Coming Home

As soon as the bastard stopped to turn around, you knew. His hockey mask glinted off-white, like the dirty snow you felt sliding down your fingers. You had already stopped breathing when he pulled out the gun, an oily black that sickly contrasted with the color of the mask. A second later, your shoulder felt like it had been hit by a cement truck and stabbed through with a screwdriver. It hurt so fucking much you stumbled and couldn't get your legs to move or your lungs to contract. Bobby always said you were a fairy but with a gaping bloody hole in your body, maybe you had an excuse this time. Somewhere behind you, you heard someone holler, "Jack!" and another gun fire. You hacked out a breath and sucked in so much air you felt dizzy, but at least your feet were moving now as you turned around and saw Bobby flying back into the house as guns blazed behind him.

And, when you felt the bullets go through your back, you heard Ma's voice saying, "You're gonna be alright, Jack, you're safe now." You thought, even Ma couldn't protect you forever, redeem you from all the shit you'd done when you had been a stupid kid with no family and nowhere to go but down. Now, lying in the snow with a copper thickness flooding your mouth, panic rose in your gut. You couldn't die, not now, not after all these years of struggling to be different, to start something for yourself. You were a Mercer now, you belonged somewhere, and even if you never made it big, you had your brothers. You couldn't die now.

"Bobby!" you screamed as you felt the pain start to fade and cold seeping in.

Your stinging eyes finally let the tears loose as you screamed his name again, your oldest brother, Bobby fucking Mercer, who despite all his wise cracks took care of his baby brother the most and always beat the shit out of anyone that tried to hurt his Jackie. But you couldn't see him, only more and more hooded guys with guns that shot down the only place you'd ever called home.

You rolled back onto the snow and coughed up crimson. Whoever said that life flashed before your eyes in that moment between life and death – well, it was the fucking truth. The first thing you saw was the day Ma took you home, cause you've always tried your best to forget everything before that. Nothing else counted until the day you became a Mercer. You saw Ma shaking her head gently at your tattoos, her smile bright but her eyes sad when they took in your scrawny arms and your scars when you had quickly changed your shirt before dinner. It had been your first real dinner in your first real house. There had been candlesticks and tablecloth and everything. You had swiped a couple candlesticks until Ma found out and looked at you with her sad eyes and said, "Jack, anything you need, you tell me. I won't put up with stealing in my house." She hadn't tried to scare you with the police and jail trick cause you knew what it was like; you'd been there before. "In this family, everyone takes care of each other. The only things you need to worry about are your chores and your table manners." And then, she had given you your first real hug, not needing to bend over cause you were already getting tall. "Now get," she had finally said so you could get into your first real bed.

After that, the images flashed faster and faster and all you could do was sob deep and raw at what you were about to leave behind. Jerry and his need to keep the family together even if he didn't really know how. You never understood how he always pinned Angel, who was easily fifty pounds heavier. But then again, you'd never really understood him, especially after he married and it felt like he didn't know which family to put first. You didn't get why he had to choose. Still, he'd saved your ass more than a few times and your respect for him had turned into a love as strong as your love for any other brother. You saw him dragging you by the collar through the cold, cracked streets to his car so he could take you home cause you were so far gone after all the booze and drugs, you couldn't even see straight let alone walk straight. He never said a word during those times, but no matter how loudly you yelled at him, how much you swore, and how often you hurled in his car, he was still there the next time.

Angel was a different story. He came into the family right before you did, his dad had gotten him to do things that were too dirty, too illegal, and always told him his worth with his fists. But in the end, Angel turned out to be tougher than his dad, who had been found in a ravine and shot in the head. Angel took care not to show too much, but you knew he loved his Ma and his brothers the most. To most people, he was a tough guy with a pretty face but you knew better, especially when you ended up holding him when he cried cause he was so scared he'd lose Ma, Bobby, Jerry, and you. You saw him clutching your arm, digging his fingers into your leather jacket, as he said through quiet tears, "You – you, Jerry, and Bobby, and Ma – you're all I got," usually after he slipped and went back to his old ways for a night or two, then realized that he'd fucked up again. He always thought he'd be the one to break up the family somehow, but you knew he was the glue.

You blinked once, twice, and realized Bobby was there, kneeling beside you with his hands gripped tightly around your arms, though you could barely feel it. You opened your mouth but you couldn't talk, partly cause your throat was clogged with your own blood and partly cause you knew it'd be useless. It was almost over, but not before you saw the grief and guilt in Bobby's eyes. He had promised you, the first night, that he'd always have your back, always keep you breathing. He had been so bent on protecting you, throwing fists around for you, cause you found out that he'd been helpless to save his own little brother years ago. At first, you hadn't been willing to play his little brother, be some sort of object of redemption, so you'd tried your best to fuck up his chances. But after a few months, he had backed you into a wall and said, "You little shit, are you trying to get us both killed? I'm out there busting my ass for you and all you can do is get into more trouble!" You had lashed out with a knee to his stomach but he was too fast for you and had you pinned to that same wall in no time. "Now let's get something into that puny brain of yours, I'm not doing this for Angel, for Jerry, for me, not even for Ma, I'm doing this for you, you got that? You can get into as much shit as you want, I still got your back, but how about making it easier for both of us, huh?" From then on, you followed his advice and no one touched Jack Mercer when Bobby was around.

You smiled up at your oldest brother with your teeth and lips stained, fighting for a few more breaths so you could let him know that you didn't hate him or even blame him. You never would've gotten this far without him, but there was one thing you wanted him to do and the flicker in his eyes told you he knew. Kill every last one of those motherfuckers, kill them for Jack, but mostly for Ma. Finally you closed your eyes and quieted your chest and your heart, and as Bobby's sobs faded away, you heard Ma's voice saying, "Don't worry, you're safe now. You're coming home."

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