Isabel's mother is such a sick, miserable person.
This is a sick, miserable situation.
How could someone act that way???
I know right! Isabel's mother is a sick individual and it's only going to get worse.
A/N: Hey, I'm back with a new and very long chapter. I hope you like!
“Alex… Alex…wake up…
” An echo of a familiar voice whispered to him in the haze of the morning sunlight. He grunted, his limbs stiff and frozen, his mouth dry as sandpaper. His entire body felt like it had been lit on fire by a magnifying glass for some child’s sick amusement.
“Michael…” Alex choked out as a wave of unbearable pain washed over him, blinking slowly as he tried in vain to at least open his less swollen eye to look more closely at the blurry set of piercing brown eyes peering down upon him. The vague—yet familiar—figure looming over him, bumped him lightly on the nose a second later, and Alex jumped, becoming fully awake at the unexpected touch. He half-realized, along with the minor horror of being touched by the barely visible figure, that the breathtakingly amount of agonizing pain that was invading his senses became heightened with his growing terror, pulsing through his veins and his body… It dulled anything rational… except the excruciating pain slowly threatening to overtake him. His muscles began to spring to life erratically and his brain tried to process his surroundings as bits and pieces of last night came crashing back to him in daunting, grainy images.
He gasped against the flood of unwelcome memories, opening and closing his bruised eyelids owlishly as bright shafts of daylight streamed in through the dusty blinds of his small bedroom and straight into Alex’s eyes, momentarily disorienting him. He panted as his teeth ground down onto his tongue, the pain agonizing as his sore limbs spasmed uncontrollably against the headboard and mattress beneath him.
”Alex repeated anxiously, his panic rising as he continued to look into the set of eyes that had once been looking down upon him before fading away from his blurry field of view. He shook his head, confused… The pain in his body was beginning to override everything in his mind except the basics and the sudden, overwhelming need to figure out why there was one less person giving off heat in his bed.
He remembered finding two sets of bodies in his bed when he had woke briefly last night. He had remembered Tess’ chubby arms clinging to him desperately, even in sleep, like she could protect him from harm if she just held him tightly enough…and Michael’s board frame huddled close by on his other side, his muscles wound even more tightly around Alex’s waist as silent tears ran down his cheeks in his sleep, and—
He paused, frowning, as everything about last night began to fully fall into line in his muddled brain. He had to find Michael.
Alex began to grope around aimlessly on the side of the bed that he last remembered his brother being on before he passed out for the final time last night. “Michael…?” He asked again, his words feeling thick in his throat as the whole room started spinning around him, making his stomach stir a little. The thick, blonde strands of Tess’s hair stuck to the corners of his mouth and he slowly wiggled his way out of her tight grip and away from her pesky long hair in growing annoyance. His frayed mind went into overload as sheer panic began to squeeze him by the balls.
Where’s Michael?! Where’d he go?
His mind began to chant incoherently, his thoughts racing around in circles as his entire body continued to spring to life with torment-filled tension, every spike of his heartbeat threatening to jolt his heart out his chest. Hank got him
, Alex thought hysterically, irrationally. He began to move about the bed wildly, pulling out the covers from underneath himself. Fear continued to fill his gut and churn his stomach… twisting into something nasty and primal, a deep-seated sickness in the pit of his soul with troubling efficiency as images of the worst case scenarios passed through his mind with each moment that he hadn’t found Michael.
Alex clamped his eyes shut painfully, pulling his hair at the roots as he repeatedly slammed his head against the soft mattress, not caring that it sent a sharp jab of pain running through his already battered head. Hank had waited for them to let their guard down… for when they had all been vulnerable and asleep before he snatched Michael up in the dead of night…He imagined calloused hands roughly dragging Michael into the living room, silently delivering what Hank had bestowed upon Alex earlier last night for standing up to him ran through his unpleasant thoughts… except, unlike with Alex, he won’t leave Michael breathing and with his flesh burning to the tips of his toenails with unbearable discomfort…
No. Hank wouldn’t be that merciful this time around. He’d kill him, slowly and with great pleasure…reveling in Michael’s useless cries for help… cries
for Alex. Hank would smile down upon Michael’s pain with a ghastly and cruelly sense of pleasure at his pleas before striking the final bow, ending Michael’s life as Alex and Tess slept a feet away in the other room … They would have been deep in sleep, unaware and unable to do anything about it as he was burying Michael in a shallow grave somewhere deep within the trailer park.
“Michael?!” Alex whimpered desperately, the sound dry and animalistic in his parched throat as he dug his clammy hands down from his hair and into his eyes, trying to pry his own eyeballs from their sockets. Michael was dead… he was dead
and it was all Alex’s fault. He was as sure of it as he was of his last name. It was his fault and he would forever be burdened with the knowledge that he hadn’t done anything to save Michael, that he hadn’t been strong enough… He’d been too weak willed, allowing himself to succumb to his injuries, allowing them to pull him under and into the black.
It wasn’t the first time Hank had beaten him this severely…and he knew that it wouldn’t be the last time either. He had been experienced enough in this area to know that he should have stayed sharp and alert, forcing the pain to string him up high instead of falling into its undertow. Alex should have known better than to let his guard down in the face of a monster… He was stronger, smarter than that. He was the savior of this fucked up story, the assigned protector; the one who always came through with flying colors when it really mattered. He should’ve been smarter
… he should’ve been faster
… he should’ve been better
, damn it!
He shook his head violently, ridding himself of those pesky, stupid notions that seemed determined to weigh him down. It didn’t matter now what he should have done
….what he should’ve been
. All that mattered was finding out where Michael was
. He owed whatever source of will and power that he had left in himself to keeping that small shiver of hope that everything would be okay
burning wild and free and alive within himself… and, if necessary, that fire
to avenging his death would prove useful.
Alex had started the painful process of getting up out of the bed, when he felt a sudden and unfamiliar warmth of a large hand on his shoulder blade, gently trying to push him back down onto the bed. Alex struggled wildly, the fabric of his clothes rubbing against the throbbing of his bruised body as he rocked his body from side to side, trying to shake off the strong hold that the unidentified hand had on him.
He thrashed again, and his pain writhed back, bucking upward as high as it would go as the figure gripped him tighter, nearly straddling him by his hips now as he began to fight even harder, threatening to pin him down onto the mattress by the wrists. Alex’s aching legs kept trying to kick in any direction he could—preferably in the figure’s face
—looking to hit any weak spots. A shrill and violent scream ripped its way out of Alex’s throat as unadulterated fury and hate filled him to the core at the unwanted obstacle in his way, holding him down… An overwhelming urge to bite the figure’s hand crossed his mind before an even wilder thought— that it was probably Hank, trying to deter him from finding Michael— crossed through his head, further fueling his broken body to continue to struggle, no matter what, against the person on top of him.
Alex wasn’t about to let some drunken, vile bastard like Hank keep him from finding out where his brother was—he couldn’t fail another brother…he didn’t think he could survive losing another one
—or from doing what was necessary to protect and save him… even if that meant he would have to kill to do just that.
Nobody was going to stand in the way of his rightful duty. Nobody.
“Alex! Alex!” the hazy voice from earlier hissed harshly in his ear, the tone high-strung and angry. The grip on Alex’s wrists tightened almost to the point of breaking bone. “Hey, I’m here! I’m here! Be quiet or you’ll wake Tess!” the voice scolded in the morning light, and Alex suddenly stopped his erratic movements, his body alternated between hot and cold in the wake of the impossible. It couldn’t be…?
“Michael?” He croaked, his brows furrowed in distrustful confusion as his lungs heaved for air and his body shook violently with fear and pain. “Is it really
you?” Alex didn’t even try to keep the suspicious edge out of his tone of voice. He was wishfully hallucinating, he was sure.
“Yeah, it’s me.” Michael’s disembodied voice answered back, his blurry presence from before becoming clearer as the image of the figure began to form a picture in his mind. The panic and irrationally that had been tightly gripping him washed away from his entire being. Michael’s body sagged in relief, “You scared me for a moment,” he sighed. “I thought that you were losing your mind or something.”
Alex nodded lamely, his lungs still wheezing for oxygen and his brain still swirling around in confusion. His fried mind was growing increasingly tired from his thoughts racing a mile a minute, trying to filter what his eyes were seeing. Michael was safe…
.He breathed out shakily, with a deep and overwhelming sense of relief so strong that it left him even more discombobulated than before with its sheer force of power. He wasn’t buried in an unmarked grave somewhere of Hank’s choosing. He wasn’t out of Alex’s reach somewhere unprotected and unloved…. He was right there in front of him, breathing and irritated but alive. Alex had to temper the sudden urge, as powerful as his relief, to give in to the laugh bubbling up inside of him. He was alive!
His mind screamed happily…manically. His thoughts began to float around happily. He was okay… just like he had hoped for.
“You asked me to wake you up early today,” Michael said, his tone laced with lingering bewilderment at Alex’s uncharacteristic behavior. He shook his head, easing up off Alex, with one of his hands still gripping his wrist, but the touch was light now… and a bit concerned. “Don’t you remember?” he questioned when Alex remained silent.
“Yeah,” He said slowly a few minutes later, his whole body relaxing as the leftover energy he had in him for a fight left his system in spades. That creeping feeling of joy at Michael being alive that had filled him up to the brim left as well, along with the rage and fear that accompanied his quasi-breakdown. “I remember.” Or at least, he thought did.
He frowned thoughtfully as he reached into his hazy mind for the memory. He vaguely remembered asking Michael to wake him up early in the morning today… because, apparently, he had something to do… something really
But he just couldn’t remember what it was.
Alex moved his head slowly to the left—and encountered the strands of Tess’s hair that once again covered his face—trying for a simple glance at the old lava lamp clock that Michael had fished out of one of their neighbor’s garbage can a while back. He could barely make out the numbers nine-fifteen flashing back brightly at him in bold, neon red, making his vision blur again from the luminous light of the clock’s dials… or the poorly hand-written sticky note attached to the rusty old thing that read, ‘Meet Isabel at 10:30 tomorrow at our secret place… Don’t forget to bring the presents…
, Alex thought, sighing as he remembered what was so important now. His free hand tugged at his hair in mild frustration for forgetting, his chest still heaving a little from the motion causing his ribs to expand and let air in.
He was going to be late.
Isabel hated it when he was late.
“You’re going to be late. You know how she hates that…” Michael spoke his thought out loud, his tone casual as he got up and leaned away from Alex’s peripheral vision.
Alex growled. “Thanks, Michael. I know that!” He snapped sarcastically, as his fear of Michael’s death began vanished quickly with his growing irritation at Michael’s know-it-all tone. He was kind of tempted to kill him himself right now—traumatizing outbursts be damned.
“Do you need help up?” Michael asked.
“No…” Alex grunted stubbornly, already trying to lift himself up off his side of the bed himself, twisting his mangled black and blue body into an upright position… And he almost did accomplished it too… but soon his head was swimming in a pool of white-hot agony, every muscle in his body screaming in protest against even the smallest of movements. It felt as though he was purposefully lighting his entire body on fire and his mind was yelling at him to stop. He moaned loudly as a sharp, stabbing pain shot up the side of his left ribcage, his vision waving in and out of focus as black dots bobbled across his view. He collapsed back against the bed, the bedspring jabbing him irritably in the back as his lanky arms gave out from under him.
He groaned, the flames continuing to lick his body with its smoldering tongue, dangerously close to tasting the heels of his waning sanity…a pitch black numbness threatening to creep across into his point of view, a bottomless abyss of nothingness waiting peacefully for him on the other side. He wished momentarily that the darkness would just take him away into its unknown grasp forever, never to allow his return. Alex was almost tempted to just let himself be completely consumed by that appealing darkness that was so hastily coming up to meet him as the unbearable pain continued to throb and course through him, heating up his whole body, but he couldn’t. Alex had made a promise he had no intention of breaking. Isabel was completely and unequivocally counting on him to come through for her and, by God, he was going to live up to that unflinching sense of trust… even if it killed him trying to do it.
“Can you help me up?” Alex pleaded uncomfortably, the edge of his words jumbled and jagged even to his own ears. His hands shook as he tried to steadily hold the black and blue skin of his ribcage to minimize the pain that continued to run down his side and radiate up his spinal cord. Michael stared at him intensely, an almost uncomfortable silence transferring between them as he looked at Alex’s writhing form.
“Yeah. Fine.” He said gruffly, as Alex’s pleading gaze had began to turn deadly. He pushed himself off from the side of their bedroom wall that their bed was pushed up against with a hard shove, causing a few of the miscellaneous knick-knacks that littered the shelf above their bunk bed to jingle and shake. His arms unfolded from over one another as if they were escaping from a child’s silent temper tantrum, and if he knew Michael as well as he thought he did— which he did
— they probably were. His socked feet scraped softly against the bed’s comforter as he leaned over Alex’s shaking form, one of his bulky hands leaving his wrist as he out stretched the other in front of him… beckoning for his brother to take hold of it, and Alex did, clasping Michael’s calloused hand with his own large and quivering one as Michael hoisted him up and off the bed with two grunts and a heavy sigh.
“Thank you,” Alex murmured, stumbling a little over his feet, his legs wobbling violently as if they had been injected with liquid jelly for someone’s sick thrill. He hastily grabbed Michael’s shoulder to prevent himself from losing his remaining balance when his body began to tilt a little too far to the left of him, not wanting to fall head first into the bunk bed’s metal bed frame and wake Tess up.
He didn’t need a concussion and a hysterical Tess on top of everything else that this crappy morning had already dished out to him. Michael gripped his shoulder back just as tightly, a tiny look of resigned concern etched on his young face. He took both of Alex’s hands, placing them around his neck to make sure that Alex used Michael’s own body as a crutch to keep himself standing upright. Alex silently thanked him again, not knowing how well he would have fared without his help… still not knowing how he was going to go out in the world feeling like he did, but he didn’t dwell on that. It didn’t matter. He was going to make it to Isabel even if the pain took over and made him pass out in the ground below him.
“You want to take a shower…?” Michael asked hesitantly, taking another long look over Alex’s unstable frame intently before instantly amending the last option with a scoff of, “A bath maybe?” If you can even do that?
Michael’s unspoken question was met with a deep scowl from Alex, who continued to struggle to remain standing.
“I want to,” Alex answered bitterly and honestly, because he truly
did. He really
wanted to be nice and clean cut for his quasi girlfriend, but Michael’s silent inquiry had been right. He couldn’t hold himself up long enough to take a shower, and he had come way
too far to let himself drown in a bathtub now. “But I don’t think I can.” He finished, ending the topic. He was going to have to show up the way he was… dried blood and battered body. It was going to have to do for his date.
Michael shrugged, unfazed, when Alex had to once again grip his shoulder for balance. “You don’t have time anyway...” Alex nodded in agreement.
Michael shuffled them closer to the open closet area of their bedroom, and Alex looked in at the ratty old clothes that were hanging up loosely on wired hangers that they had stolen from various thrift shops along with the outfits that had been hanging off them. His face pinched in distaste and his mouth curled down in a grimace at the pungent smell of wet mold and moth balls wafting up in the air of the small area to meet his sinuses, making his nose twitch in mild disgust at the thought of having to wear one of these
dingy and damp outfits to meet Isabel.
“No s-shirt…” Alex heaved breathlessly, his words slurring together as exhaustion slowly began to tingle in his bones. He teetered a little to the left again, his eyes fluttering closed against the sudden rush of vertigo as his temples pounded against his skull in double time… but he wasn’t worried about falling face first into something hard like he had been the last time. He trusted that Michael to have his back.
“Never mind. Just hand me my black hoodie and gray sweatpants off the dresser.” Alex amended a moment later, a small twinge of disappointment rabbiting him hard in the gut. This wasn’t how he wanted to present himself today. He didn’t want Isabel to see him all banged up and bruised. He wanted to look charming—beguiling
— when she saw him coming around the corner of their secret meeting place, his hair brushed back dashingly and decked out in the best clothes that he owned… not in the faded black hoodie with the drawstring missing that she always glared at when she saw him wearing it, wild bed hair that he had no time to tame, and a lint littered pair of sweatpants that were two sizes too big around him. But he guessed it would have to do. It was a lot better than nothing at all, and it helped him to be able to keep his promise without having to be brought back home for indecent exposure, because he was seriously tempted to just leave home with nothing but his boxers and ratty white undershirt on if it could get him out the door and to see her
Today was such an important
day to Isabel—and to him. Her baby sister was turning nine-years-old, and even though Isabel hated celebrating her own birthday, he knew that Liz’s meant the world to her…and a small and hopeful part of him could use that importance to hide his own overwhelming need to pamper her with love and presents, despite her baleful incessantness that he not. But he couldn’t help himself. He wanted to make this usually hard time in her life a little bit more bearable for her, to let her know that someone besides her own sister cared about and loved her… and that he was happy that she had been born in the first place. Plus, he hoped that the fact that one of his presents was related to their plan
would also leave her much more receptive to accepting the other, more serious
present from him.
“Okay, arms up.” Michael ordered sternly, making Alex leave his thoughts and crash back into reality. He hadn’t even realized that they had made it to the dresser already.
“I can do it myself, you know.” Alex mumbled hatefully as he saw Michael holding up his requested hoodie as high over his head as his brother’s twelve-year-old limbs would allow him, a patient but amused look on his face… like Alex was a little kid that couldn’t be trusted to put on his clothes in the morning without the help of a grownup.
“Yeah, right…” Michael teased lightly, rolling his eyes. Alex glared balefully, offended beyond belief by Michael’s silly catering to him, treating him like a kid, when they both knew he wasn’t.
Michael sighed playfully before dropping his arm down in fond exasperation. “You’re talking to Hank’s regular punching bag here, Alex. I’ve had the same kind of injuries before…” He paused, the playfulness leaving his face as it began to scrunch up into an unreadable expression, the already faded yellow bruise on the left side of his face glinting vaguely in the morning sun. “You can barely hold your own weight up, Alex… just let me help you.” He pleaded softly as sorrow and the aforementioned unidentifiable emotion continued to fill his piercing brown eyes, a well of pain so deep and contagious that Alex could feel his own face tightening around his eyes with the same sadness and an understanding of what couldn’t be said or explained. If there was anyone who could fully understand firsthand what Alex was going through right now… it would be Michael.
Alex bowed his head, eyes downcast shamefully. The idea of allowing Michael to take care of him, despite knowing full well that he couldn’t do it by himself, still left a bad taste in his mouth, making him feel just as helpless as he had when he was six -years-old and had to goad his dad into every inch of clothing he had ever worn and every action he ever took to take care of his family while his mother cried herself to sleep every night over the death of her youngest child.
He had been the adult back then… the primary caretaker. He still was. It was honestly second nature to him as he guessed that breathing was to people… as much a part of him as his insane need to make sure everything was pure perfection. Alex had always been the one who looked out for everyone else, sacrificed his own happiness for the sake of others, and he didn’t like having the tables turned around on him. – It made him relinquish that innate programing, that deep-seated desire to always be in control.
—And it was tearing him up inside. But he didn’t have a choice. He was self-aware and man enough to know when he couldn’t do something alone and he needed the help of others… but because he knew that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to fight it tooth and nail before finally giving in.
So, he grudgingly lifted his arms up as far as the throbbing pain in his limbs would allow him to, feeling the worn fabric of the inner layer of the hoodie brush against his exposed skin… and a slight shiver ran down his spine with a cooling contrast of something soft and loved against his heated skin. He grumbled, his head lolling back a bit in mild annoyance as Michael fussed for a few minutes over the hood of his sweater, fiddling with it a little to make sure it looked nice and presentable before he grabbed the sweatpants on the other side of the dresser, asking Alex to lift his legs up over one of the pant legs so he could slip them over his feet and legs.
Alex knew the drill and did what he was asked without question, despite how aggravating it was to take directions from someone else. He used Michael’s broad twelve-year-old shoulders for leverage and balance as they fumbled a little with the mechanics of maneuvering material over skin and body parts, and the unspoken awkwardness of being that close and vulnerable to someone who constantly saw you as someone who was ever strong and invincible… but they got it done with pride and dignity—or what little was left of both
—intact. Alex was even more exhausted than before as a usually simple daily task had been made near impossible by his abrasions.
Michael puffed, a little out of breath, as he leaned back against the wall into an upright stance. His hand wiped some of the sweat from his forehead. “I think you’re going to have to sit down on the floor for me to get your socks and shoes on…” He informed Alex matter of factly, tapping lightly on his brother’s shoulder as if silently asking him to push himself up against the wall next to him, and Alex obeyed with the tenseness of his earlier actions. He no longer had the energy to be offended by Michael’s assistance.
He sagged, almost boneless, against the wall, sliding down until his butt hit the carpeted floor with a loud plop, his whole body feeling like it was going to cave in on itself. He could feel his hands beginning to shake and jitter again, his breathing turning uneven as Michael slipped on his socks and shoes in quick succession. Everything in his entire body was coiled in pain, aching and moaning in protest. He felt like dying, just so the pain would stop…
“Do you really need to see her
, Alex?’ Michael whispered, a sharp edge to his tone as he stared at Alex’s slumped form. “You can barely stand up…” Michael finished tying the last knot in his shoelace.
“Were you able to get me what I asked for?” Alex sidestepped his inquiry, not knowing what he could say to that question that would make Michael feel better about his answer. The subject wasn’t up for debate. Alex was never one to flake out on a promise, to turn his back when someone needed him as much as Isabel needed him. He wouldn’t be in the kind of pain that he was in right now if he was a cop out… and as much as Michael resented Isabel Evans’ presence in Alex’s life, he knew as well as Alex did that she needed his protection
... She needed it badly
Michael sniffed angrily, dropping his brother’s foot back onto the carpet with a hard thump. Alex winced. “Yeah…” Michael spoke apathetically, a slight jerk of his head. “A good, stable camcorder just like you asked for. It’s a little used, and… well, old
… and Nasedo
gave me shit when I asked for it—”
“Any more than usual?” Alex joked breathlessly, a loop-sided smile tugging at his lips as he tried steering the conversation to a light pace again. He wasn’t in the mood to fight with Michael.
Michael frowned, lips pressed thin. “But I got it
.” He said with a harsh flourish, his sentence coming through clenched teeth. It was his way of ignoring the fact that he kind of wanted to smile a little at his brother’s lame joke, and Alex felt like laughing, a little unfairly, at his brother’s snarly attitude. Michael was the most stubborn person Alex Guerin ever met… and if he wanted to be mad at someone, then there was nothing that was going to deter him from that righteous
—Alex rolled his eyes inwardly at that—anger… not even a lame ass joke.
“Michael…” Alex sighed good-naturally, his deep hazel eyes crackling at the corners with barely suppressed humor. “Stop being a damn baby, I’m—” he began.
for your information,” Michael interrupted him rudely, his index finger jabbed in his face, “I told you to ask him.” He pouted, tone still snippy despite losing some of its earlier edge. “You might have gotten a top-of-the-line videocamera if you had…”
“Maybe,” Alex allowed, shrugging indifferently despite how right Michael statement really was. Nasedo would have gotten a top-of –the-line camcorder if Alex had been the one doing the asking… The product sure would have been slick and the programming tuned to perfection with the latest technology no matter how much Alex always protested the luxuries that the crime boss often bestowed upon him. Yes, Nasedo would have responded better if Alex had asked himself, but it didn’t matter how shitty the product was…because Michael had gotten what he asked for, and he knew at least it would work for its intended purpose.
He didn’t want flashy. He wanted efficient and, for once, Nasedo’s hatred for the younger Guerin brother was actually going to work in his favor.
“The perks of being the favorite, huh...” Michael retorted, his words coming out teasingly, but there was a bitter taste to his words that had Alex narrowing his eyes. He already had a feeling where this conversation was going to go.
“I’m not his favorite…” He stated matter-of-factly, his gaze briefly shifting to Tess’ still sleeping form before looking back at his angry brother. He was glad that Tess usually slept like the dead.
“You’re right,” Michael nodded, following Alex’s line of sight… his composure becoming ridged and his expression as blank as ever as he said with a cold flourish, “It’s Tess…”
Alex inhaled sharply, closing his eyes. Oh, hell no.
“Don’t go there…
” he hissed furiously, squaring his jaw as he felt another ping of pain sweep across the left side of his ribcage. “Just d—” He trailed off brokenly, the words dying on his tongue as he tried to fight off the million-and-one emotions threatening to strangle him from the inside out, a collection of old memories clawing their way out of the deepest crevices of his brain, the dimly lit repressed anger alighting anew at Michael’s unwarranted words.
The resonate, unbridled anger still surprised him when it threatened to come to the surface and explode, echoing bitterly through the dusty tunnels of his past and into the vibrantly painful freeways of his present, choking him as the unwanted memories were just as unbearable as the pain radiating through him, its venom coming back to strangle him with remembrance…
It had been the year of Roswell’s freak snow storm
— two long, beautiful weeks of non-stop snow flurries swirling around in the grey sky that Alex had almost wished would permanently hang over them… the flakes of crystalized water and cloud particles building up, inch by inch, and covering the desert surface of the small, inconsequential town that would have never been known except for an alien spaceship that may or may not have crash landed there long ago… It would never be remembered for something as completely beautiful as the thick sheet of white snow that had covered it for those two weeks
— when Alex met Nasedo, his tall frame strutting lazily in through the front door of their rundown trailer home, the man’s dead silver eyes gleaming curiously at Alex’s stock still form in the moving shadows of the afternoon sunlight as he watched one of his minions carrying the limp and battered body of Hank Guerin over his shoulder…
“Don’t worry,” Nasedo spoke calmly, plainly…his voice as raspy as the rusty tailpipe of a failing truck, his hands held up against his chest to show that he was no threat, as the minion carrying Hank dropped him onto the raggedy couch next to the door with a plop.
“He’s alive,” he finished, his eyebrows raised when he noticed that Alex wasn’t rushing over to the couch to check and see if Hank was okay for himself. “Don’t really care, do you?” the older man asked a moment later, a curious tone to his words.
Alex shook his head, “No, not really.” He said truthfully, his tone soft and cautious.
“Hmm. An honest man... I like that.” The older man chuckled lightly, a cigar now dangling from his cracked lips as he searched around in his coat pockets for a lighter. “What’s your name, kid?”
“Alex,” He answered as he watched the older gentlemen sit down causally onto the stain-covered recliner that Hank loved lazing around in so much, one leg crossed over the other, a pant leg hiked up to his ankle, showcasing a hand-made silk knee sock and the left pair of the Gucci designer shoes he was wearing.
“Nice name, little man,” the man commented as his teeth chewed at the end of the cigar, tearing it out and spitting it onto the shaggy carpet, pieces of spittle and tobacco grit gleaming darkly in the white light as it began to stain the carpet.
“Do you know who I am?” he asked, pointing a bony finger to himself before flicking the end of his discovered zippo and lighting his cigar with a careful flick of the hand.
“Yeah…” Alex nodded vaguely, the corner of his mouth twitching upward, a little droplet of sweat tickling his tongue… He needed to clean that up, he thought, squinting his eyes at the beginnings of the tobacco stain. “Everybody in Roswell knows who you are, sir.” Alex drawled, forcing himself to focus his attention back onto the man’s dangerous, waiting face. His tone was still cautious and distant—and a little disgusted as he watched one of the guard’s feet stepping into the spit-covered cigar end, smearing it even further into the carpet.
Alex closed his eyes briefly, inhaling gently as he told himself not to worry about it. It wasn’t important… there were bigger matters at hand.
The older man snapped the lighter shut.
“Polite too.” He hummed offhand, a small smile playing at his lips as a puff of smoke came out in long streams along with it. “I can tell that you’re a real smart kid, Alex…” he said, and Alex shrugged at the man’s compliment on his ingrained sense of manners, not knowing what he was supposed to do—or feel about—a strange man’s approval… but he wasn’t completely surprised by the praise though.
Most adults seemed to like him for the exact same reason this man seemed to. “A polite, honest kid,” Nasedo continued, a proud tint to his words, “Who appreciates knowing what the score is right off the bat, am I right?”
“I just like knowing the truth, Mister.” Alex answered him simply.
“Well,” the man laughed, clapping his hands together in agreement as a cloud of smoke still filled the air around them. “Since we have no more reason for further introductions, I’m going to give you what a nice kid like you is owed, and tell you why I’m here and why I left this piece of shit alive…” The man paused, a hard glint forming in his intense and worldly stare, peering closely into Alex’s equally intense gaze… the serious dark pool of silver just looking and looking back at him, like they were trying to find something valuable—something vulnerable—within them... a deep and knowledgeable glance into Alex’s soul… a long, forgotten match that could come alive at the right jab of words.
Alex just continued to stare into his unrelenting gaze, his posture firm and confident. The old man could look into his soul all he wanted to; there’s wasn’t anything there to set aflame, anyways.
“I have a problem, Alex…” the man went on a few moments later, his gaze still intense… and prying. “A big problem… and it involves your father—“
“He’s not my dad,” Alex whispered harshly.
“I said he’s not my father,” Alex repeated, the bitterness still lingering in every word he said. “My father’s been dead for about four years now, sir…” He looked briefly over to Hank’s bruised body laying sloppily over the edge of one arm of the couch, his beer gut heaving up and down with every nasally breath he took, and Alex couldn’t help the curl of disgust his lips made for the second time today. Hank Guerin would never be his father… he could have been, somewhere in an alternate universe… maybe if Helen Guerin hadn’t— “Hank’s my foster dad.” Alex said suddenly, derailing his thoughts from going down that train of wistfulness.
“Fair enough…” Nasedo nodded, accepting. “May I ask who your father was? I mean you last name is Guerin now—“
“The women who gave me over into Hank’s care thought it was best if I didn’t have a daily reminder who my parents were…” he answered, a slight scoff to his tone as his mind briefly wondered to those long stored images of his mother and father, memories that unwillingly came unlatched from the deep, dark recesses of his temporal lobe whenever they were mentioned… the cool, hazy clips of how his childhood kitchen had smelt on those soft, spring mornings that he’d wake up to hear his mother and father singing to the LP Billie Holiday records they’d play on his great grandfather’s old turntable. His biological little brother cradled in-between them as they slow-danced… the soles of their slippers squeaking comfortably against the limonene as the somber vocals of the Billie Holiday lyrics he still could recite to this day rang pleasantly into his youthful ears…
I'll be seeing you
In all the old familiar places
That this heart of mine embraces
All day and through
Alex would smile, giddy with the love his young heart was filled to the hilt with, as he watched his dad humming softly to the words, his parents’ adult limbs embracing tightly around each other as his mother held on for dear life, her head buried deeply into his dad’s neck… Joshua cooing softly to the whispered words of forgotten love as a slight smell of burned pancakes on the skillet clung in the air…
I'll be seeing you
In every lovely summer's day
In everything that's light and gay
I'll always think of you that way
He didn’t know why, but this was always the memory his brain fell back on as he remembered that time in his short life. The smell of burned, yet delicious, pancakes and old, yet relatable, music of the yesteryears… a segment of his life where everything tasted sweet and innocent on his tongue—and hadn’t yet been tainted by the stinging of searing and abusive pain on his soul— before his entire family structure went to hell in a hand basket, and that burned smell was replaced by another kind of burning… a drug pipe, singed from overuse, along with the metallic and bitter taste of gun powder, blood and rage, filling his once happy memories… and the remembered sorrow of a time before his brother had dropped dead…
“My dad was Charlie Whitman,” Alex replied distantly, his voice far away as those memories—some not as pleasant as Billie Holiday and dancing—filled his mind.
“Oh, yeah,” Nasdeo said, his tone bright with recognition. Alex snapped to attention, his mind centered back into reality again, and his back ramrod straight as he waited to see what the old man would say about his parents. Nobody ever had anything nice to say about Charles and Iris Whitman. “I knew your father… and I definitely knew his wife—your mother, I guess.”
“Yes,” Alex ground out, his teeth grinding against the skin of his bottom lip and his tiny fists clenching, digging into the flesh of his palm as he tried to control his rage at Nasedo’s comment. “I’m sure you knew my mother well.”
“Most of the drug dealers did…intimately, of course,” Nasedo stated matter-of-factly, no emotion in his voice as his bald head turned away from Alex’s anger filled eyes as his own eyes looked around the room, his skinny fingers briefly dancing over decorative knick-knacks that Tess was always leaving around the house here and there to give it a more homey feel—Neither he nor Michael had the heart to tell her that this wasn’t home… that it would never be where their hearts lived—before his snake fingers stilled on a cooper-framed photograph— the only framed picture in the entire house actually— that Hank had put on the recliner’s end table, mostly lying ignored as all of them tried hard to forget that it had ever been taken in the first place… five smiling faces that had been warped yellow with age and drunken handling of the beginnings of what once could have been a happy, eclectic family…
“Who’s this?” Nasedo asked a moment later, his fingers stroking one of the faces in the photograph, and Alex felt his heart stop beating for a second… his breath quaking and his fingers pulling nervously on the hem of his black and blue flannel shirt.
Please don’t be asking about Helen, his mind chanted crazily over and over,
please don’t be asking about Helen…
Nasedo turned the picture over to face his line of view, his greasy fingermarks streaked visibly across the surface of the glass of the photo frame as he—“This young curly, haired girl right next to you and another young man…?” And Alex felt the air caught in his chest release, a long and loud sigh passing through his lips in a moment of relief—it wasn’t about Helen!— before being filled with dread again.
“My foster sister.” Alex answered easily, his brows furrowed with confusion. “Her name’s Tess… the boy next to her is her twin brother, Michael.”
“Where would they be?”
“Out. Somewhere playing in the snow.” He said. “Why?”
Nasedo ignored him. “Pretty little thing, isn’t she?” he said, his voice almost holding a dreamy like quality as he said the words, his long fingers still stroking streaks across the glass, and Alex breathed through his nose in an annoyed huff almost as if to stop himself from thinking about what those finger strokes meant….almost being the key word rolling around his brainy head, and the dubious content that they could hold and— if he freaking stroked that glass over Tess’s face one more time with that underlying look of predatory gleam… he was going to go batshit crazy over that bald bastard’s head!
“I guess so…” Alex said calmly a moment later, trying to keep the anger humming through his veins in check and out of his voice. He had already given Nasedo way too much ammunition to fire on them with. He wasn’t giving him anything else to use against him. “Sir, I don’t mean to be rude, but…. can we get back to why you’re here?”
Nasedo continued to ignore him, and Alex shifted uncomfortably as the man’s all-seeing eyeballs continued to scan the portrait with that predatory and hungry expression still ghosting over his pale features… and he had to force himself to take his already deep-seated hatred that he always felt boil under the surface of his being—almost as familiar as that memory of burning that had been left over in his senses, growing strong and blooming into the pit of his stomach and heating him up inside, flushing his cheeks red with rage—and point it in another direction… and his target was looking the slumped form lying on the couch.
Alex would be dammed if today was going to be the day that everything fell apart—and turned to black… and burning—just because Hank was stupid enough to piss off someone who was not only dangerous, but devious and vindictive…… a man whose made his living out of knowing people’s weaknesses and how to use them to gain the upper ground. Some secrets—no matter how inexplicable and disheartening they were—were meant to stay buried underneath the wreckage and rubble that had crumbled and fallen around them, solidifying into repressed memories and hard life lessons learned; secrets that were best left alone to stagger around in the dark, and never to be found… best laid plans be fodder for the masses to eat them alive with.
He wasn’t stupid. Mysteries buried deep in the dark would always be found and used against their captor… but he wasn’t about to let some unknown man, who was sitting in their living room chair like he owned the place and continued to poke around in their messy lives, be the one to discover them just because a drunken excuse for a human being wasn’t more careful about where he laid down his cards.
“Anyway,” Nasedo spoke pointedly a few beats later, breaking Alex away from his thoughts—
demons, he whispered to himself… he was being pulled away from his demons—and sighed, momentarily thankful to be outside of his own head again before he locked away everything that he was, and got back to the matter at hand.
Nasedo placed the picture back in its rightful place, his fingers still lingering over Tess’s face, and Alex felt his eyes crinkle a little at the corners.
The older man reached inside his coat pocket, and produced a small packet of a powdery, white substance wrapped tightly in plastic and the top sealed off by a thin strip of duct tape. “Do you know what this is, young man?” Nasedo asked, his face hard and serious again… the starry-eyed quality lost.
Alex looked at the offering in his hand, tilting his head in understanding as a deep dark twinge of another repressed memory washed over him… snort… blood… burn… snort… blood… bur— “Cocaine.” He answered back suddenly, once again trying to bury memories back into that deep cubby-hole reserved in his brain for such remembrances.
“Cocaine, right…” Nasedo smirked softly, his face still set like stone but his eyes crackling with pride. “And do you know what I want to do with this gram of cocaine?”
“Correct, and you know who I want to sell it?”
Alex nodded his head. Getting the big picture. He had known all along where the old man had been going with this conversation the moment he had pulled out that dime bag. “You want me to sell it,” he harrumphed as he remembered his mother snorting the shit up her nose before she had moved on to better and cheaper drugs. “And if I say no…?”
“You make it sound like I’m giving you a choice, Mr. Whitman…”
“It’s Guerin.” Alex hissed.
“Whatever,” Nasedo replied coolly. “Your foster daddy owes me, but unfortunately, the fat fuck has been shown not to be trusted as you can see.” He pointed to Hank’s bruised body behind him, “And I think an honest and fair kid like yourself would make an excellent replacement…”
“What about my siblings?” Alex asked, needing to know that they were included… and safe in any deal that he agreed to make with the devil. “Can they help? Will they be protected in this deal of ours?”
“I could use all the help I can get,” Nasedo replied, shrugging. He turned back to the still, unconscious body on the couch. “And I have a feeling you could use all the help you can get too…”
“Plus,” Nasedo pushed on before Alex could speak. “I wouldn’t mind getting to know Tessy-poo a little bit better…” He trailed off, his voice as smooth as water. It was Alex’s turn to ignore his double meaning. He wasn’t going to touch Tess if he had anything to say about it…and he did.
“What did he do?” he asked instead a moment later, his tone stern for an eleven-year old… but also curious. He wanted to know why a man like Hank was stupid enough to piss off the biggest mobster in all of Roswell, New Mexico. What had he done?
Nasedo raised his eyebrow again, a brilliant show of the vague curiosity and mild amusement he had shown earlier during their exchange resurfacing,
“Let’s just say that he won’t have the urge to beat up any of my call girls ever again…”
Alex frowned. Nasedo smiled, “So… do we have a deal?”
“J-j-just let me see the video-recorder,” Alex stammered out, clenching his side again as he felt another sharp wave of pure, unadulterated pain course through him. The memory slowly began to break away from him, becoming forgotten as his shaky hands gripped the dirty carpet below him, looking for any way to unleash his pain and rage at someone besides Michael Guerin.
Michael leaned forward, his hand inches from Alex’s shoulder… concern and regret wrinkled into the lines on his young—old, so old
— face. Alex snapped, “Fuck off, Michael…” he hissed, all of his barely contained rage and sorrow coming out in waves and waves. “I don’t need your help! I want to see the damn camcorder!”
He retracted his hand back to his sides as if it had been burnt by Alex’s rage. “Yes, Sire
.” Michael snipped bitterly, mock saluting him. He kicked his right foot lightly into Alex’s ribs as he got up and stomped over to the dresser and the sharp ping of agony radiated down the side of his ribcage with a yelp of pain.
Alex flipped him off, his breathing heavy as he felt the furious tears threatening to fall down his cheeks, the aggravation growing with every single second. The fury in his heart and the agonizing pain in his side continued to build—forever and ever expanding
— within him as he felt another ping of pain in his left side crash over him. The wet hot tears stung his retinas with the force it took to keep the groans and moans of discomfort locked away within himself.
“Here,” Michael said, throwing the device up in the air and over to him. Alex yelped again as it hit him smack in the center of his chest. He glared warningly, “You’re lucky that I caught that.”
“Whatever.” Michael dismissed his warning with a cold stare and a wave of his hand. “Is it to your satisfaction?” He bit out…and Alex was so
close to saying something he would have regretted about his belligerent brother’s remark that he was overwhelmingly
grateful… when he heard a familiar female voice ask loudly behind him, “Alex? Alex, are you okay?”
He looked up to see Tess standing behind him, hands on her hips and a look of intense worry laced through every contour of her pretty face, “Why are you on the floor?”
“Oh, great…” Michael complained huffily. “You woke up Tess.”
“Enough!” Tess spat out, her voice turning from worried to furious in a matter of seconds. She glared darkly at both of them, “You both woke me up with you stupid bickering!”
Michael rolled his eyes.
“It’s not stupid, Tess…” Alex mumbled grumpily.
Tess just ignored him, stretching out her hand to the black and blue boy writhing in agony on the ground below her…Alex accepted with a huff. “And you’re not going to meet Isabel covered in bruises from head to toe, Alex,” she stated firmly. “I’m sure she’ll—”
” He ground out, cutting her off as he jerked his hand from her grip. He was so sick and tired of having this damn conversation over and over again with two of the most stubborn people on the planet. It was done, over with… nothing was going to deter him from his mission. He had made his mind up on the matter a long time ago.
Tess just continued to glare at him, unimpressed. “Uptown’s over a four mile walk, Alex…” Tess reasoned blandly, the lines of her face betraying none of the worry she had displayed earlier… or any of the righteous anger that Michael was failing miserably to hide right now as he could see his brother practically vibrating with his barely contained rage.
“Let him walk out there!” Michael shouted suddenly a moment later when Alex began to open his mouth to once again rebuff their concern off like a speck of dirt lingering annoyingly on his shoulder. “Hopefully, his freaking legs will fall off!”
” Tess scolded, her tone outraged as she pinched the bridge of her nose.
Alex violently flipped him the bird once more, shoving the camcorder into the front pockets of his worn hoodie… feeling that old familiar madness of pain beginning to creep up upon his senses once again…threatening to bubble to the surface and consume everything that he was— but Alex planned to utilize that pain this time, hoping that it would propel him forward and out that front door and this house and away from Michael
. He wasn’t about to just sit there and take this from the stubborn brat! He’s wasn’t in the mood for a goddamn lecture… not when he had more important matters he needed to attended to.
Alex turned his battered body toward their splintered bedroom door, his swollen leg dragging limply against the fabric of the carpet as he tried to move to leave. “What I do—
” Alex began, but his words were interrupted by the soft plink of a round pebble hitting the bedroom window, bouncing off and back onto the ground below. Three more pebbles sounded off in quick succession of the other. Plink. Plink. Plink.
“Wha—?” Michael snipped in confused frustration, his eyebrows furrowed. “What was that?” He questioned further in irritation.
Alex sighed. “It’s Kyle.” He said with certainty, shrugging his less injured shoulder at Tess’ surprised expression. He resisted the urge to roll his eyes at her. He knew who it was the moment that very first pebble
came into his field of view. The Guerin-Valenti code for communicating to each other wasn’t as indecipherable to the outside world as they obviously seemed to think it was.
Tess just smiled fondly at Alex’s dry look.
“I’m supposed to hang out with him today…” She said, her voice trailing off to walk toward the window and open it. All of her earlier worry and aggravation disappeared as the untamed and unadulterated eagerness at seeing her best friend took over her entire body.
She waved down to the young boy below her bedroom window. “I’ll be down in a few!” She whisper-shouted to Kyle, her hands soon moving in sharp and quick movements to whatever question Kyle asked her… it’s movement seemed erratic and odd—its jerks and sways speaking an unknown language only known to the two of them… That was, unless you were Alex Guerin. He knew what her hand movements meant… what they said. It said: one minute. I have business to take care of.
Alex hummed a bit wistfully at the scene before him, a tiny smile of his own crossing his face as he thought of the sheriff’s silent, good hearted son. He was good kid… loved Tess with all of his heart… would do anything for her. Alex trusted it was the right kind of love and devotion too. He knew that Kyle would always take good care of his foster sister no matter what happened to them in this crazy, fucked up world—and for someone like him
to have that kind of unwavering belief in someone’s actions was extraordinary.
But Michael was a whole different story altogether. He wouldn’t ever trust anybody—besides the two people in this very room
—with what he loved most in the world. He was like a small child that would kick and scream their freaking head off if you ever tried to take away their favorite toy. He mistrusted Kyle’s unwavering love for Tess… questioned his unspoken devotion and constantly tested it… made him prove every single
move he made.
“Yeah, well, tell your boyfriend to use his words
and a telephone
next time like a normal fucking person, Tess…” Michael spat out spitefully, and the small smile on Alex’s face vanished quickly.
Tess frowned, balling her delicate hands into fists. “Fuck you. Don’t be rude
.” She hissed out in rage, slamming their bedroom shut with a bang.
“Besides, he’s not my boyfriend…” Tess finished through clenched teeth.
“Whatever,” Michael grumbled back, his entire body wound up in tension and begrudging guilt as he strolled back over to the dresser, pushing it away from the wall roughly. He cursed as he tried to yank out the two medium sized backpacks they always hid back there from behind the divide between the wall and furniture. “Here.
” He barked harshly when he finally pulled one of the bags out, throwing it into Alex’s face as he slung the other over his shoulder blade. “Everything’s in there for later, like you asked. I’m going to summer school. See you at eight-o-clock at the drop off.”
“Michael, come on…”
“No, let him go!” Alex shouted, slinging the backpack over his own shoulder…ready to get the hell out of here. He was done
with this bullshit! Let him run away like a little bitch if he wants to.
Michael slammed the door behind him a second later. Alex deflated at his absence, all the fight and righteous anger dissipating from his being.
“She needs me…” he trailed off, dejectedly whispering the declaration to no one in particular… but he still wanted—no needed
—for one of them to understand… for Tess to get what Michael couldn’t seem to. He couldn’t have this argument all over again for the second time. He made a promise
. Isabel needed
him…he had to save her
“I made a promise.” He said, tears welling at the corners of his eyes.
Tess sighed sadly.
“Somebody always needs you.” she said under her breath, her words and voice both soft…and resentful.