Title: What Really Matters

Author: Ima Pseudonym

Pairing: None… Unless you want to read it that way. If you do want to read it that way, then it's pre-slash.

Rating: PG (13) for some swearing, and maybe a tantrum or two.

Summary: Jack did something bad, and forgets that blood is thicker than splinters… Not really, but- well… Just read it.

Warnings: Some cursing, emo-ness, verbal Gretzky abuse (by neglect), and a little bit of unlikely fluff to sooth away the drama.

Disclaimer: Belongs to… er… Whatever company it was that produced 4B. And to Garrett Hedlund, and Mark Wahlberg's surprisingly addicting characters. (No, really, I can't help poking the two of them with pointy sticks; to see Bobby snarl, and Jack angst.)




Evelyn's glass ashtray (a throwback from her smoking days in the seventies) struck by Bobby's head, immediately shattering into a thousand chunks that bounced off the back of his jacket and littered the carpet like ice chips.

"The fuck, Jack!" Bobby hollered, hands up in surrender before he knew what was going on.

"Would you ever hit me?" Jack demanded, face pale like he'd been crying. His hair was a mess and he was either strung out on something or on the verge of an emotional breakdown.

"Jackie... Jack?" Bobby started quietly, stepping forward cautiously, palms still outturned in placation. Just as he'd seen Evelyn do so many times. He wished desperately that she hadn't been called away to visit a former foster child of hers. There was a very edgy newly un-fostered kid in need of his adoptive mother, right now.

"Would you hit me?" Jack repeated and then flinched back as Bobby gained another step between them.

"Of course not!" The elder of the two snapped, and then consciously softened his voice. "Never." Bobby honestly meant it. Sure, if Angel or Jerry REALLY pissed him off he'd take a swing, but Jack was different. Jack wouldn't shake it off; wouldn't fight back.

"Please don't hit me!" Jack moaned, miserably, trying to sink into the wall at his back.

"Why would I ever hit you, Jackie?" Bobby was trying to remain calm, but there were several heavy things within the fifteen-year-old's reach and he was freaking out to much for an out of the blue question.

"I didn't mean to!" Jack swore, and flinched as though the hits were already coming.

"Didn't mean to what?" Bobby's heart raced. Had he stolen something, shot up... Shot someone? Jack looked down at his chucks, drawing a shuddering breath.

"It's okay, little brother. We'll figure this out. What did you do?" Bobby was almost on him now and when Jack looked up, he immediately grabbed for a heavy looking book.

But Bobby was faster.

Jack had been hitting growth spurts left and right in the past several months, as though the more he allowed himself to be open and outgoing, the more his body strained to grow accordingly. He was around Bobby's height but, fortunately, nowhere near his big brother's bulk. It was easy to get a hold of him.

Just not so easy to keep that hold.

Jack twisted and kicked, screaming like Bobby had shoved flaming bamboo under his nails. And Bobby absorbed the blows, tightening his arms and digging in his heels to outwait the flailing.

"Please don't!"

Bobby felt his blood run icy. God damn it, he knew that tone. He jostled the body in his arms, trying to force Jack away from nightmarish memories.

"Jesus, Jack! Calm. Down. It's me, Bobby! Your brother! Come on, Jackie! You know I won't hurt you. Not ever." Jack continued struggling, but his screaming stopped like he was trying to identify, comprehend, and decide all at once.

Bobby figured he was doing something right, for once. "Hey, now, little bro. Come on. I won't hurt you. And I won't ever let anyone hurt you again. Not ever." Jack shuddered completely in his arms before going limp.

"You won't hit me?" Jack whispered.

"Not ever." God, please let that be a promise I never break.

"But you'll hate me." Jack twitched in his arms. And then again, and Bobby realized he was shaking. The awkwardness had suddenly increased tenfold.

"It was an accident. I tried to fix it, but I couldn't-" Bobby was vaguely concerned that the youth might start hyperventilating, and that was definitely something he wouldn't know how to fix.

"Jack, man, you gotta tell me what happened, or I can't help-"

"I broke your hockey stick!" Jack blurted before tensing and suddenly going limp.

Bobby sank down to the floor with the dead weight but didn't loosen his hold on the teen. Chunks of glass (though not so many as there were near the door, where it impacted), dug into Bobby's knees through his thick jeans.

"I can always get a new stick, Jack..." he began, confused. Things broke. In a house that had seen countless children, that was an inevitability.

"I knew I should have left it alone but I wasn't thinking-" Jack continued babbling, and suddenly it occurred to Bobby what had happened.

"My autographed stick?" the small body in his arms went tense again and Jack released a shuddering breath, before nodding. Bobby was briefly stunned; unsure about his own reaction.

Bobby, on one of the tours, had actually met Gretzky. Wayne fucking Gretzky! It was a local contest in New York: Win Gretzky's hockey stick. Bobby had never won a single raffle or contest in his life, and entered on a whim, while idly scanning radio stations in his motel room.

He'd won prime seats to a Ranger's game. And when the game ended, Bobby took his special access pass straight into the locker room and Gretzky himself handed him the stick which had helped win the game, and then autographed it for him. It was Bobby's single most prized possession.

When Angel was seventeen, just after Jack had arrived, Bobby had laid him out when he found out it had been used in a neighborhood game.

"I don't- How?" Bobby decided, and had to admit the only thing keeping his distress and- yes, anger- in check was how Jack had begun shaking again.

"I just wanted to look at it, and- I'm sorry! I just- I hadn't meant to do more than just look but, I got- I hit it on the doorframe. I was imagining Gretzky - It was stupid. I tried to put it back together-" The rambling trailed off into frightened sobs, and Bobby was surprised that his ever present anger took a back seat to concern. It was starting to come together, now.

Jack had been messing around in his room (something he didn't particularly care for, but nothing to get bent over) and he'd been caught up in some hockey fantasy. Bobby couldn't say he didn't understand that. Fuck, when he held the stupid stick he'd imagine himself as a hockey legend, too. Jack had been taking some imaginary winning shot and come into contact with the doorframe.

Bobby felt his anger building again until Jack spoke quietly, and Wayne Gretzky might not have ever existed for all his importance at the moment.

"You can hit me. I know I deser- Just please don't hate me. I'll make it up. I'll-" Bobby pushed Jack back at arm's length and took in the scared (desperate?) expression on the teen's face.

"Jack..." he started, but floundered over what he could say. Fuck! He wasn't any good at this kind of thing.

"I 'am' angry at you." he steeled himself against the look Jack sent him: It was the same look that countless abused children had when they knew the bottom was about to fall out.

"Yeah, about the stick- And I'm not thrilled about having glass thrown at me. I'm angry that you could think I'd ever hit you, let alone hate you. You fucked up, sure, but you're my brother, and I need you to know that I always have your back." Bobby was relieved at his speech. It was probably the most eloquent thing he'd ever said. Jack looked tearfully skeptical.

"You don't hate me?" Shit, how could anyone ever hate you? He wanted to ask but that seemed too sentimental and someone with a past like his brother's could find plenty of argument against a statement like that.

"Let's put it this way... I'd strangle Gretzky with my own hands if you asked me." Bobby didn't come any sweeter than that. In a moment Jack had thrown –slumped- himself against his brother's chest, sniffling out his apologies.

"It's okay, Jackie. Hey, we'll figure something out. Where's the stick?"


When Angel got home that evening, the first thing he saw was Jack curled up against Bobby on the couch. Some grainy western was on the television, and Bobby turned away to cast a daring scowl at the black youth as Jack murmured in his sleep, nuzzling closer. 'Say something. See if I don't make you pay for it.' Bobby didn't need to vocalize his threat.

Bobby shifted his arm around the sleeping boy, tugging him in closer, and Angel grinned.

But Angel's smirk dissolved into an expression of pure horror when he noticed Bobby's pride-and-joy hockey stick lying across the coffee table; duct tape wound thickly near the bottom and coming perilously close to the illegible signature.

"Jack do that?" he asked, numbly. Bobby nodded.

"And he's alive?" Angel didn't bother hiding his shock.

"Gretzky's overrated, anyway." Bobby smirked at the horrified look on Angel's face and turned up the television. Surreptitiously, he ruffled his youngest brother's unruly hair. It wasn't like he'd ever planned on using the stick to play.

Just because it was broken didn't mean he loved it any less.



This was actually a flashback to a—um… less gen fic I'd started writing about Bobby and Jack… But I liked this a lot. I'd never have guessed that a gruff and violent asshole + an emotionally-unstable waif = FASCINATING.

But there you have it. I'm kind of sad that there wasn't more Angel or (any) Jerry in this, but… Maybe next time.

Let me know what you think. (Unless what you think is 'Stop writing 4B back stories! If you're gonna write 4B, then do something substantial, dammit!' In that instance, the pressure might make me snap.)

I write the end notes before I do the header/disclaimer bit… So if I title this 'Broken', please forgive the cliché.