Note: I don't own Four Brothers, Inner Glow by Blue October, or Seagull by Bad Company.
Now you fly through the sky, never asking why
And you fly all around 'til somebody shoots you down
He was drowning. How fucked up was that?
Drowning. In the middle of Detroit. On his mother's front yard. Without so much as a drop of water anywhere.
What was that saying? Water, water everywhere and not a drop to spare? Yeah, that was it. Only in this case it was blood - lots and lots of blood.
He coughed, trying to clear his throat, trying desperately to breathe. All he could manage to drag into his lungs were short bursts of air, and even that was excruciating. The effort was tiring him out and it took all his willpower to keep his eyes open, to not drift off. He was pretty sure once that happened, there'd be no coming back.
Something was rattling in his chest, like something was broken - like he was broken. The longer he lay there - bullets volleying above him, the cold snow beneath him - the more scared he was that no one would be able to put the pieces back together again.
Shit. Why did he have to answer the fucking door? Even his niece, Amelia, could have seen that one coming from a mile away, and she was all of three. Well, it wouldn't come as surprise to anyone anyway. He excelled at screwing up and this was as screwed up as you could get.
He could hear Bobby shouting for him, an echo amidst the gunshots; the desperation in his voice an odd comfort to Jack. Bobby sounded terrified. Imagine that - his big brother scared. Not that Bobby would ever cop to it in a million years. He'd just as soon shoot you as admit any weakness. But Jack had seen the pain in his eyes that night they'd come home after their mother's funeral. He was just as hurt and angry as the rest of them.
No matter how much Bobby liked to act tough and talk big - and man, did he like to talk - he wasn't fooling anyone, least of all his brothers.
Jack tried to yell back, tried to let Bobby know he was still hanging on, but something was bubbling up the back of his throat, threatening to choke him. Blood, his mind screamed, but he tried to ignore it.
It was no use. He was alone. If anyone tried to get to him, they'd be shot, too. They'd be bleeding to death right along side of him on their mother's front yard. Not exactly what he'd call a fitting tribute to the memory of Evelyn Mercer.
The gunshots were quieter somehow, muffled and distant. The bright white of the sky was growing dark and gray; there didn't seem to be any colors left anymore. That didn't seem right. Everything was fading. Was he fading, too? He was still breathing, at least he thought he was. It didn't hurt so much anymore, not even his legs and they'd been shot to hell. They'd gone numb hours ago. Had it been hours? It sure felt like it. He was so tired. It would be so easy just to close his eyes and go to sleep …
"Jackie!" a sharp voice broke through the haze and he forced his eyes open - unsure of when he'd let them close. Everything was fuzzy and he was having trouble focusing. It didn't really matter, though, because his mind was obviously playing tricks on him.
His mother was dead. She died in a convenience store, shot to death while shopping for Thanksgiving dinner. He vaguely remembered her inviting him a few weeks ago, and he vaguely remembered telling her he'd try. It had been a lie and she knew it. She always knew when he was lying. It was easier than the truth, which embarrassingly amounted to: "Sorry, Ma, but we might have a gig that night at some crap bar in the really shitty part of town. Can't let the fans down - ya know, if we actually had any."
He hadn't seen his mother in months and their phone conversations had been few and far between; but she was here now, holding his hand when he needed her most. She looked sad, but determined. Yeah, it was definitely his mom. She looked like she was going to scold him for sneaking a smoke on the roof outside his bedroom window or for clumsily stumbling in past curfew. He always managed to find that one step that creaked. Ten years in that house and he never could remember which one to avoid.
"Ma," he tried to whisper, looking up at her like she was the only thing in the world. Everything had faded to gray, but she was as bright as the sun. Gently squeezing his hand, Evelyn reached out with her other hand and smoothed his hair back from his forehead like she always used to do when he was a kid - a constant battle to tame the untamable.
"Oh, Jack," she said quietly.
"Sorry," his voice catching on the word, his eyes pleading for forgiveness.
"There's nothing to be sorry about. You just have to hold on a little bit longer. Please, Jack, do that for me," she squeezed his hand again. He tried to squeeze back, to reassure her in some way that he was going to be okay, but his hand wouldn't obey and his fingers remained slack in her gentle embrace.
Instead, he gave her a shaky smile, it was all he could manage. "I'll try," he wanted to say, but he couldn't lie to her. Not again. Not ever again.
He was tired, more tired than he can ever remember being in his life. Maybe this was meant to be. What were the last ten years of his life anyway but borrowed time? He should have died years ago, would have if Evelyn hadn't entered his life. She saved him, plain and simple. Maybe some clock had started counting down that day she met him - rescued him, really - and now that clock was just winding down, ticking off the final seconds of a life that should have ended years ago.
He sensed movement above him, bodies crowding around him. His mother let go of his hand and he blindly groped for it, needing that connection. She was standing off to the side and his eyes locked with hers. She smiled and then took a step back, disappearing from his line of sight. Panic gripped him as he felt his chest grow oddly heavy, like a vice tightening, cutting off his air. Coppery blood flooded his mouth, choking him.
Hands gripped his face, rough yet gentle. A brother's hands. Bobby's hands. He was talking, crying, probably shouting, but Jack couldn't hear him. Sound was gone from his world. It left with all the color. He tried to smile. Tried to comfort his big brother.
"Ma's here," he wanted to say, wished he could say. "Don't worry, I'll be with her. Please don't worry."
His vision was growing dim and he could barely make out his surroundings. It was like trying to watch a TV show through static. But he knew his brothers were there and it felt right. Angel, Bobby and Jerry. Family. His family. The only family he'd ever known. How he wished he didn't have to leave them.
"Don't die, Jack. Please don't die. Breathe," Bobby pleaded desperately as he watched the life leave his little brother. This couldn't be happening. How had he let this happen? He was supposed to protect him and all he managed to do was fuck things up.
Suddenly, rough hands pushed at his shoulders, tearing him away from Jack. "What the fuck?" he bellowed, drawing his hands into fists, determined to pummel whoever had the guts to touch him. His shoulder slumped when he realized it was Angel, but the fists remained.
"Get the fuck out of the way, Bobby," Angel ordered, a sternness to his voice that Bobby didn't recognize. Angel had grabbed Jack and rolled him onto his side. Blood poured from his mouth, staining the snow a sickening crimson. But Jack's chest remained still, his skin unnaturally pale.
"Jerry," Angel snapped, "go into the house, grab something thin, made of plastic. A bag or something - to seal the wound. Hurry, man."
Bobby's attention turned to Jerry who was sitting in the snow several feet away, a distant, bewildered expression on his face.
"Jerry," Angel yelled and Jerry slowly blinked, as though coming out of a daze. He lurched to his feet, looked down at Jack and made a funny sound in the back of his throat. He hesitated for a second more before running toward the house, his shoes slipping in the snow in his haste.
"What the hell do you think your doing?" Bobby asked as he watched Angel pull off his sweater and press it down hard on the wound in Jack's chest.
"I'm a Marine, Bobby, or have you forgotten? They do teach us more than just how to kill people."
"He's gone." Bobby's voice had grown thin, choked with tears.
"I'll say when he's gone," Angel said through clenched teeth without looking at Bobby. Jerry returned with a bag from some grocery store and handed it to Angel. Angel rolled Jack onto his back and, pulling back his layers of t-shirts, placed the bag over the bullet wound. Faint sirens filled the silence as Bobby and Jerry watched and waited for some miracle Angel apparently thought he could pull out thin air.
Jerry dropped to his knees and placed a hand on Angel's shoulder. "You tried, man. We were just too late. Too fucking late."
Angel didn't answer, simply shrugged Jerry's hand off his back and started CPR in earnest. "Come on, Jackie," Angel practically begged as he breathed for his brother and pressed on his still chest. Jerry turned away, unable to watch. Bobby simply stared at the scene before him, guilt crushing down on him.
"He's gone," Bobby repeated quietly, more to himself than to anyone else. There was a gun on the ground next to him, lying in the blood stained snow, discarded in the middle of the war that had broken out only minutes earlier. It was in his hand before he even realized what he was doing.
He pulled himself to his feet, his world reeling and threatening to drive him back to his knees. But he stood his ground and squared his shoulders. Tears fell unchecked down his cheeks, but anyone looking into his eyes would only see cold, steely anger.
The sound of his brother frantically trying to save Jack punctuated each lurching step as he made his way to the damaged van that now blocked the street. There was a guy in a ski mask slumped over the steering wheel, still very much alive. The guy begged and pleaded, but Bobby didn't hear him. He didn't care. Nothing fucking mattered. Not with Jack lying dead less than a dozen feet away. Pulling the trigger brought no satisfaction, but Bobby didn't care. Eye for an eye, and all that shit. That's how things worked around here and he wasn't one to break with tradition.
The sound of the gunshot was still echoing in his ears when he heard his baby brother suddenly gasp for air.