Word count: 2999
Trigger Warning: Jackson has a panic attack that lasts a reaaaally long time.
Jackson is distracted in class, which is pretty normal at this point. Usually he's not thinking about pack dynamics, though. He taps his pen against the desk and thinks about what Erica had said the night of the full moon about becoming an alpha and automatically being kicked out.
Idly he texts Derek. "Is it possible for a pack to have more than one alpha?"
Derek takes a couple minutes to answer, and when he does, the text only reads "yes."
"How does that work?" Jackson asks.
"Depends on the pack," Derek answers.
Jackson rolls his eyes. Of course Derek would give a total non-answer. So how does he ask without implicating Erica? He drummed his fingers. "So what if Scott killed an alpha? Would you kick him out of the pack?"
Derek answers that immediately. "Of course not."
"Because it's Scott?" Jackson asks. Derek's always been weird about Scott. He's pretty sure it's not a sexual or a romantic thing, but Derek is possessive of Scott sometimes. He needs him in his pack. Jackson knows that, of all the betas running around Beacon Hills, Scott is the one Derek worries about the most. He's guessed before that Scott must remind Derek of a younger sibling, if the way they snipe at each other before mutual life saving means anything.
"If any of you became alphas it would be fine," Derek answers after a few minutes.
"How would that work?" Jackson tries again.
"Why," Derek sends back.
Jackson groans. "I'm bored in class and curious," he answers.
Derek takes a few more minutes to send a response. "There would be negotiation. Hopefully we would be able to work it out so I was still the alpha and whoever became the new alpha would become my second."
Jackson stews over that. Erica and Derek certainly hadn't negotiated anything, but it sounds like submitting to both of them wouldn't be an issue...probably. The lack of negotiation is worrying, but it does answer the question of whether Erica is still in the pack or not. Maybe? Derek wouldn't kick her out, but she hasn't seen him in forever...
Okay, so the lack of negotiation is really worrying.
"What if there was no negotiation?" Jackson texts.
His teacher goes on and on about new age philosophy for about five minutes before Derek answers. "The second alpha could try to take the betas away."
Jackson decides not to examine that, because he's starting to panic a little. He has one final way to find out if he submitted to Erica and thus left the pack. "One last question. Is there a pack bond or some shit? Can you feel it if someone leaves the pack?"
Derek's next text is drenched in irritation. "There's a bond but it's not like I know what you're feeling or if you're alive. It just makes us all stronger. Doesn't really work when you're states away, though."
So Derek wouldn't even know if Jackson left the pack because—because Jackson isn't going back to Beacon Hills. What if he did, by submitting to Erica, leave the pack? Derek was controlling but as long as Jackson was states away he wouldn't have to worry about that. Derek couldn't compel him from California.
But Erica was here, and if Jackson had just given her control over him—damn it. It's too much like being the kanima, like surrendering control—
Jackson gathers his things and slips out of class. As soon as the door swings shut, he practically runs outside, where he falls into a crouch and gasps in air, trying, trying, failing to breathe.
Calm down, he thinks. Stop it.
His thoughts spiral and all he can think about is flashes of memories when he killed people or shoved Derek into the pool or when Erica fell down in the library.
He's never remembered the last thing before, and it's scary. He doesn't want to remember what Matt had forced him into; doesn't want to remember any of it. But the memories have been filtering in slowly. Sometimes he wakes up in the middle of the night, choking out of nightmares that are memories, drenched in fear and covered in sweat. It's bad enough to remember things in the middle of the night, in the safety of his own home. At school, outside of a classroom? It's torture.
He doesn't want them doesn't—He's tearing after the man with glasses. Murderer, murderer. Leave the boy alone. It's raining but it doesn't matter. The man tries to get back into his car but it's too late, too—
(He's never watched himself kill Mr. Lahey before.)
Somewhere in the back of his mind he realizes he's panicking, but he has no clue what to do with it. It happens sometimes and he usually just rides out the attack.
The only reassuring thing about these times is the knowledge that fear keeps him human and that means he won't accidentally shift and kill somebody because he's freaked out.
Home. He needs to go home. Sure, Erica has been there, but he'll be safe; she can't know that he's under her control now, right? He might not even be under her control. Derek never said how the alphas could take the betas, so maybe, maybe.
He starts to run, backpack thumping against him until he tightens the straps. Need to get away, away from here, away from—He stops at a trashcan on a street corner to vomit.
A woman walking by glances at him nervously, but stops and asks, "Are you okay?"
"Fine," he chokes out, because he vomited but it wasn't black and that's better than the past. "I have to—" he runs away without finishing his sentence.
By now, Jackson's vision is tunneling and he's relying on his sense of hearing and smell to avoid people and cars. It's a risky business because while he's panicking, it's harder to tap into those senses.
Abruptly, Jackson slams into his apartment door. He can't remember running up the steps to his floor or down the hallway but he's here now, breathing hard and fumbling to get the keys out of his pocket until finally, finally—he gets the key into the knob.
He falls through the door and scrambles to close it, leaning back against it and holding tightly to his head.
I'm in control. Me. No one else.
He let's out a single sob and tries to curl in tighter on himself.
It takes hours.
He keeps seeing the same thing over and over—the police station. Dropping Stiles on top of Derek and threatening Mrs. McCall. Killing the deputies. All the deputies and—
Finally he calms down enough to stand up and leave his living room. He checks his phone to see that Derek had sent him another text message. "Are you okay?"
He's not, but he can't put this into words. He thinks Derek might understand but he doesn't want that. He doesn't want to think about why he's pacing or unable to shift.
Eat. He needs to eat.
He doesn't want to eat, though. His stomach hurts.
Okay. So. Sleep. Maybe he could sleep this off?
Jackson nods. He can do that. He can walk into his bedroom and shut the door and lay down and close his eyes and force himself into unawareness—
Nope, no, okay, so that's not going to happen. He needs to be awake. Needs to be aware. Needs to keep control. Needs to keep his head.
It's like being on a roller coaster where he's slowly pulling himself out of the panic to the crest at the top, and there's a moment where he's moving free, and then there's the low swoop in his stomach, pulling
It doesn't stop.
Eventually he falls asleep, sprawled on his couch. It's out of pure exhaustion instead of any abatement of the fear.
He wakes up in pain, but being a werewolf means his body heals itself. He exhales slowly and stretches into a more comfortable position and breathes.
If he can focus on his breathing, he can take care of this. He can handle this. He can stay calm.
He can. He can.
A glance at his phone reveals that he's missed his firs class. Jackson groans, but he honestly can't bring himself to care. The glance at his phone also reveals that after the first text from Derek, none had followed.
Jackson doesn't actually care, to be honest.
Jackson goes to the diner because he doesn't run away from his problems.
Most of the time.
Hopefully...this will all have been an overreaction and Erica will call him a dumbass and they'll be fine. He'll be fine. Yeah.
Keeping that thought in mind, he steels his shoulders and walks into the diner. Erica has her back to him but when she smells him, she turns around to face him with a grin. It freezes on her face when she sees him, though.
He must not have the panic completely under wraps.
She hurries over to him and rests a hand on his shoulder. "Are you okay?"
"Fine," he bites out. "I'm me."
She raises an eyebrow and takes her hand back. "Why don't you have a seat? I'll be over in just a minute."
He feels a little regretful about snapping, because it's not like she touches him with any sort of frequency. Too bad.
But at the same time, he kind of hates being coddled. Dating Lydia meant that never happened, besides the occasional kissing of metaphorical boo-boos...and blow jobs. Whatever. And Danny, for all his support, always heaped on the sarcasm with every hug. He doesn't want cuddling, he wants a solution.
So he slides into his usual booth. He sits cross-legged and tugs the hood of his hoodie over his head. The world is too big.
"Then make it small," Erica says softly.
"What?" Jackson jerks his head upward to see her standing next to his table. "What did you say?"
"You were mumbling about the world being to big, so I quoted Superman," she says, shrugging.
For a long second Jackson stares at her blankly. "Oh," he says. "Man of Steel."
She nods and tilts her head. "You're here on a Friday morning, which is indication enough that something's wrong, but you also smell like old panic," she says. "Run into a hunter or something?"
He shakes his head quickly. "No, I just...the night of the full moon," he says, and he can't explain what's wrong exactly, but she seems like she understands.
"Did you...Did I force you to submit?" she asks, and she sounds nervous.
He nods, cringing.
She sighs. "Great. Hold on a second." Erica hurries away and disappears into the kitchen. When she comes back, she's traded her apron for a loose hoodie. "Let's go."
He must not stand up fast enough because she grabs his bicep and hauls him out of the seat. He stumble after her.
On the street, she stops and he runs into her back. He's disoriented enough by everything happening that it makes sense for him to curl around her.
She doesn't say anything about their new position. "Mine or yours?" she asks.
Jackson thinks about that for a minute. He's not sure he wants to go into someone else's territory while he feels so vulnerable, but he might never get another opportunity to see Erica's. He gets the feeling that she's only offering because she knows what he'll say. "Mine."
She nods and steps away from him, sliding her hand down his arm until she's twining her fingers with his. "So let's go."
In his apartment, Erica paces while he hugs his knees on the couch. "So basically you bared your throat to me and I bit you," she says, for maybe the fifth time.
"But Derek said it's possible to submit to multiple alphas, right? You're still in his pack?"
"Probably," Jackson says.
"And you didn't tell him it was me," Erica clarifies further.
She nods and drums her fingers against her legs. "So...what? You don't want to be in my pack so much that you're...panicking?"
"It's not that," Jackson says. He's never wanted to be in her pack; never wanted to be in anyone's pack. But that's not why he's upset. Switching packs doesn't bother him at all, it's... "I can't do what you want," he tries to explain, feeling helpless.
"Jackson," she says gently. "What do you think I want?"
She's standing in front of him wearing a gray hoodie over her bright pink uniform and her hair is still a perfect color looking perfectly soft. Her face looks that way, too—delicate and smooth, gentle, soft and—
"I don't know," he says miserably. He hides his face in his hands, fingers sliding up to tug at his hair. "I don't know."
"I don't understand," she tells him.
"I'm in Chicago because I can't be under his thumb," Jackson says. "Derek. I can't be under Derek's thumb. Or anyone's thumb. You weren't supposed to be here and I wasn't supposed to submit to you. I'm not supposed to surrender control—shit." He starts panicking again. His chest tightens and he thinks, I'm having a heart attack.
"Jackson, Jackson, Jackson," he hears, and he realizes that Erica is kneeling in front of him, holding on to his shoulders. "Breathe with me. Focus on me, okay?"
He nods furiously and tries to follow her breathing patterns until finally, he's slumping forward to rest his head on her shoulder. If he wasn't running through multiple panic attacks, he might be embarrassed. As it is, he just feels relieved to not be alone.
She doesn't say a word about it, just moving to rest her hand on his back. "I guess I should tell you something about me," she says quietly. Her hand twitches, but settles more firmly under his shoulder blade. "The thing is...for the past three years, I've been concerned about me and no one else. I've kept myself alive and that's been all I need. It's still all I need, okay? The reason I don't have a pack and don't want you in my pack is not because I'm mad about crap you used to pull in Beacon Hills." She huffs out a laugh. "In fact I usually try not to think about it."
He opens his eyes. Her hair is soft on his face, just like he thought it would be. "Sorry," he croaks.
"It's okay," she says. "Well, it's not, but it's in the past and I usually try not to think about the past. Don't worry. Look, I don't have a pack because I'm not a leader. I'm not a follower, either. I'm just...me. I don't want the responsibility. So even if you did submit to me, I don't want you to think about it. As far as I'm concerned, I'm a lone wolf and you're still in Derek's pack. I'm not going to order you around...unless you want that."
"I don't," he says, shutting his eyes again.
"Not in any context? Because you seemed in favor of it in the diner last week," she teases.
"I'd rather it the other way," he says drily.
"So you want dominance play," she says, pushing him backwards until his shoulders are against the back of the couch. He'd been sitting on the edge, so he's at an awkward angle but she's leaning over him and he doesn't mind very much. "A fight for control," she continues, fingernails sliding over the sensitive skin of his neck. They're human but still sharp and strong.
"No, you don't," she says, delighted. "You want me to be in charge."
He's not sure, really. Everything feels kind of raw, but that probably comes from the panic. He's pretty sure dominance and submission when it comes to sex is different than alpha and beta dynamics, but it's nothing he's ever been very interested in. Lydia had always controlled what happened between them, and with the other girls he'd slept with, it had mostly been about getting off. With Erica he'd be okay with experimenting, just not...right now. "Not really the time to do a kink negotiation," he says coolly.
Erica, for her part, looks duly chastised. "Sorry. That was rude." She helps him sit up, even though she doesn't need to. She grabs his wrist and looks at the time. "I took an early lunch, so I should probably go. My hour's almost up."
"Do you need to eat something?" Jackson asks, rising to his feet. "I have fruit, I think."
"I remember your cupboards being pretty bare," she says, shaking her heads.
He rolls his eyes. "I stay stocked up on apples." He opens his refrigerator (he has milk and eggs, too, okay?) and pulls out a red delicious. "Want it?"
"Sure," she says, taking it from him. Her fingers brush him, and with a start he realizes that they've touched more today than they have in the time they've known each other. Except for the full moon, but somehow that doesn't seem to count.
"Thank you," she says, taking a bite. "Red delicious is my favorite."
"I always preferred gala apples," he says. It's not true; he likes pink ladies. But there's something emasculating about saying that, so he keeps it to himself.
"Did you just lie about apple preferences?" Erica asks, raising an eyebrow.
"Nope, definitely not," he says, waving a hand at her. "Now unless you're interested in that kink negotiation, you should go."
"Ouch," she says, wiggling her eyebrows. "You should buy me dinner first, yeesh." She's laughing as she walks toward the door, though.
He smiles and leans against the counter. "Some time," he promises.
"Okay," she says. "I'll see you, Jackson."
"Bye, Erica," he says, but the door is shutting.
He's alone again, but this time it doesn't feel as horrifying.
A/N: Man it got (almost) fluffy at the end. You should probably thank me. I thought about ending this before Jackson went to the diner (but Erica is my favorite and if possible I'm not leaving her out of any more chapters soooo).
I also thought about ending it before they went back to the apartment. You guys are lucky.
Disclaimer: I've never had a panic attack. I wrote this based on descriptions found in various places on the internet and my own circular thinking when I'm depressed. If it's not accurate...that's why. Hopefully this doesn't come across as offensive.