Blood and Gin

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Chapter 9

Elle woke slowly. She blinked at her surroundings. She was in a room. A nice room. Suddenly, the events of last night came rushing back and she shot to her feet. Everything tensed as she listened carefully. This was a huge house, but it was empty, therefore sounds would echo easily. And she heard something she hadn’t expected: laughter.

Moving cautiously, she went to the door of her room, cracking it open. It was faint, but distinct. Laughter. Specifically, Jack’s laugh. She hadn’t heard him laugh like that in a while.

As she opened the door wider, she smelled something else she hadn’t in a while: pancakes. Tears pricked her eyes, and she hastily swiped her face. For a moment, she was ten, and it was a standard Saturday morning, her parents in the kitchen, Jack laughing. Her dad always made pancakes on Saturday. Sometimes he’d do add ins, and those didn’t always work. She still remembered the sunflower seed pancakes. What she wouldn’t give for that oversalted, uncomfortably crunchy pancake right now.

She went down the stairs slowly, her bare feet frozen against the cold marble stairs. She always preferred bare feet. Easier to sneak around. She reached the bottom of the stairs, and listened again. The laughter had stopped, but there was the low, warm murmur of voices. She closed her eyes, listening. Just for a moment, she could pretend. She could pretend they were out, and they were home, and she was safe.

She felt herself smile, and then pain shot through her, breaking the fantasy. Her lip was still raw from the lucky punch. She reached out, wiping across it with the back of her hand. Exhaling shakily, Elle moved forward towards the kitchen.

In the kitchen, the GPA was at the stove, expertly flipping pancakes. This was the first time she’d seen him in anything other than his crisp school uniform. He was wearing black sweats, black hoodie, and thick green socks. Soft radio music was playing. She couldn’t see Jack, so she guessed he was still on the table. She moved closer, suddenly shy. She hadn’t been thinking much of anything aside from “Save Jack” last night, and had accepted the GPA’s help in an instant. But now, in the light of day, she was having second thoughts. What would this cost them?

The GPA suddenly looked over, and Elle realize she’d been staring at him hard for a solid minute. He gave her an easy smile. “Hi, Elle. Are you feeling better?” He asked, his voice warm and relaxed. Elle took in the shocking change in his body language. Last night, he was guarded, tight, cold. This morning, he was relaxed, warm, at ease.

She blinked, and shrugged. “I’m okay. Jack?” She turned her head, scanning for him.

“Still on the table,” he confirmed, waving a hand over the island countertop.

Elle fought a smile as she rounded the island to see her brother reclining on the table like some Roman lord. He looked even worse in the morning light. She leaned down, kissing his head. “You look like shit,” she said sweetly.

Jack rolled his eyes. “Thanks, you look like trash yourself,” he shot back easily.

Elle heard muffled laughter from the GPA, but when she looked up, he had his back to them. She looked back at Jack. “How are you?” She asked gently.

“Pretty awesome. Dev hooked me up with some crazy painkillers. Did you know his parents are doctors?” Jack asked.

Elle glanced at the GPA, and saw that his shoulders had tightened. “Yeah, I figured since he was able to stitch you up. How long till he recovers?” She directed the last question to the GPA.

He half turned, turning off the stove as he did so. He wiped his hands on a cloth, coming over. He studied Jack seriously for a moment. He reached out, running his fingers along Jack’s taped ribs, along the stitches on his face. Elle flushed at the strangely intimate air that was developing between the two.

“I’d say give him a week. The face stitches will come out then. The ones on his back, maybe two weeks?” The GPA said thoughtfully. “Help me sit him up.”

Elle reached out, helping the GPA lift Jack into a seated position. Jack resisted the urge to close his eyes as Dev’s fingers ran along the bandages, his fingers soft as he pressed along different parts of Jack’s back.

“I’d say to not fight for a month, but my guess is, if pressed, you could get away with it in maybe two weeks. You’d have to be very, very careful, though. You can’t let the other guy land anything.” He said it so matter-of-factly, but Jack’s gaze flew to Elle, who paled.

“What do you mean, fight?” She hedged, smiling.

Dev glanced at her, then at Jack, taking in their pale faces. “Oh. I forgot, Jack was unconscious, and Elle was asleep. I was talking to Ross about how you all are a part of an underground fighting thing and that Jack had a bad match yesterday. And Elle said concrete, which means this probably happened by the docks, in one of the warehouses. Added to the fact that Ross seems to want to lie about you guys receiving outside help, it stands to reason that it’s not legal, and you’re worried I’d do something that gets you killed.”

The way he said it, with such conviction, made Jack grow cold. He looked at Elle, who was so pale he was worried she’d pass out. But she surprised him by instead grabbing Dev by his shirt front, and slamming him into the cabinets.

“Or, we can just kill you and stay in your house until Jack’s better. You told us last night that no one would notice if you’re gone,” she said softly. She slipped her switchblade out of her pocket, flicking it open. “So just try and rat on us, GPA. See what that gets you.”

Jack moved slowly, forcing himself to move through the pain. He got off the table, his feet hitting the ground hard, making his legs ache. He looked at Elle, then to Dev, who was watching Elle with an empty expression. “If I was going to rat on you, why would I have given you Pringles?” He asked simply.

Jack frowned at him, confused. But Elle eased the knife off of Dev’s neck a little. “You could be playing us. There’s no way you’d help us just to help us. No, you want something. Spill it, now.”

She pressed the blade into Dev’s neck, drawing the thinnest line of blood. His gaze flickered from Elle’s for a just a moment, landing on Jack. He licked his lips, his gaze never wavering from Jack. “What I want? I want to get you out.”

Jack and Elle froze, hardly daring to believe what they just heard. Elle recovered first. “What? You want to get us out? How? Why?” Elle demanded.

Dev still didn’t look at her, his gaze steady on Jack. “How, I’m not sure yet, but I have some ideas. As to why, I like you.” He said it softly, his gaze intent on Jack. Jack felt himself flush as red as his hair. Dev finally looked away, looking at Elle who was staring at him. “I like all of you. You made me feel like I was important. That I matter. So really,” he shrugged, “it’s for selfish reasons. But I mean it. I want to get you out of whatever you’re trapped in.”

His gaze found Jack’s again. Jack had to remind himself to breathe. His skin grew cold then warm at the thought. Getting out. Leaving the Ring. Being free. All impossible dreams before this moment. But now? He clenched his hands into fists, feeling the muscles flex underneath the raw gashes on his forearm. He exhaled slowly. “Elle,” he said softly.

She let Dev go, flipping her switchblade shut. She looked from Jack to Dev, her gaze suspicious. Jack took a step closer to Dev. “What you’re offering, it won’t be easy. You’ll probably get hurt. You don’t want anything to do with my world, trust me. We aren’t just toys that rich boys can play with whenever they want,” he bit out, his voice cold, his gaze hostile. He wanted this too much for this…GPA to offer him false promises. They were already used for Jasper’s amusement, he would die before he let anyone else fuck with him and his family.

The GPA met his gaze squarely, his gaze just as cold. “I understand. Regardless, my offer still stands. Think about it.” He said softly.

The kitchen was silent as Jack and Dev stared at each other for a long moment. Finally, the silence was broken by Elle. “We’ll think about it. For now, pancakes?”

The two boys glanced at her, then Dev’s gaze went to the tall stack of pancakes on the counter. He gently moved out from around Jack. “Pancakes. Syrup or butter?”

After breakfast, Dev excused himself, going upstairs. Elle waited until he was gone before leaning in. “We have to go. Jasper knows we can’t afford a hospital this long. Can you walk?”

Jack nodded, standing slowly. He glanced on the counter, where the medication bottle and Dev’s blood-stained hoodie were. He’d left them there earlier when he went to change into something that didn’t reek of blood. Jack grabbed them. Zipping into the hoodie, wincing, he nodded to Elle.

They crept through the house. By the door, a petite table stood. In a bowl, there were three sets of car keys, all to different cars. Elle grabbed one, heading to the door. Jack made to follow her, but something made the back of his neck prickle. He glanced up, and froze, heart in his mouth.

Dev was sitting on the top steps, watching them. His face was impassive, his fingers casually linked together. The two looked at each other for a long moment, then the corner of Dev’s lips curved ever so slightly. Almost like a challenge. Jack exhaled a small laugh and looked away, slipping out of the door. He closed it softly after him.

He went to the car that Elle had started, the low hum of the engine was shocking after the oppressive silence inside the house. He slipped into the front seat, wincing in pain. Elle looked at him, and he nodded, and she hit reverse. Jack watched as the cold, empty house faded from view. As the front gates closed behind them, Jack realized that perhaps, Dev was as trapped as they were.

He leaned his head back onto the headrest. He thought about the look in Dev’s eyes as he said he could get them out. Jack smiled bitterly. It was too good to be true.

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