Legal stuff- don't own Four Bothers and make no money from this fiction.

Chapter 1: Alone

Craig walked out the back door and sat on the steps. He was glad that he'd managed to wake up before any of his brothers. They had pretty much let him be since they'd all been home. He wasn't sure if he liked that or not. They just didn't seem to be taking much notice of him unless they wanted him to get a beer out of the fridge or change the channel on the TV. Bobby was the worst of them all. He didn't understand how the man could take off and leave for so long without a word, and then show up trying to boss everyone around. He didn't like that. He wasn't about to voice his opinion though, Bobby would throttle him if he told him to leave him alone.

He closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath of the cold morning air. It was supposed to be Thanksgiving. He was supposed to be helping his mother get the turkey ready for the oven. They did that every holiday. He always helped her cook the holiday meals. Instead, he was trying to block out the memory of her funeral the day before. He'd had to stay at Jerry's house after the shooting. His older brother had taken good care of him while he was there, and he'd appreciated it but it wasn't the same as home. Craig had been afraid of his brother trying to ask about his mother's death. He knew if he had, he would have just clammed up like he had with the police. He didn't want to think about it, didn't want to remember. He'd managed to block most of it out anyway. What he did remember was mostly a blur, and he didn't want to talk to anyone about it because he was sure as soon as he did it would all come back to him as clear as the moment it happened. He almost believed that if he didn't speak the words, that he could somehow change what had happened.

He'd been surprised when Bobby walked up next to him at the cemetery, but hadn't showed it. Bobby had given him a hug, just as Jack and Jerry had hugged him, but he hadn't taken much notice of him other than that. No one had really taken much notice of him all week since the shooting. It had been Sunday night. He and his mother had gone to the store to get the turkey. She had hoped that she was going to have all of her family together for Thanksgiving. After all, her four older sons used to come home for Thanksgiving every year. If Jerry couldn't make it, he at least made a point to drop in some time over the weekend. Angel and Jack usually came home for the big holidays like Thanksgiving. They didn't stay long, and on a few occasions if one of them couldn't come, they always called. Bobby hadn't been around much for a few years though, though Evelyn was sure he would be there this year, for some reason.

Craig swallowed hard as the memory of the men in ski masks coming into the store and shooting the clerk filtered into his thoughts. His mother crying out, and then they were aiming their guns at her. Craig had gone to the back room to use the restroom just before, and had been on his way out when the gunshots rang out. He'd come out of the room behind the meat counter just as the men started their shooting. One of them had seen him and come around the meat counter right up to him, but didn't shoot. He didn't understand why he hadn't taken the shot; instead he had slugged him hard in the jaw. The rest of it was just a blur in his dazed mind, and he'd been fighting hard to keep it that way. As soon as the men were out of the store, he had gone to his mother, and knew without even touching her that she was dead. He'd turned to ice on the inside, like he used to when he was little. He'd been unable to move right away. When he did, it was as if his body was on auto pilot. He'd gone to the phone, called the police, and then went out front to wait for them. He'd been thankful that the responding detective was Green. He knew Green, and liked him. He didn't tell Green anything, he couldn't. He was taken to the hospital and examined. They had tried to ask him questions, but he had blocked their voices out. That was where Jerry picked him up in the early morning hours. He'd been given a shot and was pretty groggy by the time Jeremiah had gotten him to his house. He'd slept all that morning, well into the afternoon, and had pretty much been left alone since. Jerry was busy calling his brothers and making funeral arrangements. There had been a lot of visitors the first couple of days, and the police had wanted Craig to come to the station a couple of different times, trying to get him to tell them what he saw. He couldn't do it though. He hadn't seen anything really. He had heard the voices though, and his mother's last words and he'd felt the strike to his jaw.

Jack had arrived the day of the funeral, and had met them at the cemetery. Bobby had shown up just before the service had started. He'd hugged Craig, and he'd hugged Jack and Jeremiah. Craig hadn't hugged him back. He didn't feel like hugging any one at that time. He still didn't fell like hugging anyone. He didn't really want to be hugged. He couldn't help but think that if they all knew that he'd been in the safety of the back room while their mother died that they would hate him. They would have done something to save her. Any of them would have jumped the men, despite the fact that they were armed. They already didn't like him much. They hadn't been very thrilled when Evelyn Mercer had brought home a fifth son. Bobby had never hidden it at all, saying that his mother was getting a little old to be bringing home strays. Craig hadn't understood it when he was little, but now he did. Evelyn Mercer had brought her four older sons home as foster children, and had adopted each of them, so Bobby knew it was inevitable that she would adopt Craig.

After the funeral Craig had kept to himself once they got back to Jerry's house. He'd gone up to the guest room and just lay on the bed. He felt alone, and there was nothing he could do about it. He hadn't eaten any of the food that had been brought by all of the friends that had been in. He hadn't really eaten all that much since he woke up in Jerry's house Monday afternoon. Of course Jerry had asked him a few times if he was hungry, or if he'd eaten anything. Craig had told him that he'd had something and had left it at that. He wanted the rock in his gut to go away. He wanted to be able to go to sleep now without the nightmares attacking him. He'd fought night terrors since he'd lived with Evelyn. No one except for Evelyn Mercer had known about his life before she'd found him. Evelyn had known what his nightmares were about. Now his old nightmares were mixing in with Evelyn's murder, making it impossible for him to sleep much.

Jerry had said he was going to be bringing a turkey so that they could have a real thanksgiving dinner, but Craig had never heard him say when he was going to be there. Camille would have let him stay a couple of nights if he wanted to, but he didn't want to be away from his daughters, or wife, no matter how close he was to his brothers. Then Angel, who had been waiting for them at the house when they got home, had gone to find his old girlfriend Sofi. Now she was there, sleeping in Angel's bed. Bobby had thrown a fit when Angel had come in the back door with Sofi, both of them half naked. Craig had heard the yelling from upstairs and had opened his door for a few moments, just long enough to find out what was going on. Jack had been in his room, and had gone right down to see what was going on. Craig had gone back to his room, to try to block out the yelling. He'd never liked yelling, even when it was his brothers. He'd slept a little through the night, but not much. So when he'd seen the sun peeking through the curtain, he'd gotten dressed and headed down for some peace and quiet outside for a while. He was hoping his brothers would sleep in, since they'd been up so late yelling. It was a little after seven and he was sure that Bobby would be up soon. His oldest brother seemed to be up at the crack of dawn no matter how late he was up.

It was no surprise when ten minutes later he could hear the cupboard doors inside slamming shut and he knew that Bobby was about to make a pot of coffee. He prayed the oldest Mercer wouldn't open the back door and find him there. He'd probably find something for him to do, like make breakfast. Bobby had never wanted much to do with him unless he needed something fetched, cooked or a drink. Evelyn had always told him that Bobby did care about him, but there was such a gap in their ages that he didn't know how to show it. He didn't have a problem showing Jack though. No matter what Jack did, in his brothers' eyes he could do no wrong. Craig seemed to never do anything right. He didn't want to spend a day listening to his brothers barking orders and then criticizing him for not doing something the way they wanted him to.

He was wondering how long the state would give him before coming for him. He knew they would come. His mother was dead, and his brothers wouldn't want him. That's what happened to kids like him when their parents died; they ended up in the system. He figured they would show up at the door the next morning, Friday. He had taken the time the night before to pack a bag with a few clothes. It wasn't a good idea to take much with you; it would all be taken away eventually. Besides, he knew where he would end up, and it wasn't a foster home. This was the chance his father had been waiting for, and Craig was sure he'd take the opportunity to pounce.

Craig heard a car on the street and looked up in time to see the morning paper flying from the passenger's window, landing at his feet. He knew Bobby would have been looking for it. He stood quickly and walked around to the back of the garage, hoping to miss his brother coming out for the morning news. He sat down on an old tree stump behind the garage, and heard the back door creak open loudly. He heard the sound of another car engine, and then Jerry's voice. "Get your ass over here and help me carry these groceries."

"Damn, you're out and about early." Bobby called out from the open back door.

"Yeah, well someone had to do the shopping. Camille sent over some stuff that Craig left at the house."Jerry answered.

"That kid would forget his own ass if it wasn't attached to his back end." Bobby sounded closer.

"Give him a break Bobby." Jerry spoke normally. "Did he sleep okay last night?"

"How the hell should I know? He's still in his room. You want me to go ask him?" Bobby spoke sarcastically.

"Yeah, why don't you do that? Maybe he'd know then that you care." Jerry was sounding further away.

"He knows I care." Bobby countered. "I just have a different way of showing it. Hell, I don't know what to do with him." His voice faded, but he said more that Craig couldn't hear.

Craig heard the door slam shut then, then the big door was closed loudly. His body started to shiver slightly, and he regretted not grabbing his coat before coming outside. He stood and peeked around the corner of the garage at the back door of the house. He didn't want to go inside. He decided to go for a walk. He steered clear of the house and walked down the side street that ran next to the house. He wasn't sure where he was going; he just didn't want to be there at the house. Now that Jerry was there Jack and Angel would be getting up and then all peace would be out the window. Bobby would start up where he left off the night before with Angel. Craig wondered why his brothers' antics had never bothered him as much before but were bothering him now. Maybe because they always left him out. He wasn't included in any of it. When he was younger, before all of them moved out they had included him in some things. Not much, but some.

Craig reached the corner and turned to his left. His eyes were burning from the lack of sleep, but he tried to tell himself it was from the cold. He was surprised by the quiet in the neighborhood. He had never taken a walk that early before. Evelyn Mercer would have had a fit if he'd gone out of the house by himself at seven in the morning. At that thought his stomach turned to stone again. He wished someone would make it all go away. The fear seemed to be growing but he wasn't sure what the fear was for. Was it because of his brothers? Because he was sure that any day now Child Welfare would be showing up to take him back? No, he wasn't afraid of those. He was afraid of trying to live his life without Evelyn Mercer in it to make everything okay.