It all started in English class, when Jackson was doodling in his notebook and not actually paying attention. Not that he needed to; the teacher was just reading the list of students alphabetically, letting them pick partners for the next project. He already knew he'd be working with Lydia. No one else would pick him, because no one wanted to deal with Lydia's wrath.
The teacher sounded just as bored as Jackson felt by the time he called out, "Lahey."
Lahey said, "Scott." Which was basically the least surprising thing that had ever happened. Jackson glanced up from his doodle and over at their table, where he saw Lahey ducking his head, McCall's dopey smile, and Stilinski scowling. Which was basically what they'd looked like ever since Lahey had decided McCall was the second coming or whatever.
Jackson smirked to himself. Heh. Coming.
"Mahealani," the teacher continued.
Jackson glanced at Danny, who rolled his eyes a little, because whenever Jackson and Lydia were broken up, they worked together. But his relationship with Lydia had been... kind of really good since that whole thing where she'd brought him back from the dead. So Danny was on his own. But he was a popular guy, so it wasn't like anyone would mind if he picked them.
Case in point, Danny glanced around the room, shrugged, and said, "Stiles."
"What?" Stilinski turned to stare at him and actually almost fell out of his chair. Jackson snorted.
Danny shrugged again.
Stilinski caught his balance, grabbed his notebook, dropped it, ignored Lahey's laugh, and said, "Cool. That would be cool."
"Okay," the teacher said. "Danny and Stiles. Lydia Martin?"
Lydia's answer was to grab Jackson's collar and drag him in for a kiss. Stilinski made a gagging noise and the teacher rolled her eyes.
"Not in class, please, you two. Moving right along -- and really, if you two don't stop that now you'll have detention..."
Lydia let go of Jackson's collar and picked up her compact to fix her lipstick. Jackson bit down a grin and looked at his doodles. Then looked up over at Danny, staring. Because wait.
Out of everyone in class, Danny had picked Stilinski?
"Stilinski?" Jackson demanded.
Danny hooked the weights up into their cradle and sat up. He was benchpressing more than Jackson had been able to, before the change. It was pretty impressive. Not that Jackson noticed. Or cared. Or had the sudden insane urge to see how much he could lift now, just to make sure he was still the best.
"Is this about English class?" Danny looked at him like he was the crazy one. "What? He gets good grades."
"And this is about grades?"
"What else would it be about?" Danny asked, but he wasn't looking up at Jackson. He was staring over at the lockers, where Stilinski was bitching at McCall. Jackson was trying not to listen to them, because it was roughly the seven hundredth round of, 'You're ditching me for Isaac again? This is because I'm not a werewolf, isn't it?' and Jackson really, really didn't care.
But Danny was watching them. That was new. Hmm.
"You like him, don't you?"
Danny crossed his arms, which was definitely a tell, but didn't say anything.
Jackson raised his eyebrows, smirking. "Bro, you have the worst taste in --"
"I do not."
"Matt was a serial killer," Jackson reminded him. "And Trevor cheated on you."
"Those two things are not even remotely the same," Danny argued. "And I do not have a crush on..." He deflated. "I hate you."
Jackson laughed and sat down next to him. "So what's the big attraction?"
"He's a weirdo."
"He's a spaz."
"He's kind of cute!"
Jackson gave Danny his best are-you-shitting-me look, because seriously? Was Danny shitting him?
"He is," Danny insisted. "I mean, yeah, he's skinny. It's not his fault he's got a... a slender frame. But have you ever really looked at him? Under all that ugly flannel he's totally built."
Jackson snorted a little. He knew Danny wasn't wrong -- the whole werewolf pack thing meant he'd been spending way more time with Stilinski than he wanted to, so yeah, he'd caught on to the fact that Stilinski wasn't exactly a weakling.
"So what's the plan?" Jackson laughed. "Invite him over to work on your project? Read some love poems together over red wine and chocolates?"
"No! I'm not -- whatever. He's in love with your girlfriend, remember?" He shook his head. "And it sucks, because I'm, like, ninety-nine percent sure he's bi, okay, no one jokes about being into guys that much without there being some truth to it. But he's not... Ught. Just kill me now. I sound like an idiot."
"Yep, you do." Jackson nudged him to stand up. "Now get up, it's my turn with the weights."
"I've missed these little chats, Jackson." Danny stood up. "Good to know I can pour my heart out to you and all you'll want to do is make sure I'm still here to spot you. Remind me why you're my best friend again?"
Jackson smirked at him. "You love me."
"Yeah, yeah. Are you going to lift some weights or turn this into a Hallmark moment?"
Jackson reached for the bar.
Jackson actually had exactly zero interest in being one of Derek's mouseketeers and the idea of group training made him want to shoot himself in the head. But Derek hadn't given him a choice in the matter, and on the plus side, the more they trained, the more obvious it was that Jackson was faster and stronger and overall better than the others. Which was satisfying enough that he didn't mind putting up with the whole thing as much as he might have otherwise.
"You sure you don't want to come?" he asked Lydia as he unlocked the truck. (Derek always insisted they meet way out in the middle of the preserve, and his Porsche deserved better than those shitty dirt roads, so yeah, he took the pickup truck instead.)
"Positive," Lydia chirped in his ear, using her stop-asking-me-or-no-sex-tonight voice, recognizable even through the phone.
"Okay. Your loss," he said. "Don't pretend you don't want to watch us all run around half-naked and sweaty."
"I can get you sweaty and half-naked -- or all naked -- whenever I want," she reminded him. He smirked a little, but then, smirking was basically his neutral expression. "And as for the rest, let's see. Derek's not bad but I'm bored of his one facial expression. Lahey's too tall and gangly, Boyd's spoken for, and McCall? Please. No. And as for Erica... well, we can talk about that with her and Boyd someday if you're ever a very good boy for me."
"I can be good," Jackson said immediately.
"We'll see." She laughed, a bright note that made him smile, not that he'd admit that under pain of torture. "Did I miss anyone?"
"Just Peter and Stilinski."
She didn't say anything for a minute, and he realized the real reason she turned down all the invitations to join the group, even when other non-pack members were there. Peter Hale. After everything he'd done to her...
Jackson seethed. "I wouldn't let him talk to you. I wouldn't let him look at you. I'd rip his throat out."
"Oh, don't be so dramatic," she said, but he could hear the relief in her voice. "Anyway, forget about him. Do you know how annoying Stilinski is? With the puppy dog eyes at me, the crush, the... everything? I wish he'd fall for someone else already."
"I'll see if I can find any excuse to, I don't know, throw him into a tree or something," Jackson promised.
"Don't bother. He's not even worth it," Lydia said.
"Yeah, well, if he bugs you, say the word."
Lydia made an amused noise. "I love it when you get all jealous and riled up, Jackson."
Jackson absolutely didn't beam with pride at the idea of protecting Lydia or anything. Just said, "I've gotta get going," and took off for the preserve.
Training went well. Actually, it always went well for Jackson, because he was the only one of the betas who didn't have to overcome years of awkwardness after getting the bite. Jackson was the best now because he was before. He had been honing his body for years, training it for lacrosse, and that sort of muscle memory came in handy now that he had superpowers, too. And his focus came in handy even for the things that didn't come as naturally to him, like tracking and hunting.
Derek never told any of them they were doing a good job, but he at least gave Jackson satisfied nods. Not that Jackson cared what Derek thought. It was just good to have some outside confirmation that he was better than everyone.
Generally, he made his way from their training back to the preserve parking lot alone, while everyone else hung out and gossiped or whatever. Jackson had kind of accepted the idea that these people were his pack, but they still weren't exactly his friends, and he usually had plans with Lydia to get to. But tonight, as soon as Derek rolled his eyes and dismissed them, Stilinski -- who showed up every time even though he didn't run drills with them -- slammed his tome on North American folklore shut and started off wordlessly, quickly. Like, power walking. It was pretty ridiculous, but he was actually keeping up with Jackson's strides. Or at least he was, until Jackson quickened his pace a little bit. Not that he cared if Stilinski could keep up with him or anything.
"Hey, wait!" McCall called behind them. "Stiles, hang on!"
"I told you, I'm in a hurry," Stilinski answered, not slowing down. Jackson concentrated on the sound of his footsteps crunching in the dirt to keep track, like he'd learned to in training a few weeks ago.
"Were you going to wait to give me a ride home?"
"Oh hey, good to know you still need me around for something," Stilinski muttered. "Let's hope Isaac never gets a car."
"Huh?" McCall said, and Jackson actually glanced back. Just for a split second. McCall looked like a kicked puppy, all pleading sadness and confusion, and Stilinski looked furious, but it faded to just mildly irritated.
"Nothing. Forget it. Yeah, you can have a ride. Jesus, I need to find some actual human friends."
Jackson sped up again, easily outpacing them, since Stiles could only move as fast as, well, a human. He was pulling out of the dirt lot before they reached it, and he didn't bother glancing back.
And he absolutely didn't think about how Stilinski wanting human friends was pretty convenient, since Danny liked him at all.
Jackson had been called a selfish dickhead plenty of times in his life -- usually not when people knew he could hear, but still -- that by this point, he just kind of owned it. It made life easier. No one was ever going to come to him with their problems, or expect him to care about their lives or whatever. And sure, he did stuff like buy birthday presents for the very limited list of people he gave a shit about -- Lydia, Danny, his parents (most of the time) -- but he didn't ever go out of his way to perform random acts of kindness.
So that wasn't what this was. This was... convenient.
Officially, lacrosse was over for the year; unofficially, anyone who cared about making the team next year was still showing up for practices two afternoons a week. After practice one day he saw Stilinski dragging equipment towards the lacrosse shed, and it took less than four seconds of effort to make a bitchy face at Danny and tell him to start putting shit away for the afternoon. Danny rolled his eyes but didn't bother arguing, because Jackson always pulled his weight when it came to lacrosse.
When Danny stepped into the shed, well, it didn't really take any more effort to sprint across the field and pull the door shut after him, then to slot a lacrosse stick through the handle so the door wouldn't open. Lydia had forced him to watch enough romantic comedies that he knew what happened when two people who were interested in each other were locked in an enclosed space. He smirked to himself: good deed for the year done, Danny would get laid and stop staring at Stilinski wistfully, and Jackson could go back to not caring at all.
The door rattled behind him and he heard Danny say, "It's...stuck."
"Stuck? What? How does a door on this rickety old shed get stuck?" More rattling, then, "I guess it is."
"Don't worry about it," Danny said. "Jackson's still cleaning up out there, he'll be over here in a minute or two."
"Yeah, but... seriously, this door doesn't even lock, how is it stuck?"
Jackson wandered away, figuring they'd want privacy for when they got over being startled at how they were stuck and started sucking face.
Jackson's phone rang when he was halfway through a chemistry problem. He put it on speaker, and without preamble, Danny demanded, "What the hell?"
Jackson set the phone on his desk and went back to work. "What the hell what?"
"You send me to clean up, but don't even notice when I don't come back? I was stuck in the lacrosse shed with Stiles for an hour and a half, until McCall came looking for him!"
"So?" Jackson punched some numbers into his calculator. "I thought you liked Stilinski."
"I -- wait. What? Did you -- hang on. Did you lock us in there? Because I like him?"
Jackson had worked way too hard to build up his asshole reputation to let Danny ruin it with sappiness, so he answered, "What? No. Does that sound like the sort of thing I'd do?"
"No," Danny said, and Jackson could hear the sulk over the phone. "But seriously, you'd think you'd notice when your supposed best friend disappears."
"I figured you were getting busy and didn't want to walk in on that," Jackson said. "I mean, Jesus, your car was right next to mine, it's not like you needed a ride home or something. Why didn't you just pin him up against a wall to pass the time?"
"I don't even know if he likes me!"
"Why wouldn't he like you?" Jackson asked, which he thought was a reasonable question. After all, Danny was hot, popular, smart, athletic, and funny -- basically the most date-worthy guy in their grade. After Jackson himself, of course. It was just that most of their grade was also straight, so no one really took advantage of how awesome Danny was. Their loss, really.
"Um. I'm not even sure he's into guys --"
"You were pretty sure of that when you confessed this whole pathetic crush thing in the first place," Jackson pointed out. "And come on. You're the second-most popular guy in our grade. He's a total loser. Of course he wants you."
"I don't know what crappy high school movie you live in, but I'm pretty sure real life doesn't work like that. And anyway, even if that was true, doesn't the popular guy always turn out to be a total asshole?"
"Nah, that would be redundant, I'm already the popular asshole."
Danny laughed. "Well, thanks for the support, I guess. Even if you're a dick for not realizing I was locked in a shed."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever. See you tomorrow." He ended the call, then looked down at his homework. Then frowned.
It was Stilinski's loss if he hadn't taken advantage of the opportunity to jump Danny's bones, and Danny was being an idiot if he didn't think Stilinski wanted to. And Jackson didn't do nice things very often, so seriously, what was wrong with the two of them that they hadn't taken advantage of it?
Not that he cared. Not that their missed opportunity was going to bother him at all. Not that he was going to do anything else about it.
"God damn it," he muttered.
Well, there was one aspect of the whole thing Jackson could handle with no problem, and that was making sure that Stilinski knew how goddamn lucky he was that Danny was interested in him. It would be easy, since he was forced to spend so much time with Stilinski anyway, thanks to the fact that Stilinski always showed up to Derek's training sessions, no matter how huffy he was with Scott these days.
So when the next one finished, Jackson didn't hurry off the way he usually did. Instead he sat on the grass, tried not to think about getting grass stains on his $300 jeans, and listened to the incredibly inane conversation around him. He dug out his phone and sat there, flipping through photos, until he found an opening he could pounce on. Which came when Erica whined something about, "I can't wait for school to be over. I need summer vacation. Need it."
"Yeah," Jackson agreed, and ignored the way everyone stared at him. As if it was a big deal for him to deign to talk to them. Which, wait, it was. He yawned, a purposeful pause, then added, "Me and Danny spent awhile at his grandma's last summer. In Hawaii. Pretty fucking sweet." And he very, very casually tossed his phone over towards Erica to show off the pictures.
He pretended not to pay attention as it got passed around, but he knew what people were looking at: a series of photos of him and Danny on the beach, making faces at the camera, goofing around. And, okay, a few pictures of Danny swimming and lying around on the beach. Jackson had snapped them just because... not because he was sentimental or wanted to capture good times or anything, but just... because. He'd had his phone in his hand so why the hell not? The point was, Danny looked gorgeous in them. Tall and broad-shouldered and wearing speedos which hid none of his pretty amazing body, and of course he was also dripping wet and glistening in the sun, and yeah, if Jackson was gay, he'd have been all over that. But he wasn't.
Unlike Stiles, who was staring at his phone with his mouth hanging slightly open. Which was perfect. Jackson stalked towards him and snatched it back, glanced down to make sure it was a picture of Danny he was gaping at, and snapped, "What the hell, are you perving on my best friend?"
Stilinski swallowed hard, which meant he totally had been (which was the point, Jackson reminded himself), but what he answered was, "No --" his heartbeat was racing, so yeah, total lie -- "but whoever took the borderline-pornographic pictures on your phone sure was. I'm guessing that was you."
"Whatever. I'm out of here, freaks." Jackson decided not to dignify that with a real response -- he hadn't been perving on Danny, just because he could recognize a decent photo opportunity when he saw one -- and with that he stalked off, his usual scowl in place. It wasn't until he was well on his way towards the parking lot that he let it creep up into a smirk. If Stilinski hadn't been into Danny before, he sure as hell was now. Danny was going to owe him forever.
It was just barely within the realm of conceivability that Jackson spent part of his morning study hall the next day staring at the back of Stilinski's head, while Stilinski was trying to finish his homework. Jackson didn't do anything as pedestrian as homework in study hall; instead he'd just been noodling around on one of the library's pathetic computers. Danny complained about them all the time. They were too slow and choked with viruses and pointless security programs. Which he'd shown Jackson how to get around just on general principal, because that was how Danny rolled.
It all swam around in his head for a little bit. Stilinski, right there, trying to balance his pen on one finger when he should be doing homework. Danny and computer filters. And fuck it. Jackson wasn't doing anything with his time anyway. He pulled up gmail, hit the button to create a new account, and started typing.
Jackson smirked as he saw Stilinski walk into class, staring around, peering at every person in the room in turn.
"Dude," Scott said. "You have got to calm down."
"I can't! You saw the email. It's -- someone's -- can you sniff it out? Tell if someone is into me?"
"I don't think so."
They settled into their usual seats and Jackson glanced over at them with his peripheral vision. And, just for kicks, he elbowed Danny when Stilinski's gaze turned in their direction. "Someone is staring at you," he sing-songed.
Danny snuck a glance over, then stared down at his notebook immediately. "What? Why's he looking at me like that? Is there something on my face?"
"Just your usual features," Jackson assured him. "Which are pretty... meh." He wriggled his hand in a kinda-sorta gesture.
Danny kicked him under the table, and Stilinski's gaze moved on.
Jackson checked his fake email account that night and smirked when he saw the inbox. One new message, a reply.
His initial email had been short and to the point:
This is gonna be weird but I didn't know how to say it to you in person. I have a kind of a crush on you. We're not really friends and I think my friends would laugh if they knew, because my friends are kind of jerks. But anyway. I just wanted to say something somewhere no one would know. Let me know if you're interested.
Your Secret Admirer
He wasn't sure exactly how he thought Stiles would respond, except that the spaz was probably so desperate he'd go for anyone at all. But the reply read:
Dear Secret Admirer,
Well I can't say I'm not intrigued but it's kinda hard to say if I'm interested when I don't know who you are or anything about you, except you apparently have great taste in men and questionable taste in friends. Soooooo you should tell me something about yourself. (I get if you don't want to tell me who you are, but you've got to give me something, here.)
He made a scoffing noise at his computer, because come on. Someone nice and nerdy enough to send an anonymous email, but who was mostly friends with jerks? How was it not totally obvious was sending the email? Or... well, who Stiles was supposed to think was wearing the email, anyway.
Scowling a little, he typed,
Well I'm not really a secret admirer if I give it all away. So let's see. I've got (he paused to think through Danny's schedule) four classes with you and I laugh at all of your comments under my breath while everyone else rolls their eyes. (I mentioned the jerks, right? You can see why I'd be a little gunshy about just telling you who I am. They will never ever let me hear the end of it and if you don't like me back it'll be even worse, so I guess emailing you like this is totally selfish but I had to do something.)
Your Secret Admirer
It was only a few minutes later that he got an email back:
I'm glad you think I'm funny. As for me, I have a hunch. We'll see how it plays out tomorrow.
Well, good. He knew Stilinski wasn't stupid, so his hunch was probably Danny just like it was supposed to be, and when he swooned at Danny and said something stupid tomorrow, and Danny smiled at him, everything would be great.
"What are you so pleased about?" Lydia asked, as Jackson watched Stilinski staring over at Danny during homeroom.
"Nothing. I'm not happy about anything." He gave her a shit eating grin. "Except sitting with you, babe."
She rolled her eyes, but he knew it was just a cover for how she wanted to smile, and his smug look kind of accidentally melted into a real smile, too. But it was okay, because she reached for his hand under the table.
But he was right back to smirking when the bell rang and Stiles stumbled over towards Danny and said, "Hey, um, Danny? Can I ask you about something?"
Weirdly, Danny did not spend the rest of the day with the stupid grin he usually got when he was around a guy he liked. In fact, he spent it scowling, and when Jackson sat down next to him for history, since the teacher didn't care where they sat, Danny grabbed his notebook and stalked to another desk.
Which was... weird. But Jackson swallowed the stone that was trying to grow in his throat, because whatever. He didn't care when people were pissed at him. Not even Danny.
Jackson froze, the door of his Porsche open, but he didn't climb in. Just dropped his bag onto the shotgun seat and turned around to see Danny, standing there with his arms crossed. "So you're talking to me now?" he asked, trying for casual-to-snarky.
"Just for a minute." Danny uncrossed his arms, but his glare didn't let up. "What the hell do you think you're doing with Stiles?"
"Don't play dumb. I know you're not. And I'm sure as hell not. So what was the plan? I tell you I like him, and then...?"
"What are you talking about?" Jackson said, trying to keep himself under control, not let his heartbeat spike. He concentrated on Danny's heart instead, even though it was beating too hard. Danny was furious.
"Stiles. He's been getting these emails. Anonymous ones. He asked me if I could trace them, because they sounded pretty nice, but he had this weird feeling someone was out to get him. Setting him up for a pretty nasty prank."
"Sounds like he's paranoid."
"The first one was sent from a school computer and you were the user logged on. The second one was sent from your house, okay, I checked the IP against an email you sent me three days ago. This is me, Jackson, computers are my thing. So don't stand there and lie to me. What the hell were you thinking?"
Jackson tried to swallow but his throat had gone dry. Danny just stood there waiting and finally Jackson looked away. "Yeah. It was a prank."
Danny narrowed his eyes. "Because I like him."
"Yeah." Jackson reached for the door of his car, not quite turning around yet, pinned under Danny's gaze. Because he knew what was coming -- Danny was finally sick of his shit, like he should have been years ago, and this was the last straw. It didn't matter that it wasn't real. It wasn't like Danny would believe Jackson if he explained what was really happening. Jackson didn't do nice things, and everyone knew that. Especially Danny.
"You're such an asshole," Danny said. "Is this, like... a jealousy thing? Because dude, you have a girlfriend, and I'm not interested --"
"You wish," Jackson snorted.
"Is it a friendship jealously thing?" Danny's voice calmed down a little. "You always hate the guys I like."
"You only like total creeps. Guys who aren't good enough for you," Jackson mumbled.
"Stiles isn't -- he -- and whatever, even if he was, I still like him. You just have to deal with that. Okay?"
And there it was. The note of exasperated forgiveness in his voice, the one that always came through. Because Danny got pissed, but he never left. He always put up with Jackson, always gave him another chance, an out.
"Okay," Jackson said, then, inspiration hitting him, "Seriously. I'm -- you know."
"Sorry?" Danny suggested tartly. Because sorry was not a word in Jackson's vocabulary.
"Yeah, that. Look, uh, let me make it up to you. Let me take you out tomorrow. My treat."
"I'm really not interested in you like that, Jackson."
"Oh my god, Danny, as friends. I'm trying to do something, you know..."
"Nice?" Danny filled in.
Jackson scowled. "Yeah. That. And you know how much that physically hurts me."
Danny considered it for a second, then shrugged. "Yeah. Fine. Just -- promise me you won't mess with him anymore, okay? I told him I couldn't trace the email, so just leave it alone."
"I will," Jackson said. "Cross my heart."
"Okay. And I'm still pissed."
"Okay." Danny sighed. "Okay. Whatever. See you tomorrow."
"Yeah." Jackson finally got into his Porsche and waved goodbye, because the half-formed idea he had in mind was going to require some serious planning.
"Are you working tomorrow?" Jackson asked.
The hostess at Maison Bleue blinked at him a few times. "I...yes? What?"
"I need a reservation for tomorrow," Jackson explained. He'd picked the restaurant pretty carefully. It was one of Beacon Hills' fanciest spots, the sort of place where the menu was priced outrageously, the lighting was low, and a guy was guaranteed to score if he brought a date there. Seriously, Jackson was pretty much teeing this up for Danny -- if he didn't manage to score off it, then there was no helping him at all.
"We're all booked," the hostess said.
Jackson raised his eyebrows, dug out his wallet, and dropped two crisp fifties on the hostess stand. "Actually, I need two reservations, and some special considerations. I'm not asking for much, here. Just for you to get some names put in the system and to make one little phonecall for me."
She hesitated, glancing at the dim computer monitor where reservations and schedules were kept, then back at him. "What sort of considerations? What kind of phone call?"
He dug out another fifty. Danny had better appreciate this. "Two tables, next to each other. One in my name, one under Stilinski. Who I need you to call. And I need you to play along a little when he comes in."
She reached for the bill but he pulled it away. "After you make the call," he continued. "And another fifty tomorrow after he gets seated, okay?"
"I guess," she said. "This is weird, but..."
But she probably didn't make much money, never mind how much an entrée here cost. She turned to the computer again and hit a few buttons. "What's your name? And what time?"
"Whittemore. Jackson. Let's make it 7:30. And here," he held out his phone, Stiles's contact info on the screen, "is the guy you're calling. And here's what you're going to say..."
Jackson plopped down in his usual homeroom seat and glanced over at Danny. "Maison Bleue tonight, 7:30. Don't keep me waiting."
Danny glanced over at Lydia, who was on Jackson's other side. "Does it bother you that your boyfriend is taking me out where he always takes you when he wants to make sure he gets laid?"
Lydia gestured it away. "If I got jealous every time Jackson hit on you, we probably wouldn't still be friends."
"I do not hit on Danny," Jackson said.
"Oh, sweetie." Lydia gave his arm a condescending pat. "Yes, you do, but it's okay. I know Danny doesn't feel that way about you."
"I have much better taste than that," Danny said, smirking.
"Stilinski," Jackson accused.
Danny shrugged. "Whatever, dude. I like him. Live with it."
Jackson made a noise of disgust and tried not to celebrate outwardly. Because after tonight, Danny was going to love him. Jackson, that was, not Stilinski.
Not that Jackson wanted Danny to love him like that.
"I dunno, man, it seems too good to be true, but I'm not looking a gift horse in the mouth," Stilinski was saying to Scott.
"What happened?" Scott asked, snapping his attention away from whatever Isaac was doing across the room.
"I just said. You remember that charity day work we had to do last week? I guess they gathered all our names and did a drawing, because I totally won a free dinner tonight at Maison Bleue. Have you ever been there? It's awesome."
Jackson smirked to himself.
"I was thinking about saving up and taking Allison there sometime," Scott said wistfully. "It's really just dinner for one?"
"Yeah, I guess they figure I'll bring someone and split the cost of the other meal or something..."
"Are you bringing someone?" Scott asked hopefully, and Jackson froze, scrambling to think of some way he could break in and keep Scott from going.
"Nah. I thought about my dad, but he's not allowed to eat any of the foods they serve there."
"You have that thing with Isaac," Stilinski said, and Jackson let out a breath of relief. "Remember?"
"Oh," Scott said, disappointed. "Yeah. Well. Enjoy your fancy meal, I guess. All alone."
And Jackson was right back to smirking. Stilinski wouldn't be alone for long. This was going to be perfect.
Jackson actually got to the restaurant early to make sure things were set up. The hostess called over the waiter who would have Danny and Stiles in his section, and Jackson bribed him, too. And then he forked over his credit card because he was paying for this whole thing, which was ridiculous. But whatever. It wasn't like he didn't have the money.
Then, at 7:20, he headed outside to hide. The place was fancy, with a big garden around the building and a porch for outdoor seating. That was where Danny and Stiles's tables would be, so this part was easy. Jackson jumped over the side and sat in the shadows of the garden. He would definitely be able to hear their conversation -- thank you, super powers -- and if he squinted, maybe even see them.
Danny arrived exactly on time, just like Jackson knew he would. He gave his name and Jackson's bribed hostess led him back to the porch seat. Where he sat awkwardly, occasionally sipping his water, and checked the time on his phone. He dialed once and Jackson scrambled to silence his own phone, but he could hear Danny as he left voicemail: "You're such a tool. Where the hell are you?"
For a moment, he had that horrible, twisted, sinking feeling -- Danny would finally walk away, this would be the last straw, game over if this didn't work out...
And then Stilinski came bopping in with the hostess, who gestured to the seat at the table right next to Danny's. "Okay," she was saying, sounding annoyed. How the hell had Stilinski managed to annoy her between the door and the table? "Enjoy your meal. Order whatever."
"Thanks!" he yelled after her, then, "Holy crap, Danny! What are you doing here?"
"I think I'm being stood up," Danny said, his voice dryly amused.
"What, seriously? You're basically perfect, who would stand you up?"
Jackson snuck a glance. Stilinksi was leaning way over, practically at Danny's table already. He could see Stilinski's expression, but not Danny's, which was a shame, because Danny sounded a little taken aback when he said, "Um, wow. Thanks. And, uh, Jackson."
Stilinski almost fell out of his seat. "I know people joke about you guys, but I thought he and Lydia --"
"It's not a date." Jackson could hear the way Danny was rolling his eyes. "He's been a jerk this week so he was going to make it up to me. But, surprise surprise, he didn't show."
"I don't get why you're even friends with him," Stilinski said, and Jackson scowled in their general direction, still hidden in the bushes. "You have a million friends and half the lacrosse team would shank the other half of the lacrosse team to be your best friend. But you pick Jackson. I don't get it."
Danny laughed, self-conscious, the way he always got when someone pointed out how great he was. Jackson had heard him do it a billion times, because unlike Jackson, Danny still hadn't decided to own his awesomeness. Someday he would, and the two of them would probably actually take over the world. Especially now that Jackson had superpowers. It was gonna be great.
"You don't know Jackson like I do," Danny said. "He's not the asshole he pretends to be, okay? Trust me."
Jackson's heart absolutely did not skip a beat and he in no way beamed at the fact that Danny was defending him. Even if Danny was wrong. Jackson wasn't pretending anything; he was an asshole.
Just... not to Danny. Or Lydia, anymore. The people who mattered.
"If you say so." Stilinski still sounded skeptical.
"I do." Danny cleared his throat. "So... are you here with anyone? Hot date?"
"Yeah, I was supposed to be eating with this supermodel, but she stood me up. Looks like we're in the same boat."
"A supermodel, huh?" Danny moved a little. Jackson could just see his arm flickering out, between the tables, to catch Stlinski's hand. "Better move over here, then, so no one thinks we're both losers who got ditched by our dates."
"Yeah, they'll just think we're dating each other."
Ding ding ding, give the boys both a prize. Danny got one for being smooth enough to invite Stiles over to his table, and Stilinski got one for realizing the two of them were on a goddamn date. Took them long enough, jeez.
"I wouldn't mind that, you know," Danny said. "If people thought that."
"I wouldn't, either, but no one would really believe it anyway. You're like... one level down from the supermodel. Who I didn't make up. I swear," Stilinski said as he shuffled over to Danny's table.
"Let me guess, you met her at summer camp?" Danny suggested.
"Yeah, she lives in Canada. You wouldn't know her."
They both laughed and Jackson rolled his eyes. They were on a date, mission accomplished, now he just needed to find a way to make his escape before they started sucking face, because he seriously did not need to overhear that.
"I met a supermodel once," Danny said, then added guiltily, "Well, a... regular model. Lydia's cousin's friend. She was pretty hot, if you're into chicks, which..." He snorted. "Jackson was into her, though. It was Lydia's birthday party, like... two years ago. Jackson kept trying to flirt with her all night, even though she was nineteen and he was fourteen, and it did not go well."
Stilinski laughed, and Jackson glowered at both of them. Danny had sworn never to bring that night up again, ever. Traitor.
"Must have been funny, seeing Jackson get shot down."
"Nah. I mean, maybe for awhile, but it turned into a real nightmare. Jackson didn't need to be any more insecure, and Lydia was pissed --"
"Whoa, Jackson? Insecure?"
Jackson hated the idea of ever agreeing with Stilinski, but seriously. Him? Insecure? He was amazing, end of story. He had nothing to be insecure about.
"Yeah," Danny said. "Why do you think he's such a dick all the time?"
There was a long silence. Jackson snorted quietly. He was a dick all the time because it was funny, and it kept people off his back and out of his business. Apparently, Stilinski didn't get Danny's leap of logic, either, because Danny sighed.
"I -- look. Jackson's issues are none of my business, or yours, or anyone else's. But seriously. Imagine you're five, this intense kid who always cries when he loses at tag and freaks out when he can't color inside the lines perfectly, and one day your parents tell you they aren't really your parents."
He could hear Stilinski's sharp intake of breath, and god damn it, Danny, he did not need some spazzy kid's pity. And that was what was coming, he knew it, and it made him want to retch. He hated pity.
Which was another good reason to be a dick, come to think of it.
Not that there was any reason to pity Jackson. He was hot and rich and had freaking super powers. His life was awesome.
"I don't think they meant to screw him up worse," Danny said. "I think they were just trying to be honest, tell him the truth, reassure him that they loved him no matter what. But... I guess it didn't work. And he hides behind his asshole front, but... there's a lot more to Jackson than he lets people see."
Jackson swallowed. That wasn't true. There wasn't anything more to him. And that crying over not being able to color in the lines thing had only happened once. Yeah, okay, so it was how he'd met Danny -- Danny, who had said he liked Jackson's picture, even thought Jackson had messed it up -- but still. He couldn't believe Danny thought all that stuff about him. It was ridiculous.
"Not that you've thought about this, or anything," Stilinski said, shaking his head slowly. "You should be a shrink when you grow up."
"I've thought about it," Danny said, ducking his head. "But I like programming better."
"Is there anything you're bad at?"
"Jackson could probably give you a list," Danny said.
Jackson frowned. Danny was joking, but he didn't keep lists like that. Not about Danny, anyway. McCall and Hale and the rest of the pack, sure, but not Danny. Danny was his best friend.
"That guy..." Stilinski sighed. "I dunno. Maybe he has his reasons to be a jerk, but he's still a jerk. Did you know he's never even told his parents that he loves them? I guess he's never said it to anyone. Ever."
Jackson scoffed a little, kicking at the garden dirt. Stilinski was blowing that way out of proportion. Just because he had to blab ‘I love you,' to his dad and his best friend and everyone he'd ever met, all the time, didn't make it a big deal that Jackson didn't. Seriously.
"Yeah, I've heard that," Danny said dismissively. "Anyone who thinks Jackson doesn't says ‘I love you' just doesn't listen hard enough."
"What?" Stilinski asked.
And he had a point, because: what?
"Jackson says he loves me all the time -- me, his parents, Lydia, anyone who matters to him. He just... doesn't use words."
"Umm. Gonna need you to elaborate on that one."
"It's like -- oh, root beer, please?" The waiter had finally come to take their orders. Stilinski got a soda, and Danny continued: "Actually, that's perfect. Root beer."
"I love root beer," Danny said. "It's my favorite. Jackson thinks -- this is a direct quote -- it tastes like carbonated battery acid. And he doesn't drink soda anyway, his body is a temple and all that." Danny was gesturing a little as he spoke. "His parents don't drink soda, either; his mom diets and his dad doesn't like the bubbles, they make him burp. So. No Whittemores drink root beer. You're with me?"
"Then explain to me," Danny said, "why it is that every single time Jackson invites me over to hang out, there's a six-pack of the stuff chilling in his fridge."
Stiles blinked. Jackson could just make that out from his distance, and he could see Danny from the back as Danny shrugged.
"I'm just sayin'," Danny said. "But let's change the subject already, because if we only talk about Jackson on our first date, he'll never let me live it down, ever."
And Jackson smirked as Stilinski's eyes bugged out and he repeated: "First date?" Danny must have given him a look, maybe raised eyebrows or something, because Stilinski grinned. "I like the sound of that. You're better than a Canadian supermodel any day, Danny boy."
Danny laughed, and Stilinski laughed, and Jackson shifted, eyeing an escape route. Because that was the laughter of two idiots who liked each other, and the face sucking wouldn't be far behind.
Jackson was getting out of the shower after his morning run when he heard Danny's car pull up. It was kind of amazing that he could recognize things like that -- tell the difference between Danny's car and one of his parents' or Lydia's, before Danny got out and started walking with his familiar gait. He pulled on a pair of boxers and was still toweling his hair dry when Danny rang the bell. Since it was just Danny, he didn't bother getting dressed or anything.
Besides, why not give Danny something nice to look at while he was hanging out? Jackson smirked at his reflection in the mirror, realized his damp, ungelled hair looked kind of like sex hair, and smirked wider. Then he walked down to answer the door.
Danny raised his eyebrows. "Still not my type."
Jackson snorted. "Keep telling yourself that, man." But he stood aside so Danny could come in, and they wandered towards the kitchen.
"So," Danny said eventually. "You never showed last night."
"What? Oh, yeah. Decided I wanted to get laid instead. Went over to Lydia's, got distracted. You know how that goes, right?"
"Uh huh. Funny thing, though." Danny leaned on the kitchen table, looking a little bit sleepy and bored. "I'm pretty sure I saw your car in the restaurant's lot."
Jackson cursed inwardly, because shit, of course Danny noticed things like that. But all he said was, "Musta been someone else's."
"Your Porsche is pretty distinctive."
"Lots of people drive Porsches." Which wasn't actually true at all. If it was true, Jackson wouldn't drive one. Being elite was way better than being part of the masses.
"Jackson, you have vanity plates."
Jackson cleared his throat. "Whatever. You must have imagined it."
"Okaaaay. Then explain to me why, not ten minutes after I got there, Stiles was seated right next to me." Danny raised his eyebrows.
"Good luck? I dunno, I wouldn't think Stilinski could even afford that place. I'm gonna have to stop going there now."
Danny reached for one of Jackson's mom's fancy napkins, balled it up, and tossed it at Jackson. Who caught it and tossed it back. "You have to be nice to him now," Danny said. "We're officially dating."
"Ught. You have the shittiest taste in guys."
"See, you say that, but I'm not sure I believe you really think that." Danny slid off the stool and began looking through the cabinets where they kept cereal. He was over often enough to know where to find things, and to help himself without feeling self conscious about it. Jackson refused to let himself smile at that thought. "I mean, seriously, Jackson, you're kind of obvious. Stiles coincidentally gets a prize meal at the same exact time and place where you arranged for me to be, but where you yourself were conspicuously absent?"
"Weirder things have happened."
Jackson shrugged. Werewolves existing, for one, but he wasn't going to tell Danny about that.
"So how long had this been going on?" Danny pressed, opening the fridge. "Those prank emails -- not really a prank?"
"Definitely a prank. Duh."
"Uh huh. And when we were stuck in the lacrosse shed..."
Jackson just stared at him blankly. Danny rolled his eyes.
"I'm just saying. It seems like a lot of strange coincidences. You had nothing to do with any of them?"
"Seriously, Danny, me setting you up, repeatedly, with a guy I don't even like? All mysterious and pulling puppet strings and whatever? Kinda far fetched. You're picking up Stilinski's paranoia already. You two dating is gonna suck."
"Interesting word choice." Danny smirked.
"And there's a mental image I never needed." Jackson scowled at him.
Danny pulled a root beer from the fridge and leaned back against the kitchen counter. "Well, get used to it, because Stiles is... I really like him. And he likes me. And if someone had helped us get together, I'd say thanks, but I guess that never happened and I'm just a conspiracy theorist nutjob."
"Like the freaks who believe the moon landing was fake," Jackson agreed.
"Hmph. I just..." He squinted at Jackson, like he was trying to decide something, and then sighed. "So you had nothing to do with it? Nothing at all?"
"Nothing," Jackson said.
"Okay, then. Never mind." Danny popped the tab on his soda and took a long swig, then gave Jackson a sly, sideways glance, and added, "Thanks for nothing."