October 12, 1991.
Mick shivered as a cold wind blew and he had nothing to cover himself up with.
It was a depressing image. A five-year-old walking alone to his kindergarten, shivering as he tried to fight the cold weather. If people saw him at that moment, they would see weakness and their lungs would be filled with breaths of sympathy, a sympathy they would never act on. But in truth, they saw what they wanted to see, people usually worked that way. They saw the weak child but not the survivor who had stood against all chances, taken all his beatings and never said a word.
The imprint of Bruce’s leather belt would forever mar the skin of his back. It would always be there to remind him that he had never been helpless, a victim.
He had simply not been strong enough to prevail.
Mick’s problems did not stop existing after he walked out of the front door of the clubhouse. No, they followed him everywhere he went. School, for instance, was filled with problems. These problems were about five feet high but they were able to prevail most of the times. And there was not a single thing he could say about it.
And so they hurt him.
There were days when he couldn’t even open his eyes because the pain became unbearable.
Today was one of those days. The small, brown-haired boy was pressed against a stall in the school’s bathroom. His small body was receiving multiple hits and there was nothing he could do to defend himself. James, a second grader, had just managed to throw a decent punch at his eye, causing it to swell almost immediately. At that point, little Mick knew there was nothing he could do about his situation but wait until the bully let him be.
“Tell me, Frazier, why are you such a pussy? Your big, bad, biker daddy didn’t teach you anything?” James taunted him but Mick was having none of it. He might not have been able to prevail physically but he had some self-respect left in his frail body.
“Does it hurt?” Mick asked, hissing as he felt blood escape from the cut on his upper lip. He was thankful he was growing up with bikers at that moment. They had taught him so many things, being a smart ass included.
James looked at him with a confused expression. “Does what hurt?”
“The fact that you can’t even spell your name.”
The bully’s confusion turned into full-blown anger, making Mick aware of the fact that he had struck a nerve. It made him wonder if the older kid truly did not know how to spell his own name.
The bathroom’s door swung open just as James had raised his fist aiming straight at Mick’s other eye. His hand lowered back to his side but his hold on Mick remained as he turned to glance at the newcomer. The intruder was a little black haired boy with bright blue eyes, not much older than Mick.
“What are you doing?” The little boy questioned and walked up to the pair. “Let him go.”
“Is that your little boyfriend, Frazier?” James mocked Mick with the question.
Mick didn’t even feel the pain as he replied and a small smile graced his lips. “I’m very sorry your parents are stuck with you.”
During their little interaction, the black-haired boy had moved closer towards James and tried to pull him away from Mick. He didn’t care that he didn’t know the kid James had been torturing. His parents had taught him to be good and care for others.
Besides, he had seen the bruises the brown haired boy sported daily and had known, even in his young age, that he lived with a monster. In his mind, the monster was probably something out of a horror film, a demon or some aggressive spirit, not a thirty-four-year-old man that had helped bring the boy to this world. Even in his ignorance, he wanted to help lessen his suffering.
James stumbled back, surprised that boy had actually dared to mess with him. Mick fell to the floor and tried to catch his breath as the other boy gave him a wide grin that looked ridiculous seeing as he was missing his two front teeth. Mick grinned back, probably looking just as ridiculous.
The boy knelt in front of James and delivered a punch straight at his jaw but, unfortunately, he wasn’t strong enough to actually cause any harm and so James easily overpowered him. When the next blow to his face arrived, James was able to grasp the small hand. He pushed the hand away and stood up but the blue-eyed boy did not cower.
And that act of bravery had earned him a black eye and a bloody nose.
“I totally had him, you know,” Mick informed the black haired boy as they started walking towards the nurse. “My name’s Mick, by the way.”
The black haired boy wiped the blood from his nose and extended his hand to Mick. “Alexander.” He smiled.
Mick followed in his footsteps and wiped the blood from his lips before accepting Alexander’s hand. “Alexander’s too big” He said, dragging each syllable of the name to prove his point. “I’ll be calling you Ax instead.”
The rest was history.
There was nothing Mick wouldn’t do for Ax.
There was a bond between them that couldn’t be severed even if one tried. For Mick, Ax was the brother Chris never could be. Ever since that day in the kindergarten all he had was Ax. He had been his rock when things got too bad or when memories clogged his brain.
Because Mick never forgot and that was his curse.
His mother, Rosa, a beautiful and spirited woman of only twenty-three years had died while giving birth to Chris. Bruce, his father, claimed that he had loved her but it had only taken him a day to find his face between a woman’s thighs. Apparently, they had different views on how grief should be showcased. Mick had spent days in his bedroom, watching after Chris whenever his father had been too drunk to care, which was a common occurrence.
During the times Bruce had been too drunk to think, he would go on and on about Rosa and how she was nothing special, just a runaway that ended up as a club whore. He would also say how the love of his life had been stolen from him but he never gave any names and so Mick, in his vulnerable age, liked to believe that he meant Rosa and that all the bad things he said had just been a defence mechanism. But it wasn’t true, Bruce had never loved Rosa but he had loved. Isn’t that comforting? Mick thought with a sarcastic smile on his lips.
Hate the thing you love the most and then you’ll be free.
He was just ashamed he couldn’t do the sensible thing and follow the same path.
He had to let the one he loved, go and hope to God that one day she could find happiness away from him. Even if that tore his soul apart.
He was doomed.
Had been since the day of his birth.
Mick had always known that he wouldn’t get to see himself growing old with a wife and a bunch of kids running around, and he had been okay with that for the most part of his life. Hell, dying for freedom gave him a purpose, a way out of the endless, bottomless abyss. Yet, recently, all he thought about was having a family, having someone to love him fiercely. And to return that love with the same ferocity.
But the world did not work in that way.
“Apparently, the world is not a wish-granting factory.” Celia heard a voice say just as she had picked up one of her favourite novels, The fault in our stars. The stranger’s tone seemed bitter as the words left his mouth and she did not know what to make of it.
“You’ve read it?” She asked without looking at the stranger.
“Memorised it actually.” The stranger replied and she furrowed a brow. Memorised it? “It’s a quirk of mine, if I like something, I memorise it so that I can remember it whenever I want and not have to look for it.” He explained and smiled sheepishly. “It’s odd I know, my best friend has been telling me for years.”
“It isn’t odd, just out of the ordinary.” Celia assured him and finally looked up from the page she had been reading. Her hazel eyes widened slightly as they came to rest on the man’s face. He was handsome in a very non-traditional way. Harsh lines created his jawline and complemented his high cheekbones while his “Goldilocks” Lips balanced the beautiful harshness as did his straight nose. The stranger had dark almond shaped brown eyes with long, thick black eyelashes pronouncing them even further. His short brown hair was cropped close to his skull. Yet he still was no match with Ax. Why did she have to compare the man to him? Why couldn’t she escape from his clutches?
Celia forced herself to stop dwelling too much on her thoughts. Besides, she was being rude.” I believe that is somewhat the definition of odd.” The stranger gave her a grin, which immediately brightened his face.
“I beg to differ.” She argued and continued to gaze at him. How has this man read The fault in our stars enough times to memorise it? She questioned herself quietly. Perhaps, it’s true, she added as an afterthought, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
They stood there, in the hallway of the practically abandoned bookshop, for what seemed like hours, yet the silence was oddly welcome, they were like two friends that had known each other for all their lives. In a way, he reminded her of Jay. He seemed easy-going and his brown eyes gleamed in mischief.
He had the same aura as Jay.
“Michael, but everybody calls me Mick.” He murmured and extended a hand in her direction, which she gladly took.
“Cecelia, but everyone calls me Celia.” Mick smirked obnoxiously at her and his eyes gleamed as their hands returned to their sides, where they belonged.
“Fucking idiot.” He muttered lowly but Celia was able to hear him.
“Oh, it’s nothing. Just thought about my best friend.” Mick looked around the shop and gazed at a trolley filled with sci-fi books so that he didn’t blow up his cover and laugh hysterically at her naivety.
“The one who keeps telling you you’re odd?” She inquired and tried to meet his eyes but he was focused elsewhere.
“That’s the one.” A smile sneakily managed to crawl on his lips.
“He sounds like an asshole.”
“You have no idea.” He told her and laughed.
After that Mick let her browse through the endless rows of books. He knew exactly where all the books he liked were located. The bookshop had been a sanctuary for him and Mrs. Doyle had been kind enough to let him stay hours after the shop had been closed and in return, he helped her place the books back to their original places.
It was her way of prolonging the inevitable.
And Mick was nothing, if not grateful.
“Remembering is a curse.” She stated as she handed the book over to the owner, a kind middle-aged woman who had taken a liking to Celia from the moment she had stepped foot in that dying place.
Mick smiled at her, he knew Mrs. Doyle knew how to spot those who needed company and help and she did everything in her power to comfort them.
“But forgetting isn’t?” Mick wrinkled his nose at that. He had always believed that remembering helped those in need. It helped with taking revenge, one could never back out if he remembered all the things that made him want to destroy those who had hurt him in the first place. Remembering had helped him a lot. It had been its rock for the five years Ax was unable to be.
Honestly, he pitied those who forgot for they lived in a world where problems weren’t dealt with, they were swiped under the rug and forgotten. That was how phobias grew, the fed on the darkness the rug provided and they slowly rose from their hiding place and haunted the idiot who had thought that he could outrun them. At that moment, Mick felt pride for who he was.
One could say that he was a phobia in a world full of idiots sweeping things under the rug.
“I guess you’re right. Both are far from perfection and so they are equally flawed.” She smiled at the librarian as she handed the book back to her.
“Aristotle?” Mick quirked an eyebrow. He could see why Ax was so hang up on that woman. She was spirited, intelligent, wild and was very stubborn. As far as Mick was concerned, they were a match made in heaven. Only Ax gave one more irresistible characteristic to the mix: he was the most arrogant asshole the world had to offer, and that was putting it mildly. But if she could see past his many flaws Mick believed they would be happy together. Gouging each other’s eyes every Thursday but still happy.
“Yes. He’s a favourite of mine. Plato and he really helped shape my opinions for the world.” She admitted and her lips tilted upwards the way they did whenever she would talk about her passion for philosophy.
Mrs. Doyle smiled and her eyes wrinkled under her cat-eye glasses, thinking that perhaps her little bookworm had found a girl he could care for. She saw Celia place the books she had bought in her black leather backpack and disappear after she had bid them both farewell. She walked steadily towards the exit, which was located next to the Isle of autobiographies. After she had reached it she opened the door and stepped outside into the cold air wearing only a cardigan, the bell on the door notifying them of her exit.
Mick did not follow in her footsteps, he stayed behind and sat down on the chair next to Mrs. Doyle. “Why are you smiling like that?” He questioned and his own lips twisted.
“She’s a good girl.” She replied, not quite answering his question.
“Yes, she is.” He agreed. “She is also not my problem.” He added quickly, not giving her any time to say anything that would make him uncomfortable.
“Then, whose problem is she?” The old woman was not about to surrender, at least not until she was certain that there was no way for her to defeat the stubborn man in front of her.
“She’s Ax’s problem.” He admitted and rolled his brown eyes as he saw the way Mrs. Doyle’s eyes became hazy.
Let’s just say she too had a soft spot for the mechanic.
“Oh, I see. Well, he is a good boy he deserves a girl like her.” She commented. “But so do you.”
“Let me be the one to worry about that.”
Mick looked around the shop and his gaze came to rest on the piles of books near the employee entrance. He stared at the faulty book covers and the torn pages trying hard to understand why anyone would ever rip pages from books or destroy them in general, anything to get his mind off the images Mrs. Doyle’s comment had helped conjure up.
But it was impossible.
Soft brown hair appeared in his mind as soon as he closed his eyes. A small button like nose and the most expressive eyes he had ever had the luck of gazing at.
However not all his thoughts were as innocent.
Images of her small frame underneath his powerful body appeared. He recalled how beautiful her pale skin was in the moonlight and how she begged when he cherished her. How her back arched when he drove into her, wanting desperately to meet his thrusts. He reminisced how she would curl up against him afterwards, needing him to protect her from all the vile beings of the world.
It would never leave his mind.
He could almost hear his name coming from her lips and the sound hurt him more than he was willing to admit.
Perhaps, remembering was a curse after all.
“I have someone.” He said cryptically as he returned his attention to Mrs. Doyle.
“Oh?” She inquired as Mick suddenly stood up from his seat and moved towards the exit, almost tripping over a small trolley with classics. Fuck. He thought and forced himself to focus.
“Yes, but she’s not mine to keep.” At that moment he felt a knife twisting and he had to bear every agonising second of his heart being ripped out of his chest. However, as he glanced down at his vintage Rolling Stones shirt he saw no wound, no blood running and falling to the floor, in fact, he saw nothing yet still he could feel something inside of him missing.
“What’s her name?” Mrs. Doyle asked with a kind smile as she saw the anguish in his eyes. Eyes that had seen much more than the average human. Eyes that hurt her the exact same way they had when she had met him twenty-six years ago.
Mick turned to her and his hand twisted the old golden doorknob. He wanted nothing but to escape yet something inside him knew he had to give the poor woman something to hold onto since she so desperately believed he could have saved.
“Aurelia. Her name is Aurelia.” As soon as he stepped outside he removed his worn black leather jacket, wanting to feel the cold against his skin, something to remind him that he was still breathing.
He stopped moving, closing his eyes and trying to forget all about the people that were walking past him. He raised his head to the sky and cursed like the wounded hero he was. “Goddamit, Aurelia.”
Ax was under a sky blue Sedan trying to dissolve the rust the vehicle had caught. It was rather difficult seeing as the intruder had been older than Ax but he was fucking great at what he did. A talent. Always had been.
Lorenzo would take him with him to work and Ax grew more and more fascinated with mechanical engineering as the time went by. By the time he was ten, he knew how to fix most of the daily problems cars faced only by observing his father. Lorenzo had known that he had to teach the boy everything that he knew, some part of him knowing that he had to form an unbreakable form between them for when things got too bad.
“Can I keep her?” Mick asked teasingly, appearing out of nowhere.
“No chance in hell.” He replied even though he knew he was only teasing. Brunettes seemed to be more his type lately, anyway. Ax slid out from underneath the car and although he had tried to be careful his clothes were full of oil stains and smudges. His long hair was tied back in a bun at the top of his head with only a few wayward hairs escaping.
Needless to say, he was a sight for sore eyes.
Mick wrinkled his nose at distaste as he gave Ax a once-over. “You need a haircut and a shave. You’re turning into a hermit, can’t see what she finds so attractive about you.” He commented. “And to think she’s a smart one.”
“Just because you can’t grow a beard doesn’t mean you get to be so spiteful, young man. Your time will come.” Ax commented. “Also, women love men with beards.”
“Oh, you poor lad. Did your mother tell you that? Because, no matter how much I adore Andromeda, I’ll be the first to admit that she is practically blind when it comes to you.”
Ax only offered him a smile. It was true, his mother loved him blindly. She never saw his darkness, or even if she had seen it, briefly gaining her sight, she chose to ignore it.
“But she’s okay?” He asked. A part of him, a twisted and depraved part wanted Mick to tell him that she was barely breathing without him but another part was ready to rejoice at the thought that she was doing all right.
“Who, your mother?” He replied teasingly. “Yeah, she’s okay. A bit aloof, but okay.” Neither part had won in the end. They were both mildly miserable.
Ax decided that he needed to change the subject. He knew what was bothering Mick, even though he was a master at hiding his true feelings. “Did you find out what happened to that fucker that drugged your little brunette?”
Mick’s facial expression altered instantly. He went from teasing to furious in nanoseconds. “Yes, I fucking know. The bloody bastard was released.” He fumed. “Apparently, his daddy is pretty important in the U.S.”
He shared Mick’s need for justice, just like he shared his anger. Part of him wished he could have just ended the fucker when he had the chance. Knowing that he roamed free and would probably do the same thing to another woman made his blood boil. “So, how’s your girl holding up?”
“She has trouble sleeping.” He answered. “She has a lot of nightmares and I can’t do a damn thing to help her.” He seemed extremely frustrated with that. He felt weak, not being able to protect Aurelia. In a way, that weakness felt exactly like the weakness he had felt when he had been a kid, being beaten daily.
Ax took a step forward and placed a hand on his best friend’s shoulder. “There’s something we can do to help her.”
Mick shoved his hand away and offered him a glare. “Do you want to go back to jail? Is that it? Do you miss those fuckers looking at you like you’re a piece of meat?”
“I didn’t say that.” He replied, the muscles in his jaw twitching.
“Look, I’m sorry for reminding you of that but you are like a brother to me. I know how difficult it was for you to be in there.” Mick’s attention had been captured by a piece of cloth that had been left by his feet.
If someone was to pass by he would surely be reminded of a child being scolded by his father, even though that wasn’t the case. The child was scolding himself. “I don’t want you to go back. I can protect my girl if that little shit gets too close.”
“But what happens when he does it to some other girl and there’s no one there to help her, Mick?” Ax contradicted. His eyes had lightened up with unleashed anger that resembled fire, a fire powerful enough to burn the whole world and kill every atom of oxygen.
As much as Mick didn’t want to admit it, Ax was right. How would he be able to sleep at night knowing that, that fucker was lurking around some other girl? How could he even look Aurelia in the eye?
“We are going to keep an eye on him.” He said finally, knowing it was the only solution. “If he attempts anything of that sort, we make sure he blinks one for yes and two for no.”
Mick walked away from his friend only to fall carelessly on the black leather sofa that had been placed against the wall where the door to the back room was placed. The sofa itself was older than Mick and Ax combined and creaked as it welcomed his weight.
Ax followed his steps and fell on the couch. He had been working nonstop, needing a distraction but he had gained nothing except tiredness. “I’m done for today.” He proclaimed. “I’ll go rest.”
“Is that what you kids call stalking now?” He snorted.
Ax didn’t correct him because as they both were very aware anything that left his mouth would be considered as a lie.
He replied with a half-hearted fuck off and stood up from the sofa, causing it to creak once more.
Mick waited until he had been sure Ax had left on his motorcycle. As the roaring sound of the engine disappeared he took out his phone.
Part of him dreaded what was about to come, yet another part was too excited to wait. He went through his contacts until he found the number he had been searching for.
Mick kept his expression blank as the phone rang as if the receiver of the phone call could see him. His honey brown eyes were sparkling with excitement and fear. Oh, how he loved that combination.
“Xavier? It’s me, Mick.” His voice sounded more gruff over the telephone. “I think it’s high time we met.”