When Jenny Reilly first got drunk, she was sixteen. Not that the Donnelly brothers hadn't tried beforehand, mind you, because they had. It was just that she hadn't really wanted to get wasted as fuck before. But now, now that her first boyfriend had broken up with her for some girl who wasn't even half as beautiful—What else was she supposed to do?
"Do you think I'm pretty, Jimmy?" she asked, slurring her speech slightly.
"Sure I do," the oldest Donnelly brother replied, feeling slightly braver than he really felt. At nineteen, he was only just three years older than Jenny, and while Jimmy didn't begrudge being there for Jenny when she was drunk and hurting—he really wished it was Tommy. Because Tommy had all the good sense in the family, besides their Ma, and would know not to be thinking of Jenny in ways that would sure enough be sending Jimmy to hell in a hardcart.
Jimmy moved to raise the beer he held in his hand to his mouth, but Jenny's hand stayed it on the table. Shit, thought Jimmy. Shit, shit, shit. Tommy was gonna kill him, if he ever found out, because if there was one thing that Jimmy Donnelly had a shortage of it was self-control and it ran in extreme short supply when he was drinking.
"How pretty do you think I am, Jimmy? Tell me." She leaned closer, so close he could smell the alcohol on her breath – or maybe it was on his own, maybe both – and her eyes focused hazily on his own.
"Prettier than Sean," he said, giving her the highest compliment he could think of on short notice. Because, after all, anyone in Hell's Kitchen knew that Sean Donnelly was the prettiest face around.
"Jimmy Donnelly," Jenny said, "aren't you something." And then her arms wound around his waist, leant up until it was stupid for Jimmy not to kiss her, and in the morning snuck out of the Donnelly house pretending that it was only the alcohol that made her stay in Jimmy's bed the night before.
"Congratulations, Jenny. 's bout time someone made an honest women out of ya," Jimmy said, motioning to the bartender for another beer – he had stopped count at three, and he guessed Tommy had too, because Kevin had taken him home round about an hour ago.
"There's nothing honest about me, not when I've been around you for so long." The moment the words left her mouth, Jenny knew they were a mistake; she saw the way Jimmy's eyes flicked to hers and then back to his bottle. There had been plenty of boys after that night two years ago, but no one had gotten as far as that oldest Donnelly brother, not even her husband—
"Your husband know you're not a virgin, Jenny Reilly?" Jimmy asked, the comment whispered almost conspiratorily into her ear. He laughed, something so signature to him that it made Jenny shiver; she never felt this way around her husband, always on edge and living from moment to moment.
His mouth brushed the curve of her neck as he whispered, "Bet he doesn't know. Bet your schoolteacher husband don't know half the things you've done, running around with the Donnelly brothers on the streets of Hell's Kitchen."
Jenny remembered to breathe as she said weakly, "You're drunk, Jimmy."
He pulled away and nodded agreeably. "Sure am. And why not? I can have this when I can't have what I really want."
Moments later, Jenny tugged Jimmy into a bathroom stall at her wedding reception and told him, Jimmy Donnelly I want you to touch me. And his hands, calloused from work on the docks, pushed up the fabric of her wedding dress and felt the smooth skin of her thighs as he worked at getting his belt undone. And if later, anyone had asked, Jimmy didn't remember a thing about having sex with a woman who had just gotten married; besides, he was too drunk to care.
It was raining, and there was nothing that Jenny hated more than rain. The reason behind this stemmed far back from when she was young and still playing with the Donnelly brothers; now, it was less playing and more of helping Tommy clean up their mess. But, when she was young, her mother would make her come inside; the Donnellys would stay out until all hours, and Jenny would have to worry about whether they would get sick or not. And, when they did, it was Jenny and Mrs.D who would take care of them.
Now Jenny had a husband to worry about; a husband who came home late, telling her of tutoring and papers that took ages to grade. Jenny was new at this whole marriage thing, only a year or so into it, and she assumed that being a teacher was hard work—but late nights nearly every night were a different story, and having lived in Hell's Kitchen her whole life she wasn't exactly stupid.
"I think he's cheating on me," she said to Jimmy, setting down the bottle of Jack Daniels that Jimmy had brought out when he had opened the door to see her soaked and hurting on the front stoop of the Donnelly house.
He rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly, which was something to say because Jimmy Donnelly was never awkward. He didn't want to tell her, because it was something all of the brothers and maybe the whole neighborhood had been keeping from Jenny ever since she started dating that sonuvabitch, but maybe it was better than her thinking she wasn't good enough.
"He ain't exactly cheating, Jenny." Jimmy watched as her hand found a white-knuckled grip on the bottle of JD. Her mouth worked at finding words, but they didn't come, so he continued speaking. It should be Tommy taking care of this, he thought; it was always Tommy's place to take care of everyone. "Your husband deals drugs down by the docks. He works for some bad people, and the reason he's never around…"
"I hate you, Jimmy Donnelly, I really do. You do things like this and I can't help but hate you—"
He pulled Jenny to him, his mouth finding hers quick as silver and he whispered Jenny, I'll take care of it, Jenny don't worry. And for her sake he really hoped she wouldn't remember any of this in the morning because it would hurt too much and he didn't want her to be asking any questions when her husband didn't come home one night.
"How 'bout you get drunk with me, Jenny Reilly?" he said conversationally as he reached under the counter of the bar for a bottle, a bottle of God knows what as long as it contained something. When his hand encounted empty space, Jimmy swore profusely and tried not to be angry at himself for not keeping the Firecracker stocked better. He crouched down and pushed empty bottles aside while Jenny leant over the counter in an attempt to get his attention.
"Jimmy, what did you do? There's blood—"
He shook his head as he emerged triumphant, a bottle of Scotch in his hand. "Don't you worry your pretty little head about it, Jenny." Jimmy poured some Scotch into a shot glass and slid it across the counter into her hand, and took a deep sip from the bottle. They watched each other as the alcohol burned their throats, and maybe it was only Jenny who realized that the alcohol wasn't the only thing burning. And she was so tired of walking on eggshells around Jimmy, especially when this thing between them – whatever it was – kept happening, despite her best intentions.
"Dammit, Jimmy," she said, slamming down her glass, "what did you do."
"You wanna know? You really wanna know the things I do, Jenny, then I'll tell you, but there's no going back from this." Jimmy leaned forward, his arms braced against the hard wood of the bar's counter.
Jenny studied Jimmy at length, her breath caught in her throat. She knew that he hurt, that Jimmy had pain he never shared with anyone and that's why he did the things he did. But no one, she guessed, no one ever knew the extent of what went on. And there were a thousand things she had never wanted to know about Jimmy Donnelly, but for every one of them there were a thousand more she wanted to know more than anything.
"I want to know," she whispered. "I do."
Later, between kisses that were both hard and fierce, Jimmy told her everything. His hands worked on her bare skin as he whispered in alcohol-laced breath the secrets he hadn't told even his brothers, something he wasn't too proud of. But then again, as one of those secrets was coming close to loving the girl that had driven Tommy crazy ever since he was a kid—maybe not telling his brothers was a good thing. He was kind of thankful at this point that this thing between Jenny and himself only happened when one or the other of them was drunk; that way, it was easier to pretend it didn't mean anything.
He tried saying it outloud; "I love Jenny Reilly." It didn't sound right, and the words stuck like peanut butter to the roof of his mouth. His tongue felt like cotton, think and ungainly. Love was not Jimmy's thing, never had been. It wasn't something he felt comfortable with, sharing himself and his pain and whatnot. But this whole scenario—Italians and Dokey and whatever Tommy had done to piss them all off—it had him thinking. And while thinking wasn't exactly what Jimmy did best, because he was always more apt to act first and think later, he thought that this game Jenny and himself had been playing since they were kids had to be talked about sometime.
Sooner rather than later, because Dokey with his axe and his calls from basements scared the fuck out of Jimmy, especially when Jenny was involved—though he wasn't apt to admit it anytime soon. Jimmy Donnelly wasn't afraid of nothing or nobody.
He just had to get good and drunk first—
If there was anything Jenny hated, it was how the Donnelly brothers had somehow or other managed to permanently wedge their way into her life. She was part of them now, and everyone knew that; Dokey too, which was why he drew her down into that basement—could've, would've killed her if Tommy and Jimmy hadn't come down. And she hadn't wanted to leave, because the two men she loved most in the world were left down there with (quite possibly) the most sadistic one.
And she wasn't ready for Jimmy. Not like this, never like this—not ready for his drunken declarations of love and loyalty. Not ready for any of it, although the better part of her knows that she's been preparing herself for years.
"I don't know why you're acting like it means something now, Jimmy."
"Dammit, Jenny, it always has!"