at a time.
Alone in his room, Jackson goes through the stack of slightly burnt toast mechanically, setting the empty plate on his desk when he's finished and crawling onto the bed. He collapses across the unmade sheets and settles with his head on his arm, body curled in on itself. He shut his eyes against the sunlight pouring in through the south window, and tries to will himself to sleep.
It's useless. He's tired—hell, he's exhausted— but nothing feels right; sheets too soft, room too cold, mattress with too much give. His ears strain to hear the familiar creaks and thumps of Stiles cooking, Derek pacing, and his mother's quiet footsteps sound strange and alien in comparison. The only scent in the room is his, and it smells incomplete, like there are pieces missing. Like there are parts of him missing.
He feels vulnerable. Dependent, like a child. He hates it.
And the longer he lies there, the louder the wolf howls.
In retrospect, it's kind of impressive that Jackson manages to stay away a whole three days.
On the fourth morning, there's a tentative knock on his door. "Honey?" his mother calls softly.
"Rmph," he answers, with what is really a surprising amount of lucidity. He hasn't been able to sleep more than an hour straight for since he left the Hale house, and he's running on fumes and creeping depression.
"Honey, one of your friends is here."
"Should I let them in?"
"Jackson, sweetie, I need you to use your words."
Through the wall, he hears her sigh. "I hope you have something on, because I'm opening the door now."
There's a rush of displaced air, and then every other scent in the room is obliterated by the smell of angry alpha. On the bed, Jackson's eyes open wide, and a tidal wave of panicked adrenaline locks his muscles tight.
"I'll just leave you two to it," he dimly hears his mother say, and she closes the door behind her, trapping him inside the room with Derek. Derek, who smells ready to kill him.
"Explain yourself," Derek says, very calmly, and Jackson may or may not whine like a frightened dog.
The bed quakes and Jackson, limp and unresisting, is pulled into a sitting position by his collar. Derek looms in front of him, standing pointedly between him and the door, and repeats, "Explain."
When Jackson's mouth works without producing anything, Derek gives him a shake. "Now, Jackson."
"I'm sorry," tumbles out, and Jackson can feel Derek's narrow-eyed stare boring into him. It makes him want to roll on his back and show his belly. "I'm sorry. I. Sorry."
"For what?" and there's a hint of exasperation in his voice, impatient and incredulous.
"I can sleep alone," Jackson blurts out, although it's patently untrue, he's been miserable without them,"it's not— it's fine."
There's a lengthy silence while Derek parses this, and Jackson's rabbit-quick heartbeat is just starting to slow when the alpha says, "You know, Stiles told me this was probably the problem." The words start slow and quiet, but they're getting louder with each bitten-off syllable Derek growls. "You know what I told him, Jackson?" Another shake. "I told him that was the stupidest thing I'd ever heard of. Do you know why, Jackson?"
"No?" Jackson says faintly.
"Hell, have you been paying any attention at all?" Derek snarls. "Pack, Jackson. More than friends, more than family. One body, many parts. If you need to be with someone, we'll be with you, sleeping and waking. And if you want to be alone," Derek's voice softens, almost imperceptibly, "we'll leave you alone."
When Jackson doesn't say anything, Derek kneels on the edge of the bed and brings their faces close. "Do you want to be alone?" he asks, with an note so gentle it hurts to hear.
Jackson looks down at his hands, twisted together in his lap. Alone?
Derek doesn't say anything more, just holds his arms out, and Jackson lets himself fall forward. Eyes closed, voice small and muffled against the body-warm cotton of Derek's shirt, he can admit to himself, "No. No."
The chest under his cheek vibrates as Derek says, "Then don't be," and an arm pulls him closer, a hand sliding up to curve around the back of his neck, firm and easy and possessive.
That isn't the end of it. Jackson fervently wishes it were, but Stiles lures them in with carbonara and his cheesy garlic bread and then calls a 'den meeting' right in the middle of the meal, and even Derek looks hunted. Everyone is forced to go around and say how much Jackson means to them as a pack member, and Boyd gets fucking teary-eyed, and then the scrapbooks get passed around and Jackson has never prayed so ardently for death.
"I'm not going to say it isn't occasionally awkward," Stiles says, and rolls his eyes at Derek's scowl. "Excuse me if I'd like to have sex with my boyfriend without an audience, just once."
A chorus of "Ewww!" rings out and Scott makes puking noises, but Jackson doesn't notice, too horrifyingly mesmerized by a photo of Erica and Isaac passed out on his shoulders like drooling bookends.
So, yeah. Boyd snores like a rusty chainsaw. Erica holds heated debates with herself on the various merits of oven mitts and movie theater popcorn. Scott is sometimes less like a burrito and more like a very fat caterpillar; it helps cushion his fall whenever his girlfriend kicks him off the bed in her sleep. Isaac whimpers and moans and tries to bury himself under whoever happens to be closest (Jackson, somehow it's always Jackson), but he's getting better about it. Derek still comes in late, and manages to take up more mattress real estate than the rest of them combined. Early-bird Stiles is a fucking menace, but he feeds them, and it must be a wolf thing but it's impossible to stay mad at him when there's bacon involved.
Lydia deigns to sleep with them, once. She snores louder than Boyd. By unanimous decision the pack kicks her out in the wee hours of the morning, and Jackson trudges after her as she flounces down the hall and into one of the five guest bedrooms no one ever uses.
"Get the hell off me," she gripes, elbowing him in the stomach when he settles in behind her.
"Ow, damn it," he grumbles, and tucks an arm around her waist, pulling her head down under his chin.
She's quiet for a long minute, and Jackson has almost fallen asleep again when she threatens, "If you plan on 'accidentally' copping a feel, so help me God—"
"Sleep now, death threats later," he insists tiredly, and, miracle of miracles, she seems to listen to him.