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Logan was defensive as it was, especially towards the few people he cared about, but even before Eleanor tugged on that wire it looked like he was ready to rip her apart! He might have only been a kid but with her extensive research, it was clear just how far Logan would go. Adam might have suffered under Logan’s influence of alcohol, but there was some hidden part of his mind that didn’t care about consequences. The only thing that stopped Logan from launching forward was watching the blood bubble on Jesse’s neck. That wire would slit right through if she pulled any closer and while Logan wasn’t a reader, he didn’t doubt Eleanor’s threats. He gritted his teeth, visibly shaking with rage as Pyke tied his hands behind his back. There was no fear in Logan’s eyes despite the situation they were in. He had been a hostage so many times in his life, he knew that they could survive this. The only regret was that he pulled Jesse into this. When he had his chance he’d make Eleanor suffer.
That threat only become more alive in his mind as Eleanor started to paint a picture in his family. She might have just been telling the solid facts, but there were some memories and some truths which Logan had avoided for most of his teenage life because of the feeling it brought up inside him. He could feel a pit in his stomach, which grew so heavy he felt like he was going to be sick. His chest felt like there was a weight pressing against it as she talked about his mother and when she moved onto Jack, for the first time, Logan couldn’t hold his tongue.
[#8B0000 “He’s more than just a criminal! He’s more of a father than you could even imagine!”] Logan spat quicker than he could think and the moment the words left his mouth an instant moment of shock spread across his face. He had been so angry at Jack! Moments ago he was doubting if any sort of bond could ever be repaired amongst the two but that simple slip up just showed how much Logan still cared for his dad, even if he wouldn’t say it to his face.
[#8B0000 “That’s if you get that far. I won’t let you beat us, you hear me? You’ve done your research, you won’t win!”] Logan shouted as he was shoved into the van, silenced as the doors slammed behind him.
There was no escape. No hope of anyone coming to their immediate aid. Logan wished there was something more he could do. He was desperately tugging at the binds on his wrists and maybe if his hands weren’t so busted, he might have at least have been able to slip the tape looser to manoeuvre more! What worried him more was how Jesse’s mask had dropped. She was having to take deep breaths to calm herself and the pain was clear on her face. He couldn’t let her suffer anymore because of him...
[#8B0000 “Jesse, first rule; we don’t blame each other, right? I can take more pain than you. If things get physical, you get them to turn on me. You understand? I can take it, but I need you for your words right now. Let me be the punching bag. Whatever you have to say to get them to turn on me, you do it. Jesse, promise me right now you’ll do that! I can take it! I know you won’t want to be if that bastard is as ready to cause us as much pain as possible, you get him to take it out on me. If they think we care about each other, you use those words of yours to change their mind. Promise me Jesse, please?”] Logan practically begged in a quiet whisper, knowing it was partially insane but she already only had a small cut on her neck and the pain was a lot for her! He would take every punch, kick, broken bone, cut, burn; whatever they could throw to save her the pain. Besides he had suffered it for most of us life - another injury wouldn’t bother him. While he didn’t have his fathers zero tolerance for pain, he certainly had a higher tolerance than the average person.
With Jesse’s instructions, Logan turned his back to her and squatted down to try and reach for the phone. It wasn’t easy with his hands bandaged as well, but just before it rang he was able to slip it into his palm.
[#8B0000 “Got it! Shit, Jesse... which button? This... I can’t... got it! Got it! Quick!”] Logan spoke quickly, hearing the warning signals of Pyke’s approach. As always he was impressed with just how much information Jesse managed to take in and relay but unfortunately, it was too late. Before she could reveal anything more he watched his friend slam down on the van floor and his hand gripped tightly around the phone.
[#8B0000 “Coward. You’re picking on someone who can’t fight back!”] Logan hissed, hating this predicament. The phone was inches away and Jesse’s parents would be able to hear everything. All he had to say was Eleanor’s name and it would be the clue they’d need! With Jesse in Pyke’s hands however and knowing just how dangerous that man was, he couldn’t risk it. He gave Jesse an intense look, begging her to follow the promise he whispered to her before. Little did he know, his own suffering was just about to begin.
[+grey “Well hurry up, you know I really hate babysitting and time is money! We could be planning our next one already but you’re so insistent we keep hold of these Brats? The price best be worth it. I’ll organise the little try-before-you-buy scheme but I mean it, I want the best price for these two. We’ve not had kids with a real reputation before and the more we can make those families suffer, the better. I have some connections who would pay more just to see them fall apart... I can send the deal out to them now, but you gotta swear the Sanders and Masons don’t climb back up from this! I’m not losing a single coin to those freaks.”] Dylan insisted his side of the deal but his voice, despite his demands, had no malice. Instead the greed came out as joy with the sheer prosper of just how much they could make. As Pyke’s van appeared, Dylan hung up on one phone just in time to see Logan holding another.
[+grey “Well I never thought you would ask...”] Dylan sneered, climbing into the van and grabbing the back of Logan’s neck with one hand, while snatching the phone with his other.
[+grey “Mr. Mason! What a pleasant surprise!”]
[#008000 “Who is this? Where is my daughter?”]
[+grey “I don’t like to ruin surprises Mr. Mason. Just know, we’ll be in touch in a few days. I suggest you follow my friends orders. No contact with the police, no attempts to play the hero. You sit back, relax, and wait... we’ll be in touch soon.”] And with that, Jesse’s phone went over the bridge and soon to follow was Logan’s who was squirming away under Dylan’s grip.
[+grey “Feisty little Brat, aren’t you? You know... you squirm just like your mother. She got pulled into a van, just like that one. You know that Logan? It’s where you were made. Seems only fitting to take you away in one.”] Dylan mocked, laughing for a brief moment until that mockery turned into a pain filled cry as Logan managed to twist around enough to sink his teeth into the mans wrist! Pulling the cigarette from his mouth, he slammed it into the corner of Logan’s lips, causing the boy the pull away with a splutter of ash and heat which gave Dylan enough of a chance to throw Logan down to the ground and pin him down with a knee to the back of the boys neck!
[+grey “Little shit! You’ve just got blood on my new suit! Pyke... make the girl scream and make sure she knows that her best friends disobedience is only going to get her in more trouble than she’s ever been in. I hope your friendship with Logan was worth it Jesse...”] Dylan growled, pulling a black hood from his pocket and smirking down towards Logan.
[+grey “I heard you’re a little baby still and don’t like the dark. Your daddy used to lock you in the closet didn’t he? Now you sleep with a night lamp, stay away from tight spaces... have you ever told your best friend that little baby Logan has a fear of the dark? Maybe it’s time we show her...”]
It was something Logan had kept to himself for as long as he could, hoping the eight years away from the Brat’s would lead to people forgetting about his fear but as soon as that dark hood was pulled over his head, he snapped. He could hear his mothers screams and while he was far too young to remember exactly what happened, the pain and fear rang through his ears and it all came in the darkness, mixing with his own desperate cries. Across the bridge his screams rang out, his entire body already shivering and fighting against Dylan’s grip, but he wasn’t done yet...
Dylan tightened the cord at the bottom of the hood so tightly, it choked Logan’s screams and he hauled the boy up, throwing him to the edge of the bridge and hanging him off - holding him by his jacket.
[+grey “And then your current daddy decided you weren’t enough! Lily died so he ended up so drunk he threw himself off a bridge! I could let go now... what do you think Jesse!? Should I throw him off? Tell your little friend to do as he’s told! TELL HIM!”] Dylan demanded with a sinister smirk, enjoying the fear and distress he was causing Logan who was barely balancing on the bridge with how much his body was shaking! His sobs could be heard through the hood and the muffled pleas for it to end.
[+grey “I mean it Jesse. Tell him, or his nightmare will only get worse!”]
[#008000 “So long as he wasn’t coming to hurt anyone else... We need to cover our tracks. If a low life from Eddie’s family knows our name, who knows how far it can spread. We haven’t got this far to lose it all now.”] Martyn added to Lisa’s thought process, not really focusing on his own injury . He hated to have the focus drawn on him and apart from the pain that came with injuries, he hated the attention it brought. Though he had to admit, as Lisa brought the ice pack he was grateful for that slight bit of relief. History proved that pain also affected his words and judgement and with how things were with Jesse at the moment, he really didn’t want to tip that balance and lose her trust because he said something stupid.
[#008000 “I’ll do what I can for Logan but either way, it won’t be a positive outcome. I don’t know how we are going to prepare Lily and Jack for the fact they probably will lose Logan for some time either way... we’ll figure it out, For now let’s just try and fix our own family problems for once.”] Martyn insisted, tired of his words with the Sanders and just like Lisa he wanted his daughter home and safe. Little did he know, their own lives were about to turn upside down.
The moment he heard Jesse’s voice, Martyn shot up on his chair and dropped the ice pack to the ground. The intensity in his eyes growing the moment he caught onto that panic - though he wasted no time. He quickly scrambled for a pen, writing down the details his daughter was passing. It was perhaps an odd way for a father to react, but this was no ordinary family. They were all about the details and Jesse’s voice alone told Martyn how important it was not to miss a single clue she was passing.
[#008000 “Jesse, what’s her name? Who is with you? Who... Jesse? Jesse it’s ok.... Jesse!? Ok, ok Logan, Logan you can hear me? Tell me the name. Logan are you there? No don’t speak to them, listen to me. Logan!”] Martyn hissed and as the new stranger took the phone, he barely had time to get a word in edge ways before the sound of the phone hitting the water echoed through the speaker and then... silence.
Instantly the phone slipped from Martyn’s hands and he was frozen in his chair, feeling the same pit of despair the moment he handed his daughter over the moment she was born. While it wasn’t his own actions, he still felt the same sickening betrayal in his stomach. His little girl was in danger and there was no obvious clue of who had done it...
Apart from one... they knew Jesse and the family were Mason’s. What if the attack on Martyn was Eddie’s families way of causing a distraction to start the kidnapping?
[#008000 “We need to go to Jack and Lily. Do we... no. No we can fix this. We don’t need to involve the rest of the Brat’s yet. We just need to stay calm, figure this out. We can figure this out.”] Martyn closed his eyes as he spoke, as if already planning his next steps and trying to calculate their best move. It was quick, trying to hide the emotion that was building up that only Jesse or Lisa could pull out of him on rare occasions. He stood up, not wasting time to grab his coat and the piece of paper with the limited clues scribbled on it.
[#008000 “No, we contact Larry and Caleb. We have the registration of the vehicle. They must be able to find something. Then we deal with this. I... I don’t really know Lisa. We’re not Leaders I... I don’t know what to do I...”] It suddenly came out - the panic that was very rare from Martyn but it was there. He went so into autopilot he didn’t even realise until the moment he grabbed his coat, ready to leave on a hunt but for what? And where? And to do what exactly? Martyn didn’t have those answers and for once, he was outside his own control. He was used to having all the information and knowing who to manipulate and with that phone call he missed his one chance to say the words that could make the difference.
[#ff00ff “I’ve got to hand it to you Logan, you’re loyal. Most of the kids I’ve dealt with were more than eager to rat out their parents for all the little things they’ve hated about them, but you: you’ve got more reason than most to hate your mother and step father, yet you’re fully willing to defend them. Too bad. If you had been willing to cooperate and give me the evidence I needed, I would have had enough to remove you and that new little baby from your mother’s care. Now I’ll have to get creative.”] Eleanor said as she grabbed Jesse, seeing no need to continue her act. She had no patience for heroes, so as Logan took his protective posture and demanded that Jesse be released, Eleanor simple tugged a little tighter on the wire, making sure to slit the skin just enough to make her bleed. Jesse had very little tolerance for pain so despite her best efforts, she couldn’t help the small whimper that slipped from her lips at the sting around her neck.
[#ff00ff “Oh, I know all about your family, Logan. Your mother, the daughter of two of the cities most respected police chiefs, who suffers from severe PTSD, allies herself with the infamous gang of Street Brats, and married the alcoholic son of the man who raped her. Your step-father, has a criminal record for stealing long before he joined the Street Brats, that even your magical pardon can’t erase, and he himself has been known for causing fights and resisting arrest. It won’t be hard for me to convince a judge that they are unfit parents who may have had a hand in your disappearance. After-all, if they were afraid you’d rat them out for child abuse, they might have just killed you off like your real father did with his first-born.”] Eleanor explained, revealing that she’d certainly done her research. She was meticulous, planning out every detail as she had done with the 13 other kidnappings over the past 8 years that she had helped orchestrate. No one had caught on to her yet and this case certainly wasn’t going to change that.
Once the children were loaded into the van, she gave her orders, making sure she could be overheard by the brats inside. Leaving them in the capable hands of her associate, Pyke, Eleanor got back into her car and made her way to her next stop to build her alibi. The first ransom call would be soon and she wanted to be sure she had a witness to account for her at the time the call was made. Eleanor was only about ten minutes away from her next stop when her phone rang.
[#ff00ff “Have I ever let you down before? Patience, Dylan, the kids should be arriving at the bridge soon. Pyke will have to stop to interrupt their attempts to call their parents, but once he handles that, they’ll be at the bridge within the next few minutes.”] Eleanor said confidently. She had made sure her orders to Pyke were loud enough to be overheard, wanting the kids to know they’d only have their phones for a short while longer. Those brats are resourceful; they’ll try to find a way to contact their parents before the phones get taken and Pyke will be able to intercept. It was all part of Eleanor’s plan. She wanted the kids and the parents to underestimate them, so the ‘mistake’ of allowing the kids to make contact will end up working in her favour. And, it has the dual benefit of giving the opportunity to show the parents they wouldn’t tolerate any lack of cooperation from either side.
[#ff00ff “Give the girl back? What, am I an amateur? Of course we won’t be giving her back to her parents! But I still want that ransom money. I say we drag this out a little, don’t sell the kids too quick. If we hang onto them for a couple weeks, leading the parents on, they’ll be too scared not to pay. Once we have the ransom, we can sell the girl off just like her friend and the parents will be left alone, broken, and poor with no one to blame but themselves.”] Eleanor explained. She had been down this road before. If they rushed things, the parents would be too tempted to involve the police or try to make their own demands: proof of life, a live exchange, ‘give us our daughter, then we’ll give you the money’, and all that other bullshit. But drag it out, let them feel the pain of knowing their precious little girl was in the hands of violent, merciless kidnappers who weren’t afraid to harm her on a whim, they’ll be desperate enough to offer up the cash even without a guarantee!
[#ff00ff “These two are both former Street Brats. Trust me, you’ll get your money’s worth. In fact, if you want to drum up some business before the sale, why not let your buyers test out the merchandise? If we want to drag this out for a while, keep the kids for a few weeks and see if your buyers want to spend a few hundred dollars for a sneak preview? I bet there are people willing to pay for a few hours with a Street Brat kid, so long as they don’t kill them yet.”] Eleanor suggesting, always trying to think of ways to get more money.
Soon she was arriving at her destination, catching sight of the house just as a young man was getting in his own vehicle and driving to work, leaving his wife and young toddler at home alone.
[#ff00ff “I have to go. Pyke will make the initial contact with the parents, then he’ll bring the kids to you. Just make sure you don’t let the two get too close. They’re resourceful and very protective over each other. We can use that to keep them in line. I’ll join you in about an hour.”] Eleanor assured him, trusting both Pyke and Dylan to keep the kids occupied until she arrived. In the meantime, it was time to set her alibi.
[#ff00ff “Excuse me, Ms. Kira Mason? My name is Eleanor Carrow, I’m with Child Protective Services. I have a few questions for you regarding your close friend, Mrs. Lily Sanders. Do you mind if I come in?”] Eleanor said to the young woman with the little toddler in her arms. Hearing that CPS was asking about Lily and Jack made Kira nervous, but she tookt his as an opportunity to defend her best friends. Hopefully she could say something to convince the woman that Jack and Lily were good parents, and in the very least, she could see what this woman wanted and call to warn her friends once she left.
Jesse tried to do as Logan instructed. She took a few calming breaths and tried to relax her arm, but the angle was twisting the broken wrist tightly and she couldn’t seem to ease the pain. Her neck was red and raw from the wire, with a small cut wrapping around the front – nothing life threatening, but it certainly looked worse than it felt.
[#aa0000 “I don’t think it’ll matter. That man was easy to read – he’s mean, short tempered, and he wouldn’t think twice about hurting us. Besides, we already let slip one of our weaknesses. Eleanor heard me step in when she mentioned your mother and she saw you surrender when I was being choked. They know we care about each other and they’ll use that to keep us in line.”] Jesse warned him. It wasn’t good: first, it meant that the kidnappers would easily hurt one of them in order to force the other to behave, second it would play on their guilt of getting each other hurt. Logan and Jesse would have to stay strong and try to remember that none of this was their fault if they wanted to keep a clear head in this.
[#aa0000 “Yeah, my phone is in my back left pocket…can you reach?”] Jesse asked and as if on cue, the cell began to ring. Unfortunately, the ring was set a little louder than Jesse intended and as soon as the sound echoed through the back of the van, the vehicle suddenly pulled over and the front door slammed, indicating their kidnapper was coming back to check on them!
[#aa0000 “Logan hurry! It’s the button on the top right to answer the call! Can you… hello? Father?! Logan and I have been captured! White commercial van, tinted windows, license plate ADSN 314. One man, tall, dark hair, small scar on his chin – and a woman, name is… AH!”] Jesse knew there wasn’t time to waste. They were already at the bridge! She could hear the man stalking around the van, messing with the lock on the door and ripping them open so fast, she was startled they didn’t fly off the hinges. But before she could spit out the name of their attacker, Pike reached out and locked his hand around Jesse’s ankle, tugging her so sharply, she slammed against the floor of the van, landing with a sharp spike of pain through her broken wrist. Pike glared at the boy, noting the phone still in his hand.
[#776677 “You, boy, you tell whoever the hell that is that if they ever want to see you or the girl alive again, they’d better keep their mouth shut. If they call the police, or tell anyone else about this, I’ll be shipping you two back in pieces!”] Pyke growled, dragging Jesse out of the van. Eleanor was right – the kids did manage to get a hold of one of the parents. Perfect. She said they’d make their official demands in a couple days, but to be sure to let the parents know they were serious about harming the kids to scare them into complying. Pyke was more than capable of making the twerps scream, but why take all the fun for himself? He could see Dylan already waiting for them and he motioned for the man to join them.
[#776677 “Now, we were going to do this nice and quick – make our demands and have you two home with your families by tomorrow. But it seems you both need a lesson in following instructions. So now, we’re going to wait a few days before we call your parents to make our demands. And if you or the girl do anything to make our job harder than it has to be, you’re going to regret it. And if I hear any whiff of the police getting involved, or either of your parents trying to play hero, I’ll start cutting off fingers. Understand?”] Pyke demanded, knowing Logan was still holding the phone still connected to who he assumed was one of their parents.
[#776677 “But before we take that phone from you, I think we better make sure your folks know better than to think we’re bluffing. Hey Boss, you wanna give the kid a taste of what’ll happen if they don’t learn some manners?”] Pyke offered, keeping Jesse in his own tight grip while stepping back to let Dylan deal directly with Logan. He knew the phone was still recording everything and he wanted to be sure the parents would be scared for their children’s lives before he disconnected the call.
[#aa0000 “No, no! You don’t have to hurt us! We’ll cooperate! We won’t fight you! Don’t hurt Logan!”] Jesse cried, reading in their faces just how far these men might go!
Lisa appreciated the honesty. That was one of the benefits to her partner being one of the only Street Brats that didn’t fall into their bad habits. He didn’t try to lie or hide the truth for her [i protection], he was honest with her, trusting her to handle the information. That was probably why for the two least romantic people in the Brats, Martyn and Lisa had managed to keep their relationship so strong.
[+green “He knows we’re Masons? That makes him dangerous… we can’t exactly call the police and report this as an assault if it risks him spreading our real identities. Still… I hate that you had to face him on your own. I haven’t seen bruises like that on your face since the prison break eight years ago.”] Lisa noted. She stepped over to the kitchen, returning moments later with an ice pack to help ease the pain of the bruising. She knew Martyn didn’t like being coddled, but she hated seeing him in pain. The least she could do is give him something to take the edge off.
The threat of a man bursting into their home and attacking her partner was worrisome enough, but it got Lisa thinking about how far a dangerous man like that would be willing to go. Suddenly, her mild concern for Jesse being out was growing into a considerable fear. What if that bastard attacked their daughter? She was a witness to the crime and one of the only people able to testify that Eddie and Adam had made the first move and provoked Logan. Although, by the exhausted look on Martyn’s face, Lisa could tell that their daughter’s testimony wouldn’t make a difference. Logan was in deep trouble and this time, no fancy words or strong connections would get him out of it. Lisa bit her lip in sympathy for Lily. She was so desperate to have her happy family safe and together… losing Logan would destroy her.
[+green “CPS is investigating already? I thought they’d have more time… Logan’s too old to be adopted, he’s too much trouble to be put in a foster home… if CPS takes him, he’ll be placed in a group home for troubled kids and that will ruin any chance that boy has for a bright future. If he pleads guilty, opts into therapy and rehabilitation. What do you think his chances are for a reduced sentence?”] Lisa asked, knowing even that would be a hard sell. Even if they could play to the sympathies of a judge, Logan himself would need to publically admit his wrong doings, apologize to the victim, and willingly take a juvie sentence in order to gain any leniency and Lisa doubted Logan would be that cooperative.
[+green “I know there’s only so much you can do Martyn. Logan crossed a line this time and words can’t fix everything. I just wish there was some way to keep that family together. Lily’s lost enough.”] Lisa said, sitting patiently as her partner took out his phone. More than ever, she wanted Jesse home safe. The upcoming conversation wasn’t going to be pleasant – the only thing harder than explaining all this to Lily would be to tell Jesse her friend was going to be convicted for his attempts to protect her. But this wasn’t just about Jesse – she was likely still out there with Logan, and if that boy got into any more trouble, there would be nothing at all Martyn and Lisa could do to protect him.
Logan, much like his mother and father, felt emotions intensely. Just like his parents he bottled it up until a day ... or week... forced everything out. It seemed this week was the one that finally pushed him over the limit. His dark humour which he got from Jack was almost gone, and his sarcasm was diminished. Almost. Seeing the sly smile on Jesse’s lips and her rebellious attitude on normality, even Logan couldn’t help but give an impressed smirk in return. He hadn’t heard so much confidence in Jesse for awhile! She was always happy to build up everyone else’s confidence, but to hear her speaking about herself in such a way genuinely made Logan feel proud for her.
[#8B0000 “Give me warning next time so I can record you saying this shit and I can throw it in your face whenever you doubt yourself.”] Logan threw back, allowing the smile to last for a few moments before things got more in depth again.
She was right, as always... if he left it wouldn’t just be about trying to stop his trouble disrupting his parents life. He had heard his mothers panic attacks which she tried so desperately to hide. He had heard her cry, heard her nightmares, heard Jack try to calm her down... she tried so hard to keep it a secret but Logan had witnessed it so many times and he was scared of the day she would break. It was also why he was so angry with Jack. He was out and about getting used as a punching bag to avoid his drinking but Logan wasn’t entirely sure that Jack knew how close Lily was to breaking! She never did recover from her own past and Logan didn’t account that if he left, he might be the very reason she crumbles. Especially now that she was pregnant. It seemed the pregnancy was playing with her emotions more than ever. Still... maybe by some miracle Jack would keep her together if Logan did finally get taken away. Maybe by some miracle, it would be a weight off his mothers shoulders.
At least Jesse had his back no matter what he decided to do. Though little did he know that his decision would be taken out of his hands in mere moments. The woman who seemed to be intervening with his life to protect him, was far from what he perceived. Still, his originally impression didn’t make him trust her anymore. First came her insistence to speak to him, then came her point blank accusations about Jack!
[#8B0000 “My very violent fight was to defend my best friend who had her wrist broken by a very violence bully. Maybe you should go poke your nose at him instead?”]
It was as Eleanor moved to his mother that his fists clenched and luckily his friend was there to stop the woman was daring to speak another word. Logan had a lot of triggers and Eddie and Adam discovered that the hard way, especially when it came to targeting his mums character.
He was so lost in his frustrations as he started to storm away, he hardly heeded Jesse’s warning. Why would they run from that creep? When Jesse tugged on his arm, he shrugged himself off, scowling as he did wondering why they were having to be so dramatic about some hag who was harassing them. It was only as he felt the distance grow, and he felt her presence disappear, that he finally turned to see Jesse with the wire around her throat! Instantly he pulled his bandaged hands from his pockets, clenching them tightly and taking a threatening step forward.
[#8B0000 “You let her go! This has nothing to do with her!”] Logan snarled, having no idea that this was exactly what the woman wanted! He was ready to take the risk and charge forward, but as he saw the much larger man approaching, he gritted his teeth and lifted his hands in surrender.
[#8B0000 “Her parents will figure it out. My parents will be after you. You’re messing with the wrong family!”] Though his threats would be in vain. He painfully felt his hands being pulled behind his back, before being thrown into the van with his best friend. He was thrown with such force, his chest slammed to the floor but he was up just as quickly as he was down! Running to the back of the van, he slammed his foot to the door, giving it a few attempts before he collapsed back against the wall, panting with anger that they had gotten in this situation. He should have just stayed at home! The danger was quickly escalated as the man knocked against the side of the van and his eyes looked up at Jesse, seeing the pain and fear growing in her expression.
Not wanting to piss their kidnappers off more, Logan lowered his voice to a quiet yet comforting whisper.
[#8B0000 “We’ll figure something out Jesse. Don’t apologise! Look at me. We’ve survived things like this before, alright? We’re Street Brats, remember that ok? Relax your arm as much as you can, don’t fight against the restraints and do what they say. Don’t get yourself hurt trying to fight for me. We’ll play the game until we can figure something out. Your mum and dad will know somethings wrong... we’ll get out of this.”] Logan assured her, stepping forward as close as he could.
[#8B0000 “Do you have your phone? Is it in your pocket? Just incase... Maybe if I turn my back to you, I can get my hand and reach your phone and answer if they ring?”] Logan whispered even quieter now that the was closer. They didn’t have much time but if luck was on their side and Jesse’s parents were as paranoid as he thought they were, maybe they had a chance!
It wasn’t just Eleanor who was in on the operation. Waiting on the bridge was a tall man, with slick jet black hair that was greying to the sides and a thin beard. He wore a full three piece suit and looked stiff, rigid, and cold just with the look in his eyes. While Eleanor could play the game of a comforting authority figure, Dylan Lynch was the opposite. He was cold, calculated, greedy and was one of the top organised criminals in the city. He was known for his connections of finding children to exploit to criminal gangs, to even going as far as being part of the modern day slavery chain. If a gang, organisation, or illegitimate place of work needed someone, he could find the people... for the right price. It all started with the steel factory. When they lost an employee, he could easily scramble one up; but then he climbed up. Gangs often needed cannon fodder to put into high risk situations and what better than some kids who wouldn’t be missed? It was good work with high stakes and an even better cash reward!
As he waited at the bridge, leaning against the rail with a cigarette hanging loosely from his lips, he lifted up his cell phone with Eleanors number already ringing.
[+grey “El, are they on their way? I’ve got clients up to my eyeballs bidding for these kids.”] Dylan spoke up, balancing the phone between his cheek and shoulder as he pulled out a secondary phone which was buzzing away in his pocket, checking the stream of texts of gangs calling out to him.
[+grey “Do we really have to give the little bitch to her parents? She’d make a killing on the streets and that other brat, well he’s just an easy sell. Look, I’m on the bridge waiting. They best be what you promised me. If they’re not I’ll happily throw them from the side and go out hunting again. Street Brat kids have a good price on their heads and there is plenty of them out there!”]
In the Cull household, Martyn was sat on the armchair with his head hung back and his hand lingering over the bruises on his jaw. He was struggling with the small amount of pain. It had been awhile since he had experienced any kind of attack and he didn’t know how he managed with some of his Street Brat beatings! It was a subtle reminder of a silver-tongues weakness and one he didn’t want reminding of! As he heard Lisa’s voice he was partially grateful, but he could already sense the questions; why didn’t you tell me? When did this happen?
He didn’t bother hiding the truth. Instead he sat up and looked at his wife straight in the eyes as she started with her questioning.
[#008000 “Eddie’s Uncle decided to pay us a visit today. He knows we’re Mason’s... I couldn’t risk calling for help. Not with our family name at risk...”] Martyn explained though every word made him wince; as per the intention of the attack.
[#008000 “Jesse hasn’t come home yet... I’ve been anxious but, she’s out with Logan. I thought she would have called by now. I’ll phone her, but that boy...”] What words could he say more? That boy had exhausted all his energy. While he searched for his phone through the mass of papers, he knew his own confessions weren’t over. He knew Lisa would be reading the stress on his face and would see it wasn’t just down to the attack mere hours ago!
[#008000 “Logan’s case is impossible. If they really wanted to, they could go as far as attempted murder since Adam had to be resuscitated upon arrival at the hospital. Lily phoned... CPS was at her door and I couldn’t tell her... the defence is either get Logan to plead guilty to try and lower his juvenile sentence or surrender him to the CPS to avoid prison. She won’t be too happy with us right now but after the attack, with everything I’ve looked into, with Logan’s continuous outbursts I just... I’m not a miracle worker.”] Martyn spoke up honestly, knowing there might be judgement and anger towards his decision but there was only so much he could fight with this case! Also the Uncle’s threats was still lingering in his mind. He really couldn’t risk Lisa and Jesse getting into danger because of the Sanders decisions and now it wears coming on their doorstep. The bruises showed it!
Finally finding the phone, Martyn dialled Jesse’s number and put his own phone on loud speaker, so Lisa would be able to hear as well.
Jesse, glanced at Logan out of the corner of her eye when he started defending her. The words didn’t both her. In fact, she almost took pride in the names they threw as insults. Freak, Psychic… people feared what they didn’t understand, and the very fact that those assholes were intimidated by her skills was something Jesse was somewhat proud of. She wasn’t the type to fit in with her peers. Even among the Brats, Jesse was often the odd one out. She wasn’t as affectionate or supportive as the others, she didn’t need nor want the constant chit chat or incessant attention that Rylan, Alex, and Carla seemed to crave. Jesse preferred sitting silent most of the time, and hated being judged for not speaking up. That’s one of the reasons she liked Logan so much. With him, there was no pressure. He didn’t fault her for just being herself and he never demanded anything different from her. In truth, aside from her mom and dad, Logan was likely the only other person in the world who Jesse actually cared what he thought of her.
[#aa0000 “What if I like being a Freak?”] She asked, giving her friend a sly smile.
[#aa0000 “Being normal is overrated anyway. I don’t care what they call me, Logan. [i Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.] Those assholes don’t matter to me. You do.”] Jesse told him, stealing a quote from the great Dr. Seuss. Maybe all those nights babysitting for her cousin Kira’s new baby were paying off. She never would have been caught dead reading children’s books otherwise!
[#aa0000 “No one [i moves on] from losing someone they love. Trust me. My dad was gone for the first two years of my life and Mom was shattered. Then I finally got dad back and my mom was taken, and Dad was just as numb and lifeless without her and she was without him! And you saw what your mom’s death’ did to Jack. There’s some pain that just doesn’t heal, Logan. Do you really want to cause you mom that kind of pain?”] Jesse asked, poi ting out that some wounds never healed over. The Brats could talk all they wanted about ‘watching over each other from beyond the grave’, but there were some Brats who had never recovered from losing the person they loved. Hell, Axel went on for years without Asha, but he was never truly the same. After losing Simon and Lily, Nola literally died, slowly and agonizingly of that heartache. If Jack and Lily ever lost Logan… Jesse wasn’t sure they’d survive it!
[#aa0000 “Well, too bad Logan, because you’re going to be an influence on that new baby whether you’re here or not. If you ran away, that kid is just going to grow up thinking it was their fault for driving away their big brother. They’re going to think you don’t care about them; that they’re unwanted and unloved. Just like you felt when Jack neglected you as a kid. Look… if you don’t want to be a part of that family… if you really don’t want to be a part of that baby’s life, or your mom’s , or Jack’s… then we’ll figure something out together. But I just want to make sure you’ve thought this through. I promised you I wouldn’t let you do anything you’d regret, remember?”] Jesse told him. She would support his decision in the end, even if it meant shattering Jack and Lily’s family. Jesse would never force Logan one way or another, but she needed to know he had thought this through. It wouldn’t be so easy to change his mind later on and pretend like nothing happened. If he did run away, if he abandoned his parents, if he missed out on that baby’s birth, he wouldn’t ever be able to get those moments back.
Unfortunately, it seemed Logan wasn’t the only one who was considering breaking the Sanders family apart. Eleanor sure seemed determined to prove Logan was being mistreated. From what Jesse could tell, she was just concerned. She clearly wanted to know the truth and she wasn’t buying Logan’s lies about not being hurt by his step father.
[#ff00ff “A good role model? Logan, you and I both know that’s not true. I know you’re facing charges with the police. You snuck out of the house, got drunk, likely off of stolen booze, and then you got into a very violent fight that landed a boy twice your size in the hospital. Are you telling me none of that follows your step father’s example?”] Eleanor challenged. She flipped to a new page in her clipboard, one that had some background information on Logan’s family.
[#ff00ff “Jack Sanders, wanted for multiple counts of thief, public intoxication, assault, resisting arrest… Not exactly what I would call a good role model. And your mother…”]
[#aa0000 “Don’t you dare say a bad word about his mother.”] Jesse hissed bitterly, narrowing her eyes in a fierce glare. She knew it was a sensitive subject for Logan and she wasn’t going to sit here and watch this woman pick at the vulnerable areas in Logan’s family life. The woman didn’t seem overly malicious. She looked like she genuinely wanted to help, but Jesse wasn’t going to let her manipulate her friend, even if she thought it was for his own protection.
Jesse turned on her heels, taking a step away from the car, but as she turned she saw a white commercial van with tinted windows pull over and a tall, muscular man get out and start walking towards them at a determined speed. It took mere seconds for Jesse to read what was clearly displayed in his expression.
[#aa0000 “Logan, run! RUN!”] Jesse urged, tugging in Logan’s arm. Everything about that man screamed danger and Jesse knew they had to get out of there now! She took a step away, accidently backing straight into Eleanor. At first, she was almost relieved! She may not trust the woman, but she was duty-bound to protect children from this kind of harm, right? She would be able to protect them? Or at least give them a ride someplace safe! But before Jesse could turn around, she felt the cold, unforgiving vice of a wire wrap around her neck like a garrotte. The wire was tight against her throat, cutting off her voice and restricting her breathing until all she could muster were a few chokes gasps. She couldn’t even struggle because every slight move made the wire cut deeper into her skin, letting the blood bead menacingly around the wire.
[#ff00ff “Enough games. Logan, if you run, I’ll wring her neck.”] Eleanor hissed. The man grew steadily closer, clearly working with Eleanor as he pulled out a role of thick duct tape to use for restraints.
[#ff00ff “Be smart about this, Logan. Look around: there’s no cameras, no witnesses… this is a bad part of town, no one would think anything of two troublesome kids getting themselves killed just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. So unless you want to forfeit both your own life and your friend’s, I suggest you cooperate. Put your hands behind your back and let my associate tie you up. You try to fight, run, or scream, and you’ll get a front role seat to your friend’s last moments, do you understand me?”] Eleanor demanded. Even if Logan did try to struggle, the man was twice his side with the muscle mass to force whatever compliance they needed. He reached for Logan’s arms so he could tape them together behind the kid’s back. Once Logan was secured, he kept a firm grip on the back of the boy’s neck while Eleanor lowered the garrotte wire and took the tape to bind Jesse the same way. Jesse cried out when her broken wrist was roughly pulled behind her back and taped to her other hand, but Eleanor was quick to slap a hand around her mouth to silence her. It wouldn’t matter, there was no one around to hear them, but Eleanor wasn’t taking any chances. The two kidnappers shoved the teens into the back of the van – the entire process taking mere minutes, with no witnesses.
Jesse took a quick read of the van – the handles had been removed on the inside and a thick metal gate was installed between the front of the van and the back, meaning there was no possible way for the prisoners to escape without help from the outside. Eleanor had been right about there being no cameras on the streets, so any hope of the Street Brats’ techies, Larry and Caleb, seeing what happened to them was slim. What scared Jesse more was that she didn’t read any of this from Eleanor! The woman had fooled her completely! Her wrist was in agony, twisted behind her back and bound with tape so she couldn’t get free. The fear was starting to set in as she heard Eleanor delivering her orders outside the van.
[#ff00ff “Take them as far as the bride, then ditch their cellphones, watches, jewellery, anything else you can find on them. I’ll set up my alibi, then meet you at the first location tonight. As far as my research proved, the girl is valuable – her parents are well off and they care enough to pay a decent ransom for her. The boy… his parents care, sure, but they’re dirt poor. Fortunately, I’ve got a source that says someone might be interested in purchasing him for a good price. We’ll wait a few days before we make the ransom calls. If either kid give your trouble, start breaking fingers.”] Eleanor’s cold, merciless tone was a starch comparison to what she used when talking to Logan and Jesse initially. It seemed like she had mastermind this entire thing! Even her investigation of Jack and Lily was a mere excuse to test how much the parents loved their child and how much they could afford to pay. Eleanor had planned every detail to cover her tracks and send the police looking in the wrong direction. This wasn’t personal, this was just good business! With any luck the Culls will pay a hefty ransom for their daughter and Logan will be sold off to anyone with a grudge against the Street Brats or his grandparents the police chiefs!
[#aa0000 “Logan, I’m sorry! She’s a con, just like your grandmother! She was playing a part so perfectly… she was impossible to read! And if I can’t read her… my mom won’t be able to read her either.”] Jesse admitted, shocked seconds later by the pounding on the side of the van.
[#777766 “Shut up back there! Keep your voices down or I’ll beat you both bloody, understand?!”] The man’s gravelly voice rang faintly through the walls of the van. After a few seconds, he got into the drivers’ seat and started the vehicle, heading for the bridge out of town.
Lisa woke up with a feeling of unease. She felt almost nauseous, like the world was tilting on her and the ground wasn’t quite solid under her feet. Call it mother’s intuition, but Lisa knew something was wrong. She glanced at the clock, realizing she had been a sleep for a couple hours. She got out of bed and hurried to Jesse’s room, finding it empty. She must not have returned from meeting Logan yet. Odd… Jesse was still a little hung over when she left. It wasn’t like the girl to stay out so long when she wasn’t feeling well. Jesse, much like her parents, didn’t like to show any kind of weakness or vulnerability if she could help it, so Lisa had firmly expected her to be home and in her room recovering.
Lisa’s next move was to head downstairs, thinking maybe her partner had heard something. But she wasn’t prepared for what she saw.
[+green “Martyn? Have you heard from Jesse? I thought she’d be back by… oh my god, what happened?”] Lisa demanded, crossing the room in quick strides so she could get a closer look at the bruise forming on Martyn’s jaw and the stress in his eyes.
[+green “Are you alright? Who did this? Is… Is Jesse…?”] Lisa felt the unsettling feeling grow as she considered the possibility that Jesse was here when Martyn was attacked. Was she hurt too? Was she safe? Had she been taken? Threatened? Why wasn’t Martyn telling her anything?!
It was only as the silence settled between the two that Logan was sinking back to his regularities... he instantly hated the fact he talked about his feelings. It wasn’t for the fact he opened himself up to Jesse; she was the only one who he could open up to! It was more about feeling like he messed up his attempt to explain even further. He didn’t really understand his feelings himself. Logan had learned to deal with his feelings much like Jack. Either by throwing a punch or letting his mouth run ahead of his thoughts, or of course, the over use of humour. So while the fact Logan had sat there and attempted to talk things out was a huge step, for Logan it almost felt like an embarrassment. He was meant to be the strong one for his friend, the one who protected Jesse and the one who didn’t let his emotions overwhelm him but frankly... he was exhausted. He was tired of the fighting, tired of holding all his feelings in until he exploded and in his head there was only one option... accept his upcoming fate, get taken away from Lily and Jack and let them move on with their new family.
Of course it wouldn’t be that easy now that his best friend knew the truth. As she twisted the perspective and brought her own case forward, Logan stared ahead as he often stubbornly did, avoiding her eye contact but clearly listening. She really was the only one who could get him thinking about his thoughts but for the first time in years, there was something fighting back. Something that was saying she was wrong, even though deep down he knew her words were the positive actions he was hiding from himself.
[#8B0000 “You know I wouldn’t turn my back on you. You’re worth every fight, every hour in detention, every disappointed look I get from my mum when I come back with another report card... you’re different. You’re not a freak Jesse and I hate that you call yourself that. I don’t fight back against the bullies for you to believe what they say. Should I believe that I’m a murderous monster because that’s what they think I am now? If I’m lucky enough to walk to school on Monday without the cops picking me up, you think they won’t think I’m a freak too? Does that mean we should listen to them? Besides... I don’t want the popularity. I want an actual friend. No one else really understands like you do.”] Logan partially lectured back, his eyes hardening at the thought of every person who had ever called Jesse a freak. He knew he shouldn’t have taken the limelight - Jesse was the one trying to knock sense into him! Only if he was opening up, he might as well say something a little useful. He wasn’t going to just sit there and listen to his friend put herself down - even if she was doing it to prove a point and even if it was slightly hypocritical with the way Logan was talking about himself!
When Jesse talked about how Jack and Lily didn’t walk away or give up on Logan, there was a brief flash of a smile that came on his lips. It instantly brought back the memory of when he met Jack again after years of thinking he was dead. He resented his arrival, throwing words at Jack like he was a punching bag. Jack of course carried the Sanders stubbornness and he never gave up. He stayed by Logan’s side and then there came that one moment when they were sat together, on a park bench, where Jack was sharing his memories of Lily and for the first time, Logan thought he had a father. It was the closest he ever got with Jack in that brief moment but it seemed in this family, moments didn’t stay alive forever.
[#8B0000 “I know they love me. People don’t put up with people like me for so long if they don’t care for them. I just think their lives will be better if I’m gone. They’ll feel the pain but they’ll move on... then I won’t be a bad influence on a new life. I’m a bad influence on you Jesse, you can’t deny that. I don’t want to keep corrupting everyone around me.”] Logan tried to get his point of view across, but of course Jesse had her own counter. Asha, Axel, and Tigan were just one example within the Brats. No doubt there was countless other stories... even hearing about Carlos and Niki. Carlos ran away time and time again when he thought he was ruining the family but he was always pulled back in.
While the conversation didn’t shed the doubt from Logan’s mind, it certainly gave him food for thought. As she agreed to walk, Logan gave a sigh of relief and pulled himself up to his feet, feeling his whole body ache as he did. If he had his way he’d stay hidden in the dark away from anything that could make his hangover worse, but Jesse was right - fresh air was probably better than breathing in a chunk of dust in an abandoned shop!
During the walk there wasn’t much in an exchange of words. Logan’s head hung low, with his broken hands tucked into his hooded jacket as he thought over and over again between the words Jesse told him, and the doubt circling in his mind. He was so lost in thought that be barely realised a stranger had pulled to their side until her voice interrupted their actions. Logan stared at the lady, shrugging when she asked if he was who she was looking for and side glancing to Jesse for any clues whether this was friend or foe. Though as the woman introduced herself from the CPS, a lump jumped to Logan’s throat. This was what his mind had been calling for. If he did what she asked, gave her the answers she wanted, he would get taken away. He knew he would probably get passed from foster home to foster home with no stability, but maybe it would give Jack and Lily the stability they needed for their new family.
Shaking his head as Jesse recommended calling his mum, he kept his eyes on Eleanor, almost getting pulled into her enticing tone. He didn’t trust her and he knew how much his life would change but he kept thinking it would be for the better...
Until Jesse’s words came back to his mind.
[i “you won’t have any kind of bond with them at all if you leave.”]
Then there was the image of his time with Jack and when he returned. If Jack had never come back, he never would have had a father .
As if the memory had sparked some kind of change in Logan, he tucked his hands tighter into his hoodie to hide his injuries and even took a slight step back from the car to try and hide the lingering smell of alcohol from his breath.
[#8B0000 “I don’t get what you mean?”] Logan started, raising an eyebrow at Eleanor.
[#8B0000 “My mum loves my dad, that’s probably why she is so protective. So um, yeah, makes sense. Has my dad ever hit me? No. In fact he’s been a good role model. He taught me never to talk to strangers, so I think me and my friend will be going now.”] Logan responded with what appeared to be a pleasant smile, but was filled with nothing but resentment towards the woman.
[#8B0000 “Oh and, what did you say your name was? Eleanor? You can keep following me but I’m not going to play to your little game. My mum and dad might not be perfect, but they’re my mum and dad and they’ve got me through more than you can imagine. I don’t trust you at all. I don’t trust that after you’ve got me, you won’t try and make my parents lives even more of a hell. Come on Jesse, let’s go.”] Logan urged, taking another step back and quickly nudging Jesse with his shoulder while he kept his hands in his pockets. He wanted to get out of there for two reasons; the first was if she saw the physical evidence of his injuries it would be enough to prove her case but also he was scared his doubt would quickly take over. It took all his strength to defy Eleanor and it was taking even more strength not to turn away and tell her the truth to be taken away. Something told him however that Eleanor wasn’t going to give up so easily...
[#ff6622 “Technically my trigger was ‘Tigan, I think I‘m going to drink again’ and that was enough to pull him out in the middle of the night to knock some sense into me. Stumpy came from the fact that – in the middle of the night, Tigan didn’t have time to put on both his prosthetics. You can only take so many punches from that club of a forearm without making some snarky remark.”] Jack returned, replying back with his own dark humour. But he could see in Lily’s eyes that light teasing and his classic smirk was not going to get him out of trouble this time. He sighed and lowered his eyes. He knew he was using Tigan as a crutch. Any time he felt close to crossing that line, he counted on his best friend to pull him back. Honestly, Jack was about to argue – not seeing how this was a bad thing if it meant keeping him sober. Jack didn’t feel any pain and he trusted Tigan not to hurt him badly. But when Lily brought up the point about being a role model to their unborn child, Jack swallowed back his counter.
[#ff6622 “I’m sorry Lily. If it happens again, I’ll try to find some other way to let off steam, I just… I can’t risk picking up that bottle again. Last time I did, I destroyed any chance I had of being a father to Logan. I’d take the bruises over the booze any day. But if you want me to find another outlet, I’ll try. You just gotta be patient with me Lil.”] Jack asked her. He would give it an honest effort. Jack would go to the gym, he out for a run, try anything he could think of to let off the adrenaline and keep him grounded, but if none of that worked, he’d still use Tigan as a last resort. No matter what the cost – Jack was not going to drink again.
That was about to get a lot harder with the pressure of CPS coming down on them. The vile woman rhymed off every uncertainty Jack had! His violence, his history of drinking, the fact that he wasn’t Logan’s real father , and the crushing reality that Jack wasn’t a good father to Logan, so how could he be a good father to this new baby? Jack was about to open his mouth in his own feeble defence, but soon found he didn’t have to. As always, Lily was right by his side, fighting just as strongly to keep their family together. Jack didn’t know what he ever did to earn her loyalty and affection, but whatever it was was unwavering.
[#776677 “Don’t blame the city for your own short-comings Mrs. Sanders. There are others in the same predicament as you and they’ve seemed to manage getting through life without abusing or neglecting their children. I may not have the evidence I need yet, but I will after speaking with your son. If Logan corroborates any of my suspicions, that’s all the evidence I need! Can Logan honestly tell me that your husband has never once laid a violent hand on him? Will Logan tell me that neither you or Jack have ever abandoned him? And what about this baby? Will Logan tell me that this is a new, happy addition like you two seem to think it is? Or will he admit that this is a replacement! An attempt to start over with an unblemished child? Children are not objects, Mr. and Mrs. Sanders – you can’t just buy a new one and throw out the broken ones! I will be speaking to your son. Let’s let Logan decide how he feels about his mother and step-father.”] Eleanor stated in response to Lily’s defense. Each accusation was like a knife through Jack’s chest. He knew that Eleanor was right about most of it – he had hit Logan when he was just a kid, both he and Lily had abandoned him after their own apparent deaths, and it was clear this morning that Logan did see this new baby as a replacement. Jack wouldn’t be so worried if he had a better relationship with Logan. Lying to CPS was hardly a reach for the former Street Brat, but what if Logan saw this as a way out? What if he told the truth?
Jesse sat in silence for several moments, letting her best friend voice his fears. It was clear that these feelings weren’t recent. Poor Logan had probably been harbouring these anxieties for years and now it was all coming to the surface. Jesse could understand his concern – there was once a time when she had felt something similar. Jaesse had never been a trouble maker, but having lived the first three years of her life with one parent or the other, never both, she had suffered the constant feel of being a burden on someone who had never wanted a child. Jesse’s own fears were less about getting into trouble and more about not living up to expectations. When she was young and lost her voice, she had been terrified to face her parents – scared that Martyn and Lisa would see her unable to use her talents and cast her aside like a broke tool. It took years for Jesse to finally start trusting the unconditional love of her parents. Eventually, she realized that her mother and father didn’t care about having a protégé, they just wanted a relationship with their daughter. Jesse’s worry was that Logan wouldn’t give himself or his parents time to develop that trusting relationship.
Jesse had learned a long time ago that there was no point in arguing with Logan. Countering his point of view would only solidify his beliefs and make him fight harder to defend them. Instead, she needed Logan to come to the realization on his own. So instead of answering Logan’s question directly, Jesse took a few minutes to ponder the situation before seemingly changing the subject with a different, yet related perspective.
[#aa0000 “I cause you a lot of trouble too, Logan. Eddie’s right about one thing: I am a Freak. No matter where I go or what I do, someone’s going to realize that and target me for it. Of all the fights you’ve been in this year. How many of them started because you were defending me?”] She asked, already knowing the answer: most of them.
[#aa0000 “It would be easier on you if I wasn’t here. You’d get along better with the other students, you wouldn’t get into so much trouble, and you wouldn’t get excluded from all those parties that the hosts don’t want me involved in. You could find new friends… better friends who don’t weight you down or hide behind you like a coward. If you could turn your back on me and start over… would you?”] Jesse asked, glancing up at her best friend. If you looked at things objectively, most of the Street Brats would have found it easier, safer, and more convenient to turn their backs on each other and start a new life. In fact, many of them tried at one point or another. But one very important thing brought them back together: one critical game-changing factor that Logan seemed to be forgetting.
[#aa0000 “Your parents love you Logan. You can get into as much trouble as possible, piss them off, and push them away as hard as you can, and they’ll still never turn their backs on you. It’s not about obligation. Both Lily and Jack had the opportunity to walk away and start their lives over again when everyone thought they were dead, and both came back for you. And as for being a big brother…”] That one was harder. Jesse couldn’t really relate to Logan on this one. Xana had been taken from Lisa when she was only a baby, and Jesse had lived the first 8 years of her life without even knowing her sister! By the time they met, both had grown into their own unique personalities, raised at first to hate each other, and eventually finding some common ground. Even now, Jesse and Xana got along, but they were far from close. At this point, Jesse saw her as more of a friend than a sister.
[#aa0000 “My Uncle Tigan was sort of Grandma Asha and Grandpa Axel’s fresh start. My father said that Aunt Hayden was jealous at first because she didn’t think she’d have a place in their new, perfect family. Through the years, they fought, they argued, they let each other down… sometimes in almost fatal ways. But they were family. And they made it through all of that together. I don’t know what kind of relationship you might have with your baby brother or sister. The only thing I know for certain is that you won’t have any kind of bond with them at all if you leave.”] Jesse offered.
When Logan asked whether she was sure about staying by his side, she cast him a glance and raised her brow as if to say [i “Do you really have to ask?”] And of course, he didn’t. Logan knew she answer without Jesse even needed to speak the words. When he asked if they could stay out for a while, Jesse nodded. She knew her parents wouldn’t like it, but they would also understand that this was important to her. Jesse didn’t blame Logan for needing some time to himself after the fight he had with Jack last night and the life-changing announcement this morning!
[#aa0000 “Let’s go for a walk. If you’re as hung over as I am the fresh air might do us some good.”] Jesse suggested, hoping it would give Logan a chance to clear his head and consider his options. Besides, they had been running low on luck lately, and there was ever a time that Jesse did not want to be caught breaking in to a vacant building, it was the night after Logan’s potential assault charge!
They hadn’t been walking very long before a grey car pulled up beside them and rolled down the window. Having been raised as Brats, Jesse wouldn’t be surprised if Logan was just as wary as she was about strangers cornering them on the street! But this woman didn’t look like she was interested in causing them any harm.
[#ff00ff “Logan? Excuse me, are you Logan Sanders? And you must be Jesse Cull? Don’t be afraid, I don’t mean you any trouble. My name is Eleanor, I’m with Child Protective Services, and I was hoping we could talk? Logan, I met with your parents this morning, but I’m worried they may not have told me the whole story. I’d like to hear what you have to say. Maybe… could we step into that coffee shop and talk for a while? I’ll treat you two to anything you’d like! I just want to ask you a couple questions.”] Eleanor’s demeanor was completely different than what Jack and Lily had seen before. She was open, friendly, with a soft tone that was trusting and inviting. Even Jesse couldn’t seem to find any insincerity in her expression.
[#aa0000 “She’s not lying. She is from CPS and she did speak to your parents. I don’t know Logan… maybe you should call your mom?”] Jesse suggested, not entirely sure what to make of this woman.
[#ff00ff “You can call you mother if you’d like, but after my experience this morning… I’m a little concerned Mrs. Sanders might try to sway your answers, Logan. She seemed very protective of her husband. You can trust me, Logan. I just want to make sure that you’re safe and that you’re being treated well. Your step father… he has a bit of a drinking problem, doesn’t he? And he seems like the type to go looking for fights. Has he ever hit you, Logan? You can tell me Logan. Whatever you say stays between us; your mother and Jack never have to find out. I just want to know the truth.”]
[+orange “You go in, looking for a fight, and your trigger word is Stumpy?”] Lily asked, raising an eye-brow in half disbelief at her husband and half trying not to laugh! Only Jack and Tigan could beat each other up over name-calling. If it wasn’t one time too many, Lily might have laughed a little bit more, but despite Jack’s attempts to try and humour the situation and the slight smirk on her own lips, there was a stern seriousness in her eyes.
[+orange “I mean it Jack, it stops. You need to find a new way to blow off steam. Go work out or punch a punching bag but not more bruises, cuts, and hurt egos. I want Logan to see a father who isn’t a punching bag and I want our baby to grow up knowing there are better ways to deal with crappy emotions.”] Lily warned him, needing Jack to take a step in actually managing his emotions. She knew it was slightly hypocritical... at least Jack was trying to deal with his emotions head on while she tried to hide hers from as many people as she could, but she was scared that one day it would go too far and perhaps it was feeding into Logan’s own behaviours!
Lily’s attention was quickly brought from her husband, to the woman who invaded their home, judged their lives, and was trying to further rip it apart. Despite her still features, Lily even guessed she was partially enjoying the idea that she could take Logan away! So, naturally, in a true McCleeve way, Lily was ready to argue her case the whole way! Only as Eleanor noted down Lily’s demeanour, Lily had to bite her lip to stop herself from raining hell down on this woman! She was taking everything she could to prove her own case and as much as Lily didn’t want to feed into her defence for taking Logan into her custody, it was becoming increasingly impossible to hold back.
[+orange “Jack has helped that boy in more ways than you can ever understand, so I am going to ask you in return not to make assumptions of my husband; and don’t you dare. Jack is Logan’s father, so don’t try and say otherwise.”] Lily spoke up in her husbands defence, willing to sacrifice another strike against herself if needed but she couldn’t stand back and just listen to Jack get beaten down by this stranger!
[+orange “My husband is a recovered alcoholic. I got a job because I wanted to support and understand how to help my husband with his recovery and how to maintain it. We are barely making enough, because everyone seems happy to judge rather than give him a chance. We’ve been thrown into a normal life with hardly anyone wanting to actually help! Now you step in, not even offering a helping hand or advice on how to help us? As for your latest statement, I never once said I was above the law. I looked up to my parents so much, and I know the law well... you can’t take my child without enough evidence and right now you have a snapshot of our family.”] Lily countered but as she watched Eleanor writing more down on her clipboard, she was biting her lip so hard she was almost biting right through! This woman was building a case with every single word that was exchanged and Lily was terrified they were already losing their son! Logan was out, they had no way of protecting him and she already knew if she tried to call his phone he wouldn’t answer.
As Eleanor made her exit, Lily was quick to follow her behind and as soon as she left, Lily slammed the door behind her and equally slammed her hand on the frame as she did!
[+orange “How dare she come into our home and think she knows our family! Stupid ignorant bit...”] Lily shouted to no one in particular, resting her head against the door for a few moments as she took a few panic filled breaths.
[+orange “Martyn can’t fix everything Jack, he’s already struggling to defend Logan but I’ll call him. We need to get Logan home...”] Lily thought out loud but as Jack asked his final question, she turned to him with dread in her eyes.
[+orange “They’ll take him and they won’t let us have contact with him again. That boy already has so little faith in this family... if he is taken away, he’ll blame us and his trust in the world will be shattered. I just... he just needs to come home...”]
Finally pulling herself from the door after controlling her breathing, Lily still had a look in her eyes that seemed to appear like the oxygen in her lungs could be stolen at any moment and she’d choke in a panic again! She had been so used to trying to hide it, she quickly walked past Jack and grabbed her phone from the kitchen counter, dialling for Martyn’s number...
Martyn was working tirelessly for the Sanders. It had only been a few hours and he was already surrounded with stacks of papers, law books, case files and his computer was open with emails, bouncing back and forth with all his sources to try and get as much information as he could. As always he wasn’t one to sit and work. He was pacing around the living room, speaking out his case to himself until he was stopped by the sound of a knock on his front door. Usually Martyn would have found it odd that someone was visiting, but he was so distracted he didn’t think twice. Holding a bunch of papers in his hands, he walked to the door with his eyes never looking up from the words on the page. His free hand instinctively reached out, opening the door when suddenly the papers went flying from his grip, he felt his back slam against his hallway wall, and a sharp grip covered his mouth.
[+grey “You threatened me nephew?”] The perpetrator, with a low gruff voice, tightened his hand around Martyn’s mouth and snarled a familiar snarl to anyone who knew the family... this was a relation to Eddie....
[+grey “My Adam nearly died and I ‘ear your the one defendin’ the little shit who did it? I know where you live now, I know your work place ‘cause you ‘elped my brother, didn’t you? If you say a fuckin’ word, if you stop my son from gettin’ justice, I’ll make you suffer. You understand? Your little girl will ‘av more than a broken wrist. Oh, and don’t say a fuckin’ word to that wife of yours... Mason...”] The uncle threatened with one final squeeze of Martyn’s jaw before throwing Martyn away from his grip and leaving the house.
Knowing Lisa was upstairs catching a few more hours before coming to support with the case, Martyn closed the door quietly before looking in a mirror to see a deep bruise already forming on his jaw. He was never good with pain and even though the attack was minor, the threats were enough to bring a flicker of panic in his eyes. His family was now threatened and even worse, the family he was making a case against knew the his families real name! Turning his eyes back to the papers in the living room, Martyn felt his stomach churn. If he carried on defending the Sanders, he could be putting his entire family in danger. Jesse was already facing enough danger being friends with Logan but now it seemed the families tendency for trouble was now spreading right across! Staring in the mirror felt like an eternity as he tried to figure out his next move, but he was quickly snapped out of it by the ringing of his mobile.
Seeing Lily’s name, Martyn closed his eyes with his thumb lingering against the ‘close call’ button. He couldn’t... the risk, his family...
The phone rang out, but then Lily’s name appeared just as quickly as it disappeared. Swallowing back the panic, Martyn finally answered the phone.
[#006400 “What do you want Lily? I... CPS? What was the agents name? Did she show you proof... No Lily I can’t go looking for your son... I.... I don’t know Lily! I need... Lily... Lily...I am trying my best but I need time! I need... “] Martyn started but as Lily’s voice echoed through his phone, Martyn did something he hadn’t done for years. He lost control.
[#006400 “I am not here to clean up every bit of mess you make Lily! Do not phone again!”] Martyn snapped, hanging up and slamming his phone down on the table. The shouting alone already ached his jaw but there was a anger in his eyes which even he couldn’t hide.
He already knew he made a mistake. He wouldn’t be surprised if Jack wasn’t knocking on the door soon to beat him black and blue for speaking to Lily the way he did. Martyn walked half way down the corridor, only to reach the stairs and sit down on the first step. While the Sanders had their own pressure points, so did Martyn. He couldn’t risk his family and if he did, he wasn’t sure his words could protect them and if he failed the Sanders - then what would it all be for?
Jesse had all the evidence she needed to see that Logan wasn’t in a good place. He was hardly looking at his best friend, the emotions were clear in his eyes and voice, and with Jesse’s joke back he just let a lingering silence follow. He usually let out his frustrations much like his father... by getting into some sort of trouble. Jack went for fist fights, Logan lived off the adrenaline of knowing he could get another detention, or staying out too late, or maybe a bit of a scuffle with some people from school... only for the first time, he was exhausted.
Logan had gotten in so much trouble because in his own way, it was what he knew best. Now the consequences of his actions were building up but he didn’t know any other way to manage his feelings! If he went out and caused more trouble, he’d just be ruining everything for everyone else. He wasn’t surprised when Jesse rested her head against his shoulder... it was rare the contact was needed but when it was, the two had a way of making their presence known when words couldn’t do the situation justice. He closed his eyes, grateful for the comforting gesture.
[#8B0000 “Do you think it would be better if they could replace me though? Or if I just went missing... Jack he...he did it, came back and he’d changed. I’m causing too much trouble and I can’t stop, it’s addictive. Maybe if I just disappeared from them, they could have a few years without the stress, without the worry. The baby would grow up away from everything I cause...”] Logan spoke out as Jesse shared her perspective. She was the only one who could coax him to speak and somehow get him to articulate what he was thinking.
Logan had thought about running away before. He remembered he saw Lily having a panic attack whilst Jack was in work, muttering how she wished things were easier after seeing one of Logan’s reports. He knew he caused that. He knew the trouble he brought to their doorstep. He saw the shame in his mothers eyes when a police officer would bring him home and they would ‘tut’ at the idea of a McCleeve raising such a child. If he ran away, they’d miss him, they’d hurt but eventually they’d move on. Somehow. Just like Jack needed his alcohol or his fights, Logan knew he wouldn’t be able to shake of the habits of getting into trouble. It was his own stress relief and one he never really admitted to until now. As he was growing older those risks were growing bigger and bigger and now with the law on his families doorstep, his own troublesome antics were quickly catching up! His family didn’t deserve the hassle but whenever he tried to talk, his cravings for that adrenaline just led him arguing with them! It seemed right now Jesse was the only one he could have a peaceful conversation with.
[#8B0000 “I’m scared I’ll mess things up as a big brother...”]
It came out of the blue, and as he spoke Logan looked down at his bandages to see most of it was blood red with how tightly he had been squeezing his hands into fists. It was almost symbolic of how his actions had left a stain in the family name and caused so much destruction... how could he have a sibling close to him when all he did was cause chaos?
Then, he was taken back by something he never would have expected. Feeling a hand under his chin, Logan finally stared his best friend directly in the eyes and let every string of emotion show. The pain, fear, regret, anger, frustration... everything. It all poured into his best friends eyes as she read everything that was going on.
[#8B0000 “Are you sure Jesse? You really don’t have to put up with me. One day it is going to be too much and I’m going to get you in trouble which we won’t be able to get from. I care about you too much. You’re the only person who actually had faith in me and you never gave up when the rest of the Brats did. I’d run away, I’d leave if it meant you’d have a better future. Do you really mean it? You really mean that you want to stay by my side?”] Logan asked but Jesse was opening herself up so much, you didn’t have to be a skilled reader to know everything she was saying was the truth. Finally, Logan cracked a smile of relief but his eyes were still showing doubts about what he should do regarding his family. At least for now he had someone he could care about by his side.
[#8B0000 “I might get us hurt, but that’s my job. No one else is taking that away from me...”] Logan finally joked back, grinning as she brought up how he kept her safe and protected her.
[#8B0000 “Can we stay out for a bit? I... I really don’t want to go home right now. I don’t know what I want to do...”]
Jack was never one to live by how others saw him. For good or bad, Jack tended to make u his own mind about his own self-worth and ignore the world around him. When he was little, it was a survival instinct. Between his parents calling him a waste of space, a burden, and a failure, to the rest of the city thinking he was nothing but a criminal, a pickpocket, and a drunk, Jack had learned he had to figure out his own identity instead of relying on public opinion if he wanted to have any self-confidence left at all. But there was one exception to this: Lily. Jack thought the world of Lily, which meant that he cared exclusively about what she thought of him. It was the reason why Lily’s teenage crush on Tigan hurt so badly – Jack thought she saw him as second best! But now, when Jack’s confidence was low and his own self-worth was in shambles, it was Lily’s reassurance that carried him through.
[#ff6622 “Hey, a couple bruises isn’t so bad. At least I’ve stopped falling off of bridges! But seriously Lily, I’m fine. You know it doesn’t hurt me and Tigan would never do anything c=to cause any real damage. I just need some way to let off steam sometimes, and picking a fight with Tig is usually my best option. Besides, I deserved it. I called him Stumpy.”] Jack replied, twisting his grin into a smirk at the end. Another primes example of how Tigan and Jack tended to turn serious issues into childish pestering – Jack would often tease his best friend about his hands… or lack of. Tigan’s rash, stupid decision in prison had left him completely unable to fight, until Elliot designed him some functional prosthetics. Jack never wanted to see Tigan get that low again, so he constantly reminded him about how reckless he had been. No different that Tigan’s constant jabs about Jack’s tumble off the bridge years before!
But the humorous jibes and banter would have to wait. The tone of the conversation grew serious again as Lily insisted that Jack wouldn’t be working at the factory. He didn’t blame her – he wasn’t excited about risking life and limb for a paycheck either, but with a new baby on the way and only one income, he didn’t like their options.
[#ff6622 “I’ll call Larry. Maybe he can dig up some other jobs that don’t require a clean record or relevant work experience. But if I can’t find anything… Lily, you know I’d do anything for this family. I’ll figure something out. I’m just worried what Logan’s going to think.”] Jack said uneasily. On one hand, he wanted Logan to know that his actions had consequences, but with all the tension in the family right now, having Logan blame himself for Jack’s termination would only make things worse! But if Jack hid the real reason for being fired, Logan might think he’d just done something to screw up, only adding evidence to Logan’s thoughts that Jack was a shitty father.
[#ff6622 “Can you blame me? You literally rose from the dead just to give me shit for getting into trouble!”] Jack pointed out with a grin as she kissed him before heading to answer the door. Unfortunately, the grin wouldn’t last.
Eleanor may have said she was here for an investigation, but it was pretty clear from her temperament that she had already made up her mind. As Lily snapped back, Eleanor didn’t react. Instead, she calmly took out her pen and started scribbling on her clipboard, muttering her notes under her breath:
[#ff00ff “Mother is ill-tempered and uncooperative…”] She muttered before raising her eyes to meet Lily.
[#ff00ff “You may want to watch your tone, Mrs. Sanders. Firstly, I came unannounced because that’s how Child Protective Services, CPS, works. If we give notice, the parents tend to put on an act and hide any evidence of abuse, thus interfering with our investigation. Secondly, you claim that your son’s exposure to violence was limited to his trauma as a young child? Yet your husband has clearly been in a very recent altercation. Tell me, Mr. Sanders, so you think you’re setting a good example for your son? Or rather, your wife’s son?”] Eleanor questioned, clearly striking a nerve in pointing out Jack’s indirect connection to Logan.
[#ff00ff “Mrs. Sanders, I know your history and I know what both you and the boy have suffered through, yet I see a very real risk of your placing yourself and your son in a similar risk. You married a man with a history of alcoholism, you took a job surrounding yourself with addicts, You and your husband are barely making enough to sustain your lifestyle and now you’re bringing a new child into this world? I have severe concerns, Mrs. Sanders. You’re connection with the late Chief McCleeve may have bought you certain leniencies with the law, but I assure you, that won’t work with me. You’re not above the law, Mrs. Sanders, and If I can prove this is an unfit environment for raising a child, then no pardon is going to able to stop me from taking Logan.”] Eleanor insisted. She jotted a few more notes down on her clipboard, being sure to include the fact that Lily was pregnant in case they needed to do a follow up once the child was born. For now, her main concern was finding the boy. Logan showed extreme violence and aggression towards other children and was clearly rebellious enough to sneak out and get into trouble. Eleanor needed to find the boy to first make sure he was not a danger to himself or others, but also to hear firsthand how Logan felt he was being treated. If he corroborated her suspicions, she would have the boy removed from his parents’ custody and placed in a foster home as soon as she could!
[#ff00ff “Until I speak with your son, I have no reason to believe a word of what you say, Mrs. Sanders. So far, I’m not impressed. I suggest you contact a lawyer for some advice on child custody. I will be speaking to Logan and if he confirms that he is being mistreated by either of you, I will be filing to remove him from your home.”]
[#ff6622 “You can’t take our son!”] Jack argued back, raising his voice and straightening his stance, but Eleanor didn’t seem even the least bit intimidated.
[#ff00ff “We’ll see about that. According to my records, you two have an anniversary in a few days. I recommend you take the time to enjoy your family while I lasts. I’ll be back to continue my investigation once Logan’s home. Good day, Mr. and Mrs. Sander.”] Eleanor dismissed herself, wanting to take a drive around the city to see if she could spot the boy. It would be much easier to interview him without the parents present. All she had to do was get Logan to say something incriminating against Jack or Lily and she’d have everything she needed to convince the judge to let her remove the boy from their care.
[#ff6622 “Lily, maybe you should call Martyn. It looks like we have more than just Logan’s assault case to worry about. Logan’s pissed off at me about last night’s fight, and this morning’s announcement threw him off. I have no idea what he might say to that horrible woman, but if he says the wrong thing… they wouldn’t really take Logan away from us, would they?”]
With her father’s words ringing in her head, Jesse made her way towards the old, abandoned shop her and Logan had found months ago. It too her a little longer than usual to get there, with her lingering hangover and the constant ache in her broken wrist, but soon she was slipping through the back door and stepping into the main room to see her best friend. Logan looked like he was on the verge of tears, and that itself was enough to concern Jesse.
[#aa0000 “Flattery isn’t your specialty, Logan.”] She retorted in a light, teasing tone when he mentioned her rough appearance. But the joke was Jesse’s way of testing the waters. Logan and Jesse bantered and teased each other all the time, trading quips and insults as easily as breathing! If he wasn’t in the mood for a humorous retort, then she’d know this was serious. To confirm her fears, Logan turned his eyes away from her, not allowing her to read him. He only ever did that when he was trying to hide how upset he was. And then the truth came out: Lily was pregnant.
Jesse paused for a moment, letting the words and their meaning sink in before she acted upon them. She could hear the pain and betrayal in Logan’s voice, even without being able to read his face. But Jesse was patient. She stood in silence while Logan gathered the courage to speak, and finally he turned his eyes back to her, conveying everything he wasn’t able to put into words.
Jesse and Logan weren’t much for physical contact, but in these rare occasions Jesse was willing to give any comfort to her best friend that he needed. Before saying anything, she walked over to Logan’s side and sat beside him, leaning against Logan slightly, so he’d be able to feel her presence even without looking. She even leaned her head against his shoulder, proving that regardless of what her parents said, she trusted Logan and wanted to be there for him.
[#aa0000 “They’re not trying to replace you, Logan.”] Jesse promised, knowing that Logan had battled that fear since he was a little kid.
[#aa0000 “You and I… our childhoods didn’t start out very good. We both learned early on that love was conditional and limited. I thought my mom and dad only loved me because of my skills, and with Lily presumed dead and Jack off drinking, you weren’t sure you had someone to truly love you at first. So it’s hard for us to think of sharing what love and affection we get with someone else.”] Jesse explained. She had read about the trend in one-child families of the kids fearing that another child would somehow make their parents love them less. It was so much worse for Logan and Jesse who didn’t have their parents’ love from the start. And with the recent tension between Logan and Jack, and the increase in Lily’s panic attacks whenever Logan go into trouble, Jesse could understand how Logan could feel like Jack and Lily might just want to start fresh with a new baby.
[#aa0000 “But I’ve read both Jack and Lily, Logan. I know they love you. I’ve seen it. A new baby won’t change that.”] Jesse told him, relying on what she’d read in Jack and Lily over the years. She had seen the fatherly pride in Jack’s eyes, and the motherly warmth in Lily’s. She had watched the parents struggle against all odds to do what was best for their son. And she had seen their faces last night: no matter how much trouble Logan got himself into, both Jack and Lily were far more scared and concerned than they were angry. Because in the end, as long as Logan was safe and alive, they could deal with anything else. They weren’t just going to shove him to the side as soon as a replacement baby came along.
Jesse wasn’t sure what more she could say to Logan. She knew he trusted her words, but in situations like this sometimes he just had to see the truth for himself. But that wasn’t the only battle Jesse would be fighting. She was caught completely off guard when Logan suggested that she turn her back on him. Jesse hadn’t heard Logan this doubtful about their friendship since they were kids and he found her buried under that demolished house! Was he really questioning their bond now?
Jesse knew this one would take a firmer approach. She slid across the floor so she was in front of him, not beside him, and staring directly into his eyes. Jesse even placed her palm under his chin to ensure he didn’t try to turn away from her again. She read him carefully, noticing every little flicker of his eyes, every twitch of his lip, and any sign of poorly hidden emotion until she could guess what had happened to see him off. Jesse’s eyes narrowed in bitter frustration as she learned the truth.
[#aa0000 [“Jack is an asshole.”] She stated bluntly, which may have seemed like a random statement, but Jesse knew that only Jack could have cast this much doubt in his little brother’s mind. Jesse dropped her own mask completely, making sure Logan could tell she was being honest with him as well.
[#aa0000 “Listen carefully, Logan: I don’t care what my mom and dad think. They’re not going to stop me from spending time with you, because you’re my best friend. You’re the only person in the world who understands me! And you’re the one of the only people I can honestly say I trust. I don’t care how much trouble we get into, or how many bruises we end up with, I am not going to turn my back on you Logan, because I know, without a doubt, that you’d never turn your back on me.”] Jesse said with firm conviction. She needed Logan to believe her if he had any hope of building his confidence back. She released his chin and sat back on her knees, letting her statement sink in.
[#aa0000 “Jack told you that it was your fault I got hurt, didn’t he? It’s not true Logan. You heard Eddie, he thinks I’m a freak. He would have targeted me anyway, and without you, I would have been locked in that cold, dark basement alone for hours facing my worst nightmares. You protected me like you always do. You kept me safe. I’m not leaving you, Logan.”] Jesse promised.
Lily knew their life was far from perfect. It was far from the dream she whispered to her son when he cried in the dark, the fears of his earliest moments creeping inside his mind. She always wanted the best and while this small house, with barely enough space for them all and hardly holding together, she hoped that as a family none of that would matter. That together they would create happy memories, see past most tensions and pull through. Yet the last few months had been pulling that idea further and further away. Jack was tipping on the balance of his coping mechanisms, Lily’s anxieties were attacking her again, and Logan was becoming more rebellious with each day. She was hoping this baby would be the light at the end of a very dark and miserable tunnel, but with the slamming of Logan’s bedroom door upstairs, it seemed for now the family was trapped. She wished her mother and father were still alive - they’d know what to do. Simon would have the plan and Nola would have the words... but as she looked over at Jack, seeing the pain growing on his own face and the torment in his eyes - she knew she couldn’t give up on him either. She watched her own parents waste precious years which could have been spent together and they were stronger when they did finally make up! Jack was her strength, as much as it would have appeared to the outside eye that he was the anchor pulling her down...
[+orange “You haven’t failed him. I feel that whether you were here or not, he’d still be angry. He’s going through a lot and reliving a lot of the past. He may only have been a baby, but he knows a lot of what happened... and oi! Stop that right now Jack Sanders. You made a mistake with Geoff. You’ve come on leaps and bounds. Now we just have to stop you coming home black and blue and maybe, just maybe, we might be taking the step in the right direction.”] Lily tried to get him to see reason within himself, knowing if the thoughts continued to build in his mind then things could get even worse! Also for once Lily just wanted Jack to not hate himself. From the scar on his face, his past alcoholism and now the way he was speaking, she wished she could have just injected him with some self-confidence.
However another reason and another lock at the door in their long tunnel was Jack’s news. He lost his job? Lily’s eyes glanced over at the stack of unpaid bills and she bit her lip, not even listening to the rest of his story as she tried to scramble some ideas. That was until he suggested working at the factory.
[+orange “Over my dead body are you working there. No. Not a chance.”] She shook head head, lifting his hand up to the scar on his face and scowling at the very idea of Jack coming home with every more just to pay the bills! They gained enough injuries trying to survive, they didn’t need to resort to that, surely!? But the more she thought about it the more she realised how strong the possibility was... even if she increased her hours it would just about pay the mortgage but they wouldn’t have money for the rest of the basics or the other bills! Also she would only be allowed to work until the doctors deemed she had to take maternity leave...
[+orange “If I see Tom, I swear... I’ll... I’ll speak to Jackie, see if she’ll let me support more and maybe see if I can get an extra part time job somewhere. But please, Jack, look everywhere else and make that your last resort.”] Only as Jack reached for her hand and gave that familiar Sanders smirk, she rolled her own eyes and shook her own head.
[+orange “Only you can smile when we’re in the shit... I know you keep your promises, mostly because you know you’ll get an earful from me if you don’t.”] Lily teased back, quickly having the opportunity to peck him on the lips as the doorbell rang.
Strange... the only visitors were either Lisa or Martyn and they wouldn’t turn up so soon, would they? Lisa had only just left and usually Martyn was the type to phone ahead. Looking from the table, Lily’s eyes hardened the moment she heard it was Child Protective Services. What nerve did they have doing here? She was expecting the police to come and investigate, but as Eleanor made her appearance and explained her reasoning, Lily really had to bite down on her lip. Things had been far from perfect but to claim Logan had been mistreated!? An instinctive and maternal defence grew up in Lily and she jumped up from her chair, standing near Jack and Eleanor as they called up for Logan with her arms crossed around her chest. She was trying so hard not to lose her temper but this woman was really pushing all of Lily’s buttons! Until finally Eleanor pulled the last straw...
[+orange “Excuse me? Can we just start with the fact you just burst into our home, with no previous notification that we were under investigation, and with all the accusations piled on that clipboard off yours?”] Lily snapped, shaking her head as she stepped towards Eleanor.
[+orange “Firstly, your accusation that violent behaviour are a result of abuse and neglect - if you read anything from the investigation notes from our pardon you would have seen exactly the type of upbringing Logan had as a baby. So yes, he was raised in abuse and neglect but me and Jack are doing everything we can to try and change that! We came to live here to change our lives and we have had zero bloody support from you, or the council, or anyone in fact! You’ve left us all to deal with everything that happened in our pasts and expected us to deal with it on our own and get over all our horrors. So how dare you come into our home thinking it is going to be a happy perfect family when you have done nothing but judge us and not offer a single helping hand!”] Lily scolded, losing herself in the heat of her rant until she quickly caught on why Jack was being so cautious as well. By the sounds of this woman, she hardly had the empathy to listen to Lily’s case and was only here to prove that they were guilty. Stepping towards Jack for a sense of calm, she wrapped her hand in his as a reminder to try and keep her cool - though it didn’t take much for Eleanor with her accusations to push Lily towards the edge.
[+orange “Logan left today because I announced I was pregnant. The boy went through quite a traumatic upbringing as a baby himself and his biological father tried to make him replaceable by... by... by trying to make me have another.... I think that’s why he got upset and left. Are you happy now?”] Lily asked bitterly, having to dig into a past she wanted to avoid to get this woman to try and understand. Logan was only a baby but he did have an understanding of exactly what happened to him and the abuse he had been through. So when he called Jack out for making him replaceable, Lily was seeing the fact that the last time someone tried to get her pregnant it was exactly for that reason!
[+orange “We love Logan and we’ve been doing everything we can for him. Sometimes he does get angry and he leaves but as I said, he’s dealing with a lot and we have had no support. He goes to school, he gets detention. They just see a troublesome child and they don’t offer any further help. So what do you want us do exactly? We’re trying our best, we have never laid a hand on Logan and would never dream of doing so!”]
[#006400 “I’ll be calling Tigan later. I’m fed up of him getting involved when he can’t even be bothered to show his face to actually make a difference.”] Martyn spoke out coldly, starting to get fed up of his brothers actions. He often wondered if anyone on his side of his family had any sense other than the ability to talk with their fists. He would get Hayden involved to try and talk some sense into Tigan, but no doubt that would just end up in a fight as well!
With the mention of Logan, Lisa would have seen a flash of anger in Martyn’s eyes that to anyone else would have just looked like a dead gaze... yes, he agreed the boy had protected Jesse from those bullies but only with the consequence of the law potentially coming down on them, damning Jesse’s future, and also speaking a rebellious nature in her that he had never seen before! Martyn had learned from growing up with the Street Brat’s that now all decisions to protect your bonds were the best and ultimately, could lead to worse trouble down the line. Still, this wasn’t the time to debate this with his wife. It seemed his little girl had to speak up a defence of her own. He had to admit, there was a small moment of pride. She wasn’t holding back and that was exactly what he wanted with her words. Jesse’s next lesson however would be that not everyone would agree with what she said all the time...
[#006400 “Jesse, I love you and I respect what you say but sometimes Logan says jump and you ask ‘how high?’. If you are going to have a true friend then sometimes you need to be able to stand up against them and give them the truth they need to hear! However I am scared that you’ll be forever guiding that boy out of trouble while he’s pulling you into it.”] Martyn contested but he could see the defence in Jesse’s eyes. She wasn’t going to stand down from her friend that easily and who could blame her? Logan was the one who stayed by her through thick and thin and Martyn was understanding of that - he just wanted Jesse to see that there was only so much trouble which would make a friendship worth it. Still, he promised Jesse he wouldn’t force her to make her decisions and as she grabbed her jacket and made her announcement she was leaving, Martyn glanced up at Lisa questioning if they made the right decision... with the law after them, if those two got in one more bit of trouble, Martyn would lose the smallest chance he had of winning this case.
Their usual meeting place wasn’t too far from home. It was away from the main locations their parents would typically look: the park, the forest, skatepark and other well known hangout spots. Instead it was a small abandoned shop just before the entrance to the main hub of the city. It had been closed for years now, with no foreseeable tenants coming to occupy and the whole place was bolted closed - apart from one door Logan had managed to lock pick. Over the years Logan and Jesse had managed to clear it up a little to hang out. Nothing special... just a few plastic chairs Logan had managed to snatch from his own home and all the rubble and glass was brushed out of the building. Logan was sat on one of the chairs, hunched over with his hands curled into his hair as Jesse made her entrance. As she walked in, there would have been a rare sight from the Sanders boy. Coming from his eyes were angry tears and he was hoping he would be able to speak to Jesse! Only as she come forward, Jack’s words from the night before were plaguing his thoughts... he wasn’t a good friend to Jesse. He was always pulling her into his shit. He shouldn’t have called her.
[#8B0000 “You look rough...”] Logan spoke up, wiping his eyes with his sleeve and not immediately going to why he had called. He knew Jesse would pester and it would be impossible for her to read exactly what had happened. She would know it had affected Logan significantly, that he was carrying a hell of a lot of doubt, that he didn’t want to go home, and he felt lonelier than ever. With a frustrated sigh knowing he wouldn’t be able to avoid it, he turned his eyes away from Jesse clenched his fists.
[#8B0000 “Mum’s having a baby...”] He admitted, instinctively grabbing his hair again in frustration.
[#8B0000 “I shouldn’t have called... it’s stupid anyway, it’s just a kid isn’t it? Just a stupid kid... maybe they’ll be happier...”] Logan mumbled to himself and he finally turned back to Jesse, allowing her to read everything. Lily was right. He always say himself as replaceable and that one day Lily and Jack would have had enough. He was trying to change and trying to make things work, but he just couldn’t stop himself! He could never speak how he was feeling, he articulated himself with his actions and his actions were consistently destructive! Now he was destroying his best friend...
[#8B0000 “I know your mum and dad don’t think you should hang out with me anymore... they’re right Jesse... maybe you should just go home. Tell your parents you want nothing to do with me. I wouldn’t hate you for it y’know? I get it.”]
[#ff6622 “Took it out on Tigan? Ha, if you think I land a single punch on that man without him letting me, you’re either seriously overestimating my fighting abilities, or severely underestimating his! Trust me Kid, I couldn’t hurt Tigan if I tried. But I’d much rather take a few strikes from him, then risk taking a swing at you. I promised you when you were younger that I’d never hurt you Logan, and whether you believe me or not, I’m keeping that promise.”] Jack insisted, taking a guilty pleasure in using the grinder to aggravate Logan’s headache. With Lily’s warning, Jack quit his antics and settled at the table for breakfast. He knew from their exchange already that this wouldn’t be a peaceful conversation. Logan was pissed off at Jack and wasn’t eager to face his mistakes. That would only make things harder when Lily told him the news.
[#ff6622 “We’re not done talking about this Logan. You crossed the line last night: the partying, the fighting, the stealing…”] Jack started, but as he caught the warning in Lily’s eye, he decided that now wasn’t the time to push his son’s patience.
[#ff6622 “I know you’re still feeling crappy from last night. So if you want us to drop it for now, we will. We can talk about this once you’re feeling better. Now eat something, Kid. You’ll feel better once you get some toast into you.”] Jack told him, remembering the misery of the morning after. Jack, being drunk for the better part of 6 years when he first went off the deep end, used to think the only way to avoid the pain and nausea was to just keep himself on a steady level of drunkenness. But over the last few years, he’d picked up some tips. The last thing he wanted Logan to think about right now was grabbing another drink!
Jack took a bite of his eggs, looking for an excuse not to talk any further. This next announcement was Lily’s. Even thinking about the baby brought a smile to Jack’s face that he wasn’t quite able to hide. He knew there were a lot of challenges ahead – the first of which would be finding a job! – but knowing that at the end of it all, he would be a real father was enough to send Jack’s hopes soaring. Now all he needed was to see the delight on Logan’s face at the prospect of being a big brother! But as Jack cast an awaiting glance at his little brother, he felt his own smile fade. Logan didn’t look delighted. Far from it! He looked numb, empty, and cold. Jack flicked his eyes to Lily in concern, seeing that she too noticed the uneasy reaction. Even when prompted to speak, Logan just shoved his chair back as if to physically distance himself from the happy couple!
[#ff6622 “Logan, sit down. Let’s talk about this.”] Jack told the boy, starting to feel the dread building in his own chest. But the true heartbreak came at Logan’s next accusation. He thought he thought he wasn’t wanted? He thought he was just a burden? He thought they wanted him gone?! Jack knew he hadn’t been a good father to Logan, but to know he had failed so badly that his own son didn’t think he was even wanted… Jack felt his heart clench.
[#ff6622 “Logan, stop this! I’ve NEVER wanted you out of the way! How could you think that? You’re my son Logan, and I…”] Jack started, only to hear that crushing sentiment repeated: Jack was a terrible father. He’ll just screw this kid up, like he does with everything else. Logan didn’t even see Jack as a father anymore! With every utterance of [i big brother], Jack felt that paternal bond slipping further and further away. Logan didn’t want him in his life, he made that perfectly clear. In his younger days, Jack may have just given Logan what he obviously wanted and left! Maybe without Jack to cause tension, Logan would be better behaved and he and Lily could live happier lives! But Jack also knew that Lily was still recovering from the events of her teen years, even though she tried desperately to hide it. And with a new baby on the way and new challenges to come, Jack couldn’t leave her alone to face them. Besides, he loved her, and Jack was too selfish to let that love slip through his fingers again.
[#ff6622 “I know Lil, I just… I just wish I hadn’t failed him so badly. I’m scared that his hatred for me is spreading to you and the baby, and I don’t want to cause any more of a divide between you and Logan. This is my fault. If I hadn’t been so weak after Geoff died…”] Jack muttered. But his sense of failure wasn’t easing any time soon. As Lily asked him about being late for work, Jack winced. He took Lily’s hand and led her back to the breakfast table, thinking she might need to be sitting down for this bad news.
[#ff6622 “Lily, I have some bad news… I got a call from Tom last night. He was doing inventory and he discovered the missing bottles that Logan stole. I’ve been going easy on some of the kids – letting them off with a warning. I know first-hand what harm a criminal record can have on a kid that age. But Tom thinks one of them broke back in and stole the vodka. I couldn’t tell him the truth… Logan can’t afford to get in any more trouble with the law. But he… He fired me Lily.”] Jack explained, hating to have to let her down once again. Lily had been so patient with him and so forgiving, but Jack wasn’t sure how many more times he could let her down like this before she realized he just wasn’t worth the trouble!
[#ff6622 “Tom’s paying me out the next two weeks, so it’ll buy me some time to find a new job. I’ll start looking today. If I can’t find anything better, I could always work at the factory.”] Jack suggested. It wasn’t ideal. Jack had been pretty desperate to avoid working at the local steel factory, simply because it was so hazardous. They were always hiring, and didn’t care much about criminal records because they were so desperate for workers. In the past year, they’d had one worker die on the job, four others maimed for the rest of their lives, and at least 30 other small injuries resulting in lost time. It was a dangerous job and the company didn’t care much about safety regulations, so it wasn’t likely to get any better! But it would be a steady paycheck if Jack couldn’t find anything else, and with his record as a thief and a Street Brat, not many employers were willing to open their doors to Jack.
Jack reached across the table and put his hand over Lily’s, trying to muster his signature smirk to show he wasn’t giving up without a fight.
[#ff6622 “I’ll figure something out Lily. I promised I would get my act together and do better for this baby, and you know I keep my promises."]
The doorbell rang, prompting Jack to get up from the table. He wasn’t expecting any visitors, but after his fight with Logan last night and this morning, he didn’t think anything could rattle him as bad as that.
He was wrong.
[#ff6622 “Can I help you?”] Jack asked, answering the door to see a young woman in a suit, looking unimpressed as she stood at the Sander’s doorstep. The woman was in her early 30s, with dark hair, slicked back in a tight bun. Her dark rimmed glasses seemed to accentuate her narrowed glare and stern expression. She had a clipboard in one hand and was already scribbling down notes as Jack answered the door.
[#ff00ff “Mr. Jack Sanders? If your wife, Lily Sanders home as well? I will be needing to speak with both of you.”] The woman directed, making a move to enter the house, but Jack stood in her way. He got a bad feeling about this woman and didn’t want to let her in without more information.
[#ff6622 “Not before you tell me who you are and why you’re here.”] Jack asked, watching the scowl grow deeper on the woman’s face. Her lips tightened into a thin line as she seemed to debate whether or not she should tell him anything. When she realized she wouldn’t be getting through the door without giving him an answer, the woman reached into her pocket and pulled out a business card, which she then extended to Jack.
[#ff00ff “My name is Eleanor Carrow. I work with Child Protective Services and I’ve been assigned to your case.”] The woman explained strictly. Jack was taken back, nt expecting Child Protective Services to visit! He glanced back over his shoulder at Lily with a worried look on his face, before returning his gaze to the woman.
[#ff6622 “Our case? What case?”] Jack asked. At this point, the woman pushed her way through and stepped into the house. Jack knew it was probably best not to stop her. After all, this woman had the authority to remove Logan from their care, so it was best not to piss her off any further!
[#ff00ff “Case number 56426 - Logan Sanders, age 16.”] Eleanor read off her clipboard.
[#ff00ff “Logan has been on our watch list for the past few years due to his trouble at school and his tendency for trouble, but after what happened last night we couldn’t afford to delay. We have reports that Logan was involved in a violent altercation with another young boy that very nearly resulted in that child’s death. It has been my experience that such violent behaviour is almost always a result of abuse and neglect in the home. So you, Mr. Sanders, and your wife are now under investigation. I’ll be interviewing Logan and inspecting your home, and if I see any evidence that the child is being mistreated, I will be removing him from your custody immediately.”] Eleanor stated. She walked in, casting a glance around the room. Three plates of uneaten breakfast sat on the table, alongside an open med kit. Jack himself had obviously been in a fight the night before and Eleanor’s hawk-like eyes narrowed even further. If she could prove that he fought with the boy, Logan would be out of this house in minutes!
[#ff00ff “Now then, let’s get started. Where is Logan? I need to speak with him first.”] She demanded. Knowing better than to challenge her, Jack called up the stairs to Logan’s room, unaware that the boy had already slipped out to meet Jesse. When Jack called a second time and received no answer from the boy, Eleanor began writing more notes on her clipboard.
[#ff00ff “Tell me, Mr. and Mrs. Sanders, does your son often leave the house without your knowledge? How long does it typically take you to notice your son is not safely at home? Was there any incident this morning that may have driven your son to run away?”] Eleanor questioned sternly, clearly indicating that this wasn’t going well for the Sanders.
Lisa shook her head as Martyn took in the news of the pregnancy. She knew he would be just as concerned, knowing what the family was struggling with. While Lisa and Martyn had adjusted well to their civilian lives, the same could not be said for the Sanders. Lisa and Martyn changed their name to hide their identities, they started their own legal firm, allowing their skills to quickly earn a reputation, while Caleb forged their records so no one would find out they used to be Street Brats. They had anonymity, money, skill, and a certain degree of respect and power. The Sanders, on the other hand, did not. Lily and Jack were struggling to afford their little house, with a troublesome son who threatened the only safety they had – the pardon. While Lisa was happy for Lily, she had to admit that adding a baby into this chaos wouldn’t help the situation.
[+green “Jack managed to stay sober after his fight with Logan, which is a good sign. Although, it seems he made another trip to see Tigan in order to get the sense knocked into him. Don’t worry, I already gave Jack hell for dragging your little brother into this.”] Lisa admitted.
When the topic of conversation switched to her own family, Lisa considered Martyn’s stance. Admittedly, they were monitoring Jesse pretty closely. Lisa often read her daughter before Jesse could offer any explanation, but only because she wasn’t sure how open Jesse was to sharing. She had always been a quiet, guarded girl. Lisa didn’t realize that she had overstepped and made her daughter lose trust in her own parents.
[+green “No, I agree. Logan had been getting into increasing amounts of trouble and tonight was far too severe. I’m worried how far this may escalate. I don’t want Jesse to get hurt simply because she put her trust in the wrong person. That being said, I don’t want to see the boy incriminated either. He may have crossed the line, but he was honestly trying to protect Jesse from those bullies.”]
Jesse came down the stairs, having missed most of her parents’ conversation, but it didn’t matter. She could read everything on their faces. They were worried and angry at Logan for getting her involved in the party and the fight last night. Jesse wanted to fight back and defend her friend, but her pounding headache made the pending argument seem far more daunting than it should be. Instead, Jesse stepped into the room and graciously took the glass of water her father had set out for her. She took a long sip before setting her glass down and collecting her thoughts.
[#aa0000 “It wasn’t Logan’s fault. I know you both think it was, but I am just as much to blame. I encouraged Logan to go to the party, and despite my promise to stay by his side, I wandered off and got myself into trouble. I also let myself get too impaired to talk him down and keep him in control. He’s not a bad influence over me. He just made a few mistakes. We both did.”] Jesse admitted, not wanting the blame to rest too heavily with her best friend. She owed it to Logan after he saved her from Adam and Eddie. If Logan hadn’t showed up when he did, they would have locked her in that cold room for hours! Or worse… the way Eddie was talking, Jesse didn’t know what he was capable of!
As her father explained the charges and the severity of Logan’s beating, Jesse bit her lip in concern. It was going to be far more difficult than she thought to get Logan out of trouble this time, but if he did go down for this it would be her fault! For now, Jesse just had to leave the case in her parents’ hands. If anyone could come up with a defense, it would be her father. Besides, Jesse was needed elsewhere. She felt the nudge from her phone, and took it out to read Logan’s message. Something bad must have happened after they left last night. Logan needed her support, and no matter how strongly her mother and father were opposed to her spending time with Logan, she wasn’t going to let them stop her.
[#aa0000 “Mom, Father… You made me promise not to lie to you anymore, so I won’t: I’m going out to meet Logan. I know you don’t approve, but he needs me and I want to be there for him. I’ll take whatever punishment you see fit once I get home. I just need to see him.”] Jesse explained. Normally, she would have just pretended to go back to sleep and snuck out so as to avoid any drama, but with her promise to her father fresh in Jesse’s mind, she knew she had to start being honest with her parents, no matter what consequences awaited her once she returned.
Jesse grabbed her jacket and headed out, thankful that the painkillers were starting to take the edge off her headache. She hurried to the meeting spot, knowing that something serious must have happened in order for Logan to want to talk about it. Was this still about the party? Did Lily get upset? Did Jack drink? Did Logan get charged? Jesse would have to read the situation once she arrived. Despite her lingering headache and the unsettled feeling in her stomach, Jesse managed to reach the meeting spot not long after Logan. She instantly took in the bloodied bandages on his knuckles and knew that something must have set him off after he was treated. What could have happened this morning?
[#aa0000 “Logan? Are you ok? Logan, what happened?”]
Logan looked down at the plate and his face turned a whiter sheet of pale and he could feel his stomach churn at the idea of even trying to bring eat any of that. However he had seen enough of Jack to know that if he had any hope in hell of somehow recovering from this, he would have to try and eat something. Lily had just finished bandaging his hands, covering his gruesome looking knuckles. He didn’t need to hear the medical spell and Lily didn’t bother. Logan had come home with the occasional scuffed hand from his skateboarding on his good days, or the fights on his bad... when he punched Eddie hard enough to knock a tooth out, he broke a knuckle then and part of the tooth was embedded in his skin! Even though Logan was used to his fair share of fighting, he still couldn’t deny that this hurt like hell and he flexed his fingers, wincing as he did so. Hopefully no one else in school would mess with them now and they all got the message not to mess with his best friend. At the moment in Time he didn’t think his hands could take another fight.
Picking up the edge of a hash brown with his fingers, he partly held his breath as he took the smallest of bites - testing the waters with his stomach. The first mouthful made him feel worse but the fact it didn’t come straight back up give him the all clear to carry on. Besides the sooner he finished up his plate, the sooner he could get away from the overly weird happy family scene. He really didn’t get why his mum and Jack were making jokes after last night but at least he was out of the worst of it... or so he thought.
[b “Why? Do you think it wasn’t? Couldn’t take it out on me so you took it out on Tigan again?”]
Lily was ready to cut her son down again but as the coffee grinder burst into action, Logan’s hands raised over his ears and he hissed out in pain. His head was already pounding! While Logan shot Jack a hateful glare, Lily rolled her eyes at the boys but there was a hidden grin that Jack would be able to see.
[+orange “The both of you are as bad as each other. Listen, Logan, as much as I really want to lecture you and somehow get the message into your head I have a feeling you won’t listen. However, you can talk to us. Whatever happened last night to make you do what you did, we need to be able to understand if you want us to stop nagging you! You’re already in enough trouble. The pardon Logan...”] Lily started but she could already see the lack of interest in Logan’s eyes. The only reason they had a roof over their heads was because luckily Lily’s mother and father were the most respected police officers in the city. If they didn’t have that, she was sure even the Cull’s would be living on the streets with them still! However that historical power was slipping through their fingers and Logan’s actions was potentially going to be the tipping point. Lily also knew that Logan had been threatened with the pardon on more than one occasion, so to see him disengage was no surprise. So while she was ahead of herself, she sat down next to Jack and sighed.
[+orange “I just want you to be able to talk to us without arguing....”]
[b “Then can we talk about something else. I get it, I took it too far but I have nothing to say about it. I just want to move on for now and whatever happens, happens... you guys did your best to stop me being a screw up. I make my decisions.”] Logan spoke up and for the first time, it was probably the most mature thing he said! He didn’t look up towards his parents. Instead his eyes stared down at his plate of food and now he wasn’t eating so eagerly. He started to knock it around with his fork, losing himself in thought. Some things were becoming more clear... he remembered Jack’s words about Jesse and Logan was wondering if all he did was get everyone around him in trouble. Then he remembered punching Jack... while he was angry with his brother and still had some bitter resentment, even he felt guilty for taking it that far. Logan was never really good at speaking his feelings. Even when Jesse tried to get it out of him, he usually just opened himself up where she could read exactly what was going on. His parents didn’t have that ability, he couldn’t speak, so they just saw him as the problem child.
Logan opened his mouth to speak, preparing to apologise to his brother for the punch but just as he did, Lily beat him to it.
[+orange “Well, we have a lot to move on with Logan. Don’t we Jack?”] Lily started, taking the cue from her son and using this as her opportunity to bring up the news. She reached for Jack’s hand under the table, squeezing his tightly to try and stop her own from trembling! Her other hand subconsciously travelled to her stomach. Taking a deep breath to calm herself down, she let a warm smile come across her face as she looked Logan directly in the eyes.
[+orange “You’re going to be a big brother. I’m pregnant.”]
Logan didn’t move. He didn’t blink, he didn’t flinch, and his expression was as cold as stone. Anyone would think he hadn’t just heard the news! A silence followed from Lily’s words for an uncomfortable length of time, forcing her to shift in her seat out of how tense the room suddenly felt. Lily took it as shock, hoping that at any moment a smile would spread across Logan’s lips. Jack reacted the same way! Maybe the news was just taking longer to hit? Yet as she continued to watch her son she watched his hands clench with fresh blood exposing itself through the thick white bandages.
[+orange “Logan? Speak to us hunny...”]
But Logan didn’t say a word. He pushed himself back on his chair, leaving a plate half filled with food and removing himself from the family table.
[+orange “Logan please.”] Lily begged again, jumping up from her own chair and starting to travel around to her son until he raised his hand.
[b “It’s what you’ve wanted. Now you have the chance to get something right.”] Logan spoke up, instantly alerting the parents of the reaction they were hoping wouldn’t happen. They were all prepared for Logan to think it was a replacement, but Lily could see a pain in Logan’s eyes that didn’t need a professional reader to see!
[+orange “It’s not like that. Please, just come and sit down with us...”]
[b “It’s not ‘us’. It has never been ‘us’. It has been you and Jack and I just got in the way. I got brought up in all the shit and now you have your happy second chance. What about you big brother? Hey, now I can be out of the way. Just like you wanted. Even better! I might be going to juvvy soon and you won’t have to see me for a few years! I thought i heard you say you didn’t want another kid...”] Logan questioned, this time shooting a glare to his mother. It was one that matched the same look he only ever gave to Jack. A fire of anger and pain whenever he did something wrong. It almost matched the same disappointment of when he came home drinking!
[+orange “I didn’t and... Logan you shouldn’t have been listening to that. Things change...”]
[b “Yeah things change when one of your sons is missing and the other can’t even get on with the love of your life. I hope this kid gets a better chance than me but it’ll stay a screw up because it’ll have him as a dad.”] Logan spat, bringing up the same attack he did last night - all his forgiveness gone.
[b “Oh and Jack, you’re late for work.”] Logan finally added before storming up to his room, slamming the door. Little did Jack know was that his phone was near where Logan was sat and there was a brief text message from his boss which appeared on the screen, reminding him not to return. Logan had seen it all. It was all his fault. He needed to get out. Grabbing his own phone he messaged Jesse:
[i “Need to meet up. Meet me, usual spot ASAP.”] It was short but it was all he would need for Jesse to sense the urgency.
Back in the kitchen, Lily rested her hand on her forehead and let out a heavy sigh. She knew the happiness couldn’t last for too long and she could already sense the anger Jack was going to have on himself.
[+orange “Don’t take it personally. Lisa warned me about this and... he’ll come around... hopefully... he’s right though, you are going to be late. You should get going Jack...”]
Martyn’s eyes hardened when Lisa spoke about Jack’s emotions. While he supported the family and was willing to act in their defence, he often scowled at the embedding of ‘Bonds not Blood’. He had to help the family of self-destruction, with Jack being at the very core of it! He never spoke these words and tried to be civil, but after witnessing the events of last night he was losing his patience with the Sanders. They were ripping each other apart and were dragging Jesse into the entire mess! When Lisa made light of it, he returned the same look but didn’t nearly have a joke to throw back in return. In fact he was deadly serious.
[+red “Jack best be careful he doesn’t push me back to my old days. If he thought Logan was vicious... sometimes I think he needs a few rounds of words over fists.”]
He knew Lisa cared about the family and she understood a lot more about what Lily had been through. Martyn however compared his experience to Jack. He grew up with an abusive family, grew up with very little love or affection, was forced to make some decisions he regretted and then he had a choice. Continue to destroy everyone around him or try and make something of it. It took Martyn years and he was still not exactly perfect, but seeing how much Jack talked with his fists and his anger grew on his nerves. The fact that his wife had to stay up until the early hours just to baby sit him, was also testing his ever thinning patience.
Then came the news that even brought shock to Martyn’s face. His eyes widened and his jaw tensed for a few seconds, hearing the news that soon there would be another Sanders child. This wasn’t good. He was already struggling to find a defence for Logan, which was rare for Martyn! The family was in disarray and he knew how haunting Lily’s past was.
His voice was low and there was certainly no look of joy or celebrations with the announcement. Instead he walked back to his pile of paperwork, glancing over the files with desperate concern. If Logan was found guilty, the consequences would rain down on the whole family. That baby would be born on the streets as the pardon would be destroyed - and those consequences crossed over to the Cull’s!
[+red “And is Jack seeing sense? If this goes into investigation they’ll have the services raining down on them, seeing how they are as parents, their living conditions... if Jack keeps coming home with bruises and cuts, I can’t speak against physical evidence.”]
Then came the matter of their own family. Jesse was equally involved, she was suffering for her actions and now there was a breakage in trust and this certainly wasn’t the time for it.
[+red “Perhaps we have actually been giving her less freedom when she’s completely innocent. Jesse, she relies too much on others... she needs that reassurance and safety. Logan has been her go to and... I really don’t feel comfortable with her hanging around him anymore. I know he means well Lisa but...”] Martyn started but with the sounding of Jesse’s footsteps he picked up a nearby glass of water and a dissolvable painkiller, dropping it in the glass and leaving it on the end for his daughter. He didn’t have to order her to drink it, not that he would now... instead he just looked towards the glass to hint it was there while listening to Jesse’s apology.
[+red “Words are powerful Jesse. Are you sure you promise? We made our deal last night and I’ve spoken to your mother. You need to hold honesty to your own words. No more lies.”] Martyn warned and just as he did, his laptop flashed with a new email from Larry. It was the hospital records for Adam. He didn’t bother to hide them. If the family was starting to be open, then he had to start by not being so protective over what Jesse could and couldn’t see. She was mature enough to see it was serious and the evidence really showed how serious it was.
At one point Adam stopped breathing. The blood from the beating and having his teeth knocked backwards, as well as his nose being severely broken compromised his airways. Fortunately staff managed to revive him, clearing the airways. There were further notes explaining how he would need a few screws in his bones and there would be a lot of lasting damage, but so far he was pulling through. While Adam was surviving however, the intensity grew on Martyn’s face. Logan really did almost kill him.
[+red “Jesse, I can’t tell you this will be easy. It’s not looking good. Self defence has to be proportionate and to your broken arm, what Adam went through, it isn’t equal. I need to do more research and your mother needs some rest. I... I need some time to figure this out.”] Martyn didn’t say much more but there was a quick glance at Lisa that said everything: Logan was quickly running out of time and their own family safety was at stake...
Jack was just switching off the stove and dividing a generous portion of hash browns between three plates that already had scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast. When he heard Lily’s teasing tone, he smirked, proving he was in a much lighter mood than the night before.
[#ff6622 “I lived off of stolen burgers and trash bin leftovers for the first 16 years of my life. If you wanted a gourmet chef, you married the wrong man.”] He teased back, proud of himself for managing a simple breakfast without the smoke detector going off! He set the plates on the table, sliding one in front of Logan. Jack knew from experience that the toast and hash browns would felt settle his hangover and the gesture was Jacks attempt at an apology, but it wasn’t coupled with the same fatherly pep talk he often had with Logan after one of their arguments. Jack knew he couldn’t blame the boy, but Logan’s hurtful words still stung, especially now that he was going to be a real father! And besides the hurt, Jack was also still angry at Logan’s choices. Not only did he lie and sneak out of the house, he risked getting drunk at a party, he nearly beat a kid to death, and he stole from Jack’s store – getting him fired! For Lily’s sake, Jack wanted to avoid another fight, so he kept his mouth shut until Logan addressed him directly.
[#ff6622 “You think last night was fun?”] Jack asked in an even tone, not really having the patience for Logan picking fights this morning. He filled the coffee-grinder with beans and thought about taking it to the other room to grind so the loud buzzing noise wouldn’t bother Logan… on second thought, the kid was being an asshole, so why do him any favours? Jack pressed the button, letting the grinder run for several seconds, before finally turning it off and silencing the irritating sound. He then poured the grounds in a filter and started making coffee.
[#ff6622 “You know me Lily, always on my best behaviour.”] Jack remarked, giving his wife a smirk. Of course he would make every effort to keep the peace with Logan, but Jack wasn’t entirely sure that was possible while the boy was still bitter about last night. Jack almost wondered if this conversation wouldn’t go better if he wasn’t here, but Lily needed the support and Jack was still harbouring a frail hope that news of the new baby might bring him and Logan closer together.
Jack killed Lily’s cheek before taking his seat at the table. Once Logan was treated, they could all enjoy their meal and talk about the news. Jack was tempted to bring up the events of last night, but knew that would only set Logan off again. Obviously Jack’s attempts at being the disciplinarian last night backfired, so he’d leave that conversation to Lily. Maybe it would be better received from Logan’s mother. Instead, Jack held his tongue once again, biting back any retort he may have normally had for the boy. It was uncharacteristic of Jack to let the events go without a lecture, but he had promised Lily he was going to be better for this new child and all of that started today. While he waited, Jack took out the newspaper and turned to the classified section to see if there were any potential jobs that might hire him despite his criminal record. He still hadn’t told his wife about his lost job because he didn’t want to muddy her excitement over the new baby. Jack would wait until after they dealt with Logan so he could speak to his wife in private. No need to add to Logan’s bad mood with news that his actions got Jack fired.
[#ff6622 “I called Larry this morning. He’s going to hack the hospital records to see if he can find out how much damage was done to that boy’s face. Once he gets the details he’ll send them to Martyn. For now, at least, it looks like the kid is going to take a few weeks to recover but hopefully there’s no long-term damage.”] Jack said, more to Lily than to Logan, but Jack vaguely wondering if his little brother even remembered the extent to which he beat that bully. There were certainly times when Jack remembered waking up with busted knuckles and blood on his clothes without any recollection of who he fought with or what condition they were in when he left. It was a horrifying feeling, thinking there was a monster inside that could hurt or even kill someone without your knowledge. At least it seemed like Logan remembered some of what happened last night, so hopefully he hadn’t been as wasted as Jack initially feared.
Lisa gratefully accepted the cup of tea, giving her partner an appreciative look as she took a longing sip. It had been a long night. It was already late when Lisa was finally able to usher Lily off to bed, but she still waited up until after 4:00am for Jack to come home. Lisa wanted to make sure he was sober and to send him away if he wasn’t. Thankfully, it wasn’t needed. Jack was sober – albeit a little worse for wear – and Lisa was able to get a little over two hours of sleep before she left the Sanders residence. She knew that there would be plenty of discussion once Logan woke up and that was a family matter. Lisa would always be around for support, but some things were best dealt with among the three of them. Besides, Lisa was anxious to see how Martyn and Jesse were. She had rarely seen her daughter that distraught and the alcohol certainly wasn’t helping. It was no surprise when she heard the unpleasant sounds of Jesse’s misery as soon as she walked through the door.
[+green “Jack has always been overly emotional, but his reaction wasn’t surprising considering what Logan was saying. That boy was getting vicious… he almost reminded me of you, back in the old days.”] Lisa teased. Instead of the telling smirk and bright eyes that some of the other Brats would have when bantering back and forth, Lisa’s jab was a little more subtle, with a slight twitch of her lip and a raise of her brow. It fit the expressionless bond the two shared.
[+green “I’ll be fine; I’m just a little tired. Jack didn’t get back home until after 4am, so I didn’t get much sleep. Besides, Lily told me something that even I didn’t see coming.”] Lisa said, looking slightly troubled by the fact that the other woman was able to keep such a secret. It couldn’t have been for long – Lily must have found out recently. But still, Lisa was a reader and should have seen the changes in Lily. She should have predicted the pregnancy long before Lily decided to tell her. Either Lisa was getting rusty, or Lily’s past trauma helped her hide the truth much better than anticipated.
[+green “Lily’s pregnant.”] Lisa explained, knowing she didn’t have to say anything further. Martyn would understand the complicated ups and downs that news like this would bring. It certainly wasn’t good timing: Logan was already acting out and this may make things worse. Jack had always dreamed of being a father, but now more than ever, his confidence in being a father was shaken. Lily has the potential to see this as a new, loving chapter in her life, but the pregnancy and birth alone will be nothing but a reminder of her past trauma. This wasn’t going to be easy on anyone.
Not that Lisa and Martyn’s own family was any easier at the moment! The mother listened carefully to her partner’s explanation, just as concerned as he was about Jesse’s random act of defiance. When Martyn suggested taking a step back, Lisa allowed the surprise to show on her face. Martyn and Lisa weren’t exactly ‘involved parents’. They weren’t the type for hugs and kisses, they rarely felt the need for parent-teacher conferences or imposing extra-curricular, and they weren’t nagging Jesse for every intimate detail about her day. Of course, a lot of that was due to their particular gifts: Lisa could read her daughter to make sure there were never any problems or concerns, and Martyn could keep her on the right path and offer all the advice she’d ever need in just a few words. To hear that they were overstepping was a concern.
[+green “You know, Martyn, most parents would give their child less freedom after an incident like this, not more freedom. But you may have a point, my reading can be a little invasive.”] Lisa confessed, still hearing the retching from upstairs to prove Jesse was still in the midst of her horrible morning.
[+green “I just don’t understand what changed. Jesse never lied to us before, especially about something this serious. And I’m worried that her bond with Logan may be affecting her judgement… I’ve always taught her that a reader is only as good as she is impartial, and Jesse is far from impartial when it comes to Logan. He could have killed that boy tonight, and if she had misread him… if he had ever turned on her…”] Lisa trailed off, not wanting to think about what would have happened if their little girl caught Logan in a rage.
It wasn’t too much longer before the miserable sounds from upstairs stopped and light footprints could be heard heading towards the kitchen. Jesse looked pale and still a little green. Her eyes were raw and her discomfort clearly displayed on her face instead of the expressionless mask she normally wore. When she saw her parents, Jesse bit the inside of her cheek, not looking forward to the coming lecture.
[#aa0000 “Are you going to yell at me for sneaking out?”] She asked sheepishly.
[+green “I think what you’re feeling now is likely punishment enough for going to that party and drinking under age. The lying, however…”]
[#aa0000 “I know. I already promised father I wouldn’t lie anymore. I’m sorry mom. It won’t happen again.”] Jesse swore, knowing how much trouble these innocent little fibs got her in this time. She wasn’t eager to have this situation repeat itself!
[#aa0000 “I’m worried about Logan though… I tried to calm him down before he did too much damage, but Adam… he was really badly hurt, wasn’t he? Logan was just trying to protect me. He’s not going to get into too much trouble, is he father? Can’t we argue that this was all self defense?”]
Lily wasn’t often so hesitant regarding telling people her thoughts or feelings. If she had an urgent need to express how a situation affected her, she would be the first to challenge anyone, even her own husband . Ever since she found out the news she was pregnant however, parts of that changed and she didn’t realise just her how much until this very moment. She saw the person she couldn’t live without, standing in front of her, battered and bruised and she couldn’t say a word against him. Her husband, who she stupidly resisted against for so long, had his arms wrapped around her lovingly and she was still trying to find the words that could bring the both of them so much joy. If it wasn’t for Lisa’s words, she might have even waited until the morning but her best friend was right. She had the right to be excited. She shouldn’t have been held back by the fear of what might be, but instead embrace the moment that was happening. There was going to be a new member of the Sanders family. In nine months time there would be an extra life in the house, bringing new memories and lessons for them all.
As she said the words, she took a quick glance at Jack as he shot up right and she felt her chest tense, just like it did moments before she had the panic attack previously. What had she done? He wasn’t ready for the news. She should have known better than to tell him the moment he walked back from a fist fight, unsure of himself! What happens if it was all just a lie? Maybe he was convincing himself he wanted a child but now the reality was here, perhaps it was too much? Lily rested her head back down on the pillow and stared ahead, trying to control her breathing in part but also too terrified to see what the next stage of his reaction would be! Lily knew Jack wouldn’t hurt her, and he wouldn’t leave but this could all be one big burden to a family already shaken up.
Waiting for those first words, something which seemed like would never happen now, gently stroked her thumb against the back of Jack’s hand. Beneath his palm was a life they had both created and while it wasn’t planned, the unexpected had a way of making the biggest difference. She wanted this baby to be the change they needed. Maybe it would inspire Jack to be different and for Logan to stop being so reckless. Unlike with Rick, Lily was wishing the newborn was in her arms right this second. For a brief moment, she could almost imagine their future and it was beautiful.
So as Jack asked if this was what she wanted, she squeezed his hand and dared to turn her eyes back up, watching the tears in his eyes.
[+orange “More than anything.”] She whispered back and the instant her husbands lips turned into a smile, she felt the instant relief across her body and her own smile broke out, Her chest relaxed and for the first time that night, she didn’t feel tense.
With Jack’s kiss she was halfway closer towards the future she was dreaming of. That kiss alone evaporated a lot of her doubts. She could tell he was going to try and change, to become the father he always bragged he would be and live up to the wild dreams he had. They would do this together, just like they always had...
And with the rise of new hopes came the rise of Logan’s first exposure to the torture of hangovers - the sun.
When the light broke through the crack in the curtains, his eyes squinted together and a cracked out groan escaped his cracked and dry lips. Why did he feel like he had been crawling through the dessert? As he tried to pull his head from the sheets, he could feel the sticky residue of his own saliva pulling on the sheets which had spread all over his face as he fell unconscious at some point. It was the same for his knuckles! His bedsheets were covered in a pool of dark red blood and as he lifted his hands up, the sheets pulled up with him where the wounds on his knuckles had scabbed over with the fabric of his bedding. He was able to pull them away, ripping open some new wounds but that was the least of his concerns. His head was pounding, his stomach was churning and he wondered how he even ended up in his bedroom.
Finally daring to open his eyes he turned to see three blood splattered holes in the wall and a smear of blood on the floorboards. Looking down at his hands he could see they were now a deep purple, the knuckles were out of place, the lacerations were deep and they had both swollen up twice their size. Grunting at the pain that exposed his body, he slipped from his bed realising he was still wearing the same clothes from the night before. Just as he left his room to try and piece together what had happened, Lily was standing with her arms crossed around her chest.
[+orange “Was it worth it?”]
[b “The beer pong was good...”]
[+orange “Wrong answer, try again”]
[b “Do you have to go on, you’re giving me even more of a headache...”] Logan complained, resting his bloody hand on his forehead which gave Lily everything she needed.
[+orange “Well considering you didn’t let me treat you last night, you’re coming downstairs and letting me look at those hands and Logan, let’s try and keep this peaceful for one day. We had enough drama for one night.”]
Escorting Logan downstairs they both walked into the kitchen. Lily approached her husband, grinning as she watched him working at the kitchen.
[+orange “First time for everything. I’ll be impressed if we don’t get anything back burnt”] She teased, obviously exchanging a happiness which only her and Jack knew about yet but she quickly gave him a look, sharing the uncertainty of whether she should tell Logan now or judge the situation first... grabbing the first aid kid, she walked over to her son who was sat at the table with his head in his hands and looking like he was going to be sick at any moment.
[b “Can we open a window? The smells making me sick...”]
[+orange “No Logan, the amount you drank last night is making you sick. You’re going to eat and drink, you’ll feel better.”]
Logan didn’t seem too impressed with Jack’s efforts. He could remember some things... the words, the smashing of the bottle... he glared over at his brother, seeing the bruises and cuts on his face.
[b “See you had fun last night as well... argh! What the fu-“] Logan started sarcastically, but Lily was quick to put the antiseptic spray on her sons wounds and the sting enough silenced him.
[+orange “Remember Logan, nice family breakfast. No drama. Isn’t that right, Jack?”] Lily spoke up but it was also a warning for Jack not to overstep the mark. If they wanted to make this announcement, she needed Logan to at least tolerate Jack and not see him as the enemy!
Back at the Cull household, Martyn was sat in the living room with a scene laid out that was no different than any other day. There was paperwork and case notes sprawled out across the table, as well as stacks of books by his side. What made this different to any other morning was that Martyn wasn’t researching for a stranger trying to wangle their way out of a prison sentence - he was trying to build a case to protect his own family and the Sanders!
Hearing the door open, Martyn looked up from his chair to see Lisa, only to look back at the clock.
[+red “I don’t know how you do it Lisa. I lost my patience once Jack threw that bottle. He was lucky he stormed out when he did... are you ok? You look exhausted.”] Standing up Martyn poured the remainder of his tea pot into a fresh cup and brought it over to Lisa.
[+red “Was Lily ok?”] He asked, sensing there was already a story to tell but he knew Lisa would have questions of her own as the background noise of their daughter facing the consequences of intoxication echoed through the house.
[+red “She’s ok. She woke me up with the sound of wrenching but I suppose that’s a good sign...she’s awake and alive. Lisa...she... we need to be careful. We lost her trust for awhile, things have been going on which she hasn’t told us and I’m thinking, reluctantly, that we have to take a step back.”] Martyn explained as quickly as he could, not wanting to break Jesse to think that her parents had to plan and strategise how to fix broken trust! They already had a lack of emotional contact and after their chat in the car, he didn’t want that bridge breaking any further.
[+red “I know it is going to be hard but perhaps you need to stop reading her and I need to stop... I don’t know... talking? Persuading her life decisions. It’s why I haven’t gone to her without her calling. If she speaks up, I know she’ll need me, rather than me telling she needs me.”] Martyn tried to sum up but there was a clear disconnect. While he was able to act like a father, sometimes understanding the emotional reason behind why someone wanted something was a little harder. He was logical, he spoke his thoughts, persuaded people with the best interests in mind if he cared about them but this was different... this was his daughter and all he ever knew was to how to mentor. Now he had to let her make her own decisions.
[+red “I just needed you to know before she came downstairs. I mean it though Lisa, are you ok? Jack didn’t drink did he? You’ve been up all night, haven’t you?”]
[+green “Stop right there Lily. No buts. You were excited, so I want you to latch on to that. Next time you feel these anxieties or fears, I want you to close your eyes and think of that moment. Because no matter what else was happening in your life, you’re first instinct was to be excited to bring another child into this world. To bring a new life into your loving family. And if that makes you happy, Lily, then it will make Jack and Logan happy too. They love you, Lily. And they will love this baby. All the rest… we’ll figure it out as we go along.”] Lisa promised, allowing herself to be happy for Lily now that she knew this was what the other woman wanted. It wouldn’t be easy. Jack and Lily weren’t exactly financially stable, and babies were expensive. But no doubt once the word got to the rest of the Brats, they would have everything they needed. Lisa was sure she could convince Martyn to help with a donation if needed and she would certainly offer any support she could. It did mean, however, that they would have to put even more effort into setting things straight with Logan. Lily didn’t need the stress of her son being charged with assault on top of everything else, and if Lisa had to step in to be a mediator to get Jack and Logan on the same page, she would!
[+green “You’re not a burden Lily. I don’t think you realize how much you give back to my family. Martyn and I… Jesse means the world to us, but neither of us are good at expressing it. She hasn’t had a very warm and loving childhood. But you and Jack have welcomed her into your lives and given her the comfort and affection she could never get from us. The Street Brats may be a thing of the past, Lily, but I still consider you my family.”] Lisa told her, allowing herself to be a little more sappy than she usually was, but Lisa figured Lily might need the reassurance.
After a soothing cup of tea, she ushered Lily off to bed and took her place on the couch, skimming over case files and waiting for Jack to return. She was relieved he wasn’t drunk, but his emotional state was far from stable. It certainly wouldn’t be an easy discussion with Logan in the morning. Once Lisa did her duty and ensured it was safe to let Jack see his wife, she turned in for the night and trusted the two to handle things from here.
When Jack entered the room, he wasn’t sure Lily would even want to see him. He saw the disappointment in her eyes and winced, turning his own gaze to the floor in shame. What had he done? He yelled at her son! He cut Logan down after he promised Lily he’d go easy on the boy! And Logan was right, whether Jack was married to Lily or not, he wasn’t Logan’s real father. He had no right to step in like he did, especially when he took things so far. Then he threw that bottle, smashed the glass… oh god, he must have reminded Lily of his father! And without even checking on her, he stormed out and disappeared for hours without any explanation! He hadn’t scared her like this since that night Geoff died and Jack started drinking again. Jack wouldn’t blame her if she ordered him to leave right now! But Lily Sanders always seemed to surprise Jack. Instead of kicking him out, she placed her hand on his face, gently brushing the reckless injury. Jack closed his eyes to her touch, thinking once again how lucky he was to have her. When she thanked him for not drinking, he opened his eyes and met her gaze, wanting her to see the sincerity in his expression.
[#ff6622 “I promised you I wouldn’t.”] Jack said simply, as if that was all the reason he needed. He wouldn’t say it wasn’t a struggle. His throat itched with temptation, his hands trembled with need, and when he was gone, he had stood outside his old workplace with longing, knowing that everything he needed to satisfy his craving was inside. It would just take a bottle or two and he would go numb – no more pain, no more guilt, no more expectations. He had been so close to giving in… that’s why he called Tigan. That’s why he wound up taking a bus in the middle of the night to the next city over where his best friend was waiting for him. That’s why he yelled and cursed and shoved and punched, letting Tigan do the same until all that anger and pain was released and the need to drown his suffering had lessened. It wasn’t a healthy way to cope, but it was better than the booze. Jack left Tigan’s feeling calmer, more in control. He hugged his best friend, thanked him for knocking some sense into him, and left, catching the bus back home. All of this, just so he wouldn’t break his promise to Lily.
[#ff6622 “Lily, I… I’m so sorry…”] Jack started, but found his own apology cut off as she pulled his shirt over his head and led him back to the bed. Looks like he wasn’t sleeping on the couch tonight, so that was a good sign. But there was still something hidden in Lily’s eyes that Jack didn’t quite know how to read. He let her pull him down and drape his arm over her. After what she went through when she was a teenager, Jack always let Lily take the lead as far as physical contact was concerned, but he gave a sign of relief when she pulled his arm around her, clearly needing the comforting contact more than he was willing to admit. But then his wife did something a little out of character by moving his hand down towards her belly. He didn’t question the strange move at first, believing she was going to start into another lecture, but then he heard the two little words that shook Jack to his core.
The comforting embrace was torn apart and Jack bolted upright and turned to look down at his wife. His mouth was agape and his eyes were wide with shock – almost illuminated in the darkness of the bedroom. His hand, still resting against her stomach, began to tremble and Jack watched Lily’s face for any hint that what she said was real or just some illusion. His breath hitched in his throat, finally releasing in something that resembled a strangled sob. His eyes – seeing nothing but honesty and nervousness in Lily’s expression – slowly drifted down to where his hand as resting against her belly, before starting to well up and gradually breaking with a tear that rolled down his bruised cheek: he was going to be a father.
Jack finally snapped from his initial shock and clenched his teeth to hold back his reaction. He had always wanted a child of his own. Ever since he was a little kid, looking after his baby brother, Jack promised himself that if he were ever fortunate enough to be blessed with a child, he’d be a better father than Rick ever was. Jack’s dreams were crushed after Lily died and he fell into his pit of misery that deprived him the chance to raise Logan right. Jack thought he had failed and knew that with Lily’s trauma, he wouldn’t likely get another chance. He had mentioned it a few times over the years, but Lily had always explained she wasn’t comfortable having any more kids. Jack – despite his dreams of being a father – couldn’t put Lily through that trauma, so he had resigned to the fact that it just wasn’t meant to be. He loved her and if it was her choice not to have any more children, then he would support that. Even now, despite the emotion building in his chest, Jack almost didn’t want to dare let his hopes up before getting the answer to one important question:
[#ff6622 “Lily is this… Is this what you want?”] He asked, stumbling over the question, almost afraid to hear the truth.
For a brief moment, the reality of their situation seemed to dissipate from Jack’s mind. He forgot about losing his job, about the fight, about the potential assault charges, and all the family tension. For one brief moment, Jack let himself soak in the news that he was going to be a father. That there would be a Sanders child not raised in hate and violence, but born into all the love and support they deserve. That he could prove to himself and to the world that he could be a better father than Rick. That he and Lily could create something perfect together! And something finally broke through Jack’s expression. His lips turned up and his eyes brightened into a look of unbridled joy. He knew there were complications and hurdles ahead but for once in his life, Jack wanted to linger in the happiness of the moment and let all the worries and dread wait until tomorrow.
Jack leaned in and kissed Lily, letting all his love flow through that simple act, as his hand gently caressed her stomach and the new life within. With that, Jack let himself relax once more, lying down by Lily’s side and draping his arm over her in that gentle hug once again, knowing that whatever challenges awaited them in the morning – this alone would give him the strength to face them.
Or so he thought.
As the sun broke through the window, bringing with it the bright dawn of Saturday morning, Jack awoke with all the dread and concerns that had escaped him the night before. He was going to be a father… but what kind of father would he be? He hadn’t told Lily yet that he lost his job. His son was likely hung over from his trouble last night, and if their fight was any indication, Logan didn’t have any faith in Jack as a father figure. Then there was his anger problems, his tendency to over react, and his bad habit of becoming a voluntary punching bag every time he lost his cool. Lily was right, Jack had a lot to work on. He needed to pull himself together. Jack couldn’t afford another mistake like last night – he had to be better.
Jack rolled over, giving Lily a gentle peck on her cheek before he crawled out of bed. He went downstairs in time to see Lisa just putting on her jacket.
[#ff6622 “Heading home?”] He asked, a little relieved to see that Lisa wasn’t nearly as sharp as she had seemed the night before.
[+green “You can handle things from here. I need to check on Jesse and help Martyn get started on Logan’s defense. We might be able to make a case for teenage arrogance, underage intoxication, and provocation. Jesse will testify that the other boys were making threats and that Logan clearly perceived more danger than what was intended. No promises, Jack, but we’ll do our best. As for you…”]
[#ff6622 “I know… I know I need to do better.”]
[+green “Then stop making excuses, Jack. You’re the adult here, you need to start acting like it. Logan pushed your buttons, but you never should have reacted the way you did. Just don’t push things with Logan. He’ll still be raw from last night and if you try to fix things before he’s ready, you’ll only make things worse.”] Lisa advised, knowing that there was no easy fix to this, especially once Logan found out about the baby. There was a chance he’d see this as an opportunity, and thrive off the chance to be a big brother. But there was also a chance he’d see this as a way that Jack and Lily were trying to replace him, especially after the trouble he’d caused. The parents would have to be careful about how they handled this.
[+green “Tell Lily I’ll see her soon. Oh, and Jack? Next time you’re out looking for a punching bag, don’t use my brother-in-law.”] Lisa warned him sharply, annoyed that both Jack and Tigan seemed to be sporting fresh cuts and bruises every time one of them needed to cool off.
Jack started making breakfast and a fresh pot of coffee when Lisa left, wanting to make the extra effort this morning in hopes of buying himself some forgiveness. Lisa left the Sanders to their morning and took a taxi home, walking through the front door to the unpleasant sounds of Jesse getting sick in the washroom, and the cliché promises of: [i “I’ll never drink again!”] echoing through the halls.
Lily knew Lisa was right with a lot of what she was saying. The bottle was better smashed into a million pieces with the contents spilt all over the floor than in Jack’s possession. It was better that he left to calm himself down than destroy his relationship further with his son. But there was so many elements that Lily just couldn’t shake off. Her own past was a huge factor in all of this. She knew that a smashed bottle didn’t stop someone from gaining access to more liquor. Rick was the prime example, but even though this was different and she knew Jack wouldn’t lay a finger on her, she knew he had his own resources to getting his fix if he needed. She’d also seen how low an alcoholic could go and how self-destructive they could be. She had seen it first hand with her husband, then in her own job as a support worker with the AA group she helped. Lily was overly aware of the dangers, the tactics and Jack leaving the house didn’t give her any sense of hope. He would be in his prime state for a drink! He was feeling an overwhelming sense of guilt and rage. All Lily wanted was to hear Lisa promise that Jack would come back sober but of course even the most skilled reader in the world couldn’t offer false hope. All she could do was give Jack what he wanted... to give him more credit than what she perceived. She wished it was enough but their life was going to drastically change with a baby on the way and if he acted like this in front of Logan, would he ever change? It was a big ask. She adored Jack and would never leave his side but it only added to her list of ever growing doubts.
[+orange “It’s been building up. Logan has been getting in more trouble, he’s been avoiding Jack or making small comments... when Jack had his last episode it broke Logan. I know Logan had been drinking, I know he would have said things he didn’t mean and I tried to warn Jack but Logan will remember this. They were doing so well before all of this and... I just know this isn’t going to fix anytime soon. That’s what scares me. We have so much changing when we only just started adjusting and I’m trying not to show my weakness in front of Jack and Logan. I don’t want them to see me panicking and having these attacks... I’m almost glad Jack was so angry he didn’t see...”] Lily projected her thoughts, knowing they were jumping from place to place but she had been holding so much back. Then, in true McCleeve style, she was already feeling guilty again for off loading on Lisa.
She was going to further apologise for that as well before she felt further contact from Lisa. Lily knew Lisa wasn’t the most physical, so when the gestures were there she knew it was with true intent and purpose. Something she also found incredible about her friend was even though she wasn’t a silver tongue like Martyn, she always seemed to know what to say. Lisa was right. Despite the ways Jack received that scar and the self-inflicted pain he caused , he did it in a very messed up way of proving he was strong, and loyal, and that he cared and he loved Lily. Lily even joked when they got married, saying they didn’t need a wedding band because that scar was the evidence she needed that he would love and protect her, through sickness and in health and with all the other vows they made that day.
[+orange “Lisa Cull, I don’t know why you see the same in me because the day with Rick and Gordon, despite your own horrors you held me together.”] Lily still retracted but Lisa would have seen quite easily it would have been a loss in confidence. Especially with Lily’s next confession. Soon enough the Sanders would have another family member and that uncertainty was terrifying!
Her first thought as Lisa challenged her was how could she not think of everyone else? Just as they get some stability, everything gets shaken up, and now Lily was going to announce this news! Still, she did as she was told. She took a deep shaky breath, almost fearful to go back to the memory. All she could think of was when she found out she was pregnant with Logan. She resented the idea! She was terrified! As soon as she found out she begged everyone to put it to an end, to make it stop and she couldn’t do it. It was a moment she regretted. Logan was the light of her world, despite the trouble he caused, and she couldn’t believe her initial thoughts of him where of terror. Only as she closed her eyes and went back to the moment she found out she was pregnant this time around, even she could stop a small smile from crossing her lips. It was quick, but it was there.
[+orange “I was excited. I thought it would be a positive but then...”]
Lily didn’t have to say. She already aired all her concerns. She felt guilt for shaking the family up, for Logan, for Jack... she was excited but now there was so much doubt. She wanted this baby, to get things right, only now she wasn’t so sure that was possible.
Reopening her eyes, she saw Lisa’s grin at how Lily wasn’t so innocent either with her words and even she couldn’t help but grin in return.
[+orange “I think the boys should consider themselves lucky my hormones have changed... I guess that’s one perk of currently being a nervous wreck, they don’t have to listen to me snap... for now...”] She attempted to joke but her voice was still flat and empty.
[+orange “Thank you Lisa. I know I burden you with so much but thank you for always being by my side.”]
The hours ticked by and Lily tried to follow Lisa’s orders. She drank her cup of tea, she stayed up for a little longer but as she went to bed she just couldn’t sleep. She was restless, continuously looking at her bedside clock trying to listen out for when Jack would come home. Then she heard the door unlock and the exchange between Lisa and the voice she had been so desperate to hear. He sounded sober, but the moment she heard him there was a tightness in her chest and an anger that erupted. She was still tense about the night and as she heard his footsteps coming up the stairs, she pulled the blanket tighter and was almost tempted to pretend to fall asleep until the morning when she was more rationale.
Instead the door opened and she instantly made eye contact with her husband, her eyes filling with the same disappointment as when she saw him in the ditch. She quickly observed his fresh injuries, his ripped shirt and she bit her lip. What was there to say? He messed up? He broke her trust? He should have been stronger? Why the hell was he picking fights again? She could see the guilt in his eyes and with a heavy sigh, she pulled herself off the bed and onto her feet.
[+orange “I need to be having words with Tigan you keep using this as a way to cope.”] Lily spoke up, gently lifting her hand to his face and brushing her thumb over his split lip.
[+orange “But thank you for not drinking...”] She whispered, tracing her hand down his chest and helping him remove his scuffed up shirt.
Without speaking anything more she gently grabbed her husbands hand, pulled him down onto the bed and as they were laying down, she turned her back so it was rested against his chest and wrapped his arm around her in a gentle hug. She had so much she wanted to say but there was one matter that was on the top of her mind... she wanted to wait to tell Jack and Logan together but after everything that had happened and seeing the self-hatred in Jack’s eyes, she was quickly changing her mind. She closed her eyes again, this time moving her partners hand over her stomach and resting her hand on top.
[+orange “You need to start getting your act together Jack Sanders. We can’t do this anymore...”] She started, which to Jack would have probably have just sounded like a strict warning from his wife, but instead would be huge announcement that would change everything.
[+orange “I’m pregnant.”]
The words came out quicker than what she expected, almost too easily... yet the moment she said them her body tensed and her hand, on top of her husbands which was rested on her stomach instinctively squeezed tighter. He’d only just come home. He was broken. He was tired but Lily was tired of keeping it together. She was tired of keeping it a secret and most of all, she was tired of the arguments. After a night of chaos, she was hoping that somehow in some way this would bring a single second of joy before they both closed their eyes. Though as she waited for Jack’s response, she didn’t turn to face him. Instead she kept her back rested against him and almost locked him in place - waiting to hear the response she was most terrified of.
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