The voice was raspy. Jack quickly realized it belonged to an old man. The boxer didn't recognize it and he felt his heart starting to beat faster. He wanted to tell the mysterious man behind him: "You've mistaken me for someone else.", but he didn't say anything. He didn't even look back, because he didn't want to show this man his face.
"Moreover," The stranger spoke again. "I know why you're here."
This intrigued Jack enough that he overcame his fear and slowly turned back. As he expected, he saw an old man – wrinkled, thin, with white hair and nearly worn-out, green clothes – but the view surprised the boxer. The reason for this surprise laid in old man's sunglasses and white cane in his lean, dried hands. Something clicked in Jack's brain and for a moment he was just staring at the elder with astonishment. Finally – despite himself – he smiled wryly and said:
"Mister Stick, I suppose."
His son's former mentor smirked.
"So Matty had told you about me?" He assumed. "Good, I don't have to introduce myself."
Jack felt anger boiling inside of him.
"I swear, if you weren't blind, I would drag you out of here and punch you in the face."
Stick smiled even wider.
"I thought we established already that not every blind man is helpless." He neared himself closer to Jack and whispered: "Besides, who do you think taught your little Matty how to fight?"
Jack only frowned. There were so many things he wanted to tell this guy in that moment. On the one hand, he wished to berate him for abandoning Matt, but on the other hand, he wanted to know more about what the bastard knew about Jack's current situation. Two feelings – anger and curiosity – were fighting inside of him and he didn't know, which one he should satisfy first. And so the boxer was silent.
"If you know how I got here," He said finally. "just tell me. And get out of here, before I will kick your ass."
"I'd like to see you try. Figuratively speaking, of course." The old man straightened himself and gave Jack another smirk. "Let's get this over with." He got serious and began: "As you probably can imagine, you shouldn't be here. You were dead for twenty years and puff! – one beautiful day you're back. And you're probably wondering how it happened and – more importantly – will it stay that way."
"You know, if you keep postponing the answer, you will earn that punch in the face faster."
Another smug smirk. Now the guy was just annoying.
"Said a guy, who gets punched for living." Stick became serious again. "You see, Jackie boy, I'm a member of an old order. What we do, is not important right now. What is important, however, is that some of our members possess an ancient knowledge on the field of magic."
"Magic?" Jack raised his eyebrows with skepticism.
"Yes, magic. And if you keep interrupting me, I will punch you in the face. Now," Stick leaned his cane next himself. "this unique knowledge also includes the ways of bringing back the dead."
Jack was taken aback by this statement. A memory flashed before his eyes.
If I knew how to bring back dead people, I wouldn't tell just anybody, but person who seemed to be responsible enough for that kind of power.
What do you want to say, Matty?
I think there can be a fourth option…
"The fourth option…" Jack whispered absent-mindly. He looked at Stick and said: "So one of you resurrected me?"
"Either one of us, or someone from some other secret society." The old man replied. "But it was probably us. And I know who it is and why they did what they did." Jack thought that it will be the moment when Stick reveal this information to him, however, what the blind man said next was: "But that's not important right now. The important thing is that you won't stay alive forever."
For some reason Jack wasn't surprised by that statement. After all, he never expected that resurrection will make him immortal. Even if he has been brought back to life, he knew that one day he will die either way.
"You see, Jackie," Stick went on. "the resurrected person can stay alive only for a short amount of time. Sooner or later… probably sooner… the natural order will claim your ass, and you will turn into ashes. And there's nothing you can do with it."
Jack felt uneasiness in his heart, nevertheless, he asked, just to be sure:
"Wait, so you're saying that…?"
"You will be gone the same way you've come back."
These words fell on Jack like a fist of an opponent. He will die… Of course, he was putting to consideration that his stay here, on Earth, could be temporary, but now, when he knew it was true, he felt like he has been diagnosed with a terminal disease.
"It's sad, I know, but that's how it is and if you're smart, you don't fuck with natural order." Stick said and for a moment Jack thought that something akin of empathy crossed the old man's face.
The boxer was just observing him for a couple of seconds, speechless, before he finally regained his voice and asked:
"How much time do I have?"
Stick didn't respond at first. He took the glasses off and now Jack could see his gray, blank eyes. For a moment he looked like he wanted to sigh, but he was holding it back. And then he smiled, and this time his smile was devoid of his previous meanness.
"Few days have passed since your resurrection, Jackie boy," He began. "but I think that the person who brought you back, will try to give you as much time as possible."
"So how long?" Jack inquired further.
"A month. More or less." Stick replied, still smiling. And then he stopped. "Now, how you use the remaining time, is totally up to you. And probably Matty. I think there is nothing else I can add, so" He stood up, all of sudden and said: "good day, Jack."
And he directed towards the exit. Jack rapidly raised from his bench and called after him:
"Hey! What do you think you're doing?! Come back here!"
"What now?" He asked, a bit annoyed as if Jack was bothering him with questions all day.
"I didn't finish with you, bastard!"
"Oh, yeah?" Stick's eyebrows raised and he finally turned to the boxer. "And what are you going to do, Jackie boy?"
"First off, you're going to answer me some questions. Then I'm gonna kick your ass for abandoning Matty when he needed you."
Another smirk graced the old man's face as Stick said:
"You know, I was actually hoping, you would want to fight me. I was eager to find out how much this kid really took from you. Alas," He wore an expression of false sadness. "we can't do it right here. We would wreck the whole place and you wouldn't want it, would you, Jackie boy?"
Jack suddenly felt ashamed for picking up a fight in the church. But then he looked fiercely at the man in front of him and responded:
"We can always go outside."
"Yes, we can. But you would risk getting recognized." The old man shook his head. "There is honestly not much secluded place for two warriors to duel in this city. Well, I guess we will have to wait for some other time."
Jack observed him for a moment. Stick looked like a normal blind elderly man – he looked fragile and old, and oh, so harmless! The boxer realized that he would probably hesitate to attack him just because of his appearance. After all – only a bastard would hit a blind man.
"Look, Jack," Stick said all of sudden. "before you go and say something stupid, like: 'You shouldn't have leave Matty in the orphanage.', put into consideration how he got there in the first place."
Jack balled his fists in anger.
"Besides," Stick added and started to walk in exit's direction once again. "remember that you have been resurrected in certain purpose. You have month to fulfill that purpose."
"Oh, yeah?" Jack called after him. "And what purpose it is?"
Matt's former mentor stopped and turned to Jack one last time.
"Isn't it obvious?" He smirked. "It's closure."
And so he left. Astonished by his words, Jack let him leave.
Stick also stepped by to talk with Matt. However, he had to wait for almost two hours until his former pupil's friends went home and, of course, the moment when the kid sensed him, he was hostile. Long story short, if it weren't for drugs that made Matt a little dizzy (considerable more than a normal person after the narcosis), Stick would have to use brute force to restrain him.
"I've told you to get out my city."
The kid was a broken record in that regard. Stick almost rolled his eyes, hearing it. He took a moment to listen to Matt's heart. Of course it was beating faster due to anger that was boiling inside of him, but Stick wondered if there was also something else, like worry. Before he was sensed by Matt, he could hear that he was relaxed and content. Well, even if the kid wasn't worried right now, he was going to be soon.
"Okay, Matt." The old man sat at the chair. "Normally I would be happy to exchange some witty banter with you, but there are few things we have to talk about and I prefer to move right to the point."
"We have nothing to talk about."
In spite of his better judgment, Stick smiled.
"I think we do, Matty. Don't you wanna know how daddy dearest came back from dead?"
Matt was silent. This time his heartbeat indicated a sudden change in the mood. The anger transformed into astonishment. For a moment Stick thought he will ask: "How did you know?", but then came another change – an understanding. And Matt chuckled cheerlessly. Of course, you would know – The kid's unspoken response hanged in the air. – You're a clever bastard.
"Well then." He began with a 'going-straight-to-the-point' tone. "Tell me."
Stick decided that son's knowledge shouldn't be bigger than father's, so first he explained the general idea of his order being able to resurrect the dead.
"Okay, what's so funny?" He asked when he realized that Matt's lip muscles formed into a smirk.
"I kind of thought it could be something like this."
"Of course you did." Stick commented as a matter of fact. "Only an idiot wouldn't get it."
Without further ado Matt went straight to the point.
"So you're saying that a member of some secret order decided to resurrect my dad?"
"And that member was who exactly?"
"That's not important right now."
"No, it's very important. I want to know, who was it and why they did it."
"Oh, I can tell you right away why they did it. It was because of some stupid sentiment."
Stick noticed another change in Matt's heartbeat. Once again the kid was surprised.
"What kind of sentiment?"
"You know, a sentiment. Somebody thought that it would be really nice to help you solve your daddy issues."
Matt was probably going to say something, but he refrained from it. It seemed that he quickly understood the implications of Stick's statement. After a moment of silence he said:
"This sounds crazy and I can't believe that I'm asking this, but… was it you?"
"What?!" Stick almost screamed. "Kid, who do you think I am? Your therapist?"
"Well, as far as I recall, you're the only known member of your supposed order, who knows about what happened to my dad and how I felt about it."
"I'm also the only known by you member of said order. Besides, it's not so hard to learn about your past and how it affected you. Either way, no, Matty, it wasn't me."
"That's not important."
"You know, I'm starting to think that you're saying it just to be a dick."
There was a moment, when Stick was seriously considering telling Matt who should he thank for his father's return, but the old man refrained from it. It didn't matter right now. Right now there were far more pressing matters to discuss.
So instead Stick told Matt the bad news. It was quite fascinating how the bodies of both Murdocks reacted so much alike. First the abrupt lowering of the temperature, when the realization hit them. Then the heart that slowered down but the beating sounded really loud (although, maybe it was just Stick paying too much attention to it). And finally a general speechlessness as the Murdock in question was contemplating what he just heard.
"A month." Matt whispered eventually.
He sounded just the way Stick expected him to sound – sad, hurt and vulnerable. There were probably other, less noticeable emotions too, but Stick didn't care for them. The important thing was that the kid was aware of the time remained before his father will come back to being dead.
"Is there no way to let him stay?" He asked, just like Stick expected him to say.
"Month is the longest he can remain alive, Matty. It is not possible to prolong it."
"Oh, yeah?" Matt's tone changed suddenly. Stick could easily detect an anger boiling inside of the kid. "And how would I know, you're saying it just to screw with me? As far as, I know, it must be some kind of sick joke on your part."
Stick would lie if he said he didn't expect that. He sighed and hit his interlocutor with his cane.
"I don't joke about the matters of natural order. Remember about it the next time you will imply something so stupid."
What a shame that Matt was too dizzy to dodge the hit, but oh, well… at least Stick got the point across that thick skull.
Another moment of silence. The sadness was hanging in the air. Stick could almost taste it with his tongue. Suddenly he felt kinda awkward and he knew that it could become even more awkward the longer he would stay here. Besides, the kid needed to be left alone now.
So the old master stood up. However, before he exited the hospital room, he told Matt:
"Look, kid, you can sit here, moping all day about your daddy's inevitable death, or use the remaining time and spend some time with him. Your choice."
Matt didn't say anything… at first. Stick could, however, deduce that his former protégé was pissed at him. Finally he spoke, and – to Stick's surprise – he sounded tired.
"Just go away."
And so Stick went away.
While walking down the hospital's corridor, the old man couldn't help, but be curious how this all was going to end. By now, he had few more important things to do, but he decided that he will come back and check on Murdock boys.
Besides, he still wanted to fight with Jackie boy. Stick smiled to his own thoughts. Yes, this battle could turn out to be very informative… not to mention entertaining.
So I wrote Stick...
For quite some time I'm thinknig about writing something with him and I have some kind of vision of this character. Nevertheless, in that chapter I tried to make him mean... but not necesserily dickish. He shouldn't be the "he cares, but doesn't show it". He only displays information, because he thinks that Matt and Jack should be aware of how much time they have.
At least in that fanfic.
Anyway, review, please!