Empty Bargains [Jason McCann]

"I have nothing else to offer you," Markus barked through gritted teeth, his fists clenched hard at his sides.

Jason shook his head, chuckling. "I only want one thing, and it's in this room," he sneered.

My brother took a step closer to me, trying to push me toward the door. Jason's eyes flashed over and caught mine, a glint in his eye while a shiver went down my spine.

"What do you want?" Markus asked, impatient.

Jason's head nodded in my direction. I froze and the room fell deafeningly silent.

"I want her."


9. ~9.13~

        Five days later, I was in the worst mood I'd been in for a long time.

        At that point, I'd been at Jason's for just over a week, and still had made no improvement to my situation.  I had a constant pain in my neck from sleeping on Jason's floor, had had nothing to eat but Ramen noodles for six days, and ran out of clean clothes to wear.  I was wearing the pair of baggy sweatpants I'd worn a few days ago and a gray tee, slouching in one of the giant beanbags, when Jason walked in from the lower level.

        "Would it kill you to keep a washing machine around here?" I said, staring up at the revolving ceiling fan.

        "Would it kill you to stop bitching for more than five minutes?" he grumbled, throwing open the fridge.  He'd been in a bad mood since I'd slept in his bed and flipped out a few nights ago.

        "Well unless you want my clothes to start getting gross, I suggest you either buy a washer or take me to a laundromat," I snapped, crossing my arms even though he couldn't see.

        Jason said nothing for a long moment, but I heard him rummaging for food.  The refrigerator door shut and I heard a bowl clamber onto the island.  "I have to go out tonight anyway.  Put whatever you want washed in your duffel, and I'll take it when I go."

        My eyebrows rose.  "They're my clothes.  I'll wash them."

        The silverware drawer in the kitchen slammed closed.  "Do you want your damn clothes clean or not?" Jason growled.

        His tone surprised me, but spiked my annoyance more than anything.  "The real question here is do you!?" I said in very much the same tone.  "I'm perfectly fine with watching you all suffer, as disgusting as that is.  I've been trying to find a way out for a week now.  If this is it, then so be it."

        Jason laughed quietly.  "You're not getting out by smelling bad.  We live with Leo, you know.  Can't get much worse than that."

        I sat silently, throwing curses at him in my head.  I probably wanted to be clean more than he cared, and knew I wasn't getting out of his house any time soon.  My hands clenched at my sides and I closed my eyes, taking a deep breath.  I still didn't want to lose to Jason, but it seemed like I was doing that a hell of a lot lately.

        I lifted myself from the bean bag and stalked up the stairs.  When I reached my duffel I wrenched it open and began sifting through my clothes.  I stuffed everything back in, leaving out only a pair of socks and a black tee.  After throwing it on the bed I made my way back downstairs, a grimace on my face as I collapsed back into the giant bean bag.

        Jason was sitting at the table now, eating leftovers of take out he'd brought back a day or two before.  I wrinkled my nose at him, but he didn't see it.

        "Don't wash white with red," I told him as I stared at the ceiling again.  "Don't dry my sweatpants or jeans.  Don't wash lights with darks.  Set the temperature to thirty degrees when you wash my tees, since they're cotton.  Oh, and use a good-smelling detergent — but only one that's gentle on clothes."

        My goal was to be a pain-in-the-ass, hopefully to convince him to take me with.  I needed a change of scenery — plus, it might've been a good opportunity to get away.  But Jason said nothing.  After a long silence I glanced over at him and found him typing on his phone.

        "Did you take any of that in?" I snapped.  My hands clenched and I sat up.  "I better not have ruined clothes when you get back."

        He looked up, glaring.  "Would you like to see my screen?" he said through his teeth, sounding impatient.  "I'm making a note of it.  Stop whining and get your head out of your ass so you can realize that not everyone is out to get you."

        I blinked.  What he'd said had definitely shut me up.  I grunted and laid back down, resuming my analysis of the ceiling fan.  It was a small thing, but strange for him to do.  The whole week I'd been here he'd been rude and cruel and ignorant, and he finally chose now to listen to me?  I ran the conversation over in my head — he'd had every opportunity to get up and walk out, or to call me a high-maintainence brat, or whatever else could pass as an insult; but he'd just taken my comments and actually wrote something down.  I was incredibly bothered by this.  So bothered, in fact, that I was still brewing about it when Jason walked past me and upstairs about an hour later, returning with my duffel and heading for the garage.

        "You'll have your clothes in the morning," he called over his shoulder before I heard the garage door open and close.

        My arms crossed over my chest, I scowled at the fan for a long time.  I was supposed to be the bigger person, not Jason.  was supposed to be the one who could be kind when I needed to be, not Jason.  was supposed to be the one on moral high-ground, not Jason.

         Realize that everyone is not out to get you.  I blinked.  What the hell was I here for?  If Jason weren't out to get me, I wouldn't be in this bean bag, sitting in this house right now.  But maybe he didn't count that, maybe he only counted everything from the minute I woke up in the basement.  If he were counting like that, he still lost with hitting me, and kissing me...

        My thoughts trailed off, remembering how my lips had felt for over an hour after he'd forced himself on me.  I'd gone momentarily insane, thinking about it too much like I was right now.  No, I told myself.  You're acting like you did after your first fight with Tyler.  Too much thinking — find a distraction.

        I got up and immediately walked to the kitchen, glancing at the clock on the wall.  Forcing Jason from my mind altogether, I concluded that eight was still an acceptable time to make food, then dug around in the fridge to see what was in it.  After looking long enough to make it beep at me, I pulled out a few eggs and a veggie platter.  Obviously Jason and his guys didn't know how to shop for groceries, nor go often enough to learn.  I turned to a cabinet and pulled out a package of Ramen noodles.  No matter how often I'd had them in the past few days, they'd be good with eggs and vegetables.

        I threw a pan on the stove and emptied most of the vegetables onto it and sautéd them, then boiled noodles, scrambled eggs, and threw them all together with a little soy sauce that was in the fridge.  I put a bowl of it on the cooling stove to keep it warm while I cleaned up, and reached for the soy sauce last — only to have it spill on the counter and my shirt.

        I cursed loudly, capping the bottle and all but throwing it back in the fridge.  I reached for the paper towels and wiped the counter first, then dabbed at my shirt.  Rolling my eyes at myself, I tossed the paper towel into the wastebasket and jogged upstairs for my black tee.  I threw it on, leaving the gray one next to Jason's bed.  As I walked back down the stairs, I heard someone in the kitchen.

        "Damn, I didn't know Jason could cook," Leo's voice said, obviously with a full mouth.  "This is good."

        I walked in to find him hunched over my bowl at the counter.  "What the hell?" I said loudly, making him jump.  "That would be mine."

        His face flushed and he held his hands up.  I rolled my eyes and swiped the bowl from him, taking it to the table and slouching in the seat.  Leo had been the most like-able of the whole house, but sometimes he got on my last nerve.  By far, he wasn't the brightest, and he did get annoying, but he was still nice.

        I noticed Xander standing opposite Leo, looking indifferent.  He had been the least like-able by a landslide, which was hard to do with Jason in the house.  I shot a glare at Xander, getting the same look in return.  After tossing the fork Leo had been using I grabbed another from the drawer and sat sideways in a chair at the table.  It was quiet for a long moment before Leo spoke up again.

        "That's good stuff," he mumbled, gesturing toward the bowl in front of me.

        I half smiled, prideful.  "I cook for the guys at home, too."  My already waning smile fell at the mention of the place I should be right now.

        Xander snorted.  "Clean, too, I bet.  Probably don't let you drive, either."

        "When are you going to realize," I said, standing and rounding on him, "that nothing coming from your mouth is relevant, nor valued in any way?"

        He sneered.  "And since when does your opinion matter?"

        "Since I got here," I shot, fists clenched.  "And notice how you're not on his run tonight?  Oh, and since Jason made you his bitch, running around and doing his errands while he pays more attention to me than any of you."

        His arrogant demeanor fell and I saw his whole body tense.  I could tell I hit a nerve before  Xander lashed out, almost clipping my jaw with a punch.  I sprang into action, lunging at him and kicking out his leg, but not before he gave me a swift jab to my stomach.  I reacted with bringing my elbow down on his jaw, causing him to shout and shove me away.

        "Hey!" Leo hissed, pulling me away from Xander.  "You know what Jason said, Xander!"

        "Jason can kiss my ass," Xander growled, hopping up from the floor.  His hands fell away from his jaw and I saw blood.  I smirked, seeing I'd split the skin just under the left side of his chin.  "This whore is intolerable."

        Leo's grip automatically tensed on my arm when the insult left Xander's mouth, but he didn't need to worry.  Wasting more energy on Xander would've been pointless, since I'd already left a wound that'd take a while to heal.  Plus, it probably hurt like hell; I was satisfied.

        I turned out of Leo's hands and strode off toward the stairs and called over my shoulder, "at least I'd be able to get guys.  I haven't seen you with one girl since I got here, and Grant's brought back three."

        It sounded as if they both had frozen solid, but I ignored them and jogged upstairs and into Jason's room.  The other guys — Carter, Grant, and Blondie — were probably out with Jason.  The way he'd made it sound, it seemed they wouldn't be back until morning.  I was content with the news, glad I didn't have to deal with the majority of Jason's gang.

        I snagged the black tee I'd chosen to leave behind and headed into the bathroom, locking the door and throwing the shower on.  After showering quickly, I used the same sweatpants but tugged on the black tee.  I brushed my teeth, then sat the brush down on the sink where I'd been leaving it for a few days now.  I wasn't afraid of Jason poisoning my tooth brush or anything.  He probably wasn't smart enough.

        I reached my hands above my head to stretch, but cringed with a stab of pain from my midsection.  My hand rubbed the sore spot where Xander had stolen a hit and I all but growled, fed up with the way he'd been looking at me like I was dirt.  He was probably the most incredibly ignorant person I'd ever seen.

        The pain in my neck flared up again when I tried to stretch it from side to side.  Sighing, I leaned against the bathroom door.  I had been more beat up here in one week than I had in half a year of runs with Sam and Tyler.  And I was afraid the knot in my neck would only get worse — like the time Tyler hand been sleeping with four pillows under his head while claiming it helped his lungs, but ended up in almost a month of crippling pain.  I needed to find at least an air mattress, but I doubted Jason would allow it.

        I slid out of the bathroom and glanced longingly at the bed.  It had been so comfortable the night I'd stayed on it.  I'd slept so well, until the rude awakening I'd had.  I knew I had promised myself not to sleep in Jason's bed again, but it was so tempting at the moment — plus, Jason wouldn't even be back until the next morning.  My hand trailed over the sheets at the foot of the bed, scanning the hastily made spread.  I was at war with myself, seeing which way would tug harder.  Yes, it was Jason's bed, but he wouldn't be in it...

        In the end, my sore neck ruled out over everything.

        I slid beneath the covers on the side I'd occupied almost a week ago, curling up with the sheets around me and immediately feeling my eyes droop.  I counted slowly to ten, something Tyler taught me when I'd had trouble sleeping for a few weeks.  After a pang in my chest, I'd barely gotten to six when I felt myself slipping from consciousness.

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