Also, I got a lovely piece of art from Caitlin Ricci to accompany this story. Isn't it beautiful? I'm so pleased to have it, huge thanks to her.
Title: Redstone Chapter One, Part Two: Brotherly Love
Kyle had never had a pet, growing up. Not a real one, not the kind that followed you and fawned over you, the kind that begged for attention, for any scraps of affection that you would give it. He’d resented it some as a child, because a lot of his peers—the elite, the richest of the rich—not only had designer pets, they were even allowed to bring them to boarding school. Kyle remembered looking at fluffy epaulet snakes and catterpets and even an actual dog once and yearning for something of his own, something that would love him without reservation. As he got older, though, he started to recognize that feeling, and the kinship it sought out within him. He knew that feeling, he did. And he both loved it and loathed it so violently that just thinking about it made him retch.
That was how Kyle felt about Raymond. And the worst part was, he had no idea why.
One and a half standard years of his life Kyle spent with Raymond Alexander, who was already the president of the Federation, already a phenomenally successful politician and businessman. Ray had never been married, never had children. He’d never tied himself down to his biological family; the animosity between him and Foster had been evident even to Kyle. Ray didn’t seem to love anything, and Kyle couldn’t remember why he felt the way he did about his brother.
He heard the outer door chime, and stood up off his bed. He wasn’t about to face his brother from a position of weakness. They were the same height in bare feet, and it was the closest to equal that Kyle could make them under his current circumstances. The inner door opened, and Raymond Alexander, the President of the Federation, walked in. He was tall and frosty in pale shades of purple and silver, golden-brown hair gleaming, his sharp-jawed expression of sternness familiar. An aide followed him in, a mousy-haired woman who’s head barely came to the middle of Raymond’s chest. He handed her his tab, then waved her away. She cast one wide-eyed look at Kyle before scampering back into the outer chamber. The door closed behind her, and the President was replaced by Ray.
“Damn it, Kyle,” Ray said, his unflappable mien giving way to something that looked vaguely tired and disappointed. “What the hell is wrong with you?”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“Don’t give me that,” Ray snapped. “There’s no monitoring in here, it’s against regulations. You don’t have to pretend to be mind-controlled when it’s just the two of us, now tell me the truth.”
Yeah, right. For all that his brother bothered with regulations, which was not at all when they didn’t suit his purposes. Kyle wasn’t about to victimize his own case by breaking protocol. “I don’t know what you mean,” he repeated. “I would hate to do anything that made you unhappy with me.”
Ray’s lips thinned as he frowned irritably. “Have it your way, then.” He sighed heavily and shook his head. “I have to say, I’ve been over and over this in my head and I still don’t understand why you’re doing this. What happened, huh? What happened to you, to turn against me like this? We’re family, Kyle. We’re almost all that’s left of the Alexander line. We should be allies, not enemies.”
“I agree,” Kyle said, as blandly as he could manage while his mind raged. You killed them, you were behind it, all of it, you killed them, you didn’t care that they were family then! “I am your ally, brother. You wanted Cody Helms dead. I only tried to do what you wanted.”
“I never wanted anyone dead.”
Kyle couldn’t stop the laugh that bubbled up out of him. “Right,” he agreed, trying to sound less sarcastic, less hateful. It was hard. “Of course not.”
“Shut your disrespectful mouth and listen to me,” Ray snapped. “Listen to what I’m telling you. I don’t need to kill children to get what I want, do you understand? It serves no purpose and would endanger me unnecessarily. I’m not responsible for the independent actions of all of my people or those who’d like to be in my inner circle, but I can guarantee you that I never spoke or wrote out an order to have anyone at The Academy killed.”
You never needed to say a word, when your assassin was a psychic. “I know,” was all Kyle said.
“You don’t believe me, though.”
“I believe everything you say,” Kyle said in a sing-song tone. “I love you the best, remember?”
Ray stepped in close all of a sudden, and Kyle’s breath caught in his throat. He was frozen, caught in the sights of a gun and unable to move away. Bright blue eyes stared into his, and Kyle felt his heart jackknife in his chest when Ray reached up and cupped his face in both of his hands. Ray had large hands, broad-palmed and long-fingered, and they covered the sides of Kyle’s face from the edge of his jaw to the soft, thin skin of his temple. Ray cradled Kyle, keeping him utterly transfixed.
“That’s the greatest shame of all of this,” Ray said, and there was genuine sadness in his voice. “You do, don’t you? You lost so much I never intended for you to lose, but you always kept that. I knew it, even when there was no good way for me to use it. She wrested you away from me again and I lost my chance to perfect you, but that stuck. The love stuck.”
It did. It had. The love Kyle felt for his brother was like a river running rapid through his body, filling him and scouring him all at once, rough and tumbling and cold. He loved Ray—he felt it like a sore he couldn’t excise, like a fate he couldn’t escape. Kyle loved him and he didn’t know why, or why it hurt so badly to do so. He just stood there and trembled with the force of it, the confusion of such an overwhelming adoration. I do, he wanted to say. I do, I love you, and I hate it, I hate it, I hate you.
“Kyle.” Ray shut his eyes for a moment, fine lines of stress radiating out from the edges of them, before he leaned in, tilted Kyle’s head down and pressed a kiss to his forehead. “I wish I’d done better by you. I wish I’d managed to keep you with me.”
Then he let go of Kyle and stepped back, and Kyle felt like he’d suddenly been saved from drowning. Ray straightened the violet collar on his suit, then his long cuffs, before speaking.
“You’re being sent to Redstone, as I’m sure you know by now. The length of your stay is undetermined, but the sooner the trial the sooner you’ll be out of there.”
“And the weaker my case will be.”
Ray smiled thinly. “It’s none of my business how your legal team is managing preparations. Your mods will be deactivated tomorrow, and you’ll leave the following day. No one in Redstone has active mods, so you won’t have to worry about competing,” he added, completely insincerely. Kyle shuddered lightly, and wished he hadn’t as Ray’s smile grew.
“You’re going to wish you’d never stepped out of my shadow, little brother,” Ray promised him. “You think you’re smart, but you have no idea the level I’m operating on. Whatever you have planned, whatever you’ve been counting on to save you—it’s not going to happen. You’re just a bump in the road, Kyle. I’ll roll over you and come back stronger than before. It’s a shame you won’t be around to absorb the lessons of your perfidy.” He nodded his head. “Goodbye, Kyle.”
Words fought behind Kyle’s teeth, curses battling entreaties, loathing toiling against pleas. In the end he kept his mouth shut, not trusting what would come out of it. Ray waited for a long moment, the strangely eager look of anticipation giving way to disappointment before he finally turned and left. The inner door shut, and Kyle felt like his legs had been snapped in half. He collapsed back onto the bed, folding into a hundred sharp angles like a protein, body and mind and soul all in a state of disarray. His heart was going too fast, and his brain felt like it was muffled from cryosleep, slow and dizzy.
No one else could do this to him, no one but Ray. Kyle hated the effect his brother had on him, he did, so why did everything in him feel like it was dying when Ray said goodbye, like it might be the last time they ever saw each other? Why did he want to scream and beg Ray to come back to him, to forgive him, to hold him again? Kyle would never give in to those impulses, but they were so strong, so fierce…
The sudden blare of the alarm startled him out of his swirling circle of self-loathing. Kyle looked up as a synthetic warden hummed into the room, an expression of polite concern on its artificial face.
“You have injured yourself, Inmate.”
“I have?” Too late Kyle realized that he’d bitten right through his lip, warm and sticky blood flowing over his chin.
“I will take you to the infirmary.” The warden moved forward and, before Kyle could object, picked him up off the bed, perfectly supporting the core of his body as its programming demanded.
“I can walk just fine.”
“That is not protocol, Inmate. I will transport you.”
Shit. Kyle rolled his eyes but didn’t try to escape the warden’s grasp. It might be the last time a jailer showed him any sort of consideration, even if it was completely unnecessary—he should get as much out of it as he could. Kyle touched his chin, then looked at the bright red stains on his fingertips.
How much blood did he really share with Ray? Why had he and Foster been so at odds? Those were questions that had plagued Kyle for his entire life, ever since he first met Ray as a small child. The introduction had been brief, an interlude in a space station as both parties traveled elsewhere. Kyle remembered the chill in both voices as his brother and father greeted each other, and the way Ray’s voice got somehow colder when he addressed Kyle’s mother Haven. Kyle had expected to be ignored, but instead Ray knelt down in front of him. He hadn’t said anything, just stared for a long moment. Kyle remembered how his mother’s hands had tightened on his shoulders to almost the point of pain, like she was going to jerk him back at any second.
He blinked in surprise as the warden laid him down on a Regen bed. “You will be well momentarily, Inmate. This event of self-harm has been documented.”
Just what he needed. “Great.” The Regen tube closed over his head and Kyle settled back against the soft, contouring surface of the bed. It was overkill for a bitten lip, but he had the feeling that this, too, was going to be the stuff of dreams before long.
He’d better enjoy being healthy while it was still an option.