Jackson has been acting funny since the weekend and Stiles realizes Jackson must be acting really weird if he actually notices what with all the normal-weird weirdness that happens to him on a daily weird basis.
Jackson is still an asshole, make no doubt about it, and he’s still a lizard-thing, so the big two things about him don’t change, but there are still little changes.
Stiles manages to duck Jackson while classes end for the day and he hides in an empty classroom. He doesn’t have much time, because this is apparently his life now - hunters and werewolves and kanimas, oh my - so he sits down and does what he does best:
Stiles makes a list.
- Super touchy lately!
- Unbearably smug (but that might just be normal?)
- Brought me food (POISONED?)
He doesn’t get to finish his list, however, because all too soon Jackson pops his head into the classroom, eyes zeroing in on Stiles immediately.
Stiles has common sense so he shoves the paper in his pocket and stands up before Jackson can drag him bodily away.
Lacrosse is over for the season - and Stiles is still riding the high from being the one to win the game, he thinks it’s allowed, especially with the kidnapping his father still doesn’t know about and subsequent (hopeful) defeat of Gerard Argent - so Stiles isn’t sure where Jackson is taking him or why. Jackson may be his own lizard-man now, but that doesn’t mean he can just go around manhandling people whenever he wants.
“Whoa, whoa, Jackson. Jackson,” Stiles says, “Seriously, man, what is up with you?”
Jackson stops. He doesn’t say anything. They’re in the parking lot.
Apparently, so is Derek’s ragtag bunch of betas.
It’s not that there’s a conflict or anything - honestly, they’ve been on pretty good terms with Derek and his pack since that night - but Stiles can feel the exact moment that Jackson shifts his attention from Stiles to the three betas in front of them. If that isn’t a kick in the pants, Stiles doesn’t know what is.
But the point is, Jackson takes his attention away from Stiles and focuses on the betas. He cocks his head, and Stiles can’t help but note how reptilian he is even when he’s not the kanima, and then Jackson puts himself just slightly in front of Stiles.
Stiles wouldn’t have normally noticed it and the movement is subtle, more of a shifting of his weight than anything, but Stiles has been dealing with the supernatural for ages now and has learned to pick up on these things.
Isaac, Boyd, and Erica pick up on it too.
Erica smirks and says, “Easy, tiger,” like that isn’t the most predictable thing she could have said, and really, Stiles despairs and hopes that someone else provides the comedic relief in their pack, because no. Her’s not working out for them. He almost says as much, but Jackson shuts him up with a hand to his wrist. He’s not gentle either, the jackass.
Isaac rolls his eyes and takes a step toward Stiles, but only one because Jackson’s got this whole predator thing going on, and he says to Stiles, “Derek wants to talk to you.”
Stiles scoffs. He reaches up with his free hand to press near the edges of the slowly healing scrape on his cheek. “No,” he says.
Erica growls and steps forward, and really, weren’t they just done with this stuff? Stiles is pretty sure that Erica and Boyd are lucky to still be in Derek’s good graces. And it wasn’t like Stiles hadn’t tried to free Erica and Boyd when he thought he had the chance. He had no idea why they were so hostile toward him.
“Are you done with this posturing?” Stiles asks. “Because if Derek wants to talk to me, he knows where to find me.”
Stiles turns his back on the betas. It is possibly one of the stupidest things he has ever done and he can admit that willingly. He steps away but comes up short. Jackson is still holding his hand but he’s not moving. Jackson sneers at Erica, Isaac, and Boyd, but Stiles tugs at him gently before he starts to do something dramatic like hiss at them, and he’s surprised when Jackson lets himself be pulled along behind Stiles.
“Not that I am not extremely grateful that you were there at that exact moment, but seriously, what is going on with you, man?” Stiles asks.
Jackson just shrugs and inconsequentially says, “Hey, can we go to your place?”
Having Jackson in his house is the second weirdest thing that has happened to Stiles all day. The first, of course, being Jackson himself.
He still isn’t sure why Jackson wants to willingly be in his house, but Stiles remembers that he has manners and asks if Jackson would like a drink.
If the way Jackson is pushing Stiles up the stairs is any indication, the answer to that question is emphatically no. Someone obviously did not teach Jackson his manners.
Oh God, Stiles realizes - Jackson is going to kill me. Nobody knows that the two of them are here, it’s a perfectly reasonable thing to assume, okay, and his dad is working the late shift so he won’t even find Stiles’ body until the morning.
“I’m not going to kill you, dumbass,” Jackson says, and Stiles realizes that he’s said all of this out loud. He doesn’t even have any time to respond because Jackson is pushing him into his room.
Stiles is left in the middle of his bedroom to watch helplessly as Jackson starts to go through his things. It’s totally invasive and Stiles nearly wails, “Nothing in here is even worth stealing!”
Jackson stops rifling in his closet and sends Stiles the most unamused look, which is really unfair because Stiles still doesn’t know what’s going on. Jackson closes his closet door and turns and totally hip checks Stiles onto the bed on purpose.
Stiles goes face first and by the time he manages to roll over, Jackson is already sprawled on his bed. Stiles says, “Uh, excuse you, what?”
Jackson snarls and begins poking and prodding Stiles into a position he deems acceptable - on his back - before he wriggles until he’s comfortable. “Shut up, Stilinski.”
“No, Jackson, you know, I think it’s pretty safe to assume you can call me Stiles. I mean, you do have your head on my stomach.”
It’s true too. At least Jackson isn’t facing his junk, because that is not a conversation Stiles is willing to have with Jackson. He’s pretty sure that this isn’t a conversation Jackson wants to have with Derek either. However, this leaves Jackson staring up across Stiles’ chest to his face with the grumpiest expression on his face and his arms crossed. For all that Jackson is trying to make himself look like he doesn’t want to be there, Stiles gets the feeling that it’s actually exactly where he wants to be.
“Okay,” Stiles babbles. “Cuddling, I can do this.”
Jackson grumbles some more and Stiles just goes for it, hand seeking Jackson’s hair like a missile. Jackson doesn’t even try to avoid Stiles petting his hair, which Stiles files away for later. If anything, he just goes boneless.
This is how, later, Derek finds them napping together.
Stiles feels the exact moment Jackson tenses, because somehow in their sleep Jackson has managed to move his head to Stiles’ chest but there are still a lot of points of contact between the pair of them. When he opens his eyes he sees two things - Derek staring down at them with his arms crossed and Jackson’s eyes shift.
Stiles doesn’t even think about it, just pushes his hand back into Jackson’s hair and says, “Hey, shh, it’s okay.”
It works like magic, although Stiles really hopes it isn’t magic. Jackson almost deflates, but when he turns his head to look at Derek, the motion is almost entirely reptilian again. Jackson has really got this lizard-man thing down. He’s scarily competent at making Stiles think he’s a lizard even when not in kanima form.
When Stiles stops running his hand through Jackson’s hair, Jackson nudges back a little and a smirk crawls across his face when Stiles resumes petting. It’s that same unbearably smug smile that Jackson had at lunch, but this time it’s directed at Derek.
And really? This petting thing is okay, because it means that Stiles has something to do with his hands while he rambles, so he starts to talk to Derek, “You need a leash for your betas, man.”
Derek’s scowl tightens, but he points at Jackson and says, “Your kanima is a little shit.”
“No, he’s his own lizard-man now. That’s the whole point. He’s his own little shit.”
Derek rolls his eyes, “He’s still a little shit.”
Jackson looks up at Stiles and he’s still wearing that unbelievably smug look - and really, it should be illegal - but Stiles almost thinks it looks a little soppy. Well, as soppy as Jackson can manage to look, but it’s more of a feeling that Stiles gets anyway.
So Stiles thinks about it - Jackson hasn’t been nearly as awful to Stiles these past couple of days as he used to before this whole become-your-own-master thing happened. Sure, he’s been following Stiles around a lot, nearly always touching in some way or another, but Stiles hasn’t had a lot of time to freak out about the whole kidnapping thing aside from a few moments after Lydia and Jackson did their thing.
Stiles has an epiphany. “No, no, he’s really not.”
He smiles down at Jackson and lets it be as soppy as Jackson will never allow his face to be and Jackson’s smirk turns into an actual smile - like the kind of smiles he only gets around Lydia and Danny - and Stiles’ heart melts. He almost coos at Jackson, but manfully (thankfully) doesn’t, but Jackson seems to get the point because now he’s the one turning his back on an irritated werewolf.
It’s only so he can shove his head in the vicinity of Stiles’ neck and wrap his arms around Stiles’ chest and tangle their legs - and if someone told Stiles two years ago that some point in the future he would be cuddled by Jackson Whittemore, Stiles would have laughed himself to death. He doesn’t close his eyes because if Stiles peers down he can see them stay open, but Stiles gets the feeling that Jackson is done with whatever back and forth Derek and Stiles have going on.
Stiles isn’t, so he just puts an arm around Jackson and asks Derek, “What do you need?”
Derek, for his part, manages to tamp down his steadily rising eyebrows, and just says, “I need you to see if there have been any police reports that fit in with what we know about the alpha pack.”
Stiles cocks an eyebrow, because it’s all he can do with Jackson-Octopus-Kanima-Whittemore wrapped around him.
“We need some sort of advantage,” Derek says and shrugs.
Stiles nods. “I’ll see what I can do. Stop sending your children when you want to talk to me, Derek, it’s obnoxious. You’re allowed to just be here, okay?”
Derek nods from his place at Stiles’ windowsill, but he’s got this look on his face like he’s figuring something out.
In the end, it’s Peter Hale who figures out what’s going on with Jackson.
Stiles is sitting on the couch in the subway station waiting for everyone to get there so they can actually communicate and formulate actual plans, when Jackson and Lydia show up. Jackson makes a beeline for Stiles almost immediately and all but sprawls out on top of him.
Lydia sits primly on the other end of the couch and actually smiles at Stiles. Jackson rearranges himself so he’s holding on to Lydia’s hand but basically straddling Stiles in the least sexual way ever. It’s more of a full body hug. Which is good (weird, but good), Stiles thinks, because both of their significant others are in the building and that would be way more awkward than it actually is.
Stiles can feel the smile that Jackson presses into his neck and can feel the wickedly smug satisfaction rolling off of Jackson in waves. He doesn’t have to turn to know that Jackson is staring at Derek, eyes sparkling.
Before anyone can say anything, Peter appears out of nowhere - or whatever support post he was lurking behind this time - and hums low under his breath. “Oh, I see.”
Stiles, because he can’t keep his big mouth shut, asks, “What? What do you know? Do you know what’s going on?”
Peter looks at Derek before speaking, “It seems that Jackson has imprinted on you.”
Stiles’ mouth pops open, and he blurts, “What, like baby ducklings?”
Peter chuckles and nods and Stiles knows that Peter is enjoying this way more than he’s letting on.
Jackson looks like he’s getting ready to pull back, embarrassed, and really, that’s dumb, so Stiles puts his hand on the side of Jackson’s head, over his ear. He says, “Don’t listen to Peter, he’s just jealous.”
Lydia laughs and Stiles thinks he hears Derek snort behind him, but Stiles is pretty sure it’s all in good nature.
They’re going to be okay, Stiles thinks. Everyone’s going to be okay.