One night, when Derek is sick to death of hearing about how bored Jackson is, he brings them to the Kanima.
“Kanima?” Jackson says. Skeptical. He hasn’t looked up from his tablet. Flicking his fingers delicately across the screen. The picture of teenage boredom.
“A nightclub,” Derek says, shortly. “We have them down here, you know.” Probably more nightclubs here than most places. People here live fast and hard. They're not like those in the city center; they can't afford to live indefinitely – a second liver, maybe; a boob job for the superficial, but they’ll never afford more and GeneCo knows better than to let them skate by on too much credit. They make the first go-round as good as it gets instead. They dance, they drink, they take whatever drug they can get their hands on. If you want to party hard, you party in the Narrows. The Genists come down to slum, sometimes. It was how Derek met Kate.
There’s a thought Derek has to try and shake off.
“Wear your red shirt,” he says. Jackson doesn’t look up from the tablet, but he’s wearing it, later. He looks - happy, Derek decides, tentatively, and brushes his hand against the small of Jackson’s back.
It’s a Thursday night. Not as busy as the weekends, but Derek picked the Kanima for a reason. It’s a local club. People know who Derek is in this neighborhood. They know who Jackson is. Repomen command a kind of respect, if a slightly terrified one. Two, together – Derek with Jackson at his side? They get attention from the minute they come in.
Jackson gives Derek a look, eyebrow raised.
Derek doesn’t dance. He’s okay at it – he’s physically capable – but that’s about it. He never needed to learn. His family's good genetics, mixed the old-fashioned way, were usually enough to get him what he wanted. Derek prefers to watch. Prefers to pick rather than be picked. Give attention rather than get.
Derek snorts. “Not for long, I’m betting,” and Jackson flashes one of his better shit-eating grins. He cuts through the crowd. Shining out like a beacon. Derek might have stripped Jackson’s insides, might have replaced most of the designer bits with regular human ones, but he can’t change the outside of him. Can’t make Jackson any less Jackson. His hair too perfect, his skin too smooth. Flawless bone structure, streamlined muscles, everything perfectly proportioned. There’s no one quite like Jackson down in the Narrows. Everyone knows it. He knows it. Jackson preens like a peacock when given half the chance for anything.
He’s a force, on the dance floor. Derek wouldn't call him graceful, exactly; Derek thinks of something graceful as something soft. Jackson is purposeful. Deliberate. He knows what looks good. Knows he looks good.
It makes Derek smirk. It's… cute, that Jackson's trying to seduce him. And Derek lets himself be seduced, a little, lets himself feel that tiny pang of jealousy. Hasn't he been seduced, a little, since he first saw Jackson? Isn't this what got them there?
Later, he lets Jackson pull him onto the dance floor. Tucks his hand under the back of Jackson’s red shirt and presses their hips pressed together. Caught up in the rush of people.
“Beautiful boy,” Derek sighs. Pulls Jackson towards him for a kiss – a greedier one, if that’s possible. He drags Jackson out the side entrance – Derek knows all the side entrances, everywhere; side effect of being a Repoman – and he crushes Jackson against the wall. Greedy.
Going to the Kanima ends up becoming something of a thing for them. Jackson likes to be shown off. Likes to show himself off, maybe more accurately. Likes to reject advances, likes having half the room whipped into a frenzy, and then walking over to sit in Derek’s lap, gracefully folded just so, with his knees on either side of Derek’s hips. Derek jerks him off at a booth there, once; makes Jackson lick Derek’s hand clean. Jackson blushes as he does it, hot against Derek’s hand, but he does a deceptively thorough job of it. Slow.
Word comes down that Allison Argent has ascended to the chair of GeneCo ahead of her father.
“In with the new boss,” Derek mutters, and Jackson grunts in agreement. He's wrung out. Leaning against Derek and tucking his face against Derek’s shoulder.
Derek kisses him. Jackson couldn't move to get away even if he wanted to.
“Okay.” Jackson's heart flutters like a caged bird under Derek’s palm.
“Happy birthday,” Jackson says. As sweetly as Jackson has ever done anything – which is to say, not particularly sweet, no, but trying.
Months pass, with a steady increase in revenue, a steady decrease in the money Derek owes. Steady enough that he knocks a few years off his mental plan. Repo-ing is, really, a two person job. When Derek was on his own he spent far too much time chasing people down, letting them slip through his fingers because there was a back door, or because someone got in his way. This is better. Just - it is.
Jackson isn’t healing Derek, isn’t fixing him, isn’t filling a hole inside him - obvious jokes aside – or whatever bullshit romance movies are trying to sell. It is. That’s it. It is, and it’s good.
Jackson always comes – sometimes spectacularly. That he enjoys it isn’t in question. But for all that Jackson demands and whines, he doesn’t ask for things.
“Can you -“ Jackson gone bright red, then, “canyouhurtme,” all one word, all one rush.
“If you can’t say it we can’t do it,” Derek says, flatly, and Jackson groans. Buries his head in Derek’s neck.
“Fine!” Still muffled. “Fine, fuck, I just - I think about it sometimes. I don’t know. You hurting me.”
“You’re not the only one who thinks about how we met.”
“I’ve already seen you cry,” Derek says softly. “Do you think I won’t do it again?”
“You’ve been pretty clear about what you want,” Jackson says, and lifts his chin. “What about what I want?”
“You think I give a shit? You think this is about what you want?” In a lot of ways, Derek doesn’t care. If Jackson wants kisses, or flattery, or just a good hard fuck. Wants to feel alive, or valued, or useful - Derek hasn’t given it much thought.
"I was adopted," Jackson says after a moment. "Fixed from the ground up."
“Pricey,” Derek says, for lack of any other response. He doesn’t know what to say.
“They never really felt like my parents,” Jackson says, finally. “They - it seemed ungrateful, I guess, that they didn’t. Like they spoiled me so badly I didn’t even appreciate them. But they spent millions of dollars trying to make me a better son. Trying to make me look more like them. My hair used to be lighter, you know, but - but theirs wasn’t.”
Fuck them, Derek wants to say. For doing that to you, and for leaving you the way they did. In debt up to your stupidly sculpted ears. For making you feel inferior.
He puts his hand on Jackson's throat instead.
A week before Derek turns twenty-nine, he makes his last payment to the Argents. Chris is even there to witness it. Probably to tell him not to let the door hit him in the ass on the way out.
“Congratulations,” Chris says. His tone isn’t particularly congratulatory, as it turns out, but Derek is almost too shocked to notice. When had he stopped paying attention to the bottom line? He’d checked to make sure he’d been paid, sure, paid properly, but somehow he lost track of the finish line. “Handing in your resignation?”
“Not exactly,” Derek says, and gets the hell out of there. Because what the fuck.
He spends the rest of the week in a mood, bad enough that Jackson starts to get a bit nervous around the edges. Half-quiet, half-petulant. He sucks a bruise on Derek's neck that he won't stop touching, until Derek swats him off.
"What's crawled up your ass and died?" Jackson asks finally. "What's wrong with you?"
"I paid off my debt," Derek says, flatly. The last million that had somehow slipped right by him.
By the time Jackson's debt is paid off, it'll be a nice little nest egg, enough to buy them some organs, down the line, when Derek's bad knee tears again, or Jackson drinks out his liver. He’s thinking about the future, and god, isn't that terrifying. Somewhere, right now, Peter is laughing and doesn't know why.
“I thought I’d quit,” Derek says. Frowning. “I always planned to quit."
“Derek,” and Jackson's eyes have started darting around the room, like he's trapped and looking for an escape route.
“You don't...fuck off,” Derek says uncomfortably. He can talk about how the idea of getting his hands in Jackson’s chest cavity again gets him hot, but not his emotions. “I'm not leaving you in the Argents’ clutches.”
There's a bit of truth there - Derek doesn't trust the Argents as far as he can throw them, even with the most treacherous of them are dead and buried.
“One thing,” Jackson says, and Derek braces himself. “We have to move to a new apartment.
“You little fuck,” Derek says, admiringly, and ducks down to bite Jackson until he cries.