Jackson Whittemore isn’t an idiot.
He had to do the same seventh-grade computer modules as everyone else, with the middle school guidance counselor looming over his shoulder like a bird of prey. ‘Spotting the Signs of Abuse 101’, ‘How to Help a Friend’, ‘Finding a Trusted Adult’. The slogans only go on from there. He and Isaac are also kind of neighbors and share the same locker rooms.
So Jackson knows pretty early on that Isaac Lahey is being abused by his dad.
As usual, Jackson doesn’t do the right thing. He doesn’t call child support or talk to the school guidance counselor or fucking something. He doesn’t even do the Jackson Whittemore thing which would be to throw Isaac over his shoulder and run off to a vacation house in the Bahamas. Indefinitely.
Instead, he keeps dating Lydia. Lies to the both of them that they work as anything other than friends and pretends he doesn’t see the way she looks at Allison Argent. After lacrosse practice, he constantly antagonizes Lahey into picking a fight with him. Anything to keep him away from home longer.
The worst part is that Jackson doesn’t admit to himself that he’s doing it to protect Isaac. Won’t admit to even caring about him when shoving each other against the lockers turns into fucking against them. He knows he’s bisexual, though the only person he’s ever talked about it with is Danny and it’s not like they’re about to go to a fucking pride parade together.
It’s just that Jackson isn’t a good guy. He doesn’t care about a lot of people. He has a fierce, possessive loyalty to those who are loyal to him, but that’s as far as it goes. So when all he can think about in the second half of a lacrosse match is pressing his ear against the hollow in Isaac’s chest where his heart beats, Jackson freaks out a little.
He backs the hell off of Isaac and starts riling him up just to rile him up. Not to keep him away from home, just to keep Isaac’s eyes on him. Because Jackson wants him and he can’t figure out what else to do with himself. He’s not a man used to denying himself the things he wants.
Jackson also doesn’t do anything about the bruises peeking out from beneath Isaac’s lacrosse jersey. Pretends it’s not his business, even though he starts shaking thinking about it and almost drives his car through the windows of a convenience store because he needs to hear something shatter.
Maybe it’s that anger, festering inside him until it reaches a boiling point, that makes him reject the bite in the first place. When he turns into the kanima for the first time, the taste of Coach Lahey’s blood is already in the back of his throat like a promise. It’s prophetic, really.
He’s coming home from the grocery store when he smells Isaac’s fear on the wind and tracks him running through the graveyard. He sees the blood on Isaac's cheek and suddenly Jackson's got scales. When Coach Lahey goes after his son, Jackson eviscerates him right then and there.
He should stay, check on Isaac, and bandage his wounds. Offer the kind of emotional and mental support the teenager probably needs right then after hearing his father be murdered. Jackson should offer Isaac a place to sleep and an embrace to shield him from the nightmares. Instead, he runs. At the very least, Jackson resists the animal urge to display the blood on him like a wild animal: 'look at me. I'm a worthy protector.' Even for a lizard beast, it's fucked up.
So Jackson stands back and watches Isaac move in with the McCall's. Smells the change in his scent when Derek changes him. (Is glad that he's not so vulnerable, is upset that Derek's filthy teeth got near the tantalizing line of Isaac's throat). Even the idea of Isaac in someone else’s home sets Jackson off, but Scott is likable enough and he hasn’t got an ounce of guile so Jackson doesn’t worry about trusting him.
That should solve the problem. Isaac’s dickhead of a father is dead and he’s somewhere safe. He comes to school smiling now, with the smell of safety and Melissa McCall’s meatloaf on the column of his throat. That’s as far-- farther-- than Jackson’s version of kindness goes.
Only he can’t stop thinking about Isaac. Soft and pliant and stretched out beneath him like a feast befitting a king. Jackson knows that’s what he is: a king. Isaac is the treasure he’s been promised and Jackson wants all of what’s due.
Not just to trace those freckles on and on like constellations and see his boy come apart beneath his touch, but to go to dinner and the movie and the fucking senior prom. He wants to buy unreasonably expensive Christmas gifts just to prove that he can and kiss Isaac in the grocery store and argue about where to eat brunch.
When Jackson finally changes from the kanima into the wolf he’s probably always been, it’s not Lydia’s love that saves him. When she leans against him and says in that loving, almost spiteful way of hers “it’s time for us to break up”, he knows she’s talking about Isaac.
She tells him as much the next day, as if he were too stupid to get it the first time.
“I expect an invitation to the wedding.” Her nails are the color of cherries and two weeks later she and Allison are elected prom queens.
So maybe Jackson has been an asshole for most of his life. Maybe his broken, filthy rich family set him up for an empty and loveless life. Maybe he’s cruel and selfish, and arrogant beyond measure. But something about Isaac makes him want to be better if only for him. He wants Isaac to stop looking so damn ashamed when he swallows Jackson’s dick in the locker room after practice. Like he thinks he’s just a hookup, which is entirely Jackson’s fault.
Jackson wants to take the praise that runs through his head about Isaac on fucking repeat and bathe Isaac in it; baptize him in adoration and kiss away the memory of scars that linger beneath his skin.
Despite the shitty hand life has dealt him, Isaac Lahey has managed to emerge a good person. More than good, really. He kind of glows. Bent around the edges, but gentle and sarcastic and so pretty that Jackson can’t believe it. And damn it all if he’s going to ruin that with his villainous hands.
So he’ll try harder. Jackson can start taking Isaac on real dates. Buy him flowers. Lots of expensive flowers. Definitely do something about the asshole at school who called Isaac a freak as he was coming out of the locker room.
Jackson is too selfish to give Isaac up, to let him be with someone who deserves to be with him. But Jackson can try and be better. To be worthy.
He goes after the guy with a baseball bat.