Four Brothers: Assertion 1/1
Summary: Fifteen year old Jack gets beaten up for something Angel did. Neither Angel or Bobby are happy about it…
Timeline: Pre-movie – Jack is around 15 and Angel is 21. Mostly, I work this out by getting the actors' ages at the time of the movie and fudging things from there.
Disclaimer: The Mercers are not mine, they belong to whatever heartless men (no woman would have voted to let Jack die… not with that hair…) thought it was a good idea to kill Jack.
Rating: The boys swear, so I'll say PG-13/R, or whatever the equivalent is. Still, if you've seen the movie, and I assume you have, then you're safe here. If you feel the rating I've chosen is wrong, then please do let me know.
Reviews = Love
Jack limped up the front steps, holding his ribs and trying his best not to breathe deeply. When he'd left the house that morning all he'd wanted was to spend his Saturday like any other fifteen year old from Detroit: with his friends, a few girls and a lot of booze. What did he get? Some asshole and his friends showing up and kicking the shit out of him before leaving him behind with a laugh and an offhanded "Tell Angel Marco says 'Hey'."
Tell Angel Marco says 'Hey'? What a fucking load of bullshit. The guy should have said, Tell Angel I'm pissed at him, but instead of having the balls to risk starting something with him and his guys, I'm going to beat the shit out of his little brother.
As if that was the better way to go. Bobby had been out of Detroit for over three years, but people still walked carefully around him, Jerry and Angel, whispering to the guys that didn't know that they were Bobby fuckin' Mercer's brothers and if you started something with one of them, you started something with all of them. Nobody wanted to start something with all of them, especially with Bobby, who was an asshole even on the best day of his life, Jack thought affectionately.
Not that Angel was much better. Sure, he was more charming than Bobby, but that didn't mean he wasn't willing to do the same sort of shit as Bobby. Jack didn't know what Angel had done to piss Marco off, but Jack was definitely paying the price for it.
He opened the door to the house and heard the familiar sounds of a hockey game on the television. He was just lucky his mother was pulling at Saturday shift at work, because if she took one look at him she'd freak out. There'd be a hospital trip in his future for sure. Of course, he thought with a wince, he wouldn't say no to a pretty nurse with painkillers with the way he felt.
"You back, Jackie? What's up, didn't get any?" Angel called. At twenty-one, Angel came and went from their house like the fucking wind. Sometimes he lived at home, sometimes with Sofi and sometimes Evelyn wasn't sure where he was. She said he needed a swift kick in the ass, but she still welcomed him home with the same open arms that Bobby got every time he showed up.
"Got a message for you," Jack said, wheezing a little. It was no joke, walking home with what had to be broken ribs. "Marco sends his regards."
Jack could see Angel freeze in his seat, beer can halfway up to his mouth. It took him all of thirty seconds to process what Jack had said before he whipped around to face his younger brother. "What…" Angel's eyes narrowed as he took in the black eye, split lip and the way that Jack was holding his ribs under the leather jacket. "What the fuck did he do?"
"What's it look like he did?" Jack said, falling back on being a wise-ass. He shifted his weight, intending to get the will to move up, but Angel was out of his chair in an instant, coming around to Jack's side and half-helping, half-carrying him to the couch.
Angel didn't say anything, but he was practically vibrating he looked so pissed. "Angel?" Jack asked, a little less sure of himself, as Angel eased him onto the couch.
"Stay here." Angel said, and Jack was almost convinced he intended to go find Marco that second. Instead, Angel charged up the stairs three at a time and Jack could hear the bathroom door open, giving him a pretty good idea of what Angel was so intent on getting. A good first aid kid, Mom said, was essential in a house with boys like hers.
Seconds later, Angel was charging back down the stairs, first aid kit and wash cloth in hand. He dropped the kit on the coffee table and headed into the kitchen. When he returned, he handed Jack the ice he'd wrapped up, "Put this against your eye." He instructed.
Jack gingerly pressed the cold bundle to his nearly swollen-shut eye and hissed when it made contact. "Motherfucker…"
"I know, man." Angel soothed as he undid the zipper on jack's leather jacket. Bravado and Devil-May-Care attitude might be the Mercer persona outside, but brotherhood meant more than that. He could think of a few guys, Marco for one, who would find the idea of Angel Mercer so concerned and gentle with some white boy unreal, but Jack didn't think Angel was being weird at all. The look of self-loathing he could see on Angel's face when Jack couldn't hold the gasp of pain back as they worked to get his jacket off did make him feel bad, though.
"It's not your fault." Jack said quietly, "Who knew that guy was such an idiot?"
"He's going to be a brain-dead idiot when I catch up with him." Angel said, voice low. He took one look at Jack's tight t-shirt and reached for the scissors.
Jack wasn't willing to lift his arms and twist around they way he'd need to in order to get his shirt off, but still… "Come on, Angel,"
"Shut it, Jackie. We'll get you a new shirt." Angel promised as he cut through the thin material. He took one look at the bruises already forming on his little brother's torso and clenched his jaw.
"Think of all the girls I'll impress." Jack joked. Angel gave him a half-hearted smile, but didn't respond.
He lifted his hand up to Jack's side and glanced up at him. "This is gonna hurt."
"I know." Jack agreed, pressing the ice to his eye a little more and bracing himself for the pain. He didn't want to be a baby and make his brother feel worse about what had happened, but when Angel's gentle hands pressed against his ribs to see if any were broken, he couldn't help the little whimper that made it passed his lips.
"Sorry." Angel apologized, and Jack knew he meant it for more than just the pain of the moment.
Jack didn't respond, because he knew that Angel knew he didn't blame him.
Angel pulled his hand back, "One broken, for sure. I think there's two that are just cracked."
"Just cracked?" Jack said, "Great. Wonderful. Best news I've gotten all day."
"Shut up, kid." Angel said, smiling just a little but at least this time he meant it. Score one for Jack Mercer. "Let's get these bound up, then you're going to get some sleep." Angel directed, grabbing the roll of medical tape.
Jack resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Even if it was possible for his black one, he didn't want to try it out. "Nap time?"
"Don't tell me it doesn't sound good." Angel said, pulling the tape around Jack's ribs to support them.
Jack clenched his teeth, but didn't say anything. He wasn't going to agree and lose face, but right at that moment, with Angel trying and failing to cause as little pain as possible, unconsciousness sounded fucking awesome.
When Jack woke up later, his first instinct was to open his eyes. Turned out, that was easier said than done. One of his eyes opened, sure, but the other had gummed together sometime during the afternoon and the wrenching pain that the simple action of opening his eye, or attempting to, so completely failed that he couldn't help the pained curse that slipped out.
Thank goodness his mother wasn't home yet.
Someone was though, he could hear them rushing into his room from the hall. "Angel?"
Jack glanced over with his one eye towards the door. It was Bobby, even though his brother wasn't due to visit again for at least a month. "When did you get here?"
"What'd you do to get you swearing like that, Cracker Jack?" Bobby asked, ignoring his question. Bobby did that a lot, it pissed Jack off, but his brother never cared. If Bobby had something he thought was more important to say, fuck with what you thought was important. Generally he called his brother on it, kicking up a fuss that hardly ever got him what he wanted. Now though, he could see how concerned Bobby was, how tense and angry he looked.
Never let it be said that a Mercer boy couldn't compromise… "Tried to open my eye."
His poor, wrecked eye must have looked as bad as it felt, if the look Bobby gave him was any indication. "Yeah, that sounds right." Bobby agreed, sitting down on the side of Jack's bed.
"That bad?" Jack asked, letting his hand drift up to gingerly feel his eye. He could feel the swelling and the heat coming off of it. "Fuck, man."
"Listen to you," Bobby said, pulling his hand back down, "You join the navy or something, Jack?"
Jack resisted the urge to shrug, his ribs something he was not going to forget, "Nah, but Angel might."
"That so?" Bobby asked and Jack wasn't sure if Bobby had known about Angel's plans. It was hard to tell with that sort of thing. Jack couldn't even count the times that he'd thought he was pulling something over on their Mom or Bobby and gotten some knowing look for his troubles.
"Where is Angel, anyway?" Jack asked, changing the subject and giving Bobby a taste of his own medicine.
Bobby stared at him for a second and Jack wasn't sure if he was going to let that slide. Still, he got an answer, "Out taking care of this bullshit,"
"He didn't know that dick was going to jump me." Jack said, defending Angel. He was sure that Angel had called Bobby, but even then Bobby probably hadn't seen how awful Angel felt about Jack being hurt. "You're telling me that no one has ever gone after Jerry or Angel 'cause of something you did?"
"No." Bobby returned immediately. "No one would have dared."
Jack opened his mouth to respond, but immediately snapped it shut. What could he say to that? Bobby could lie to anyone, their mother aside, but this didn't seem like a lie or an ego thing.
"Little brother needs to remind people not to mess with Mercers," Bobby continued, talking about Angel. It could get confusing, given that there were three options for the little brother, although Bobby only really called Jerry that to piss him off anymore. "Especially since I'm not around as much and Jerry's having a grand ole' time playing respectable husband."
Jack never was sure if Bobby liked Camille or not, since she meant that Jerry had people he was more loyal to than them, but Jack wasn't about to ask now. Bobby wasn't done talking though. He reached out with a washcloth that Jack hadn't noticed before and ever so gently wiped his black eye, probably trying to un-gunk it so Jack could open it. "So don't worry about it, Jackie, Angel will sort it out."
"And if Marco sorts Angel out?" Jack whispered, though Bobby was leaning close enough to hear him. Whatever Bobby was doing to his eye itched, but he resisted any and all urges to do something to fix that.
Bobby grinned, "He won't, but if he does, well, I'll just have to lend a helping hand."
Jack snorted, "Yeah right, you just wanna hit something."
"Two birds, one stone, fairy."
After he and Bobby talked a while later, his brother gave him something 'for the pain' – whether that was it's original use or not was debatable, but it made him sleep. Sleeping, Jack mused, did technically take the pain away, so Bobby was probably right.
He woke up the first time to his mother arguing with Bobby.
"How do you know he doesn't have a concussion, Bobby?" Mom asked, her cool hand against his forehead. She looked upset and Jack hated that. Sure, it was because of him, but it wasn't really because of him, so he tried to relax. Even with grounding him being an unlikely option, he still didn't like that she was so obviously upset about the whole thing.
Bobby shook his head, "He doesn't, Ma. Angel and I both checked."
Jack couldn't really remember that. He supposed Angel could have checked his head out somewhere between him falling asleep on the couch and 'mysteriously' ending up in his own bed when he woke up next.
"Really, and what was your medical conclusion?" Evelyn asked, hands on her hips. If Jack was feeling with it enough, he would have smirked.
"No bumps, no blood, no confusion, no loss of memory." Bobby recited, impressing Jack a little. But then, he supposed Bobby had his fair share of first-hand concussion knowledge.
Their mother didn't look very reassured. He was honestly surprised she hadn't noticed him awake yet, but then Bobby's handiwork on his black eye was a moot point now, the whole thing swollen shut, eyelashes crusted together no longer being an issue. Having one eye open and more than one incentive to keep still – ribs, warmth, watching Bobby get his ass handed to him by the only person he'd let do it… - would probably give him that sort of advantage though.
Of course, Bobby didn't get his ass handed to him. He instead took the first steps forward that separated him from Evelyn and wrapped his arms around her in a hug. "He's okay, Ma, I promise."
"This shouldn't have happened." Evelyn said, her voice a little tense. She never let herself seem less than calm and collected in front of her younger sons, but she and Bobby had always had a different sort of connection.
Bobby nodded against her shoulder, "I know, it won't happen again."
"Why, because Angel is going to beat this guy up so he won't know his own name?" She asked, "That won't solve anything."
"Whatever keeps Jack safe is a solution, Ma."
Jack wanted to take exception to that. He wasn't a baby and he didn't need protecting, but try telling his brothers that. He wanted to say something, especially since Mom seemed so upset all of a sudden, but his open eye was getting heavier and Bobby's pill was pulling him back to sleep.
When Jack woke up again, it was really dark out. Forget a nap, he'd gotten to sleep right though the day. A teenager's dream, maybe, but he would have rather not paid the price he had.
Angel was back and Jack wasn't surprised to find his brother in his room with him while he was asleep. His brothers used to do that all the time, when he was younger and had awful nightmares. It had been a while, but not so long that he found waking up with one of them in the room creepy. "Yeah," He answered, slowly shifting in the bed. He'd been sleeping propped up some pillows for his ribs, but he wanted to sit up for real.
His brother either guessed or noticed his intentions, because suddenly Angel was right next to him, pulling him up and fixing the pillows in one smooth motion. Jack's aching ribs deeply appreciated it, but his pride did not. "Going to be my nursemaid?"
Angel didn't say anything and Jack felt guilty immediately. "Sorry."
"You're sorry? Jesus, Jack…" Angel said, sitting back in the chair he'd pulled up to the bed.
Jack wasn't sure what to say to that, exactly. Angel obviously felt bad about what happened, but it wasn't really his fault. That was probably what Angel needed to hear, "I don't know what Ma or Bobby said, but it wasn't your fault."
"You got smashed over something I did." Angel said, slouching in his chair, "How is that not on me?"
"It's not like you planned on it. I mean, did you screw him over and drop my business card on your way out, or something?" Jack asked, only messing with Angel a little.
Angel didn't respond to the joke. He just stared at Jack hard, as if seeing something that he hadn't before. "No one has ever once messed with me just because I'm Bobby's brother. If anything, they kept away."
"So what, you're pissed you're not as intimidating as Bobby?" Jack asked.
Shrugging, Angel finally took his intense stare and directed it to something out the window. "Bobby's insane." He settled on, but that was enough. Jack understood him just fine: Jerry was respected, because he could give as well as he got but he didn't turn to that first and Angel was respected, because he could fuck you up then walk up to your girl and get her to leave with him but Bobby was respected because he was some sort of maniac, like he'd been built for violence and control and he was living up to that legacy. It was a hard thing to want to aspire to and even if you did, all three bothers had long since decided trying wasn't worth it. Bobby was just different. "But Jack…" Angel said, still looking away.
"Yeah?" Jack hesitant ventured, when Angel didn't keep talking.
"This isn't going to happen again." Angel said, like a vow. "I'm making sure of it."
It sounded dramatic and ominous, but Jack didn't dare laugh. Angel wasn't joking. "Because Bobby's pissed?"
"Because Mom's pissed?"
"Like a pride thing?"
Angel turned back to him again, a little annoyed. "Don't be a fucking idiot, Jackie."
"So what's your problem? You sound like you're going to gun down Marco just to make a point." Jack said, dragging a hand though his already messed up hair.
Angel didn't respond to that and Jack tried not to read too much into it. "You're my little brother, Jack. I love you. Seeing you hurt is like hurting too, but worse."
Jack slowly smiled, even though he felt bad about it. He should think that hearing Angel say any of that should make the aches less, but it did. He felt the same way about his brothers, of course, and he knew that they loved him, but the needy, pathetic part of Jack that was used to slaps and belts and pain still basked in the light of such praise.
Verbally, Jack didn't return the same to Angel. It would make his brother pull away with a joke, like they were all used to doing and Jack didn't want him to leave. Instead, he took a page out of Bobby's Book of Brotherhood.
Angel grinned and purposefully missed when he swiped at Jack's head. Still, the tense line of his shoulders eased and his jaw unclenched and Jack knew he'd done the right thing.
Brothers could tell.