“You’re the asshole!” Peter whispered fiercely.
“I just wanted a pillow!”
“I just wanted you to leave her alone!” Peter shouted.
The silence felt too thick, and my heart was barely beating, which was good, because I didn’t want them to know I was listening. I thought that maybe I should interrupt and stop them from whatever they might do, but they had to hash this out eventually. They hadn’t really spoken through everything that had transpired, and they had to have a lot of things bottled up.
“But I didn’t. Now what do you want me to do about it?” Jack tried to keep his voice calm, but there was a definite edge to it. “Is stealing my pillow really making it even?”
“God dammit, Jack! Will you shut up about the fucking pillow?”
“What do you want me to do? What’s done is done!” Jack started shouting but remembered Ezra’s warning and quieted down. “Seriously. I don’t know what you expect me to do at this point. I can’t change what’s happened, and frankly, I don’t want to. So… that’s what it is.”
“I don’t want anything from you,” Peter sighed, sounding defeated. “Just never mind. Next time I’ll make sure you get a damn pillow on the plane.”
I had expected them to continue talking for longer, but I was wrong. Peter turned to climb the stairs, his bag slung over his shoulder, and I didn’t have a chance to hide. When he saw me, his expression was blank. I smiled sheepishly at him, but he just exhaled and came up the stairs.
“Good morning, Alice,” Peter said louder than he needed to, letting Jack know that I had been spying on them. “You should’ve come down and said hello.”
“I just woke up.”
“Mmm, yes, I’m sure you did.” He opened his bedroom door, but I stopped him.
“Peter, I’m really sorry,” I said.
“You’re not the one that needs to apologize.” He looked at me for a minute, his eyes uncharacteristically vulnerable, then he glanced down the steps. The French doors off the kitchen suddenly slammed shut as Jack went outside with the dog. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to get some rest. It was a very long flight.”
“It sounds like it.” I attempted to make a joke, but he just turned and went into his room, closing his bedroom door quietly behind him.
I sighed and went downstairs. Jack’s irritation was no longer just directed at Peter. Somehow me apologizing to him was a slight against Jack. I hated the idea that they were two teams, and I always had to pick one side or I’d be deemed an enemy.
Jack opened the shades over the French doors to step outside, and bright sunlight streamed in. I hadn’t slept very much to begin with, and the sight of the sun made me want to curl up in bed again.
Outside, Jack ignored his own fatigue. He stood on the stone patio, his hands shoved in his pockets, and watched Matilda root around for some long gone animal. It was wonderfully cold when I stepped out, contrasting with the warm fall day depicted out the window.
“So it was a long flight?” I asked, wrapping my arms around me as I walked up to him.
“Yeah, but I’m sure Peter feels much better now that you apologized to him.”
“He deserves an apology,” I bristled.
“How can you even say that?” Jack whirled on me, his face contorted with pain and confusion. “After everything you’ve been through-”
“We both know what happened. You don’t need to rehash it every time I mention Peter’s name.” A cool breeze picked up, blowing my hair across my face, and I pushed it back behind my ears.
“This is just so ridiculous!” He shook his head. “Shit happened, stuff that I apparently can’t talk about, but it happened. And still, you wanted to go off and risk your life to rescue him, and I said fine. For some stupid reason, I let you go.”
“You don’t ‘let’ me do anything, and you know it,” I glared at him.
“Whatever. I didn’t protest. You said you wanted to go, for… God, why, Alice? Why would you want to do that? Why are you always defending him? He doesn’t deserve any apology! He doesn’t even deserve to be alive! And you just bring him back here like nothing ever happened? And for that, I am supposed to apologize to him?” Jack looked at me incredulously. “That is so fucked up! I love you! Why do I need to tell him I’m sorry for that when I’m not?”
“Because he loved me too, and I wasn’t yours!” I shouted, and he flinched.
He looked away from me, squinting up at the sun, and I wasn’t sure if that was the right thing to say. Rubbing the back of his neck, he fell silent for a minute.
“I saw you first,” Jack mumbled.
“You cannot use that as an argument.” I rolled my eyes. “I’m not the last piece of pizza. I’m a person, and I chose you. You have me. He doesn’t. Peter has nothing, and he’s your brother. And I know before all this, you cared about him, too. So now he lost me and you. I’m not sorry that I love you, but I am sorry that he had to get hurt in the process.”
“I know you’re right,” Jack said thickly. “But I can’t forgive him. Fighting for you, I understand. Trying to kill me, I totally get that. But when he tried to kill you… I can’t ever forgive him for that, and I shouldn’t have to.”
I touched his arm gently, and his blue eyes were swimming when he looked at me. I chewed my lip, trying to decide whether or not I should tell him. I felt like I was breaking Peter’s confidence, but if it could get the two of them to stop hating each other, then maybe it was worth it.
“Peter never tried to kill me.”
“I was there!” Jack was irritated. “You can’t tell me that didn’t happen.”
“No, it did, but not exactly the way you think. When Peter bit me, he knew you were in the house. You had fought before when you thought he was going to hurt me. He knew you’d never let something happen to me,” I explained quietly. “He was counting on you to rush in and save me, and he thought that you’d be too angry to let him live. Peter wasn’t trying to kill me; he was trying to kill himself.”
“No…” Jack shook his head and his face completely fell. “No. That’s not… Because if he did that, that would mean he…”
Realization flashed across his face, and he looked at everything in a new light. All the things Peter did had seemed cold and cruel were all really for me, and even Jack. Peter had been trying to let me go since the day he met me because he thought I’d be happier without him.