PART TWO – Show and tell

The first time AJ destroyed a life he'd been a child playing at being a man and he had done it in a fit of pique, a few moments of rage he didn't even try to put in check and as a result he put someone's son in the hospital for months and ensured his family was protected for forever. Or so he thought.

The second time he took a life he did it out of self defense and pride. He had entered the arena thinking he knew what was going on, Arana vs. el Monstruo. Spider vs. the Monster and even though he knew logically that only one person would be walking out; the man, no boy, he had trusted implicitly, or himself, at the back of his mind, he still thought it would end with little to no casualties.

He ignored his mother's pleas that they could just leave the neighbourhood. He was a Mendez, they didn't hide behind their mothers and they sure as hell didn't run with their tail between their legs como una puta.

Not once did he think about how his actions would create a hole not only within his gang but the whole barrio, sparking both an internal conflict and a minor turf war as the scavengers on the outside tried to grab a piece of a territory denied to them.

After eight months that felt like a lifetime he came out the victor, not only within his gang but the neighbourhood as well. It was like something out of his wildest dreams, in one moment, with one action he managed to secure his position and his family's. Too bad he came out of it feeling like he was finally waking from a nightmare.

His choice had cost him friends on both sides, regardless of whether or not they were still alive and it pained him that when his mother looked at him she was seeing el Monstruo, the knowledge that he had done it for her, for his sisters, hurting her almost more then he could take. Casi.

He didn't regret it though. Lives may have been lost, friendships destroyed but his familia was safe, untouchable even. He learned who his true friends were, the familia of his heart if not by blood and that was all that mattered.

The third time he set out to destroy a life, he was calm, collected and methodical in his planning. Unlike the first time he kept his rage simmering on the backburner and didn't let it control him, and unlike the second time he made sure that no one he cared about would become collateral damage if a war was started and he was sure he'd win since Jared would be the one to break the truce so any allies or colleagues would back him.

He had thought he was so smart when he had created the plan. It was, in his mind, fool proof, and if Jared came at him, all the better because he was one person he wouldn't have minded tearing to pieces with his bare hands.

And then he actually started interacting with Judith. Got to know her and her family and even then he thought he would be able to deal with the consequences of his actions, even curtail them. As he learned more about her, about the things she had survived, he began to wonder if his sister, if getting back at Jared, was worth it. And then on a night that had seemed to be made up small blunders on his part and moodiness on hers, he got a chance to see how deep her scars ran, and showed her the side of him that made even his mother afraid.

He had spent seventeen, almost eighteen, years on this planet never regretting anything that he did for his sisters. Scratch that, he rarely regretted any of the things that he did for his sisters. There were a few memorable occasions which included makeup and dresses and actually posing for pictures but he'd been five and too young to know better at the time.

He might have been the baby the longest but he was the only boy and as such, the only man of the house and it was his job to protect them, even from their own mistakes. And if he couldn't do that, well he could make sure the person that hurt them suffered for it.

But as he looked at her, the way she sat in his lap not seeming to realize what she was doing to him, her face and body half covered in the shadows even as she trusted him not only with her body but with her darkest secrets he regretted picking her.

She shifted in on him, her fingers tugging at each other while she tried to find the words to tell her story, or truthfully, tried to push it out in one rush in an attempt to get it out and over with. He rubbed her back as she lost control of her enunciation, her words losing their usual crispness and taking on the more rounded almost lisp like cadence that signified she wasn't as in control as she'd like be.

He knew if he mentioned it she would slow down, focus on pushing the words out because to her it was another sign that she was weak and not good enough while in reality it was just another aspect of her that he loved because it showed her strength and determination and it was a part of her.

It took all of his will not to pull her into his chest and hold her to him, hiding her from the world even as he tried to take her pain when she told him about her scars, about the things she could remember and everything she wished she could forget.

He wished he had the strength to erase that part of her life from her memory the way she wanted, or better yet, he wished he'd been the one to deal with the people who did this to her. And not just her biological family either, no, he meant the little shits she called cousins and relatives who made her feel like she was less than them because she wasn't born with their blood.

But he wasn't just filled with anger on her behalf though, he was also filled with shame, feeling like the biggest piece of shit for the way he had treated her before and the fact that he'd had the nerve to think that she was weak or beneath him because she avoided conflict.

And when it was his turn he told her the truth about his scars; waiting to see her face twist into a mask of fear and disgust when it hit her that she was sitting on the lap of someone who was no better than the people who had hurt her.

Instead she seemed to understand, her fingers trailing over his scars softly and causing a tightness in his stomach and other parts of his body that she would feel if she'd just shift a little closer, distracting him for a moment from the horribleness of the situation.

And then she made him laugh, her reaction to him trying to show her his tattoo so flustered and out of place during the moment he couldn't help but grin and proposition her, loving the way he knew she was blushing even though he couldn't actually seeing it.

Loving her for not hating him for doing what he had too to make sure no one hurt his sisters. Although how long that would last now that he had agreed to bring her to that stupid black and white affair he didn't know. Even as she slid off of him he wished he had stood his ground but after what he just heard he couldn't give her any more reason to doubt herself, or, stupid as this was, doubt him.

So he had said yes and now he was regretting it. Regretting everything. Actually, he didn't regret choosing her, he regretted the reasons behind why he chose her, and hoped fervently that his luck would hold out and he could get through the night and keep her.


A/N: When you take in the length of this chapter, the wait for it was honestly ridiculous. But at the same time, AJ's voice is a beast to write.

I'm trying to get all of the emotion across and what he was thinking during some of the more high-strong emotional scenes without taking away from the character you've come to know through Judi's eyes or making him sound like Judi.

Not to mention all of the personal issues I've been dealing with of late. I hope you guys enjoy this chapter, no promises on when the next one will be out although IWOAK31 will be out sometime this month, just not sure when exactly.