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don’t let this come to pass

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“You know what, no! We are not doing this fucking bullshit again!” Kel’s voice rings out into the empty house, loud in a way that’s different from his normal shouting. There’s a frustration, a burning fury under his voice that unnerves Hero. He’s never seen his brother like this before. Even when he came back to Faraway to find Kel and Aubrey at odds again, Kel wasn’t like this, wasn’t quite so visibly furious. Hero’s own heart is pulsing with anger, rising to meet his brother’s ferocity. Before he can say anything in response, though, Kel speaks again.

“We made a promise, didn’t we?! That we would do this together this time?!”

Hero bristles, taken aback. “I know we did, but things are different now—”

What’s different?!” Kel demands, fists clenched. “Tell me what makes this so different from what happened before!”

“You know exactly why it’s different, Kel!” Hero’s own anger is starting to boil, already stirring from the bitter thoughts that had been filling his mind lately. “You were there! You heard everything they had done! What they did to her! How can you just— get over it like that?! Like nothing ever happened?!

Because they’re our friends!! And they’re still good people!! Why doesn’t anyone remember that?!” Kel yells, throwing his arms up in the air. His movements are wild, frustrated.

They killed Mari and left her hanging in that goddamn tree!! And lied to us about it for years!! How can you just forgive them like this?! How can you just move on, again, and pretend that everything is okay?! Aren’t you angry?! Do you even care?! Or are you just gonna act like nothing happened again?!

Hero’s breathing is harsh and heavy in his ears, and it takes him a few moments to realize that in his rage, he had taken several steps closer to Kel. Kel hasn’t responded, head tilted downwards. His brother’s eyes are shadowed, expression unreadable in the darkness of midnight. The rage thrumming through Hero’s veins falters for a moment, as guilt and concern begins to surface beneath it. A painful memory comes to mind, a repeat of four years ago, and he backpedals. “Wait, shoot, Kel, I’m sorry—”

“No, you’re right,” Kel interrupts, voice hard. Hero hesitates, uncertain. “I am angry.” He looks up, and Hero can see a thunderstorm of frustration and sorrow in his dark brown eyes.

“I’m angry that Sunny and Basil didn’t tell us the truth until now. I’m angry that they did that to Mari. I’m angry that we had to go through so much because of an accident,” he bites out, tightening his fists.

Kel’s voice begins to tremble, a painful tremor flowing through his every word. “I’m angry that they had to hold onto that secret for four whole years before telling anyone. I’m angry that the guilt pushed them away from everyone who cared about them. I’m angry that no one was there to help them, for so, so long. I’m angry that no one was there for Aubrey when she needed someone. I’m angry that no one knew how to help you when it had hurt you the most. And,” Kel’s voice breaks, “I’m angry that I wasn’t there enough for any of you.”

A bead of water runs down Kel’s cheek, and Hero’s heart breaks. He reaches out, yearning to comfort his little brother, to tell him that it wasn’t his fault, to tell him that he didn’t deserve that burden of guilt, but Kel backs away, arms wrapped tightly around himself. His shoulders are shaking, tight with emotion. “I’m angry that I almost lost Basil and Sunny because I wasn’t there for them. That I lost Aubrey because I-I didn’t think I could be there for her. That I almost l-lost you because I couldn’t help you, either. I’m angry that I don't know how to help anyone. That I can’t help anyone,” he hiccups, and that’s where Hero decides enough is enough.

With a swift pull of his long arms, Hero tugs Kel into a warm embrace, holding him tightly as Kel’s composure shatters. The wave of anger that was gripping Kel had long since reached its tipping point, crashing down and leaving him with only sorrow and hurt. The dam of tears collapses as Kel begins to sob into his older brother’s shoulder, arms wrapping around Hero in an almost desperate motion. His sobs are guttural, despairing, desperate in a way that has Hero’s own vision blurring with tears. He always knew his brother always kept his sorrows under lock and key, buried under layers of enthusiasm and straightforwardness. It was the one thing that kept Kel going, what allowed him to be so… casual, all the time, even after the world seemed to turn upside down. But he knew that even the hardiest cactus has its breaking point.

“Shh, Kel, Kels, it wasn’t your fault. None of what happened was your fault,” Hero murmurs to him, holding Kel in his arms. It almost felt like they were kids again, back when Kel was a lot smaller than Hero was. “You’ve done so much to help us. If it wasn’t for you, none of us would be where we are right now.”

“But it wasn’t enough,” Kel whispers, voice wet. “I should’ve been there from the start. Maybe then everything wouldn’t be so messed up.”

Hero pulls back and takes Kel by the shoulders, eyes wet, but determined. “Kel, listen to me. You’re the one who saved everyone from growing further apart. You’re the one who reached out when everyone else was content to stay distant. You saved Sunny when you got him to leave his house. You saved Aubrey and Basil when you got involved with them. You saved me when you convinced me to start moving again.

“It’s thanks to you,” Hero insists, “that we got the chance to reunite at all. It’s always been thanks to you. Please, please don’t tell yourself you haven’t been able to help.”

Kel sniffles, not meeting Hero’s eyes but nodding uncertainly. He doesn’t seem fully convinced, to Hero’s disappointment, but it doesn’t seem like Kel wants to linger on his own insecurities any longer. Kel takes a deep breath, seemingly collecting himself, before murmuring, “I-I just don’t want things to go back to the way they were. I don’t want to lose everyone again because we weren’t able to be there for each other.”

Hero brings Kel close once more, and Kel rests his chin on his brother’s shoulder. “No one’s losing anyone. Not this time. We’ve come too far to let it all fall apart again. Aubrey doesn’t deserve that, and neither do you.”

“And I’ll… I’ll try my best. To give them another chance,” Hero murmurs, looking away with a conflicted expression. “I can’t promise anything out of it. But I’ll try.”

Kel nods and hugs Hero tighter. “That’s all I need,” he whispers.

”That’s all I need.”