They both have the same single tally mark on their wrists, and they’re both for the same girl. The only difference is that Stiles’ is red and Jackson’s is black, and Stiles kind of resents him for it.
"I just don’t understand why Lydia’s with him, you know? He’s a complete ass," he tells Scott one day when he sees them kissing at the end of the hallway.
"Not to her," Scott says with a shrug. "Not always, anyway."
Stiles huffs. “Lydia Martin deserves more than a guy who’s kind of nice to her sometimes.”
"Yeah, you’re probably right, but it’s not like she can help it. The heart wants what it wants, and all that."
"Yeah, I’m familiar with that one, thanks," Stiles says, bitterness evident in his tone.
"If it’s any consolation, I think you’d make a better boyfriend to Lydia Martin than Jackson ever could," Scott tries, shutting his locker and giving Stiles a pat on the back.
Stiles snorts. “Thanks, buddy.”
The kanima thing happens. The tally mark on Lydia’s wrist scars over when Jackson dies, and she cries, and then it goes back to black when they bring him back, and she cries some more, clings to him like she never wants to let go. And Stiles cries for her, and for himself, too, because he knows he doesn’t have a chance.
Things are different after that. Jackson and Lydia break up about a month later, decide they’re better as friends. And Stiles still doesn’t like him, not by a long shot, but he’s pack now, and Stiles understands the weight of that. So he says hi to him when he sees him at school, invites him to pack movie nights, offers him chemistry tutoring in exchange for lacrosse lessons.
And surprisingly, Jackson doesn’t shoot him down at every opportunity like Stiles was kind of expecting him to. He understands the importance of pack too, Stiles guesses. He even initiates some of their hangouts after awhile.
"Hey, Stilinski," Jackson calls once school’s out for the day and they’re walking to their respective cars. Stiles whips his head around to look at him.
"What’s up, dude?"
"Parks and Rec comes back tonight, I—"
"I’m aware of that," Stiles says, cutting him off, because if there’s one thing he’s good at it’s knowing TV schedules by heart, thank you very much. Besides, he loves being a dick to Jackson now that the danger of getting his ass kicked is no longer a concern.
"I was gonna ask if you wanted to come over and watch it with me, asswipe."
"Oh," Stiles says, surprised, because he’s still not used to this whole thing. "Yeah, absolutely. Uh, let me just go home and get my homework done and then I’ll be there. 6:00 too early?"
"No, that’s good. I need you to look over my lab report before I turn it in tomorrow, anyway," Jackson says.
"Cool. See you later," Stiles says with a nod, waving as they part ways.
If he smiles like an idiot the entire drive home, no one has to know about it.
So, they’re friends now. Stiles never thought he’d see the day, but he kind of likes it, actually. It’s good.
"How the hell could you possibly think Fall Out Boy is better than All Time Low?” Stiles demands, appalled.
They have iTunes open on Stiles’ computer and they’re trying to make a playlist to work out to (Jackson insisted they get Stiles in shape before they go anywhere near a lacrosse field).
"Uh, because they are?" Jackson retorts, like it’s the most obvious fact in the world. Stiles thinks he’s going to puke, and he says as much.
"You sicken me."
"The fact that you have eighty All Time Low Songs and only five Fall Out Boy ones sickens me."
"Alright, look," Stiles says, and it’s vicious. "All Time Low is like, a religion, okay, it’s so much more than just a band. And Fall Out Boy’s just…whatever, it’s not like I don’t like them, I do, but they’re not the same as All Time Low. Nothing is.”
Jackson just shakes his head and says “You’re an idiot,” but there’s no real heat behind it. He grabs the mouse from Stiles and drags Lost In Stereo into the playlist.
"There, just for you. Will you quit whining like a little bitch now?" Jackson asks, knocking his shoulder into Stiles’.
Stiles ignores the satisfaction and happiness that bubbles in his stomach at just for you. He shrugs, feigning nonchalance.
Turns out, fighting with Jackson’s actually kind of fun when he cares enough about you to make up for it afterwards.
They don’t find Erica’s body until right around the time Boyd dies (which horrifies Stiles, to think about her just lying somewhere, cold and alone and dead), so the pack decides to give them a joint funeral. They think they’d like that.
The service is beautiful. Derek spares no expense, but he also makes sure it’s something they would have liked. He has the Inception soundtrack playing quietly in the background during the service itself, for Boyd, and Britney Spears’ greatest hits afterwards, for Erica. The church is decorated like the prom they never got to go to, and there’s a picture of the two of them up front, beaming at each other and holding hands. It’s blown up so much that you can see the matching single black tally marks on their wrists.
He ends up sitting next to Jackson, which is mortifying, because he knows he’s going to cry and he’d really rather it be in front of Scott or Allison or really anyone but Jackson.
And he’s right; he cries. He cries a lot. Derek does all the speaking, because he knew Erica and Boyd wouldn’t have wanted some random pastor to give some random sermon, or whatever, and it’s seriously so moving. He sheds a few tears before Derek even starts, and by the end, he’s a sobbing, blubbering mess.
It’s not until Derek’s finishing it off and Stiles’ crying has started to subside that he realizes Jackson’s been holding his hand the entire time. He looks over at him and sees that he’s crying, too.
He squeezes Jackson’s hand, both thanking and comforting.
He’s okay after that, until they walk up to the coffins to say their final goodbyes. Seeing them like that feels wrong, makes him sick, and Hold It Against Me is playing and Stiles can almost hear Erica singing along and Boyd laughing at her (and god, you could even hear how much he fucking loved her in his laugh) and he can see the tally marks on their wrists. They’re still matching, but now they’re scarred, not black, and Stiles can’t breathe.
He runs out of there as fast as he can, yanking at his tie and falling to the grass as soon as he gets outside. He knows what’s happening, tries to breathe, but there’s no fucking air.
And then Jackson’s there, dropping to his knees and looking at Stiles with this wild look in his eyes.
"Stiles, talk to me," he says. "What do you need?"
"I need Boyd and Erica to be here," he says, choking on a sob. "I need them to be able to go to prom, and get married, and have ridiculously cute kids, and get the life they deserved. They died at sixteen, Jackson, fuck.”
"I know," Jackson says. "I know."
He pulls Stiles into a hug and doesn’t let go until he’s cried himself dry.
Isaac goes to France, says it hurts too much to be in Beacon Hills without his pack, and Derek gives him his blessing, tells him he understands.
So pack nights are back to being just the six of them. Scott, Lydia, Derek, Allison, Stiles, and Jackson. It’s almost like they’ve come full circle, or something, in the most nauseating way. It’s just like it used to be, yet not the same at all.
They’re striving for normalcy, though, because it’s something they all need.
So they’re stuffing their faces with pizza and playing two truths and a lie, Friends reruns playing on the TV as background noise.
"Okay," Stiles says when it’s his turn. "Uh…my real first name is five syllables long, I’ve never kissed anyone, and I’m a closet One Direction fan."
"You’ve never kissed anyone," Allison says, almost immediately.
Stiles shakes his head.
"You still haven’t kissed anyone?” Lydia asks, surprised.
"Nope," Stiles says, popping the P. "Unless you count the time Scott kissed me on the cheek when we were seven."
Scott chuckles. “Seriously, dude, you should do something about that. You deserve better than my gross, wet cheek kiss.”
"Oh, believe me, I know I do. It’s just the rest of the world that hasn’t caught on yet. I mean, it’s not like I have people lining up to kiss me, do I? Trust me, being seventeen and unkissed was definitely never a dream of mine."
Jackson sits up, then, leans over, and presses his lips to Stiles’.
Stiles’ eyes widen in surprise, but he gets with the program and responds enthusiastically before they pull apart, entirely too soon, as far as Stiles is concerned.
"There," Jackson says matter-of-factly. "Problem solved."
Stiles’ cheeks are on fire, and he knows the werewolves in the room can hear his heart pounding. “I…thanks,” he says intelligently.
"So, which one was it?" Jackson asks him.
"Huh?" he asks in response. He couldn’t form a coherent thought right now if he tried.
"Which one was the lie," Jackson clarifies.
"Oh, um, the first one," Stiles says. "My first name has six syllables."
Jackson grins at him like Stiles is the greatest thing he’s ever seen, says “Of course it does,” and Stiles’ stomach does somersaults.
He looks down at his wrist, the tally mark for Lydia, and is completely baffled by the fact that he isn’t disappointed in the slightest his first kiss wasn’t with her.
They’re sprawled across Stiles’ bed, textbooks and notebooks everywhere, cramming for finals when Stiles sees it. A new tally mark on Jackson’s wrist.
He does a double take to make sure he wasn’t seeing things, and sure enough, it’s there. The red looks strange on him. “Dude,” he says.
"Hmm?" Jackson hums, not looking up from the economics book sitting in front of him.
"Who’s the new girl?"
"What are you talking about?" Jackson asks, finally looking up at Stiles.
"Your wrist," Stiles says, gesturing somewhere in the general vicinity.
Jackson’s face falls. “I’m trying to study, Stiles.”
"I appreciate that. Just tell me and we can get right back to that. Who’s the girl?"
Jackson doesn’t say anything.
"Guy?" Stiles tries, raising a brow.
He stays silent.
"Come ooooon," Stiles whines, nudging Jackson’s stomach with his foot. "You can tell me. I can keep a secret. Promise."
"It’s none of your fucking business, Stilinski, alright?" Jackson says, then sighs.
And that stings, because that felt a lot like the old Jackson. The one from back when they hadn’t been friends with each other and hadn’t trusted each other and hadn’t kissed each other, for god’s sake.
But Stiles doesn’t push it. “You’re right. I’m sorry,” he says, then quizzes Jackson on business cycles and economic growth.
The nogitsune thing happens, and it’s so much like the kanima thing it makes Stiles’ stomach turn. For weeks, he refuses to be around anyone but Jackson, because he’s fucking disgusted with himself and no one else even begins to understand.
Jackson takes him in with open arms, though, despite how insanely needy he is. He sleeps at Stiles’ house most nights, because Stiles can’t face the night by himself anymore. He ditches school with him when he can’t bring himself to get out of bed. He goes to the cemetery with him to see Allison, and everyone else that died because of him.
One day, though, while he’s doing his usual rounds in the cemetery (which, Jesus, how fucked up is that?), he wanders over to his mother’s grave and sits in front of it. Jackson hovers a few feet away, unsure.
Stiles says “Hi, mom,” and then “I really screwed up,” and then he’s crying, and that seems to spring Jackson to action. He sits down next to Stiles so that their knees are touching and just lets Stiles talk.
So Stiles talks. He goes on and on about how Allison’s dead and it’s all his fault, how he killed so many people, how he’s a terrible person, how she would be ashamed of him if she were here to see it all.
"Done?" Jackson asks once Stiles goes quiet. Stiles nods.
"Good. Look, I’m sorry for the language, Mrs. Stilinski, but everything Stiles just said was bullshit. He was used, and manipulated, and taken advantage of, and nothing that happened was his fault. He’s one of the good guys. Hell, he’s one of the best guys, and you’d be proud of him.”
He runs a hand through his hair, then looks over at Stiles. “Got that, Stilinski?”
Stiles smiles, and for the first time in a month he feels like he can breathe again. “Yeah, I got it,” he says, leaning in to Jackson.
Jackson puts an arm around him, and they sit there and talk to Claudia about what she’s been missing on Grey’s Anatomy until the sun goes down and it gets too cold to stay outside.
The next day, Stiles comes home from school to find a blank CD on his desk. It has Jackson’s Favorite ATL Songs (You were right. They’re pretty good.) scrawled across it in Jackson’s sloppy handwriting, and that’s all it takes. Stiles is done for and he knows it. He lifts up his arm to look at his wrist for confirmation, knowing full well what he’s going to find.
He’s wrong, though. There is a new tally mark there, but it’s not red like the one next to it, the one he’s gotten so used to looking at day after day. No, this one’s definitely black.
It hits him like a freight train, and he fucking runs to his car and speeds so insanely his dad would throw him in jail for sure if he ever found out, but it doesn’t matter because it gets him to Jackson’s house in record time.
He practically throws himself out of the Jeep and toward the front door. He knocks and knocks and doesn’t stop until the door swings open and Jackson’s standing in front of him.
"You asshole,” he says, then throws his arms around Jackson’s neck and kisses him like he’s been wanting to since he did it the first time.
He pulls away just long enough to mumble “Why the hell didn’t you tell me?” He feels Jackson laugh against his lips before he breaks the kiss.
"It was red," Jackson says, like that explains everything, and tightens his hold on Stiles’ waist, pulling him impossibly closer.
Stiles grabs Jackson’s arm, lifting it so that they can both see the now black tally mark.
"Well, there. Problem solved," he says with a wink.
Jackson grins and kisses him again.