Rating: PG at the most
Pairing: NONE, so GEN
Summary: Jack is ten. Bobby is leaving. It's short, but there's more in between. I'm just bad at summaries.
AN: This is my first Four Brothers fic, but not my first fic by a long shot. Still, I'm always nervous about posting to a new fandom! Reviews are really appreciated. I really love the characters from this movie.
The first time Bobby went away Jack had been ten and convinced, for a long time, that it was all his fault. Bobby would come back and leave lots of times after that and while it never really got easier, that first time was still the hardest. It was still one of those memories that pinched Jack’s chest when he thought about it.
He had been curled up on the couch, taking small satisfaction in the ability to sit wherever he wanted, to hold the remote in his hand and click through the channels as many times as he liked without being called a channel surfer and having it ripped out of his hands. His ma’ wouldn’t be home for another two hours and since it was a Friday night he knew Angel and Bobby probably wouldn’t come crawling in for several more hours. Well at least Angel would. He had a curfew. Apparently once you hit the age of fifteen you suddenly had really important things to do on Friday nights. Jack couldn’t think of anything much better than having the TV all to himself.
“Come on man, let’s work on that book report some before I gotta go to work,” his second oldest brothers voice drifted into the room and Jack groaned. Last time he’d checked Jerry had been fixing himself a sandwich he would take to work with him when he went in for the night shift in several hours. It was Friday night, the one night a week Jack didn’t have to worry about homework and Jerry wanted to do a book report. Typical.
“Hold on. My books in my backpack,” Jack had sighed, clicking off the television set and saying goodbye to any chance of actually getting to watch what he wanted for once.
“I got it,” Jerry announced just as Jack turned into the kitchen, holding Jack’s black and blue backpack in one hand and unzipping it with the other. All at once Jack felt his heart crumble into the pit of his stomach.
“No, don’t!” he hissed just as Jerry’s jaw clenched and his eyes shot up towards Jack.
“Jack what is this? Where did you get these?” he shouted, pulling his hand out of the backpack. The sandwich bag he held between his fingers was clear and dozens of little white pills danced around inside of it. He stepped in long strides until he was close to Jack’s face, angry eyes waiting for an answer. Jack couldn’t reply, he suddenly felt like he was shaking, like there was an earthquake happening and he couldn’t do anything to stop it.
“Where did you get these?” Jerry demanded again. Jack shrunk himself into a corner, stuttering over words the older boy couldn’t make out. “Jack tell me right now where you got these? Did someone on the street give them to you?”
“Bbb…oobby,” Jack stuttered, his tongue feeling too thick for his mouth because Jerry was mad and Jerry never got mad, not really about real things. If Jerry was this mad it must have meant he’d done something really bad. Jack dug his fingernails into his palms, why did he always have to screw up when something good finally happened to him? Jerry’s eyebrows crinkled up and he stepped back out of Jack’s personal space, looked down at the bag in his hands.
“Bobby gave you these pills?” he asked, quiet and disbelieving. Jack shook his head frantically.
“No! No, I…I was looking for quarters for the ice cream man in his pockets and I found them instead and …and ma’ said if she found that stuff on him again he couldn’t come back home and I wanted him to come back home,” Jack explained, sniffling and almost choking on the tears and snot building up in his throat. Jerry still looked angry, really angry, but the lines in his forehead smoothed out and he took a deep breath.
“Jack if you ate any of these pills you need to tell me ok? They could really hurt you.”
“I didn’t I swear,” he promised, “I just put them in my backpack. I…I was going to flush them down the toilet or throw them out or something but you found them first.”
Jerry had hugged him, told him he wasn’t mad at him, and sent him upstairs. A few hours later his ma’ appeared at his doorway and Jack pretended to be asleep. Once she was gone he stopped trying to choke back his tears and cried until he was so exhausted he couldn’t fight the sleep anymore. He slept through the night, never hearing the arguments and turmoil coming to a head on the floor below him.
Jack wasn’t sleeping when Bobby crept into his room the next morning. Instead he was lying on top of the covers, still in his pajamas-basketball shorts and a faded red wings t-shirt- staring across the room at the plastic box that held his toys, at his new guitar in the corner. New things in a new life; things he had never had before. Bobby sat down on the edge of the bed but didn’t look at him.
“I’m sorry I went in your pockets,” Jack spoke first, surprised at the sound of his own voice. He sat up, tucked his legs beneath himself Indian style. “And I’m sorry I took your pills.”
Bobby still didn’t speak, just sat there on the edge of the bed staring at the toes of his boots. It made Jack nervous. Bobby was never quiet. Usually he was loud, sometimes even funny when he wanted to be. Sometimes he got mad and then he was really loud (but never really that scary, not to Jack anyway). But he was never quiet. “You’ve always got something to say about something huh?” Angel would always mutter when Bobby was sticking his nose where it didn’t belong.
“I just…” Jack continued, unsure of what he wanted to say, “It’s just that ma’ said if she found anymore medicine on you that you couldn’t live here anymore and…” Jack growled a little bit in frustration at his tears. Why did he always have to start crying? Bobby didn’t think crying was very tough. “I didn’t want you to have to leave and I knew she was almost home so I put them in my backpack.”
After a few more seconds of silence Bobby stood and stared down at him. His eyes were all wet. Any other time the sight would have confused Jack but at that moment it only made him cry harder himself. He knew why Bobby was looking at him like that. He’d seen that look plenty of times before.
“Please don’t leave Bobby,” Jack begged, close to sobbing now, “I’m so sorry I took your bag. I won’t ever go through your things again, I promise.”
“Look Jackie,” Bobby’s voice was rough with congestion, “I gotta go away for a little while to work some stuff out. It doesn’t have anything to do with you okay? You didn’t do anything bad.”
“Please,” Jack found himself lunging across the room, wrapping his arms around Bobby’s waist, inhaling the deep scent of cigarettes and the soap they had in the shower. “I just wanted to protect you. That’s what brothers do, right?” he stared up into Bobby’s eyes, pleading. “You said it was our job to look out for each other. I didn’t want you to go away!”
Bobby made a strange noise in the back of his throat and placed a large hand on the top of Jack’s head, ran it through his messy blonde locks. “Please don’t go Bobby. I’ll tell ma’ that I was lying, I’ll say I didn’t get them from you.”
“Hey,” Bobby suddenly pulled away and crouched down, until he was eye level with the ten year old. “Now listen to me okay? Me going away is not your fault, and it’s not ma’s fault either. It’s mine. I’ve been doing really stupid things Jackie. Stupid things that could get the people I love most, you and ma’ and Jerry and Angel, things that could get you guys hurt. So I’m gonna go away while I fix things,” he took a shaky breath, “And I’m gonna need you to look out for everyone okay? Don’t let Angel spend too much time with that loco chica down the block, and make sure Jerry doesn’t think he can use my skates just cause I’m not around okay?”
Jack simply stared, sniffling and Bobby playfully took him by the chin and manually nodded his head up and down, “Yes Bobby I promise,” he mimicked in a squeaky voice until a ghost of a smile tugged at Jack’s mouth. “And you gotta look out for ma’ too, she’ll be lost without me” Bobby reminded, laughing soft and sad through his tears, “Don’t let her work too hard, make sure she still has some fun every now and then. Tell her that you love her,” he rattled off more commands for his youngest brother and Jack simply watched his mouth move, wondering how long it would be before he got to talk to Bobby again.
Finally Bobby stood and glanced once around the room. His eyes rested on the glass that sat on Jack’s night stand, the one that held his ever-growing collection of guitar picks. The guitar teacher at the music store where he took lessons at on Wednesday afternoons was always giving him new ones. “You mind if I take one of these with me Jack? Just to make me think about you?” he asked, gesturing to the glass. Jack wiped his running nose across his sleeve and shook his head.
“Yea,” he agreed, reaching into the glass and retrieving a tiny blue and green piece of plastic. “Here, it’s my favorite one.” He pressed it into Bobby’s palm. “So you gotta come back,” he rationalized, “Cause you can’t just take my favorite guitar pick and not bring it back.”
Bobby chuckled. “I promise you that I’ll be back Jackie. Stay out of trouble and don’t be afraid to ask Angel and Jerry for help if you ever need it. They love you just as much as I do man,” he ruffled Jack’s hair just once more, “I’m gonna say goodbye to them and then I’m gonna be gone,” he saw the question lingering in Jack’s eyes, “Ma’ and I got all our weeping and belly achin’ over with last night. She doesn’t want me to go anymore than you do. I’m doing this because I know I have to.”
“I guess bye then,” Jack mumbled, once again fighting the onslaught of tears. Bobby shook his head.
“Not goodbye man, see you later.”
Bobby shut the door on his way out and Jack lay down on the bed, listening through the thin walls for the next ten minutes as Bobby spoke to Angel and Jerry. Finally he heard the heavy footsteps drag down the stairs and the front door click shut.
He couldn’t stop himself from running to the window, watching as Bobby descended the front stairs with a duffle bag slung over his shoulder. His oldest brother walked straight down the path and towards his car but at the last second stole one last glance backwards. Then he threw his bag into the backseat and climbed behind the wheel of his old clunker. A few seconds later the ignition coughed to life and the car had sped down the street and away from the Mercer house, leaving coal black exhaust billowing in its wake.