Title: Pain & Love

Author: veiledndarkness

Rating: Hard R

Summary: Sometimes the one person you trust the most can turn out to be the worst person for you.


This is by far the most alternate universe story I've ever started. Evelyn is alive in this one but all is not well. Bobby is extremely, extremely different in this story. He is similar in many ways to his character in Four Brothers, but this is a different side of Bobby, one that isn't fully explored in the movie. This is one way Bobby might have been if they had developed his character more and made him less able to deal with problems. It is quite long and it's taken me a long time to get it to the point where I feel comfortable posting it. There is violence in this.

Pairing: Bobby/Jack

Final Warning: There is one section of somewhat descriptive slash between the two in the beginning of the story. There is descriptive violence in some scenes.


Jack closed the bathroom door as silently as he could, his hands still shaking terribly. He slid down the wall to sit with his back to the door as he covered his face with his hands. His thin shoulders shook with muffled sobs as he cried, the tears pouring down. His stomach clenched suddenly and the urge to throw up was incredibly strong. He crawled over to the toilet and retched for what seemed like hours. Stomach finally empty, he sat back weakly, wiping at his mouth with a trembling hand. He laid his head on the cool tiles and winced as he felt his skin flare with renewed pain. He raised one hand and tentatively checked his face. He let out a soft sigh. Nothing broken this time. Jack curled up into a ball, and wept into the floor. "How could it have come this far?" he whispered into his chest.


Jack was the first person to see Bobby's apartment, something that had thrilled him secretly. Bobby had been so proud, insisting on giving Jack the 'grand tour' as he called it, though the apartment was somewhat small. Jack laughed when Bobby carried him over the threshold, fireman style. He pounded Bobby's back lightly and yelled to be let down. Bobby dropped Jack on the bare mattress and they kissed until they were both breathless. Their kisses grew more heated until they heard a discreet cough at the doorway. Jack had gone bright red when he realized that Evelyn was standing in the doorway, an amused grin and somehow sad look on her face. She'd given them a once over and announced that everyone had arrived.

Bobby helped Jack to his feet and they had rushed out of the room. During dinner, while it seemed that everyone was talking all at once, Jack had sat in silence and observed the room and the people in it. He'd taken in the proud look on Bobby's face and had felt a wave of happiness roll through him. He knew how long Bobby had waited before he'd saved enough to move out of the house, and now that he was playing with the league full time, he could finally afford to have a place of his own.

Now Bobby was insisting that Jack move in with him. Jack felt prized, almost special when Bobby had informed him that there was no 'thinkin' about it' that he was going to move with Bobby. He loved the feeling he got in the pit of his stomach when Bobby would go all possessive. How his eyes would get darker and how he would kiss Jack hard, harder than normal until he would agree to whatever Bobby wanted.

Jack made for the small balcony while Angel and Jerry started assembling some of the shelving units. He lit up a cigarette and leaned back against the wall, breathing in the late summer night air. He could hear the women talking and laughing every few minutes in the kitchen. He paused mid-drag when he faintly heard the sound of arguing. Not the general bickering between Jerry and Angel who had quickly become frustrated with the instruction booklets, but the sound of two people truly mad with each other. He strained his ears, trying to catch what was being said. It almost sounded like it was coming from the bedroom window. Jack moved towards the edge of the balcony and pushed himself flat against the wall. The muffled voices were a bit clearer now and he listened while holding his breath.

"-don't really think that this is such a good idea" he heard Evelyn say.

What the hell? He heard Bobby sigh.

"There's nothing wrong with this, I told you already what was gonna happen and now it is happening. Why can't you be happy for me Ma?"

"I am happy for you, happy that you're playing, happy that you have a place of your own, but happy because you want him all for yourself? No, I won't stand by and watch you control him too."

Jack's eyebrows shot up in surprise. What on earth was she saying?

Bobby gave a frustrated growl. Jack could picture exactly how Bobby looked right now, skin flushed, eyes bright, pacing in frustrated circles. His insides twisted painfully as he tried to hear what the argument was about.

"I control him? Is that you think? Oh that's fuckin' rich Ma" he said, each word dripping with bitter anger.

"Don't you use that language with me Bobby Mercer! You may be a grown man, but you are still my son, and you won't talk to me like that" she shot back, her voice firm, yet sad.

"You tell him what to do, and he does it. Do you really think I don't know what you're capable of? Your anger Bobby, that will be your downfall. You must learn to control it" she said.

With that, Jack heard the bedroom door slam as Bobby stormed out of the apartment. He leaned back against the brick wall with weak knees. How he hated arguments! They always made him feel sick. He remembered far too many nights of being the center of an argument between foster parents, one wanting to 'keep' him, the other wanting him gone as fast as possible. More often than not, it was the women who wanted him gone; they all saw the way their men looked at Jack. A boy far too pretty for his own good, a boy who always responded to authoritative figures. It was that main reason that he'd been bounced through so many homes in so few years.

He looked down just as the ash dropped off his forgotten cigarette. He let it slip from his fingers to the cement and ground it out as he lost himself in his memories. The years of a different home every month, the case workers who shook their heads in despair over ever finding him a permanent home, being kicked out time after time, the months in detention centers when no home was available. The beatings, the abuse, the complete denial of food for days on end, the nights that dragged on while hands touched him. It had taken him years before he felt comfortable being touched on a regular basis. And even now, he still woke up screaming and pleading for someone to save him several times a week. 'Ma's wrong, Bobby keeps me safe' Jack thought stubbornly as he mashed the remains of the cig into the ground.


Jack stared at his face in the mirror. He swore mentally when he saw the size of the bruise on his cheek. "Fuck!" he said softly. He prayed that it wouldn't spread high enough to look like a black eye. The blow had been far too close to his cheekbone this time. Any closer and it might have broken. He grimaced at the idea of going to the emergency room again and trying to explain how he managed to injure himself this time. He was tired of the pitying looks on the nurses' faces and the stern yet sympathetic doctors who advised him to just leave whoever was hurting him. Jack would stare at the floor and refuse to answer any questions. Eventually they all got tired of him and would send him out the door with a painkiller prescription.

He gave a grim smile as he gently stretched his arms over his head; at least the meds let him feel nothing. He could just float and not worry. Jack washed his face very carefully; he'd take a shower once Bobby left for practice. He cracked open the bathroom door slowly, checking to see if Bobby was up yet. He could hear him lightly snoring in the bedroom. He gave a near silent sigh of relief at the sound of the soft snores. He slipped into the bedroom and carefully moved the basket of laundry out to the living room.

Jack sat down on the couch slowly, as his ass was still sore from earlier. Bobby always took him harder when they had a fight. He cringed as he felt the small stings of pain in his legs from being held in position for so long. Only 19 and he already felt like an old man. He sorted the clothes, separating the socks and underwear from the towels and the pants from the shirts. Jack found the routine comforting. He held one of Bobby's shirts to his nose and inhaled lovingly. He could never get enough of the way Bobby smelled. He pondered this while he scooped up the clothes and arranged them neatly in the large basket. He let his mind wander as he closed the apartment door behind him and headed for the laundry room downstairs.

'Why do I let him do this?' he thought absently while waiting for the elevator.

He knew that nobody deserved to be treated like shit, Evelyn had made sure he understood that. But he knew Bobby loved him, hell he told him so every day. He brought Jack small gifts for no real reason, always had plenty of praise for the dinners he'd make and held him close whenever the nightmares came. And then all of the sudden, something inside Bobby would just snap and he would lash out at Jack, hitting him most of the time. Jack never knew what would set Bobby off.

All he knew was that one moment, they were joking around, the next Bobby had flipped the table over and had Jack pinned up against the wall screaming at him. In those moments he was frightened to death of Bobby. Yet he found himself unable to just walk away. He'd have given anything to make Bobby happy all the time. Given anything to make Bobby stop hurting him.

Jack headed back upstairs. A quick peak at the clock told him that he only had half an hour until Bobby's alarm would go off. He straightened up the living room before moving to the kitchen to warm up the frying pan. Bobby always ate as soon as he got up. Jack moved about the kitchen with ease. Evelyn had seen to it that Jack knew how to create simple meals as soon as he had shown interest in the foods that she prepared. He flipped the eggs expertly as the bacon sizzled. He'd turned the coffee maker on as soon as he'd entered the kitchen. Now it burbled and sent out its aroma. Jack knew that at any moment Bobby would come staggering into the kitchen, eyes half closed, searching blindly for a mug. He practiced his smile as he transferred the eggs onto the plate.

Bobby stumbled in a few minutes later, scratching idly at his neck and yawning loudly. Jack gave a quick silent prayer and then turned to face him. "Morning, Bobby. Coffee?"

The same thing he said every morning. Bobby grunted and nodded as he took the mug from Jack. He sat down at the small kitchen table and sipped at his black coffee, his hair sticking up every which way. Jack hid his grin as he brought the plates over. Bobby was known for having the worst bed head, despite the fact that Jack had longer hair. He sat down carefully on the wooden chair, tucking one knee close to his chest. He played with his fork, toying with his eggs while he waited to see what, if anything, Bobby had to say.

After Bobby finished his coffee, he glanced over at Jack and sighed aloud. "You gonna play with your food or eat it Jack?"

Jack jumped as though goosed and caught the irritated look on Bobby's face. "Oh...right" he said into his knee.

He scooped up some of his eggs and forced himself to swallow. He could feel them slide down his throat and he gagged lightly. He gave Bobby a sheepish grin and muttered 'sorry'. Bobby nodded then started on his own breakfast. Jack watched him out of the corner of his eye while he slowly ate small bits off his plate. He really didn't like to eat in the morning, but Bobby had always insisted that he eat with him. Jack remembered the first fight they'd had over something he considered trivial.


"So let me get this straight. You don't 'do' breakfast, right?" Bobby said, his eyebrows raised as high as they would go. Jack shook his head.

"I'm not really a morning person Bobby. Don't worry, I'll still make you something" he said over his shoulder as he walked into the kitchen.

He didn't understand what the big deal was. He'd never eaten much before ten, even when he lived with Ma. She knew that, and never pushed him to eat before he was ready to. He bent over to get the frying pan from the cabinet when he saw Bobby's shadow loom over him in the doorway. He stood up and turned to face him.

"So what did you want for...?" Jack's head rocked back as he felt his cheek blossom with pain. He immediately brought his hand to his cheek, his eyes wide with surprise.

"What the fuck!" he yelled. Bobby stared at him with level glare.

"It's awful rude to walk away when someone's talkin' to you Jackie" he said, his voice soft and even.

Jack shook his head slowly, his eyes brimming with tears. He tried to back up, only to find himself trapped against the counter. Trapped between Bobby and the wall.

"And for that you hit me?" he said finally, his voice shaky, the pain fading even now as the red mark spread. Bobby nodded, and then took a step forward. He placed one hand on either side of Jack's waist. Jack watched him with fearful eyes.

"You needed to know, and now you do. Things are a bit different here Jack. You need to understand that if you're gonna live with me, in my home no less, then you're gonna do things my way. You don't like it? Then don't let the door hit your ass on the way out."

Jack hung his head in shame. He knew how volatile Bobby could be and he'd still questioned him. He let a few tears slip down his cheeks. Bobby placed one finger underneath his chin and lifted his head.

"Listen sweetheart, I know you're sorry. Just don't let it happen again ok? I don't want to have to hit you. I love you too much to let you leave, so don't force me to hurt you."

When Jack said nothing; Bobby pulled him close and gripped him a tight hug. Jack found his arms encircling Bobby and he leaned his head on his shoulder. He felt numb on the inside. After Bobby had left for practice that day, Jack had sat on the floor beside the wall and cried silently. He wept for the shame of upsetting Bobby, he wept for the fact that once again, he'd managed to fuck something up, and more so for the fact that a small part of him just couldn't believe that Bobby would hurt him. He lowered his head to his knees and sobbed harder.

"Bobby's supposed to protect me" he muttered over and over.


Jack watched Bobby sit back in his chair with a small grin. "Delicious as always Jack" he said.

He motioned for Jack to come over. Jack unfolded his legs from the chair and walked somewhat hesitantly over to Bobby. He sat awkwardly on Bobby's lap, his hands scrambling for leverage. Bobby hugged him close and pressed his face to Jack's chest. They sat in silence. Bobby leaned back and pulled Jack close to him, cuddling him almost like a baby.

"Ma called me yesterday evening. She said that she wanted us to come over on Saturday for dinner" Bobby said while stroking Jack's hair, sifting through the strands one at a time.

Jack smiled contently. These were the moments that he treasured most. The times when Bobby held him close, when he could feel the love that Bobby had for him.

Jack nodded absently as he snuggled further against Bobby. He fought the urge to purr as Bobby's fingers massaged his scalp. He felt like putty now in his arms.

"She wants us there at 6pm," Bobby added. His fingers stopped suddenly as he made to stand up. Jack stood up as well and started to clear the dishes while Bobby headed to the shower.

Jack rinsed the plates, going through the motions without really thinking. Dinner at Ma's. He frowned as he scraped a stuck on blob of ketchup. That meant he had three days to try and make his most recent bruise less noticeable. He could only pray that Ma wouldn't notice. She would for sure ask questions. Questions that he wasn't ready to answer.

Jack ran downstairs quickly to switch the laundry over to the dryer. He made it back upstairs just in time for Bobby to come out of the shower. He hurried to the room to wait for Bobby. He breathed slowly and shallowly as he waited, his heart racing. Bobby came in a moment later. He finished toweling off and smiled at Jack as he grabbed a pair of socks from the dresser. He started to pull on his shorts then when he seemed to suddenly change his mind. He turned to face Jack and moved closer to him. Jack let his eyes drift shut as he breathed in the smell of soap, and the smell that always lingered on Bobby. He felt Bobby gently push him backwards on the bed.

"Keep your eyes closed Jack," Bobby whispered in his ear. He shivered at the feeling of a tongue lightly tracing over the shell of his ear. Jack obediently kept his eyes closed as he felt goose bumps erupt all over when Bobby's tongue traced a pattern over his sensitive throat. He moaned softly when he felt rough fingers pull his t-shirt up and over his head, his skin exposed to the slightly chilly air. His nipples hardened as he was kissed hard on the mouth, hands roaming over his chest. He arched into Bobby's touch, craving every caress. Bobby flicked his tongue over one nipple then the other.

Jack gasped; his skin was burning under his touch. Bobby pulled his sleep pants off slowly, minutes that seemed to stretch on. He gently griped Jack and gave him several firm strokes. Jack panted as he felt the tip of Bobby's tongue flick against the head.

"God Bobby, please" he groaned out softly as he felt cool air blow on the wet, overheated skin. Bobby chuckled as he kept his hand moving while he came up to nibble on Jack's neck. Jack gave a strangled sob as he came, his hips pumping helplessly as he rode out his orgasm. He fell back limply on the bed, utterly spent. Bobby smiled possessively as he watched Jack's eyes flutter in his head. He wiped his hand on his towel and kissed Jack softly. He stood up and began to dress as if nothing had happened.

Jack rolled onto his side and watched Bobby pull his clothes on. He felt so relaxed now, nothing like he had a mere few hours before when he'd spent the better part of the night on the bathroom floor. 'If only things could be like this all the time' he thought with a sad smile. He got off the bed with a groan and began to stretch, one limb at a time. Bobby turned around to face him then. Jack grinned at him and impulsively gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. They leaned in close and brought their foreheads together. Bobby looked Jack in the eye and placed a small kiss on his lips. He left the bedroom abruptly. Right as he got to the doorway of the room he called out.


Jack started towards the doorframe, arms crossed lightly over his chest.


Bobby picked up his bag, and fumbled for his keys.

"Do something with your face huh?" He left then, letting the door close loudly as Jack stood slightly stunned, still in the doorway as he watched Bobby leave. He brought his hand up to his cheek, fingering the bruise that marred his face. Determinedly ignoring his tears, he began to make the bed, starting another day all over again.


Jack fidgeted nervously with the edge of his belt buckle as he paced the length of the living room. Bobby was due home any minute. He felt a nervous sweat break out on his palms at the sound of the key in the lock.

'Fuck!' he swore viciously to himself. 'No reason to be scared, stop actin' like a puss' he told himself sternly.

They hadn't fought since the past Wednesday, and now Jack was feeling edgy. He had a bad feeling about tonight. He took a sharp breath as Bobby came bustling through the front door, his bag slung over his shoulder. Jack felt his stomach hit rock bottom at the look on Bobby's face.

'Shit, shit shit' he chanted. He pasted a fake smile on his face as he turned towards him.

Bobby dropped his bag on the floor and tossed his keys with a disgusted snort. He looked up to see Jack doing his best not to squirm.

"Whatcha starin' at?" he asked as he kicked his shoes off.

"Just uh wonderin' how the game went." Jack said, striving for a light tone.

Bobby raised an eyebrow, and gave a short bitter laugh. "Oh well you see, it was just fuckin' peachy Jack."

He angrily tossed his jacket on to the nearest chair, his face darkening with fury.

"First, I got tossed into the penalty box cause the ref doesn't like me. Fucker's had it out for me since I started. Then I finally get a goal in, only they say it doesn't count cause I tripped the guy to get it in. And ooh yeah, the best part? We fuckin' lost!" he shouted.

Jack winced mentally. He just knew tonight wasn't gonna be good.

"So, no the game didn't go well Jack, thanks for askin'"

Jack sighed softly as he picked up the discarded shoes. "Mom called, I told her we'd be there in a little while," he said as he placed the shoes in the closet. Bobby made a huffing sound.

"I'm gonna take a shower first, I stink of sweat."

Jack reached out to him as he walked down the hallway. "I think you smell great" he said as he inhaled deeply. Sweat, yes, but underneath that was the same smell that he loved.

Bobby chuckled. "Yeah, well you would, ya little fairy."

Jack's back stiffened. He despised being called 'fairy'. Bobby immediately noticed how stiff Jack had gone.

"What? The fuck is your problem?"

Jack shook his head quickly. He moved to let go of Bobby but he kept a firm grip on his arm. Jack stood silent, staring at the wall. 'Not now' he pleaded to whichever god was listening.

"I said, what.the.fuck. is your problem Jackie!" Bobby said each word drawn out.

"Huh?" he shook Jack's arm for emphasis. "Answer me!" his voice rising.

Jack started to panic. He felt the words come out of his mouth even as he tried to call them back.

"I hate it when you call me a fairy ok? Don't you think it's time for a new line?" he snapped, his eyes growing wide with fear at what Bobby might do next. Bobby stood still a moment, his eyes searching Jack's face. Then he nodded.

"Is that so?" Jack blinked once, then again.

"Yeah" he said, his voice a little unsteady. Bobby made a 'huh' sound and let go of Jack's arm. Jack moved away just a little bit, completely unsettled by Bobby's lack of action.

"Well, I'm hittin' the shower. Finish getting' ready," Bobby said as he walked to the bathroom.

Jack stared after him. 'What the hell was that' he wondered to himself. He knew that Bobby could flip at any second, but honestly, he'd been thoroughly expecting something more than that when he'd accidentally said what was on his mind. He picked up all of Bobby's scattered belongings with a puzzled frown on his face. He wished that he knew what Bobby was thinking.

If anything, the silent Bobby scared him more than the violent one did. He listened to Bobby sing in the shower as he picked out what shirts he wanted to wear. He smiled then as he heard him warble louder. 'Maybe tonight won't be so bad' he thought as he ran the styling cream through his hair. He always seemed calmer when they visited with Evelyn. Like her calmness rubbed off on him.

On the drive over, Bobby was extra careful with Jack. He held his hand and told him stupid jokes that he'd heard while at practice the other day. And once they pulled into the driveway, he had leaned over and kissed him, so heatedly that Jack had to adjust his jeans when they got out of the car. They held hands just like they had when they'd first gotten together.

Evelyn had brought them indoors, her eyes warm yet searching. Jack flushed under her careful eye. His bruise was practically not visible and he'd styled his hair as best he could to hide the side of his face. She'd looked him in the eye as she threw her arms around him and murmured in his ear that she'd speak with him later. His stomach dropped for the second time that night. 'shit,' he thought, his eyes dropping in frustration. He so did not want to deal with this tonight.

The dinner was great as usual, Angel throwing objects at Jerry, Jerry pretending that he wasn't annoyed, and Bobby on the couch watching the game on the TV. Evelyn pulled Jack into the kitchen under the pretenses of getting help with the dishes. Bobby shot him a quick warning glance. Jack sighed mentally. The bad feeling suddenly resurfaced.

Evelyn rinsed the dishes, one by one, with careful, precise motions. Jack placed each one in the soapy sink waiting for Evelyn to start talking. She finally began speaking about things that were going on in neighborhood, about the hospital and the volunteer work she was doing at the battered women's' shelter. Jack tensed up visibly as she spoke about the other volunteers and about how they were always looking for more funding and programs that would help get the women back up on their feet. They switched sides so that Jack could dry the dishes. His hands moved slowly as he dried each plate.

Evelyn studied the look on Jack's face. Unless she was mistaken, Jack was deliberately hiding the right side of his face. He was careful to turn his head only so far, careful not to push his hair back behind his ear. She took small breaths as she realized exactly why Jack was avoiding facing her outright. She struggled with the desire to just grab Jack and force him to tell her the truth, tell her what she didn't want to confirm. She'd feared this since the day that Bobby had confessed how much he wanted to be with Jack. Evelyn frowned then as she tried to figure out exactly how to approach this.

"Jack do you know why I volunteer at the shelter?" she said, her voice light, and void of any anger. Jack shook his head 'no' as he set the plate down that he'd been drying for five minutes.

"I volunteer because I know what it's like. I was there once myself." Jack met her eyes, his wide with confusion.

"Oh yes, it was a long time ago, long before I ever even thought about raising children. We were engaged, and I loved him desperately. He was kind in the beginning, but after awhile I saw the real him." Jack griped the counter with both hands.

"Mom, I don't…" he said, his voice shaking, his head twitching a little.

"Just hear me out Jackie. That's all I ask." He nodded jerkily at her request. She placed one of her hands on his and squeezed gently.

"I stayed longer than I should have. And then one day he went too far. And as I lay in that hospital bed, I swore that he would never have the chance again to hurt me. I know how those women feel, the shame, and the paralyzing fear mixed in with love. I was there and I remember it still. There's no shame in admitting that you need help sometimes Jackie."

Jack gasped softly and backed away from her. "I uh…I need a smoke…I'm gonna go outside and have one…" he said as he moved away, his eyes darting around the room in a panic.

"Jack, if there's something bad happening, you need to tell me. You can talk to me sweetheart, I won't let anything happen to you here," she said, her voice still even and firm.

Jack was shaking, trembling like he was in a bitter, cold wind. He was roughly three seconds off of bolting right through the kitchen door. At that exact moment, Bobby walked into the kitchen.

"Where you goin' Jack?" he said casually as he opened the fridge to get a beer. He missed the look between Evelyn and Jack. She nodded her head at him once. Jack stood in the middle of the kitchen, hiding his shaking hands behind his back.

"Uh, nowhere, Bobby, I just wanted a cigarette." Bobby stared first at Jack then at Evelyn.

"We're gonna be headin' out of here soon Ma," he said, his voice slightly detached.

Evelyn gave him a weak smile. "Well it is getting late I suppose. It's so nice to have all my boys back in house every now and then."

Bobby smiled at her. "It's nice to come home sometimes," Bobby said before taking a long chug of his beer.

Evelyn felt her stomach turn at the look on Jack's face. The naked pain and most of all, the fear. It was etched deeply in his face. His eyes always gave him away.

Bobby left the kitchen with a wink to Jack. Evelyn returned to the dishes, little tremors running through her shoulders as she thought over what she had just seen. Jack continued to dry them, his face completely blank. When all the dishes were cleaned, dried and put away, they faced each other. Evelyn waited a moment before speaking.

"Remember what I said Jackie. If anything bad happens, you come home to me. I mean that."

Jack stared moodily at the floor, his hands nervously playing with his chains. "Ok" he said in a hushed voice.

She hugged him tightly then, squeezing him till he groaned. With a soft laugh she let him go. As Bobby pulled his boots on, he watched the two of them hugging. A dark frown crossed his face then. 'What exactly had they been talking about?' a voice in his head whispered. He pulled his coat on with angry thrusts.

"Jack!" he barked loudly. Jack jumped like he'd been shot at the sound of Bobby's voice.

Jerry and Angel exchanged glances when they saw how fast Jack scurried over to Bobby and threw his coat on.

"Thanks again for dinner Ma," Bobby said, his voice slightly less angry than the moment before. She nodded. "My pleasure."

Bobby looked over first at Jerry, then at Angel. He gave them sharp nods before pushing the door open a touch harder than necessary. Jack flinched and sent all three an apologetic look as he followed right behind Bobby.

Jerry let out a slow breath. "Somethin' ain't right man." Angel shook his head.

"Bobby's walkin' the line again. Only a matter of time now."

Evelyn was still looking at the door, lost in thought. "You alright Ma?" Angel asked.

"Hmm?" she murmured.

"You alright?" he repeated. She saw the pensive looks on their faces and pasted the best smile she could muster.

"I'm fine dear. Just fine." With that, she turned and headed for the bathroom. Angel and Jerry looked at each other again.

Angel shrugged helplessly. Jerry whistled through his teeth. "This ain't gonna be good, you know it bro".

Angel threw a chip at him. "So where does that leave us?" he asked, not really wanting an answer.


Jack sat in the car, his hand drumming lightly on his knee as Bobby drove. He could feel a simmering anger in Bobby that was leaving him with nervous flutters in his stomach. He tried to calm himself, to clear his mind. But all he could think about was whether or not, Bobby was going to blow up. 'Correction' he thought sadly. 'When not if.' He reached for his smokes, the rustling of the package overly loud in the stillness of the car. Bobby watched Jack fish out a cigarette from the corner of his eye. He waited till Jack finished it and pitched the smoke before speaking.

"So dinner was good eh," he said, a comment, not a question.

Jack nodded as his stomach went into overtime.

"Nice to see Ma now and then." Jack stayed silent. He wasn't entirely sure if Bobby was waiting for a response. His fingers drummed faster on his leg, his hands slightly sweaty. Bobby seemed to be thinking for a moment before he spoke again.

"Have a nice chat with Mom?" he asked, his voice a little too calm. Jack's whole knee was shaking now.

"Uh yeah…she told me…um about her volunteer stuff, at the uh, hospital and the umm…shelter," he said, struggling not to let his voice tremble.

Bobby made a thoughtful sound. "That so?"

Jack said 'yes' quickly, keeping his eyes averted.

Bobby let out a loud, sad sigh. "You know that funniest thing Jack?" he said, his voice still far too light and almost cheerful.

Jack's stomach flip-flopped. "What?" he said. Bobby looked over directly into Jack's eyes.

"I don't believe you." Jack froze in his seat.

"What the hell are you talkin' about?" he said nervously, one hand beginning to tremble.

"I said, I don't fuckin' believe you. I think you might have said somethin' you shouldn't have," Bobby said, returning his eyes to the road.

"I didn't. I didn't say anything, I swear Bobby" Jack said, his voice taking on a pleading sound.

Bobby shook his head sadly.

"Y'know the odd thing is that Ma was lookin' at both me and you kinda funny Jack. And that tells me that you might have let somethin' slip. You didn't forget what I told you about tellin' people what they don't need to know did you sweetheart?" his voice took on a fake croon.

Jack started to back up against the car door.

"Bobby I swear, I swear it, I never said anything, you know I wouldn't. I promised I wouldn't and I know that I can't tell anyone and, and…" he babbled desperately.

"And..." Bobby drawled. Jack flinched as though he'd been struck.

Jack sagged in his seat. "And I…I deserve it" he whispered, his voice catching on a sob.

"That's right Jack. You've been doin' good lately and I thought you were getting better but I guess I was wrong. But that's ok, cause people make mistakes." Bobby nodded more to himself than anything else. "You can make it better."

Something inside of Jack snapped at those words. He felt an anger grow within him, a rage that rose up his throat and caused his hands to twitch.

"I didn't do anything wrong Bobby" he said, his voice even.

"What?" Bobby said, his eyes off the road momentarily.

"I said, I didn't do anything wrong. What you're doing to me is wrong," Jack said, softly but firm still.

"Really? According to who?" Bobby shot back, his brow creased in annoyance.

"You don't have the right to hurt me damn it! If you honestly truly loved me, you wouldn't fucking hit me!" Jack yelled, his anger spilling over. "I won't let you do this anymore. I'm not your fuckin' punching bag!"

Bobby pulled off to the side of the road, his face a terrifying mask of fury. Jack's breath hitched. 'Oh fuck me, why did I open my mouth?' he thought in a panic. Bobby sat still a moment, breathing hard. Jack fidgeted with his hands, breathing shallowly. He turned to face Bobby.

"Look, I'm sorry Bobby, I just got mad and I'm sorry I yelled and…" he trailed off at the look on Bobby's face. He sat perfectly still, waiting for whatever was next.

Bobby loosened his grip on the steering wheel slowly. He faced Jack and began to speak through tightly clenched teeth. "I'm firm with you because you need it. Don't even try to deny it. You need someone to tell you what to do and when to do it. You fuckin' crave it. I know you do. And when I tell you to do somethin' you had better fuckin' well do it."

Jack sighed then. "Firm is not the same thing as abuse." He looked down at his hands.

"Why do you gotta hit me Bobby? I love you even though you hurt me. So which one of us is more fucked up?" he said, his eyes burning with the urge to cry.

Bobby reached over and held one of Jack's hands. Jack's body tensed slightly, ready to move if need be. Bobby raised their joined hands to his face. The rage had completely gone from his body. Jack let out small breaths as he watched Bobby's every movement. Bobby brought their hands to his lips and he pressed a dry kiss on them. He shuddered then and grabbed Jack in a rough hug. Jack sighed in relief as Bobby made a strangled sound in his ear.

"I'm sorry Jack. I never meant to hurt you. I just wanted to help and I'm a fuck-up and I love you, I do." He whispered, his voice breaking every few seconds. "Please don't leave me" he said, his voice thick with unshed tears.

Jack felt his heart lift. "I won't leave you Bobby. I need you the way you need me." He pressed a light kiss to Bobby's cheek. "Besides, we're both fuck-ups."

Bobby gave a short laugh. They stayed in that position for some time, hugging and whispering. Bobby promising over and over that things would be different from now on. Jack smiled as they hugged. He wanted to believe it so badly. In hindsight though, he should have known better.


One Month Later

For a time it seemed that Bobby had truly seen just how afraid Jack was of him while he was angry. He had resolved to himself that night while they had lain in bed that he would control his temper, especially when he was around Jack. He had felt his own anger simmering under his skin at the way Jack had talked back to him in the car. He pushed his fury down and stamped on it as best he could. Deep down he was afraid of what he might do one day, afraid of what he was capable of doing.

Over the next few weeks, Bobby stuck to his promise. Things were just the way Jack had remembered them to be before they moved in together. Bobby was doing better on the team, getting into less arguments and fights with the other guys and spending less time in the penalty box. Jack moved around the apartment, feeling like he was floating. He composed several songs that were slightly happier than usual while Bobby was gone during the day, smiled more when Bobby was around and adored the time they spent together.

After a month or so of comfortable peace between the two of them, Jack started to get a twinge of unease in the evenings. His stomach was starting to knot up again as the month wore on. He ignored the flares of panic as he wanted to believe that things were going to stay just the way they were going.

Jack woke early on the day of his birthday. He smiled up at the ceiling as he snuggled closer to Bobby, basking in the warmth that he gave off. Bobby had always done something interesting for his birthday in the past. Each year had been different, but Jack savored each one. He laughed silently as he remembered the year that Bobby had taken him, blindfolded no less, to the zoo for his birthday. When Bobby had pulled the blindfold off and seen the astonished look on Jack's face, he'd shrugged with a shy grin and muttered something about how he knew that this was one place Jack had never been.

He wondered what Bobby was going to do for today. They usually spent his birthday together, and then they would go to Ma's for a special dinner. He licked his lips at the thought of one of Evelyn's cakes. Jack reluctantly pushed himself out of bed as the urge to go to the bathroom grew strong.

Bobby mumbled something as Jack eased his way out of the bed. Jack smiled. Bobby would say the oddest things while he was sleeping, often yelling out scores or stats while deeply asleep. More than once, Jack had been yelled awake by Bobby's energetic shouts. He went over to the window and breathed deeply as he stretched. He glanced back at Bobby to see him beginning to wake up. He hurried to the bathroom and relieved himself quickly. As he filled the coffeemaker with the grinds, he found his mind wandering. He didn't see Bobby coming up behind him until the last second.

Bobby pulled Jack into a hug, placing a kiss on the nape of his neck. Jack jerked in surprise, his hand spilling some of the grinds on the counter. Bobby smirked and laughed into the side of Jack's neck.

"Spaz" he said affectionately. Jack scowled at him and pulled away a little bit.

"I wouldn't have dropped them if you hadn't startled me" he snapped.

Bobby looked at him with a small frown. He held up both hands and said "sorry" as he left the kitchen. Jack sighed as he wiped up the excess grinds. 'Bravo Jack, way to go' he thought to himself mockingly. He dropped the sponge in the sink and headed for the living room.

Bobby sat on the couch, studying the sports section of the newspaper. Jack plopped down beside him and laid his head on Bobby's shoulder. "Sorry" he said. Bobby glanced down at him, one eyebrow raised.

"You sleep ok?" he asked as he turned back to his paper. Jack nodded as he scanned the headlines on the page. They sat in near silence while Bobby finished the section. With a loud thump, he dropped it on the coffee table. Jack wiggled his toes.

"So any plans for today?" he asked, pretending not to know what day it was.

Bobby thought for a moment then shook his head. "I gotta head over to the mall later, and Ma wants us over for dinner for some reason. Other than that, I thought I'd just hang here today. You?"

Jack stared at Bobby for a minute. His mind worked furiously as he processed what Bobby had just said.

"The mall? For what," he managed finally.

"I told you last night that I need to pick up more tape for my stick." Bobby said patiently.

"Tape for your stick," Jack replied, his lips moving almost soundlessly.

"Yeah. Why you wanna come with or something?" he asked as he stood up suddenly.

Jack sat on the couch, his head spinning. Had Bobby honestly forgotten his birthday? He felt the absurd urge to bawl like a child at that thought. His head moved slowly as he said 'no'.

"I'm just gonna stay here Bobby, I umm…need to finish up my new song," he said, the words sounding hollow and vacant. Bobby shrugged.

"Alright then, I'm gonna get ready to go now." He disappeared into the bedroom then, leaving Jack still sitting on the couch.

After Bobby had left for the mall, Jack had raged to himself, hating every self-doubt he was having. He wanted to believe that Bobby couldn't have forgotten his birthday. He'd never forgotten, not once. Not even the year he'd served in jail. Jack had been thrilled to receive a phone call from Bobby on his birthday. They'd talked for almost half an hour before Bobby had to go.

Jack had hugged Evelyn, his tears soaking her blouse as he cried for the fact that Bobby had remembered when he'd been so sure that he wouldn't have been able to celebrate with him. Now, he showered almost angrily as he kept replaying their conversation this morning in his head. The water ran into his eyes as he struggled not to scream with frustration. "I will not accuse him. I will wait to see what he does," he repeated to himself.

By the afternoon, Jack had worked himself into a foul mood. He tried to write, but found himself completely blocked which only served to fuel his anger further. When Bobby walked through the door, bags behind his back, Jack was scowling at the television.

"Oh uh hey Jackie. Anything good on?" Bobby asked as he juggled his bags behind him.

Jack said nothing as he channel surfed, pushing each button harder than necessary. Bobby cleared his throat.

"Well I'm just gonna put this stuff away now." Jack nodded as he turned the volume up.

"Whatever" he said, his voice far too frosty for Bobby's liking.

Bobby closed his eyes as he felt his anger start to build up, feeling the telltale tingling in his palms start up. "Something wrong, Jack?" he said, each word said calmly. Jack ignored him.

"I asked you a question" Bobby snapped.

"So what?" Jack said carelessly.

Bobby made a hissing sound then. "What the fuck is your issue Jack? There somethin' you wanna say to me?"

Jack tossed the remote down on the coffee table and folded his arms across his chest. He stared at wall, ignoring Bobby. After a moment of silence, Bobby placed the bags down on the floor. He took two large steps towards Jack, each step he took he chanted to himself that he had to calm down.

"Look I don't know what the fuck happened while I was out today, I ain't even gonna pretend that I understand why you're so pissed. But you could at least answer me," Bobby said, his voice wavering slightly as he bite back the urge to yell.

Jack turned his head to Bobby and gave him a nasty look.

"Maybe I don't feel like 'talking' ok?" he said, standing up then and crossing his arms tighter. He knew damn well that he was treading on thin ice right now but he just couldn't seem to stop the words from escaping his mouth. He'd spent all afternoon obsessing over the fact that Bobby had clearly forgotten his birthday and he wasn't about to just give up now.

Bobby shook his head sadly. "I can't help if you won't talk to me," he said, his mouth turned down at the look on Jack's face.

"Look, just leave me the fuck alone ok Bobby?" Jack snapped over his shoulder as he walked towards the bedroom and slammed the door behind him.

Bobby felt the anger rise over him like a hazy red wave. He stalked towards the bedroom and ripped the door open. "Get back here you little shit!" he yelled, his hands clenching as his vision swam. All he felt was the sudden urge to hurt, to cause pain.

Jack spun around from the windowsill that he had been clutching when Bobby burst through the door. He felt the first pangs of fear as he saw the familiar look of fury cross Bobby's face. His breath suddenly short, he tried to stand up straight, to fight the urge to flee. He'd started the argument, he'd finish it.

"I thought I made it pretty clear that I wanted to be alone!" Jack said, his hands twitching.

"I don't give a shit what you want. You got a fuckin' problem with me then be a man and tell me, don't start a fuckin' fight!" Bobby said, his breathing growing heavier with each passing moment. Jack scoffed at that.

He paced back and forth, afraid to look Bobby directly in the eyes. "Did it occur to you that maybe I'm angry and maybe I don't want to talk? Can't you take a hint? Just go Bobby." Jack muttered. "Leave me alone."

When only silence filled the room, Jack looked up finally. He saw Bobby move towards him and before he could blink, Bobby's hand connected with his cheek. His head rocked back with a lurch. He staggered back against the bed, his hand coming up to cradle his cheek. His vision swimming, he spat out some of the blood that filled his mouth. Through the haze of pain, he could make out the angry words that were spewing from Bobby's mouth.

"…fuckin' brat, you always gotta push me, fuckin' mouth just has to keep runnin', you see what you made me do?"

Jack started to shake his head 'no' when he felt Bobby's fist smash into his nose. He heard a sickening crack as his world suddenly went dark. His head spinning, he pulled himself upright slowly.

"Stop, Bobby, please" he sobbed, his tears burning and mixing with the blood that dripped down his face.

Bobby was yelling again, incoherent yells mixed with threats as he slapped Jack twice more across the face. Jack put his hands out blindly, trying to push Bobby away long enough to duck. He gasped as he felt Bobby's hands go around his neck and begin to choke him. He clawed at Bobby's hands frantically, his mouth moving in silent pleas. Jack's legs kicked uselessly as Bobby drove him into the wall, his head thudding painfully with each shake.

Jack felt a sudden rush of anger at Bobby. He swung one leg around Bobby's and yanked with a fierce swipe. Bobby fell backwards, giving Jack enough time to drop to the ground and curl up in a tight ball. Bobby stood up, his chest heaving with fury. He blinked as the red haze grew stronger.

'How dare Jack hit me?' his mind thundered. He watched absently as Jack curled up, ignoring the racking sobs coming from below him. He walked a circle around Jack, waiting for a reaction.

"Not so fuckin' tough are you now huh?" he sneered. He gave a sharp kick to Jack's ribcage, feeling a surge of satisfaction at the cry of pain that followed.

He grabbed Jack by the shoulders and shook him like a rag doll. "You wanna fuck with me?" he asked, spittle hitting the side of Jack's bruised cheek.

Jack hung his head, he could feel the blood pouring down his chin and he spat to the side again. "No…no" he whispered, his head spinning. His eyes blurred and the room was a swirl of colors.

With a vicious twist, Bobby spun Jack around by the arm and brought it up behind him. He pulled the arm up higher and higher until Jack was screaming, begging him to let go. Jack shrieked as the image of a broken arm filled him with renewed terror. He sagged limply against Bobby as he felt his arm lowered, his shoulder flaring with bursts of pain. He sobbed and gagged weakly, his tears choking him.

Bobby swayed suddenly as he felt a rippling sensation go through his body. He felt invincible, and the power surged through him. Bobby turned Jack around to face him again, his wrists like iron clamps on Jack's.

Jack coughed as the blood gathered in his throat. "Stop, stop, stop," he pleaded softly.

Bobby gave him a dirty look, and then sneered. "Not so brave and tough now are you? Where's your smart mouth eh? You wanna pick a fuckin' fight with me, you better be prepared to deal with the results."

Jack sobbed again as bile rose up in his throat. The beating went on. Bobby drove his fists into Jack's stomach, backhanded him every time he cried out and delivered a sharp kick to his left knee when Jack managed to lurch to the side, almost breaking loose.

Finally Jack gasped out "You promised…Bobby…you swore you…you…said you wouldn't do…" he coughed hard as his raw throat ached from each word.

The haze of anger that surrounded Bobby began to fade at Jack's words. Bobby dropped him back on the bed and backed up as he saw the amount of blood leaking from Jack's broken nose. He looked down at his own hands that had Jack's blood all over them. His breath hitched. He started to shake all over. He felt sick to his stomach as he saw the quickly blooming bruises all over Jack's face.

"Oh God…Jackie, what have I done?" he whispered as he felt his stomach heave.

Jack lay back on the bed, trembling like a leaf, sobbing softly through the pain. He shivered as though all the warmth in his body left him. Bobby staggered back and leaned against the wall. He couldn't take his eyes off Jack's bloodied face.

Jack was lost deep in memory, the images flashing through his head of all the beatings he'd taken from him before. Bobby would come closer to him and start off by caressing him, and then his hands would become more firm and insistent. Eventually he would end up having sex with Jack, taking him roughly. Soon after he would fall into a deep sleep, leaving Jack to drag himself to the bathroom. Or the hospital the next morning after Bobby left for the day.

He closed his eyes as he heard the dry sobs coming from Bobby. He pushed himself upwards cautiously. Bobby had his hands over his face, seemingly unaware of Jack's movements. Jack eased himself off the bed, and limping heavily, made his way to the door. He managed to pull his shoes on and was just grabbing his coat when he heard Bobby shout.

"Jack! Get back here!" He froze like a frightened rabbit for a second. He felt torn between his instinct to run back to the room and let Bobby follow his pattern and the urge to run, run as fast as he could. He gave a soft cry as he opened the door as quietly as he could.

He heard Bobby's bellow of outrage as he made his way down the stairwell, favoring his wounded leg. He hobbled out to the front of building, mindless with the need to escape. He took off down the street till he saw a row of cabs. He gestured wildly at the first one. From the corner of his eye, he could see Bobby running full speed after him. He dove into the first cab and let out a low scream when Bobby started hammering on the cab door. The driver started yelling back at Bobby while Jack pleaded with him to just drive.

The cabbie pulled away from the curb with a sudden lurch. Jack reeled as the motion rocked through him. He whispered Evelyn's address as he watched Bobby still yelling in the street. He sat back against the cab seats and closed his eyes. He'd actually done it. He'd finally run back home. He felt tears trickle from the corners of his eyes, cutting a path through the slowly drying blood that was still coating his face. The cabbie wisely said nothing and delivered him to the address.