Final Chapter, and I feel like crying :(
But I can't do a 3rd part if I keep this one going forever, right? Thanks to all who have read and reviewed both of the stories! I have become addicted this :)
Let me know what you think, and yes there is going to be another one, I just can't get these guys to shut up!
Legal stuff still counts...
Chapter 63: A New Start
Craig rolled over on the couch, pulling the afghan up around him, shivering from a slight chill in the room. He opened his eyes and looked to see where he was. The glow of the Christmas tree was the only light, but it was enough that he could see the living room clearly, as well as Bobby sacked out in the chair in front of the fireplace, which had been burning before, but was now nothing more than glowing embers. Bobby had his legs propped up on the coffee table with his bare feet sticking up over the edge of a half full bowl of popcorn. Craig's mind slowly came out of sleep enough to remember why he was on the couch.
He had eaten a bowl of soup the evening before, and the empty bowl was still on the coffee table, amid the beer bottles that his brothers had managed to empty after they'd had their hot chocolate. His own empty glass set next to the soup bowl, a reminder that he'd taken all of his medicine after he'd eaten. He had returned to stringing the popcorn while his brothers got into a contest to see who could embarrass each other the most with stories from the past.
His last memories from the evening before was that of Bobby and Angel throwing popcorn at each other, first to see if they could hit each other's mouths, but then one of them threw one a little too hard, and there was retaliation by the other, though Craig wasn't sure who it was that actually started the popcorn war, but the kernels were soon soaring back and forth across coffee table by the handful. Angel cried out after one particularly hearty throw by Bobby, complaining that one of the white fluffy morsels had hit him in the eye, and of course Bobby couldn't let that go, calling him everything from his little sister to a princess. He offered to go out and find Angel a tiara and scepter, or maybe Jack would give up his for the cause.
That drew Jack in on the teasing, and somehow Jack and Angel had managed to turn it around on Bobby, telling the eldest of the bunch that he seemed awfully homophobic, and that maybe it was a way of blocking out his true desires. He was always preaching to Jack to admit his true feelings, and maybe he should be following his own advice.
Craig was bothered by the words at first, but he let the uneasiness go as he remembered all of the other times his brothers had joked around in just the same way, and he realized it would feel wrong if they didn't throw the insults back and forth at each other. It was all in fun. He didn't want them changing how they were to make him feel more at ease, it would only make him feel that much more self conscious. Besides, some of it was pretty funny and he found himself almost to the point of wanting to laugh at them. Almost, but it wouldn't quite come.
He still had a lot of confused emotions inside of him, and he was still struggling to hold back the anger. He was beginning to think that maybe he wasn't really angry at Bobby; Bobby had just been the easy target, and he probably would remain the easy target, because he was still feeling his anger focus on him, but he knew it was something more. He just had to figure it out, if he could figure it out.
At some point after that he had drifted off to sleep on the couch, listening to his brothers, and feeling warm and comfortable, and finally feeling as if he were home. He could barely remember someone trying to get him to get up so that he could be taken upstairs, but he didn't want to move. He was sure it was Bobby who had leaned close to him and told him that he'd be close, if he needed anything all he had to do was yell. Then the afghan had been dropped over him and a pillow stuffed under his head.
Craig sat up slowly and looked at the tree. There were numerous packages wrapped in brightly colored paper resting around the bottom. Beneath the boxes he was sure he seen the tree skirt that he'd made for his mother. The school project he'd been so proud to give to her. It hadn't been under the tree before. He remembered that the other skirt had been laid out around the base of the tree when it had been put up in the living room. He couldn't help but wonder when it had been changed, and why. He looked at the boxes, taking a mental picture of the tree as it was at that moment, with the presents sitting under it, the warm glow of the lights playing with the different colors of the decorated paper. He drew in a deep breath and for a moment was sure that he'd caught a whiff of his mother's perfume.
He sat back into the cushion of the couch and looked over at the chair in front of the fireplace. His oldest brother was sleeping soundly, and Craig wondered how he could stand sleeping in that chair with his injured ribs. He knew Bobby had put himself in the chair to stay close to him, and that idea made him feel a little more secure with being home. It also made him feel a little guilty. Bobby might not be taking care of himself, thinking he had to be there with him. He didn't want to be the reason Bobby had to be taken back to the hospital again, he couldn't stand that thought.
His mind recalled his imaginary Bobby, the one that had stayed with him while he was locked up in that basement room. He had talked to him, and told him what to do. He knew it hadn't been real, he'd known at the time it wasn't real; it had been his own mind bringing something familiar and safe to him, to help him get through what was happening to him.
He understood why it had been Bobby that he'd needed. He had wanted his mother initially. He'd wanted her to come to him and comfort him the way she had when he'd been kidnapped by Sweet. He understood now that his mind knew he'd needed more than comfort; he'd needed someone who could help him take some kind of action to survive. He had known, even in a drugged and confused state that his life was in much more danger in his father's hands than it had been with Sweet. His father never had cared if he killed him, he didn't care about him at all. He was nothing more than a possession to that man, something that could be discarded if the need arose. To Sweet, he'd been something more, a bargaining tool for his brothers, and somehow he had understood that on a level that he couldn't quite reach consciously, so his brain had brought Bobby to him, to tell him what he needed to do to survive. That must have counted for something. Somewhere in his mind he must have felt that Bobby cared enough for him to get him out of there, right? No matter what Adam had said to him, he'd come to realize in the past weeks that his brothers wouldn't just get rid of him, no matter how much of a problem it seemed he'd been, it just took a while for him to realize that he knew that, deep down. He still needed to learn how do deal with them from day to day, but the foundation was there, or at least it seemed to be.
He hadn't made it easy for them, he knew that. After the funeral, he'd tried his best to push them away, even though all he wanted was for them to include him. They were all he had, though he was still getting to know them. He'd been so afraid of losing his home and the only family he'd ever really known that he'd blocked them out, and they had fought to get through the walls that he'd put up. Bobby had definitely included him in much more than he'd ever expected that first week, making sure he was there when Stanley was taken care of, and as strange as it sounded, it was exactly what he'd needed. Not that he had needed to see Stanley die, and to be honest, he hadn't really been able to see that through all of the snow, but he'd needed to be included in their hunt for the truth of what had really happened to their mother.
Then Sweet had made his move, and Jack had been shot. They had come for him then and had taken care of Sweet. He hadn't made it easy for them after that either, falling into the same pit of fears that always seemed to draw him in when things got ugly. He had fought them all again, trying to keep them at a safe distance. And it seemed as though just as his life was starting to feel normal again, it had been ripped right out from under him.
He could feel his fears and confusion trying to suck him back in, and this time the anger was mixed in with it, stronger than he'd ever felt any other emotion. He didn't want to fall into that self contained pit that he was so used to retreating to, not with all of that anger to eat away at him. He didn't want to put the walls up, and he didn't want to hide from what he was feeling. He wanted to face it this time, and let his brothers know that he understood they had done the best they could.
He did know that they had done all they could to get to him as soon as they could. He wasn't sure how long he'd been subjected to Adam Mack's form of parenting, it had felt like forever, but he was sure that when he was able to talk to his brothers about it more, they would share more details with him, at least he hoped they would. He could feel questions stirring inside of him. How did Adam get him? How did they find him? How long had he been with him? What about Jordan, what had been done about him? He had a vague memory of a cop in the hospital room, wanting to talk to him. Was he going to have to talk to any cops? What was he supposed to say?
He let his gaze shift down to the coffee table, and the mess that his brothers had left there from the night before. Jerry would throw a fit if he walked in and found the table looking like that. He noticed his sketch pad near the edge of the table closest to him. He reached out and picked it up, pulling it to him. He knew he should lie back down and try to go to sleep, but he wasn't tired, no matter how late, or since he was sure it was morning, how early it was. The house was quiet, and peaceful, and he could think, and let his mind release some of the memories that he needed to get rid of.
He opened the sketch pad and let the pencil roll into his hand. He leaned towards the tree, to take advantage of the soft light glowing from the strings of multi colored bulbs. The colors from the lights didn't bother him, at least not at that moment. They weren't trying to play tricks on his mind and turn into something more than what they were.
He stared at the paper, holding the lead of the pencil to it, and closed his eyes for a long moment. He felt his hand move slightly, and the beginning of the picture in his head was born. He opened his eyes and watched as his hand moved, having to make the effort to think about the curves and lines that he was etching out. He usually didn't have to put that much thought into drawing, it normally came easy, without having to think about it. He kept the picture in his mind and the pencil scratched across the paper, first forming the outline of a head, and then focusing on the face. The most prominent memory in his head was slowly taking form in front of him; Bobby's head and shoulders hanging over the end of the dock, his arms reaching down towards him, his hands gripping his wrists. The clouds above him were swirling around as if a storm was brewing. The ice cycles that hung down off the bottom of the dock were clear and clean, but it was a frightening sight despite their appearance, because he never should have been able to see them hanging from the bottom side of the wooden dock, it wasn't a natural position to be in, it was wrong.
As he drew, his hand started moving with less effort, and he didn't have to concentrate so hard. He felt his mind release the memory completely, and it flowed onto the paper. Once the first memory was out the next one came to him. He flipped the page over and moved on, letting his hand take over and move on its own. The second image wasn't one that he really wanted to concentrate on too much. The image of Adam Macks above him, saying things to him that he would rather not remember, but he had to get the picture out of his head, and this was the only way he had to do that. It was as if he could feel his father's presence leave his mind as he drew the image on the paper.
He continued drawing until he'd emptied several more memories out of his head. He felt a little less tension in his muscles by the time he had finished the fourth drawing. He was working on the fifth page when movement from the chair drew his attention to Bobby. He looked up to see the man staring back at him. Both were quiet for a long moment.
"How long have you been awake?" Craig finally asked.
"Funny, I was about to ask you the same question." Bobby's voice sounded thick. "You okay?" He asked.
Craig nodded his head. "Yeah, I'm fine." He muttered, looking down at the page in front of him, and then looked back at Bobby, feeling a little annoyed that his quiet, private time was ruined.
Bobby shifted in his chair slightly. "You really needed to do that right now?" He nodded towards the pad of paper that rested in the boy's lap.
Craig shrugged his shoulders, not really wanting to answer the question.
"Well, if you need anything you wake me up. I for one feel like sleeping until Angel comes running down the steps like a freakin' school girl all excited about getting to open his presents." Bobby rested his head back and closed his eyes. He had been a little more careful about his choice of words. He'd slipped a few times since his promise to curb his use of a few choice words. To be honest, Craig didn't see the need for his brother to change how he talked. He heard the words everyday at school, and he had been known to cuss before his brothers ever came home. He didn't pick anything up from them. Of course, he hadn't let it happen in front of his mother except that one time. After he'd discovered the taste of Ivory soap his urge to cuss around his mother had been curbed completed.
Craig was surprised Bobby was letting him stay up with his sketch pad. He'd expected his brother to tell him to put the paper away and go back to sleep. He stared at the man, waiting for him to open his eyes again, but he didn't. He looked down to the packages under the tree, and realized he hadn't been able to get anything for his brothers. He didn't have any money, and it's not like he'd been able to go anywhere to get them anything. That past week had been a mix of confusion. That thought led him to wonder how any of them had managed to get presents in such a short time. When had any of them gone shopping? When had any of them had the chance?
He hadn't really expected presents to be under the tree, even before. He'd been happy just to have a tree, to have the decorations out and feel as if there were some connection to his mother. But now he felt guilty about not even considering getting something for his brothers. He looked back at Bobby and put his sketch pad down. "Bobby?" He spoke quietly.
The man opened one eye and looked at him, "Hmm?" He responded quietly.
"I don't have any presents to give to anyone." Craig muttered.
Bobby opened his other eye and looked at the boy as if the comment shocked him. "You already gave us your presents." He pointed up at the pictures hanging on the wall above the fireplace in the fresh wood frames they had made for them. "Those are our presents, and having you home and safe is the best present ever." Bobby shook his head. "You don't worry about anything more."
Craig stared at Bobby. The need to draw was fulfilled for the moment, and now his mind was wondering to other things. "Is he really dead?" He asked the question carefully, not sure if Bobby would be upset by it or not.
Bobby drew in a deep breath. "They haven't pulled a body out of the water Craig, so I can't say that he is, not right now. All I can say is that I saw Angel put a bullet in him, and I watched him fall into the water. No matter what though, we will make sure it never happens again. Until they pull his body out of that water, we aren't going to let our guard down." He drew in a deep breath. "Is that going to be enough for you right now?"
Craig thought about the words. Bobby was being honest with him, but the thought that his father could still be out there fuelled the fear inside of him. "I don't know." He muttered.
"You got us, and we know about him now. We didn't know before. That makes a difference, don't you think?" Bobby pushed.
Craig nodded his head slowly. Yes, it did make a difference. "I guess." He swallowed back the fear. "Can I come over there with you?" He asked the question before he even realized he needed to feel Bobby close to him.
"It would be a little crowded over here, don't you think?" Bobby grinned at him and stood slowly, dragging his blanket with him as he made his way around the coffee table to sit on the couch next to the teen. "Come here." He lifted his arm and let Craig lean over next to him.
Craig waited to see if Bobby would say anything else. He was hoping he wouldn't. He didn't want to talk right then, he just wanted to feel safe and soak in the quiet around him. Bobby didn't say a word; he rested his head back and kicked his feet up onto the coffee table, somehow managing to miss the beer bottle, popcorn bowl and Craig's dishes from the night before. Craig drew in a deep breath, and was sure for the second time that morning that he could smell his mother's perfume, giving him the feeling that she was near. He let his body relax and closed his eyes, feeling sleep pull at him though he was sitting up on the couch, leaned into Bobby. This Christmas was going to mark a new start, he would leave the bad memories behind him, he would deal with all of the emotions that were tugging at him, and he would get past them and survive them, he owed that to the woman who had saved him seven years earlier; he owed that to Eveyn Mercer, his mother.
He hated motels. He hated the stench in the rooms, and the film of grime that seemed to cover everything. He'd been there for a day now. He'd managed to dope up enough that he didn't feel the bullet hole in his back or the exit wound in his stomach.
By all rights he should be dead, he knew that. He had gone under, and had been ready to give in to the urge to take in the icy water. He wasn't sure if it was the drugs he'd loaded up on before, or the ice cold water that had kept his senses pulsing, kept his brain whirling with activity. He could barely remember it all, pushing with his feet off the bottom of the pond and making his way back to the air at the surface. In many ways Adam Macks had died that moment he'd broke the icy surface of the pond.
He'd managed to make it to the water's edge, and had watched as the Mercers carried off his son. His son was being stolen from him again. First the old lady had refused to return him when he was released from prison, and now they were carrying him away, ruining the plans he'd made. His rage burned deep inside, and that had given him the will to drag his self out of the water. He'd made his way unsteadily to the small shed on the far side of the farm. It had been used for storage years before, but it was hidden in a thick overgrowth of brush and weeds. Even in the winter months the graying wood of the small building was invisible behind the dead growth.
He hadn't been able to do much but wait, freezing, but he was out of the cold wind, and was able to use some empty burlap sacks for warmth. The cold temperatures probably kept him alive, kept his blood flowing slowly, and stemmed the bleeding from his wounds. He hadn't stayed in the shed too long once his mind managed to work out a plan of escape. He was sure Jordan would squeal like a fucking pussy just to save his own ass. The Mercers had a cop working with them and that meant that the police would be pulled in to investigate the whole mess. He had to get the hell out of there without being seen, so he couldn't chance contacting anyone he knew in the area. He had only one choice, to lay low someplace safe. He needed cash and warm, dry clothes.
Once he thought it was safe enough to venture out, he'd headed for the road, for the next town, London. It was dark by then, and the air felt like ice cold knives cutting into him. He had avoided any cars, not wanting anyone, even a total stranger to see him. He found his way to the old thrift store on the edge of town. It had been there for years, and he was sure it would be there forever. He busted in the back door, surprised at first that no alarm sounded. He had planned on a quick smash and grab, but as it turned out he'd been able to take his time.
He'd found clothes and a warm coat. A new pair of used boots and even a back pack to load up with more items. He had found some towels and sheets, discarded items that the poor would come in to purchase cheep. He'd torn some of those sheets up and had found the restroom in the back where he'd doctored his own wounds as best as he could for the time being, wrapping the strips of sheet around him to bandage the holes in his body. He invaded the office, where he thought he might find a safe to bust into. Instead he found only a desk. He busted open the locked drawers and felt like a kid in a candy store. He found the cash bundled in money wraps, ready for a deposit the next morning. He stuffed the bundled bills into the pockets of his donated pants and headed on foot for the truck stop next to the interstate.
From there it was easy to find a ride with a truck driver headed west. He just needed to rest while he rode. He had contacts in Indiana, and Illinois. He knew of a clinic just across the Illinois state line, no questions would be asked and he could get the treatment he needed. He had paid the truck driver what he could afford, and told him not to ask him questions. He didn't want to kill the man; he didn't want to leave any kind of a trail. Thank God the man hadn't asked about anything, he just drove his truck and stayed quiet. He liked it when people did what he told them to, it made life so much easier, for him and for everyone else.
The doctor at the clinic hadn't asked any questions either. He'd been stitched up and shot full of antibiotics before the doctor gave him a good amount of pain pills and sent him on his way. He'd been ready to drop, but before he could find a place to crash for a while he needed some kind of ID. It hadn't been hard to find on the streets. He had the cash to pay for a new identity, Jeff Jones. It was one of those names that wouldn't stand out. It sounded boring, and at that moment he needed to be as boring as possible to anyone who met him.
Once Jeff Jones had stopped at the corner liquor store he'd found the motel and registered for a room. He'd gone to his room and filled up on whiskey and pills, passing out once his body had been drugged enough to ease his pain. He'd wake up long enough to fill back up on the booze and meds and then pass out again. He didn't venture out until early Saturday. He found a department store nearby and had splurged on the phone. He needed a way to contact people he knew without it being traced back to him. Yeah, the disposable shit was the way to go. He could use up the minutes and then pitch it.
He tried Jordan, but got no answer. Hell, for all he knew the man was in jail. He tried Winston, but got no answer from him. He should have known not to waste his time on that son of a bitch. Hell, the only one who bothered to answer was Higgins, and he gave him all the fucking information he needed. He should have called Higgins from the start. The sorry shit was the only one who seemed to come through when he needed him to, or at least the only one who didn't argue about every fucking thing with him.
After his talk with Higgins he'd drugged himself up again, to kill the pain. He was too damn drugged up to control the urge to call the Mercer number. He never should have done that. As far as they were concerned he was dead, and he should have kept it that way. He hadn't been able to resist though. The idea that they thought they'd gotten the better of him ate away at his self control. It pissed him off that they thought they could steal his kid from him; just put a bullet in him and leave him for dead, and take his son. He was his son, he belonged to him. He owned him. He would get him back, and he'd make sure to take out the Mercers in the process. They'd caused him too much fucking trouble. They never should have screwed around with Adam Mack, and Jeff Jones would show them that. Jeff Jones. Yep, he liked the sound of that.
Now, Christmas morning was bringing new ideas and sparking new plans. Yes, it was Christmas, and the Mercers were probably all tucked away tight in their beds, thinking they were safe, and that they had nothing to worry about. That spoiled brat was probably snuggled down good and warm, thinking he'd gotten away with some shit, but he'd teach him a few things once he had him back where he belonged. He belonged with his father. Maybe the boy and the Mercers didn't have anything to worry about that day, but a brand new start was just around the corner with the coming new year, for Jeff Jones. He had been reborn, with a new name, and a new purpose in life. It was going to take time, but he would get his son back, and he would have his revenge on the Mercer family. It was his chance for a new start…