Zack - M. Malone

chapter one


There was a time when I thought my brother was invincible. He could run faster, throw farther and hit harder than I ever could.

He was my hero.

I was always the loner, the antisocial misfit with few friends and even fewer fucks to give. Whereas Gabe is the type of guy who can charm the pants off a nun and makes everything look easy.

I glance over at my brother and have to acknowledge that his life hasn’t been so charmed lately. His face is pale and sweaty from exertion. One arm is slung over my shoulders as we shuffle down the hall at a snail’s pace and I’m pretty sure my grip is the only thing keeping him upright. He looks terrible.

Well, to be fair he looks like a guy who just got stabbed.

Once we reach his bedroom, he lets out a ragged sigh as I help him sit down on the bed. It only took so much effort to get him back up the stairs because he’s determined to prove he doesn’t need my help. His superman act has definitely taken a toll. His forehead has a deep furrow and his breathing is shallow.

He was only in the hospital for a few days before checking himself out against medical advice. It’s been two weeks since then and I’m getting worried. He doesn’t seem to be much better and I can tell he’s still in a lot of pain.

“I think it’s time for your meds again.”

“No more. I can’t think when I take that shit.” He closes his eyes and doesn’t look at me while I cover him with his blankets. Ignoring me while I’m helping him seems to soothe his pride a bit.

“You’re a terrible patient.” It’s impossible to keep the amusement from my voice which just seems to piss him off further.

He cracks his eyes open slightly. “Where’s Sasha?”

I grin, knowing the real reason for his grumpiness is more about her absence than the knife wound in his side. “She had to babysit for her sister. Don’t worry, she’ll be back before your heart breaks.”

“Fuck off.” There’s no heat behind the curse though and that worries me more than anything else he’s said or done today.

We’ve had some pretty heavy stuff thrown at us lately and I’m not sure how he’s handling it. I’ve been vacillating between enraged and depressed over the past few days myself.

“How is he?”

We both turn at the sound of Sasha’s voice. I manage to get out of the way, barely, as Sasha pushes past me and climbs on the bed next to Gabe. The frown lines on his forehead ease immediately.

“I’ll be downstairs if you need me.”

Neither of them looks up as I leave but I don’t take offense. Now that Sasha’s here I can finally take a deep breath and relax a little. As much as I love my brother, he’s always been one step away from straying from the straight and narrow. Worrying about him is as much a part of my life as breathing.

We grew up under unusual circumstances when our mothers, best friends before being knocked up by the same guy, decided to raise us together. Our community is small and there were plenty of people here who thought our little family didn’t belong. I doubt I would have been popular anyway as scrawny and sickly as I was but our social status definitely affected Gabe. He has a natural propensity for trouble but watching our moms struggle to pay the bills gave him the push he needed to develop some of his less than legal skills.

After repeated brushes with the law as a teenager, it’s been a constant battle to keep him away from temptation. I truly believe it was only the worry about upsetting our mothers that kept him out of jail. Now that he’s with Sasha, I don’t worry so much anymore. Even if he was tempted back to his old life, he wouldn’t do anything that would take him away from her.

As I close the door behind me, Debbie straightens up from where she was leaning against the wall.

“Hey, Mom. How long have you been out here?”

She smiles and glances behind me at the closed door. “I wanted to check on him before I go. But I won’t disturb him if he’s resting.”

Ever since Gabe was attacked, both of our mothers have been hovering to the point where they were driving him crazy. My mom is the type that doesn’t take hints too well but Debbie