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Chasing Ghosts

Title: Chasing Ghosts 8/?

Author: veiledndarkness

Rating: R

Pairing: Implied previous Bobby/Jack, Max/Jack

Summary: Not all those who wander are lost.

Disclaimer: Not mine, no harm intended, and no profit made

Crossover between Four Brothers/Max Payne

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7



X


‘…Jackie…Open your eyes, sweetheart…’

Jack opens his eyes as she asks him to. As if he wouldn’t…As if he’d ignore the sound of her voice. He looks to his side and sees her sitting patiently next to him, her eyes as kind as ever, her hair snowy white, gleaming in the harsh fluorescent lights overhead. He can’t stop the immediate burn in his eyes, unshed tears stinging behind his eyelids.

‘Mom…’ he whispers, struggling to sit up, to reach for her.

‘Lie back now, Jack,’ she chides him kindly.

He stares at her, hardly able to believe his eyes. She smiles at him, her palm at his side, waiting for him to hold his fingers with hers. He does so slowly, feeling her warm skin brush on his. She smiles and lets out a soft laugh at how large his fingers are compared to her dainty hands. She curls her fingers over his and he can’t help it when a tear escapes.

‘Mom,’ he tries, licking his lips. ‘I…I needed you.’

She smiles again, sadly this time. ‘I know, Jackie. I’m sorry.’

‘Why?’ he pleads. He knows he should hurt but this is only a dream and there’s no real pain in dreams, only memories of pain and he doesn’t want to go back and feel the pain waiting for him.

‘I promised you that you were safe with me,’ she whispers, her soft fingers rubbing little circles over his hand. ‘And I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you this time.’

Jack sniffs, trying not to cry, but this is Evelyn and no one broke down his defences quite like her. ‘Not your fault, I know, Ma.’

‘I’d give anything to keep my boys safe and I miss you, I miss you all so much,’ she tells him and he can feel it, feel her love, feel her strength, God, such strength in such a tiny woman.

He loses his battle over his tears and nods. He knows she does. ‘Miss you too, all the time, every day...’

‘You left home.’ She watches him, her all knowing eyes fixed on his face.

Jack swipes at the tears on his cheeks. Of course she knows. ‘I had to, Ma. It wasn’t…it wasn’t home any more after they took you away.’

She makes a sound, one Jack recognizes from years of listening to her calm him down. ‘It was home with all you boys in it.’

Jack looks away from her, his face burning with shame. ‘All those years, an’ I still ran away too much. Ma…Ma, I can’t go back there.’

‘Hey, Jackie,’ she soothes, touching his cheek. ‘I never blamed you for having itchy feet, sweetheart. Some of us were born to wander, right? And you sure can go back.’

He shakes his head, his shoulders hitching. ‘Can’t, can’t see him, not after everything.’

‘He misses you, Jackie.’

Oh God, Jack cringes, hating everything he feels just then. ‘No, he doesn’t.’

She pets his hair, smoothing the tangles and guiding his head to her. He puts his head on her shoulder, letting the tears fall into the fabric of her shirt. She smells the same; as good as she did the first time she hugged him.

‘I promise you, he does. They always say you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. He misses you the same. I know you love him, Jackie. You don’t need to hide from that.’

Jack sniffles, wanting to believe her. ‘He doesn’t want what I want. He can’t…he said he can’t give me what I need, Ma. He can’t…he won’t…same thing.’

She smiles and strokes his hair, amused by her two most troublesome boys, Bobby, her oldest, Jackie, her youngest. At least she doesn’t need to worry over Jeremiah anymore; he never gave her more than a few moments worry.

‘He loves you. You just need to let him love you.’

Jack sighs and feels flickers of guilt. Max…He exhales and clings to Evelyn. He can feel the dream fading and he doesn’t want to let go yet. ‘He needs me too,’ he whispers, thinking of Max.

‘I know, Jackie.’ She touches his face and presses a kiss to his forehead. ‘I love you.’

He tells her he loves her even as the dream falls away, even as he’s dragged back down to where it hurts, where he can hear machines beeping, where he can feel suffering all around him…


Jack opened his eyes, squinting in the light of his room. He could see the medical equipment around him and the monitors that beeped to his side. He sighed and shifted, feeling immediate spikes of pain run up and down his body. He gasped, the machine to his right beeping frantically.

“Easy there, son,” a voice told him. “Doing that won’t help you much.”

He turned his head cautiously to the side and stared at the man who sat beside his bed. He was older, much older than Jack, older than Max. He gave Jack a thin smile and sat back in his chair, his dark eyes evaluating and sizing him up. He had silver and black hair, his face creased with wrinkles. He raised his bushy eyebrows and nodded once.

“Who’re you?” Jack managed in an uneven voice.

“I’m someone you need on your side right about now.”

Jack gripped the bed sheets in each hand, his throat tightening. “Is that so?”

The man smiled a not so friendly smile and nodded. “Indeed. You are a very interesting young man. Could you tell me how it is you came to be staying in Max’s apartment?”

“I could, but that’s none of your business,” Jack snapped at him. He didn’t like this man, not one bit.

“That’s where you’re wrong. You were found in Max’s bedroom, your belongings in the living room and your fingerprints all around the apartment. The police are very interested in why you were there.”

Jack gestured to the room around him. “Really,” he drawled, “Seems obvious to me.”

“As to why you were attacked is also interesting, especially to me,” the man said.

“Yeah, me too,” Jack glared at him. “You didn’t tell me who you are an’ unless you’re a cop, I’ve got nothing to say to you.”

“B.B. Hensley,” he replied, watching Jack closely. “And you?”

Jack looked away. “Jack,” he muttered finally. “Where’s Max?’

“Max is in another room. We got to you both in time.”

Jack rested his head back on his somewhat uncomfortable hospital pillow. He let out a breath, wearied. “What about Alex?”

“The first unit to respond…” B.B. cleared his throat, looking vaguely annoyed. “They weren’t able to bring him around. He’d lost far too much blood.”

Guilt flooded through and Jack closed his eyes. “That man, that shadow…”

B.B. tapped the bed rail with one hand. “A shadow man, you’re going to have to do better than that when the cops come for your report. Max’s reputation is on the line. The department thinks he killed Alex.”

“That’s the dumbest fucking thing I ever heard,” Jack said flatly. “Alex was his partner. Max is not a goddamn murderer.”

“I repeat, how exactly do you know Max?”

“He fucks me,” Jack hissed.

B.B.’s lips curled upwards. “That’s…interesting. I had no idea that Max had such inclinations.”

“Guess you don’t know everything about him, huh?”

“I suppose not.” B.B. admitted. “So you’ve been…associating…with Max for how long now?”

Jack shrugged, though it hurt to do so. New stitches, he figured. “A few weeks, give or take.”

“I see,” though privately, Jack didn’t think this man saw at all. B.B. narrowed his eyes at Jack. “Max can be a bit of a loose wire. His temper can be dangerous and most of the men in the department know about his blaming Alex for the unsolved murders. They think he did it, and frankly, it’s going to take more than some shadow man story to clear him.”

Jack sat up again, pushing his way off the bed. He yanked at the various cords that were attached to his chest and arms. “I don’t give a shit what you think.” He tried not to groan as he swung his legs off the bed. “And for that matter, how do you know him, huh? If you knew Max at all, you’d know he’d never hurt Alex!”

“You don’t know that at all, Jack.”

Jack glared at B.B. He hadn’t felt so much anger towards someone like this in a long time. He stood up, a small whimper of pain escaping from his lips. “I know him,” he insisted.

“You shouldn’t be up and moving right now.”

“I don’t care. I want to see Max.” With as much dignity as he could manage, he held his hospital gown closed and stiffly made his way to the door just as a nurse hurried through the door.

“Mr. Mercer!” she huffed. “What do you think you’re doing out of bed?”

Jack tried not to groan. “I’m fine. I want to go see my…” he glanced at B.B. for a split second. “I wanna see Max Payne. What room is he in?”

“You’ll do no such thing in this state,” she fussed about him, trying to guide him back to bed.

Jack dodged her, using his height to his advantage. “Fine, get me a wheelchair then, but I’m gonna go see him! I need to.”

After much fussing and grumbling, Jack got his wish. He was wheeled to Max’s room, B.B. not far behind him. Jack gripped the arms of the wheelchair, his chest hitching at the sight of Max lying on the hospital bed.

“Max…” he whispered.

The nurse brought him up beside the bed, clucking in disapproval. “Only a few minutes, Mr. Mercer,” she said. “You need to rest.”

He ignored her, focusing only on the steady rise and fall of Max’s chest. His own hurts were forgotten in the moment of reassuring himself that Max was alive. He rested a hand over Max’s, rubbing their fingers together.

Max shifted, his eyes flying open at the touch. He started to sit up but fell back, pain creasing his face. “Jack…”

Jack gave him a lopsided smile. “Hey.”

“I thought...” Max rubbed his free hand over his face. He sighed. “I saw you there.”

“Hey, you can’t keep a Mercer down for long.” Jack kept the smile up though he was shaking inwardly. The whole ordeal had been terrifying and he really wanted to freak out but keeping a calm outlook felt more important.

“That’s not funny, Jack,” Max frowned. “I’m sorry, so sorry this happened to you.”

Jack gripped Max’s hand. “Don’t do that, it’s not your fault.”

“It is because you were there; because of me…” he trailed off and looked over Jack’s shoulder. “B.B…”

“Max,” B.B walked over to the bed and took a seat in the chair next to the bed. “You came in here, looking pretty bad. Thank God, you made it through.” He placed a light hand on Max’s shoulder. “What happened?”

“I don’t know…” Max looked away from both Jack and B.B. “It’s…Alex?”

B.B. shook his head. “I’m sorry, Max. The unit couldn’t…it was too late by then. They were lucky to get you and…” he threw a glance at Jack, “And your friend.”

Max sighed slowly. His forehead furrowed and Jack knew he was seeing grief on his face for the loss of his ex-partner. His chest rose and fell for several beats before he looked back at B.B. “I got six shots off. I hit something…or someone. You’ve gotta check, B.B. The hospital, a John Doe…”

B.B. chuckled and it raised the small hairs on the back of Jack’s neck. “I’m not a cop anymore, Max. I came to see about you.”

“Alex, he wanted to tell me something. He left me a message at work.”

Jack lifted his head, fear beginning to fill him. He’d spoken to Alex about Max’s wife. He bit down on his bottom lip. He smoothed his thumb over Max’s fingers, much the way Evelyn had done for him countless times before.

“If there’s anything you can remember, it’ll help,” B.B. said, raising his voice a little. “They got nothing for leads; the whole force has you pegged for the prime suspect.”

Jack bristled, his lips pulling back in a sneer. “It’s bullshit!”

“Hey, you tell them where to find me,” Max snapped, rolling his shoulders.

“The wake starts in an hour, I’ll pass that along,” B.B said, ignoring Jack’s outburst.

Max sat up, yanking at his monitoring cords, much the way Jack had.

“What’re you doing?” B.B. protested.

“Payin’ my respects,” Max muttered. He moved stiffly, struggling to sit properly.

“Max…Max, wait,” Jack pleaded, grabbing his hand. “This isn’t a good idea.”

B.B. shook his head. “I hate to say it, but I think your friend might be right.”

“I’m going, B.B. That’s all there is to it.” Max said gruffly. He tugged the bedrail, sliding forward with a wince.

After a moment, he looked back to Jack, who stared down at the tile floor, touching the top of his head gently. “B.B., I need a safe place for Jack.”

B.B’s lips pursed. “I suppose I can think of a few places, unless you’d rather bring him along.”

“Max,” Jack tried again.

Max smoothed Jack’s hair back from his forehead, a gesture that made his eyes sting. “I don’t want anything happening to you, Jack,” he murmured. “I…Please do this for me?”

“I’m not gonna sit by an’ hope you come back in one piece,” Jack looked up at him, willing Max to listen to him. “Look, I’ll…I’ll go with you, ok?”

Ignoring B.B.’s almost inaudible huff, Max nodded. He ran his thumb over Jack’s cheekbone, his mouth turned down by the sight of the colourful bruise on Jack’s skin. “Alright,” he said reluctantly. “But if I ask you to go someplace after, you will?”

Jack gritted his teeth. Too much like Bobby, he fumed silently. “Yeah, sure…”

X

On the ride over to B.B.’s office suite, Jack kept his teeth clenched. He badly wanted a cigarette but something told him that the older man wouldn’t approve of such behaviours. He found a tiny amount of comfort in knowing that Max was sitting close to him, but he also didn’t dare reach for him.

Max said nothing on the ride, but that wasn’t anything that Jack wasn’t accustomed to. His hand was wrapped, unseen bandages under his blood splattered work shirt. Jack fidgeted with his own clothes, feeling a touch stale himself. Though his face was bruised, and his left temple had a bandage on it, he figured he didn’t look half bad for a funeral.

His fingers grazed his side, brushing under his leather jacket. His hooded sweater had given him some protection from his assailant, but he’d taken quite a beating, all things considered, he thought with dark humour. He’d required many stitches, ten across his shoulder, a scattering across his left hip and a wound that ran across his right side, one that he hadn’t dared look at too closely. That had been the one that would have taken his life, had he been found any later.

Alex had fared much worse, he mused sadly, flexing his stiff fingers and trying to ignore his nicotine cravings. He’d been hacked at too many times to count. Jack shuddered as his mind involuntarily wandered to the sight in the alley way, the multiple sheets every which way covering all the body parts.

Max had gotten off the easiest, compared. A few superficial wounds, his fingers on his right hand wounded, along with several small cuts and a hell of a lot of bruises elsewhere. Jack fingered the pill bottle in his jacket pocket. Thank God for painkillers.

B.B. pulled up beside a series of granite steps that led up to a building of staggering height. Jack couldn’t help but gawk up at the enormous office building and he noticed Max looking up, almost startled by the sight of it.

A man stood to the side, politely holding the door for B.B. The three of them started up the steps, mindful of the fresh snow that had fallen. Max shook his head. “When did they move in here?”

“I guess we got the building last year.”

Max furrowed his forehead at that. “We?”

“Oh sorry,” B.B gave a forced laugh. “Gets to be habit after awhile…I haven’t filled you in yet. They made me head of security but still pay me like the janitor.”

Jack looked up at the massive poster that hung from the ceiling to the floor. He stared, feeling his stomach lurch.

Aesir Pharmaceuticals

Max’s wife, she’d worked for Aesir. He swallowed awkwardly, his throat dry. This was so far from good, he wanted to shout. He drifted closer to Max, feeling even more uneasy. Max nudged his arm a little, guiding him along.

“Jack?” he asked in a near whisper. “You ok?”

“Mhm,” Jack lied, forcing a small smile.

B.B escorted them upstairs to his office. Jack closed his eyes in the elevator, trying to ignore how rapidly they were going up. It wasn’t that he was afraid of heights per say, more that they made him seriously dizzy.

Jack wandered away from the large glass windows as B.B. spoke to Max, giving him a clean dress shirt to change into. B.B. seemed fine with pretending Jack wasn’t there, which suited him as well. He didn’t like the man. There was an aura of falseness to him.

He turned to see the wooden desk, a magazine displayed on it. Jack picked it up, skimming through the usual P.R. bullshit that companies put out in their magazines. Towards the end, he froze, gripping the magazine tightly. Staring up at him was Michelle Payne, a beatific smile on her face, information about her scholarship listed underneath.

B.B. glanced over at Jack and frowned. He cleared his throat again and nodded. “Max, I saved that copy for you. They kept coming to me for ideas in her memory. They suggested a scholarship. I guess they figured I was like family. So I said art. She liked art, right?”

Max nodded once, his gaze skimming he magazine Jack still held. “Yeah…”

“So you never said how you know him,” Jack blurted, breaking the tense silence.

“I was his father’s partner a long time ago, in the NYPD,” B.B. said sharply. “That’s close enough to family.”

Jack let the magazine drop to the desk. He didn’t want to hold it a second more.

“It’s a good way to remember someone,” B.B. added. “Scholarships…”

Max said nothing. Not that Jack had expected him to. Too touchy of a subject, he knew.

X

Jack had never felt such discomfort as when he was at a funeral. While they made their way through the crowd of cops at Alex Balder’s home, Jack flashed back to Evelyn’s funeral, to the freezing cold of that day, the snow under his boots and the feel of Bobby’s hand resting on his lower back. He shivered, feeling sick all over again.

The men stared at Max, whispers following him as he crowds parted to let them through. Jack wanted to take Max’s hand but he knew better. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and settled for leaning close to him.

Max slowly walked up to a woman who stood with her back to him, a fragile wisp of a woman with short dark hair. He seemed to be gathering himself, discomfort evident on his face. He paused and then said her name quietly.

“Christa…”

She stiffened and turned at the sound of his voice, a strangled sob catching in her throat. Her hand flashed out and slapped him across the face, the sound horribly loud in the unnatural quiet of the crowded wake.

Jack’s eyes flashed angrily and he went to step forward, only to have Max’s arm stop him, holding him back a bit. Max looked away, her handprint bright on his cheek. He brought his gaze back, accepting her furious words.

“All it would have taken was one word from you,” she said, her hand on his chest, pushing the words at him. Tears brimmed in her eyes. “It would have given Alex some peace. Are you happy now, Max?”

He said nothing, his own eyes gleaming a little, though it disappeared quickly.

“You made him think he hadn’t done enough,” she studied his face, and then firmed her trembling lips. “What have you done, Max? Except for bring misery to everyone who ever cared for you.”

She sniffed once. “Now please get out of my house. Please, just…go.”

Jack hissed through his teeth, ready to lunge at her. Max shook his head and guided Jack with him, bringing him back out of the house, B.B. trailing behind them. “Don’t, Jack,” he sighed. “She’s right.”

“She had no right, Max, none at all to say that to you!” Jack whispered fiercely. “I don’t care if she is grieving.”

Max caught Jack’s hand in his own, heedless of the cops that were gathered on the front porch. “Trust me when I say she was right. You don’t know the whole thing.”

B.B. wisely said nothing.

Jack didn’t like it but he nodded reluctantly. “Look, I don’t think you understand…”

B.B made a sound in his throat. “Ah Jesus, watch out for this prick.”

At that, a black car pulled up alongside all the others that were parked on either side of the street. A man got out of the car, a dirty look on his face. “Detective Max Payne?” he asked, eyeing the three of them. “Jim Bravura, Internal Affairs. I need to have a word with you.”

“What, now?”

“Yeah,” he snapped, “Now.”

X

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
aliceinked
Dec. 20th, 2011 12:57 am (UTC)
Can't wait for more!!!
veiledndarkness
Dec. 21st, 2011 06:00 pm (UTC)
Thanks! New chapter's up :)
(Anonymous)
Dec. 20th, 2011 06:20 am (UTC)
I love the drugged out visit from Evelyn. Small women are the toughest of us all, I've seen it myself. If Jack can help Max I think he'll have the strength to take back Bobby. I wish I remembered more than bits and pieces of the MP movie. I remember some of this bit but I can't remember how Max wins in the end or if he gets a girl, I'm assuming his wife is really dead or maybe he somehow got her back I don't know. Plus this is AU so anything can happen. I like that.
veiledndarkness
Dec. 21st, 2011 06:02 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Evelyn's character in Four Brothers was very important and we learned more about her through each brother's flashback of her. She was a wonderful character :)

littlewitch34
Dec. 20th, 2011 06:56 am (UTC)
Waiting impatiently!
veiledndarkness
Dec. 21st, 2011 06:00 pm (UTC)
Wait no more, my dear, lol. The new chapter is up :)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )