Seventy-Two Hours Ch. 02

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Author’s Note:

Okay, so I have to retract the statement I made in chapter 1. I don’t think this is a little darker that what I normally write, I know it is.

These characters aren’t particularly likeable, but I’m writing this story because I do find them compelling. I think nomoretears00 got it right when she described all three of them as damaged.

Anyways, here’s chapter 2. Forewarning you now there is a physically violent scene between Justice and Axl. Just a hit…but I know from my own experiences with domestic violence that just a hit is just a hit too much.

Thanks for reading. Feedback and comments welcome as always.


April 22, 2007

Laughing, Axl accelerated his brand new, cherry red Mustang to insanely high speeds. He was on the way to the hospital, having just received word by text that the baby had been born.

Axl didn’t let up on his breakneck speed until he reached the rear, lesser used visitor’s parking lot. After maneuvering the car carelessly, and also very crookedly, into one of the many available spaces, he jumped out and paid the attendant. He strolled to the street, was just about to dart across—

He didn’t get the chance.

A hand clamped onto the back of Axl’s neck and yanked him backwards. Out of the way of a vehicle speeding even more haphazardly than Axl not five minutes before.

“Shit, that was close!” Axl exclaimed. “Where the hell did that car even come from?” He watched the car as it veered precariously to the left, across two lanes of opposing traffic, before it finally drifted safely back to the right. “I didn’t—”

“Of course you didn’t see it, you’re high.”

Axl groaned silently when he heard his savior’s voice. There was only one person he knew who had that just woke up sound. And it didn’t matter if it was morning, noon or night, that person always sounded like they’d just rolled out the bed.

And, funny as that was, it wasn’t what Axl was supposed to be thinking about. There was something of far greater importance which deserved his attention. And that something was…

When he couldn’t make himself remember, Axl tried to shake his head to dislodge the cobwebs. And discovered he couldn’t because his savior’s firm hold on his neck hadn’t decreased.

Holy. Shit. The something of far greater importance was his savior. Aka Justice. Who was standing next to Axl. And who evidently knew Axl was high. Jesus, on any other day that would seriously be a fucking buzz kill. But today it wasn’t.

Today, Axl was just too far gone to care.

“Hey, J! Whatcha doing out here, bro?” Axl asked enthusiastically.

Hazel orbs regarded him coolly. “Waiting for you. Like I told you I would be in my last text.”

“You did?” Axl tried hard to remember the text. He couldn’t. Only text he remembered receiving from Justice that afternoon was the one announcing Gage’s birth.

“That’s exactly what I told you in my last text. That would be the text I sent right before your response that you’d see me in the parking lot in fifteen. But I’m guessing you don’t remember that one either.”

“Nah, sorry, I don’t. But let’s go inside, man. I’m excited to see my lil’ brother.”

A dark, bushy eyebrow bolted upwards and a hoarse, incredulous voice clarified, “High?”

Shit. He would want to harp on that.

“I’m not high,” Axl protested. Far as he was concerned his little white lie was close enough to the truth. After all, wasn’t it worth consideration that he wasn’t as high as he would’ve been if he hadn’t left his friend’s house exactly when he had? Trying to make small talk, he continued, “Got here fast as I could, man. Left almost soon as I got your message.”

“Is that so?”

“Yeah, I stayed long enough to help Brand break down the work, but I left him and Dante to bag it up.”

Axl very carefully made sure to omit any reference of what they’d all been doing when the text had come through prior to said breaking down occurring. And what they’d all engaged in a little bit more of after they were done and before Axl had actually taken his leave.

Rolled up hundred dollar bills. DVD cases topped with even lines of white powder. A couple snorts.

A big trip to heaven.

“You mean you left right after sending me the text that you can’t even remember sending. The text you sent an hour ago.”

“Damn, did it really take me that long to get here? My bad, J. There was a lot of product and time just got away from me.”

Justice stared at Axl through hardened, narrowed eyes. Barely restrained anger glinted dangerously in the amber orbs. “Time got away from you because you’re high.”

“It was just some weed,” Axl blurted, rethinking his theory of being too far gone. Justice’s grip was tightening painfully and Axl didn’t doubt Justice was close to giving in to the urge to throttle him. And no matter how high he was, the seriousness of facing certain death required a healthy measure of soberness. “I swear, J. That’s all cloud storage it was, man. Weed.”

Justice let go of Axl, some of the anger leached out of his gaze. Only to be replaced with something even more disturbing. Disappointment. “Just some weed? You say that like it’s no big deal.”

“It’s not.” Not when compared to what Axl had in truth been doing.

“Axl, has it ever occurred to you that just some weed at sixteen will eventually turn into just a little bit of cocaine when you’re eighteen? And just a taste of heroin when you’re twenty? Hell, on that path to sure success, before you’re old enough to buy alcohol we’ll have made a crack head out of you first, boy.”

Desperately, Axl tried to think of anything he could say to staunch his idol’s displeasure. “Hey, I know the technical term for what you’re talking about,” he joked with a grin he suspected was as idiotic as it was bright. “We talked about that in health class once. It’s called the gateway effect or some shit like that.”

“Gate…” Justice’s harsh tones faded into nothingness. The expression on his face was an engrossing combination of awed disgust Axl would’ve found amusing…on any other occasion. “Jesus, have you forgotten our number one rule?”

Never get high on your own supply. Biggie’s fourth crack commandment. “I haven’t forgotten. It’s just that I—”

“It’s just that you what?” Justice interrupted in a shout. He shoved Axl in the shoulders so hard Axl just barely managed to stop himself from stumbling to the ground.

But the completely unexpected hit aimed at Axl’s chest did take him down.

The air Axl’s lungs had been so innocently enjoying escaped in a whoosh as Justice’s fist connected. Axl doubled over, still upright. Slowly, as the pain neared the level of unbearable, he sank to his knees. It took several moments for him to convince himself his heart hadn’t stopped beating. And, when he did, he then found himself having to sway his belly not to paint the sidewalk with all of its contents.

Somehow Axl finally managed to pick himself up. Right at the moment he regained his feet, a man and woman exited the parking lot.

The man, evidently having seen what happened and intending to intercede, approached slowly. “Hey—”

“Mind your business,” Justice snapped, not bothering to look at the interloper. “This is between family.”

The man glanced back and forth between Justice and Axl, his disbelief clear. His expression said it all.

Huge, violent, dark Justice. Versus half the size, in agony, lily white Axl.

“Is he telling the truth, son?” the man directed to Axl. “You two really family?”

“Isn’t that what I just fucking said?” Justice ground out. The corner of his scarred eye twitched.

“Yeah, that’s exactly what you said. Now I want to hear what he has to say.”

“We’re family,” Axl wheezed in assurance. He was scared that whatever the reason behind the couple visiting the hospital, it was about to take a back seat to the care the man was putting himself in danger of needing. A battering suffered at Justice’s hands could be that detrimental.

Then he wondered at his immense stupidity as he watched the sensible female pull her male across the street. With the man gone, that meant Axl would once again bear the full brunt of all that detrimental anger by his lonesome.

With no other readily available witnesses, a quick scan revealed. With nothing at all to curb Justice’s violence.

“Do you want to end up like my mother? Do you want to be beaten to death while high?” Justice hissed, faced shoved right in front of Axl’s. “Or is it your own mother you’re striving so diligently to be like? Cause that bitch is a real good fucking example to model yourself after. Beaten to death while high and abandoning her only child to fend for himself in the middle of winter.”

Scuffing one of his Air Force Ones over the other, Axl dropped his head. Hot shame coursed through his veins, chasing and subjugating the coke.

Or the dying of his high may have been related to the pain radiating throughout his entire being from the point where Justice’s fist had collided with his body.

Axl had been snorting the toxin for some time now. Didn’t really know why he’d started other than he wanted to know some variation of the high which had haunted his mother and ruined her life. But ever since those very first lines he’d sucked up his greedy nostrils, he’d known how Justice would feel about his recreational drug use.

Justice had been the one to discover his own mother’s lifeless, badly bruised body when he was ten. Justice had also been the one to discover the dead, abused, mottled body of Axl’s mother in the alley beside the apartment building where he used to live.

Justice loathed drug addicts. He viewed mothers who used as the worst offenders.

But even worse than the mothers were the children who saw what happened…and still walked down that same path.

What a hypocritical cloud file storage situation. The drug dealer who hated his clients yet would never stop selling to them.

What an atypical situation. The drug dealer who actively participated in the destruction of families. Then supplied the cast off children a place in Los Olvidados, another familial unit of sorts, in return.

Like he had with Axl after selling Axl’s mother crack rocks the night she’d been killed.

“You know what? Don’t answer that,” Justice fumed, “since it’s clear to me you have some kind of fucked up wish to be just like our dearly departed mothers. I consider myself an obliging type of guy so I’ll do my best to make your dream come true. You’re already high, so that part is taken care of. Now we’re at the part where I beat your fucking ass. What you just experienced? Nothing compared to the punishment you’re about to suffer.”

“P-p-please don’t,” Axl stammered. He knew, if pushed, Justice would carry out his threats, consequences be damned.

“P-p-please don’t,” Justice mocked cruelly. “You don’t want me to pound your hard ass, stubborn head into the fucking concrete? Then give me one good reason not to.” He stuck up his pointer finger, right in front of Axl’s face, as a numerical example. “That’s all I’m asking for.” He tapped the digit against Axl’s forehead. “Go ahead, use that doped up brain of yours to think up one good ass reason for me not to drop you and hope when you regain consciousness you’ll have found some of the fucking common sense you seem to have misplaced somewhere!”

“B-b-because it’s n-not necessary.”

And because his chest already hurt to high hell. As for including the rest of his body in on the pain? No fucking way.

He wouldn’t survive it.

“You giving your word not to get high again?”

Just to assuage Justice, Axl thought about replying in the affirmative. But then Justice’s long ago words about the only thing of true worth Axl would ever have echoed through his mind.

It was time to man up. Even if it did mean he would suffer a beat down.

Axl was addicted. And he wasn’t ready to stop using. When he was high, it was the only time he understood Lauren Thomas and the poor choices she’d made in her life. It was the only time he could forgive his mother for leaving him.

It was also the only time that it didn’t hurt quite so much when Axl acknowledged he was in love with a man who would never be in love with him back. A man who had a wife. And a newborn son.

The man who had saved Axl as a child.

Jesus, how screwed up was it that Axl sexually desired the man who’d reared Axl as his own? The answer was simple.

It was screwed up enough that Axl had turned to drugs to cope.

Axl took a deep breath. He backed up a safe distance from Justice. Then raised his eyes to stare at a point just over Justice’s shoulder. “I can’t give that to you, J. Not yet.”

“Why am I not surprised.” After a long moment, Justice sighed. “Guess that’s it, then. You’ve made your choice.”

“Guess I have. Can I…can I see still see my lil’ brother?”

“Hell no.” The denial was immediate.

“I can respect that,” Axl mumbled. “Yeah, uh, guess I’ll leave now. And I’m sorry, J. Never should have come up here like this.”

Axl turned around and retreated to his car. He felt emotionally numb over Justice having shut him out of his life for the first time ever. He was in disbelief. Using the remote, he unlocked the doors and gingerly slid into the driver’s seat so as not to jostle his sore torso.

Then jumped in surprise when Justice slid into the passenger’s seat next to him.

“Damn, that hurts,” Axl moaned. He focused pained bleared eyes on Justice. “Uh, J, whatcha doing, man? You coming with me or something? Need me to take you somewhere?”

“Nah.” Instead of immediately elaborating, Justice adjusted the motorized seat until it reclined all the way back. “I’m not going anywhere.”

“Huh?” Axl asked stupidly.

“I said I’m not leaving. I can’t. My newborn son, your baby brother, is in that building across the street.”

“So why are you in my car then? Not that I mind or anything since you did buy it, but, uh, what—”

“Because you’re not going anywhere either, Axl,” Justice explained evenly, all signs of his earlier anger absent. “Right now you need me a lot more than my other little boy does. And since I can’t let you near him right now, and also refuse to let you leave in your inebriated state, this is the compromise I have to settle for.”

Hope flourished in Axl’s chest. It overcame his pain, both physical and emotional.

Justice wasn’t shutting him out. Justice truly wasn’t shutting him out.

Axl twisted his upper body behind the steering wheel until he faced Justice. “J, I just want you to know that, ya know, I really appreciate that you’re not giving up on me.”

“You’re my family, Axe, and family doesn’t give up on one another. file upload We may not be related by blood, but our bond is just as strong and real as the bond I have with my son.” Justice turned his head to the left and pinned Axl under the force of his stare. “Because of that bond and the love I have for you, I’m sending you to rehab. You may have made your choice, but in no way does that mean I have to sit back, accept it and do nothing, goddamn it.”

Axl knew then that Justice hadn’t bought into his lie. People generally didn’t go to rehab for weed.

Much later, to his elation, Axl was finally allowed to enter the maternity ward of the hospital. He’d been lightened of the variety of unsold drugs he’d been carrying on his person.

But the smile on his face couldn’t be removed. Because Justice was by his side.

Justice was still there for him.


January 16, 2011

Justice reclined on his back in the center of the small bed, staring at the ivory colored plaster ceiling. The day of Gage’s birth was stuck on repeat in his mind. He truly didn’t want to think about his son, but with nothing else to do, he’d started to reflect on his past. And his past was the only place where Gage existed now.

And it sure beat the hell out of the alternative: thinking about the implications of his actions as so nicely brought to his notice by Saint the day before.

The day of Gage’s birth had been momentous for Justice. An emotional roller coaster. Witnessing the arrival of the bundle of joy. Hearing his first lusty cry of life. Cutting the umbilical cord. Washing his tiny body clean.

That first hug.

The first kiss.

Those had all been the ups of that day.

Then came the down. Just one. The day of Gage’s birth also happened to be the day Justice realized he was losing Axl. The kid had shown up at the hospital so high he should’ve been awarded his own spaceship, a license to wield molecular nano weapons and the authorization to eradicate alien life forms.

Alien life forms which, for all Justice knew, were as real as Saint.

It was just some weed, Axl had protested. But Justice had known he wasn’t telling the truth.

The glassy state of Axl’s eyes. The lack of the tangy, earthy odor peculiar to marijuana clinging to Axl’s clothing. The way Axl had unconsciously wiped his nose with the back of his hand, as if to remove damning evidence.

Then Axl had gone and made that motherfucking joke, had tried to downplay the seriousness of the situation.

And Justice’s tenuous control on his temper snapped.

As his fist connected with Axl’s chest, images flashed through Justice’s mind of Lauren Thomas’s sightless eyes and gruesomely beaten, snow covered, naked body. But imposed over those images had been the memories of his own mother in a much similar, albeit clothed, state.

The thoughts came next. Thoughts of the reason behind Lauren’s visit to Justice that long ago night combined with thoughts of what could’ve happened to Axl if he hadn’t ventured out of hiding. Thoughts that Axl was proving, pretty effectually, that no matter what the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

A revelation, Justice realized with acute distaste, applied equally to Justice. Only it wasn’t his mother Justice took after. It was his father. His father who had also physically abused someone he professed to love. His father who had been responsible for the taking of a life.

But didn’t that make Justice worse than his father? Justice had taken countless lives.

As Justice watched Axl slowly sink to his knees, he’d made a silent oath to do the best he could by his son. To do better by Gage than his own father had ever done by him and than he himself had ever done by Axl.

And to then do ten times better by Axl than he was by Gage.

As a start, Justice had sat with Axl in the car he’d gifted to him the week before as an extremely early seventeenth b-day gift. They’d stayed there until the high petered off. Then he’d kept Axl next to his side until the morning Gage was released from the hospital. And that afternoon, for all the good it had done, as promised, Justice had signed Axl up for rehab.

It was four years later and Axl had been to that same rehab center four different times in total. The first time was the only time he’d gone by choice. The three other times Justice had used his resources to track Axl down and made him go back by force. On each release, Axl would stay home and stay clean for a few weeks. But eventually the day always came when he would slip out the door unnoticed to reacquaint himself with his vices.

When those days arrived, Justice, though he didn’t understand Axl’s motives, was never surprised. Because he would often ask Axl for his word. And Axl would always respond, “I can’t give that to you, J. Not yet.”

Axl’s weakness was the reason they were both in this situation with Saint. But Justice wasn’t mad at Axl. It was himself he was pissed with.

He should’ve never given in to Axl’s wheedling to let him sell drugs so that Axl could make money of his own. He should’ve paid closer attention to the signs that Axl was using. He should’ve made Axl stay clean. He should’ve made Axl give his goddamn word.

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