Title: The Most Bitter Pill

Author: veiledndarkness

Rating: R for repeated swearing and later sexy stuff

Summary: Jealously can make things far more complicated and it's always a bitter pill to swallow.

Warnings: major angst fest here people. I'm aiming for a happy ending but to get to that happy ending, you gotta slog through a lot of shit. This story will only be about 3 parts, but they are kinda long so I feel it works. The first one takes place roughly two years before the movie takes place. The next part will be right after her death when the brothers meet up again. The third will be after the revenge. And no I'm definitely not killing Jack cause he's been through far to much already. And I'm deeply in denial about his death.

The day that Jack brought home Bryan started off just like any regular day in the Mercer household. Angel was sneaking chunks of potato as fast as Evelyn was chopping them, Jerry was on the phone with his wife, giving her another reason why, yet again, he wouldn't be home for dinner till a bit later. He never missed one of Ma's roasts. Bobby was sitting in the living room, butt firmly planted in the couch, screaming obscenities at the hockey referee. Evelyn smiled as the noise level increased bit by bit. These were the sounds of home.

She dried her hands as she sent Angel out of the kitchen, telling him that it wasn't her fault that he had skipped lunch, and to wait for dinner to be ready. Angel left with the kitchen with a smirk. They both knew he'd be back to raid the kitchen as soon as she left the room. Even at his age, he still ate like a teenage boy going through a growth spurt.

She went into the laundry room to pull out the load of dry towels that still needed to be folded. She rolled her eyes and began to fold them. Clearly they would sit here for days before Bobby remembered that he had agreed to fold the laundry for her. She could hear him shouting and she found her mind wandering as she continued to fold. 'Jack should be here any moment' she thought to herself. 'And Bryan too', she smiled.

Jack had asked in his shy way if it was alright to bring home a 'friend' of his. Evelyn had laughed and said "Of course, Jack. I can't wait to meet the boy who's stolen your heart" Jack had flushed a dark crimson and made repeated denials about how close they were.

The truth was that Jack had fallen hard for Bryan, moments after meeting him for the first time. Bryan had been leaning against the brick wall of the corner store with some people that Jack knew from summer school, well back when he was still in school. Bryan had given Jack a lazy grin, and the moment they linked eyes, Jack was hooked. It hadn't taken that long for Bryan to realize why Jack gave him so many shy glances when he thought that he wasn't looking. Bryan had smiled inwardly and made his move.

Now, Jack was making his way through the front door, pushing the hastily discarded boots and shoes off to the side. Bryan followed a small smirk on his lips as he watched Jack nervously pull his jacket off. Jack gave Bryan a small grin, then a quick hug.

"Thanks for coming Bryan. Its well, kinda important. I want you to meet my ma-mother. And my brothers." He added quickly. Bryan smiled knowingly and nodded.

"Of course, Baby. You know I do anything for you. Or to you" he said as he dropped a kiss on Jack's lips.

Jack blushed. He hated being called Baby. It made him feel young and stupid. He ducked out of Bryan's arms and went into the kitchen, Bryan close behind.

"Ma?" he called out.

"In here, Jack. Folding the towels, cause somebody forgot. Again." She called from the small laundry room.

"Sorry, Ma" came the automatic reply from the living room.

Jack grinned. Bobby was home! He'd so been hoping that Bobby would be here to meet Bryan.

Angel watched Jack introduce Bryan to Evelyn with narrowed eyes. Something about that white boy rubbed him the wrong way. Angel always prided himself on his ability to sniff out the shit heads in the crowd. And by the smell of this guy, Angel had a pretty good feeling what this one was up to. He acknowledged Jack's intro to Bryan with a short nod of his head, ignoring the hurt look on Jack's face.

'Somebody needs to teach that boy not to show his emotions all the time. Being blank can save your life sometimes.' He thought, annoyed that Jack was so easy to read.

He didn't move when Bryan stuck his hand out and just grunted when Evelyn admonished him to remember his manners. He left the kitchen and made his way to the living room. Wait till Bobby got a load of this guy.

Jack stared at Evelyn pleading with her to help break up the awkward moment. She cleared her throat and then asked Jack to get Jerry off the phone while she set the table.

"Dinner's ready boys!" she called out.

Angel was first back in the kitchen of course, with Jerry trailing close behind. Jack walked in with hesitant steps. He suddenly felt like there was cotton in his mouth.

'Oh god, please let Bobby behave himself', he pleaded. The notion he'd had about bringing Bryan to meet his family didn't seem like such a good idea now. Jack sat down to the table across from Bryan, Jerry to his left, Angel on Bryan's right, Evelyn at the head, and Bobby across from her. Jack tapped a nervous beat with his left hand as Evelyn began passing out bowls of food.

Bryan gave him a smile, and his stomach did a little flip flop. Oh, that smile. Angel rolled his eyes and passed the rolls to Bobby. Jack's head shot up. Bobby! He'd forgotten that neither Bobby nor Jerry had been introduced to Bryan.

"Uh, Jerry, Bobby, this is Bryan." He said then held his breath.

Jerry mumbled a hello through a mouthful of mashed potato.

"Zip up your lips, Jeremiah. Were you raised in a barn?" Evelyn scolded him.

Jerry straightened up, swallowed his mouthful and turned to Bryan to greet him properly. Through this, Bobby had sat perfectly still, his fork halfway to his mouth. Did he just hear what he thought he'd heard? What the fuck? Jack glanced over at Bobby and froze. Oh lord, the look on his face. He prayed harder than he'd prayed when he was a young child. 'Please, please let him be civil to Bryan.'

Evelyn looked at the scared face of Jack and the blank look on Bobby's face and felt a streak of annoyance settle in her. Damn that boy, he was going to give Jack a heart attack one of these days. She cleared her throat then and spoke aloud.

"Bobby, I don't believe you've met Bryan. Bryan, this is Bobby, Jack's oldest brother. Bobby, this is Jack's friend Bryan. Jack invited him for dinner and so that he could meet us." She sat back a bit and watched for Bobby's reaction.

Bobby looked at Bryan for the first time and he felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand straight up. It was like all his sensors were going off at once.

'This fucker thinks he can mess with a Mercer huh? Not on my fuckin' watch' he thought furiously. There was no way that he would let this guy get any closer to his Jack. He gave his head a quick mental shake. Gotta stay in the right frame of mind.

"So you're the guy that Jack's been missing family stuff for huh?" Bobby asked, striving to keep his voice even.

Jack closed his eyes as he attempted to calm his breathing.

'I will not hyperventilate, I will not hyperventilate', he repeated over and over in his head.

"Yeah, name's Bryan. How are you man?" Bryan said with a small smirk tucked into the corner of his lip.

Bobby nearly snarled.

"I gotta say it's great to finally meet all of you. Jack's told me so much about you, that I feel like I know you guys" said Bryan.

"How sweet" Bobby said as he finally brought his fork up to his mouth. Jack winced.

Evelyn sighed and attempted to make small talk for awhile. It only partial worked as Bryan monopolized the entire conversation. The annoyance radiating off Angel was clear. Jerry seemed content as long as Bryan didn't try to catch his attention. Bobby alternated glares at Bryan with annoyed glances at Jack. Jack stared at his dinner plate and pushed his food around, not really eating anything. Evelyn watched Jack prod his food into little heaps before finally leaning closer to him.

"Are you not hungry Jackie?" she asked, her voice soft with concern.

He always lost his appetite whenever he was worried or scared. Jack shook his head and refused to meet her eyes. The dinner seemed to drag on and on for him until finally Jerry stood up, hugged Evelyn and said goodbye to everyone, apologizing for having to leave so soon. Angel was next, claiming he had to go meet Sofi. Bobby snorted at that, but this time Angel breezed by, thankful to be done with this night.

Evelyn dabbed at her lips with her napkin and suggested that Jack help her clear the dishes. Jack shot her a quick, indecipherable look, then stood up and started stacking the used plates.

"I think Jack and I will wash the dishes tonight. Why don't you two boys go watch the hockey game tonight" She said carefully, giving Bobby a meaningful look that plainly said 'Don't you dare start anything'.

Bobby nodded and stalked off back to the living room. Bryan strolled up behind Jack and circled his arms around his middle.

"I'll see you later ok, Baby?" Jack nodded and whispered "ok".

Bryan lifted Jack's chin. "Don't worry so much. He isn't gonna do anything Babe"

Jack gave him a doubtful look. 'Clearly, Bryan hadn't been listening when I told him a little bit about Bobby' he thought.

Jack turned to his mother and carried the dishes into the kitchen. He walked slowly, like he was walking to his death. They cleared the dishes from the dining room in silence. Jack could hear the commentators on the hockey program discussing a player while Bobby polished off the rest of the beer he'd been working on before dinner. He hoped Bryan would just be quiet. Bryan had a bad habit of just rambling on to fill the silence, and he knew that would irritate the hell out of Bobby.

Evelyn filled the sink and allowed Jack a moment or two to gather himself. He needed some quiet time that much was obvious. Of all the children that she'd ever been mother too, no matter how short a time, Jack was by far the quietest one. He'd retreated into himself often enough for Evelyn to know when to push and when to back off. Now she waited to see if Jack wanted to say anything. They washed the dishes in near silence with an occasional generic question from Evelyn.

Finally as they were drying the dishes, Jack faced her. "Ma, do you think it was a good idea for me to bring him here?"

Evelyn observed Jack's face and saw the desire for approval in his eyes. The child was still so easy to read. She smiled gently and nodded.

"He seems fine Jackie. He obviously cares about you. And that's all that matters in the end. But more importantly, how do you feel about Bryan?"

Jack studied the plate in his hands with sudden intensity.

"I…I like him. He's good to me and we have fun." He looked up and watched for Evelyn's reaction. She nodded her head.

"That's what a mother hopes for her children. No matter how old they are. And no matter how old you get Jackie, you'll always be my little boy"

Jack scowled at her. "I'm not a little boy Ma! I turned 19 three months ago. I'm a man now"

Evelyn struggled not to laugh as Jack said that. All that was missing was Jack stomping his foot in defiance. She grinned lightly.

"Of course you're not a little boy anymore age wise, but all my boys are dear to me"

Jack smiled back at her now and gave her a sudden fierce hug. As always, a few moments of speaking to Ma made a world of difference to him.

"Now go get your man and have a good time this evening." She said, with a laugh.

Jack started towards the living room when he heard the shouts start. With a fearful glance back at Evelyn, he all but ran into the room. She sighed, and turned back to the rest of the wet dishes.

'At some point, you have to let the boys work it out for themselves' she thought, nodding to herself. Although it helps to be standing nearby just in case.

As Jack ran into the living room, Bobby had pinned Bryan against the wall, with his fist pulled back, seconds away from punching the shit out of him. Jack lunged for Bobby in two steps.

"Bobby, for fuck's sake, put him down! What the fuck is the matter with you!" he shouted.

Bobby dropped Bryan and faced Jack, his eyes dark with fury. Bryan scrambled over behind Jack avoiding Bobby's eyes.

"We were just discussing some stuff is all Jackie. Nothin' to worry about." Bobby said finally.

Jack snorted. "Bullshit. I can't leave you guys alone for a fuckin' second can I? I knew I couldn't trust you Bobby! I knew you'd do this!"

Jack stared at Bobby waiting for an answer. Bobby swore, then faced Bryan. "You just better fuckin' remember what I told you boy"

Jack let out an angry cry and stormed out of the house, Bryan close on his heels. Evelyn waited for the slam of the front door before she went into the living room. Bobby was furiously changing channels without actually watching the programs. She stood in front of the television when he didn't look up at her. Finally he sighed. "What Ma?"

"Don't you what me, young man! You know how much Jack values your opinion and you went out of your way to be difficult and nasty to Bryan! I want you to apologize to Jack the first chance you get, do you hear me Bobby Mercer!" She said.

Bobby looked off to the side. He couldn't face her right now. He didn't want to deal with this right now. And that slimy bastard was out there with Jack. Damn it. He sighed.

"I'm sorry Ma. I didn't mean to blow up, I just…I…aw fuck…I gotta get out here!"

He stood up and made to leave the room.

"You remember what I said Bobby. You can't deny family, no matter how mad you are!" Evelyn said as he made his way out of the room. The slam of the door was her answer. She groaned and sat down heavily on the stuffed chair. These boys would drive her insane, she was sure of it.

Jack sat on the bench at the school yard kicking idly at the ground. He shook out a smoke and lit it with shaky hands. He still couldn't believe that in the span of a few hours, his life had changed so much. It had been so long ago that he had sort of forgotten what it was like to have no control over your life. Bobby's warning had frightened Bryan off like a scared cat.

Jack had stormed outside, his hands twitching with urge to punch something. He was rarely this upset with anyone, let alone Bobby. Bryan had stood off to the side, watching Jack pace. Jack had moved closer to Bryan, needing a hug or some reassuring words. Bryan had darted away from him as though he was on fire. Jack's eyes stung at his rejection.

"What's wrong Bryan? Was it Bobby? Just…just ignore him. He's weird like that" Jack said, searching for the right words.

Bryan snorted and took several steps back again. "I don't think so Jack. Look we had a good time right? And it's been fun but you know I don't think this is such a good idea. Uh, we're different people and we're going in different directions and…" Bryan trailed off, shrugging uselessly.

Jack shook his head; he couldn't believe what he was hearing.

"Look, if you wanna break this…this thing that we have off, no fuckin' problem. Just don't give me some fuckin' lame ass excuse. Get out of here! Spare me your excuses" Jack snapped angrily. With that he took off walking down the road.

Bryan swore under his breath and looked up suddenly as he saw Bobby's shadow in the window. "Shit"

He ran for his car, jerking the door open and speeding off in the opposite direction of Jack. Bobby stood on the front steps with his arms crossed.

'Fuckin' pussy. Ah, Jack's better off without the little piece of shit. Especially after our little conversation.' He gave a short bitter laugh then spat over the side of the railing.

'Now, if I were a little fairy, where would I go?' He smiled for the first time that night since dinner started.

Jack sat on the bench, remembering the first time that he met Bryan. He was lost in his memories until he felt the sting of the cigarette stub burning his fingers. Bobby walked up behind him, then sat down beside him. He pulled a smoke from his own coat pocket and lit it, inhaling slowly as he stared up at the sky. Jack flicked the remainder of his butt on the ground and waited for Bobby to say something. Finally Bobby tilted his head to him.

"You know it's easy to find you Jackie. You always head here."

Jack nodded in agreement. 'So we're skirting the issue are we?' he thought, surprised by the sarcasm in his inner voice. 'Fuck this dancing', he added mentally.

"Why are you here Bobby? You got what you wanted. Bryan's gone, he's not coming back" Jack said.

Bobby struggled with his emotions. 'Oh god how I want to tell him.' He sighed then and took another drag on his smoke.

"You didn't hear the whole thing Jackie. You didn't hear what that little fucker had to say." Jack smirked then, a look that made Bobby uncomfortable.

"I'm only trying to help you Jack. You need a guy like Bryan like you need another fuckin' hole in your head." He said.

Jack gave a quick bark of laughter that made Bobby's skin crawl.

'How badly have I fucked up this time?' He thought with a worried frown. "Uh Jack, listen, I know that you're mad right now, but…"

"But what, Bobby huh? Do you have any idea how much I liked him? He left me because of you! I was happy and you had to take it away. Why Bobby? What possible reason could you have to do this to me?" Jack said angrily as he stood up and started fidgeting with his pockets.

Bobby stared at the ground. He kept his lips shut tight.

Jack gave a growl of frustration. "Damn you, answer me!"

Bobby felt his anger rising. 'I will not yell at him' he thought, stamping down on his growing fury. He stood up and faced Jack. "I did what I had to do Jack! He didn't love you; he'll never love you the way you should be!"

Jack let out a cry of pain as he turned away from Bobby. 'Trust Bobby to find the sorest spot and jump all over it' he thought, the pain ripping through him.

Bobby watched Jack turn away from him, his heart heavy. 'You keep going and you'll push him too far Bobby Mercer' a voice that sounded suspiciously like his mother said in his mind.

He took a step forward and reached a hand out to Jack's arm. Jack whirled around and yanked his arm away. "Don't you fuckin' touch me Bobby! I can't talk to you right now. You have no right to tell me who I can be with. I choose who I want to be with, not you!"

Bobby felt his eyes burn. 'Fuck, this was not going the way I planned'. He rubbed a palm over his face in frustration.

"Goddammit, Jack, calm the fuck down! You're takin' this the wrong way."

Jack ripped his fingers through his hair. "And just how the fuck am I supposed to react Bobby? My own family doesn't want to see me happy with anyone. I finally found a guy who didn't mind how fucked up I was before. Someone who liked me just the way I was, not for what I could do for him."

Bobby winced. 'Zip your lips' he thought furiously.

Jack closed his eyes, then muttered to Bobby. "Just tell me the truth Bobby. Tell me why you chased him off".

Bobby stayed silent for a moment. "I wish I could Jackie" he said, his voice choked with emotion.

Jack opened his eyes, and stared Bobby in the face. His breathing stopped a moment, and time seemed frozen just then. Bobby didn't blink, didn't breathe, didn't move a muscle.

"I need a reason Bobby. You owe me that much." Jack said this with quiet anger.

Bobby closed his eyes now. Oh god, he was gonna say it, it was coming out of his lips before he could stop it. 'Please understand Jack' he prayed wildly. His mouth opened up helplessly and it poured out.

"I…I chased him off because I didn't want him to be with you. He wasn't right for you, and he wasn't gonna love you the way you need to be." He whispered.

Jack exploded.

"You already fuckin' said that! Tell me! Tell me now, fuckin' now! You owe me damn you Bobby, you are not my goddammed guardian, you are not my keeper, and I'm gonna do what I fuckin' well want to. I'll date who I want, fuck who I want, smoke what I want and you can chase off every single person who means something to me, but at least tell me why!" he screamed, practically radiating with anger, his hands shaking and his legs twitching.

Bobby gripped the bench with sweaty palms. 'No! Not like this', he pleaded with himself. 'I can't tell him like this'. Jack paced, still angrily muttering aloud. Bobby took a deep breath.

"I…I push them away cause I…" he trailed off.

"You what, Bobby" Jack said his voice laced with impatience.

"I love you" Bobby whispered.

Jack stared at him. Again, time stopped. Both stopped breathing. They locked eyes. Jack began to tremble all over. Bobby's hands shook with the effort it took not to just lean over and grab Jack. Bobby eyes burned again with unshed tears.

"What?" Jack whispered. Bobby hunched his shoulders. He couldn't believe he'd said it.

"I love you, Jackie. I…nobody else is ever gonna love you like I do Jack." He said.

Jack shook his head from side to side, backing away from Bobby slowly. "No, no no no you don't mean it" he whispered. His eyes began to dart back and forth. Bobby moved towards him and Jack gasped and backpedaled faster.

"Jack, please, come here. I'm not gonna hurt you sweetheart I swear" Bobby said, his voice rough with emotion.

Jack shook his head again. "I gotta go Bobby. I can't deal"

He let out a cry of anguish. "You can't just drop this on me Bobby! You…you…I …" he ran then, running blindly towards the street.

Bobby collapsed to the wood bench. He put his head in his hands and shuddered as he struggled not to cry.

"I love you Jackie. I always have" he said as his body shook with tremors.

He sat on the bench for hours, going over their conversation, analyzing it from every angle and torturing himself with the knowledge that once again he'd fucked up royally. By the time he got home, Jack was gone, along with his duffel bag and guitar. Evelyn had stared at him with sad and angry eyes. She knew, Bobby realized, without Jack saying a word, she'd known.

Bobby got drunk that night, so drunk he couldn't see straight. And in the morning he left too.