A/N: well, this has to be one of the most depressing things I ever came up with. This is what happens when inspiration strikes while I'm supposed to be studying Latin; I guess my subconscious is trying to tell me something. So yeah, there is an awful lot of angst ahead. Consider yourselves warned XD
"Are you…absolutely certain you want to go for a direct attack, Dr. Director?" Agent Will Du asked, looking just a little sceptical. It was a completely different from their usual approaches.
"Nervous, Will?" Kim Possible – no, it was Stoppable now, but in the GJ headquarters no one had stopped calling her with her maiden name – glanced at him with a smirk. Years before a statement such as that one would have annoyed the heck out of him, but now neither of them didn't really seem to mind: it was more like a joke between them. Nearly twenty years working together tend to do that, Dr. Director mused with a smile, suddenly feeling even older. She absentmindedly ran a hand through her greying hair.
"Yes, agent Du, I'm absolutely certain," she said, glancing at the radar – they were getting closer and closer to the WEE base "Gemini crossed the line this time: assaulting a GJ facility is a provocation we cannot let pass by," she said, a scowl on her face. They had had no news from Gemini or WEE in months, and she had finally begun to think he might have retired – he hadn't had any regular contact with him outside work since their mother's death, so she couldn't really tell – and now WEE had suddenly showed up again, assaulting a Global Justice facility of all things. The mere thought was still enough to infuriate her. "This time, I want to take him and his organization down once for all," she added, more to herself than to anyone else.
She would never admit it to anyone, but Gemini was probably what had kept her from retirement until that moment. She knew she was starting to grow too old and she was certain Kim Possible would be perfect as the new head of Global Justice, but she couldn't stand the idea of retiring while her twin brother was still around to cause trouble. In a way, she was the reason why he had created his criminal empire since he had done so just in spite of her, and she felt like it was her duty taking him down before she retired. Dr. Director had never been one to leave loose ends.
"We're getting closer to the target, Dr. Director," one of the agents announced.
She nodded. "Perfect – get ready for a fight, because you can be certain that the WEE agents won't let you succeed so easily: they're too scared of Gemini's reaction should they fail. Just take them down, and we'll have won."
"What about you, Dr. Director?" Kim Possible asked.
Dr. Director smirked. "If I know my brother – and I know him – he'll stay in the control room to monitor the situation. You just take down his agents. I'll go looking for him."
He's mine to deal with.
"No buts, agent Du. I'm more than capable to handle him, don't you think?" she said, glaring at him as if to challenge him to say otherwise.
Predictably enough, the idea of contradicting her didn't even pass through Will Du's mind.
Once she had managed to avoid being caught in the battle, infiltrating in the subterranean base had been easy…suspiciously so, Dr. Director thought. Not only there were no WEE agents around – that was hardly a surprise, considering that they were all fighting against GJ agents outside – but there wasn't one single obstacle in her way: no hidden lasers, no trapdoors, nothing. Dr. Director had too much experience to not know that it all just screamed 'trap', but she kept walking undisturbed through the base, her body tense and her mind focused, ready to elude any attack that could come from any corner.
But nothing happened, and she finally stopped in front of a massive electric door at the end of a hallway – the control room, maybe?
Well, there is only one way to find out.
Fair enough, Dr. Director thought, pressing the button next to the door, which immediately opened. Knowing all too well she would be an easy target if she just walked in, Dr. Director leapt forward and rolled across the floor before standing up against a steel pillar that could protect her in case anything was fired at her…but once again, nothing happened.
After a few moments of silence, Dr. Director stepped away from the pillar glanced around – it was a large control room, just as she had guessed, and her attention was immediately drawn to a huge screen on the front wall that showed the fight going on between her agents and her brother's. She scowled as she saw what a rough time the WEE agents were giving them – when had they gotten that competent? – but she forced herself to calm down : they would defeat them, as always. Now she had to just find Gemini and--
"So, here you are," Gemini's voice echoed in the control room, and she finally realized he was sitting in front of the screen, on a chair whose back was turned to her so she couldn't see him – what a pathetic cliché, she thought in mild amusement before frowning as her brother spoke again. "I knew you would come alone. You were never one to let other people fight your battles – is that why you always refused to behave like any younger sister would?"
Dr. Director's only eye narrowed as she took a few wary steps forward, ready to use all her experience to elude any attack Gemini had certainly in store for her. He didn't move or turn to look at her "Where's the trap, Gemini?" she demanded to know. Getting there had been too easy for her tastes, and her twin brother's collected behaviour was suspicious to say the least. Where were the taunts, the shouts, the explosions?
"There are no traps, Betty," Gemini's voice came again from the chair, followed by a metallic click. Dr. Director tensed, then she blinked in surprise as she saw her brother had taken off his mechanical hand and was letting it fall on the ground near his chair with a clang. "See? No missiles, no explosions, no traps. Just the two of us, like old times."
She stayed still for a few moments, surprised, then she recollected, still keeping her guard up. "Oh, really? Then why did you let me get here so easily? Why did you attack a GJ facility in the first place? Just to irk me? To get me here and talk about old times?" she asked sarcastically "if it was a chat you wanted, you could have used the phone. You know my number."
Gemini didn't reply for a few moments, and she guessed he was staring at the screen in front of him, which was still showing the fight going on above their heads. "Isn't it magnificent?" her brother finally spoke again "our agents are certainly proving to be quite a challenge to each other."
"GJ agents are numerically superior and better trained," Dr. Director said coldly "you might get an advantage by playing on your ground, Gemini, but you'll lose again eventually."
"Yes, fair enough," her brother spoke quietly, and Dr. Director felt a first, sudden pang of concern as she suddenly realized how…weaker than usual his voice sounded. "I might or might not win this fight, Betty, and maybe I didn't win the war either, but it hardly matters now. My previous attack and this fight are certainly something no one involved is likely to forget about so easily. I don't want anyone to forget it, because in the end what really matters is knowing you won't be forgotten."
The slight pang of concern Dr. Director had felt was quickly turning into actual worry. She frowned. "Sheldon, what are you…?"
He didn't even seeme to acknowledge the fact she had spoken. "Oblivion would be even worse than death, don't you think, baby sister?" she heard him chuckling as he called her like that, fully knowing how much it had always annoyed her. "I've thought about it quite a lot in these past few months. I've thought about…a lot of things."
"What…?" Dr. Director breathed, her worry finally turning into something oddly close to panic. She forgot all cautions and walked, almost ran forward, and she forcefully turned the chair her brother was sitting onto to face him.
She immediately regretted it. Last time she had seen him in person had been about two years before, for the tenth anniversary of their mother's death, and now she was terrified to see how drastically he had changed. He was horribly pale, and he looked at least twenty years older than last time she had met him. He had lost so much weight and his face was so sunken in that it was hard to recognize him. His head was reclined on his shoulder, his chest rising and falling with each troubled breath – his only eye was the only thing of him that hadn't changed, the only thing that didn't seem to belong to a dying man.
A faint shadow of his usual grin appeared on his devastated face. "Why, hello, Betty. You haven't changed much since last time," he said, lifting his head, his voice remarkably firm despite the fact it was painfully clear that even speaking costed him a terrible effort.
"I…you…" Dr. Director seemed too shocked to speak coherently for a few moments, her gaze fixed on her twin as she finally put two and two together and the realization began to sink in – Gemini was dying. Sheldon was dying. "What happened to you?" she finally heard herself asking, her throat tightening.
"Cancer," was the unnaturally calm reply "it's rather ironic how even my death seems to be connected to a zodiacal sign, isn't it? I would have picked something quicker if I could choose, but if anything I was left some time, and it looks like it was barely enough. For a moment I thought you wouldn't make it in time," he turned to glance at the mechanical hand on the ground somewhat longingly "at first I had considered taking you down with me, you know. But I won't. It's better this way."
Dr. Director kept staring at him as he spoke, petrified, not even acknowledging the lump in her throat and the dampness on her face. She gritted her teeth and angrily shook her head to snap out of it. "No!" she nearly shouted, reaching to grab her communicator to call for help. No, it couldn't end like that! It just couldn't!
"Don't," Gemini said, causing her to freeze, her hand still holding the device "there is nothing that could be done anyway. I don't want to die in a hospital attached to some machine, Betty," he raised his gaze to meet hers "it would only serve to make me keep breathing in a mockery of a life for one more week at most. I want to die here," his only hand gestured to the room "you can stay or leave, as you wish. But I won't leave this room alive on my free will."
Dr. Director found herself numbly staring at him. They both knew that in his weakened state it would take her nothing dragging him outside and bringing him to the closest hospital, no matter what. It was entirely her decision, and she knew it – was it the reason why there seemed to be something similar to a pleading look in her twin's gaze?
There was a long silence, finally broken by a clattering noise as the communicator fell from her hand and hit the ground near Gemini's discarded mechanical hand. "You idiot," Dr. Director heard herself saying, her voice trembling as if she was on the verge of tears "why didn't you tell me before? I could have tried…I could have…"
Gemini snorted. "Tried to do what, to help? Do you really think I didn't try everything already?" he said "I did, Betty, believe me. I contacted every doctor that could have helped. Jack Hench tried with all his connections. Even Dementor contacted some famous specialist he knows in Munich – and he probably let it out with someone, because not even a week later I was drowning in strudel, scotch whiskey and more cookies than I could eat in a lifetime," he couldn't help but snicker at the memory before his expression turned serious again "but there was simply nothing that could stop it. Any doctor I spoke with could only repeat over and over my death sentence, and you grow tired of hearing it after the tenth time. There was no point in trying any further. I wouldn't have given up if there was even one single chance."
"You still should have told me!" she half-shouted, half-sobbed, trying her hardest to keep control over herself. Her hands clenched in shaky fists. "If only I had known…"
"If you had known, you would have assisted me out of pity. I don't want your pity, Betty," Gemini shut his only eye and swallowed "but I wanted to meet you before I left. And before you ask – no, I couldn't just use the phone," he gave something similar to a smirk "if I am to leave, I want it to be by my rules. A phone call would have been…anticlimactic. Besides, organizing that attack to your facility and watching you all rushing here was rather amusing. I showed you, uh?"
Dr. Director's shoulders trembled, but she managed to contain herself. She reached up to wipe the tears clogging her sight. "You haven't changed at all," she muttered, forcing herself to smile at him "you just can't stand it when things don't go your way."
Her brother's weak smirk widened. "Not when I can make things go my way – that's probably the reason why I'm still here to talk to you. Maybe I waited too long, but it doesn't matter. You made it just in time," he said, and Dr. Director realized that his end was much closer than she had dared to think, only hours, maybe minutes away. He was barely alive because of sheer willpower, because he had wanted to stay alive those few more minutes, but he would die the very same moment he finally gave up...and God, it was so painfully obvious he was tired of clinging to life like that. The mere thought made her feel horribly guilty – her brother had been dying slowly for months, and she had never known it. She was about to speak, but before she could her brother did something she wouldn't have thought he could do – he began trying to stand up.
Dr. Director knew he wasn't going to make it a moment before his knees gave in and he fell. She immediately stepped forward and caught him before he could hit the ground, holding him up while he stayed limp, and she felt like someone had punched her in the stomach as she realized how much lighter he was now that the cancer had eaten him up. A terrible sense of dread pervaded her mind at the thought. It was something she had never thought could happen to her, having to hold her dying brother in his final minutes, and it was simply devastating.
"Sheldon?" she called, fearing he was dead already, and she was relieved as his only hand reached to grab her shoulder to cling to her. "Sheldon, please…"
"Put me down," he said weakly, and she could only comply, sinking on her knees so he would rest on the floor, still holding him tightly. She tried to speak, but all that came from her mouth was a sob. She closed her only eye and tried to fight back her tears.
"You should have given me more time," she said, trying to not break down – she felt like someone was tearing her chest. Had there really been a time she had hated her brother and had wanted to bring him to his downfall? It seemed so long ago now, and it seemed so wrong. What could she do or say now that she only had a few minutes and no words to tell him how sorry she was? "I need more time."
"I'm…afraid I don't have it," Gemini drew in a sharp breath "but I don't think we need it either. We know each other well enough, don't we?" he grinned weakly, whatever strength he had left quickly fading "so I guess we can spare ourselves the sappy goodbyes – I never liked those. We know what we would say anyway."
Dr. Director somehow managed to smile. "Yes, we do," she said, holding him tighter with one arm, her other hand reaching to help him holding his head up. Gemini closed his eye and leant against her, feeling weaker and weaker, but her embrace was warm and comforting, and he couldn't help but think that there were worse ways to go. There was a long silence before he spoke again.
"Who's the older brother?"
Dr. Director finally let her tears fall, unable to hold back any longer. "You are," she nearly sobbed, her hand stroking his now grey hair "you're the older brother."
A smirk curled Gemini's lips one last time – an actual smirk, not just a pale imitation. "It took you a while to get it, but better late than never," he muttered somewhat fondly, a brother speaking to his little sister. His only hand reached up for her, and she took it in her own hand immediately, squeezing it gently. Gemini closed his eye and leant against her once again, the satisfied smirk still on his lips.
Dr. Director felt something heavy settling on her chest as his body finally went limp in her arms. She swallowed and gently put his hand down near his body before pressing her fingers on his throat, looking for a pulse. She found none.
"You always get what you want in the end, don't you, Sheldon?" Dr. Director muttered, her gaze fixed on her twin brother's face as she cradled his head in her arms. She stayed motionless, just staring at him for a long time, not even realizing that the GJ agents had made it past the defences and had gotten inside the room until she felt the gentle weight of Kim Possible's hand on her shoulder, and it wasn't until she noticed her tears glistening on Sheldon's pale forehead that she realized she was crying.
She hadn't cried during the funeral, and she was pretty sure she just wouldn't be able to cry when she would be back home either. She somehow doubted she would be able to cry again anytime soon – she just felt too numb right now, and oddly empty, as if a part of her had just been torn away. For a lack of a better term, she felt incomplete. Maybe that was how people felt when they lost a limb; it certainly felt so much worse than she had felt when she had lost her eye. Maybe her brother had felt like that when he had lost his hand – she had never asked. Not that it mattered now, she mused, her gaze still fixed on the grave.
Being the only close relative he had, it had been her duty taking care of the funeral. She didn't remember much, really: she had done everything that needed to be done like a machine, not really stopping to think one single minute, her mind blurred, faintly hoping it was just a nightmare she would wake up from. She could faintly remember the priest suggesting to write an epitaph on the tombstone – 'he was lost and is found', which she recalled being from some parable – but she had decided against it. She knew her brother wouldn't have wanted anything like that: he would think it was too corny, or too sappy, or both…and maybe he would be right. The only things written on the tombstone were his name and his date of birth and death, together with a picture of a much younger Sheldon. She didn't have any recent picture of him, and it was probably better that way: it helped her to think of that grave as her brother's grave rather than an enemy's.
Dr. Director shivered a little as a blow of cold wind rushed over her, and she put her hands in the pockets of her coat to keep them warm. It was starting to get dark now, and she was the only one left in the cemetery. She didn't really know what was she doing still there, but she couldn't bring herself to leave. A lot of people, including old friends she and Sheldon had in common since when they were much younger, had told her to call should she need anything. Some others, including Kimberly and Ronald Stoppable, had tried to convince her to have dinner with them that evening in what was a somehow clumsy but sincere attempt to make her feel better, but she had politely refused – she wanted, needed to be alone. At least for a while.
"Elizabeth Director, I suppose?"
She blinked as she was snapped from her thoughts. She turned to see a man with black eyes and silvery grey hair standing a few feet from her, a saddened expression on his face. It took her a few moments to recognize him – he was younger in the pictures she had seen of him when she was still unsuccessfully trying to find anything illegal in his business so she could prevent him from keep selling dangerous technology to the villain community…and to her brother. Actually, she had always been sure he had been the one who had given Gemini the founds to create his organization – one more reason to dislike him.
"Mr. Hench," she said, a little more coldly than she would have really wanted – what should his business matter to her now? She wouldn't be the head of Global Justice anymore in a couple of weeks: that role would soon be Kimberly's. Whatever that man had done was no longer of her concern. Still, she supposed old habits die hard. "What do I owe the pleasure?" she asked a little sarcastically.
Jack Hench glanced at Sheldon Director's grave, his lips pulled in a tight line. "I'm simply here to pay my respects, that's all," he finally said "and to give you my most sincere condolences."
Dr. Director sighed. "I guess I should thank you then," she said. She paused for a moment before speaking again. "Sheldon told me you tried to use your connections to find a way to help him."
"Yes, I did. Sadly, I wasn't successful," Hench shook his head "when it became clear nothing could be done, I tried to convince him to contact you and to go to the hospital – he refused, of course. He kept saying he would have his way," he said almost apologetically "I couldn't convince him."
"I would have been surprised if you could," despite everything, Dr. Director could feel a small smile forming on her lips "he always was too stubborn and proud for his own good, since when we were kids."
Hench nodded, a melancholic smile on his lips. "Yes, he was. But maybe it was better this way: at least he got the last word. I honestly couldn't picture what it would have been like to him having to be kept alive by machines until the last second."
She bit her lower lip at the thought, fully knowing it would be like hell to him. "Me neither."
There was a long silence.
"Why are you still here?" Dr. Director finally said, turning to glare at Hench – how he kept standing there next to her staring at the grave was somewhat unnerving "do you usually take this much time to pay your respects anytime you lose a business partner?"
Jack Hench shook his head, looking almost insulted. "I'm here to pay my respects to an old friend, not to a mere business partner," he said, turning to glance at her, making her feel mildly guilty for snapping like that "and might I inquire who are you paying your respects to? To a worthy enemy?"
Betty Director bit her lower lip before she shook her head and turned back to her brother's grave. "No," she heard herself saying, faintly wondering if there could really be a way for Sheldon to hear her now "just to my older brother."