The boy that stood in the mercer door way could conjure pity into the hardest heart whether they acted on their feelings or not was entirely up to them.

His huge blue eyes stared vacantly ahead unfocused and unblinking his mop of blonde hair stuck haphazardly around in head in a disgruntled halo and his thin frame looked as though the slightest gust of wind would blow him over.

In his hands he clutched a lighter and followed Evelyn like a little shadow. He was quite tall but the way he acted gave the impression that he was small like tiny small. It didn't help that when he sat his knees almost automatically pulled up to his chin in a protective manner as if trying to hide him from those that would hurt him.

Evelyn had warned her boys that they had to treat jack with more care than they did each other but it was still a surprise to them Bobby in particular, when they first laid eyes on their new foster brother. Evelyn had explained that it was just temporary until they found a home for him. But bobby could tell from the way her she acted that the last thing she wanted to do was put this fragile little person back into the system.

Since he'd come through the door with Evelyn looking positively eerie with his dead eyes, he'd sat curled against the kitchen door watching Evelyn cook with his vacant eyes.

Bobby glanced at him discreetly from time to time trying to get a read on the skinny waif who looked afraid to live.

Jack wore a hoody that was possibly 5 sizes too big on him covering his thin hands and going well past his knees.

Bobby watched with some interest as jack tugged the sleeves down farther over his hands, which were already swimming in the material. His mouth seemed to be moving but no sound came out and his hands rubbed the lighter, still clutched tightly in his palm. Evelyn was busy cooking and didn't see, or thought she should leave him alone, jack rubbing furiously at the small metal lighter.

Jacks dead eyes followed her around the kitchen never leaving her not even to blink and his tongue flicked nervously against his lips.

Bobby crouched down in front of him, "Hey, kid Whatcha got there?"

Jack reflexively shrank back into the door frame as though he thought if he pulled back far enough the wood would open up and let him in.

"Whoa. Kid relax." Bobby held his hands up and moved back a little. Jacks huge blue eyes stared back at him, terror covering every inch of him.

Bobby moved closer again worry lining his features. "Hey, you okay?" jacks entire frame went stiff and his face lost all expression, even his eyes which had stared at him a moment ago were now that flat dead almost gray color.

"Bobby! What happened? Jack? What's wrong?" Evelyn had turned around when she heard Bobby talking but Jacks back was to her so she hadn't seen his eyes die.

"Ma, something's wrong with the kid." Bobby stated waving his hands in front of Jacks face and getting no reaction. "What did you say to him, Bobby?" Evelyn knelt in front of Jack and carefully put her hands on either side of his face. "Jack, what's wrong sweetie." Jacks face stayed just as blank and his knuckles were white from clutching his lighter so tightly. "Nothin, Ma. I asked him what he was holdin and he went all deer in the headlights." Evelyn pushed Jacks unruly hair away from his forehead revealing a massive purple bruise that covered the entire side of his face. Bobby hadn't noticed it before. But now that he saw it he wasn't sure how he'd missed it.

Taking Jacks hand Evelyn led him towards the stairs. "Bobby, would you please get your brothers for dinner?" her tone was questioning but it was more a polite request masking her order. Evelyn rarely gave orders and even more rarely raised her voice.

Bobby could hear her softly talking to jack as she led him up the stairs. He followed behind her slow enough that jack and her were already in the bathroom by the time he reached the top step. He passed the open door quickly not wanting to scare the kid again. He slammed his fist against jeremiahs and angels door, chuckling when he heard a familiar thump as someone, angel probably, fell out of bed in surprise.

When Evelyn had decided to take jack in she had moved the two youngest boys into the same room so that Jack could have his own room, which was Bobby's old room, Bobby slept in the guest room.

Evelyn put Jack to bed and then came down to eat dinner with her boys. Bobby was unusually quiet were as Angel and Jeremiah were discussing a new girl in school and rating her hotness.

"So what's with the runt?" Angel questioned mouth so full it should have rendered him speechless. "Angel close your mouth when you're chewing." Evelyn reprehended him gently. Angel closed his mouth almost immediately but continued looking at her with question in his eyes.

"Yeah, ma what's him? He's like one of those slaughter house bunnies all skitterish and jumpy."

Jeremiah was the brains of the family (aside from Evelyn) and he too was looking at her curiously.

"Well, he's been in some bad homes and really bad things have happened to him. So you all need to be gentle with him and remember he doesn't like being touched, especially by boys."

All eyes were turned towards her and they listened intensely well she explained in farther detail about Jack.

Jack lay on 'his' bed listening to the murmur of voices floating up the stairs. He really didn't care what they said about him, he was pretty sure that he would be out of this house within a week, tops. These people were too normal there was no way they'd want him a fucked up little stray who was good for nothing except a quick fuck or a punching bag to release anger upon.

He dug into the pocket of his baggy sweatshirt fishing the pack of cigarettes out and checking to make sure he still had his lighter he pushed the window up and crawled out onto the roof.

Jack loved high places for some reason it made him feel safe to be above the world looking down on ants that were so small there bites couldn't hurt him.

Lighting his cigarette he watched in the quickly disappearing light as kids ran up and down the streets playing street hockey, they shrieks of laughter bouncing off the buildings illuminated for a second as in the half light the sun shone its last few desperate rays of light onto the grimy streets covering everything for a in a coat of gold.

Jack breathed out with a sigh watching the world turn such a happy color made him feel dirty and unworthy to look at such a thing. Carefully edging closer to the edge of the roof he watched as the houses once again became grimy and old.

Pulling back against the wall he closed his eyes. Just to rest a few minutes he reasoned sleepily. The darkness behind his eyes pulled him in deeper.

Jack could only have been sleeping for about 30 minutes when the nightmares started. Huge hands wrapped around his arms pulled him closer whispering in his ear. Things that made him want to puke. 'Come on Jackie boy you love it don't you.' Tears caressed jacks cheeks soaking into the dirty mattress beneath his head. The arms tightened squeezing him till he couldn't breathe, 'Say it' the voice demanded anger lasing through his words. Jacks voice was barely a whisper as he answered his throat closed around the words as his air supply was cut off completely. The arms tightened around him until the wall of dirt in front of him blurred out of focus and he was just drifting away letting his muscles relax accepting his death when he could suddenly breathe again.

Deep laughter surrounded him and then he was pulled down and heavy bodies were on top of him crushing him and his mind screamed at him to lay still but survival instinct kicked in and his foot flew out slamming into the soft middle of the man pinning him down and then he was under water screaming into the substance that was stealing his life away even as pain shot threw his body, white hot and so real. Darkness was smothering him. He could feel the hands on his body covering him and he felt trapped within his skin.

Waking in the dark, cold air freezing his sweat jack sat up straighter from his slumped position and wiped the sweat out of his eyes careful not to press the tender bruise covering his face and head.

Jack pulled his loose jacket around him tighter and crawled back through the window. Glancing at the clock sitting on the nightstand he realized he'd only been sleeping for about an hour. He could hear thumping down stairs indicating that dinner was over and someone, probably Evelyn, was doing the dishes.

He didn't feel the least bit hungry, in fact he felt like being sick. He breathed shallowly through his nose trying to rid his stomach of the sick churning feeling.

Holding his head tightly he made his way to the bathroom using the wall as support holding him up. The room swam around him swaying sideways carrying his unyielding body with it tilting and swirling. The sick feeling intensified.

Moving as quickly as his body would allow he staggered into the bathroom and emptied the contents of his stomach into the toilet.

Leaning back on his heels jack wiped his mouth and holding onto the sink for support he pulled himself off the floor and rinsed his mouth out thoroughly.

The noise below had escalated and he could hear the boys cheering somebody on and assumed, correctly, that they were watching TV.

Feeling relieved that no one had caught him, in the other house he'd been in the punishment for vomiting had been worse than anything he wanted to think about so the act was always pushed down until he could be alone, he walked quickly back to his room. Closing the door behind him he sank to the floor, rubbing his eyes, trying to rid them of the terrible never ending tiredness that consumed him.

Sleeping was something that had never come easily to him and now he couldn't close his eyes without nightmares rising up from the darkness in his mind and swallowing him.

Curling up on the hard floor he listened to the domestic sounds rising from below and wished he could be part of it. Wished he had a family to watch games with, laugh with. He couldn't remember the last time he'd laughed or even spoken for that matter.

Footsteps on the stairs startled him out of his daze. Moving quickly jack shot across the floor and slid under the covers, pulling them up to his chin and closing his eyes tightly he slowed his breathing and waited in silent terror as the door creaked opened and soft footsteps moved across the carpet towards the bed.

Keeping his breathing slow and steady was a serious task seeing as his heart was beating out of chest and his throat was constricting trying to shut the air to his brain off.

Someone leaned over him and smooth hands brushed the hair off his forehead and out of his eyes. Every nerve in his body was screaming out at having to stay so still.