AN: Well, here it is. The last chapter of the longest story I've ever written and finished. I'm really proud of myself. I'm proud of myself because I actually stuck this thing out and finished it, all of it, all the way to the end, without slacking off on a single chapter. I poured my heart into every chapter, and I hope it showed. Enough tooting my own horn, though. I really have you guys, the readers, to thank for everything! You guys gave me the motivation to spend as much time as I could writing every chapter, trying to get it to perfection! Thank you to those who took the time to review, especially those who reviewed for almost every chapter, I couldn't have done it without you! Man, I feel like I'm giving an acceptance speech here...and now I'd like to thank the Academy...and speaking of the Academy, who saw that Mark Wahlberg was nominated for an Oscar for "The Departed"? I'm very excited! Dignam is love. Anyways, enough of my rambling...here you go, the final chapter! Thanks again!
Back at the Mercer household, Angel was waiting for Bobby and Jack in the living room, lounging on the recliner with the remote control in his hand. His eyelids drooped, his body tired and heavy from the lack of sleep he'd received the night before. He wasn't sure why he wouldn't fall asleep; he figured it had to do with a mix of the day's events, his ongoing feud with Bobby (which almost seemed trivial to him, now), some lingering post-Iraq anxiety, and, although he didn't like to admit it, his concern for Jack.
That little white boy's growin' on me, he thought with a scowl, thinking back to the day before. Ever since he felt that weird shock pass between them when he'd grabbed Jack's arm, Angel didn't know quite what to think about him. He knew that something about him was different, but not necessarily in a bad way. The anger that had been directed towards Jack earlier was completely gone, replaced with a sort of odd curiosity. The kid seems so goddamn familiar. Where have I seen him before?
"Angel! We're home!" Bobby called from the hallway as the door opened, Angel feeling a slight breeze against his arm from the cold winter air. Jack moved into his line of vision, rubbing his hands together, the tips of his fingers red where his gloves didn't cover.
"You know, if you had fingers on your gloves, they'd be a lot warmer," Angel commented with a smirk, watching Jack glare back at him, blowing warm air into his hands. "Just a suggestion," he shrugged. "How'd it go?"
"I got my guitar back," Jack said happily, flopping down on the couch and placing the guitar next to him with gentle reverence, running his hand along the outside of the case. Angel snorted loudly as Bobby entered the room, shaking his head and smiling. "What?" Jack asked with a slightly offended tone.
"You treat that thing like it's your fuckin' kid or somethin'," Angel observed, and Jack quickly brought his hand away from the guitar case, clasping it in his lap.
"Yeah, or his boyfriend," Bobby added as he sat down next to Jack, and as he and Angel shared a laugh between them, Jack stared down at his hands, heart sinking. There it was again...that dynamic Bobby and Angel had that he so desperately wanted. Brothers. The word haunted him now, filling him with a sense of loneliness that he'd never felt before, even when he was with John. Now I know what it's like, he thought emptily. But it's not real. It doesn't matter what I think or say about the feelings. All that matters is that in this world, me and Bobby aren't brothers, and no amount of weird feelings or late night talks are going to change that.
"Hey, Cracker Jack," Bobby said, nudging Jack's arm to get his attention. Jack realized that he'd zoned out completely, with Angel and Bobby talking the whole time he'd been thinking. "You wanna go hang out with Jerry today?"
"Sure," Jack said with a shrug, not really caring. "Whatever."
"Whatever?" Bobby repeated, looking over at Angel with a smile, who chuckled again. "Didn't we have a little discussion about making decisions?"
"Yeah," Jack mumbled.
"So, do you wanna hang out with Jerry?"
"I said sure," Jack insisted, a hint of irritation in his voice. He stood up, wrapping his jacket tighter around him as he waited for Bobby and Angel to follow suit. When both brothers remained seated, he looked down at them, eyes questioning. "Well? Let's go."
"Actually, it's just gonna be you and Jerry today, kiddo, if that's alright," Bobby said, clapping Jack on the shoulder as he sat back down. "Me and Angel gotta go take care of some shit."
"Oh," Jack murmured, surprised and a little upset. I thought they'd be coming along...or I thought at least Bobby would be coming along. "Okay."
"Is that alright?" Bobby asked seriously, looking over at Jack, who nodded in response. "You sure? I just didn't wanna leave you here by yourself all day."
"It's fine," Jack said, forcing a smile onto his face. "Really. Jerry seemed like a nice guy."
"He is," Bobby agreed, standing up and glancing down at his watch. "You guys'll get along great. He should be here in a couple minutes to pick you up." He looked over at Angel, motioning towards the door with a jerk of his head. "Ready to go?"
"Right behind ya," Angel replied, pushing himself up out of the recliner as Bobby headed for the hallway again. He got his coat out of the cabinet, pulling it on and slipping a pair of shoes onto his feet, following Bobby to the front door.
"See ya, Cracker Jack," Bobby called as they exited the house, and as Jack was about to mumble a goodbye, the sound of the door slamming shut filled his ears and stopped him short.
Jack stared out into the hallway, hands clenched in his lap as his chest tightened. You think I would've learned by now, Jack thought bitterly, not to set myself up for disappointment. He leaned back to glance out the window, watching Bobby's car pull away from the house. Guess not.
"Bobby? Is that you?" a voice called from the kitchen, and Evelyn appeared in the doorway, wiping her hands on a dishtowel. She looked out towards the hallway, her eyes focusing on Jack after a moment as a smile crossed her face. "Oh, hello, sweetheart. Did you see where Bobby went?"
"He went out with Angel somewhere," Jack said, not being able to hide the disappointment in his voice. Evelyn nodded, coming into the living room to sit next to Jack on the couch.
"That's good, then," she concluded with a nod of her head. "Those boys need to do some talking." Evelyn paused then, looking over at Jack with concerned eyes. "How are you feeling?"
"I'm okay," Jack said, trying to sound upbeat and failing miserably. "Just tired."
"Well I would imagine so. Bobby told me you had quite a day yesterday." She searched his eyes gently, patting him on the knee. "Is something wrong, dear?"
Jack shook his head, smiling weakly up at her. "Not really. I'm fine."
"Now, Jack," Evelyn began, giving him a stern but caring look, "don't insult my intelligence. I've been a mother for quite a while, and I'm pretty sure I know how to read a child by now. So, tell me, what's wrong?"
I'm not a child, Jack thought stubbornly, but knew better than to state that fact aloud. What am I supposed to say? I'm upset because Bobby's not my brother and I thought we had some kind of connection because of a parallel universe and a static shock? "I'm just...still a little shook up. About yesterday."
"I see," Evelyn said, forehead creasing with worry. "Bobby didn't tell me too much about what happened. Now, I'm not gonna go around prying into your business. I just want to make sure you're alright."
Jack took a deep, steadying breath. "I think I'm okay. It's just...a lot to handle."
Evelyn nodded sympathetically. "Too much for a boy of sixteen to handle on his own, I think." She watched him silently for a moment, placing a hand on his arm, soft and warm. Jack swallowed heavily, moist eyes straying towards the wall. "Bobby told me about your foster father."
"He...he did?" Jack asked nervously, glancing back at Evelyn in shock, licking his suddenly dry lips. "What did he say?"
"Bobby said that he hit you," Evelyn revealed, voice filled with a bit of lingering, apprehensive suspicion. "But I don't think that's all, is it?"
Jack shook his head, eyes brimming with tears as his face reddened. "No," he whispered. "That's not all."
"Oh, sweetheart," Evelyn cooed, surprising Jack by wrapping her arms around him, squeezing him tightly into her embrace. Jack stiffened at first, startled by the sudden emotional gesture, but as Evelyn slowly rubbed a hand down his back, he relaxed a little. "I'm so sorry."
"It's okay," he mumbled, resisting the urge to bury his face into her neck. I've never had a mother, he thought painfully, wrapping his arms around Evelyn in return as a couple of tears slipped from his eyes. I've never...gotten a hug like this.
"No, honey, it's not okay," Evelyn disagreed, pulling herself out of the embrace. Oh, Lord, how this child needs someone to take care of him, she thought, watching him sniffle and wipe at his eyes. She took his hand gently, rubbing her thumb across his palm in a soothing motion. "No one, and I mean no one, has any excuse to hit a child, or...God forbid...do what that man did to you."
"I know," Jack murmured, watching Evelyn stroke his hand as a lump formed in his throat. He rubbed his eyes with the other hand tiredly, and Evelyn shook her head, placing a finger under his chin and lifting his head so that their eyes met.
"I don't think you do, Jack," she said sadly, and Jack's composure began to crumble in distress, more tears leaking from his eyes as a sob caught in his throat. She ran her thumb along the side of his chin, watching him struggle with his emotions. "Do you know that there are people who care about you?"
Jack gasped as he tried to control his frantic breathing, pulling his face out of Evelyn's grasp and turning to stare in the other direction. "I don't...I...I don't know."
"Jack, sweetheart, look at me," Evelyn said quietly, and when Jack refused to look over, grabbed his chin again, leaning his face towards hers. "Look at me. If I know nothing else, I know that there are four people in this world who care about you, and love you, and would do anything to protect you."
"Oh, yeah?" Jack laughed cynically, releasing a sob in the process. "Like who?"
"How?" Jack asked in a small voice. "You don't...don't even know me."
"I know you well enough," Evelyn said, smiling, releasing his face when she was positive that he would continue looking at her. "And I trust my son's judgment. He's fiercely loyal, and if you win Bobby's trust...if you gain Bobby's affection...he will do anything for you."
"It's not the same," Jack insisted. "Not like...like having...your own family."
Evelyn pushed a couple of strands of hair out of his eyes, rubbing the tears off of his cheek with soft fingers. "What is a family, Jack? What makes a family to you?"
Jack shrugged, shoulders hitching with a sob. "I don't know. I just know I don't...don't have one."
"How about I tell you what I think a family is, and you tell me if you agree, alright?" Jack nodded, swallowing, and Evelyn continued. "Well, I know that Angel and Jerry risked their lives for you yesterday. I know that I was worried sick about you last night, and that I couldn't rest until I knew you were safe. And I know that while you were asleep, Bobby was the most upset I've seen him in a very long time."
"When Bobby's upset, he hides it in his anger. He lets off his frustration and concern by yelling and cursing and punching things." She smiled, chuckling a little. "My pillow was in extreme danger last night. He threw it against the wall, of all things. That Bobby...he was so mad last night. So worried. Everyone was."
"They...they were?" Jack breathed.
"Of course they were," Evelyn soothed, resting her palm on his cheek. "Angel couldn't sleep. Jerry...he just couldn't believe that someone would do something like that to you. Bobby was upset, of course, as was I. Now, if that doesn't sound like a family, I don't know what does. Do you agree?"
Jack nodded, more tears falling. Evelyn smiled, running her thumb gently under Jack's eye, wiping some of the moisture away.
"That's it, then. No more tears," she instructed softly, and he reached up quickly to wipe at his eyes. "Nothing to be sad about."
"Come on in, Jeremiah," Evelyn called out, and Jack rubbed his eyes with renewed vigor, not wanting Jerry to see the leftover traces of his tears. Jerry made his way into the living room, smiling at Jack and Evelyn pleasantly.
"Morning, Miss Evelyn, Jack," he said with all the manners and charm of a gentleman. "How ya'll doin' today?"
"Oh, we're just fine," Evelyn said, standing and walking over to envelop Jerry in a tight hug. "I was wondering when I was going to see you around here again."
"Sorry, I can't stay long," Jerry said, hugging her back. "I'm just here to pick up Jack. He's gonna spend some time with me and the girls today."
"Oh, that's wonderful," Evelyn remarked, turning back to face Jack on the couch. "Are you ready to go, sweetheart?"
"Yeah," Jack said, standing and smoothing the wrinkles out of his shirt. He wiped at his eyes once more, then went to stand next to Jerry, smiling at Evelyn. "Thanks."
"Any time, dear," Evelyn said, smiling as well. "You two have fun today."
"We will, Miss Evelyn," Jerry sad with a courteous nod, leading Jack towards the door. "Hope to see you again soon."
"Looking forward to it, Jeremiah. Goodbye, Jack."
"Bye," Jack replied as the walked outside, Jerry shutting the door behind them. He looked up at Jerry with amused eyes, smirking. "Miss Evelyn?"
"Hey, man, you gotta respect your elders," Jerry said, stuffing his hands in his pockets as they walked towards his car. "That woman's a saint for puttin' up with all of Bobby's shit. The least I can do is treat her right when I see her."
Jack nodded in agreement, opening the passenger's side door and sliding in as Jerry walked around to the other side. "Seatbelt," Jerry insisted as he climbed into the car, and Jack reached up to grab the seatbelt, pulling it across him and snapping it into place. "Don't want you to lose your head. Bobby'll have mine, then."
They drove most of the way to Jerry's house in silence, Jerry attempting to make general small talk while Jack stared idly out the window. When they had arrived and parked the car, he found himself surprised by the size of Jerry's house, considering that the Mercer's was a humble one itself.
"Camille will probably make you eat somethin' as soon as you get inside, so I hope you didn't have lunch," Jerry said as they exited the car, walking up towards the front door. "And don't worry if the girls ask you to play with them. I'll get you out of it."
"I don't mind," Jack claimed, following Jerry up to the front porch. When Jerry gave him a skeptical look, he shrugged. "I don't, really."
"Well, it's your call," Jerry said, reaching out and turning the doorknob, pushing the door open. "But I just wanna sit down and talk for a while. There's some stuff I..."
"Daddy!" a pair of voices called from inside the house, and suddenly two blurs of pink latched onto Jerry's legs, hair bouncing. Jack laughed at the sight, watching as the two girls hung on tightly.
"Hey, now, what are you two doing outside?" Jerry asked with mock sternness, grabbing his daughters up into his arms and kissing them both on the forehead. "Inside, right now!"
Jerry carried the two girls into the house, and Jack followed close behind, smiling. He watched as Jerry set the girls down, whispering something in both of their ears that made them giggle.
"Alright, time to meet Daddy's new friend," Jerry instructed, and the girls looked up at Jack with wide eyes. Jack squatted down to their level, smiling at them warmly and reaching out his hand.
"I'm Jack," he said as the taller of the two girls shook his hand shyly. "What's your name?"
"Daniela," the older one whispered, blushing as Jack grinned at her. The smaller girl, obviously more outspoken, pushed her way into his view, stretching her hand out dramatically.
"I'm Amelia," she said proudly. "I lost a tooth."
Jack couldn't hold back a chuckle, shaking Amelia's hand gently. "That's great. Which one?"
"This one." She pointed to somewhere in the back of her mouth, then grabbed Jack's hand and attempted to pull him towards the back door. "Come on, let's go play in the snow!"
"Now, now, girls, Daddy has to talk to Jack before you can play with him," Jerry said, smiling as Jack lifted himself off the ground. "Go ahead outside."
"Bye, Jack!" Amelia yelled, running towards the door. Daniela smiled, hand lifting in a small wave. Jack waved back, and she grinned widely, running after her sister.
Jerry chuckled, resting his hands on his hips and shaking his head. "Kids," he said, watching the girls run out the back door. He opened his mouth to say something else, but another voice cut him off from the kitchen.
"Baby? Is that you?" A woman appeared in the hallway, coming up next to Jerry and wrapping her arms around his neck, the two of them sharing a slow kiss. "Missed you today."
"Missed you, too," Jerry said, pulling out of the embrace and motioning to the other side of the hallway. "Camille, this is Jack. Jack, this is my wife, Camille."
"Nice to meet you, Jack," Camille said as they shook hands. "I was just making lunch, if you haven't eaten anything yet."
"What'd I tell ya?" Jerry asked, grinning at Jack, and Jack couldn't help but laugh. Camille stared at them with obvious confusion as they made their way into the kitchen.
"What do you want to eat?" Bobby asked as he drove down the street, watching a number of fast food places drift by out the window. "We got McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's...ugh, I hate Wendy's..."
"Pizza?" Angel suggested, and Bobby nodded, turning into the parking lot of the local pizza parlor and pulling into a spot next to the door.
"Pepperoni?" Bobby asked as they got out of the car, and Angel shrugged, stuffing his hands into his coat pockets. "Come on, Angel, I don't gotta give you a decision talk like I gave little Jackie, do I?"
"You better not, or I'll kick your ass," Angel said as Bobby opened the door and they walked inside. "I'm a Marine now, in case you forgot. I don't think you wanna mess with me."
"Oh, is that a threat I hear?" Bobby asked, smirking as they walked up to the counter. "Remember, I'm still your big brother."
"That don't mean nothin'," Angel murmured as Bobby looked over the menu. They ordered the pizza and sat down at a table in the far corner.
"So," Bobby began, leaning back and folding his arms across his chest. "We gonna talk about some of this shit, now?"
"I guess so," Angel said, leaning forward and resting his arms on the table. "I mean...are we still fightin'?"
Bobby shrugged. "Hell if I know."
"We ain't really good at this talking thing," Angel observed with a chuckle, and Bobby laughed as well, shaking his head.
"Maybe you should just tell me what you were angry about," Bobby reasoned, raising an eyebrow. "You're not angry anymore, right?"
Angel shook his head, looking down at his hands. "Not anymore. The past couple of days...they kinda put things into perspective, you know what I mean?"
"I do," Bobby agreed.
"I guess...the reason I was angry was because of...because...I don't know. I just got home, and there you were with this new kid, and I thought, maybe..."
"You got replaced?"
Angel nodded, keeping his eyes locked on the table. "Yeah, I guess so."
"Angel, you know you're never gonna get replaced," Bobby insisted. "I love you, man. You're my brother, and it's not like that's ever gonna change."
"I know," Angel said, looking back up at Bobby. "It's just been...rough."
"All of it." Angel shrugged. "I mean...with you leavin' for Chicago before, and Mom gettin' so worked up about me joining the Marines. And in Iraq, you really...really learn to appreciate the things you got. When I was over there, I promised myself that when I got back, we'd get...closer, I guess. Before it was too late."
Bobby's brow furrowed, concerned. "You don't think we're close?"
"Sure, we're close," Angel refuted. "But...by the time I came to live with you and Mom, you were gone a lot. Playin' hockey and...goin' out, looking for work...and then moving. We just never got a lot of time together."
"We didn't," Bobby realized, feeling slightly guilty. "You know I never meant to ignore you, right? It was just all the shit around here that pissed me off."
"Oh, I know," Angel reassured him, smirking. "I was a little asshole for a good part of the time, too. I was just lookin' forward to that changing when I got home."
"It can still change," Bobby said, leaning forward against the table as well. "We had a fight, we got over it...who's to say it can't get better from now on?"
"Yeah," Angel agreed, smiling. "Yeah, we can get better."
"Good." Bobby leaned back again, looking around the corner to see if their pizza was coming, then facing Angel again. "You still have a problem with Jack?"
"Nah, man, he's cool. I never really had a problem with him in the first place. I just thought he was my replacement, and that I was gonna have to kick his ass."
Bobby snorted, amused. "You weren't gonna have to kick anyone's ass, Angel. Jack's not a replacement. He's...fuck, I don't even know what he is."
"Does that kid seem really familiar to you?" Angel asked curiously. "I mean...just yesterday, I coulda swore I met him somewhere before."
"Tell me about it," Bobby murmured, and at Angel's confused look, leaned forward again, lowering his voice. "Didn't you wonder why I was so goddamn interested in him? He's...he's got this idea in him that we were supposed to be brothers...and I'm not so sure that I disagree anymore."
"What do you mean?"
"Before you came to live with us, when I was fifteen, Ma wanted to adopt a kid, and then we didn't because I was fuckin' around too much," Bobby said, voice remaining soft, as if what he was saying was dangerous information. "And Jack...Jack was supposed to get adopted when he was six, and then he didn't."
"He's sixteen, you're..." Angel paused, a surprised looking coming over his face. "Damn."
"And then," Bobby continued, "he said when he was with John, a woman wanted an older kid because her two kids were gone. One moved away, the other joined the military." He leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms. "You do the math."
"Fuck," Angel cursed softly, hardly believe what Bobby was saying. "Talk about a coincidence."
"Yeah, no shit," Bobby said, shaking his head. "But he's got this fuckin'...insane thought stuck in his head that we're actually brothers in some other world...universe...thing. I don't even know how to explain it. He told me you got a shock yesterday, right before he passed out?"
"Yeah. What's that got to do with anything?"
"Same fuckin' thing happened to me when I met him," Bobby claimed, and Angel leaned back, stunned. "We shook hands, and bam! Kid's on the ground like someone knocked him over. Told me last night he had some kid of...mental image of him dyin' when that happened. Both times, actually. He thinks we met so that he wouldn't get killed by Sweet."
"Wow, man," Angel breathed, shaking his head in disbelief. "That's some pretty heavy shit. What do you think?"
"I don't know what to think about it anymore, Angel," Bobby admitted. "I mean...maybe we were supposed to be brothers, and that's great...but we're not. And then where the fuck are we? He's back out on the streets, or back in another fuckin' foster home and miserable, and I'm...stuck."
"Maybe not," Angel said, raising his eyebrows. "Not if we do somethin' about it."
"Like what?" Bobby asked, thinking deeply. Suddenly, he pushed his chair back further, glancing at Angel out of the corner of his eye. "You don't mean..."
"Why not? Ma's pretty attached to him already, and you obviously ain't gonna let this go."
"And you'd be okay with it?"
"Sure," Angel said, nodding. "I told you, I don't have a problem with him. And if the static shock thing meant you were supposed to be brothers...well, I got it, too."
Bobby grinned, laughing a little as Angel started to smile as well. "Yeah, why not?" Bobby asked. "I mean, if Ma's okay with it, and Jack's okay with it..."
"If Jack's okay with it?" Angel asked, voice full of humor. "He's livin' on the streets, Bobby. I think he's gonna be okay with it. As for Mom, we'll just talk to her when we get home."
"Yeah. Okay," Bobby agreed, chuckling softly as the waiter brought their pizza over and set it down on the table. He studied it for a moment, nodding to himself. "I think it'll work. Nice plan, asshole."
"Thanks, dumbass," Angel smirked, grabbing a piece of pizza and stuffing almost half of it into his mouth. Bobby laughed, shaking his head, to which Angel grinned through a mouthful of cheese and pepperoni. "Let's eat."
Jack beamed as he walked into Jerry's kitchen through the back door, hair damp, hands soaking, nose and cheeks tinted red from the freezing temperature. As cold as he was, though, he was extremely happy. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been part of a snowball fight. If I've ever been in a snowball fight, he thought. Who knew that playing in the snow with two kids could be so much fun?
"Look at you, man, you're soaked," Jerry said with a chuckle as Jack stood shivering and dripping on the rug. "Come on, get your shoes off, come sit down."
Jack kicked his shoes off, making sure to place them on the rug so as not to get the kitchen wet, before padding over to the table, sitting down on the towel that Camille had laid out for him. Camille came over, placing a mug of hot chocolate down in front of him and smiling warmly. "The girls love you, Jack," she commented, resting a hand on his shoulder, then pulling it back quickly. "Jesus, Jerry, get this boy a sweatshirt or something. He's soaking wet!"
"I'm fine," Jack insisted, wrapping his hands around the mug of hot chocolate. "Really. I'll be warmed up in a minute."
"If you get sick, I don't want you suing our asses," Jerry said, and Jack laughed, shaking his head.
"I promise I won't sue you," Jack swore, and Jerry, content with his answer, sat down across from him at the table.
"Camille's right, the girls had a blast today," Jerry said, and Jack shrugged, smiling as he took a drink from his hot chocolate. "From the looks of it, you had a pretty good time, too."
"Yeah," Jack breathed, inhaling the scent of the kitchen and the drink in his hands. "I never got a lot of chances to play in the snow. I usually hate it."
"It's no fun when you have to sleep in it," Jack reasoned, then as Jerry fell silent, looked down at the table regretfully. "Sorry. Didn't mean to kill the mood."
"Don't worry about it," Jerry reassured. "I actually wanted to talk a little bit about that. About you."
"What about me? I'm not really an interesting guy."
"Interesting enough for Bobby," Jerry reasoned.
Jack shrugged again, glancing outside where the girls were building a snowman. "It's nothing, really. I just thought me and Bobby had some kind of connection because...never mind. It doesn't matter, anyway."
"Maybe it does matter," Jerry goaded, trying to get Jack involved in the conversation. "I mean, it mattered enough for Bobby to put his ass on the line for you."
"Yeah, maybe. It's just..." Jack paused, running a hand through his wet hair. "When me and Bobby met, we knew stuff about each other already, and I thought it might have something to do with...with the fact that...we're supposed to be brothers."
"Evelyn was supposed to adopt a kid when Bobby was fifteen, and it was me," Jack said, ignoring Jerry's skeptical look. "And then, someone offered again when I was still with John, and that was her. Don't ask how I know it, I just do. It makes sense." He paused, staring down at his hot chocolate. "Doesn't really matter, though, what was supposed to happen. It didn't, so it doesn't mean anything."
"I wouldn't be too sure of that," Jerry argued. "Bobby doesn't do shit like that for just anyone. Angel, Evelyn, of course, maybe me...and you. I've known Bobby for years, and he doesn't go out of his way for people he doesn't give a shit about. So that's sayin' something."
"Maybe," Jack mumbled, slightly bitter. "But what's it good for now? I'm just going back to a foster home now that John's gone, and Bobby'll just go on with his life like nothin' ever happened."
Jerry shook his head. "Don't underestimate Bobby. He'll get shit taken care of. You'll see." He looked over at the clock, standing up from the table. "Finish up your hot chocolate, it's about time to get you home."
"To the Mercers'," Jack corrected as he stood, leaving the mug on the kitchen table, and Jerry placed a hand on his shoulder.
"Don't be so hard on yourself," he instructed, shaking his shoulder lightly as they walked to the front door. "Bobby ain't gonna leave you out in the cold."
"We'll see," Jack whispered, looking up at Jerry and managing a small smile. "Thanks for today...and for yesterday. I really appreciate it."
"Forget it, kiddo, it was nothin'," Jerry said, grinning at Jack. "You can come around any time. I think my kids like you more than they like me." He watched Jack smile, shaking his head, before laughing, reaching his hand out to take Jack's. "And don't worry, I'll save your life anytime."
Jack reached out to shake Jerry's hand, and as soon as he grabbed it, felt a shock pass between their fingers. He pulled back, startled, looking at Jerry in disbelief. Jerry, too? But...
Jerry let his hand fall to the side, looking at Jack curiously as Jack backed towards the door, staring at his hand. "Got some static from the rug, there," he mumbled, scratching the back of his head, but Jack shook his head adamantly.
"The shock," he whispered, waiting for the cold, the numbness, the pain in his shoulder that he felt with Bobby and Angel's shock. However, he found that he could see clearly, that he was rather comfortable inside the house, and that his shoulder was pain free. Where's the vision? I'm supposed to be lying in the snow, crying out for Bobby, dying...
"Bobby was right when he said there was somethin' different about you," Jerry stated, watching Jack as he leaned back against the door. "Seems like I know you from somewhere..."
"Yeah," Jack mumbled, still staring at his hand. Victor's gone, John's gone. Maybe that's what was supposed to happen. Maybe...the visions are gone. They're not true. But I still got the shock, which means... "I think...maybe...we were supposed to be brothers, too. The shock, it happened with Bobby, and it happened with Angel. And now...with you."
Jerry look at him with expressionless eyes, resting his hands on his hips and letting his head fall back. He took a deep breath, exhaling slowly, before lowering his head. "Man, this is you and Bobby shit, not mine. I can't..." But as he looked at Jack, and the serious expression on his face, he sighed. "Things work themselves out, Jack. Just...trust that, okay?"
"What?" Jack asked, confused.
"I mean...it don't matter if you and Bobby were supposed to be brothers, or you and Angel, or you and me even. What matters is that it turned out the way it was supposed to turn out, and that it's gonna turn out the way it's supposed to now. Got it?"
"I don't..." Jack began, but then realized that Jerry might be right. If Bobby and me were brothers, I'd be dead right now. Maybe things will work themselves out. He shook his head. "Let's just go back to the Mercers'."
"Sounds good," Jerry said, relieved to be out of the awkward situation as he opened the door, looking back at Jack. "You're a weird kid, you know that?"
Jack just rolled his eyes. "That's what they tell me."
"Jack, can you come down here for a second?"
Jack's fingers froze on his guitar strings, his stomach dropping and his heart starting to pound in his chest. After he'd gotten back from Jerry's, he'd gone straight up to his...the room he'd been sleeping in...avoiding Evelyn and Bobby altogether. He'd thought about what Jerry said, about things working themselves out. However, he couldn't help but fear the worst. I can't keep living here forever, Jack reasoned sadly as he plucked at his guitar. Sooner or later they're going to have to send me back.
He crawled off of the bed, looking around the room dejectedly. I knew I'd have to leave eventually. I just didn't think it'd be this soon.
"I'm coming," Jack called, running a hand over his face. This is it, he thought as he walked out of the room and down the stairs. I can hear it now. "We're sorry, Jack, but we just can't afford another mouth to feed." Or, "I know you'll find a good home if you just keep trying." Or maybe even, "We just can't see you as..."
"There you are, sweetheart," Evenly said as he came into the kitchen. He was surprised to see Jerry and Angel both sitting at the table, which was filled with food, Bobby standing behind an empty chair. "Come sit down."
Jack nodded, feeling a lump forming in his throat as he took a seat at the table. Jerry and Angel were both watching him, and he looked away uncomfortably. Guess they brought the whole family in for moral support. Even Jerry...
"Jack, Bobby and Angel and I have had a long talk," Evelyn began, and Jack squeezed his eyes shut, feeling the tears starting to form. Evelyn noticed this, and rested her hands on his shoulders. "Honey? What's wrong?"
"It's okay, you don't have to do this," Jack said, standing up and pulling out of Evelyn's grasp. He glanced over at Bobby, who was giving him a puzzled look, and shook his head. "I'll just go get my stuff..."
"Jack, please, come sit down," Evelyn said softly, motioning to the chair. "This isn't what you think."
"It isn't?" Jack asked, looking around the room, unmoving. "Then...what's going on?"
"We had a little talk just now, the three of us," Evelyn began again, smiling. "And we were wondering if maybe you'd like to stay with us?"
What? "For...for how long?"
Evelyn shrugged. "Oh I don't know...forever?"
This is a joke, Jack thought instantly, his mind spinning. A cruel, tasteless, horrible... But as he thought that, Angel and Jerry both broke into ear-to-ear grins, and Evelyn nodded at him patiently, smiling as well. "You...you mean it?"
"I do. What do you think?"
But Jack didn't answer. Instead, he threw himself at Evelyn, wrapping his arms around her and letting the tears fall from his eyes. "Thank you, thank you, thank you," he murmured into her neck, feeling her slender arms wrap around his back. They want me to live with them. They want me to live with them. Forever. Evelyn's my mom. And Bobby...
Jack lifted himself out of the hug, wiping at his eyes, unable to control the huge smile that covered his face. He looked over at Bobby, who was leaning against the counter, arms crossed. "You have any say in this?"
"A little," Bobby shrugged, smirking at Jack. "What's it to ya, fairy?"
"You know, if you keep callin' me that, I'm not gonna stay..."
Jack was too shocked to finish his sentence, however, because Bobby reached out to grab Jack's shoulders, pulling him into a rough embrace. "You're not goin' anywhere," he mumbled, and Jack buried his face in Bobby's shoulder. Bobby's gonna be my brother. My actual brother... Bobby was first to pull out of the hug, and Jack saw the most emotion he'd ever seen in Bobby's eyes as he looked up. "If you stay, I bet Ma'll even let you paint your room a different color."
"Blue?" Jack asked hopefully, and Bobby laughed, patting him on the shoulder.
"Whatever you want," he said, leading Jack over to the table. "But right now, I'm starving, and I bet you are, too."
Jack nodded in agreement, sitting down and staring at his plate, unable to stop himself from grinning wildly. I can't believe it. A family...my family...
"Bobby, will you say grace, please?" Evelyn asked, and Bobby nodded, standing and extending his hands out to the side. Jerry and Angel stood as well, and Jack followed suit grabbing Jerry and Evelyn's hands. As Bobby began the prayer, the rest of the family bowing their heads with closed eyes, Jack looked around, a weird feeling suddenly forming in the pit of his stomach. I've done this before, he thought, trying to picture the scene in his head. But...Evelyn...Mom wasn't here. And...we weren't happy. He shook his head, remembering Bobby's words from the night before.
"Then it's better this way."
He thought back to Jerry's words, delivered just a couple of hours ago.
"Things work themselves out, Jack. Just trust that."
"Amen," Bobby finished the prayer, looking up at Jack and smiling. Jack smiled back as Evelyn squeezed his hand, a light shock passing between their fingertips. They all sat down, digging into their food.
"Amen," Jack whispered, savoring the moment. Yeah, he thought with certainty. It's better this way.
pwrhungryjr: Thank you very much! And no, I definitely don't get tired of hearing that! Who would? Thanks again for reviewing!
rekirika: Yes, finally Jack gets some feel good moments...and its about time, yeah? I definitely didn't want to make the visions a coincidence, because then what's the point of having them in the first place? Gotta go for the developed plot. I'm glad it surprised you, I was hoping that it wasn't going to turn out to be too obvious! I'm glad you liked this chapter! No, definitely no romance, I'm not very good at writing it and I won't write it for this fandom (for reasons I explained earlier). I included the girl for two reasons: firstly, to draw more of a rift between Jack and Chad (he'd use the girl while Jack realizes what she's been through), and secondly, for a dramatic moment that showed Jack that he wasn't the only one who's gone through some tough times. Aside from my one shots, I do actually have a couple more ideas for chapter stories in mind. However, I probably wouldn't even start working on them until Spring Break, and then I probably wouldn't get them posted until at least summer vacation. You never know, though. I do plan on writing some one shots based in this universe, after I post a couple of my "between the dialogue" ones. Thanks for your interest, and thanks again for reviewing!
Skydance1110: Happiness is very good! Thank you very much, I'm glad you liked it!
Candy: Thank you very much for taking the time to read all of this! That must have taken you a while, and I'm very glad I could provide you with an update so soon. Also, thanks for reading my Rent story, too. I plan on getting back into that fandom eventually, but for now I'm content here. Verbalized your happiness...oh dear, lol. Thank you very much, I'm glad you approve of my characterization. As you've probably seen from other reviews, I work the hardest on my characterization, and I'm glad to see that it pay off in the end. I'm also glad you liked the idea...I was a little afraid it might be too science-fictionish for the readers here (it even seemed too science-fictionish for me, at first), but I tried to keep the characters true to form to eliminate all the crazyness. Did that make any sense? I hope so. Anyways, thanks for reviewing!
Miroku loves Mel 4 ever: Yes, indeed, Victor got what was coming to him. I'm glad you like this story so much, that really flatters me! I agree that brotherhood is definitely the main message behind the movie, and that there should definitely be more ficiton focused around the brotherly aspect. However, I don't really mind the sister fics or the girlfriend fics, they definitely have an audience of their own. I just can't write them, lol. Thank you very much for all your compliments! I'm glad you thought that the little adoption twist was creative, I really liked the idea and had to include that in the story somehow. Yes, all things must come to an end, good or bad. Thanks again for reviewing!
Dicefreak: Yes, sadly, this was the last chapter :( That really does seem to be the downfall of most villians, doesn't it? They get lost in their own egos and can't find their way out until its too late...and I thought Victor was the perfect example of that, especially at the end of the movie during the fist fight (love that part...love fighting!Mark). Thank you very much, I'm glad you thought I portrayed that accurately! Bobby is definitely going to help Jack get his life back together, what a sweet older brother behind that tough exterior. Thank you, I'm really glad you enjoyed the chapter, and I hope you enjoyed the last!
WindStar: Thank you for the review, and I'm glad you liked it!
Sparks Diamond: Thank you very much! I love brotherly moments, so cute. I'm really glad you enjoyed the chapter, and thanks again for the review!
BrittneyRose: Hehe, oh Bobby, must you solve everything with your fists? Of course he must, that's why we love him! Thank you very much, I'm glad you liked this chapter! No more action, though...I thought the last chapter needed to be a bit of a cool down, time to tie up the loose ends and get everyone settled and happy. Thanks again for your review!
Minka: Sorry! I just have bad timing, don't I? I hope this last chapter didn't come at an inoppertune time for you. Thank you very much, I'm glad you liked the chapter. Yeah, I played around with the idea of Chad getting his ass beat at the end, but I thought this way would be more dramatic. This way, Jack's kind of moving on, getting a different mindset and avoiding the mistakes of his previous life by ditching Chad all together, not even letting what Chad says affect him anymore. My inner Bobby wanted him to get beat up though. So did my story Bobby, come to think of it. Oh well. Glad to see that calm, collected Jack works, too. Nope, no more evil stuff...a little drama, but no evil. I think everyone needed a cool down. So, thank you again for reviewing!
NoLongerMalicious: Thank you very much! I'm glad, as a sci-fi fan, you approve of the whole parallel universe thing, so thank you for that. Aww, don't cry...but I'm glad the emotion came through enough that it made you want to cry. I'm also glad you liked the part about the girl, I was hoping you guys would understand why I added her! I'm also sad its ending, this story has been a great ride for me. Thank you very much for your compliments and your review!
xXJackxXmy3rdXclassXrockXStarX: Thank you very much, you guys seriously flatter me so much! Bobby's such a good guy, I think, behind his troublemaking tough exterior. I think that, for Bobby, a sentence like that holds a lot of emotion, because he cares so much for Jack that he just doesn't undestand why Jack would think less of himself. Man, I love these boys, lol. Anyway, thank you for your review, hope you liked the last chapter!
Padfoot4ever: Thank you very much! I'm glad the last chapter made you happy! It was about time I wrote a feel good chapter. Yay, indeed, for Jack. Brotherly moments are love, aren't they? I love them, too. Thank you again for your review, hope you liked the last chapter!