Take Away My Love

A/N: Rectiphobia's Archive of Our Own, Fanfiction repost.

It feels like coming home.

Or not coming home. Because they say 'home is where the heart is' and his heart isn't hear anymore. So maybe it's like coming back. Coming back has no promises of anything other than he's back. Jackson figures that's appropriate and briefly wonders when the fuck he got so philosophical.

Maybe college does that to a person.

Apparently college does a lot to a person.

Jackson had thought it was bullshit when the first college professor had informed him of that, but now it makes sense.

Sort of.

Not really.

More than college has changed Jackson.

Jackson had wanted to get as far away as possible, had done a damn good job of it. An entire country is a good distance, especially the entire width of the United States. It had seemed like a good idea at the time. Put some distance between him and the pack, between him and Beacon Hills.

Between him and Stiles.

Stiles had gone to Berkley, stayed close to home, had come back every few weekends to check on his dad, check on the pack.

Jackson wished he had stayed close to Beacon Hills, maybe that would've been better.

He's only been in the door a few minutes when his mother - adoptive mother, foster mother, whatever you want to call her - comes bustling out, fawning over him, taking his bags, asking him dozens of questions. He humors her. Briefly. Claims he's got some friends to catch up.

It's not a complete lie.

He drives to the Hale house, parks at the end of the drive, right outside of the woods. Walks the rest of the way up the trail, hands tucked into the pockets of his jacket.

Last time he had been at the Hale house was around Christmas time, the whole pack had been there. It had been the last time he'd seen any of them, though he and Danny talked a lot. Derek tried to stay in contact, did a decent job of it.

It had been the last time he'd seen or talked to Stiles.

It felt like sort of a punch to the gut, walking up to the house, seeing the dark green Jeep there. He considers turning around, walking back down the trail, but they'd know he was there by now.

The steps don't creak under his shoes like they used to, the front door doesn't creak either. Derek did a great job with redoing the place, but Jackson has a feeling Lydia has a lot to do with it. Allison too probably.

They're sitting on the porch when he comes up. Allison's leaning back on one hand, the other curled protectively over her protruding stomach, probably in response to hearing shoes crunch on the leaves. Lydia is alert, eyes darting before focusing in from where the sound is and she's half way across the yard when Jackson finally comes into view.

He catches her easily, arms tightly around her back and faces buried in her hair.

He's glad she stopped wearing her girly perfumes after she was turned.

They keep him busy outside, both asking him questions about school, about Virginia, about life in general. He answers a good portion of them, not all of them honestly, but they're both intune to when he's lying now. Lydia with hearing and Allison with maternal instinct.

He asks his own questions in return. Lydia about school, boyfriends, the pack. Allison about the baby, Scott, school.

No one mentions Stiles.

Derek comes out sometime later when they're all just sitting, absorbing things, talks everyone into coming in before the sun starts going down and it gets colder.

Jackson's hit by a wall of smells the second he steps through the door, hears Danny moving around the kitchen, cooking, hears Scott talking to Danny as he works.

Danny's really the only one they trust to cook. And Allison, but she can't stay on her feet for too long anymore.

They eat, everyone talking. Derek sits at the head, Lydia to his left, Danny to his right. Scott and Allison sit next to Lydia. Jackson across from Allison.

The seat between Danny and Jackson is empty.

Everyone ends up piled in the living room. Jackson sits on the floor, leaning against Derek's leg. Lydia sits next to Derek on the couch, Danny on her other side. Scott and Allison end up on the love seat.

Derek talks mostly with occasional input from the others, except Jackson. He's just trying to settle back into the swing of the pack.

It's easier than he thought it would be.

It's also harder than he thought it would be.

Scott and Allison leave first and Lydia follows not too much later.

Jackson, Danny, and Derek sit and talk for a while longer before Danny has to leave also.

It feels natural to curl against Derek's side after everyone else is gone, simply take in the presence of pack, of his Alpha, of human contact in general.

It takes several tries, Derek standing behind him, quiet and reassuring in a way that Jackson never thought he would ever need. The first three steps are easy, but when his feet hit the ground, they feel like lead. It only increases as he walks, leaves and twigs crumbling under his shoes and weight.

He looks back, only once, sees Derek watching him through the glass panes of the door. He nods once, encouraging once more and Jackson sucks it up, takes a deep breath. He looks back, starts moving again, slowing once more all over again.

It's the second time in his life that he's been on his knees because of Stiles.

The memory of the first time is vivid and still too fresh in his mind.

It had been a good Christmas, a good New Year's, the entire pack under one roof for a decent amount of time with only minimal fighting and minimal fuss. Even Derek had been smiling the entire time, the overall mood of the pack too strong for him to ignore.

Jackson, Scott, and Danny are acting like pups, chasing each other, snapping at each other, occasionally pausing to pick at the girls and at Stiles where they're sitting on the porch. Scott pauses to nuzzle at Allison, kiss her on the forehead, general gooey nonsense.

Stiles and Jackson aren't quite like that. The distance mellows them out, but it doesn't stop Jackson from settling behind the other male, arms draped over Stiles's chest, hands clasped lightly over the other's sternum.

They sit like that, watching Derek join Danny and Scott, then Lydia joins them.

Every one's smiling, happy.

A gun shot shatters it all.

"Fuck," Jackson mutters softly, back pressed against the cold, hard stone. He's traced the letters on it several times in time he's been sitting on the cold ground, not quite sure what he wants to say.

So he says everything.

He talks about school, talks about the pack, talks about his parents, talks about Allison and Scott's baby, talks about whatever comes to mind.

It's the most he's talked to anyone since Christmas.

Everyone is scrambling, snarling. Derek, Danny, and Lydia take off, blurs. Jackson hears every pound of their feet against the ground while working with Scott to get Allison and Stiles inside.

It's a system they worked out when Stiles and Jackson first started dating or whatever it was they were doing.

The two closest to the humans of the pack get them inside, stay there, as protection. The others, whoever that leaves, goes out after the threat.

It has worked thus far for them.

Jackson isn't sure where it goes wrong.

But he sort of is.

"I knew you were an idiot," Jackson states softly, twisting his hands on his lap, legs sprawled gracelessly in front of him. "I just never expected you to prove it so fantastically."

Jackson is on the porch, keeping an eye and an ear out. He listens for the other wolves, for the threat, for the people in the house behind him. He's too busy listening that he misses the door behind him open.

"Jacks?"

He whips around, presses a hand to his own chest where his heart is thundering, reigns in the wolf carefully, "Stiles, go back inside."

Jackson huffs, "You never could listen, could you?"

"I'm not leaving you out here by yourself," Stiles states softly and Jackson wants to push him back inside, force him to stay in, but Stiles has way more determination than anyone gives him credit for.

Jackson sighs, "Stay behind me."

A sinking feeling comes over him and it only gets worse when three consecutive shots ring out.

He can't turn around fast enough.

"Five liters never seems like that much," he mutters and hates himself for it.

He hits the porch, wood boards splintering under his and Stiles's weight. "Stiles? Stiles?" He tries, cradling the other male's body against his, "SCOTT!"

Jackson doesn't hear anything that goes on beyond Stiles's heartbeat.

"Jacks?"

It's hard, moving and trying not to jostle Stiles, but Jackson manages to get his legs out from under him, sprawled on the porch, Stiles's body curled against his. "Stiles, I'm here, I'm here," he murmurs over and over, pressing his hand to one of the wounds on Stiles's chest, trying to stop the blood from flowing, but it doesn't stop it, doesn't even slow it.

He vaguely hears Scott talking rapidly and maybe Allison crying and there's some growls in there, but most of it is Stiles's steadily slowing heartbeat.

Jackson huffs and turns around, pressing his hand to the stone, rubbing his thumb around the curves and lines of the letters, "It's quiet without you around here."

The heartbeat is gone before Jackson even realizes it, refuses to relent his grip.

Derek manages to dislodge him, grip tight as steel around Jackson as he drags him back, away from Stiles's body. He doesn't remember when he started crying, but he ends up crumpling against the Alpha.

Quick as the sadness comes, the anger comes. Jackson manages to rip away from Derek.

Takes off.

Doesn't look back.

"I miss you, Stiles," Jackson manages and he's not going to cry, "I miss you so fucking much."