It was quarter to three as Shane carried Mitchie into their apartment. She'd passed out and fallen asleep in the cab after throwing up. Shane somehow managed to unlock the door while still holding her. He went straight into her bedroom, tossed her purse and jacket (which he'd found; luckily, nothing was missing from her purse) on a chair, and laid her on the bed. He pulled off her heels and put them in the closet and pulled the sheets over her. Mitchie stirred, but didn't wake.

With her in bed, Shane headed for his own room. He threw himself down face-first on the bed and groaned. What was he going to do with her? Tonight was horrible. She could have been- he stopped himself from finishing that thought. It hadn't happened. At worst, Mitchie would have a hangover tomorrow morning and be crabby.

Shane groaned again as he rolled over and yanked off his shoes. He was crabby now. And tired, and frustrated. He got up, went to the bathroom to splash water on his face and brush his teeth, then crawled into bed. He needed sleep if he was going to face tomorrow.


Not surprisingly, Mitchie was still in bed when Shane got up the next morning. He shrugged and went to get the paper that was always left sitting in front of the door on Sundays. He flipped through it while the coffee was being made. A picture and headline caught his attention.

Bitchy Mitchie Goes Overboard at Party

Beneath the headline, was a blurry picture of Mitchie screeching in protest as Shane carried her out of the club. There was another picture (which he was horrified to see) of her swinging around a pole with a bottle in her hand, while that scumbag from last night watched in the background.

The article was brief, talking about how "pop princess, Michelle Torres, better known as 'Mitchie' was seen at a party held downtown at the new club JC's on Saturday night. She was reported to have been drinking, despite being only nineteen, and some allegedly claim she was giving a C-list male model a lap dance. …She was later spotted being carried out of the club by her boyfriend, twenty-two-year old musician of the band Connect 3, Shane Gray. Mitchie was very vocal about Shane's actions, demanding he put her down. They were last seen getting in a cab and heading uptown."

Shane sighed as he threw the paper down on the island and poured himself a cup of coffee. Great. This was not the kind of publicity they needed. He knew he'd had his bad moments too, but it was mostly due to attitude. He'd never been staggering drunk to where he couldn't walk.

And Mitchie wasn't even old enough to drink! True, he'd done it on occasion, but never in public! She hadn't thought at all; she just partied. Her lifestyle was getting out of hand. A thousand dollars thrown away on clothes that probably wouldn't be worn for a while, if ever, yesterday and now this. He was afraid to think about what might happen today.

It was after ten before Mitchie stumbled into the kitchen, bleary-eyed with smudged make-up, and still in the dress she wore last night.

"Good morning, Sleeping Beauty" Shane said from the living room where he was watching the morning news.

Mitchie groaned in response and poured a large mug of coffee. She added two scoops of sugar and poured in mocha-flavored creamer, stirring it all with a spoon. She sat down at the table and sipped at her coffee.

"There's an interesting article on the second page" Shane said casually, gesturing to where the paper was.

Mitchie stared at him, then peeled the paper apart. Shane watched her face as she read over the article. There was no visible emotion of her face, save for a twitch of her lip. She finished reading, sighed, and stood up with her coffee mug.

"I'm going to take a shower" she announced.

Shane nodded like he'd heard her. But as he saw he walk away, he noticed her head was down, as if in defeat.


It was around one when the doorbell rang. Shane knew who it was before he even opened the door.

Jaime, his ten-year-old half brother bounded into the apartment, along with his bulldog puppy, Willis.

"Hey Shane!" he shouted. "I heard you and Mitchie had an adventure last night!"

Shane sighed. "Yeah, buddy, you could say that. Why don't you put your bag in my room? And try to be quiet; Mitchie's asleep."

"Okay." He raced off down the hall, puppy at his heels.

Mitchie had gone back to bed after her shower, claiming she didn't feel well. An hour ago, she'd gotten up and managed a bit of lunch, before retreating back to her room. That's what she got for drinking herself into oblivion last night.

Shane trudged down the hall to his room, where Jaime was sitting on the bed, petting Willis.

"Sooooo?" Jaime held the word out, signaling he wanted to ask something, but wasn't sure if he should.


"Whatwereyouan'Mitchiedoin'lastnight?" Jaime asked in a rush. "I mean, I saw you guys in the paper, I mean, I didn't but grandma did 'cause I don't read the paper,-who does?-and she pointed it out. And I told her I would ask her 'bout it, so…what were you in Mitchie doing last night? Is sure hurt, 'cause you were carrying her and-?"

Shane held up his hand to cut off his brother's questions. Jaime could talk anyone to death if you gave him a chance.

"It's complicated buddy. I don't really know how to explain it. Anyway, don't worry about it. It's over; not a big deal." Those last words were more to reassure himself. "And you're here to hang out with me, remember?"

Shane and Jaime had the same father, but different mothers. Jaime had never really been raised by his parents. When Shane was twelve and Jaime had just been born, Jaime's mother had been placed in rehab. She'd been a recovering drug addict, but had started going back to it before she got pregnant with Jaime. Jaime was suspected of having ADHD, due to his energetic nature, but Shane suspected half the kids with ADHD were simply hyper ones, but not actually affected with it. It seemed everybody nowadays had some sort of illness or disorder. Luckily, Jaime didn't seem to have developed any damage from his mother's drug use. But she'd been in and out of rehab for years, so Jaime rarely, if ever, saw her.

Jaime had gone into foster care and had transferred through so many homes in such a short time. His maternal grandmother finally came from Utah to New York to raise him herself. But over the past couple of years, her health had gotten bad. She had emphysema and needed an oxygen tank. Shane had wanted to get custody of his brother ever since he'd turned eighteen, but the courts always refused him. Finally, last year, they relented, and Shane had split custody with Jaime's grandmother. Jaime spent a couple weeks every with him and several holidays, with the schedule usually altered by Shane's work schedule, or perhaps the other way around.

Still, Shane thought as he helped Jaime unpack, how long would it be until he became Jaime's full time guardian? Grammy Jen, as they called her, hadn't looked so good the last time he'd seen her and Shane was worried. There was no way in hell he'd let his brother be sent back to foster homes.

"Can we go see Dad today?" Jaime asked, interrupting his thoughts.

Their father, Jonathan Gray, had been staying at a hospital in Brooklyn. For eight years, up until about two years ago, Shane had been estranged from his father for personal reasons. But he'd finally decided to be the bigger person and get in contact with him again and good thing, too.

Jonathan had a past as a serious alcoholic and had been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. He was in desperate need a liver transplant, but no suitable donor was available. The eldest Mr. Gray was also in the beginning stages of lung cancer. Shane had been afraid to tell Jaime, but he knew Dad didn't have much time left.

They left a note of the table for Mitchie, when she got up, informing her where they'd gone. It was a familiar routine they'd developed, the trip into Brooklyn to see Dad. Shane had offered to have him moved to a better, closer hospital in Manhattan, but he'd refused. He'd been born and raised in Brooklyn, same as Shane, and if, or when, he died, that was where he wanted to be.

When the cab dropped them off in front of the hospital, they jumped out and headed inside. Their father was on the fourth floor, in a small room at the end of the hall.

Jonathan Gray was only in his mid-forties, actually, but he looked much older. His originally thick, dark hair had become thin and had lots of gray streaked in it. His face was ash-colored and weathered from the years and from illness.

He looked up from his chair when he heard them come in and gave a weak smile. "Hi, guys." Even his voice sounded like it belonged to an older man; it was deep, but weak, and raspy.

Jaime ran over for a hug, while Shane hung back, hands in his pockets. He nodded. "Sir."

Even after reconciling, there was still something between them. A dozen years of pain and sorrow and lies didn't evaporate overnight. Things had happened, things that had shaped Shane's life forever, marking him. Things that deep down, he couldn't let go of, couldn't forgive.

Still, the sight of a dying middle-aged man hugging his youngest son, asking him about school, and his friends, and his dog, it was all touching. Jonathan had claimed to have seen the error of his ways, asked forgiveness from his sons, claimed he wanted to use what time he had left to be a better father, a better person. Shane couldn't blame him for that. He knew what it was like to hurt people you cared about and to be hurt by them. All too well.

Still, Shane couldn't erase the fear that his father's mistakes would become his own. He'd read enough about alcoholism to know…And, what if he hurt Mitchie? Or Jaime? What if one day he just…snapped?

Shane shuddered despite the warm room and felt the wave fear drowning him. Will this be me in twenty years?

Sorry it's short. But short is better than nothing.

Yes, there will be more elaboration on the Gray family's past later on. But I'll warn you, it's not pretty.