|What It's Worth
Author: sparkly green nail polish PM
Jesse moves back to his hometown of Seattle where his life slowly falls apart. He may have survived the shooting, but now it's the living part he's struggling with.Rated: Fiction M - English - Drama - Chapters: 3 - Words: 8,770 - Reviews: 21 - Favs: 7 - Follows: 9 - Updated: 02-05-06 - Published: 10-27-05 - id: 2636058
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: Alright - new fic. I'm still working on OTWD, but this came to me and gnawed until I sat up and paid attention. Now it may not get updated as frequently as other fics I've posted in the past but i'll do my best.
Disclaimer: I don't own whoever you recognise. Don't sue me. Please, that is
He barely ventured beyond his front door these days – outside frightened him since the accident. He'd hear the sound of a motorcycle coming up the street and feel the need to dive for cover, the mere sound of a car backfiring – once something he'd have wandered over to inspect – now petrified him. It reminded him all to well of that balmy summer day back in California that had changed both him and his life forever.
He felt the first of the days rain start to drizzle down on him and scarred fingers reached up tentatively, wary of the sore muscles beneath his clothing, to tug his hat lower over his forehead. Dirty blonde hair peeked out from beneath the ski cap and his breath puffed out in front of him in a misty cloud, white against the grey of the street. He rubbed his hands together and blew on his exposed fingertips, the once callused and work hardened digits peeking from a ratty old pair of black wool fingerless gloves.
He lived in Seattle now, and while it rained a lot albeit not all that heavily, it was home to him. California was never home. Seattle, Washington was his home – where he'd grown up and although he had no family there nor friends, it was still the one place he truly felt at ease with himself. He was far from happy with the person he'd become, but he had at least accepted who he had become since the July. He wasn't a coward like the rest of them – he wouldn't run away from his problems. He couldn't anyway.
The fact that Dom had run never surprised him, nor that Mia had gone with him. Letty he expected to trail behind the siblings and Vince – well if he'd survived he was sure Vince would have run like a scolded dog too. Waking up from a three week coma to the news that a man you'd grown to view as an older brother was dead and that your family had abandoned you was hard. Vince had been in the ground for a solid two weeks when he'd first woken up. At first, he snorted to himself, burying his hands in the deep coat pockets, at first he thought that he was dreaming everything he was being told. He didn't understand why the police wanted to talk to him, couldn't get his head around it at all.
Then they'd dropped the bombshell on him. Leon – his kind, genuine older cousin, Leon who had said he'd never abandon him – he'd run too. Leon was all he'd had left when his father had been thrown into prison, his mother having died when he was young. The older boy had done so much for him – he'd fought to gain custody of him when the courts had tried to take him away, he'd been his guardian for those few years that he was still a minor even though Leon himself was only barely an adult in the laws eyes. He'd fed him, clothed him, tried ever so desperately to help him with school work and had put off his own college career to raise him.
Jesse could feel the hot burn of a tear sliding down his cold cheek as he strode down the street, tread of his boots slapping heavily against the damp pavement. He didn't bother to wipe it away, merely sniffled quietly to himself.
Leon had turned around to come back for him when he'd heard Dom telling Letty over the two way that he'd been shot – he'd ignored every protest they'd thrown at him and had turned around when he was already halfway to Mexico… Just to get back to him. The police told him that it had been painless, Leon's death. He died instantly when a truck had hit the car not two blocks from the hospital. He hadn't been wearing a seatbelt and had been thrown clear of the wreckage but the damage had already been done. His neck broke upon impact with the road.
It was ironic how a truck had stolen the lives of his two closest friends and men he'd seen as family.
He fingered the thick silver chain around his neck – one of the things they'd given him back of Leon's when he'd been taken down to the morgue to identify the body. He'd had difficulty breathing as they lifted back the sheet and exposed the deathly pale body of his cousin – once vibrant eyes closed in death and olive skin a sick shade of grey. He'd almost looked as if he were sleeping – if you ignored the gravel rash down the right side of his face and shoulder, ripping through his tattoo.
It had taken a good ten minutes for him to be able to find the strength to even nod his head slightly. His limbs had felt like lead and he had a huge lump in his throat that was restricting his breathing. All he'd been able to do was sit there and stare sickly at Leon's body, exposed from the torso up. He'd been in the morgue the whole three weeks that Jesse had been comatose. Vince had family that had been able to identify him, but Leon – he'd remained on ice and unidentified, his belongings still in that yellow envelope with a number scrawled across it in black marker.
When he'd been handed it all it contained was his wallet, the silver chain he always wore and a narrow gold toe ring. It was an unusual piece of jewellery to find on a man, but it had been a gift from Leon's first and only love. She'd passed away from cancer at the tender age of eighteen and he'd never fully recovered from the loss. Still, at least now they were together. It had taken him a bit, but he'd managed to scrape enough money together to have him buried by Megan's side. He'd been there with her the whole way – they'd been childhood sweethearts, dated all through school and he'd been right there by her side when she'd slipped away in her sleep… Jesse only figured it was fitting to have Le at her side in death too.
Rainwater was pooling here and there on the road, the sound of car tyres flying past in the wet a constant. Jesse blinked slowly. His throat felt thick just thinking about Leon and Vince – even Megan. She herself had been a big part of his life as well. She was the brains of the trio for sure, constantly fussing over both himself and Le, even when the cancer turned aggressive and she was finding herself weaker with every passing day.
"Almost home," he told himself under his breath, "-almost there now."
He flinched when someone shouldered past him, hands balling into fists in his pocket, shoulders hunched over. A dull throb spread across his chest, a slow burn that told him he'd jostled a healing muscle. It took months for damaged muscle tissue to heal in most cases, but he was healing at an exceptionally slow rate. Just when things started to look up he'd go and do something he shouldn't have and the healing process would start anew. He was beginning to wonder if he was indeed ever going to return to full health. It had been six months since he'd been shot outside the Toretto home and he was still far from rehabilitated. The only thing he'd accomplished in all that time was cutting down on the amount of cigarettes he went through a day.
He could feel his shoulders tightening at the sound of voices behind him. Someone, apparently somebody who'd been with the rude bastard that had shoved by him had fallen and he could hear shouting.
"Hey! Hey, you! Stop!"
Jesse fidgeted but didn't comply, merely kept walking. He wasn't entirely sure that it was actually him they were calling, but as it was coming from the general direction he himself had just come from he was assuming it was. The shouting didn't cease as he progressed down the street, it only drew closer.
He picked up his pace. He was so close to home now that he could almost smell it – the slightly stuffy, stale scent of his apartment calling him. He rubbed his hands against his thighs, hurrying along. There were footsteps behind him, falling more and more rapidly as time wore on and he started growing paranoid. Someone was following him, he was sure of it. He'd only just stopped looking over his shoulder at every turn, only just now – six months after the failed heists – he stopped suspecting everyone of being a police officer and trailing him. Figments of his imagination the doctors had told him… Now he was sure there really was someone after him.
"Hey! You in the black coat and cords!" a woman's voice shouted from behind him, a few paces back. He looked down at himself briefly and cursed. He was indeed wearing black cords and a knee length black woollen coat, his gloves, beanie and t-shirt all matching. His breath puffed out in a cloud ahead of him as he panted, nervous. He could see the door to his apartment building now and with the last ounce of control he had left he glanced left then right and darted between the traffic across the street.
Breaks squealed and horns sounded loudly in his wake, water splashing up over the sidewalk and against the backs of his legs. Shouted abuse floated after him but he ignored it, darting in through the revolving doors.
He didn't allow himself to breath a sigh of relief even as he felt the warmth of the old building swallow him up, the dim lighting giving the place a dark, dank feel. Slivers of light penetrated the darkness and landed in pools of white light on the old tiled floor, yellow hued light casting a glow over the corners of the foyer.
The sounds of the street grew louder for a second. "Excuse me – sir?" it was the voice that had been following him again. She sounded out of breath.
Jesse shivered and didn't even turn to look nor reply before he tore off up the stairs, forgoing the elevator. He wasn't about to stand at the bottom and wait for the rickety old thing to make its journey down to the ground floor and give whoever was following him a chance to catch up to him. His hand slid up the banister as he hopped the stairs three at a time. Leon had always bitched him out about that – skipping stairs. He could never keep up with him.
His muscles screamed at him – pectoral and abdominal – as he strained and pushed himself harder, running up three flights of stairs. His breathing was laboured and his chest hurt by the time he reached the top floor where his apartment was but he didn't care. All he was concerned about was getting back into his apartment where he was safe and sound – hidden away from the world and where he felt most comfortable.
He could hear the elevator cable rattling and out of the corner of his eye he could make out the top of the car slowing to a stop. It was one of the older style ones that had the lattice work sliding door, then another set of doors inside that had to be lifted. His fingers, numb from the cold, fumbled with his keys and he found himself bouncing ever so slightly on the balls of his toes, swearing softly as he dropped them with a clatter. He bent to scoop them up and hastily shoved the key into the lock, forcing the door open with a shove, the whole time listening to the grate and rattle of the elevator opening.
"Hey! Wait, please!"
He slammed the door shut behind him and panted heavily. It was dark in his apartment, heavy black garbage bags taped over the windows in place of curtains. He couldn't afford them at the moment and the garbage bags served their purpose just as well. The air smelled of stale coffee from earlier that morning and it was slightly stuffy in there, but it was home to him. Sanctuary.
He scratched at his forearms, fingers pushed up beneath the sleeves of his coat scraping over the pale skin that he'd hidden from the sun for so long. At his ankles he could feel a soft brushing and he could hear the purr already. His case worker from the hospital insisted that if he had a pet, a companion of some kind that he would cope better, wouldn't be so lonely. He'd taken her advice and the week before had braved the pet store and bought himself a kitten. She was a little ball of smoke grey fluff with big blue eyes not even big enough to cover the surface of his palm when sitting on it – Delilah was her name. She slept in a little carry basket on the floor by the bed. As yet she'd been unable to weasel her way onto the bed.
His back pressed against the door, Jesse slid down to crouch on the floor, his boots creaking against the floorboards. The apartment was all open plan – a loft apartment. He knew right away when he'd seen it that Vince would have loved it and it's rooftop balcony. The big man had loved high places. You could see the space needle on clear nights, hovering over the skyline.
Nervously he scooped up Delilah and cuddled the tiny animal to his sore chest, eyes closing as he nuzzled her soft fur. He tensed when there was a tap on the door behind him and he held the kitten closer, cheek pressed against her tiny little head. From outside there was a shuffling sound, then a sigh.
"Fine," the voice said, "- I just wanted to give your wallet back."
Jesse frowned and reached down to pat the pockets of his coat with one hand, finding they were empty. Hesitantly he unlatched the door and cracked the door open, peering nervously out into the hall. The light was flickering, but he could see a young woman, in her teens he suspected giving him a bored look. One perfectly plucked eyebrow was lifted, a dainty rainbow hoop hanging from it and her hair was in dreadlocks, mostly black with the occasional shock of blue or violet in there.
Black lined hazel eyes almost smiled at him when she saw how nervous he was and her posture relaxed slightly. She lifted her hand, wielding the tri-fold brown leather wallet.
"I believe this is yours -" She flipped it open with a click of the tongue, " – Jesse Macalister."
He swung the door a little further open and snatched it from her, holding it close to his chest. He saw her flinch and realised he was being overtly rude but he couldn't help it. She seemed to sense his discomfort and reached out with blue nailed fingertips to scratch Delilah behind the ears, smiling at her loud purr in response.
"You should be more careful you know, Jesse Macalister." She told him matter of factly. "That kid who ran into you picked your pocket." She grinned at his stunned look, revealing a cheeky grin that lit up her entire face. Her left eye tooth was slightly crooked, he noticed.
He looked at the wallet held in his trembling hand and frowned to himself. How could he have missed that? He really must be losing the plot if he hadn't felt someone reach into his pockets like she claimed they had.
"I," he murmured, shifting from foot to foot, "Um, thankyou."
She waved it off, adjusting the strap on her rucksack. The old sandy coloured canvas bag had definitely seen better days and Jesse found himself hoping she was carrying nothing valuable in there. The back corner of the bag was worn and frayed, looking as if it would burst at any given moment.
"Not a problem. The kids around here just need a good kick in the ass and they give whatever they've lifted back. They're harmless but their sense of fun is a little whack."
Jesse nodded. He'd noticed that himself, sitting on the rooftop late at night and watching them down on the street. They were never outright troublemakers, but they definitely weren't little angels either. He held the wallet up ever so slightly, turning to go back inside the cave that was his apartment.
"Mac. Just Mac." She supplied.
He blinked dumbly for a moment, then realised she must have thought he was asking for her name. He nodded slightly. "Right.. Just Mac.." he mumbled to himself as he went inside. She waved jovially and spun on her heel, strolling down the hall back toward the elevator, a slight skip in her step. He could see the black pants peeking out from beneath the hem of an old turquoise slip dress and she wore big chunky boots, a thick leather braid around her neck. She glanced back, fingers holding her coat sleeve down over her palm as she waved and grinned at him.
"Bye, Jesse Macalister!"
He nodded, perplexed and went back inside, slowly pushing the door closed and thanking God that that experience was over.