The sound of the gunshot echoed in his head as he stared down at Pete's body, lying so still on the ground. There was so much blood and Zander could smell the coppery stench, it lingered in his nostrils. He made to reach out to his brother but his father was there, screaming at him.
"YOU KILLED YOUR BROTHER...YOU KILLED YOUR BROTHER!"
"NO!" Zander came awake with a start, heart thudding in his chest, his pulse racing, his skin sheened in a cold sweat. He lifted a hand to wipe his face and realized he was shaking.
He felt, rather than saw, Jason's presence by the bed. "I need to use the bathroom." Zander was relieved when Jason said nothing but simply unlocked the cuff around his wrist. He slid off the bed, still avoiding to look at Jason, and made a beeline for the bathroom. Zander fell to his knees beside the toilet and puked until he felt as if his insides might come out. Then he fell back against the wall and buried his face in his hands. After a few moments he stood up, on shaky legs, and moved to the sink. He splashed cold water on his face, then he brushed his teeth. He didn't want to go back out into the other room. He didn't want to face Jason. But when he glanced at his reflection in the mirror, Zander realized he didn't want to face himself either.
Swallowing back a sigh, Zander exited the bathroom. He saw Jason standing at the window and wondered if the guy ever slept.
"You okay?" Jason asked.
"Fine." Zander was surprised by the question. He said nothing more as he returned to his bed.
Jason came back over and reached for the cuff. "I want to trust you, Zander."
Zander shrugged and offered his wrist. "Yeah...I'm sure you do. We'll never trust each other, Jason. Not that it matters."
"Get some sleep." Jason checked that the cuff was secure, then went back to the window.
Zander curled up on his side and closed his eyes. But he knew he wouldn't sleep. Not when his dreams haunted him even when he was awake.
* * * * *
Jason watched as Zander packed their things in the oversized duffel bag he had bought on his excursion into town the day before. Not much stuff to pack, even between the two of them. Just the bare necessities. Jason knew that Zander was used to living that way. It was one of the few things they had in common.
He watched Zander closely. The kid was pale and quiet. Unusually quiet for Zander. "Ready to go?" Jason asked. When Zander simply nodded he added, "Hungry?"
"There's a diner down the road a bit. We'll stop there."
Zander nodded again. "Fine." He picked up the bag.
Jason stepped out the door first, checking the area. Then he motioned for Zander to follow. He kept close to him to keep him shielded and to be able to grab him should he try to run. But Zander simply walked to the car and got in, after tossing the bag in the back seat. When Jason slid behind the wheel, he was a little surprised to see Zander holding his wrist out to him. But Jason said nothing. He simply snapped the cuff around it then snapped the other end around the door strap. Then he started the car and they were on their way. Again.
Twenty minutes later, Jason pulled into the diner. He looked at Zander. "Can I trust you?"
"I doubt it," Zander replied, without hesitation. "But where am I going to go? I realized something last night. You were right, Jason. I need protection and I know that you will protect me. Only because of Sonny...but still. Knowing that...I guess I'm along for the ride." He tugged on the cuff and offered a slight smile. "Can we eat now? I'm hungry."
"Fine." Jason freed him and they headed inside. He picked a back booth near the kitchen, knowing there would be an exit there if they had to run. Plus he could watch whoever entered from the front, from this position. Jason's gun was tucked into his jacket pocket. He saw the waitress approach. "Order whatever you want," he said to Zander.
Zander ordered waffles, orange juice and coffee.
Jason ordered the same. They were served quickly and didn't talk as they ate. Jason had one eye on the door at all times. "Ready to go?" he asked, after Zander pushed his plate aside. He noticed that it was only half empty.
"Yeah. I'm full." Zander shifted in his seat then he reached for his orange juice and finished it off.
"Let's go." Jason stood up and tossed a ten on the table, then he led the way out. They had parked in the back, near the edge of the woods. This was North country and they were heading further into it. Jason knew of a place where they could hide out. They were almost to the car when Zander stumbled. Jason caught him then found himself on the ground as Zander shoved him, hard. By the time Jason got back on his feet, Zander had taken off running. He was fast and heading into the woods. Jason cursed and took off after him.
Jason knew the area better, knew what path to take, but Zander was far enough ahead of him that Jason doubted he could catch him. Until he heard a thud and a curse. He put on a burst of speed and saw Zander tangled in some vines. He got free just as Jason neared him so Jason made a flying leap and tackled him. They rolled and Jason pinned Zander down on his back. "Bad move," Jason stated, his breathing a bit labored.
Zander was panting hard as well. "Fuck you! Get off me!" He struggled and would have continued to do so, but a fist connected with his temple and he went limp.
"You can never make it easy on yourself, can you?" Jason muttered, as he pulled a length of cord out of his jacket pocket. Then he quickly bound Zander's wrists together in front of him. He had just finished when hazel eyes fluttered open. Jason grabbed Zander by the jacket front and hauled him to his feet.
"God I hate you!" Zander snarled as he was dragged along the path.
Jason didn't blink. "Hate me all you want. My only concern is in keeping you alive."
Zander stumbled over a rock and cursed. "You know what? A part of me hopes you fucking fail! I hope whoever is trying to kill me fucking succeeds!"
"Shut up." Jason practically dragged Zander with him. He felt a knot of tension form in his stomach. For some reason what Zander said bothered him. Because Jason realized that the kid meant it. A part of him wanted to die. They made it back to the car and Zander started screaming at him again. Jason realized he was trying to draw attention. After a moment Jason reacted. He slammed Zander against the side of the car, pinned him with his body, cupped Zander's face in his hands, then he kissed him.
Jason felt Zander stiffen in surprise. Then he struggled against him. But Jason didn't ease up. He shoved his tongue in Zander's mouth and tasted coffee and maple syrup. He could feel Zander's bound hands trying to push at him, but they were caught between them and Zander ended up pushing against the ever growing bulge in Jason's pants. He almost laughed at Zander's reaction when he realized what he was doing. Then Jason broke the kiss. He locked eyes with Zander. "Say one word and I will gag you," he warned.
Zander said nothing.
Jason opened the door and shoved Zander into the passenger seat. He didn't bother to cuff him. With his wrists bound in front of him, he wouldn't be able to get out without fumbling for the door, and they would be going too fast for him to risk it anyway. So Jason belted Zander in then slid behind the wheel and started the engine. Then he pulled out onto the main road.
They drove for six hours without talking or stopping. Jason knew a place. A cabin in a small town. It was his place but no one knew about it. Not even Sonny. He knew he could keep Zander safe there. He had it well stocked and the location was good. They would be there in another six hours, but Jason knew they needed a break. He pulled into a diner. They could use the bathroom and order take out. He looked at Zander. "Try anything and I will make you sorry."
Zander didn't reply. He simply rubbed his wrists when the cord was untied then he got out of the car.
Jason ushered him into the diner. They ordered burgers to go then used the bathroom. Within five minutes the food was ready. They returned to the car. They sat in the car to eat. Once again he noticed Zander only ate half his food. They tossed the trash into a nearby can then got back in the car. Jason didn't bind Zander this time. He doubted Zander would run again. He was about to start the engine when Zander stopped him.
"Why did you do that?" Zander asked.
Zander ran his fingers through his hair, obviously agitated. "Why did you kiss me?" He blurted out in a rush.
Jason almost smiled. "To shut you up," he replied. It was a partial truth.
"Do you kiss Sonny like that?"
"Does it matter?" Jason was rather amused by Zander's comeback. He doubted the kid was ready for the truth.
Zander sighed. "Yeah…it matters. You're messing with me and I don't like it."
Jason shrugged then started the car. He eased out onto the main road. They hadn't gone far when he noticed a dark SUV pulling up fast. It had tinted windows. "We have company," Jason stated.
"Shit!" Zander hissed, turning in his seat to look.
Jason sped up and the other car kept pace. There was a side road coming up and Jason took the turn sharply. "Head down!" he ordered Zander, giving him a shove for good measure. And just in time. A bullet pinged into the trunk. Next shot went clean through the window and Jason yelped as it grazed over his shoulder. He felt the hot pain and watched the blood well up.
Zander saw it. "You okay?"
"Fine. There's a gun in the glove compartment. Get it!" Jason ordered. He watched Zander obey. "You know how to shoot?"
"Yeah...I can shoot." Zander turned pale.
Jason studied him for a moment. Something was wrong. But he didn't have time to question it. "Aim for the front tire." Jason hated to put Zander at risk, but they had to lose the shooter and fast.
Zander said nothing more. He simply rolled down his window then turned in his seat. He took aim and fired. Clean hit to the tire.
Jason watched the SUV veer off the road and roll into the ditch. "Nice shot," he stated. He saw that Zander was shaking. Jason reached out and took the gun from his white-knuckled grip. He set it between them then he continued driving. They wouldn't make it to the cabin tonight.
© Shelly 2004