A/N: Okay, I haven't posted anything in over a year. Especially anything new. So, constructive criticism is great, and I will try to update this soon. I wrote 12 pages, this is only to page 9, but I have to add scenes between the two…so read and wish me luck? Leave a comment if you read, please! :)

If it hadn't been for his time up at the podium, talking about his mother through silent sobs of despair that wracked his body, he probably never would've seen her. As he glanced up from the fingerless gloves on his hands, he caught a glimpse of the face he hadn't seen in several years. From a distance even, he could see the expression on her face. It matched how he felt inside—pained. She watched on, quiet and unmoving, clad in an old black parka and black jeans, her long, dark hair floating with the wind around the attempted disguise of her sweatshirt's hood. He knew she was watching him, but he couldn't bring himself to meet her eyes across the cemetery. Not through his tears.

That was when Bobby clasped a hand around his shoulder, and gently commanded him to go back to his seat.

"You all know how Ma felt about goodbyes," he said swiftly, "so thank you all for coming. God Bless you."

And that was that, really. When Jack looked up to see if she was still there, there was nothing but the wind brushing white gusts of snow through the solemn, unsettling peace of the cemetery.

At Jeremiah's house, with no sign of Angel, the youngest of the Mercer brothers kept outside, cigarette set between his fingers. He couldn't help but wonder if he'd imagined her at the funeral. Again, he felt Bobby's hand settle on his shoulder.

"You alright, man?" he asked, sincerely.

Jack nodded, slightly hesitant as he blew a slow draw of smoke from between his lips.

"You sure?" Nodding again, this time coughing out a puff as his brother clapped him on the back.

"Did you see Amber?" he inquired after finally catching his breath in the cold winter air, the thought nagging at him. Bobby gave him an odd look.

"Did you?"

Jack shook his head this time, unsure of how stable his state of mind was.

"Guess not," he chuckled, but it wasn't humorous.

"C'mon, man," Bobby chortled. "Jerry's waitin'."

Jack was happy to reconnect with his brothers again since he hadn't seen them in years, but her face was constantly at the back of his mind. Just floating there; her hair whipping in the wind like a flag. A continuous tugging feeling at his already mangled heartstrings.

Upon arriving back at the Mercer home after dark, the three grieving men came upon Angel—wrapped in a puffy parka and sitting in a chair on the front porch. A little brotherly love, some teasing and then in all seriousness, the four of them entered the house together.

It was eerily silent, and it still looked lived in. Everything left where Evelyn had last used it.

Jack adjusted the guitar case in his hand, catching glimpses of the house as if they were instantaneous photographs of how his mother had been living while they were gone.

"Jack, you take your old room. Angel, take yours. I'm gonna sleep in Ma's room," Bobby said quietly as he climbed the stairs, two at a time. Jack followed suit, and was surprised to find his room was not empty, nor alone.

"Amber," he choked out. His words were halted just after they passed his lips and he'd stopped in the doorway. The brunette was sprawled on his bed, atleast two of her limbs extended out past the mattress' end and her head settled into the pillow at an angle.

"Hey, Jack," she replied, a careless tone mingled with her usual one of sarcasm.

"How'd you get in here?" She lifted her shoulder in a shrug.

"No disrespect to Evelyn, but your window wasn't open, so I broke in the back door. Just picked the lock, though. No broken windows," she explained with a lazy, unhappy smile. "I didn't want to make a big deal at Jerry's," she added quietly.

After setting down his guitar and shrugging out of his winter attire, he rather carelessly shoved her over to make room for him to sit. Not that there was much more space to push her, but she got the point.

"I didn't even know you were still in Detroit," Jack stated, glancing over his shoulder at her.

"Where else would I go?" the brunette asked curiously. "Whether I stay or not, I'm still without family. You guys all split, and Jerry's got his own family now. Didn't bother him much. I had dinner with your mom, though…" She trailed off then, suddenly more aware of why they'd been reunited. "How're you holdin' up, anyway?" He knew she was referring to his upsetting display of grief at her funeral. He simply shook his head. "Right. Too soon to ask. Got it."

The room fell into a silence then, not particularly uncomfortable as one of grievance. They were both upset at a loss and hadn't seen each other in years.

"Hey, Amber?"

She looked up to meet his gaze over his shoulder again, but said nothing. Just waited.

"I'm glad you're here." His blue eyes, filtered with a gray haze of mist that made them a smoky color, were cast towards her hand resting beside his pocket, and he caught sight of the jewelry and ink around her fingers. Without thought, he reached out to turn the ring on her right ring-finger so the engraving was visible. "'Born of blood, raised with heart; we are family,'" he read aloud and then looked back to her face, where her dark chocolate eyes waited. "You're not without family, Amber," he corrected and knew he wasn't mistaken that the glaze of shimmer that overtook her eyes was tears threatening to fall.

"She was so excited you were all going to be home for Thanksgiving," she stated, her voice shaking. "'You have to come, Amber, Jackie'll be so excited to see you again,' she'd say. I could never say no to her." She shook her head, sniffling and wiping at her cheeks somberly. Only a few tears had escaped, all without noise, and Amber turned onto her side to try and hide her face behind the fallen curtain of her hair.

Jack settled in next to her, his back against the pillow and his head just above the headboard as he stretched his arm around her back to hold her on the bed. It dawned on him at that moment, the last time they'd both managed to snuggle together in his bed was back when they were about eighteen. They hadn't fit well then either, but now, he'd gotten a few inches taller and even gained some muscle weight. But, the memory he recalled wasn't right for the moment they were sitting in, and thankfully, Amber broke into his thoughts.

"Have you written anything?" He noticed she was staring at his guitar case, longingly. Nodding, he leaned over to snag the instrument and freed it from the confines of its shell, pulling it back to his lap. Between both their limbs and the neck of the guitar, he wasn't sure how they managed comfort while he toyed with a few simple tunes, but they had—and he missed it desperately.

"Well," Bobby appeared in the doorway, small smirk on his face, "I guess Jackie wasn't hallucinating like he thought." Amber sniffled, a smile just barely gracing her lips as she brushed her hair out of her face to see him.

"Nice to see you, too," she said quietly.

"How ya been, little girl?" he asked as he sunk down beside the bed.

"Pretty fuckin' lonely," the brunette retorted. "You guys suck ass for leaving, by the way." Bobby took notice of the fact that as she said it, she snuggled closer to Jack. He set his guitar down and she rested her head against his shoulder, doing her best to ignore that he was working around her to roll a joint.

"So, what've you been up to since you left?" Bobby inquired. She scoffed.

"Ha, I never left," Amber chuckled bitterly.

"You never even fuckin' left for Chicago? After all that trouble you gave me about letting you leave?" Bobby asked, disbelieving.

"I felt bad leaving Evelyn alone." It was obvious to both the brothers there was more to it than that, but she said nothing more on the matter; just snatched his guitar up and sat up, her legs off the other side of the bed, trying to occupy her mind with the vibrating strings.

Jack and Bobby exchanged a look but neither said anything until Jerry appeared in the doorway.

"What?" Bobby inquired, in reference to the fact that he was just observing.

"Nothing. Just happy to see my brothers is all," Jerry chuckled.

"Hey, Jerry," Amber spoke up softly.

"Hey, kiddo," he replied. "You guys doin' alright?" She shrugged a shoulder.

Angel appeared from his room, and although, he claimed to be going out for air, they all knew it was a crock. He wanted to find Sofi, and none of them let him live it down. After he was gone, Bobby chuckled and got up off the floor.

"Don't keep me up all fuckin' night like you did when you were horny teenagers, alright? I need my fuckin' beauty rest," he said nonchalantly.

"Fuck you, Bobby, I was quiet," Amber shot back without missing a beat.

"Ha ha, no you were not. Fuckin' screamer," he muttered before disappearing down the stairs. Once Jack heard the fridge open, he pulled Amber back towards him, taking the guitar from her hands and setting it back in the case. He used a foot to shut his door and tugged her into his arms by the hem of her shirt.

"What?" she whined playfully, trying not to crack a smile.

"You stayin' here tonight?" he asked, hopefully. Amber settled back under his arm, and, disgusted with the joint that was still in his hand, coughed up a response.

"Depends."

"On what?"

"Whether or not you're gonna be high as a kite by the time we go to bed." He made a face and put it out in an ashtray that was nearby.

"Happy?"

"Relatively, I suppose. Pot may be your way of dealing with shit, but my god, it is disgusting. Smells even worse. Atleast open the bloody window," she hissed, crawling over him to throw the wooden frame up. Unintentionally, her legs were on either side of him as she'd stretched to unlock the window and he waited until she was back with her balance on the bed to hold her there.

"What?" she asked, confused as to why he was looking at her the way he was.

He sat up so he was closer to her and as he was leaning in to kiss her, with a small bout of hesitation, she shook her head and slid off his lap.

"Don't think so, buddy. I'm going to go sleep on the couch, you horny, broken man. Call me if you need me," she said swiftly, and turned to open the door, but he grabbed her hand.

"Amber, wait," he choked out, somewhat helplessly. "I'm sorry, could you just…could you just stay…here? Please?" The brunette hesitated, unsure of how much she trusted his unstable state of mind, but decided he just wanted the comfort. She could live with that.

"Fine," she sighed, sitting back down and ruffling his hair playfully. "But only because you look like a lost puppy."

He smiled softly at her, enjoying how she fit just right against him in the too-small bed. Neither fell asleep that way, but for a while, they just stayed, quiet in one another's presence and the peace they found in it. Around midnight, after small conversations in the dark of his room—the lights having been turned off earlier in Amber's attempt to get Jack to rest—Amber was finally starting to doze off.

"Hey, Jack?" she whispered.

"Hm?"

"Can I borrow some clothes?" He chuckled and nodded, gesturing to the dresser, not bothering to question why she'd asked. With a lack of complete grace, she tumbled to her feet and went to the dresser across the room, rifling through the top drawer for pajama bottoms and an old shirt. In the dark, she was just a shadowy figure to Jack, but he could see the silhouette of shedding clothes and although he had due respect for her, there was just no looking away from a beautiful, braless woman while she was wiggling into his old clothes. Even now, the pants were a few inches too long and the shirt a little big, but he found it to be kind of cute. And kind of comical when she crawled back in bed and demanded he be rid of his jeans because she wasn't snuggling with that uncomfortable fabric. He obliged and found a few extra blankets for them to share because she refused to close the window until the pot stench was gone. But it was an excuse for body heat; he didn't complain.

*

When Jack awoke in the morning, the four blankets they'd tucked around themselves hadn't survived. Only one remained and, although it was the warmest, Amber was still shaking against his side in her sleep. Cautiously, he stretched an arm to shut the window and pulled the blankets from the floor to cover her up again. Although he was awake, he had no intentions of moving. He missed being with her too much.

After he'd left for New York, the young couple had split. They'd stayed friends his first six months gone, but after that, something had just simmered away. It hurt them both to talk to one another. Finally, as if a mutual decision, they'd just stopped altogether. Friends for eight years, having dated for a good three of them, and then suddenly, their relationship was nothing but memories and photographs in a box she'd hidden under Jack's bed the night he left. She had spent the entire night gathering all the old photos, crying behind that closed door and then shoved them all in an old shoebox when she'd finally had enough of her chest aching. He had no idea it'd ever taken place or that to this day, both at age twenty one, the beaten Converse shoebox was still there.

Jack sighed, his stomach gurgling alerting him to the fact that it was almost eleven in the morning, and tried to maneuver his way off the bed. He hadn't even managed to shift a good half an inch before Amber's hand fisted around the fabric of his shirt.

"Stay," she mumbled against his chest and whether she was still sleeping or not, he wasn't even sure because it sounded so sincere and so familiar, it could've been a dream or a vivid memory. But regardless of that, he stayed, smiling slightly to himself as she slept on his chest.

"ALRIGHT, JACKIE!" Bobby threw open the door, his voice booming and loud. "It's time to get your ass out of this fucking bed, I'm starving!" He came to a dead halt at the realization that Jack was awake. But his bedmate was not; she shifted and her eyes fluttered.

"That's fantastic, Bobby," Jack hissed in a sarcastic whisper. "If you just woke her up, and she turns into Bedzilla—"

"Who the fuck is screeching like a monkey on crack?" she snarled, groggily.

"That would be Bobby," Jack stated simply. The brunette—hair properly a disaster and eyes set in stone daggers—peered at him furiously.

"What the fuck is wrong with you?"

"Did you just call her Bedzilla?" Bobby ignored her question completely, returning to his brother's earlier statement. "Is that relating to—"

"I fucking hate you," she hissed, before pulling the blankets back over her head.

"What do you want?" Jack sighed.

"I want some fuckin' breakfast!" he exclaimed before slamming the door shut behind him. His footsteps could be heard all the way downstairs.

"Why can't he be normal and just eat a bowl of cereal?" she grumbled.

"Because that wouldn't be Bobby," he said simply, tossing the covers off his legs to find his jeans. She giggled from her place hidden beneath the blankets. "What is so funny?"

"I pictured him normal!"

Jack chuckled to himself as he disappeared out the door, leaving Amber to fall back into a shallow slumber for an hour or so.

Downstairs, Bobby was waiting impatiently in the kitchen for his breakfast. He had the frying pan out already, as well as the carton of eggs and a loaf of bread. But he had no intention of making the food himself, of course.

"C'mon, Jackie, I'm fuckin' starving!" he shouted, but Jack was already walking through the door.

"Shit, could you be any louder?" he hissed. "There's people trying to sleep in this house!" Bobby just shrugged. Jack got breakfast started and not thirty minutes later, they were both sitting down to eat a plate of scrambled eggs and toast, plus the bacon Jack had found in the freezer. It couldn't have smelled any better, but Jack couldn't bring himself to eat. He didn't feel much like it the past few days. And watching Bobby devour the whole plate in ten minutes just made him sick so, after cleaning up the kitchen, he went back upstairs. Assuming the shower running in the bathroom was just Angel, he pushed open the door and the surprised shriek that assaulted his ears alerted him to the fact that he'd walked in on Amber.

"Jesus Christ, Jack!" she exclaimed, her voice still high and breathy. He could tell through the curtain she was clutching her chest. "You scared the shit out of me. What are you doing?" she asked as she poked her head around the curtain.

"I just…shit, I'm sorry, I just had to pee. I thought you were Angel…"

"Oh, so I look like a totally ripped black man now?" she joked.

"No, I—" No matter what he said, he knew he wouldn't win. She was naked in the shower and he was blushing like mad. Evidently, she knew about the latter. The water turned off.

"Why are you so embarrassed? It's not like you haven't seen me naked before," the brunette chuckled, stepping out of the shower as she swiftly wrapped a towel around her body, her hair leaving water droplets down the back of the red fabric. He looked so flustered that she couldn't help but smirk at him. Neither of them said a word, she just continued staring up at him with that knowing grin on her face. She pushed him towards the nearest wall with one free hand against his chest and he could've sworn she felt his heart speed up.

Right until she playfully shoved him out and closed the door.

Jack collapsed against the wall, a heavy sigh escaping his lips.

*

Amber found herself downstairs in the kitchen around four, finally dressed in her black jeans from the day before and a black blouse she'd pulled from her old drawer in Jack's room. She perched in the doorway facing the dining room, chuckling to herself as Jack stuck his tongue out at his teasing brother.

"And they're okay with you being gay?" Bobby smirked. Jack's face fell as Jeremiah sat down at the table.

"Why do you even let him bother you?" he asked.

"Because I'm not gay, Jerry," Jack declared, obviously annoyed.

"That sounded pretty gay. If you ain't gay, then how come you got that big, thick meat tenderizer in your tongue, man?" Bobby laughed. Jack slammed the pot holder down on the table, and stormed around the table, pushing past her into the kitchen. "Jack, I'm only kidding! That tongue ring is very masculine," he went on.

When Amber turned around to face him, though, he was pulling the piercing from his mouth.

"Put that back in your tongue," she sighed. He gave her a look that clearly said 'I don't fucking think so.' "Jack, come on. He's only kidding. His opinion doesn't even count, anyway. He's not a woman." Another watered-down glare. "Guys with tongue rings are super sexy," she clarified. "Really. Tonsil hockey isn't the same with a piercing-less tongue." She heard Bobby snort in the next room and without breaking focus or lifting anything but a finger out the door, flipped him off.

Jack still said nothing in response, but she had him pinned down with a look of nothing but stubbornness. "Jack, if you don't do it, I will."

"What?" he snapped. "Pierce your own tongue?" She contemplated it for a minute.

"If it'll prove a point. Piercings don't make you gay."

"You'd make one sexy lesbian, kid!" Bobby shouted from the next room, laughing.

"Fuck you, Bobby! You're not helping!" Jack looked down at her, hesitance in his eyes as he played with the tongue ring hidden in his palm. After a moment, he put it back in, albeit semi-reluctantly and stuck out his tongue at her.

"Satisfied?" he asked, noting now how close in proximity that they were. Her eyes were lit green; a color he'd missed terribly in his time gone to New York. But it may have been the intensity burning inside them that he'd missed more.

"Very much so," she smirked triumphantly. A long pause passed between them in silence and before even a hint of hesitation crossed his mind, he'd all but lunged at her, somewhat forcibly causing her to hit the other counter with a solid, painful thunk as his hands cradled her face; the only seemingly gentle part of the kiss.

That was, until he broke away; slowly and unsure, with his lips swollen.

"I told you it was better with a tongue ring," she whispered breathily.