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Chapter Eight - Broken Family

A couple of days had passed since Mana had rescued his brother from the wrath of their father and still Neah hadn't regained consciousness. The older of the two brothers had spent this time caring for the younger and his level of concern was only increasing the longer that Neah remained unresponsive. Every so often he would pour some water down the boy's throat, not wanting him to become dehydrated, and the majority of the rest of his time was spent just sitting at Neah's side and speaking softly to the boy.

Mana wasn't sure whether or not Neah could hear the words that he was speaking but wanted his little brother to know that he was there. And that everything was going to be alright now. Safety was such a foreign word to the seven year old but that really was the case now. Their future was uncertain but the one thing Mana vowed to make sure of was that Neah was safe from now on. He owed the child that much at least to make up for having failed to protect him for so many years.

The promise that he had made to their mother on the day that Neah had been born seemed to echo in the teen's mind at this point and Mana resolved that he wouldn't fail again.

"You don't have to worry anymore Neah," Mana whispered in a calm and soothing voice as he ran one hand gently through the other boy's hair. He was hopeful that both the gentle touch and the soothing words would help to reach the child, wherever his mind had wandered off to. "He's gone and can never hurt you again… I swear it's safe so please just wake up."

Neah twitched slightly as his brother spoke to him, which gave Mana hope that he might wake up, but after a moment the boy stilled once more. Mana's face fell but he continued to speak to Neah in a soothing manner. "Come on Neah, please come back to me." Mana had been holding out hope that, since Neah wasn't really getting any worse, he would recover from the injury inflicted by their father. And, in truth, the wound itself was healing fairly well considering the fact that Mana had absolutely no training in the medical profession. Though it seemed as though something was still broken within the boy's mind. It might have been the shock of his father actually trying to kill him or it could even be that Neah had witnessed what his brother had done.

Mana couldn't really say for sure.

"My poor little Neah," the teen said as he ran a hand through his brother's slightly curly hair in a comforting manner. He still felt incredibly guilty for allowing the level of abuse to reach this level but had resolved that there was nothing to do except to move forward. Which he would be more than willing to do if only Neah would wake up.

"Nnnn…" At that moment Neah's face contorted into a grimace of pain as the child let out a low moan, twisting slightly in the bed as though trying in vain to get comfortable. Reaching out Mana carefully pulled his little brother into his arms, holding him securely so that he wouldn't tear out his stitches if his thrashing about grew in intensity. "I'm sorry Neah," he murmured in a low voice, rocking back and forth slightly. "I know that it hurts and I'm sorry for that." Mana couldn't be exactly sure what the cause was, whether it be his words or something else, but Neah stilled after a few moments, his breathing slightly more rapid than it had been before.

After a couple of hours spent in this position Mana placed Neah back in the bed, pulling the covers around him carefully before getting to his feet and stretching his tired and aching muscles. It was difficult to remain in one spot for so long and he felt stiff. That and he really needed to attend to some personal needs. Leaning forward he brushed back a lock of Neah's hair. "I'll be back soon little brother." Once again he had no way to either confirm or deny whether his words were heard but it didn't really matter.

Speaking to Neah made him feel at least a little better, if nothing else.

With these parting words Mana gave one final stretch before turning away from the bed in which his brother was lying and making his way across the room. He was reluctant to leave his brother for any length of time but he knew that he had to take care of himself so that he could be there for his brother woke up. And it was 'when' because Mana absolutely refused to think of the situation in terms of 'if'.

His little brother was going to be okay.

For awhile after Mana left the only sound that filled the room was an occasional moan from Neah but, after about an hour, the boy once again began to stir. The first thing that Neah became aware of as his consciousness slowly returned to him was a burning pain in his left arm, which caused the child to suck in a sharp breath and then clench his teeth together to stifle any further noises. He was accustomed to hiding his pain and suppressing any such noises, since they all too often simply made the situation worse for him. For a moment the boy's face was scrunched up into a grimace but then he forced one of his eyes to open, his vision slightly blurry as he gazed about the room.

He was alone.

Neah felt his heart rate quicken as he realized this fact, pulling himself into a sitting position and gasping as pain shot down the entire length of his forearm and a wave of dizziness rose to make his head spin. Cradling the injured limb against his chest Neah gazed about through wide gray eyes, taking deep breaths in an effort to get rid of the dizzy feeling and the subsequent nausea that had appeared with it. He vaguely recalled what had happened, the incident between him and his father, but had lost consciousness soon after his brother had struck their father so he didn't know what had happened after that.

Was Mana alright? Had something happened to his brother?

If that was the case then Neah knew that it was all his fault and his breathing quickened right along with his heart rate as these persistent thoughts plagued him. His brother had only been trying to protect him and Neah didn't even want to think about something bad happening to his brother… the only one that he actually considered family. Taking a moment to allow the feeling of dizziness that had overwhelmed him the moment that he sat up to dissipate the boy carefully scooted to the edge of the bed. Neah gazed around the room once more but in his slightly panicked state the boy didn't even stop to contemplate how he had ended up in his brother's room.

Hopping down from the bed Neah didn't even notice the fact that the thick bandages that covered his left arm were now stained with spots of crimson. The seven year old's mind was focused on other things and he quickly, though somewhat shakily, made his way toward the door. Neah desperately wanted to find his brother and make sure that nothing had happened to him and not even the fire that seemed to be blazing in his arm was going to dissuade him from doing this. Ignoring both that and the feeling of nausea the child opened the door and left the room.

As always Neah kept to the shadows that were always present in the large and poorly lit house, creeping along as though a ghost. "Please be okay Mana…" The little boy couldn't keep his voice from breaking as he whispered these words. He was so afraid that his brother had gotten hurt because of him; something that he had been fearing for years now and the main reason why he always tried so hard to hide his frequent injuries from his big brother. He hadn't failed to see the fire that always appeared in Mana's normally kind brown eyes whenever he learned that their father had once again caused harm to his youngest and Neah had been scared that he would do something in retaliation.

Which was now exactly what had happened.

"This is all my fault," Neah moaned in a barely audible voice as he set about searching the house for any signs of his older brother. It was slow going, because he was weak and shaky, but the seven year old was determined to press on. When he reached the downstairs foyer his gray eyes subconsciously flicked to the spot where the confrontation with his father had occurred… only to find that there wasn't so much as a trace that anything had happened their. Someone had cleaned the floor and that only caused Neah's heart to drop further into his stomach.

Stifling a slight sob Neah slowly made his way toward the one room that he avoided at all costs. The house was eerily silent but this didn't decrease the little boy's fear. Quiet the opposite, it actually caused it to increase but he was too worried about his brother to hide like his instincts were urging him to do. Reaching up with a slightly shaking hand Neah pulled the door open and hesitantly stepped inside, his entire body trembling as his gray eyes took in the familiar room. The scene of so much of the torture that he had endured in his lifetime. The room looked much the same as the last time that he had seen it however it too was empty.

Finally overcome with fatigue and unable to go any further Neah sank to his knees, his left arm still cradled against his chest and silent tears streaming down his face. It didn't really bother him that his father was nowhere to be found, since he had absolutely no desire to find that cruel man, but the fact that he couldn't find his brother greatly upset the little boy. And still he expressed his pain silently, occasionally wiping at the tears that were streaming down his face with his right hand.

And completely oblivious to the fact that the bandages covering his left were slowly turning from white to crimson.

Having cleaned up somewhat and gotten a small bite to eat Mana made his way back to his room to check on Neah. He felt much better now, his muscles no longer stiff from maintaining the same position, and the teen was ready to resume his vigil over his brother. However he was surprised to find that the door of his room, which he was sure that he had closed when he left, was now open. Shaking his head slightly Mana stepped inside and gasped as his brown eyed gaze fell upon an empty bed.


Mixed emotions rose inside the older of the siblings as he made this discovery: on the one hand he was happy that his brother had regained consciousness but on the other hand he was worried. Where had the child gone? Mana quickly searched his room but, as expected, found no trace of his little brother. Reaching up and running a hand through his hair Mana whirled around and quickly left the room, desperate to find Neah and make sure that he was alright.

"Did he see?" This was the question that had been nagging at the back of his mind since the incident with their father and something that Mana had only had marginal success in pushing to the side. Had Neah borne witness to his act of brutal violence? That was Mana's greatest fear at this point because if Neah had indeed seen what he had done it might cause the younger boy to actually become scared of him. True the man had tormented Neah for the majority of his life but that couldn't completely erase the level of violence that had been involved in his death.

Or the fact that Mana had been the one to end his life.

With a heavy sigh Mana forced all of these thoughts to the back of his mind as he set about searching for his little brother. He could deal with the what ifs and maybes one he had found Neah and made sure that he was alright. After searching the upstairs rooms thoroughly Mana refocused his search on the downstairs, taking the stairs two at a time and arriving in the foyer somewhat out of breath. His brown eyes quickly scanned the area and, to his utter surprise, the teen saw that the door of his father's study was open.

"Surely he didn't…"

The possibility that Neah had actually gone into that hellish room of his own accord was something that Mana couldn't even fathom but since the door was open and he knew for a fact that he hadn't opened it that was the only conclusion that the brown haired teen could reach. Fueled by his fear Mana quickened his steps as he walked over to the door of the study, pushing it open further and stepping inside.

Hearing the sound of someone entering the room Neah gasped and tensed up, turning slowly to look over his shoulder.

Mana gasped at almost the same instant that Neah did but for an entirely different reason. The surprise that he had initially felt over finding the little boy in this room were completely overshadowed by the sight of the blood that had soaked through the bandages that were wrapped around his left arm. Rushing forward Mana sank to his knees at his brother's side and pulled Neah into his embrace, being careful not to hurt him as he did so.

"Don't ever scare me like that again," he choked out as he placed a hand on the younger boy's head. Now that he had found Neah, his heart was beginning to beat at a more normal pace and he allowed himself to feel a brief moment of relief before the concern that he felt returned in full force. "Your arm's bleeding… c'mon Neah, we have to take care of that."

Neah had been shocked for a moment when his brother had rushed in and embraced him, his gray eyes wide, but now that he had recovered somewhat from the initial surprise he gripped his brother's shirt tightly with his right hand. "I thought… thought something had happened to you."

Mana heard the slight break in the voice of his younger brother and this caused his feelings of guilt to once again rise to the forefront. "Sorry that I worried you kiddo but I promise that I'll always be here for you Neah." At least until the younger boy no longer needed him. That was the decision that he had reached after his brief bout of violence.

Neah nodded his head and then made an attempt to get to his feet, stumbling as he did so and nearly falling on his face. With a slight chuckle Mana prevented the smaller boy from falling before gently scooping Neah up into his arms bridal style. "Mana you don't have to…" the younger Walker began only to be interrupted by the older. "I'm not going to listen to any arguments Neah. You're still weak and I'd rather not watch you fall onto your face."

Neah huffed out a breath but didn't protest further, seeming to know that it wouldn't work even if he did.

"I know it's irritating," Mana said as he quickly left the study and made his way back upstairs to his room, with Neah held gently against his chest. He could tell that his brother was frustrated, both by the huff and the expression that had appeared in his expressive smoky eyes but that didn't change the way that he felt about the situation in the least. The younger boy was just going to have to learn to accept help sometimes, whether he wanted to or not. "But it's just something that you're going to have to deal with until you get your strength back."

Arriving back in his room Mana carried Neah back over to the bed and gently placed the younger boy down. Reaching out he grabbed his first aid supplies from the bedside table where he had left them, placing them on the bed before he moved to unwrap the bandages that were wrapped around Neah's left arm. As the bloodstained bandages fell away Mana shook his head slightly as he caught his first glimpses of the wound and saw that Neah had managed to pull some of the stitches loose. "I guess we should go and see if the doctor is home…" It was a risky thing to do, given the circumstances, but Mana didn't want to re-stitch the wound now that Neah was awake.

Mainly because he didn't have anything to numb it with.

Neah caught the change in his brother's expression and he shook his head. He could tell that Mana was nervous about something and, thinking that maybe it had something to do with what had happened, he made a suggestion. "You can fix it Mana."

"I can't Neah," Mana said quickly, shaking his own head. "It would hurt."

"I don't care," Neah said stubbornly, giving his brother a pointed look. "You can fix it or we can just leave it the way that it is."

Mana could tell, simply by the tone in the younger boy's voice, that Neah was going to make this difficult. His little brother could be infuriatingly stubborn at times and Mana instinctively knew that this was going to be one of those times. Crossing his arms over his chest the teen gave the younger boy a pointed look. "Why do you have to be so difficult Neah?"

The reply that the younger boy offered up nearly broke Mana's heart. "Because something happened… I can see it in your eyes. And I don't want you to have to suffer any more." After everything that Neah had endured his concern was still focused on his brother instead of on himself. Shaking his head Mana fought to keep himself from crying as he heard these words. "Alright," he relented, knowing that he was doomed to lose the argument regardless of what he said. "We'll do this your way but I warn you now Neah… it's going to hurt."

"I can deal with it," Neah said stoically.

"I'm sure that you can." Taking a clean cloth Mana dabbed at the blood before he pulled a small knife from his pocket. Thankfully Neah had only pulled a few of the stitches loose and Mana cut those before once again retrieving the needle that he had used before. Having gotten a fair amount of practice the first time Mana was much faster this time and soon he had the replacement stitches in place and Neah's left arm wrapped in fresh bandages.

Neah flinched a couple of times but didn't so much as utter a sound as his brother worked. When Mana was finished Neah offered him a somewhat shaky smile, once again pulling his left arm to his chest and cradling it there. "Mana… what happened to Father?" Neah knew that his older brother had struck the man but he had blacked out after that.

Mana hesitated for a brief moment before he replied, "He's dead."

Mana was more than a little surprised by the lack of emotion in his voice as he waited for Neah to further question him. He would answer whatever questions the younger boy might have; he owed him that much. But Neah surprised him when he merely nodded his head once and then seemingly completely dropped the subject. "So what are we going to do now?"

"I haven't figured that part out yet," Mana admitted, reaching out and ruffling his brother's hair. "But don't worry, I'll think of something."

Neah nodded once more before lying down and curling himself into a ball, his eyes closing within minutes. His exertions had spent what little energy he had and he was exhausted, sleep claiming him quickly.

"Rest little brother," Mana said as his gaze lingered on his brother. "I'll think of something."

His little broken family would survive; Mana resolved that he would make sure of that.

A/N - End of another chapter, hope that you enjoyed.