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Build an Empire

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"I just don't think I can do it."

" Date me?"

" Date a werewolf."

" You knew?"

" Dude, it's Beacon Hills."

Ethan could still see Danny's dimples when he closed his eyes. Warm brown eyes and the sweetest smile he'd probably ever seen. Aiden had always said that Ethan was the soft one, and maybe he was right. It was hard to see how he could possibly function without Aiden. It was hard to see Aiden's face every time he walked past a mirror.

"Actually, I think I might leave town for a bit."

" Do you have somewhere to go?"

Ethan had nowhere to go. Nobody was waiting for him anymore. Who else have the two of you pissed off? They had killed what was left their pack to join the Alphas, but that had ended up being the losing side. Scott never really trusted them. Danny had broken up with him in the nicest way possible, and he could never blame him for that. We've pissed off everybody. All he had now was one name.

"I know it's probably not what you want to hear right now, but if you have nothing else to do..."

" You're asking me for a favor?"

Danny's smile. If Ethan had been soft before, it was nothing compared to what Danny had molded him into. Before Danny, he wasn't sure he could remember the last time he felt the urge to be nice, to help, to please other people. Even broken up, Ethan was pretty sure he wouldn't be able to handle losing Aiden if he had never had Danny.

"My best friend is living in London right now, he moved from Beacon Hills last year."

" A werewolf?"

" Something like that. Anyways, I was supposed to visit him this summer, but I got into Stanford, which starts pretty early so - "

" You want me to go and explain?"

" I want you to make sure he hasn't been murdered - he's kind of an asshole."

" Great. Can't wait to meet him."

He had a name. A name and an address of an apartment on Belvedere Road in London. Ethan didn't know where that was. The piece of paper Danny had written both of these things on was well worn by now. It wasn't that Danny and Ethan didn't keep in touch, but Danny seemed somehow to know that he needed that physical representation. The paper was worn smooth and perfectly creased from being folded, unfolded, pulled out of a pocket and slid carefully back in.

Ethan ran a finger over Danny's neat handwriting. Black as the blood dripping from Aiden's lips. The motel room was making him itch. Not his skin, but deep inside. There was a plane ticket tucked away in his bag, folded in with the three pairs of socks he owned. Ethan looked at the name.

Jackson Whittemore.

 

***

 

His parents thought that he needed space. First, he needed space away from Beacon Hills. His father claimed to have a promotion that took them all to London, but Jackson knew they were freaked. It's not every day your adoptive only child comes back from the dead seeming perfectly fine. He wasn't fine, for the record, not that he had necessarily been aware of it then. Now that he had started university, his parents decided that he would do "recover from his trauma" better living on his own. Jackson wasn't complaining if it meant he lived in his posh flat with a perfect view of Big Ben across the Thames.

But he hadn't needed space for a long time now. Reflecting on it, he'd had too much space all his life. His adoptive parents had always walked on eggshells around him. Danny was the first to reach deep into Jackson's heart and force him to be a person rather than an empty shell. Lydia was the only other one to see more in him - something he hadn't realized until just before he left Beacon Hills. The truth was, he needed people. He wasn't a shell anymore. He didn't want to be a kanima. He didn't want to be an omega. He wanted a pack.

It was almost a month since he had moved to London. It was a crowded city - so incredibly different from Beacon Hills - but he had never felt so alone. The last of his classes to start (a writing class that his advisor "strongly recommended", which he was not looking forward to) woke him up a little too early on a Wednesday morning.  He walked in about two minutes before the class started, and scanned his eyes over the other students. Mostly they looked like hipsters, and while Jackson liked to think that he had grown a lot in the past year, he still needed to maintain an image. He almost took a seat next to a girl who was sitting very straight and tapping her red fingernails in a way that reminded him ever so slightly of Lydia, but the sound of a familiar voice made him turn.

"Jackson? What are you doing here?"

"Close your mouth, Lahey. You're drooling." Jackson drawled. He slid into the seat next to Isaac. "What, you didn't know I was in London?"

"You know, I really hate to break it to you, but the world does not actually revolve around you." Isaac shot back with his classic side-eye. "So, what are you doing here?"

Jackson raised a dubious eyebrow. "Taking an English class, what does it look like?"

The professor called attention to the front of the room.

"You still play lacrosse?" Jackson asked.

Eyes glued to the front of the room, Isaac smirked.