A/N: Man, I haven't written fanfic in a little while. This image came to me.
I wish this fandom were much bigger than it is. And I wish there was a shitload more of good fanfiction. I love this flik like woah.
Over the years, Jack collected the love memories – all those moments of just love, the kind of mush that his brothers usually worked to avoid. He stored them away in his heart to get him through shit times and to reassure himself that they did love him whenever he started to doubt. Returning to the house for Evelyn's funeral had those memories flooding him. He lay on his bed after Angel left to go get "air" and Jerry ran to the grocery store and Bobby plodded downstairs to play a soft record and look through the living room and the kitchen, and he smiled to himself in between puffs on his cigarette.
He had been sixteen on a nasty December night, walking in the rain. He hadn't felt himself cry, just the penetrating 29 degrees. He couldn't even remember now why he had ended up walking home or where he had been earlier that day. When he had finally slipped into the house, Bobby had grabbed him and ushered him upstairs, clucking like Evelyn would have if she had been home, telling Angel to help him with the bath. Jack thought that if he had not been crying almost hysterically, Bobby probably would have yelled at him, but instead, his eldest brother had shown nothing but concern.
"God, Jack, where have you been? You're wet as a dog and it's nine o'clock and Ma's out looking for ya. You have any idea how worried we were? Why are you crying?"
Jack hadn't answered him, as Bobby had peeled his clothes off in the bathroom, while Angel ran in and out to run the water and call Evelyn. Bobby had wrapped him in a towel, while they had waited for the tub to fill, and Jack had cried on.
"Jack," Bobby had said softly, urging. "What happened? What's wrong? You know you can tell me anything." He had taken Jack by the arms, barely shaking, the water rumbling into the bathtub.
"I – I couldn't k-kiss her," Jack had sobbed.
"This g-girl, C-Carly, s-she asked me out, and I-I could-n-n't k-kiss her." Jack had choked, unsure whether he was shivering or shaking with the tears. He had told Bobby that all he had been able to think about while the girl had touched him and tried to kiss him was the bad foster father, the one who had hurt him. He had sobbed and sobbed, face streaming, saying how he was pathetic and how everyone at school would know he was a flake. Bobby had looked at him helplessly, half-sitting on the sink, and had pulled him into one of Jack's favorite hugs – strong, warm, relentless. A true Bobby-hug.
"You did nothin' wrong, Jackie," his brother had said. "Nothin'. It's okay. It's going to be okay."
He had rubbed circles on Jack's back, warming him up in so many ways, and his voice had been low and soothing. He had even started to hush after a few minutes, the bath almost full. Jack remembered the bumpy cloth mat under his feet, his face buried in Bobby's shoulder, the towel against his skin, but most of all – his brother's arms around him, so snug and unapologetic.
"Come on," Bobby had said. "Let's get you in this bath."
He had guided Jack to the tub, slowly pulling the towel off and letting Jack ease in. The water had been almost hot but somehow not as good as Bobby's hug. Jack remembered lying his back on the porcelain, the single light comfortably dim. Bobby had stepped back into the shadows, leaning against the sink, but he hadn't left. Jack had listened to Angel's footsteps in the hall, the voices of both his brothers like a cat kneading his spine, gently, one paw firm and the other more lenient.
His tears had dried. Evelyn had come home. Angel had taken the pile of wet, lonely-smelling clothes downstairs to the laundry room, and Bobby had stayed put, silent but ever watchful. Evelyn hadn't come up, knowing that she had to give Jack space and that Bobby would let her know when it was okay. Jack had lain in the water for a long time, eyes shut, and when he opened them and glanced over at Bobby's silhouette, his brother had asked him if he was ready to get out.
Once Jack had pulled on pajamas, Evelyn had come into his room and hugged him and listened to his quiet explanation. Angel had come in after she had left for bed, wishing him good night and half-hugging him, and Bobby – God love him – had finally reappeared.
"You okay, Cracker Jack?"
He had nodded, almost smiling at the name.
"You wanna come downstairs and watch some late night hockey?"
Jack remembered his eyes watering at that; Bobby knew just how to make everything right. They had gone downstairs together that night, blanket wrapped around Jack, and they had watched a hockey game re-run in the dark living room, drinking the hot chocolate Evelyn had left on the stove. In the morning, he woke to find himself still on the couch, Bobby looking sleepily at the television, arm around him.
"Hey," his brother had greeted.
"We slept here all night?"
"What time is it?"
"Nine sumthin'. Mom's gettin' washed up and Angel's still asleep, sounds like."
The mugs had been on the table, empty and almost touching and Jack had sunk a little with a sudden awareness and pleasure. He always loved winter mornings, when the light was weak and everything smelled and felt cozy and loving.
"You want breakfast?" Bobby had asked.
"Yeah – but I'd rather stay home, find something in the kitchen. It's too cold to go out."
"Fine. Maybe we can dig up some oatmeal or something – ya little fairy."
Jack smiled to himself, recalling that. As much as it annoyed him sometimes, a part of him had always adored Bobby's nicknames.
Six months after that, Bobby had disappeared and hadn't returned until now, for Evelyn's funeral. He had kept up with Jack for a little while but eventually stopped, and Jack had taken a long time to understand their mother when she said that it was just Bobby's way. He had spent months feeling lonely, never stopped missing him, but eventually had grown up and moved on, like the rest of them. Now all he could think of, lying on his bed, was how much they should have stuck together these last few years and how indescribably glad he was to be together again, in this house. It was the only place that had ever felt right.