You guys are amazing. You know that, right? Thanks so much! This story would never have gone anywhere if it weren't for your awesomeness. ;)
Sorry for the delay… I was super busy, and then I was sick. =/ Fortunately, I now have tons of free time and have decided to do my best to ensure I update at least every other week (hopefully more.) J
WARNING: Rather mild description of past child abuse, as well as a few mentions of attempted suicide.
Bradley had felt rather helpless many times in his life- Ellis and Dean, combined with Colin's sheer idiocy, had made this rather inevitable.
He had felt completely helpless the night Dean had first hit Colin.
Shortly after Ellis had brought about the death of their father, the boys and their mother had moved in with Dean, Caroline's brother. It had been fine for the first few years.
Then, when Bradley was fourteen, the abuse had started.
His initial reaction had been to fight back…. until he realized that Dean might start hurting Colin instead, thinking him an easier target, knowing that Colin's…talents… made his uncle uneasy.
He had stopped fighting against it after that, and it had worked for some time. His mother had been completely oblivious to what was happening, exhausted by the three jobs she worked to support herself, her children, and her brother, who had recently stopped working.
Then, one evening when their mother was out, Colin had dropped a glass at dinner, shattering it. Dean, already in a bad mood, had been angry enough, but then the eleven-year-old boy had made it worse by fixing it with a glance.
Their uncle had exploded, calling Colin "freak" and "monster," among other unsavory names, before striking him across the mouth.
The boy had fallen to the floor with a startled yelp, then looked up at Dean, hurt in his eyes, which were rapidly filling. "You hit me," he had said in disbelief.
Bradley had quickly risen and stepped in between his uncle and little brother. "Uncle Dean," he said, attempting to be calm and reasonable, though his voice quivered slightly, "please calm down. It was just a mistake. Colin can't help his outbursts."
At the time, Colin's strange talent had been somewhat unmanageable- flaring up at random moments and in random locations, to the point where his mother was afraid to send him to school. Thankfully, however, it never caused any big problems- just small things, such as a classmate he didn't like tripping over air, or a pencil he wanted appearing beside him.
Dean, however, despised and feared this aspect of his nephew, and the allusion to his skill had only worsened the situation. "Get out of my way, kid. The boy's a freak, and he needs to be taught a lesson."
The man had lashed out, hitting Bradley across the face, and he had fallen to hit his head on the table, too stunned to stop what happened next, only able to watch helplessly what had he had given up so much to prevent.
That night, the older brother had felt his heart break at the conversation they had shared while he cared for the bruises and cuts.
"Why does he hate me so much?" Colin's voice had been small as he glanced at his hands.
"He doesn't hate you, Col," replied Bradley quietly, rubbing salve into his brother's bare shoulder. He had begun stocking up on first aid supplies long ago, shortly after the abuse had begun.
"That's not true."
The teenager had no reply for that.
"Do you… do you think it's true, Bradley? The things he said about me? That I'm… a monster? Not human?"
The boy blinked rapidly as he felt tears rise in his eyes at his brother's plaintive, despairing tone. "No, Colin," he whispered hoarsely, wrapping his arms around the boy's skinny shoulders. "No, that's not true, and don't you dare believe it. Not for a second."
That night, for the first time in four years, Colin slept in his big brother's room.
The helplessness had only grown as time went on. Dean had found the smaller Colin a preferable victim, threatening to make Colin's abilities public if either brother breathed a word about the abuse to their mother or anyone else. Then Bradley had moved out shortly after his eighteenth birthday, hoping, at first, to be able to get custody of the boy. But then he had met Hurt, and Caroline died, and Colin had attempted suicide, more than once, and the change in custody had never happened until after Dean's death, when it was almost too late for Colin.
Yes, Bradley had felt helpless so many times before.
But he'd never felt quite as helpless as he did now, as he stood facing his little brother, the document bearing his signature lying on the table between them.
"Let me get this straight," said Georgia, slamming the door of the car shut and stalking after her boss. "You want to break into the FBI building with two people?"
"Three," corrected Bradley tiredly, striding down the street. They were a few blocks away from the FBI headquarters, and he was determined to reach their destination as soon as possible. Every minute away from Colin was another minute in which Ellis had an opportunity to blackmail his little brother. "We have someone on the inside."
A soft snort escaped the blond girl. "Awfully convenient, isn't it? If this person really worked for Hurt, why haven't we heard from them before?"
"They probably didn't know we worked for Hurt also," sighed the terrorist.
"Bradley, I'm serious. I think this is a trap."
"I don't care," he snarled. "I'm not leaving my little brother to be turned into some lab rat. That's what we've been fighting against, isn't it- Ellis and what he does to people like my brother?"
Georgia bit her lip. "Yes, Bradley, it is," she admitted. "But think of all the good you could do if you remained free."
"What good, Georgia? Tell me. What good? I've been working with Hurt for almost six years now, and all I've done is destroy buildings, set off bombs, and cause people pain. I won't sacrifice Colin for that. I've failed him so many times in the past. I would rather face a firing squad than do so again."
The blonde worried her lip between her teeth. "I know, Bradley. I understand; I really do. It's just… you're very good at what you do and…" Her voice trailed off as she glanced at their surroundings. "We're almost to the headquarters," she murmured after a moment of silence. "Did your spy tell you what to do?"
Bradley opened his mouth to reply, when a soft voice inquired, "Bradley James?"
Seizing his gun from the waistband of his jeans, Bradley whirled around and levelled the weapon at the speaker- a pretty, dark-haired woman who could not be much older than Colin.
The young woman raised her hands. "It's all right," she assured him, hands trembling slightly. "It's all right. I'm one of Hurt's agents, and I'm here to lead you inside. Today's password is 'Excalibur' if you don't believe me."
"The person on the phone said to meet them at the back of the building," argued Bradley, eyeing the girl suspiciously. Surely she was too young to have a job at the FBI? Of course, if she truly was associated with Hurt (she knew the password, after all), then the man would have had little trouble pulling strings for her to be where he needed her.
"The person who called you was Katie McGrath, another of Hurt's agents in the FBI," replied the girl. "Unfortunately, she decided, after speaking to you, to inform Colin of the plan. She had turned off the microphones and cameras in the room before doing so, but the attorney general was suspicious and turned them back on. She's been arrested, and Ellis is waiting for you." The young woman bit her lip nervously. "James, you should just go while you can. Your brother has already-"
Suddenly, she stopped speaking, her eyes wide, just as Bradley felt cold metal press against the back of his neck.
"Bradley James, you are under arrest by the order of the Attorney General of the United States, Thomas Ellis," stated a man's voice from behind him.
No. No, no, no, no. Please, no. Not now- not when he was so close to rescuing Colin. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a man with long, dark hair – the one who had spilled the hot dog on Colin in the library, he realized –aiming a gun at Georgia's head. He turned furiously to the girl- if she hadn't distracted them, this might never have happened and Colin might still have a chance. The agent's eyes were wide with shock and regret, and she shook her head desperately at Bradley, as if to tell him that it wasn't her fault.
He ignored her, barely hearing the man behind him rattling off his Miranda rights. I've failed him, was all he could think. I've failed him again.
And this time, there would be no wayto repair the damage.
Bradley gazed down at the plastictable, his eyes glazed and unseeing as memories flooded through him- memories of how, time and time again, Ellis had ruined their lives, of what Ellis had done to their father.
And now, at last, it was all about to end. It was all over, but not in the way Bradley had hoped it would be.
By tomorrow morning, Colin would be on his way to one of Ellis' facilities, to be poked and prodded and experimented on for the rest of what would probably be a very short life. Bradley would probably already have arrived atsome federal prison.He would then spend the rest of his life in prison, waiting to die, knowing it was all his fault and that he had failed his family once again.
Unless, he speculated almost desperately, unless Ellis can't persuade Colin to sign the papers. If he doesn't-
The sound of a door opening and feet padding across the roomjerked the young man from his thoughts. Glancing up, the terrorist let out a hiss of surprise and rage when he saw Attorney General Thomas Ellis facing him, a briefcase in hand.
"Good evening, Bradley," stated the government official politely, smoothly, as he seated himself across from James and set his briefcase on the table.
"I'm not sure that good is the best word to describe any of this day," replied Bradley coldly, clenching his fists and feeling the cool metal of the handcuffs brush against his skin.
"No," murmured Ellis sadly, and the man had the gall to look regretful. "No, I suppose it isn't for your brother, is it?"
"What did you do to him?" snarled Bradley, lurching forward, the handcuffs biting into his wrists. "Where is he?"
"Just in the other room," the general reassured him gently. "You may see him after this if you like. In the meantime, as I was saying, it isn't the best evening for your brother. However, this evening could be the start of a new life for you."
"A life in prison, I know," snapped Bradley.
"No, Mr. James." The man leaned forward, elbows resting on the table, a strange gleam in his eyes. "A new life as Mr. James Arthur Morgan, in whatever country you choose- except, unfortunately, our illustrious nation."
"W-what?" stammered Bradley, not quite believing his ears.
"Oh, yes, it's all genuine," said Ellis with an understanding smile. Opening into his briefcase, he removed a file, opened it, and slid it across the table to Bradley.
Glancing down, the young man saw that Ellis was telling the truth- there, before him, lay an Ohio driver's license with his picture and the name James A. Morgan. A passport, a birth certificate, and other papers the terrorist could not quite make out were included as well.
A cold fear seized the young man, and he snarled at Ellis, "What did Colin have to do to get this?"
The man made no reply, just met his gaze steadily.
"He signed your papers, didn't he? He signed those…" Bradley's voice choked off. Before, he had been clinging to the desperate hope that somehow, his little brother was free of Ellis' control. Now he watched as that hope crumbled before his eyes.
"You should accept them," stated Ellis quietly. "After all, I would hate for your brother's sacrifice to be in vain."
For many years, Pendragon had both hated and feared the attorney general- the official was the reason he had turned to terrorism. But he had never loathed the man with such blinding intensity as he did at that moment. That this man would speak so lightly of the fact that Colin, an innocent boy, had just sacrificed his life to save his older brother- a terrorist, a murderer, and a brother who had always let him down-infuriated and disgusted Bradley. How could he treat Colin in such a way? How could he be so callous to any human life, especially Bradley's little brother?
Yet, despite all these thoughts, Bradley could see the logic in Ellis' words. Colin had already signed the documents, had already given up everything for him. To reject them now would be dishonoring.
Also… it meant he would go free. And if he was free, then he could work on bringing about his little brother's freedom as well. It would not be easy, especially since Ellis would, no doubt, be monitoring him closely, but it would certainly be easier than it would be from prison.
So Bradley swallowed his pride, his anger, and his loathing for the man before him, and replied calmly, "You're right. I'll take them. Now may I see my brother?"
Bradley didn't think his throat had ever felt so clogged with emotion- not when he had realized what had happened to his father, not when he had gone on his first terrorist mission and he had been so afraid of failure, not even the times the hospital had called him, bearing news of Colin's suicide attempts. Because those times, there had been hope of success, of a brighter future at some point.
This time, he knew, despite his freedom, that there was almost none.
So, when the agents escorting him opened the door to the room in which his little brother was being held, and he was allowed to enter alone and saw Colin sitting forlornly at the plastictable, his head bent, and the documents lying there so harmlessly between them, the terrorist found himself paralyzed, unable to speak or move, because he knew that this was it. This could very well be the last time he ever saw his little brother, and there was little, if anything at all, that he could do to stop it. The terrorist had been rendered helpless.
As the door clicked shut, Colin raised his head, and he gave a strangled little gasp. "Bradley," he breathed, rising to his feet, his face clearing.
"Oh, Col," choked Bradley, surging forward and wrapping the younger man in a hug. "I'm so sorry," he whispered, his voice barely audible against his brother's hair. "I am so, so, sorry. This is my fault."
Colin's face darkened again as they pulled away. "Bradley," he began hesitantly, glancing uncertainly down at his hands, which were twirling a pen around anxiously, "I… I heard some things… about you, and I…." His voice trailed off and he shook his head, raising his eyes. "I'm sorry, I know I shouldn't doubt you, not after everything you've done for me, but they kept saying that you just… and it seemed so convincing… and they seemed convinced…"
"Colin," Bradley broke in, feeling his heart break. How many times had he done this before- cut off the boy's desperate ramblings to reassure him? But this time was different. This time was the last time- and his words would not be reassuring. He was almost tempted, for a moment, to lie, to say that he had never had a hand in any terrorist activities. But Colin deserved more than a placating lie. He deserved the truth, and all of it. So the young man took a deep breath and said gently, "Colin… they were right. Everything they told you about me is right. I'm a terrorist. I joined them as a freshman in college. It's why I never came back to you and left you there with Dean. I thought even he would be better than terrorists." A bitter laugh escaped his lips, and he shook his head, no longer having the courage to meet his brother's eyes. "And look how well that went. Two suicide attempts, self-harming, depression, and finally, falling into Ellis' hands. I've ruined your life."
He glanced up to see Colin's face a mixture of sympathy and horror. "You killed people?" he whispered.
Bradley shook his head, fighting tears. "Colin, I…"
"You killed people…for me?"
"Yes," confessed the terrorist with a sigh. "Yes, I did."
The young man nearly choked on the emotion lodged in his throat. "W…what?"
"What you did…." His little brother glanced down uncertainly at his hands again, still fidgeting with the pen. "It wasn't… it wasn't right. But you did it for me. You've devoted your life to finding a way for me to be free, not only from Ellis, but from Dean and all the other ghosts of my past. So thank you, Bradley. You may not have been there for me all the time, but I understand why, and I can see that, your entire life, you've been so focused on… on me, and doing what's best for me. I don't understand why you did that or why you love me so much, but you do, and I want you to know that I see that, and it means the world to me- you mean the world to me. And those things I know you hate yourself for, the things I was so angry with you for… I don't forgive you, because there's nothing to forgive. I love you, Bradley, and I believe, in all honesty, that you are the best older brother I could ever have had. You've been my rock for as long as I can remember, and I don't know what I'll do without you."
"C…Col…" Bradley couldn't quite speak. Instead, he wrapped his little brother in his arms again. "Colin, you idiot," he whispered when he could talkagain. "Why would you do this?"
"I told you." The boy's voice was muffled against the terrorist's shoulder. "Because you're my brother and you mean everything to me."
What could Bradley say to such blind devotion? I'm about to lose him, he thought. Oh, God, please, no. I'm about to lose him.
And so he just tightened his arms around the boy and whispered huskily, "I'm here, Colin. I'm staying with you; I'm not going anywhere. I'm staying with you until they take you away."
A/N: Oh wow. That was… sappy overload. Sorry- it wasn't supposed to come out quite like that. Ah, well. xD
So- any predictions or ideas as to what will be happening next? Would love to hear your input, good or bad! =)