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time to leave and turn to dust

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Beacon Hills has its worst case of rain in three years on a Friday afternoon. The sky has been dangerously gray and threatening with a downpour for days on end, so nobody is really that surprised when it comes down fast enough to be sloshing around their ankles within minutes. People who are caught up in it grimly soldier through, and the ones that are lucky enough to be inside groan and bemoan the situation to neighbors, spouses, and disinterested colleagues who feign interest when all they really want to do is go home and watch TV. The ones on their way to work wince and cringe as their socks get soaked through sneakers and boots, and the triumphant few with galoshes on quickly realize that while their feet remain dry and intact, their mood is quickly dampened by the weather.

Stiles watches people flee into book shops and grocery stores as he wipes down tables. He's damp around the collar of his shirt and down his back, blaming his inefficient umbrella for the cold that's biting at his bones. It's so cold that he's convinced he's somehow got the rain version of frostbite. His fingers are numb and red from the cold wind and rain, cheeks the same shade. The coffee shop is mostly empty; a couple of older men sit by a corner table, sipping at their drinks and eating dry sponge cake that's outrageously priced. A young woman with blond hair turned dark by the rain shivers in her seat by the door, jacket pulled tight around her pretty frame and a laptop open and unused in front of her. Stiles doesn't pay the customers much attention, and continues to monotonously wipe down tables that are already reflecting his visage back at him, feeling his mood go as gray as the sky.

The door opens without a chime or jingle to signal it. There's just the creak of the handle and sound of rain pattering onto the street outside to break the silence. Stiles glances over to the door, immediately sympathetic with the sight that greets him. Soaked to the bone, with hair plastered to a pale forehead, and dripping from the sleeves is someone from his school. Jackson, Stiles remembers, that rich kid with expensive clothes and good hair. Said clothes seem to cling to the other teen, shoes squelching with every step he takes towards the table nearest the heater. He doesn't cringe, which Stiles has to admire; his own shoes are sopping wet. Jackson looks to just have made it out of school, maybe after a study session or lacrosse, backpack slung across one shivering shoulder. His face is redder than Stiles', with spots of color high on his cheekbones and the tips of his ears. Stiles wipes down the table he's at slowly to allow Jackson time to squirm out of his jacket as he sits down. It clings to him, fabric damp even on the inside as he wrestles it off. He doesn't look thrilled at the way his shirt is sticking to his skin at the shoulders, dark patches revealing where his jacket failed to keep the rain out.

Stiles expects him to get a laptop out, or maybe even just his phone for lack of something to do, but Jackson just scowls at the tabletop. Looks pissed and tired and irritated. He doesn't open his backpack or do anything to pass the time, just rubs his fingers together and shivers, bangs dripping onto the newly cleaned wood. Stiles puts the rag he's done wiping with in the front pocket of the apron and walks over without bothering to paste a fake smile on his face. Jackson's eyes flicker to him, something annoyed and weary in his look. “So,” Stiles says cheerily enough. “Hot chocolate to warm you up?”

The suggestion isn't met with much enthusiasm, but Jackson doesn't look condescending nor is he scowling, either, so that's something. Stiles hasn't talked to him much; a few exchanged words during biology, maybe, and an occasional jibe during PE. Jackson looks cold and placid enough to just nod, collarbone damp from the place where his shirt is weighed down by water. “And a muffin,” he says, glancing briefly at Stiles' name-tag. Great, Stiles thinks as he writes the simple order down just for something to do with his hands. Jackson doesn't know his name, and the high school really isn't that big. Way to go. “Anything else?” he asks, struck with the urge to get Jackson a damn blanket just to get him to stop shivering.

“No, that's all.” There's a tone of impatient politeness that Stiles knows is used when someone is trying their best not to snap at him to hurry the fuck up, so that's what he does. He feels a bit like a mouse faced with a large predator, but when he glances back from behind the counter Jackson is shivering even more and looking nothing like a predator. Just a cold, wet teenager who seems like he could use some sleep and a warm bath. Stiles serves the hot chocolate in a mug a bit bigger than the standard ones, and feels slightly wounded when Jackson does nothing but nod and dismiss him as he starts sipping. Well, fine, not like it matters. He gets Jackson a blueberry muffin on a saucer and puts that down with a minimal amount of politeness before he walks off to lounge behind the counter. He gets immersed in a game on his phone, the rain still coming down heavy and fogging the windows.

The two older men leave change on the table as they leave, which has Stiles bounding over eagerly to collect his tips. He clears away their cups and plates and cleans the table and sweeps crumbs to the floor thoughtlessly. He's not being watched by his boss, so it doesn't matter how sloppily he cleans, and he's thankful for the brief freedom. Fifteen minutes tick by and he gets bored enough to make another futile attempt at talking to the girl, but she leaves before he really gets a word in. Doesn't leave any tips, either, just to rub salt in the wound. “Want another one?” Stiles asks Jackson. He's emptied his cup, but his fingers are still linked together around it. His muffin is untouched. He doesn't answer. He's staring at the tabletop, quiet and his body still, no longer shivering, although he still looks cold. Stiles doesn't mean to be rude as he nudges him slightly, Jackson's eyes snapping to his with an annoyed expression. “Another one?” Stiles intones, incredulous at the way Jackson is openly glaring, like Stiles is some hostile gang member with tattoos on his forehead.

He does look mildly remorseful and slightly embarrassed as he uncurls his fingers from the cup, so Stiles figures they're good. “Yeah, okay,” Jackson says. He's probably mostly irritated at himself for not playing it cool, but Stiles acknowledges the sincere flush of embarrassment and walks off to refill the cup. He catches Jackson picking at his muffin, not eating it. It's been nearly twenty minutes and Jackson has been annoyed, irritated, apologetic, and now fidgety. Stiles doesn't think too much about it and just serves the hot chocolate with extra sugar, somehow hoping to get something out of Jackson. Maybe a smile. Maybe a few words.

“You want some Advil?” Stiles asks. Jackson is alternating between rubbing at his temples and picking his muffin to pieces, and glances at Stiles with a mildly surprised expression. Somehow, it comes off to Stiles as the surprise of someone who thinks nobody cares. He's always tried to make people deeper than they are, though, so he lets that thought go. Jackson nods – and that, that right there, is fishy. Jackson talks. Stiles hears him all the time at school, talking about lacrosse, Danny or Lydia or his car, something. Coffee-shop Jackson is another thing entirely.

Jackson looks at him, expression slowly becoming guarded and gloomy. “I'm fine,” he says, making a point of looking down into his cup, clearly not wanting to talk to Stiles.

So Stiles retires to behind the counter to flip through magazines and look through his notes from chemistry. It's boring and redundant, and Jackson isn't breaking the silence. He's just – gripping his cup and looking...not bored, exactly. Pensive, maybe. Definitely something along those lines. And Stiles wonders why he hasn't gone home yet, to his big house and expensive furniture. He does a crossword, one more, listens to the rain come down. People walk by the windows now and then, some peering inside but none coming in. It's just him and Jackson and their rain-slick skin, several tables apart. Jackson's muffin has crumbled to pieces by the time Stiles glances over again, and his hands are restless as he drinks slowly from the cup.

The window a few tables down from Jackson is slightly open, windowsill wet from the rain. Stiles walks over to close it, fingers dipping into the small pools of water.

“Stilinski,” Jackson says, voice quiet in the hush of the shop. Stiles turns to him, head cocked in curiosity. So Jackson does know his name – well, part of it. Still, it's a victory. He looks apprehensive and seems to struggle with his words, opening his mouth several times before closing it in resignation. “Nothing,” he finally says. “Never mind.”

His mouth is tight. He looks anxious, Stiles notices, and like he hasn't slept well. “Jackson,” Stiles starts, wiping his wet hands on his apron. “If you want to say something, just do it. Don't over-think it and lose your head.”

“I just,” Jackson starts, swallowing like he's nervous. He shoots Stiles this rabbity look, like he's scared that Stiles will figure out whatever it is that he's really feeling. He seems to compose himself slightly, eyes locked on Stiles'. “Do you want my bike?”

Stiles' face contorts in an expression of pure surprise, a suspicion in his eyes. “For free?” he asks, sceptically; Jackson drives a Porsche and his bicycle is a BMX, in outstanding shape. He wouldn't just give that away. Especially not to Stiles. Stiles, who, for some reason, starts to feel a kind of worry gnaw at his gut.

“Yeah. For free,” Jackson confirms, looking ten kinds of desperate and agitated. “Look, it's just – your car is crap, Stilinski, and you could use it when it breaks down – and it will. And,” here he pauses, a sort of sorrow to the corners of his eyes that Stiles doesn't want to be aware of. “I don't really need it.”

Stiles doesn't respond for a while. “I'll pick it up tomorrow,” he finally says, voice even. Jackson looks surprised and relieved at the words, shoulders slowly loosening up. His cup is empty, his muffin crumbled and his eyes light. Stiles takes away the saucer and cup and gets the rag out to wipe the table down. Jackson is by the door, not even dressed – it's like he wants to run away. There's money on the table, enough to cover double of what Jackson had, and Stiles doesn't get a chance to say goodbye before Jackson leaves.

He's a blurry and washed-out shadow against the window as he goes.


Stiles doesn't think much about Jackson after that. The bicycle stands ready on the driveway when he comes over, and he doesn't feel bold enough to walk up and knock just to say thank you. He'll do that at school on Monday, he decides, riding the bike all the way home.

He doesn't think about it during the rest of his weekend; just rests and does some homework and has Scott over for a study-session turned gaming night, and his dad questions him about the bike relentlessly until Stiles assures him that no, sir, he's not involved in a drug-dealing ring.

He comes to school with a smile.

There's just one problem.

Jackson doesn't.