Path of Endurance chapter 12
"Ta-dah! Happy birthday, Bryan!!!"
Brianna came into Bryan's room with a small cake with a burning candle on it. She sat down on his bunk and waited for him to crawl from under his willow to see what's going on. He stared a while at the caramel in the shape of a large "9" on the cake before he was awake enough to realize that it was truly his birthday.
"Go on. Blow the candle out and make a wish!" Brianna said with a wide, sincere smile. At the same time Bryan remembered the previous day, and the doc's visit. That instant he also decided his wish.
"I wish Sis will be okay," he said inside his mind and blew the candle out.
Brianna laid the cake aside and shifted something with the side of her foot. "There's something I'd want you to have," she said and lifted a cardboard box from the floor. "I'm sure you'll like it. Open it up."
With an unseen excitement, Bryan tore open the box to reveal the most coolest skateboard he had ever seen. It was pitch-black with a chrome snake in its bottom, with a hand made text ?Pit Viper?. "Wow, Sis...!" Bryan was hardly able to speak. "It's awesome!"
"I knew you'd like it," Brianna laughed. Her laughter sounded like the angel's would sound. Just then, something occurred to Bryan. He remembered seeing an identical skateboard in one of Delta's magazines. All of the four had adored it, but it had cost a fortune! The chrome paint that Brianna had written the Pit Viper -text with wasn't from the cheapest end, either. Brianna must've given up many of her own interests to afford the skateboard and the paint.
Bryan skateboarded to school to show his new board to his gang. He had gotten big at school; no one had dared to pick a fight with him after he had beat Don Doe flawlessly. That meant that his property was safe, too.
After school Bryan was invited to party his birthday at Delta's place, since Brianna wouldn't be home until late in the evening. They played car race again, until Lun pulled five black bottles out of his back bag. "What's that?" Edam inquired.
"Found it at bro's fridge," Lun replied. "Wanna have some?"
"Gimme, gimme!" Bryan exclaimed.
"Hold it, Viper! Wait for your turn!"
When Brianna got back home, she got pretty worried to find out Bryan wasn't there. He had always promised to come home before sundown, because that was when she would always come home. She checked every room ? Bryan was nowhere to be found.
Suddenly, the phone rang. "Hello?" Brianna answered it.
"Am I speaking with Brianna Fury?" a female voice said.
"This is Angela Port, mother of Bryan's friend Daniel. I would like to speak about Bryan with you."
Brianna didn't like the tone in her voice.
"How may I help you?" she asked, letting her irritation shine through her voice.
"It would appear that Bryan celebrated his birthday too roughly with my son and their friends."
"Eh... What's your point?"
"Well ? all five of them have passed out. I would like you to come get Bryan home."
Brianna had to press down the mute button of the phone, so Delta's mother wouldn't hear her maniacal cackling. It took her quite a while to subdue her laughter and get back to the phone.
"I'll be right over."
She hung up and continued laughing for about five minutes before getting back control. "Bryan, you silly fool!" she smiled. "Oh well... at least you'll learn your lesson tomorrow morning."
It was the most hilarious sight Brianna was able to imagine; five little boys, passed out in the middle of a car race. Bryan was still holding a blue Dodge Viper in his hand, and there was an empty bottle right beside him. "Have you taught these manners to Bryan?" Mrs. Port snapped at her. Brianna sighed; "Yeah. Blame it all on me. I'm the root of all evil, aren't I?"
Mrs. Port figured she was very rude to young Brianna. She watched as Brianna gently lifted Bryan up from the ground into her arms. "Look, I apologize, miss Fury," she said. "I'm just... a little shocked. I'm not used to having booze in the house. And it was hasty of thinking Bryan would have brought them."
Brianna didn't reply. She just nodded and brought Bryan back home, but instead of bringing him in she left sleeping Bryan on a bench at their porch and brought two buckets ? one empty, one filled with cold water -, a cloth and some orange lemonade. With that, she lifted Bryan back into her arms and let him rest comfortably.
After some time, Bryan began to regain consciousness. Brianna noted this when he suddenly gagged. She lifted up the empty bucket just in time ? Bryan ralphed whatever he had been eating for the past 24 hours. And again. And again. Until there was nothing left to throw up. Brianna cleaned up his face and placed the wet cloth on his face. The boy wasn't able to do much of anything; he just lay still, clinging on his sister, crying the sickness he felt. Brianna was glad he was able to drink the orange lemonade she gave him, without throwing it up immediately.
When the sun began to rise, Bryan fell asleep. Brianna tucked him into his bed and checked her wristwatch; she would have the graveyard shift, so she could sleep until the noon. Not wanting to be interrupted ? or more like willing to avoid sudden, loud noises, for Bryan's sake -, Brianna tore chords out of their doorbell and unplugged their phone. Then she finally laid down onto the sofa and stretched out her massive arms. She, too, fell asleep in no time.
Brianna was still asleep as Bryan woke up. His hangover wasn't fully gone, but he felt a lot better already. He couldn't help but keep wondering what the hell was in the bottle, anyway, because first it tasted a bit funny, then he became sleepy ? then he fell asleep, and oh boy when he woke up! Fortunately Brianna had been there with him, to ease his sickness. That was the spot when Bryan decided to think twice before consuming ANYTHING he was offered.
Bryan staggered into the living room, to find Brianna fast asleep. She looked pretty odd when she was sleeping. For starters, she always slept on her stomach, and secondly, during the most of the time she was asleep, her eyes weren't. Either they were slightly open, or they kept moving rapidly. Or both. As if she was constantly observing what happened around her. Suddenly, her gray eyes opened up slightly and locked themselves on Bryan, who was taken aback by their stare. Brianna, however, resumed sleeping. Only her eyes stared at her brother. And when finally realizing it was her brother standing there, they shut and continued with their observing. Bryan found the whole episode very creepy, but it got him thinking; Brianna was constantly cautious ? why? Was there something she was afraid of?
Afraid? Brianna? Bryan could hardly imagine those two words in the same sentence.
Just then, he felt something crawling up from his stomach. He raced into the bathroom just in time to worship the toilet bowl once more. The sound of vomiting tore Brianna away from her dream. She watched curiously as pale Bryan staggered out from the bathroom, a few seconds after a loud flush. Now that Brianna was awake, she looked much friendlier than when she had been asleep. Bryan would never forget the sight; he could only hope he would never see it again. Brianna looked scary when she was asleep.
Brianna lifted the blanket she was under, to welcome Bryan beside her. He didn't have to be encouraged twice; he slipped under the blanket and cuddled towards Brianna, who ran her fingers through the boy's white hair a few times. Bryan's hair had always been soft, at least when compared to Brianna's hair. Unlike many other women of her age, Brianna wasn't even the slightest bothered about her looks. She rarely combed her hair, a ponytail would do the trick instead. She didn't even use make-up, yet still her eyes were dark as if someone had used a bottle or two of eyeshadow on her. Even her lips were dark brownish-red, like dried blood, her skin was spotless and almost pure white. One could almost say she was beautiful. Had it not been for her bodybuilder's fitness, she could have easily had any man she would've wanted.
But she didn't want. She knew she wasn't meant for anything else than serving as Bryan's guardian. The doctor's report had proved it; the more and more she thought about her sterility and lack of sexual interest, the more and more confirmed she was about her gender being a coincidence. She wasn't meant for mothering kids. She wasn't meant for anyone else than Bryan.
Not that she hadn't given the idea some thought. For a while she had been slightly depressed of her loneliness, but it helped when the doctor told her the news. It helped to think that she was there only to take care of Bryan until he was able to take care of himself.
But what about after it? What was the purpose of her existence, then? Brianna swallowed loudly when the thought pierced her mind. Would she become useless? For the first time in ages, Brianna felt uneasy thinking about her future. It would be so easy to just disappear... to cease existing... after Bryan wouldn't need her anymore. But the fact was she wasn't able to just vanish.
Bryan moved, mumbling silently. He was asleep again.
Brianna figured it would be wise of her to think about her future after Bryan would survive on his own. She pressed a gentle kiss to his temple and closed her eyes, wandering into her own dream world.
The booze had really done its trick on Bryan; he was asleep the whole day, even when Brianna had to get back to work. She knew she should've sent Bryan to school, but she couldn't force herself to wake up the boy. There was only one thing that awoke sympathy in her, no matter whom she was looking at: hangover. Only once had she had a hangover, but it had been enough. So instead, she brought another bottle of orange lemonade over to Bryan before leaving.
Bryan got used to Brianna's night shifts quickly. He knew when to go to bed, he knew how to lock the doors and warm up precooked food. Brianna didn't have to worry.
Yet the thoughts about becoming obsolete bothered Brianna for quite long. Even when she was walking home from the Interpol HQ, she kept wondering about her unsure future. She couldn't help but almost cry when thinking about the day when Bryan would move out on his own, start his own life, own career, get a job, a house, a girlfriend...
Well, Brianna wanted to judge the girlfriend before laying her blessing on their relationship! No cheap slut would be good enough for Bryan.
Suddenly, something else caught Brianna's attention. She was walking through the rough part of town, in the middle of the night, but she had company. No thugs, though. There were two people on the street beside her; a man and a woman, a Japanese couple by what Brianna guessed. The woman appeared to be pregnant, come to that, too. What on earth were they doing in this part of town, in the middle of the night? It was like begging to get mugged, or worse ? killed.
"Hey!" Brianna hollered at them. The couple looked at her and she got a better look at them. Both the man and the woman were in their late twenties and they were unusually well-built. The woman had long, red hair that was tied in two pigtails. She had beautiful brown eyes that could melt an iceberg. But the man was something else; he had long, black hair that was tied back with a tight ponytail, his eyes were bright green that almost glimmered in the night, and he was big ? well, definitely not the tallest person Brianna had seen, not even the most muscular one, but it was something else that made him enormous in her eyes. She would have almost wet her pants for just seeing him, but the man oozed with strange serenity and gentleness. Brianna knew the man wouldn't do her any harm, not if she wouldn't beg for troubles.
She was taken aback by the man's whole being, but she recovered as soon as she was able to. "You're... not from around here, I take it?" she managed to mumble. The man nodded ? Brianna was relieved to see he understood English.
"Look... it's not exactly wise to walk around here at this hour, this is quite a rough part of the town," Brianna said.
"You're here," the man replied. It was simple. Direct, yet not insulting.
"Well... I'm not the one with incoming kids here," Brianna said, nodding to the woman. The woman said something in Japanese to the man, and the man replied ? and by what Brianna could say, he seemed to agree with her. Brianna wasn't interested in their conversation at the moment, though, she was more in a hurry to get them out of there, since the place was infamous for its gang fights.
"Do you have any safe place to go? A hotel, friends, relatives?" she asked, quickly, because she swore she could already hear the footsteps and chains of an approaching gang. "I'm a police officer, I can escort you, if you'd like."
The man didn't reply ? he, too, heard the gang approaching. In fact, he had heard the gang approach waaaay earlier than Brianna had. Again, the Japanese woman said something, but this time the man seemed to disagree. Brianna forced herself to calm her breathing before continuing; "There is already one gang of thugs approaching. If we leave now, we just might avoid contact."
"It is too late," the man replied, and the same instant Brianna realized they were surrounded. She had been so concerned with the noises she heard from in front of her that she had failed to note the thugs that came from behind. Immediately Brianna's hand grasped her thigh, where the holster of her Desert Eagle usually located. Usually. This time, she was unarmed. The gang, however, wasn't unarmed. Pistols, knives and chains, wherever Brianna laid her eyes on. It was so silent than Brianna heard the chains ringing in the wind.
"Kunimitsu-san," the man suddenly said to the woman. The woman nodded, and what followed was something Brianna would never have expected to see. A pregnant woman leaped two meters upwards, just high enough to catch the end of the fire ladder that located above her, and she began to climb the ladder with ease, until she reached the roof and disappeared into the night. Brianna couldn't believe her eyes.
While Brianna was still left staring after the woman, the Japanese man suddenly pulled her behind him, as if he was the one protecting someone. Brianna was about to bring him back on earth and remind him that she was the one in charge of the situation, when she realized that the gang seemed more interested in her than in the man.
"Look, it's the steroid monster!"
"Where's the kid she hangs around with?"
"Forget about the kid. The boss said the bitch is more important."
"Stay back, Brianna Fury," the Japanese man said.
"Just a sec, now! What's this and how do you know my name!?" Brianna exclaimed.
"That is irrelevant."
Brianna hated to admit but the guy was right. It was irrelevant. At least for now. She lowered her stance, acquiring her battle position. There were too many to fight her and her new ally, but right now all that mattered was to break their circle and flee. Both Brianna and the man paid attention as the leader of the group stepped forward. "Kill the man," he ordered. "But I want the wrestler bitch alive. Not necessarily in one piece, though."
The same instant there came three thugs from behind the man and Brianna. The man was fast enough to evade the strike, but Brianna got caught in a sleeper hold. But by the time the man sent the two thugs flying through the air on their own comrades, Brianna dug her elbow into the attacker's gut, spun around and cracked his head into her knee like an egg. With a murderous, insane glimmer in her eyes and her clothes spilled in the man's blood, Brianna turned to look at the leader. It was no longer unclear why the underground people called her Bloody Brianna.
Suddenly Brianna felt a sting in her neck. She found a needle that was shot point-blank into her vein. It didn't take her much time to realize that the guys were serious in capturing her, because whatever tranquilizer had been in the needle, it was kicking into action at once. There was one needle shot at the man as well, but he had seen in coming and he caught it mid-air.
Brianna got enraged. She attacked head-on towards the leader like the psychopath she was, shrieking madly. Seven thugs fell before her feet, three of them died instantly as Brianna wrecked their necks or pulled their heads off their bodies. Yet after the seven were down, the leader belted her once. She fell instantly. The world was spinning around her due to the drug; she found it impossible to even get on her feet anymore. She was sure this would be her end. Maybe she didn't have to worry about her future after all.
But just as she thought it was over, the man easily cleared his way to Brianna. He pulled out a katana from the sheathe he had hid under his long leather jacket. The blade of the katana had a bright green aura ? a color identical to his eyes. He lifted the katana with his left hand, that turned out to be mechanized from his elbow and below. Those were the last things Brianna was able to notice before falling unconscious.
Her next note was the sound of falling rain, even though she wasn't getting wet. She heard a gentle, serene voice calling her name. "Brianna."
A few coughs. Falling rain. "Brianna."
Brianna forced herself to open her eyes. It all was a colorful blur for a moment, but then she saw the familiar face of the Japanese man, even though his face was covered in blood and his hair was flowing free. He had a nasty, fresh wound going across his face, as well as a few wounds on his upper body.
They were still in the same alley. There were a couple of dead thugs lying around, but judging by their wounds Brianna noted quickly she hadn't killed them. The man had. The man had protected her while she had been unconscious. Practically speaking, Brianna couldn't have been more wordless. It had been the first time someone had protected her. She couldn't believe that this total stranger had put his life on the line to save her.
"Ah, you are awake," the man smiled.
"Wha... what happened?" Brianna staggered. She still couldn't think clearly.
"They fled. But they will return for you, or your brother."
"My broth...?" Brianna shook. "Bryan!!!"
She leaped on her feet, but she couldn't find them. Instead, she fell right into the man's arms. "Easy now, Brianna, you're still drugged," he said, catching her softly. "Your brother might be in danger. We need to get to him at once. You do live near around here, don't you?"
"Y... yeah..." Brianna muttered with a blush. It was her first time to be this near a man. She ordered her feet to find the ground and keep her standing so she could stop leaning to the man. As they began walking towards her home, Brianna suddenly wondered how she could trust the man? She knew nothing of him, not even a name, he could be one of the gang members for all she knew.
There was a silent voice in her head that told her she could trust him. It was something in his eyes, she guessed. Besides, he had protected her, hadn't he? No one had ever done that to her before. For the first time in a very long time, Brianna felt grateful. It was a distant feeling, but something she took seriously. She didn't want to owe anyone anything, so sewing the guy back int one piece after getting back to safety was kind of obvious.
Bryan woke up. He heard voices. A male and a female. The latter was definitely Brianna, but who was she talking to? Who speaks with this kind of funny accent around here ? No one.
The boy crawled up from under his willow and sneaked into the kitchen door, only to see Brianna talking to a strange man, who was bleeding all over. Brianna's voice trembled slightly; she was upset about something. The man, however, was still and serene, and it lent strength to both Bryan and Brianna.
"You're hurt," Brianna said, studying the man's wounds.
"It is alright," the man replied softly, keeping his green eyes on Brianna's. "I am glad you're not wounded."
"What were they after? What do they want from me and Bryan?"
"They... nevermind. Just don't let them get either you or your brother."
The man swept some flocks of hair and blood away from his face. He happened to look at the door were Bryan was hiding, seeing him. Bryan cringed, but didn't disappear from sight ? even though the man looked quite scary, he had the gentlest eyes Bryan had ever seen. The man just looked at him, letting a warm, friendly smile spread on his lips. Finally Bryan came into the kitchen, but he stopped by Brianna's side, taking her by her hand and partly hiding behind her. The man crouched down and kept staring at Bryan curiously. "This must be little Bryan," he said.
"Sis... who's he?" Bryan muttered. Brianna crouched down, caressing the boy's cheek gently. "It's okay, Bryan," she said. "He saved my life. He's a friend."
If Brianna said someone was a friend, Bryan knew he had nothing to worry about. He was used to Brianna always being right. She had proved his doubts wrong countless times, yet she had never exclaimed "What did I tell you, huh?", because that wouldn't have been reassuring ? that would have been getting on anyone's nerves.
Despite he was hiding it successfully, another wave of pain collapsed the man on all fours. Blood was a-drippin' from his face and chest, leaving red stains on the floor. Brianna kicked herself into action and helped the man get up. "Bryan, get me a bowl of hot water, and a piece of cloth," she said. Wasting no time, Bryan climbed onto the kitchen counters and search for what Sis asked for. Meanwhile Brianna tore the man's already devastated sweater off and sat down to study the wounds closer. The man made a few curious notes; seeing him without a shirt made no reaction in her pupils that should've reacted by enlargement for seeing something that would generally awake the interest of females. Another was that Brianna sat down in his lap with spread legs, yet there were no physical excitement involved. As if she had done this every day ever since she was born.
The man couldn't help but silently subdue the excitement he felt around his body. Brianna's tight top didn't leave much to guess. He closed his eyes and leaned into the back of the armchair he sat on, secretly enjoying Brianna's touching, even though she was not from the gentlest end.
She cleaned his wounds and sew them close, even the one that went across his face. Bryan observed carefully, thinking the two looked kinda cute together. He found it odd that the man didn't react to the sting when Brianna's needle pierced through his skin, and came out in a second. Not even when she stitched the cut on his face.
By the time Brianna finished her job by cleaning the wounds with the wet cloth, the man suddenly struck his bright green eyes open, grabbing Brianna gently but sure by her wrist. Even though her arms were very thick, her wrists were as slender as any woman's. She was taken aback for a short while.
"Shh..." the man whispered. "Someone is coming."
Brianna listened with every cell in her body, but she wasn't able to hear anything. Neither was Bryan. The silence was so intense it could've strangled them. But then, two loud bangs from the door pierced it, sending Bryan's heart racing in his throat. Instinctively he wrapped himself around Brianna as she stood up from the man's lap. The man wasn't surprised ? he had spotted them miles away.
"Open up!" a male voice shouted from the other side of the door. "Open the door, Brianna! You're hiding a terrorist there!"
Brianna's fingers ran through Bryan's albino hair to calm the boy down. "A terrorist my ass..." she spat, letting her anger show through her face. The man stood up and grabbed his katana from a nearby table. "That figures," he mumbled, more to himself than to Brianna. "I'll have to go."
He looked around to find a way out when Brianna leaned to the wall, studying her fingernails. She waited for a few seconds before reporting the bad news. "There is one, slight problem," she said casually. "That door is the only way out. Not that you'd be in a condition to fight your way through it, anyway."
Deep inside him the man knew she was right. He was tired and wounded; he'd be an easy catch if he tried to fight now. Instead, Brianna balanced back on her feet. "I tell ya what," she suddenly said. "Go hide in Bryan's room. They won't look there."
"How do you know?" the man asked. Brianna stretched out her arms as high as she could, brought them back down carefully and then, suddenly, she tensed every muscle in her arms to bring them out on sight like a bodybuilder she was. She enjoyed the man's gaze on her muscles; even he was impressed. Brianna held the pose with ease, because unlike bodybuilders' muscles, hers were made for working and fighting. Still tensing to show off, she let her lips curve into a murderous grin: "Because I'll KILL them if they do."
The man nodded in approval. Brianna pulled out her field jacket from their sofa and handed it over to the man. "Take this," she said. "It's a cold night. It should fit you."
It fit ? Brianna wasn't from the smallest end, even though she was kind of short.
The door banged again, harder this time. It began cracking. "Sis! They're coming through!" Bryan cried out. He looked at his Sis, waiting for the signal he got only after a few seconds. She nodded. Bryan took the man by his hand and pulled him towards his room. ?This way.?
Just as they were gone out of sight, Brianna heard the door falling in. There were men coming to play ? and she was willing to play with them. Twisting her arms behind her and tensing out her muscles once more, she welcomed the men with a threatening; "I don't remember ordering a pizza..."
There was a deep silence in Bryan's room. His room was unusually clean for being a room of someone of his age. But the truth was that he had very little stuff to fill his room with; a small racing car, a basketball and a skateboard, mainly. The man easily found an open corner to sit down. He leaned into the wall and observed Bryan, who was peeking into the living room. He wanted to see what was going on, but he saw nothing from there. He nervous ? and scared. What did those men want, anyway? Bryan knew full well Brianna was able to take care of herself ? at least when one to one, but there were three big guys there against her.
"Don't worry, Bryan," the man said softly. "Your sister will be fine."
Bryan closed the door silently and walked to him, feeling still unsure. "I know..." he replied, fighting his fear. "It's just that..."
Suddenly, something caught his attention. The man's left hand ? the mechanized hand. For a short moment, Bryan forgot all his fear and nervousness, as he sat down on his knees and took the hand in his to study it closer. "Hey, neat!" he laughed. "Wow! ...what's this?"
"Well..." the man found himself in a lack of words. "Hmm... my hand."
Bryan twisted and turned it, taken aback when he noted the man could turn it 360 degrees around endlessly. "But... it's made of metal, isn't it?" he asked.
"It is artificial," the man replied. "I lost my original hand a few months ago."
"Oh, man!" Bryan cried. "Did it hurt?"
For a short moment, the man was left staring at the artificial hand, sinking into his memories for a while. "Yes..." he said, deep in his thoughts. "It hurt."
Brianna's frustrated voice pierced the silence in Bryan' room. "What, are you deaf or something!? I told you, there's no one here except me and Bryan. Now beat it ? or should I beat _it_!?"
Bryan turned slightly, his voice trembling with all the sudden fear he felt again: "W-what if they come here?"
The man was still, like a mountain that wasn't wavered by any winds. "Don't worry," he said. "I'll protect you. You're safe here."
Bryan couldn't control himself any longer. He leaped into the man's arms, cuddling to him as if he had been Brianna. He trembled with fear like a leaf in the wind, and tears began to form into his eyes. "I hope you're right," he whispered, clinging on tighter to Brianna's jacket. The man wasn't sure how to react, and his confusedness didn't make Bryan feel any better, either. He couldn't remember ever being that scared. Scared of the men out there, scared of the dark... but what he was most afraid, was the man chasing him away. Bryan just wanted to be near him; he felt safe there. The combination of Brianna's scent that lingered from the jacket, and the man's stillness were the best consolation Bryan had ever had.
Finally the man laid his hands on Bryan, welcoming him. He allowed Bryan to cry his anxiety as he ran his human hand's fingers through the boy's hair in a similar manner he had seen Brianna do. Allowing Bryan to cry himself to sleep, the man leaned backwards again and closed his eyes. He decided to relax now when he had the chance.
There was one, peculiar thought inside Bryan's mind that moment. He had always wondered about the concept of "father". His friends had fathers that cared and loved them, whereas Bryan remembered his father being cruel and violent. If father truly was someone who loved and cared, Bryan had never had one. Until now. As he felt the man welcoming him, he felt he had a father. The stranger felt like a father should. Deep inside his mind, Bryan understood that this would be the only night he would have a father. He pressed his head towards his chest and closed his eyes, slowly falling asleep.