-1Disclaimer: I do not own The Covenant. … A sad fact indeed, for I assure you that, if I had, the plot would have been a little more extensive than it was, and Tyler and Reid would have gotten more screen time. And more stuff would've been shown, and … Yeah, I also do not intend this story to be any form of slander, nor do I make an ounce of profit from it.

Notes: Just a little one-shot I've decided to concoct to bust my intense writer's block. My sincere apologies for writing another story without finishing any of the others first, but, with all do respect, if you were expecting such a miracle, you obviously do not know me that well. –smirk-

Notes2: Longer than expected. But no doubt as long as I should have anticipated. Too big of an idea, with far too many intense emotions to have expected it to be short. Ah, well. Angst is a favorite I am working hard at perfecting. Let's see how I did here, eh?

Warnings: Language, some violence, and I'm sure that if you look hard enough, you will be able to find some form of AU. You always do. ;) The rating is because I use the term "fuck" more than once. I don't approve of the word myself, but I am dealing with four "emotionally unstable" teenage boys, and the ones I've dealt with seem rather fond of it.

Brothers

The rain fell from the sky in a merciless downpour, twisting hap hazardously around the many twists and turns of Ipswich, Massachusetts, drowning the thin dirt and paved streets in its freezing water, denying either the slightest of breaths. The tiny streams the rain formed raced away from their maker in rebellion, as though seeking shelter from its tyrannical rule – a safe haven in which to exist without fear. In this, they met an even more gruesome fate when their hopeful paths of freedom lead the straight into the gutters and into the starving soil of the Earth.

However, one such stream, a slight bit smaller than the others, and indeed much thinner, found an alternate escape route. Triumph appeared to race through its sparkling watery veins as it found itself tumbling over the edge of a cement, barred cliff. Triumph that was, unfortunately, to be short lived.

Tired, intelligent emerald eyes glanced upon a slim shoulder as their owner registered the feel of a raindrop soaking through a thin t-shirt to land upon soft skin, before narrowing and darting away. A normal Friday evening did not usually find Reid Garwin anywhere else besides Nicky's or some random high school party that promised free booze and a satisfying lay, not locked safely within the lonely confines of the mock dungeons of his father's mansion. Then again, a normal Friday evening did not also include the sole Garwin heir's eighteenth birthday, or the promised painful Ascension that was imminent along with it.

The pains had been present for over a week now. At first, Reid had felt no reason to be concerned. There had only been a slight pounding from between his eyes; a faint stabbing in his side. However, over the course of the following days, the pains had grown to almost unbearable heights. It had taken every ounce of self-control he possessed not to curl into a fetal position in AP Literature when it felt at though a blunt axe had been buried into his abdomen. Swimming was torture with his head practically splitting open from unseen blows, and he had used excuse after excuse to keep his aching body out of Spenser's prized pool. It was only his forced roguish smirk and chocked smartass comments that had kept the others from growing concerned.

'As if they even would be,' the blonde teen thought bitterly as he shifted, flinching with a groan as the movement caused a ripping sensation in his chest to occur.

He had brought this upon himself, and he damn well knew it. His father, the other Elders, Caleb, Pogue, and even Tyler had warned him time and again off repetitively Using. But he had refused to adhere, seeing their concerns as more of admonishments normally given to a child. And Reid was tired of always being treated as such. He had once thought that by Using – by showing his father how strong he was – he would finally get the respect and love he desired. That he would finally be first in his father's eyes. But Using only seemed to make Mathew Garwin look more fondly upon his godson, and less upon his own son. Reid loved Caleb like an older brother, and always would. There would never be anything that could keep him from the elder boy's side.

But damn it all if there wasn't just the tiniest amount of jealousy in his heart for The Covenant's Golden Boy.

"God!" Another pain, like a mace straight through his heart, brought tears to his eyes, and made his knees tremble threateningly with a taunting weakness. His jaw clenched with premeditated determination, refusing to yield to the wants of his exhausted body.

It was dangerous to Ascend alone. As it stood, Caleb was the only Son of Ipswich who had ever dared to do so, and that was only due to extenuating circumstances with a threatening power. The eldest of the new generation had spent a month in bed under the strongest of rejuvenation spells to keep him from succumbing to his magics. A treatment that could have been easily avoided had the rest of The Covenant been there to Sustain him with their presence.

But Reid did not want his friends here with him, for he knew that no amount of Sustaining would save him from his fate. He had Used too much to be spared his gruesome end. He and his father had already spoken of it. At the exact stroke of midnight, Reid Garwin would Ascend, and become one of the most powerful witches in a millennia, third only to Caleb Danvers and Pogue Perry. At the end of the twenty-four hour cycle period, and on the dawning of a holy day, exactly two minutes past, Mathew Garwin would descend the spiraling staircase to the floor of basement, and take his son's life.

It was the way it would have to be. He had brought it upon himself. The danger he would most likely present to The Covenant was not worth his continued existence. It was what he deserved.

Suddenly, with no advanced warning, horrible pain shot through him, worse than any of the others before it. Despite his best efforts, a tortured scream erupted from his lips. His knees shook under the traumatizing pressure, and finally, Reid allowed his body to fall to his desires, and he crumpled to the floor to twist and writhe in lonesome solitude.

From the floor above, seated in a comfortable burgundy Victorian chair, forty-two-year-old Mathew Garwin looked up from his book to peer at the grandfather clock with emotionless green eyes.

11:25

.T.

To any outsider who had never seen Garwin Mansion, the building would strike as intimidating and an undesirable place to visit. With bleak stone-gray walls, and a ten-foot high black spiked gate to surround it, it resembled more of an ancient castle that a merciless king would reside in – one who would not take well to random strangers knocking on the large double doors to innocently request a tour.

To Tyler Simms, however, it was simply a house at which he could roll his eyes and scoff at, knowing full well exactly what was inside, and what he thought of it.

He ambled up the cobblestone pathway, enjoying the cold feeling of the rain that drenched his body and slipped past his shirt to travel in rivulets down his toned back. His own manor was only just down the street, a fair difference from Reid's own with its warm brick walls and apple tree acres. He was not soaked enough to be considered drowned, and yet chances of making it into his friend's house without some type of lecture from Mr. Garwin were impossibly slim.

But it wasn't to be thought on. Not today, of all days. December 24, nearly exactly thirty-five minutes until the dawning of Christmas morning. More importantly, at the moment, only thirty-five minutes until Reid Garwin's official birthday – only a half and five until his Ascension. And Tyler hadn't heard a word from him all day.

To those who knew of the Sons of Ipswich, Tyler was the baby. Born on the first of January, he was the youngest of the magical heirs, and in many cases, was reminded of it. Caleb, Pogue, and even Reid made it habit to check up on him periodically throughout the day; watching his back in school, keeping him out of any of the fights they always managed to find themselves in. It was older brother syndrome, in the extreme sense, considering they weren't blood related.

However, within the group, there were many other cases where it was obvious the Reid was the baby, at least by theory. He was so childish that his maturity often paled in comparison to theirs. Yes, Tyler was the one they checked up on, but the stubborn blond with a fetish for punk was the one they actually had to act upon. Whether it was getting him out of trouble, or cleaning up one of his numerous messes and scolding him, Caleb and Pogue, and even Tyler on a rare occasion, were often kept busy.

So it really came as no surprise to him that he was at the Garwin Mansion, searching for his mischievous friend.

The seventeen-year-old honor student approached the tall, thick black doors of the manor with prudent caution, having had more than his fair share of rushed entries that resulted in not too fun meetings with Garwin Sr., and then suddenly stopped.

A pulse of familiar magic slammed into his lean, built form, like a wrecking ball to an abandoned, worn building. He stumbled back a few steps, sapphire eyes wide with awe and fear. The pulse had been stronger than anything he had ever felt before, and he had been dealt quite a few of Pogue's Power punches. It had not been unknown that Reid's Ascension would be different than their own, but they had not expected his power to be at such magnitude …

The creaking of one of the doors snapped Tyler away from his thoughts viciously, and with a start, he found himself eye to eye with Mathew Garwin.

"Tyler!" The brunette man exclaimed in obvious mock cheerfulness, beaming so widely that his yellow shown in what little moonlight there was. "What can I do for you, lad?"

"Mr. Garwin," Tyler returned respectively, peering over his shoulder discreetly, and vainly, in search of his blond-haired friend. "Is Reid here, by any chance?"

The narrowing of the Elder's eyes did not escape the youngest of The Covenant's attention, but it was gone so quickly that he could say naught of it, and was instead forced back to attention as Mr. Garwin began to speak again.

"I'm afraid Reid isn't feeling very well right now. He's lying down. Perhaps another time?" Tyler stared at him widely, the epitome of stupid innocence, the underlying disgust only obvious to a searching onlooker who was searching for it.

"With all due respect, sir," Tyler continued politely, lowering his head to enforce the effect of the statement. "His approaching his Ascension, and The Covenant laws dictate that each and every member being in the company of his peers to prevent --." Mr. Garwin cut him off with a violent wave of the hand, his scowl returning as he obviously forgot that he had intended for it to remain hidden.

"I know what and whatnot the law states, Tyler," he interrupted snappishly. "But as I have already told you, Reid is not feeling well. I will remain here in the place of The Covenant to make sure that nothing goes awry with the Ascension. Family can sometimes work better than friends, sometimes, with the comfort and all." Tyler couldn't contain his snort at the finishing comment. He knew damn well what kind of "family man" Mathew Garwin was.

And then a low, pained scream cut through the silence that had built up between the two men. It sliced through the serene quiet that had overtaken the imperial night, adding a sort of tortured mix to its calm serenity.

Sapphire eyes clashed with olive green, and then Tyler was off, pushing past one of the most temperamental Elders The Covenant had seen in three hundred years, knocking him absently into the wall in his haste.

His well-trained legs carried him with an unnatural pace forward, the pull of Use urging him on, leading him temptingly toward the spiraling staircase that twisted down to the dungeons a twelve-year-old Reid had once showed off to them all proudly. Dungeons that a now seventeen-year-old Reid was currently residing in.

A flash of fire and black had the thick metal door slamming into the wall without hesitation, and Tyler charged through the opening unhindered, stumbling down the steps in his hurry, curses escaping his mouth with every breath.

And he froze at the sight that greeted his no longer innocent eyes.

Reid Garwin -- proud, stubborn, cocky Reid Garwin -- was crouched onto the cool cement of the dungeon floors. His pale form was quivering with intense shudders, his arms shaking so horrendously that it was clear they would give out at any moment, and let their owner crash to the floor. The sound of chocked sobs that were obviously trying to be suppressed reached Tyler's ears, and he found his heart breaking.

"God, Reid," he breathed, taking a step forward.

The blonde's head shot up at the sound, and Tyler was shocked to note the pitch black of his eyes, and the tears that leaked from them.

"Tyler?" Reid's voice cracked on the last syllable, and he viciously shook his head. "What the fuck are you doing here, dude? Get out. Now."

Having always been once to hear such biting commands from Reid's mouth, but never before having them directed at him, caused Tyler's attention to jerk back to the situation at hand. With five hurried steps, he was kneeling beside his fallen friend, alarm spiking through his aura at the sight of a small trickle of blood leaking out of the corner of the other boy's mouth.

"You're out of your mind if you think I'm leaving you here to do this by yourself, idiot!" His snapped back in a harsh whisper, snaking an arm around his torso to lift him. Reid jerked away, black eyes flashing dangerously.

"We both know what's going to happen to me when I Ascend!" He hissed, wincing as another bout of pain flashed through him. "We all do. There's no way I'm … dying … in front you guys!"

"You don't even fucking know that that's what's going to happen!" Panic was devouring patience and tact, and he reached for Reid again, only to be evaded once more.

"Tyler, I said go!"

"Damn it, Reid!" Black eyes grew to obsidian with the low growl, a flash of inferno bringing Reid's failing body to rest safely in his arm and upon his shoulders. The older teen was too shocked and weak to continue on with his protests -- Tyler had never Used so much of his power, and never before against one of the other Sons of Ipswich. He glanced up wearily, trying to catch a glimpse of any emotions on the other's face.

But Tyler wasn't looking at him. With eyes still the windows to oblivion, he carried them back up the twisting stairs with little trouble, before coming to rest gently upon the hard wooden floor. His arms tightened around Reid's body as he feet failed to keep his balance, eyes narrowing as they ran straight into Mr. Garwin, who was no longer even attempting to hide his distaste for his son.

"It's no use, Tyler," he whispered, watching both heirs with a predatory gaze. "What you're trying to do -- what you're all trying to do. There's no point. He was gone long before the year of his Ascension."

Tyler could feel the way Reid's fragile body tensed in his arms, and he lowered his eyes, not out of respect, but out of fear of what he would do to the man if his Power managed to grasp sight of him.

"Please get out of our way, Mr. Garwin," he asked pleasantly enough, his voice too low for the words not to contain some force. "I'm taking Reid with me to meet Caleb and Pogue. Give me your car keys and get out of the way."

Apparently, Tyler's patience was not the only one that had evaporated. Mr. Garwin's face contorted in rage, his own eyes flashing the infamous fiery black.

"He's not going anywhere!" He roared, and Reid, through his own pain and turmoil, managed to register the anger, and pushed himself further into Tyler's protective hold. The younger boy's head cocked to the side. He had honestly been spending too much time with his friend.

"I'll get the keys, then. You can just move." And with a push of his mind, Mathew Garwin was slammed into the wall, and the keys to the Rolls Royce out front shot into his awaiting palm. "Come on, Reid," he coaxed gently, leading the other boy toward the door. More Using shielded them from the rain, and made the back door fly open. Clumsily, the two made their way toward it, and with a careful air and gentle movements, Tyler managed to recline his friend on the back seat, pausing only when a low, sobbed groan escaped his throat.

"I'm getting help, man," he soothed, before shutting the door silently. He made to go around to the driver's door, when the enraged voice of Mathew Garwin called to him once more.

"That's my son! I say what and what doesn't happen to him!"

Tyler's eyes reverted back to normal, and the Elder instantly wished for the previous burning fury over the intense antipathy he was receiving now.

"Take that up with Caleb," he growled, and before an answer could be given, he jumped into the front seat and threw it into drive, thumb already pressing keys on his phone as Reid groaned once more. The clock flashed 11:40 in warning.

They needed Caleb and Pogue.

.T.

Pogue Perry had lived on his own since he was sixteen.

Granted that living alone was technically living in a small house on his parents' property. It had not come as much of a surprise to him or Julia and Roderick Perry that he had quickly grown tired of both the physical and mental confines of his mansion. However, it was not wise for a Son of Ipswich, especially not one of the newer, more reckless generation, to live on his own at such a young age, and therefore Pogue had been shuffled into a house that was no larger than an apartment, and left to his own devices.

And with clothes strewn about, and bed unmade, he dared say that it looked it.

"What about this one?"

The eighteen-year-old brunette glanced toward his desk, hazel eyes adopting an amused glint at the sight of his curious girlfriend, who was currently holding up one of the many protective charms hanging from the hooks beside the wooden structure.

"Ah, that," he replied, rising from his position on the bed to make his way to her. Kate was too absorbed in her fascination of the twisted fossil to notice the mischievous expression that was born upon her boyfriend's handsome face. He stopped right by her, smile carefully concealed, and feigned a moment of observation before answering. "That's a fetus protection amulet, made from the bones of John Putnam himself."

This time, he could not contain his laughter as Kate shrieked and flung the offending necklace away from her. He caught the sailing object with ease, still chuckling, and set it down on his nightstand. Bright almond eyes glared heatedly in his direction, as though they were being willed to incinerate him where he stood.

"Pogue Parry!"

His grin failed to fade, even at the sound of Kate's infuriated hiss. It had been nearly two months since he had nearly lost the vivacious raven-haired girl to the very thing he had tried so desperately to shield her from. Though she had been well on her way to recovery when he had at last be able to go to her hospital room, the horrific details of her magical torture that he had begged from Sarah were fresh and everlasting imprints in his mind.

The truth that had he only told her about his past, about The Covenant and its meaning, would have kept her from Chase Collins was still a constant and painful burden on his conscience.

And thus, he had told Kate everything, refusing to let her speak until he had finished. He demanded entire responsibility for the pain she had been forced to endure from the Creation spell. He had fully expected her to leave him at that moment – to storm out of her dorm and shout his secret to the world. It would certainly have been no less than he deserved.

But she hadn't. It had taken her a few days of solitude and wondering to come to terms with the knowledge that her boyfriend of four years was a true Son of Ipswich, and those days had been the longest of any that Pogue had ever lived through. And then, one night, she had shown up at his door, shivering from the cold that had penetrated her improperly clothed body and tears falling from her eyes, begging him to forgive her.

And now, here they were, Kate in his room, with him explaining the ways of magic to her uneducated mind.

"Freak," he heard her snort as she turned to face the wall once more. His grin merely grew as he leaned in toward her neck.

"And yet you continue to date me," he whispered in her ear, nipping the sensitive skin with his teeth before pressing feathery kisses down to her pulse point. His blood spiked in excitement as her body shivered in response to his ministrations.

"I can't for the life of me remember why," she breathed in return, absently pushing her neck closer to his mouth. He pulled away, chuckling once more as she mewled at the loss, and moved back up to her ear.

"Allow me to refresh your memory." His eyes flashed with triumph as she nodded fervently. However, just as he swooped down to capture her skin once more, the soft vibration of his cell phone sliced through their intimate setting. Simultaneous groans that should have been of pleasure expressed their disappointment as the small silver object blinked brightly to announce its finally important presence.

"I should get that," Pogue whispered softly, though he was already moving toward it. "Could be Reid."

Kate merely rolled her eyes as he offered her an apologetic smile, her own assuring him that she was not put off by the call in the least. With practiced ease, Pogue snatched up the momentarily cursed object and flipped it open, barely pressing it to his ear before he began speaking.

"Yello," he greeted in his normal careless way, brown eyes drifting toward his girlfriend as she rose from her seat to make her way toward the bathroom, unable to keep himself from admiring her backside.

"Pogue! Thank God!" A frantic, familiar voice responded. The second eldest of The Covenant frowned in confusion.

"Tyler? What's up? I thought we weren't going to meet up until Reid called." The brunette was startled by a bout of bitter laughter from his normally sincere, kind friend.

"Yeah, well, someone had to go and pull his jackass card today. He's in a hell of a lot of pain, Pogue, and this shit hasn't even started yet. I took him away from his house … we're in the Hummer now." Pogue's stomach dropped as though it were loaded down with anvils, and his gaze caught Kate's as she entered the room.

"Where are you?" He demanded, digging around for his shoes.

"On my way to the Danvers Colony House." Tyler's voice seemed to drift away for a second, and Pogue paused in mid reach of one of his wayward boots. "I think your dad was right. He … he looks really bad, Pogue. Really bad. And I can't get hold of Caleb."

For a second, Pogue closed his eyes, stealing an unaffordable minute to catch his bearings. They had all known that Reid's Ascension would be worse than theirs. The Elders, his own father included, had time and again attempted to prepare them for the very real, horrific possibility that the troublesome blonde would not survive it. And for that stolen moment, Pogue allowed himself to be pulled into an imagined, plausible world where Reid was dead, and they lived on to the best of their abilities without him.

But then Tyler's frantic breathing cut into his mind – the vaguest sounds of Reid's whimpers in the background had his eyes snapping open, flashing black with uncontrolled emotion.

"Don't worry, Baby Boy," he assured gruffly, snatching up his boots and pulling them on with one swift motion. "Just get him there – Gorman will help you. I'll get Caleb." He grabbed his keys, and then paused once again. "It will be okay, Tyler," he tried again. He heard the younger boy sigh.

"Just hurry, Pogue."

The call ended, and Pogue turned to face Kate, ready to let the explanation fall from his mouth in full detail. However, the raven-haired teen simply straightened his jacket, and placed a simple, loving kiss to his cheek. Her eyes, black as those of Use, shone with understanding.

"Go."

Ten seconds later, the motorcycle outside the small house was racing down the driveway.

.T.

Had there actually been any stationed police along the road of the old Ipswich Colony, they would never have held any hope of catching sight of the silver Mustang GT whipping down its endless dirt path, let alone getting up to speed in order to capture its driver.

Eighteen-year-old Caleb Danvers was normally the epitome of the "good boy". Though his abilities made it more than capable, he never did anything illegal if he could avoid it. He tried his best to obey the laws laid down by mortals, whether it was not jaywalking, or actually paying the full amount for groceries instead of changing the price to some outrageously low number. He went to the occasional party, but unless it was something all of his friends were at, he stayed at home and made sure that his mother did not consume more than her fair share of liquor.

This, however, was not the time to play up to his role as The Golden Boy.

'Stupid, moronic, idiotic child!' The ferocity of his mental voice more than made up for the lack of his verbal one, and his green eyes flashed with the concerned annoyance of an elder brother. He had been concerned for his immature smartass friend all day, and had even canceled his flight to fly out and meet Sarah's parents because of it. When his cell had rang, Caleb had already thrown on his jacket and raced out his front door before Pogue could even mention the name 'Reid'.

'It's not like we didn't tell him this was going to be dangerous! He knew that he was supposed to call if there were any problems.' Finger gripped the steering wheel so tightly that the knuckles pulsed and turned white. 'I just had to say "yes" when he asked if he could do it alone. Conditions or no conditions, I should have fucking known better than that!'

Caleb's mental rant jolted to a sharp stop as his gaze fell upon a gleaming black Hummer parked recklessly next to a slim motorcycle in his driveway. The sharp, nauseating pulses of Use slammed into his senses, dotting his sight and sending his brain into a drunken dizzying frenzy – Reid's signature. Without a second thought, he slammed on his own brakes, wincing at the sound of their high-pitched squealing and the crunch of the smooth rubber tires on the abused gravel. He threw the gear into park before the speedometer hit zero, but not even the thud of his transmission dropping hindered him as he jerked off his seatbelt and flew from his car.

Gorman greeted him at the door, his face the usual somber that it had been ever since his father's death. Their gazes clashed, and Caleb could read the disapproval on his mentor's face as though it were words in a children's picture book. But he did not have time to stand there and apologize for being a member of the worst Covenant ever. If they got through tonight, he might even feel compelled to send a gift basket to Gorman and each of the Elders.

But not now.

And that was something the elderly man seemed to comprehend.

"You have four minutes before he starts," Gorman growled, moving away toward the staircase. "And I wouldn't dawdle, if I were you. He doesn't look too good."

There was no need for thanks, as the man had already disappeared. Not that Caleb was entirely sure that he would have given any, anyways. The power that had assaulted his senses from the outside was now so overpowering he found his hand reaching out to the wall for support.

He could feel the fear and grief pulsing through the Use, as though searching for an escape that did not exist. Then, as if having sensed him, it wrapped around his body, tightening and relaxing around his body in desperation. Asking for help … begging for salvation.

Then, without warning, a vision of Reid filled his mind. Standing against a black background, his green eyes filled with such sorrow that Caleb's stone heart jolted in half with one single, powerful crack. A slim, pale hand outstretched toward him, in one final attempt to grasp something living. In one final attempt to clasp onto his own life.

And Caleb stumbled, his feet absently carrying him where his mind already was -- tripping down the old, twisted stairs of his family's colony house, skinning his smooth hands upon the splintered railing of which he grasped to keep from falling. They bled, leaving a trail of crimson regret that none would ever know the source of, nor one that the creator acknowledged, the flinch that was rightfully its instead going to Reid as he released a numbing whimper of pain as his brothers held him in a comforting, horrified embrace.

It was the scene that Caleb's forest-green eyes landed upon as his foot hit the ground in a non-too-graceful thunk. The blonde that had once been the beloved bane of his existence lay half upon the engraved pentagram on the floor, and half supported in the arms of Tyler and Pogue. The two brunettes' eyes were pitch black, their bodies strained as they slammed their powers forcefully into the veins of Reid's own. If Caleb focused hard enough, he could hear Tyler's voice -- sweet, innocent Tyler who had no right seeing such a terrifying sight -- choke as he tried vainly to soothe his friend's pain with words of nonexistent comfort.

"Shhh." A power-charged hand traveled through damp, now bronze hair. "Breathe, Reid, just … breathe. Please."

Caleb swallowed at the wrenching prayer, and he slowly moved forward, instantly catching Pogue's attention. The look a pure rancor, aimed at sources yet unknown, was instantly replaced with that of panic.

"He doesn't Ascend for another minute." His voice was raspy as he spoke. "But his Use is already going above our Sustaining." There was a pause as another pulse resonated throughout the room, and Pogue took that moment to allow another vein of his power to surge into the blonde's tortured body before he turned his attention back. "What do we do? What can we do, Caleb?"

But there was no chance allowed for the leader of the newest Covenant to answer. For the second Pogue had uttered the last syllable of his name, the Use around Reid halted to a no-doubt agonizing stop, and red emerald eyes snapped open, instantly focusing on the silhouette of Caleb's proud figure. A tortured, ghostly smile formed on his face.

"Caleb?" He called, his voice a fragile, childlike tone. Above them all, Gorman's only clock began to chime, and Reid's eyes suddenly filled with fear, and Caleb became unfrozen.

He bounded forward, falling to his knees in front of the trembling teenager, and grasped his face in both hands, just as the vulnerable green orbs transformed to vicious obsidian. Tyler and Pogue instantly followed his example, gripping his body just as the clock rang its final, forlorn twelfth cry.

For one moment, there was silence. And then Reid through his head back, the tortured cry that emitted from his throat one that would forever haunt his friends.

.T.

He had never experienced anything more painful in his life.

It were as though his ligaments were being pulled apart in the slowest, most painful manor possible. His head was splitting like it had been crushed by one of the many metal baseball bats his father had bought him as a child. He could identify the cool, metallic taste of his blood upon his tongue, could feel it swamping his teeth, pushing against the roof of his mouth. It was too much, far too much.

He retched, tears of hopelessness falling from his eyes as it continued to come up. He could feel his insides twisting in protest of the happenings, but he could do nothing to console them, and in protest, they sent at him waves upon waves of pain that crashed into his mind, overwhelming his senses until all he could so was scream, and cry.

How much longer was this too last? How much longer until it would just end? Why were they trying? I was all for nothing. Couldn't they understand? Couldn't they see how pointless this was?

He just wanted it all to end. Everything, all of it. It was too much. Too much work, too much pain, too much of a risk. He couldn't go on with it, even if, by some miracle, they helped him survive.

And then he felt a sharp, reprimanding intrusion. A familiar, once-annoying feeling swept over him, trying vainly to calm his racing nerves as it searched for an unknown quarry, and reluctant relief washed over his weary body. His salvation. The only one who could help.

"Caleb."

.T.

Books swarmed about the room. Countless books, ones that held their family history, many of which were the only ones ever published, and could never be replaced, had their long, sedentary lives ended within a span of one minute, a few by fire, the rest vaporized by poisonous waves of Use that slammed maliciously into their paper bodies.

However, Caleb paid no mind to anything other than the figure before him.

All of the blood Reid had lost had the eldest of the four pale in unspoken fear. The desperate whimpers of agony had already shredded his own heart into several microscopic pieces. His magic had leapt forward, searching in a twisting maze for Reid's mind, seeking the smartass blonde troublemaker he knew with fond exasperation. The blonde gasped at a particularly sharp jab, chocking out one single, begging word.

"Caleb."

And then he felt it. A single thread, right in the center of Reid's body that reached out and tickled his magic tauntingly. Instant rage welled up inside of him, and his eyes snapped open, just as black as they had been on the day of his own Ascension. His hands released Reid's face as though they had been burned

"Let go," he ordered his two friends sharply. Startled, they both obeyed.

"What the hell, Caleb?" Pogue demanded sharply, whilst Tyler simply stared at his now writing best friend in horror. However, the brooding raven-haired teen's eyes narrowed mercilessly.

"He wants to die," he spat. "He wants us to fucking let him die." Reid's Use swarmed around him now, jeering at him, throwing its existence in his face. It honestly believed that it had control now -- believed that The Covenant brothers would not kill one of their own to end its threat.

A truth.

"Tyler," he whispered softly, aware enough to know that a sharp word to the youngest now would certainly bring on more hysterics than could be afforded. Sapphire eyes turned toward him, hopeless inquiry in their dark depths, and Caleb, despite his own fury and trepidation, mustered up his best reassuring smile. "Join again. Try to talk to him." He sent another scowl at the blonde. "He's not dying tonight."

For a moment, Tyler hesitated, staring fixatedly into Caleb's eyes, looking for any sign of what was really going on. He caught something, and then, without a word, turned and hefted Reid back into his arms, their magic combining once more, Reid's in rebellion, Tyler's in a valiant attempt to Sustain what was left of Reid that was not swallowed by Use.

"What's up?" Pogue demanded, sparing a glance as Tyler's voice drifted toward them. Caleb shot him a look.

"In two minutes, Reid's either going to die, or we're going to have a witch on our hands that will make Chase look like a docile kitten, unless we do something a little more … strenuous than Sustaining." A small, half-sinister, half-longing smile formed on Caleb's face. "We're going for a little Walk."

.T.

It had suddenly gotten cold.

Reid didn't know where he was. Another part of his brain, perhaps. It sucked that he wouldn't get to tell Pogue that his brain was larger than the size of a peanut.

His arms wrapped around his bare chest, vainly seeking a warmth he knew he would no longer feel. The Use stormed around him, overwhelming him, stealing away the life he had taken for granted since he had turned thirteen. Disappointment swelled up inside of him.

Caleb wasn't going to do what they all knew needed to be done. He couldn't end his life -- couldn't end the threat. He was doomed to spend eternity locked inside this hellish, freezing prison. To watch as his hands ended the existence of others, without being able to form so much as a weak, verbal protest. It was over. It was too late.

"You can do this, Reid. It's almost over. Just hang on for a few minutes. You've got to, alright. You promised me you would."

'Go away, Baby Boy,' Reid ordered mentally, wincing as his friend's grief flowed over him, sinking to his knees in despair. 'Old promises never come true. Please just get away.'

"You know he won't listen to you, Reid."

Emerald eyes snapped open at the sound of the familiar voice, widening as they locked with the orbs of the jungle. Caleb stared down at him, a myriad of emotions swirling about his face. Reid's expression crinkled into pained confusion.

"Caleb, wh-what?" He croaked, flinching as the taste of blood once again submerged his tongue. The feeling of another presence kneeling beside him drew his attention off of Caleb's lack of an answer.

"Why are you doing this, Reid?" A soft, yet permanently annoyed voice inquired softly. Pogue's hand came to rest on his shoulder. "Are you hoping that we will kill you if you don't fight it?"

"Or do you honestly think that you can't?" Caleb intoned, voice more gentle than Reid could ever recall it being.

"I know I can't," Reid gasped, tears springing to his eyes. Why this? Why now? "Gods, Caleb, you don't understand! Just kill me and get it over with! Please! Just do it."

"Do you want to die, Reid?" Another voice called out, more innocent than the other two could ever hope to be. From behind Caleb's protective physical shield, Tyler slowly made his way forward. "Do you really want to die?"

"Of course I don't want to fucking die! Damn it!" He threw his heard forward, jarring away Pogue's grip. The tears that had been building up finally began to fall, traveling a desolate trail down his face and descending into the oblivion below him. "You don't understand! I've ruined it! I've known what would happen at my Ascension for the past two years. I'm as good as dead, breathing or not, when the clock hits twelve o' five. And I'd really rather be not breathing, if it's alright with you, then be murdering shell."

"But you don't want to die?" Tyler tried again, slowly bringing an arm around to wrap about Reid's slim shoulders.

The blonde could not answer his best friend again -- could not bare to make the hopeful light diminish once more. Instead, he turned his gaze upward to face Caleb, a stab of sorrow piercing him at the sight of the unforgiving scowl.

"I can't do it, Caleb. It's always there, always. I couldn't ignore it then, I won't be able to now. I don't … I don't want to hurt anyone. I don't want it take over." And he looked down one last time.

Except this time Caleb followed his eyes. He knelt before his friend, grasping his chin firmly in his grip, jerking it upward so that the green gazes clashed.

"Then don't let it," he said simply. Reid opened his mouth to protest, but a gentle squeeze on his arm from Pogue silenced him. "You're stronger than this stupid thing, Reid, I guarantee you that. You just have to realize it. And don't ask us to kill you again," he added quickly, correctly interpreting the spark in Reid's eyes for what it was. "We're brothers, Reid, all of us, in everything but blood. We'll help you through this. I promise. But first you have to fight this."

Caleb fell silent, and at that, Reid glanced upward, watching his storm of Use warily.

Fight it?

Would they really help him?

Could he honestly trust them to keep him from stumbling, no matter how unwillingly, over that edge? He had never placed his life in anyone's hands, not even theirs. Life lessons from long ago had taught him against as much.

"You owe us that, Reid," Tyler called softly, as though having heard the brooding thoughts. He cast a mistrustful glance toward the softly smiling brunette. "Just get out of this, and we'll help you with the rest."

"Don't leave us yet, Reid." The uncharacteristic words had the blonde whirling on Pogue, who stared at him expressionlessly, though there was a sheepish tint to his defined face. "I still have to beat your ass at pool."

"Reid?" Caleb was standing again now, and the teen was surprised to see an outstretched hand before him expectantly. And then it happened. Where Caleb had once been the annoying, hovering friend, and a shadow of an older brother figure, he, as well as Pogue and Tyler, who held onto him from either side, had become the brothers they were met to be.

Slowly, ignoring the pain that jolted with ever inch moved, Reid stretched out his hand toward Caleb's, and they caught in a tight, supporting grip as the Use suddenly surrounded him.

And Reid screamed.

.T.

Daylight beamed cheerfully through the window, as it had not failed to do on Christmas morning for the past eighteen years. An unfitting setting, perhaps, but the sun had always offered Caleb a sense of solace very few other things could.

"I don't want to do that again."

His head jerked to the left, gaze falling onto Tyler's small body, which was still hunched in a vigil position over Reid's body, as it had been for the last five hours. Pogue, who rested on the wall behind him, clapped his shoulder in understanding.

For a moment, Caleb simply studied them. His newly found brothers, who had been right in front of him for the past eighteen years. All had been affected last night. Pogue had stepped up to the role of middle child well, offering comfort, and no doubt would serve as a keeper of the peace once things got back to normal. Reid would hopefully still be the rebel, but would be the one Caleb now knew to keep an eye on. Big words made up for more insecurities than he had thought possible for the blonde.

And Tyler, perhaps the most changed. Finally made aware of the mortality that was barely a threat to them, but one that was real and dangerous enough to shatter his belief in their fictional immortality. The innocence in his eyes was gone, his words forever having lost their complete optimism.

"We could have lost him," the youngest added softly, hands absently gripping his jacket tighter

Slowly, Caleb offered him his trademark reassuring smile, trying his best to hide the strain that accompanied it.

"We aren't going to lose Reid for a very, very long time, Tyler," he stated soothingly. "Once he comes around, he's going to be back to his annoying, stubborn self. Dying won't be on the top of his list."

"And on the lighter side," Pogue chuckled, attempting, and succeeding, in changing the atmosphere and subject in one shift. "We finally have an excuse to beat the shit out of his father. And you guys know how long I've been wanting to do that."

Despite himself, Tyler snorted as Pogue grinned his mischievous smirk. Caleb, too relieved at the actions, and exhausted from the nights events, was unable to keep his emotions in check any longer, and outright roared with laughter of relief, sorrow, and joy.

"What the fuck are you idiots laughing at?" A weary voice growled from under the blankets on the bed. "I feel like I got hit by truck, and you guys get to laugh?" Hair disheveled from sleep, Reid Garwin slowly peeked out from beneath the covers, scowling at them in annoyance, before sighing in defeat. "Is it snowing yet?"

"Doesn't it every Christmas morning?" Tyler inquired lightly, as Pogue reached over to ruffle the blonde's already messy hair.

"Happy birthday, stupid," he crowed immaturely. Reid covered his face with a pillow, effectively cutting himself off from Pogue's assault and Tyler's laughter.

"Yeah, yeah. Merry Christmas, losers," he growled the traditional Christmas greeting they had shared since childhood, and the other Sons of Ipswich leaped for it.

"Merry Christmas, dumbass!" They cried in unison. And then, without warning, they threw themselves atop their brother, wrestling as much they could whilst being mindful of Reid's exhausted state.

Caleb watched it all with a smile, but his expression froze as he caught Reid's gaze. He could see the turmoil and sadness that vortexed in his troubled emerald pools. The smile slipped off.

The fragile façade had shattered.

Finished

My personal thanks to Linkin Park and Evanescence for their songs, "My December", "Lithium", and "Missing" respectively. Such inspiring songs are appreciated, and deserve both acknowledgement and gratitude.

OOC? Nah. I like to think of it as expanding on human emotions that the characters did not show in the original work.

I really do hope y'all liked it at least somewhat, because the sequel's coming out on the 27th (yes, yes, SerpentsAttire is writing yet another story. You'll live, I promise). It's being done for my senior project, AND because I'm sick of seeing fan fictions on The Covenant that of along the lines of "A girl comes in and gets with one of the Sons of Ipswich" yadda yadda yadda. Anyway, "End" should tie up loose ends that this story left you with. And I promise it will be explosive. Something y'all really won't expect.

But Liberate Me gets updated first, as my birthday present to my extremely faithful, patient readers. I love you guys, really.

So, until then, take care. And blessed writing. -wink-

Always,

Me