Jackson stares down into the dregs of his tea, transparent in the bottom of his cup. The spices are sharp on his tongue, left raw without sugar or milk to sweeten them. He hears Derek and Drew upstairs and forces himself not to sigh.
"Dad," Drew says hesitantly, Derek pauses in the doorway. "Will you…will you tell him I'm sorry?" Derek doesn't respond immediately and Jackson's eyes flick closed. He lets the mug fall to the table, hands meeting before catching his face.
"I'll tell him," Derek answers. Jackson knows he has a very limited amount of time to pull himself together. But it isn't like Derek doesn't already know anyways. The chair scrapes back as he forces himself to stand. He rinses his mug out before setting it down. His hands fall to the edge of the countertop and he stays like that, even as Derek returns. "He's already so…aware," Derek murmurs. Jackson nods. He has to agree with that. They'd had the pup for two years. It was still too early for him to start school but they'd taken him to the zoo with the intent of teaching him a few things outside the house.
Everything was fine. Everything had been fine. But neither Jackson nor Derek knew how Drew was going to react to the Timber Wolves. They were trying to be glad he hadn't automatically phased just seeing them. A boy who appeared five, he was small for his age, suddenly being a tiny wolf would be hard to explain. But they could have wrapped him up in a blanket quickly. They could have gotten him out. They weren't ready for the way he simply stared, somber eyes taking in the animals that he shared a bond with. He was quiet the rest of the day and it wasn't until the drive home that Drew mentioned that he missed his family. Derek and Jackson had shared a wince. Then the questions started. Derek and Drew had already talked a lot about his family. Derek was a fantastic place for Drew to fall. But Drew already knew about Derek's family. Today he wanted to know about Jackson's.
Drew didn't know what adoption was. He knew that Jackson and Derek were not related to him by blood. He understood that they had taken him in. When Jackson said,
"Oh I never knew my family, I was adopted," as he'd said for years, as he'd finally gotten used to glossing over, Drew simply frowned.
"Adopted?" he questioned, "What does that mean Daddy?"
"Like you," Jackson had explained gently. "People who weren't actually my family took me in and became my family."
"Did your parents die too?" Drew asked, frowning again. It was clear the boy thought this should have been mentioned before now.
"Maybe," Jackson exhaled, turning to offer him a smile.
"Well…I don't really know Drew."
Jackson should have known that wasn't the end of it. Children and their curious minds didn't realize when they were poking at the chink in your armor.
"Why not?" he questioned softly. Jackson sucked in oxygen, heart clenching when Derek took his hand. He looked back out the windshield.
"They gave me up when I was a baby." He winced at the wording even as he said it. Gave me up. Like they had simply changed their minds. We'll skip desert after all, thank you.
"Gave you up?" Drew echoed, poking the sore spot yet again, "What do you mean?"
"They decided they didn't want me." Jackson held onto Derek's hand for all he was worth.
"Let's talk about this later okay Drew?" Derek cut in, voice tight. Jackson's eyes closed again and he sighed.
"I don't get it," Drew said. Jackson could picture his lip poking out stubbornly but didn't turn to check.
"You okay?" Derek asks, crossing the floor slowly, as if Jackson was going to make a run for it. Jackson forces himself to turn and meet his eyes. He can't keep running from the ghosts of his past. He won't.
"I know." Silence falls and then Derek sighs. "It's not his fault," Jackson adds.
"Not yours either." On this, Jackson chooses not to comment. "You know that," Derek murmurs, reaching for him.
"I said I'm fine."
"Okay," Derek agrees easily, holding him anyways. He kisses his forehead before guiding Jackson's head onto his shoulder.
"You think he'll have a nightmare tonight?" Jackson whispers, half eager to change the subject and half worried over their pup.
"He didn't ask to sleep with us," Derek murmurs in response.
"But he did ask for tea." The chamomile tea started out soothing the toddler after nightmares but is becoming tradition for Jackson and Drew, one that Derek observes with a silent smile.
"If he does we'll be here when he wakes up."
Jackson doesn't respond immediately. He has the thought that Derek could be talking about him. Then he has the thought that Derek probably is talking about him. They've never actually talked about his nightmares. Something about them won't allow Jackson to speak the words aloud. They're mostly simple devices anyways. Derek leaving turned into Derek taking Drew. Sometimes Jackson doesn't know where they've gone. All he knows is that he is alone, drifting through this shell of a house. Sometimes the feeling of the dream stays with him for days. Derek kisses the top of his head without a word and Jackson lets himself lean on his mate, just a little. In the silence of his mind the thoughts begin to race. There's no reason for his nightmares not to become his life. What's keeping Derek here? There's nothing for him. Jackson is nothing. Less than nothing. Thrown away by his own parents, the only people who were supposed to love him. Jackson panics for just a moment before managing to quell all the thoughts in his mind. He's being stupid. Derek could have kicked him out a thousand times by now. Drew wouldn't even be here without him.
He wraps his arms around Derek and presses even closer, inhaling slowly as he ducks his head. Derek is warm holding him, solid and strong. He's here.
"Don't ever leave," Jackson breathes, pressing his cheek to Derek's chest. The thump of his heart is comforting too as it crashes around in Jackson's ear.
"Never." That's all Derek says. He doesn't reaffirm the statement with unnecessary words. He doesn't tell Jackson that all his doubts and fears are groundless. He doesn't tell Jackson that he and Drew are not his parents. He doesn't say anything he doesn't need to say. That's one of the things Jackson loves about him. 97% of the time Jackson can pull himself back from the edge of the cliff. People fluttering around him and getting in his face only make him feel worse and question why they are so insistent. Derek either gets that or it's just his natural propensity for silence. Jackson doesn't mind either way. "You ready for bed?"
"Not yet," Jackson says, unmoving.
"Mm," Derek agrees, staying still too. "You know," he begins after several moments, "the only reason I haven't tracked them down and skinned them myself is that without them we might not have met." Jackson pulls back in shock. He'd never heard Derek say anything with that much animosity, especially directed at his birth parents. Derek doesn't look away, his heartbeat doesn't even waiver. He means what he said. It takes another second for the words to really sink in. Jackson's chest pinches and his face threatens to collapse as it pulls into an unsure smile. He probably shouldn't enjoy the threatened mauling and certain death of his parents, but the idea of it makes him stupidly happy.
Derek takes his hand and pulls him toward the stairs, a smile so slight only he can achieve it hanging on his lips. He lets Jackson go ahead of him, hands settling on his hips as he follows, mouth right at Jackson's ear. "Tell you what," he breathes, "you have a bad dream I'll make it up to you."
"Oh really?" Jackson questions breathlessly, a laugh escaping.
"I'll make it up to you in all sorts of ways I can't explain right now." Jackson shivers at the promise, shooting a quick glance to Drew's door as they pass.
"Goodnight Drew," he calls, smiling as he lays his hands over Derek's. There's a short pause before,
"Love you," Jackson adds, pausing in the doorframe of his and Derek's room.
"Love you too."
"Love you," Derek echoes on a whisper, kissing his neck. Jackson smiles and lets Derek push him into their room, the door closing softly behind them.
A/N: I would say that I don't know what this is but that would be a big fat lie. This is me trying to not have a mental breakdown that's what this is. College is sucking the big one right now and I just…can't work on anything that I actually have to plot. And I have finals so this is my last writing time for the foreseeable future. Figure out what you're doing before you start college..that's all I'm saying.