So this is a really, really weird story. I don't know where it came from. I don't know why I wrote it. But I did. I hope it's not too terribly weird.
Disclaimer: I do not own Four Brothers.
The house was too damn small and full of too many people to only have one bathroom. Bobby jogged in place in front of the locked door, rattling the frame when he slammed on the flimsy wood with a scarred fist.
"Jack, you fucking fairy you've been in there for over an hour. I'm about to go take a shit on Mrs. DuFoe's lawn and I know how you get embarrassed by that kind of behavior."
There was a long pause before a small voice replied, "Go 'head. I don't care."
Bobby bit back a groan. God, not that fucking voice. Not now.
He rattled the doorknob "Dammit, Jack, just get out. I'm gonna bust down the fucking door if you-"
The knob yanked out of his hand as Jack slouched by him, head down and hands balled in his pockets.
Bobby didn't hesitate before rushing in the bathroom but the thought crossed his mind that he'd have to deal with that. Then he thought, what kind of house is this where you can't even take a shit without having to worry that someone might be having a fucking meltdown?
He laughed out loud. The Mercer house that's what kind of house.
Less than ten minutes later, Bobby was knocking on another locked door. It had taken Jack four years to earn that lock but even still, Evelyn hadn't been stupid; no latches for this kid, only a button know that was easy popped open with a screwdriver. Bobby wasn't supposed to unlock it without Jack's permission.
"It's Jack's room," Evelyn had reminded him time and time again when Bobby's impatience got the best of him. "He earned his lock and it's a symbol for him, one of safety and privacy and personal control. You ought not stomp on that, Bobby, you know how much it means to your brother."
And Bobby would remind her, "Yeah, Ma, and you know how much of a danger that kid can still be to himself."
Jack was twelve now, had been healing for five years, but the entire Mercer clan knew; as well as Jack got, he would never completely stop being a danger to himself.
So Bobby knocked. Bobby asked, "Jack, please open the door. I'm asking nice, huh?" but when there was no response, Bobby was reaching for the screwdriver atop the frame and Bobby was unlocking the door.
Jack was curled in a blanket under his desk.
Jack was a mop of blonde hair peeking out from a plaid comforter.
"Go 'way, Bobby," Jack sqeaked. "Ma said."
That was all Jack needed to say. Bobby knew what he meant.
"Yeah, and you know what I say." Bobby pulled the chair back sat in it. "I ain't leavin' you like this."
A thought occurred to him and suddenly with a flutter in his chest, Bobby's voice was edging on panic. "Jackie, let me see your arms."
Jack's head shot up, his eyes red and his face angry and accusing. "I don't do that anymore, Bobby!"
Bobby remained impassive. "Show me. Legs, too."
Jack's seafoam eyes stormed at his brother's insistence. There were a few tense moments before Jack kicked out of the blanket, shoved his sleeves and shorts up. "See."
Bobby relaxed. "Then what the fuck is wrong with you? I interrupt Jackie's daily jack-off session or something?"
Jack froze in that Jack way. Eyes, mouth, limbs. Even breathing. Jack tried to become the invisible boy.
First Bobby was confused. Then his eyes widened and he laughed. "Oh, are you shitting me?" Jack said nothing and Bobby was slapping his knee. "Oh, dear God, I can't wait to tell this to Angel and Jerry. Oh, fuck it all, man-"
"Shut up!" Jack shouted tremulously. He was near tears. "Stop, Bobby."
"Go away," Jack begged his knees.
Bobby ran a hand through his hair. "Jack, do I really gotta go through the whole 'everybody does it' shit? You know all that. This is ridiculous, man."
Jack looked up at him and damn, that kid. "I don't like it, Bobby," he sobbed. Jack clawed at his face.
"I don't like being dirty, Bobby, I don't like it, I don't want to do it anymore," Jack bawled.
Bobby's stomach twisted so painfully. In a moment he was off the chair, kneeling next his little brother. "You don't gotta do anything you don't wanna do," he soothed. "But you gotta do one thing for me, Jackie, and I know you wanna. You wanna take your hands off your face, huh, before you hurt yourself. C'mon, Jackie. Do that for me, please?"
Jack was shaking harder than Bobby has seen him in a long time, those whole body tremors that always worried Bobby that the kid might actually be having some sort of seizure. Jack took his hands off his face but then he was digging the nails of one hand into the other, crushing it like he meant break it, and Bobby couldn't talk nice anymore. He grips Jack's hands gently but firmly, one in each of his.
"Enough, Jackie," he said softly.
Jack lurched away from his big brother, smacking his head hard on the cross bar of his desk. Eyes clenched tight and his face red, he fought, trying to tug his hands from his brother and seriously regretted his hiding place. Bobby's bulky frame blocked any possible escape.
"Bobby, no," Jack sobbed. His breath was gasping and irregular. "I'm dirty- I don't-I don't like."
Bobby rubbed one of his calloused thumbs over the back of Jack's small hands.
"Breathe," he instructed, nodding slowly. Jack's eyes were open now but they darted wildly. "Look at me and breathe, Jackie."
Jack shook his head furiously, still sobbing words.
The marrow in Bobby's bones froze to see Jack like this. He hated it. It made him so fucking sick to his stomach. He noticed the purple in Jack's nailbeds and couldn't take it much longer. He pulled Jack's light frame to his like he'd done since he'd dealt with Jack's first panic attack at the age of seven. Jack didn't really weigh all that much more than he did then, though he'd gotten taller. Jack still fought but Bobby wrapped his arms around Jack's chest. He could feel Jack's heart fluttering like a trapped hummingbird. "Breathe with me, Jackie. Remember how we do that? Big breath in," Bobby breathed deep. "Big breath out."
Finally, Jack complied and Bobby could talk of other things. "There is nothing fucking wrong with you, Jack. I know I say there is but I don't mean it like that. There is nothing wrong with you. You are not fucking dirty and I don't care what the hell any asshole has ever told you. They don't count for shit. But what I say fucking counts and you're gonna listen to it."
Jack's breath was still coming in hiccups when he whispered, "I'm bad, Bobby."
"No," Bobby replied furiously. "You're not."
There was a long, long silence in the room, though outside there was the shout of kids and rumble of engines. Finally Jack said softly, "But I am. 'Cause I wanted to do it even though I knew it was bad until I did and then I didn't want to anymore. But it doesn't matter if you feel bad after … Mr. Cariker used to say sorry after. He'd be sorry."
Bobby shut his eyes. "Jackie, it's not the same thing."
Jack looked up at his brother, lashes wet and eyes wide. "Why not?"
"Because, Jackie. It's two completely different things. One's bad. One's not. I think you can guess which is which. You could never be bad. And you don't just get a pass cause of what's happened to you, either. I don't think it works like that, much. It's just 'cause it's you, Jackie. You have a good heart. You're a good boy."
Bobby saw Jack's lips move as his brother repeated the words. A good boy.
Bobby's done a lot of bad things but dammit if that doesn't break his heart.
"Don't you ever forget that, Jackie, never."
Jack nodded slowly. "I'll try," he said softly.
Bobby hugged him tighter. "Now listen a little more. You don't gotta do anything you don't wanna do. You do something different. You know why I play hockey?"
"Cause you like it?"
Bobby chucked and Jack could feel the rumble from Bobby's chest. "Well, yeah, but I didn't know that when Ma got me playing. When she first adopted me, I would punch the shit out of anything that would hold still when my temper got up. Ma got real tired of patching walls real quick. So she gave me a hockey stick and a tennis ball and sent me down to the laundry. I beat the shit out of that thing with that ball. Ma didn't care too much about that. 'Course she cared when I lost my first tooth in a fight, but that's different ." Bobby laughed. Jack smiled. Then Bobby said, "If you feel bad and don't wanna do something, I think you should play your guitar. That's what you can do. No one will know that's why you're doing it, 'cause you play on it always anyways. But that can be your game plan."
Jack nodded, hair flopping in his eyes. "Okay," he said. "I like that."
"But remember what I said," Bobby warned. "You're not bad, Jackie. I'm not saying you're bad. I'm just reminding you that you don't have to do anything you don't want to do. Can you just do me a favor though? Say, just once, 'Jack Mercer is a good person.'"
Jack hesitated. He bit his lip. But Bobby. He believed Bobby. So he repeated it.
Bobby grinned and pulled him in a half headlock, planted one of the sideway kisses on the top of his head. "I fucking love you kid. You are the sweetest most fucking innocent good hearted person this world has got aside from Ma."
Jack tucked his head under Bobby's chin. Just to check, he asked, "Will I ever change?"
"No," Bobby said. "Not ever."