Title: A Chance for Redemption
Pairing: Implied past Bobby/Jack, Bobby/Harlan
Summary: A reason to keep going, a need to punish himself and a chance at redemption.
Disclaimer: Not mine, no profit made and no harm intended.
For the prompt Scream at fourbrothers100
Four Brothers Cross-over with Georgia Rule
Dedicated to monkey_chan
If there's one thing he never wants to hear again, it's the sound of an agonized scream, the sound of his name as a frantic plea. No…Never that again. He'll settle for unending guilt, night after night. It's his punishment and nothing anyone says will convince him otherwise.
They might have been there, they might have helped and grieved alongside him, but they've continued on with their lives. They drag Bobby along with them anyway, ignoring his many protests. But when they do drag him back into living like everyone else, he finds he hates it more.
The house is too quiet and Sofi is too understanding, kind even. He hates that everyone walks on egg shells around him. He wants to yell, to scream and rage and seethe at everyone and everything.
He hates them all.
Over the course of several months, his rage settles into a manageable lump of bitter misery. To anyone that dares to ask, he's just fucking fine. The truth is that he still hears the screams. Every time he closes his eyes or stands alone in a room, sobs and pleas, echoing louder and louder until he drops and begs for forgiveness.
Bobby gradually emerges from the misery and takes work with Jerry and makes an effort to be somewhat nice to Sofi. As nice as someone like him can be that is. And then one day, he sees him and he can't breathe, can't think while he stares at the beautiful boy before him.
The resemblance is uncanny and it makes his heart ache and twist. He keeps a hold on the orange in his hand, unable to look away. The hair…it's longer maybe, lighter like he'd spent too much time in the sun, those eyes, the same lovely blue, the same slightly bashful yet teasingly pretty smile.
He wants to scream.
The boy hands Bobby one of the oranges that he'd dropped, the crappy plastic bags ripping five steps from the grocery store. Full smile, tilt of the head and suddenly he can't breathe again. He hears nothing, sees nothing else, and falls head over heels for the enchanting creature before him.
Harlan, the boy tells Bobby his name, those long fingers reaching, gripping his hand. Calluses, bumps and the right amount of roughness…Bobby nods numbly, his eyes tracing the way Harlan's pants fit his legs, the way he holds Bobby's hand, like maybe he doesn't want to let go either.
In a fog, Bobby hears that Harlan is a Mormon, on a mission and very far from his home. He listens and thinks that his ticket to hell is ready and waiting because all he wants is to kiss the pink lips before him, see if they're as soft as his were, all while Harlan speaks of God's love.
He takes the pamphlet and his hand goes cold again when Harlan lets go. Another wide smile from the boy and Bobby's stomach lurches. Guilt, fresh and accusatory digs in. Bobby unpacks his groceries that afternoon, wallowing in dark guilt. It wraps around him, thick and miserable.
Halfway through a bottle of whiskey a week later, Bobby hears a short knock on the door. He answers and his automatic 'fuck off' dies on his lips. Harlan stares back at him, a little fidgety, a little nervous but so damn honest. He smoothes his hands over the fabric of his suit, looking for all his effort like a five year old boy playing dress up in his father's Sunday best.
Bobby brings him inside because, fuck it, he doesn't wanna drink alone anymore.
Harlan's voice is slow and quiet. His words are soothing and Bobby blinks back unwanted tears. He has to stop himself from asking Harlan to sing him something. Bobby leaves his bottle and glass on the table and stares into his eyes, listening to him speak of ideals he'd normally laugh at on a good day.
He falls asleep a half hour into Harlan's rehearsed speech. When he awakes, he finds himself lying on the couch, one of Evelyn's Afghan blankets draped over him and a small booklet tucked under his bottle of whiskey.
He reads the booklet and tosses it aside with a snort. He's got no plans of converting despite the ever so tempting gift of Harlan. He puts the thought of him far from his mind and soldiers on.
As if testing his resolve, the image of Harlan pops up, distracting Bobby from his routine. In the middle of the day when he's struggling to cut the grass in the heavy heat, to the silent evenings, a bottle his only companion in the otherwise silent house. He swallows mouthful after mouthful of whiskey until his throat burns and his eyes are stinging. Anything to bury the guilt…
One night, out far from his house, he drunkenly staggers out of a bar and into the summer night, humming off key renditions of old songs, ones that he never fully remembers. He hiccups, new tears springing to his eyes. Bobby can see him, see the sandy golden hair hanging in his face, smell his scent and feel those long fingers cupping him closer.
It's maddening and Bobby wanders more, trying desperately to forget. He stumbles and falls and instead of feeling the bite of unforgiving pavement, Bobby tumbles into a pair of strong arms.
He closes his eyes, laughing at first. The scent washes over him and his laughs fade to choked sobs and before he knows it, he's crying into the arms of a boy he hardly knows but couldn't ever forget.
Harlan murmurs soothing sounds and holds Bobby close. He smoothes the tangled hair back from Bobby's forehead, petting him almost gently. He manages to bring Bobby home and sets him down onto the couch, covering him with the same thick blanket.
Bobby stares up at him, at the far too pretty boy and it's too much for him to take. He pulls Harlan down; one hand fisted in the plain, sensible cotton shirt, the other hand fisted in the silky strands and kisses him.
The kiss is far from perfect and Harlan's stunned face would be funny if Bobby wasn't so damn drunk. Bobby nips at his mouth, determined to take as many kisses as he can before the beautiful boy runs off into the night. The tentative press back to his lips is the slow burn of a deeper kiss and Bobby can't let go.
Harlan whimpers, fear and need and arousal surging together. Bobby lets go of him, giving him the chance to flee. Harlan sits back, his face flushed, pupils blown out with shock and need. He backs up, stuttering and fumbling with his booklets. He runs from the house, the door slamming shut behind him.
Bobby drifts off to sleep, calmed by the lingering scent in the air. That night he dreams of blood, of bodies and bullets and accusing blue eyes that never blink. He screams himself awake, weeping near silently until the sun rises.
It's two very long weeks before Bobby sees a glimpse of Harlan. He's done his best to avoid thinking about him, avoid the areas he saw him in before. When he's down to the last slice of bread and some off color oranges, Bobby sucks it up and goes downtown to the grocery store.
Harlan stands with another like him, both looking vaguely uncomfortable and sticky hot in their formal clothes under the scorching July sun. Bobby looks Harlan over, tracking the drop of sweat that runs down Harlan's cheek. He wants to lick it off him.
The two of them avoid looking at each other until Harlan caves and returns Bobby's stare. He wants to cross the parking lot, yank the pamphlets from his hands and kiss him. Kiss him hard, demand that he return the kiss, force him to respond the way he would have.
Bobby exhales and shivers. He's pleased to see a flush of color on Harlan's cheeks and neck. He smiles and tips a wink at him, walking into the store before he can follow through on his wicked urges.
When he's lifting his bags into the trunk of his car, he hears a polite cough and knows without looking that he's standing behind him. He closes the trunk and glances at him, falling all over again.
Harlan stammers out an apology, his blush heavy and his hands twitchy. He's never done that before and he's very sorry, he never meant for it to happen and he hopes that Bobby isn't offended.
Bobby smiles because he would have bumbled through an apology the same. The guilt rises anew but he ignores it. He steps forward and assures Harlan that he's to blame, to calm down and relax, for fuck's sake.
Harlan blushes harder when Bobby swears. He hesitates only a second before agreeing to stop by and visit him again, and yes, he does have different booklets for Bobby to look over.
Bobby touches his hand for a fleeting moment, old pain surging. He ignores the guilt and relishes the new, familiar touch. He leaves, not because he wants to, but out of the urge to take the boy where he stands.
It's been so long.
He waits that night, watching the hours tick by. Half past nine, Bobby pours a glass of whiskey and drinks it down, wincing at the slow burn. He should have known…a boy like him wouldn't come; he'd fucked it all up by taking what he needed.
He blearily thinks that he needs only a glimpse, he's not greedy, he'll settle for less. A knock startles him badly and he yanks the door open, staring at the boy, at Harlan, who looks so much like him and it makes him hurt just a little more.
Harlan looks back at Bobby, biting his pink lower lip between his teeth. He's clearly nervous, clearly unsure of himself. Bobby wants to reassure him that he's not a maniac. That he won't hurt him and won't let him be hurt. He coaxes Harlan inside, embarrassed by the bottle visible on the table. Harlan smiles serenely and sits on the couch. If he's seen the bottle, he doesn't act like it.
Harlan asks him simple questions and once again Bobby finds the soft purr of Harlan's voice to be oddly soothing. The similarities gnaw at his senses and Bobby supposes that he might be losing his mind.
Over the course of the next hour, Harlan deftly peels back Bobby's defensive layers and once he's done so, Bobby admits that he has no real interest in converting after that. The dim gleam to Harlan's eyes disturbs him so much that Bobby rushes to assure him that it's not his fault that Bobby simply doesn't fit in with his kind.
He apologizes quietly and stumbles over his explanation for wanting Harlan to come by. He can't bring himself to explain why he needs this, needs to see this nearly perfect replica.
Bobby wants to strip him, to touch the skin where the tattoos should be. He wants to watch him style his hair just so, until it falls in messy sections that beg to be tugged in handfuls. He wants to watch him cook, listen to him sing, and hold him when the nightmares come.
He blinks and lets out a mournful sigh. Harlan isn't him though, and he knows that but it doesn't stop the longing. Harlan leans forward, the silence between them not uncomfortable. He takes Bobby's hand between his own. He rubs their hands together and licks his lips nervously.
He tells Bobby how he wants to help people. That he understands that some people come from hard lives and he hopes that he can help Bobby, even if he's not going to convert. Bobby smiles and blinks back his immediate response. He thinks of everything Harlan isn't and decides that it doesn't matter, that Harlan is innocent in the same way he'd been, and that's enough.
Harlan stays with him until Bobby's fighting to stay awake. He settles Bobby on the couch and remarks that he's starting to worry that Bobby doesn't own a bed. Bobby smiles tiredly and presses a kiss to Harlan's fingers. He wants Harlan to stay, to never leave him again.
When he awakes the next morning, Bobby sees a thin book of prayers that Harlan has left for him. He reads through them and for the first time since before Evelyn died, he attends church that morning. He sits in the back pew and listens to the minister speak of forgiveness.
He touches the rosary under his shirt, his rosary, the one that rests over his inked skin. He wonders if he'd forgive him for his thoughts and his cravings. He thinks of Harlan and bites his tongue. He wonders if Harlan would ever consider turning his back on his religion and smiles briefly.
Not likely, he decides. He feels sinful for even thinking of Harlan like this. The congregation murmurs along in prayer and Bobby whispers his name, waiting for an answer. None comes and Bobby holds back his sorrow.
He wants to weep.
Harlan comes by again within days and Bobby's happy to see him. He feels better with him, though he doesn't say so. Harlan seeks ways to help Bobby recover. He knows a damaged soul when he sees one.
He tells Bobby about Rachel, the rebellious, wild child that had been sent to live with her grandmother in Harlan's hometown of Idaho. He talks of how she'd tried her best to shock and seduce him, of how hard it had been to try and help her adjust to the small town life. And though she'd tried, she simply hadn't fit in. He speaks of Rachel with much regret in his voice that he hadn't been able to help her more, that love hadn't been enough to help her.
Bobby thinks that it's absurd to be jealous of the foolish girl and yet, jealousy rises hard and fast. He snaps out a nasty response and is floored by the look on Harlan's face. Harlan chides him gently and tells him not to judge, to leave that task to God.
Bobby chuckles and thinks that Harlan could have given Evelyn a run for her money in charitable advice and pious lessons. She would have loved him. Much to Bobby's surprise, he finds himself apologizing for his remark. Harlan smiles and changes the subject easily.
He shows Harlan the small garden in the backyard. Evelyn had been so proud of garden and the sweet tomatoes she had grown herself. Bobby sighs. The little garden is rampant with weeds, choking from neglect.
Harlan kneels down, murmuring to himself. Bobby is stuck by the resemblance to him once more and revels in the memories. He kneels down as well and listens to Harlan speak of how to identify a weed from a root and how to use natural insect repellent to keep his garden healthy.
Together they remove the weeds from the garden, working late into the afternoon.
Bobby feels only minor guilt over monopolizing Harlan's time. Harlan waves away his concerns, preferring his company to those who would slam the door in his face before he finishes his opening sentence.
Gradually, Bobby stops drinking so much. He feels…odd drinking in front of Harlan or even being around him when he's had a shot or two. Harlan doesn't ask him not to, but he feels bad enough to stop nonetheless.
Harlan…Bobby spends a good chunk of time studying him, trying to figure him out. He's patient and kind, forgiving of Bobby's outbursts and foul language. He spends hours reading with him. Bobby learns through careful questions that yes, Harlan can play the acoustic guitar and ride a horse quite comfortably.
He tries to put that image out of his head but the damned thing won't leave.
Over a late night, when Harlan has volunteered to stay and cook something more nourishing than that 'fast food crud' as Harlan refers to it, Bobby watches him prepare the food with bittersweet pangs of memories.
He eats with Harlan, watching his every move with great scrutiny. Harlan looks up from his meal and catches Bobby's heated gaze. He blushes, deftly avoiding the unspoken words between them. Bobby leans in and takes Harlan's cheek, cups it with his hand and whispers that he's sorry, but he simply has to.
Harlan's panicked breathing is all that can be heard when Bobby kisses him. The kiss is better this time and Harlan's lips part on their own accord. Bobby moans lowly into the kiss, his hand sliding up and grasping a fistful of hair, the strands silly soft to the touch.
Bobby thinks of him and begs for forgiveness silently. Harlan surges up into the kiss, unable to ignore what he wants at that point. Bobby ends the kiss with a nip to Harlan's lips, his tongue soothing the small hurt.
Harlan stares at him, breathing fast. He whispers Bobby's name, a half plea, half sob. Bobby throws caution to the wind and he's never been one to make many plans. He's winging it and doesn't he always, he laughs inwardly, stealing another kiss from the frightened boy.
He pulls him onto his lap. Harlan's heavier than he was but Bobby relishes the feel. He runs his hand down Harlan's back, feeling the tensed muscles and warm skin through his shirt. Harlan whispers again and tilts his head, giving him unspoken permission.
Bobby kisses a sizzling path along Harlan's neck, licking and tasting and marveling at how similar yet different it all is. He marks a spot on his neck and mumbles words of love to him, holding him as tightly as he dares to.
Harlan lets out a small moan, the simple act leaves him panting and hard, complete putty in Bobby's experienced hands. Bobby settles for kissing and petting Harlan. He knows too much will scare him off, Harlan with his limited knowledge and even less experience; he'd be horrified if he knew what Bobby's dreamt of doing to him.
Bobby kisses him, each one light and slow. He takes his time when all he really wants is to strip Harlan and take him, take him rough and hard, hear that voice beg him and cry out his name like before.
Harlan presses his tongue to Bobby's, a shy tentative move. Bobby smiles and thinks maybe this won't blow up in his face for once.
Harlan knocks on Bobby's front door hours later that night, his blue eyes red rimmed with tears, his suitcase and duffel bag in hand. He's been asked to leave by his Elders, the kiss on his neck a branding from Bobby. He haltingly asks if he can spend the night, explaining that he has nowhere else to go. Bobby brings him inside. He feels guilty, knowing that he ruined this boy's life.
He lays on the couch, pale and uncertain. Bobby sits on the chair across from him, his eyes on the pictures that line the walls. One picture stands out and Harlan notices it for the first time. He stares at it, shocked and stunned by the near mirror image. He looks to Bobby for an explanation, but the words won't come. Harlan clutches his duffel bag and asks if the boy in the picture is the one that Bobby grieves over.
Bobby answers with a slow nod. He confesses everything. That they were foster brothers and that he died, that Bobby failed to save him. When he stops speaking, his voice is raw and his words uneven. He half expects to see an empty couch before him.
Instead, Harlan moves to his side and hugs him, whispering apologies and platitudes. Bobby hugs him because he craves the comfort and because he still badly wants this boy. He holds onto Harlan, taking a small kiss from him. Harlan blushes a lovely pink. Bobby wants to ask him a thousand questions but finds himself sitting in silence with Harlan.
He grieves for the loss of Harlan's innocence, for the knowledge that Harlan can't ever go back and for the fact that he doesn't want to let go.
Harlan moves in with Bobby that night. Bobby introduces him to Jerry and Camille first, then Angel and Sofi. Harlan wins them over in the span of an hour, all of them struck by the resemblance.
Bobby takes his time with Harlan. He helps him adjust to his new life. Harlan finds solace in Bobby's church and his arms. Religion, he understands and he takes to Bobby's church easily enough. Bobby goes with him every Wednesday and Sunday. He figures that he owes that much to him and goes without complaint.
Harlan encourages him to go to the cemetery, to find peace or some such bullshit as Bobby calls it. At Harlan's disapproving look, Bobby finds himself wondering how he ended up being so cleverly controlled by this boy.
He visits the cemetery and stops at both graves. He talks to Evelyn's headstone for some time. He tells her that he knows she'd love Harlan. That's he's a fine cook and that he makes Bobby clean and cook along side him and that he really doesn't mind that all too much. He tells her that he misses her something fierce and that he hopes that she's proud of him.
Bobby rests his hand on the gravestone next to hers and sighs. He touches the cool stone, a tear slipping down his cheek as he does so. He speaks finally, his voice cracking. He tells him how damned sorry he is, how hard he tried to save him. He tells him that he loves him and that he always has and won't ever stop.
He asks for understanding and for approval, for his blessing. A small gust of wind touches Bobby's cheek and it's all he can do not to sob. He nods and whispers a goodbye, his throat raw and hurting. He doesn't hear the screams anymore.
And that night, when Bobby slips into the bed and he feels Harlan's arms slip around him, holding him tight, he smiles. They're so alike and yet so different, Harlan and him.
Harlan murmurs his name, presses a sleepy kiss to his neck and tells him to sleep already. Bobby curls up closer to Harlan and thinks that maybe, just maybe, a part of Jack lives on in Harlan. And he thinks maybe he can rest, now that he's stopped punishing himself.