Yes, the guys are talking to me again :) Review and let me know what you think, and thanks to all for reading!
Do not own Four Brothers, do not profit from this work of fiction.
Chapter 1: Life After Monsters
Three days. It had been three long days since he'd watched Adam Macks die in front of him. He knew he was dead and would never come back. This time the monster was gone for good. He wasn't going to spring back to life with another face, lurking in the shadows and waiting for a chance to pounce when it was least expected. Knowing this and feeling safe were two different things. He wasn't sleeping, but he didn't think Bobby had realized that. His brothers were too busy to notice much of anything that was going on around them.
The Mercer's had celebrated the demise of Adam Macks in their own way by breaking out some good whiskey and ordering pizza while Bobby gave Craig his medication and sent him to lie on the couch. Craig refused to allow himself to be drugged to sleep or into a state of numbness. He didn't need the pills to make him numb anyway. He wondered how many pills had accumulated under the couch cushion over the past few days. He didn't bother trying to make a mental count, he didn't really care that much. There were a few stuffed under the mattress of his bed as well, and he'd flushed a few doses.
The teenager should have been happy about the death of the man who had made his life hell for so long, but it was as if he was empty inside. There was no joy or grief, only an empty feeling, as if part of his life was over and he wasn't sure what that left. He no longer felt the fear that he'd become so accustomed to, and it was odd to him. He didn't know what he was supposed to feel, but whatever it was, it wasn't there. He thought about trying to talk to Bobby about it, but his all of his brothers had been busy.
There had been trips to the police station, and they had even had to talk to the FBI. Craig had been left out of most of it, but he wasn't sure how. The cops had talked to him once, and he hadn't said much to them, he'd only told them the reason he'd been in the cemetery. His history with Adam Macks was already on record and there was no reason to go into those details. In between taking care of business with the cops, the Mercers had also been dealing insurance companies and Jeremiah's business problems.
Nothing had been said to the youngest brother first hand, but he'd heard bits and pieces of conversations about money and the lack of it. The sooner Jeremiah could get his project back into operation the better off all of them were going to be. Craig stayed off to himself most of the time and his brothers went about the business they needed to tend to.
Craig didn't mind being left to his self for the most part. He was trying to figure his own feelings out. It seemed he'd gone from an emotional overload to emotional nothing, and it felt strange. He found that if he sat on the couch with his school books no one bothered him too much. It also gave him a chance to catch up, slowly, on some of his assignments. Bobby had been surprised when he found him that first morning with his history book in his lap and Sponge Bob on the television turned down so low that he could barely hear it.
Jack had tried talking to him once, but Craig didn't feel like dealing with Jack yet. Jack had steered clear of him since. He wasn't angry with Jack anymore, but he wasn't happy with him either. He felt nothing. No anger, no fear, no sadness or joy. It was empty. He wasn't sure when the veil of nothing had fallen over him, but it seemed it was at the cemetery, when he'd watched his father die. He had been thankful that night when Bobby had let him sleep in his own bed without questioning him too much about it. He hadn't really slept, but he'd done a good job of faking it when Bobby came in to check on him later in the night. He hadn't gotten out of bed the next morning until Bobby came for him, but he hadn't really slept. He had spent the entire day on the couch lost in his thoughts, and trying to make it look like he was studying in an attempt to keep his brothers at a distance. His brothers came and went, announcing their departures and arrivals as if he should have some kind of opinion about what they were doing. Bobby was the worst, making sure the younger Mercer acknowledged that he was being left in the care of another brother for a short time.
The second day of being Adam Macks free was pretty much like the first, without too many interruptions from any of his brothers, though they were home most of the day. They spent most of their time seated around the dining room table talking, Jeremiah had been there and it seemed someone was always on the phone. The only time Craig's privacy was interrupted was when Bobby decided he needed to eat, take his pills and nap. The teen went through all of the motions, doing what Bobby told him without question. When he took the pills he'd go directly back to the couch, spit them out into his hand and stuff them down the cushion, unless he was able to go to the restroom without an escort, if that opportunity came up he'd flush the pills. When he went to bed at night they ended up under his mattress.
It was that third day that it started to get a little harder to keep to himself. Bobby wanted him to ride with them all to the police station. He seemed to have a problem with leaving him alone at the house. Craig didn't understand why, it wasn't as if he was worried about it himself. He didn't have to watch out the windows for signs of his father just outside. Of course the closest he'd managed to get to being alone was when he went to bed at night, and he still didn't feel alone then. His door was left open and Bobby checked on him at least once in the night. The man seemed concerned for some reason, asking if he was sure he was up to sleeping in his own room, alone. Craig couldn't explain it to the man, he wanted have the time to himself. He didn't need to know that his brother close by, he didn't care.
Craig wanted to tell Bobby he would be fine alone at the house for the short time that they needed to be at the police station, but decided not to start the conversation. He figured it would be easier to go with them than it would be to have Bobby questioning his reasons for not wanting to. The reasons weren't really clear to him and that would make it difficult to explain. He didn't want to be at the police station, he didn't want people looking at him, again, like they all did before. He didn't want his brothers babying him in public, and that was bound to happen, he was sure. He just wanted to forget the past month had ever happened and it was easier to do if he could hide away in the house. None of those reasons would really touch the true feelings he had, and even if they did he was sure they wouldn't go over too well with Bobby.
All he could do while he waited for his brothers to get ready to leave was sit on the couch and hide behind a school book in an attempt to look as if he were absorbed completely in the finer points of the English lesson he was supposedly working on. It was almost noon and the men were still upstairs getting ready. Craig had Sponge Bob on the television again because there wasn't anything else on. He wasn't paying much attention to the program anyway. His eyes were fixed on his English book, and his mind was whirling around his private thoughts; the same thoughts he'd been mulling over for days now.
It seemed the Mercers had talked to more cops in the past three days than any of them had in their entire lives. As much as Bobby hated cops Craig was amazed none of them had been come up missing, or dead during one of their visits. But then, Bobby's attitude towards the uniform seemed to have changed. He still bad mouthed them, and most of them were not met with kind eyes or a smile, but Johnson and some of the officers he'd gotten familiar with in the short time that had passed since Adam Macks' death got a friendly greeting from Bobby, and that just didn't feel right. Green was different, they had known Green before he was a cop, so that didn't feel wrong, but the rest of it felt wrong.
Jeremiah was supposed to meet them there, and at the moment Bobby, Angel and Jack were upstairs taking turns at the shower. Craig could hear the yelling and bitching from his seat on the couch. He was thankful that he'd been taking his showers at night. He didn't want to be in the middle of the arguing. He'd heard enough yelling to last him a life time. He was ready for some peace and quiet, the way it had been when it was just him and Evelyn in the house. He missed that part of his life, the quiet.
Jack was the first to come down the stairs, which surprised Craig until he heard Bobby yelling from above. "You can do your fucking primpin' after we've had our chance to get a shower."
Jack laughed as he dropped down in the chair next to the fireplace. His hair was wet, so he'd had his shower. He glanced at the television before he looked at Craig and hesitated for a moment before speaking. "You're watching Sponge Bob?" He asked.
"Not really." Craig looked at his brother for short moment before returning to the school book in his hands.
"You don't mind if I change the channel then?" Jack reached towards the coffee table to grab the remote control. He started flipping the channels before Craig had a chance to answer the question. Not that it bothered the teen much, he hadn't been paying attention to the box; it had only been a source for background noise, to keep the room from feeling so quiet.
Ten minutes later Angel hit the bottom of the steps in a cheerful mood. He walked into the living room and dropped down on the couch next to Craig. "What you doing there kid?" He leaned over to see the book. "Grammar," He let out a chuckle.
Craig sighed and looked at Angel. "You want to help me?" None of his brothers had shown much interest in the school work he had to catch up on. He wasn't interested either, and it wasn't as if he was actually accomplishing anything except for being to himself. He didn't think Angel would agree to help, and he wasn't disappointed.
"Not now kid, we got shit to do. Why don't you just put the book down for a while?" Angel grinned. "You got a chance to just relax a little, why ain't you been relaxing?" He grabbed the book and pulled it from the boy's hands.
Craig could feel his time alone slipping away. He tried not to let it show outwardly, but he did reach for the book in an attempt to retrieve it from Angel. "I need to catch up." He muttered and he could feel the frown trying to etch on his face. He struggled against it, but feared he was losing the battle.
"Yeah, you do, but not right now. You've been at it for two days straight, you should have quite a bit done." Angel pulled the book out of Craig's reach and tossed it onto the coffee table.
Craig gave up and rested his head back on the couch. He didn't try to argue, it wouldn't do any good. There was one thing he'd learned in the past month; when his brothers decided to pay some attention to him, he wasn't going to be able to get rid of them until they found something else to occupy them.
"You've been too quiet. You need to talk?" Angel spoke quietly, and his expression changed to one that showed he was serious.
Craig shook his head slowly. "No. I don't need to talk."
Jack glanced over but didn't say anything despite the fact that his mouth started to open. Craig was sure Jack was still being cautious around him. He didn't care to talk to Jack, Angel or Bobby. He had nothing to say. He wasn't angry, he wasn't upset, and he had no reason to talk about anything that had happened. He didn't want to talk about Jack's lie, or his other brothers keeping things from him. He didn't want to talk about Adam Macks being dead and gone for good. It all felt wrong. It didn't feel normal the way he'd expected it to. It didn't feel like anything.
Angel reached out and slid an arm around the teen's shoulders. "You know, it's a lot of shit to deal with, and you've hardly said a word for two days. Don't think none of us have noticed that, because we have."
Craig didn't turn to look at Angel. He had known that eventually someone would approach him with the idea of talking about the recent series of events. He had hoped it would be a little while longer, so that he might have a chance to sort things out for himself. How was he supposed to explain what he was feeling when there was nothing there? There was nothing inside of him. He pulled away from his brother and stood. "I'm getting a glass of water." He muttered. It was the only thing he could think of to get away from the crowded feel the room was taking on.
He wasn't actually thirsty, but as soon as he walked through the kitchen door the back door opened and Jeremiah walked in. He was sure it had been decided that Jerry would meet them all at the police station, but there he was, ruining his attempt as achieving some distance between him and his brothers. He got a glass out of the cupboard and filled it with water while Jeremiah said his good morning to him.
"How are you feeling? You doin' okay?" Jerry stepped over and gave him a quick hug.
"I'm fine." Craig managed to pull back from Jerry without it feeling too awkward, he hoped. He didn't want to be touched, though he hadn't relayed that to any one, recently.
"Hopefully this will be the last time we gotta go through this shit." Jerry shrugged off his coat and laid it across the back of one of the kitchen chairs.
Craig leaned back against the counter and started drinking his water, hoping his brother wouldn't go on forever about this trip to the police station.
"Are you up to talking to the cops this morning?" Jeremiah asked the question slowly.
Craig lowered the glass. Bobby hadn't told him he had to talk to anyone. No, he wasn't up to it. "Sure." He muttered, but the surprise must have shown on his face.
"Bobby didn't tell you?" Jeremiah scowled for just a moment, but managed to wipe the concern off his face. "I didn't know he didn't tell you. He's gonna kill me." He muttered and walked on through the kitchen to the foyer.
Craig took another drink of his water and wondered why the police would want to talk to him again. He had told them all he was going to. He hadn't had to go with any of his brothers the past few times they'd gone down to the police station. In fact, Bobby had made the remark that there wouldn't be any reason for him to have to talk to anyone else about what had happened three days earlier.
The teen nursed his water for another few minutes, until he heard heavy boots hitting the stairs. Bobby was coming down. He was sure Jeremiah would say something about his slip of the tongue. He wanted to hear what Bobby said about it. He put the glass down on the counter and walked to the doorway to listen.
"Hey Jerry, I thought we agreed we would meet at the police station." Bobby spoke from the living room.
"Yeah, and we also agreed that you were gonna tell Craig the FBI wanted to ask him some questions." Jeremiah responded.
"You said somethin' to the kid, didn't you Jerr'?" It was Angel's voice that responded to Jeremiah's comment.
"Well ya' all said you were gonna talk to him." Jeremiah defended himself. "Why didn't you?"
"Because he's been doin' good, I didn't want to ruin it for him. I was hoping I could get down there and keep it from happening." Bobby answered. "Where is he?"
"He's in the kitchen. He seemed okay when I fucked up and let it slipped. Hell, if I'd known you hadn't told him I would have kept my mouth shut."
Craig quickly ducked back into the kitchen before Bobby headed his way. He didn't want his brother to catch on that he'd been listening in. It was something he'd gotten good at the past few days, honing in on conversations that weren't really meant for him. He wasn't sure why he'd picked up the habit. The only thing he could really think about was the talk he'd overheard between Bobby and Jack the night before the cemetery ordeal. That had been his first clue that there were secrets being kept from him and that he couldn't trust his brothers' word for much. It wasn't the way he wanted to feel, he wanted to be able to count on them, and feel safe with them, but it wasn't going to happen, not now. Not for a long time. The fact that Bobby hadn't been up front with him about having to talk to the Feds only made him feel less confident with anything they told him.
Craig filled the glass with some more water and took another long drink as Bobby walked into the kitchen.
"Hey there kid." The man smiled at him, "You're doin' okay this morning?" He asked.
"Great." Craig pulled the glass down and muttered.
"Jerry told me he ran his mouth." Bobby forced a smile.
"Yeah," Craig wanted to ask Bobby why he'd lied to him and tell him he wasn't going to talk to anyone, no matter who it was, but he held it in. He had come to the conclusion that it did no good to tell anyone what he did or didn't want to do. He hadn't wanted to talk to the D.A. days before, but he'd been forced to. It wouldn't make a difference now either.
"Look, I don't think you'll have to talk to anyone, really, that's why I didn't say anything. The government guys seem to think you can answer some questions for them, but…" Bobby started to explain his actions.
"It's okay." Craig muttered. "It doesn't matter." He took another drink of his water, hoping Bobby would stop talking about it.
Bobby stood in front of him, his eye brows moving slightly closer to each other for a moment. "Really, it's okay?" He didn't look or sound as if he believed the statement; in fact he looked as if he were going to keep speaking, but for some reason held back.
Craig purposely waited until he'd drained his water before speaking. "Sure." He gave his shoulders a slight shrug and set the glass on the counter.
Bobby let out a short huff and shook his head. "You don't gotta act like it's no big deal. I know you don't want to talk to them." His voice sounded a little stressed.
"It's okay." Craig repeated his earlier statement. "It's not like you can change it, right?" He added, not meaning to speak what he was thinking. "I gotta pee before we go." He turned to walk out of the kitchen.
"Hey, I'm not done here." Bobby reached for him.
Craig pulled his arm back before Bobby could grab hold, but stopped and looked at the man.
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you about this, but if I can, I'm gonna get you out of it, okay?" Bobby looked surprised that his younger brother had pulled back from him. "They don't gotta talk to you about shit. You just tell them what you told them before."
"Sure, whatever," Craig muttered. "Can I go pee now?" He asked.
Bobby drew in a deep breath. "Okay, hurry the hell up though; we're about ready to leave." He motioned for Craig to go.
The fourteen year old turned and walked out of the kitchen quickly, thankful that he was able to get away from Bobby before anything else could be said. Keeping himself detached from Bobby was harder than he'd thought it would be. With his other brothers it was difficult, but with Bobby it felt practically impossible. He wanted too badly for Bobby to make things okay, despite knowing he wasn't going to, or that he couldn't.