Title: Scars

Summary: "Ted will be rescued. Ned's safe. I'm still the best big sister in the world. I won't disappoint them. You'll see." Because if there's one thing Sinead Starling hates, it's being a disappointment. Oneshot.

Characters/Pairing: Minor, minor Sinead/Ian, with other characters. Hinted Ian/Amy.

Warning/Spoilers: My first 39C fanfic, so there might be a little OOC-ness as I don't like 39C as much as PJO. Some Series 2 spoilers. Also, light language. I checked, and the worst is "damn." Just saying in case you couldn't handle it. XD Don't worry, there's only three cuss words total. XD

A/N: So. I got an urge to write Sinead/Ian on Monday, and I wrote it in less than 24 hours, making this a new record for me. Don't blame me. I have weird plot bunnies that demand to be written out. ;) Hope you enjoy. I've heard that this is one of the most hated pairings on the 39C fandom ... ever. :D I also heard today that Sinead is actually seventeen during the Clue hunt, so I fail, and this is AU regarding peoples' ages. Kind of.

Lesse... what else? Oh, yeah. Beta'd by the lovely and wonderful Aventine Hill. :3 Also, I don't actually know what Sinead's actual eye color is, so I'm just saying it's blue-gray. CC is lovely from the experts. Reviews are loved, but not necessary to my survival. Written for Project PULL.

(sorry for the bad angst. :D hope I don't disappoint.)

Dedication: To Audreacity—keep on rocking, babe! :D


Scars

· A Oneshot ·


Sinead Starling stared up at the clear night sky. Lights from the Cahill Manor spilled out over the balcony, outlining shapes she wouldn't've otherwise been able to see. This balcony overlooked the cemetery containing the original Cahill clan. The mansion seemed so antique, yet she knew it was built two years ago, just a few weeks after the gauntlet.

They had all matured in the two years since the Clues. She was no longer that silly, naïve fifteen-year-old girl who thought only of herself. Feeling hot, she pushed up her sweater sleeves, trying to keep cool. Why couldn't there be a breeze? Jesus.

She had had a bad feeling all day. Something just felt off to her. She'd dismissed it as her nerves. Ned and Ted had gone with that old man to Israel today—to a very competent doctor, apparently. He would fix her brothers. He would do what the master serum couldn't.

Or so she was told.

She had acted like she was on her period all day as a result of her jitters. So far, she had snapped at Amy for asking her what was wrong, and lectured Dan on sneaking around the house and scaring her. She also tended to glare at Ian whenever he wasn't in his room, managing the Lucian branch in his father's place.

She bit her lip and hung her head, breathing in through her nose. The crisp air of the tiny island was just what she needed to escape the stuffiness inside the manor. Ever since the accident at the Franklin Institute, she'd felt responsible for her brothers, and not being around to protect them made her anxious.

Maybe it was that Alistair Oh. Sure, he was a fellow Ekaterina, but he was old and untrustworthy. She and Amy had spent a whole day talking about the backstabbers during the redhead's Clue hunt once—she knew what he was capable of.

She turned her thoughts to other things besides the Clue hunt. The scenery really was pretty, with the smell of salt in the air from the sea and the bright, twinkling stars. The peaceful scene made it easy to imagine all the original Cahills living on the island.

It was also rather easy to remember her near-death experience in the caves underneath the ground, two years ago. She swallowed and closed her eyes, thinking of memories before the Clue hunt, before she turned her back on the desperate Cahills, before she made that fatal mistake.

"Mind if I join you?" a quiet, accented voice asked.

Sinead lifted her head and looked over her shoulder, sighing in defeat. It was Ian Kabra, looking as calm as ever in his Armani suit. Old habits died hard with the Kabras, apparently. She wondered if Natalie had already spent her two million dollars yet. She looked back at the stars. "I guess I can't say no. Why are you here?"

"The others voted, and they chose me to go talk some sense into you. If I didn't know better, I'd say it was rigged," he said lightly. Her lips quirked up into a half-smile; she'd stormed out in fury when she decided the Cahill brats were too much to handle then. In the peaceful night, she couldn't remember why she was mad at them. Sometimes she had to remind herself that she owed them her life when she felt like going back to her home in Oak Bluffs.

She had enjoyed the peace of two years while it lasted. Now, she was on this haunting island, preparing to do another battle for power all over again. All because Amy Cahill had sent them a letter warning them about some group of people who called themselves the Vespers. She could've been with her brothers in Israel, but no! She had to stay here on this wretched island in case something happened.

"Yeah. Sorry about being a jerk to you," she said, hanging her head again. "I've been really worried about Ned and Ted. I just . . . don't trust them with Alistair."

"Natalie hasn't contacted me since last week," Ian said, shrugging. "I'm worried about her, too, but I know she can handle herself."

"But my brothers can't handle themselves without me," she stressed. "You don't know what it's like to be mocked all the time, Kabra. You're rich, and could ruin people's lives if they tried to make fun of you. I know what people say about us Starlings behind our backs. The reason my brothers are like that . . . it's because of me. You don't know what it's like to be in the hospital for months, and all you wanted to do was please your parents."

"I tried to do everything to get Mum's approval, too," Ian said. "Until the gauntlet, when I realized that she was a ruthless murderer. I doubt your parents are like mine."

"Yeah, well." She glanced down and realized that her arms were still exposed. Ian noticed, too. She blushed, angry at her stupid mistake, and reached to pull down her sweater sleeves. He grabbed her wrist before she could, though, and extended her arm out to him, exposing the scars to the harsh yellow light.

Her blush deepened and she looked away, humiliated. No one had seen her scars before, not even her brothers. To have an enemy look at them, her only weakness . . . God, she wanted to disappear in a hole.

Ian made no comment as he stared at the pale, slightly raised little puckers in her skin where the shrapnel had been embedded. She saw them as unfading reminders of her mistake at the Franklin Institute, a mockery of the mistake that cost her brothers so much.

"It's nothing to be ashamed of," he remarked, tracing one of the healed cuts with a tanned finger. "I've been in many explosions, myself. I particularly remember playing a rigged harpsichord in Venice."

"I heard about that," she whispered, wanting so badly to yank her wrist away and hide underneath the sleeves of her sweater. Why was she frozen? He was just Ian Kabra—he wasn't important. "I also heard you got knocked out cold."

He gave her a half-smile. "That's true. I'm sorry about this," he said, still tracing the scars.

I'm sorry. That had been the only thing people said to her in the hospital, over and over again with each passing visitor. She was sick of I'm sorrys. I'm sorry wouldn't fix her brothers. I'm sorry wouldn't make her parents proud of her again. I'm sorry didn't fix anything.

It never did.

"I don't need your sympathy," she spat. "I made a mistake, and now we're all paying for it." Hot tears welled up in the corners of her eyes. She hated remembering—it only brought pain.

Ian looked up at her, his dark eyes meeting her bluish-gray. "How did this happen?"

She found the courage to wrench her hand away. She yanked down the sleeves of her sweater and turned away, hugging herself. A cool breeze brushed against her face, bringing a welcome chill with it. She shivered and looked up at the waning moon. "Were you at the gauntlet or not?" she said through clenched teeth. At his silence, she looked over her shoulder. "Could you leave? Please?"

"Sinead . . ." He took a step forward, so he was right next to her. She could even smell his lemon-scented cologne, damn him, his designer clothes, his big head, and his . . . his English accent! She fixated her eyes on the splashing waves in the distance. "Look at me." He touched her chin lightly, tilting her head so that they were watching each other.

He looked like he wanted to say something, but the sound of the sliding doors interrupted them both. Dan Cahill stepped out onto the balcony, looking worried. They sprang apart like they had been burned. Sinead yanked on her sweater sleeves, still blushing. She always did that when she was nervous.

"Cobra, Sinead," he said in greeting. "Amy sent me to go get you two. Hamilton just got here, and he needs to tell you something. It's about your siblings."

Sinead and Ian exchanged a glance and they quickly followed Dan back into the manor. Once they entered the foyer, she could see Mr. McIntyre's face on a computer screen. An ultra-large portrait of Jane Cahill, holding her prized harp, stared out at them from next to the fireplace. Whenever Sinead moved, it felt like the beady brown eyes of the founder followed her.

Well, it was better than having Thomas glare at you in the dining room.

Across the room, Amy and Hamilton were hugging.

Ian slid his palm against hers so that their hands were interlocked. Sinead made a face. "What are you doing?" she hissed.

"Nothing," he whispered back, not taking his eyes off Amy and Hamilton.

Amy pulled away, whispered something to the Holt and turned around. When she saw Ian, her eyes automatically went down to their entwined hands. She blinked in surprise, silent. Then she shrugged and went to sit on the couch.

Sinead suddenly understood why Ian was holding her hand and pulled away, tugging the cuffs even farther over her hands. "What is it?" she asked, walking around to sit on the back of the couch. Ian went to stand beside her, making her roll her eyes.

Mr. McIntyre cleared his throat. "I believe Mr. Holt should start. Prepare yourselves. It's . . . quite shocking."

Hamilton took a deep breath. "Reagan's been kidnapped," he said. Sinead could see that his eyes were rimmed with red. A Holt, crying? What madness is this? she thought.

"How?" asked Ian.

"She was training for an Ironman world championship when our family was down in Puerto Rico. When we went to go find her, her rowing boat was empty and there was no trace of her for miles around. I came before my family to warn you—Dad's convinced that the Madrigals are behind it, despite everything that's happened."

Sinead looked at the grave Mr. McIntyre on the computer screen. Suddenly, everything clicked. Reagan hadn't been the only one kidnapped, had she? "Oh, God," she breathed.

Mr. McIntyre cleared his throat. "Yes, I'm afraid Mr. Holt is correct," he said. "Reagan Holt is missing. I extended my searches, and I discovered that Fiske Cahill, Natalie Kabra, Phoenix Wizard, Alistair Oh, Nellie Gomez and Ted Starling have all been kidnapped, as well. Somehow, all the kidnappings occurred at the same time today."

"What about Ned?" Sinead demanded, clenching her hands into fists. She knew something had happened! "I swear, if something happened to him, there will be hell to—"

"Mr. Starling was the one who had contacted me of the Ekaterinas' kidnappings in the first place, Ms. Starling," Mr. McIntyre said patiently. "He is on a private plane to the Cahill Manor as we speak."

She was quiet after that.

"They're all representatives of the five branches," Amy deducted. She was fiddling with her watch nervously. "Natalie as a Lucian, Reagan as a Tomas, Ted and Alistair as Ekats, Nellie and Fiske as Madrigals, and Phoenix as a Janus. So we can't be pointing fingers at anyone. Who do you think would do that? The kidnappings, I mean."

"Isn't it obvious?" Ian said, his eyes narrowed into slits. Sinead could see that his knuckles were white. She was comfortable with the feeling that he was furious—no one messed with a Kabra or a Starling unless they had a death wish. "The letter you sent us, Amy. You talked about the Vespers. I have a strong feeling that they're behind this."

They all glanced at Mr. McIntyre. "It's possible," he concluded, "but I don't know why they would strike now, when we have found all the Clues—"

"The Vespers were the guys who attacked us," Dan realized out loud, cutting the old man off. "Remember, Amy? The Casey Wyoming guy in Switzerland, when we were getting the ring from Grace's bank account."

"His name was Casper Wyoming, Dan," Amy corrected. "But yeah. He tried to kill us."

"Wouldn't have been the first time," Dan muttered.

"When do you think Ned will be here?" Sinead asked.

Mr. McIntyre scratched his nose, frowning at her through the computer screen. "I believe he should be here in a few hours at most."

"I'm going to my room. I don't feel well," she muttered, turning around and walking back up the stairs. The tears welled up again, but she refused to cry in front of the others. First the explosion, now Ted's kidnapping—she was an awful big sister.

Ted was gone. He was really gone. She still couldn't believe it.

She couldn't do anything right, could she?

She went to the guest room assigned to her and sat on the bed, staring at her blurry hands. She didn't even reach for the tissue box on the end table. She kicked off her loafers and attempted not to cry at the news that her brother was gone.

You are a failure, her mother's words echoed in her head. I hope you know that you've destroyed your brothers' lives.

"Ted will be rescued," she whispered to herself, tucking her knees under her chin. Even through the thick khaki fabric of her pants, she could feel one particularly bad scar. "Ned's safe. I'm still the best big sister in the world. I won't disappoint them. You'll see," she chanted to herself.

The tears spilled over and she tucked her head between her knees, not caring about the wetness seeping through the khaki. They were the tears of pain from the explosion at the Franklin Institute, the tears of shame at Ian seeing her scars, the tears of frustration at her lack of protection for her brothers. They were the tears she should've cried at the hospital.

Sinead Starling had finally cracked.

She didn't know how long she sobbed, but her eyes stung and her nose was clogged by the time she was quiet. Someone knocked on the door. Sinead cleared her throat, but didn't look up. "Go away!"

"Are you feeling all right, Sinead?" the Cahill brat's voice asked, muffled by the door. She heard the door open, then quietly close.

"I'm just peachy." She looked up at Amy and scowled.

"The others voted for me to go . . . uh. . . ." Amy swallowed at her glare. "I, um. . . ."

She raised an eyebrow, adjusting her sweater sleeves every so often to be positive that her scars didn't show. "I thought you got over your stutter, Amy."

Amy flushed and took a deep breath. "You know, you're not the only one whose relatives got kidnapped," she said. Sinead swallowed and looked down. "Sorry, that was cruel of me. I know that Ted's disappearance worries you, but I just wanted to say that we'll find him. Also, Ned's here."

Sinead looked up, hardly believing it. "What?"

"Uh, Ned's here."


"Ned," Sinead breathed, standing at the top of the stairs. "You're safe."

Once Amy told her that he was in the mansion, she left the Madrigal in the dust. Her brother looked up, his face somber. He didn't even try to smile at her. One of them made a move, and suddenly, they were hugging.

"I couldn't save Ted," he said into her shoulder. "I tried, but he fell, and they tackled him, and Alistair was surrounded, and he told me to run and tell McIntyre."

"It was a trap, wasn't it?" she said, not caring about the tears dripping down her cheeks. Thank God he's okay, she thought. "I knew that old man was untrustworthy!"

He shook his head and groaned. "No, he was taking us to the doctor, and then our elevator just . . . dropped. When the doors finally opened, there were men trying to grab us." He stopped and broke away from her embrace, clutching his head. Sinead bit her lip and touched her brother's forehead.

"Do you want to rest in my room?" she asked, her voice barely audible. He nodded slightly, and she helped him walk up the stairs. The whole time, she could feel someone's eyes on her. Not able to resist, she looked over her shoulder. Ian Kabra looked away just a second too late, pretending to make conversation with Hamilton. It almost would've been convincing if Hamilton didn't look so confused.

Once in her bedroom, Sinead made him lie down on her bed. She pulled her desk chair up to his side and held his hand. "I'm so glad you're okay," she whispered, squeezing his hand. "Ned, I swear to God we'll get Ted back. You can count on me."

Ned nodded, his eyes meeting hers. "I believe you, Sinead." He closed his eyes and laid his head back on the pillow. "I just wish I didn't have these damn migraines. Sometimes I wonder . . . if we'd listened to those Cahills in the beginning, I would've been able to save Ted today. I'm worthless."

"Don't say that," she admonished, standing up and taking off his shoes. "You're a genius, Ned. Once we get Ted back, we'll make sure you two recover. Then you'll be as famous as Thomas Edison, or Galileo Galilei, or Isaac Newton. . . ."

Ned smiled, his eyes still closed. "Sinead, I love you, but I don't think you should go around making promises you can't keep."

She bit her lip and sat back down on the wooden chair, not saying anything in reply. Ned sighed, and soon his steady breathing was the only sound that filled the room. She squeezed his hand again and stood up, closing the door quietly behind her.

Her footsteps didn't make a sound on the lavish, carpeted floor, but everyone seemed to be waiting for her in the foyer when she arrived. She looked around and sat next to Ian on the velvet couch, not wanting to deal with the Holt brute or the Cahill brats right then. Mr. McIntyre cleared his throat.

"Well?"

"Well, what?" she asked, narrowing her eyes. At first, everyone was silent. And then:

"We'll find Ted, Sinead," Amy said. "I'll help you, even. We'll find everyone who was kidnapped."

She snorted. "Why would you want to help me?"

"Because we're a family. Families help each other. We should've learned that centuries ago."

"Hate to say it, but Amy's right," Dan said. "We have to work together if we want to bring down the Vespers. And wherever Amy goes, I go. I guess I'm in."

"Hey, me too!" Hamilton said loudly. "We'll save Reagan, and then show those Vespers exactly what they're dealing with."

Ian was silent. Everyone looked at him expectantly. Finally, he sighed. "Natalie gets rescued first. I doubt anyone here—besides myself, of course—knows how to handle a gun as well as she does."

Sinead took a deep breath and held her head high, meeting the eyes of everyone in the room. She had to be strong—not only for herself, but for her brothers, too. It was the least she could do.

I will not be a disappointment. Not again, she vowed. We'll find you, Ted. I promise.


Together we stand; I'll be by your side, you know I'll take your hand.


Ω