Braxton had known what would happened, he'd always known the consequences of fucking over a team of mercenaries and no doubt whoever comes for him isn't going to care one iota for his long lost brother story. (even if it is unbelievably true)
It's why he'd always preferred to work alone if he could. Even when he'd started working with the private security firm, his jobs had tended to lean more towards solo work. Harder to betray anyone when it was just yourself.
Besides, he likes the quiet. Teams like to talk and talk and talk, and Brax had always been more used to a quieter company.
He thinks about trying to hunt down Chris, turns the idea over in his head as he gets out of Chicago, but for ten years he hadn't been able to find him, at least now he knew Chris would get back in touch with him. Chris might have spent the last decade avoiding Brax, but he wasn't a liar, he'd call.
So he gets on a plane and starts putting some distance between him and the mess he was leaving behind. It's a short flight to his first stop, but that doesn't stop him from thinking too much, from getting lost in past memories that he usually kept locked away.
Brax had never found a trace of Chris in any of the black sites he knew of, or the new ones he'd discovered in his searching. He did find a hint of something from an ex-unit guy gone into government agent, a vague hint of some maths guy getting pulled from Leavenworth to work for Feds in Chicago some years past. Now the whole 'Numbers Guy' thing pissed Brax off on so many levels. Jesus Christ, people liked to make it sound like Chris was little more than a human calculator.
But Chris was better at maths than anyone Brax had ever met, could find a pattern – or a break in pattern – better than most and that was a clue, because Brax had doubted there'd been more than one 'maths guy' serving time in Leavenworth.
So he'd followed that rumor til it lead him to another prison – he still feels a flush of homicidal rage at the idea of his brother in prison, no matter how much he knows the guy can take care of himself – and starts pulling together something of a prison break plan. While Leavenworth had been maximum security in both prisoner and prisonsense, a detention center just out of DC was something he could work with.
A detention center gave him options.
He'd been dark long enough that the idea of planning an op on US soil didn't take any of the wind out of his sails, for all his affected accent, Brax was more a child of the world than anything. Home was everywhere and nowhere. (home was family, home was a big brother who was gone but not gone.)
But in the end he'd been too late. There was a guard with his skull cracked open and a prison break of just a single man that's been hushed up to the tune of government embarrassment. They couldn't exactly put out an APB on Prisoner Number 831 who had no name and wasn't technically supposed to be where he was.
There had been a massacre at some baby mobster's place that smacked of retribution but Brax found as little as the cops. The only thing he knew for sure, is that if it was Chris, it had been in retaliation. Chris had never cared for much, but if something – someone – got past his walls, he'd raze the earth for them. The sappy bastard.
That's one of the reasons he has no plans on telling Chris about the fact that he might have burned more than bridges turning on his team like he did.
Because it's not Chris' fault, isn't Chris' problem and Braxton is an adult, he can deal with this his own damned self without running to big brother.
Which is a fine concept, in theory, but then he fucked up. He's not sure where, or maybe it hadn't even been something he did, lotta good trackers out there. End result is the same
He picks up a tail three days after the fact. After Chicago he'd headed east, put a lot of miles between him and that clusterfuck, and ended up in Boston. Big anonymous city he could lay low til Chris got back in contact with him. He notices them pretty quick; people in the game tended to have an air about them, if you knew what to look for. What to look for exactly varied; sometimes it was a readiness for violence thrumming just below the surface, sometimes it was sharp eyes and an observant confidence, and sometimes it was a noticeable lack of something.
The guy Brax clocks looks like the violent type, his gait speaks of a readiness and an eagerness. Someone out there had definitely taken offence to Brax's actions the other night. And from the look on the guy's face, they were only going to accept payment in blood.
Now he understands the sentiment, but pigs'll fly before he just rolls over and dies. Everyone's fucked over someone in this business, it was almost the only thing they all had in common.
It'll be a shame if all this makes him miss meeting back up with Chris.
Brax keeps his pace steady and unaffected as he keeps an eye out for any other followers he might have picked up. Because it was the ones you didn't notice that would get you, and no matter how good Braxton might be, no one could fight uneven odds forever, and he needed to lose his tail and get the hell out of dodge quick smart.
He's reminded of a dark street, several nights past, when he'd been followed, stalked by someone with ill-intent. He'd gotten the drop on Chris that night. Though hindsight makes the memory uncomfortable now, it's not guilt per say, but something. Maybe just absurdly grateful he hadn't shot his brother in the face.
He leads his shadow away from the bustling main streets where he can pick out the if there's more than one man following him, lures him to quieter ones where things don't get seen even if they happen in broad daylight.
He's not carrying – a thing he needs to rectify ASAP – he'd just gotten off a plane, but that didn't mean he couldn't deal with a tail.
Brax lets the guy get close, he's alone, but he's been talking intermittently into his collar so he's got a handler or two in his ear but no immediate physical backup on the street. Which, at least, means they didn't one hundred percent know he was going to be here so his fallback ID might not be burnt yet, but he'll still have change it soon.
The emptier streets make his follower arrogant enough to think this is to his advantage.
He closes in the moment Brax turns down a smaller alley, but the sharp turn allows Brax to disappear for a moment. The guy rushes to catch up; coming around the corner too fast; he's not prepared for Braxton to be waiting for him. His gun is half out but Brax is too close and he slams into the guy at full force. The struggle is short, the other guy getting a few good hits in, but he relies on his weapon too much, and in the moments it takes him to realize that Brax is too near to get his gun up and pointed, he's already been pinned against the brick wall, his piece in Brax's hands.
He jerks up, trying to break the hold but Brax just slams his weight back down against him until he groans.
“Who sent you?” Brax demands.
“You know who!” He chokes out.
Fuck, well, the guy's not wrong, even though Braxton had hoped he'd be able to outrun the fallout of last week, he's not overly surprised he hasn't.
“What do they want?”
He leans in when the guy doesn't immediately answer.
“Take you in! They want us to bring you in!”
“Why?” Brax's weight must be pressing pretty painfully on cracked – at least – ribs.
“Can't find,” He gasps, sounds like it definitely hurts, but Brax doesn't let up an ounce. “No one can find the accountant! They think – he left you alive, man – they think you know where he is.”
“Yeah? And what makes you think I'd give him up?”
Brax can see the sharpening look in his eyes as he latches onto that information.
“You know him.” The way he says it doesn't sound like a question, tone flat, managing to sound betrayed like he knew a damned thing about Braxton.
Brax doesn't answer, instead he looks back down the alley, there's no one looking, no one to notice them down here. He sighs.
“Don't suppose y'all are gonna stop chasing me if I ask nicely?”
The guy glares.
“No?” He asks, bringing the pistol up and putting a bullet in the guy's skull before he has the chance to start struggling. “Didn't think so.”
After a quick check of his clothes – what little blood spatter had gotten on him looks next to invisible on the dark material of his jacket – Braxton exits the alley with a glance in every direction for anyone that looks like the could be someone. Nothing yet, but he has no doubt that's gonna change real quick.
His phone ringing is a surprise.
He only answers because no one should have the phone number, but his brother is apparently a complete stalker so he wouldn't be overly surprised if it is him, and if its anyone else, well, he'd deal with that too. They already knew he was in town, not a lot more intel they could gather from a minute phonecall.
“I need to arrange a meet.” It's a lady's voice.
“I think you got the wrong number.”
“No, Braxton, I do not.”
“Do I know you lady?” The voice doesn't sound familiar at all.
“I work with your brother, Braxton,” She says it with almost no inflection, like she hadn't just dropped a bombshell.
“Thought he was going to make me wait a week.”
“Are you still in Boston?”
“How'd you know that?”
“The two of you think so alike.” She says, not answering any damned thing.
“Yeah, I'm still in Boston.” He answers, looking up and down the street again. He can feel himself getting squirrelly., which he needs to nip in the bud right now. Hunted men make stupid mistakes. “You crunch numbers too, huh?”
“No. I find him clients and on occasion advise him on situations.”
That name tugs at something in his mind, a vague memory perhaps, but now is not the time for trying to remember half forgotten things.
Behind him two SUVs with dark tinted windows screech to a halt near the alley that Brax just left a dead man in. They're the sort of cars that get mistaken for FBI or some other official federal vehicle. The sort a private security firm might use in the US to avoid questions.
Fuck. Closer than he'd like. He ignores the spike of adrenaline that wants him to run, forces his steps to be even, with his hood up he could be anyone. There's enough foot traffic that if he keeps pace with the average pedestrian, he should disappear into the anonymity of the crowd. They must have had eyes on the airport – on it's security feeds at least – if he wants to get out of Boston clean, he's going to need a car.
He doesn't think they'll find Chris, sure they're good at finding hard to find people, but they'd be looking for someone who ran like the average person ran. Most people couldn't stick to a plan, would trip up or fuck up somewhere along the way. They didn't know no one could follow a plan as meticulously as Chris, didn't know how long he'd been hiding, or how good he was at it. At this point Brax is his only weak spot.
“Why are you calling me?” Brax asks as he thinks about his next move. Should he get off the street, or keep moving and hope he can put enough distance between them. Or should he put his hope in him being able to hide better than they seek? “Is Chris okay?”
Sudden worry grips him. Chris had at least two bullet in him when he'd left that night, who knows what they had torn through.
Justine is quiet for a long moment, then finally, “He's fine.”
“But things as they are, a push on the timeline was advisable.”
“He still hate that as much as he hates answering the phone?” Braxton laughs, though its mostly relief.
“What sort of time do I got?” He asks, getting a good look of the street behind him as he turns casually into a bodega. The SUVs have emptied out and a handful of men - all in tactical black, all visibly armed – are fanning out, searching for him. So they're not going the subtle route, playing off the presumption that they look official enough to be left alone. “Now's not a great time.”
“No, it rarely is for you.”
He laughs, whoever this Justine is, she's gotta a wicked sense of humor.
“You gotta backdoor?” Brax asks as he pulls a hundred from his wallet and waves it at the clerk.
The clerk freezes for moment, but lets Brax out back after only a moments thought.
A fifty probably would have sufficed, but Brax is not dying because he was too cheap to offer more.
The bodega's backdoor opens out into a tiny alley, the sort that would be perfect if not for the guys in tactical black stationed at the streets end.
One lifts his rifle but Brax is already running. Something punches into his shoulder, knocks him off balance, but he keeps his feet under him, doesn't let it slow his momentum at all and clears the other end of the alley as bullets chip at the concrete around him. He doesn't slow as he brings his phone back to his ear.
“You're gonna have to tell Chris I can't make it. We'll reschedule.” He barks a laugh that hurts his chest; he knows he has no way of rescheduling, even if he gets out of this, there's no guarantee he'll ever see Chris again. “Don't let him come here.”
“We could help.”
“No. Look, you said you watch him, right? Keep him safe? Don't let him come here.”
He doesn't give her a chance for a reply, just hangs up the phone.
The guys after him, they're playing awful loose with their 'take him alive' orders, so Brax figures he's pissed them off personally with his most recent murder. If he can't get away – and don't get him wrong, getting away is his plan – but if he can't, maybe he'll get lucky and take a bullet somewhere vital instead.
The next street Brax runs into is empty of people looking to shoot him, which is nice except for the small army on his ass. He doesn't bother trying to reach the end of this street, the gunshots have made most of the pedestrians come to a stand still, all of them standing around, staring each other trying to convince themselves that they most definitely didn't just hear gunshots.
Brax runs across the street, ignoring the screeching brakes of traffic trying to avoid hitting him. Behind him Brax can hear the loud bang and angry shouting of a fender bender he no doubt just caused, but he keeps running and hopes the chaos will give him some cover.
His phone is ringing again and Brax is already halfway answering it before he can question why.
“Little bit busy here.” He says instead of a greeting.
His shoulder is burning, adrenaline is keeping him upright and moving but he can't trust it to not crap out on him if this drags on too long.
“Chris.” Fuck. “Hey. I guess Justine told you, huh?”
“But you said you would come.” He can hear it in Chris' voice, the rising tempo of stress from something unfinished, a plan gone awry. And fuck, Braxton wishes he could think of a better way to do this, but he can't and he's not putting Chris in the crosshairs just for being related to Brax. Fuck.
“Yeah, I know what I said.”
He tries to think of an excuse – a good one – but instead the option is taken from him, across the street a man in black is raising his assault rifle. Brax drops, going low behind a parked car as bullets punch through metal, shattering the shop window behind him and showering Brax in glass.
“It's nothing!” He lies, risking a glance and returning a couple of shots back hitting one of the guys in the middle of reloading. His friend flinches hard enough that his aim destroys the car in front of the one Braxton's using as cover. Brax takes the opportunity to run, not up the street, but through the broken window behind him.
“It doesn't sound like nothing.” Chris says in a flat voice, no tone. Definitely angry. “It sounds someone is shooting at you, Braxton.”
“Weeellll.” His voice comes out breathier than he'd like, but still manages almost a nonchalant drawl nonetheless.
Someone is crying inside the shop, maybe several someone's, so Brax growls a 'Stay down!' as he runs past. If he gets through fast enough they shouldn't get caught in the crossfire. No more than they already had anyway.
He goes through the back of the store into a storeroom that connect several shopfronts together, no back alley this time, he comes out in some upmarket fashion store.
Another hail of bullets sends him down to the floor, cellphone skidding along the ground as clothing is shredded around him, hell, maybe it'll increase their worth, Brax thinks wildly as he gathers up his dropped phone. It's hung itself up, which is probably for the best honestly.
He fires blindly behind him as he gets back to his feet and smashes through the already cracked glass of the shop's front door. The glass cuts him to shit but it's a damn sight better than the bullets behind him.
Somehow, by grace of god or daring of the devil, he gains ground, puts some distance between himself and the guy with eyes on him. He's guessing some of his spray and pray must have hit the guy at least once or twice, for him to have slowed down enough that Brax could pull ahead.
He ducks into a restaurant, mostly just to get off the street, inside diners are chatting, waitstaff buzzing around like it's just another day. Closest thing to a warzone as most of these people are ever like to see and only a block away the biggest drama is a goddamned lunch rush.
He's not worried about anyone stopping him, or even paying much attention to him, Brax looks a victim, wearing torn up street clothes he looks nothing as threatening as the black tactical wear favored by the people after him. He keeps his pistol down, out but pressed close by his side, where it doesn't catch the eye. They're not looking at his hands, not while Brax can feel warm blood running down the side of his face.
The hostess opens her mouth to greet him before her brain catches up with what her eyes are seeing and instead of speaking she just steps back, letting him pass without a word, her hands lifting out wide in an unconscious surrender.
Brax ignores her as he pushes past, he's not fond of terrorizing innocent bystander but today's the sort of shitshow that looks like it's trying to turn into one of those 'anything goes' kind of days. Braxton fucking hates those days, he might live in a liberally grey world, but even he had standards.
Brax sometimes wondered what their dad would make of them, make of him. Pop had always been vocal in his opinion of right and wrong; but he'd also taught his adolescent sons that extreme violence was not only necessary, but the first resort.
Between that and all the black ops CIA bullshit that had them living in every corner of the globe, the old man wouldn't have a moralistic leg to stand on when it came to judging how Brax and Chris lived their lives.
Doesn't stop Brax from thinking about it though.
He stumbles as he makes his way through the kitchen, adrenaline's ebbing now he's not in immediate danger but he pushes on. A kitchen hand tries to block his way, trying to be a hero, or maybe just trying to help, Brax doesn't give him a chance to explain himself just brings his pistol up and there's very few people who won't back down with the barrel of a gun pointed between their eyes.
The guy jerks back so fast his foot slips and he goes down with a crashing pile of stainless steel.
Brax clips his shoulder on the door frame as he runs past and the shooting pain from the contact almost makes him black out, his knees go out but he holds onto consciousness and rolls with the fall and pushes himself back up on his feet, silently hoping for just a single bit of goddamned luck.
But the only luck he has today is bad luck, Brax thinks as he finds himself in direct eye contact with a man in tactical black up the street. Now would be a good time to start cursing Jesus, because ain't no one up there looking to help Brax today.
A bullet grazes him, leaving a burning trail of pain across his thigh. It hurts but it gets his adrenaline singing again. Brax fires back, once, twice, then the slide goes back and stays there.
He can't run much longer, that's becoming abundantly clear.
A pizza deliveryman gets buzzed into the shitty apartment building beside the restaurant and Brax uses every bit of his reserves to sprint to reach the door before it closes. Brick chips rain down from the bullets hitting masonry but he makes it. Pizza guy makes a noise of surprise but no one's paying him enough to do anything as Brax pushes past.
He gains precious time as the guy chasing him is momentarily foiled by door. He hears it shattering as the elevator doors close.
It's claustrophobic in the elevator but his other option was collapse on the stairs before he reached the first floor. So he took the elevator, uses the ride up to try to catch his breath – it doesn't work – but his breathing is slightly easier by the time the doors open. He has a vague plan, find a fire escape and try not to fall all the way down. It's not a great plan – not even a particularly good one – but as he is now he'd last longer in a building than he would on the streets.
The doors open up and Brax limps out, making his way down the hall to the fire door that separates the apartments from the internal fire escape. Behind him he can hear the stairwell door opening, Braxton kicks the door behind him shut, hopefully the guy will waste a moment wondering which way he went.
He slams into the fire door but it doesn't budge. Jesus Christ, the doors locked.
Shit like this got people killed, he thinks, more hysterical than he'd like.
It's heavier steel than he'd be able to smash through on a good day.
End of the line.
Brax give himself a moment, lets his heavy breathing slow, calm almost back to normal. He's got nowhere else to run.
His phone rings. He ignores it. The door behind him starts opening but he pushes it back into the face of the person on the other side, slams it shut and turns the lock. It's not a bad door, it'll hold for a moment.
His left arms gone completely numb by now, Brax looks down in surprise at the bloody hole in his shoulder, only vaguely remembering the hit that seems like hours ago now.
His leg gives one last defiant wobble and then collapses on him. The tumble hurts, the pain seems to sap the last of his strength and Brax gives the fuck up. Just leans against the wall and waits for someone to break the door down.
The phone rings again and when he looks at its cracked screen, he's missed three calls.
“Ye-eah?”He answers, will it be the brother or the lady who replies?
“You are making quite the mess, Braxton.” Justine says, somehow managing to sound disapproving despite the calm tone..
“I'm handling it!”
“Jesus Christ.” His laugh only sounds slightly hysterical. “I told you not to tell him.”
“Then don't hang up on me.”
“This isn't his problem.” He holds on to that idea stubbornly as the line goes silent.
After a moment she says “Heavy Sigh.” and Braxton realizes for sure that while he might be talking to someone, but it's not them he's hearing and that sets off a chain reaction of memories.
“You still in that house on the lake?” He asks, fishing for that memory, that image.
“It's particularly nice this time of year.”
Remembers a little girl who'd broke out of her own world to find Chris his last puzzle piece too.
“I wish,” He takes a breath, it's harder than it should be. “I wish he could've stayed there. He would've liked it there.”
“He grew up all right.” She's trying to be comforting, he thinks, but it's a lie all the same.
“No it wasn't all right, it wasn't right.” He's getting morose. Fuckssake.
“Braxton, I need you to tell me where you are. Are you still in Charlestown?”
“You found me just like that, huh?”
“Your former employees are not subtle.”
“No,” He laughs, “No they are not.”
“And neither are you.”
“You can't let Chris come here.” Chris' driving – go to be – if his face isn't plastered all over like it would be if he were flying often, too many security cameras in airports these days. It was too hard to hide from all of them, and Brax had a hard time imagining Chris on an airplane. Oh, he would if he had to, but when there were other options? Anonymous, solitary options like driving? Oh yeah, Chris had to have himself a vehicle, probably a whole sweet set-up. “Tell him to keep to backroads. They can't know for sure he's here, but you can bet your ass they're looking anyway. He'll be fine.”
“Where will they take you?”
“What do you care?” He's getting tired, and that exhaustion is making him more of an asshole than usual.
“Your brother is important to me. And you are important to him.”
“Dammit.” Brax lets his head fall back against the wall, he's so fucking tired.
“I can't stop your brother from coming to you. I can only help. You want your brother to be fine? Then help me.”
It's strange, being ranted at in such an even tone. Brax tries to think, he can do this.
“Won't be some place abandoned. Company keeps apartments, storage sheds in the shitty parts of town. Look for properties under Fairweather Incorporated.”
The phone sits silent for a long time, the door beside him thumps as someone tries to get through it.
“It's okay,” Brax says to the silence. “If this doesn't work out, tell Chris, it's okay. That it's all right.”
He lies to her and himself, presses the little red phone before she can answer him, before she can tell that it wasn't.
Brax drops the phone to the floor beside him and brings the butt of his pistol down on the already cracked screen, smashes the shit out of it and throws what's left across the room. They'll be in too much of a hurry to find it if it's not on him, and even if they did it's too broke to be of any use to them. He hopes.
Braxton sighs, gets his pistol up and clicks the slide forward. Maybe he can bluff his way into suicide if he can convince the he's going to shoot them.
The door cracks around the lock, then splinters inwards and a man appears in the gap. He looks down at Braxton, down at the pistol in his hand.
“They've got orders not to shoot you even if you kill me.” When he speaks, something of a grin on his face spreads across his face.
“Hey Mike, no long time no see.”
Braxton had crossed paths with Mike Hunter half a dozen times before Brax had finally let him recruit him. Mike's hands are up, mocking, he's gotta know that Brax has no ammo left.
“Hello Braxton,” He says pushing the door open wider, cautious but not worried.“We got ourselves in a bit of a situation here, don't we son?”
He'd always been warm and friendly and what was left of the childish idiot in Braxton had latched onto it like a sucker.
“I take it from how fast you started running, you knew there'd be consequences. We're going to have to take you in, Brax.” He talks like Brax is some little kid, not creeping up on forty. “It'll go easier if you don't make this harder than it needs to be.”
He tries to make a good showing, takes a swing at the smug bastard as soon as he gets close enough. It's pointless, he knows that, he knew it half an hour ago – but he gets some small satisfaction from trying.
He misses the knee he's aiming for, barely brushing shin bone, that probably hurts his knuckles more than anything else. But its like every hipster self help loving asshole said. It was the little things that made life worth living. And it doesn't look like Brax has much more life to live, so he's going to take all the little vicious pleasures he can.
“You disappoint me son.”
Yeah, well, get in line! He thinks, opening his mouth to say that, or something wittier perhaps, or maybe just a Fuck You but the other man's leg lifts and all Braxton sees is his boot coming down, a burst of pain that jolts through face and nose where it connects and a heavy rolling darkness as consciousness flees with one last glimpse of the boot swinging back for another kick.
Cuffed to a chair, the blood on his face a half dried congealed mess. Nose is broke because after the fourth or fifth time now it just decides to fucking fold anytime anything got near it. It hurts and his eyes are watering something awful but it's a familiar pain, more of an annoyance than anything else these days. There's a wide blood spotted bandage wrapped around his thigh and when Brax looks to his shoulder, it's been given the same treatment. Seems they want him to die on them just yet.
He doesn't see Mike until he speaks.
“It's interesting, seven days after being in a firefight that killed your entire team and our client but you, you look fine.” He leans down close, hand wrapping around Brax's shoulder, fingers digging into the roughly patched bullet wound. “Well. Fine until now.”
Brax doesn't give him the satisfaction of a noise, just glares, nose scrunching up painfully in disgust.
“Now, as I understand it, you were running the op, last man standing so to speak,” Mike says, a cold fake smile on his face. “and from the look of the bodies – how they fell, how they died – your mysterious accountant took out most of them. Funny thing is, do you know what the funny thing is, Braxton?”
Brax glares, silent and unimpressed, monologue all you want, you son of a bitch.
“No? Funny thing is the last guy, the one that would have had no one but you and the client behind him. And yet he's dead too.” Mike's face splits with an angry smile. “Bullet in the back, Brax, and you behind him.”
He goes quiet for a moment, perhaps waiting for Brax to start talking, but Braxton doesn't have anything to say. There's no excuses he can think to use that'd mean a damn thing, no words that'll change what's happened.
“Now our employer wants to know how you got compromised. We know it happened. You're not the first turncoat. Though mostly they're cowards, shit getting too real for some people, guys who think its greener on the other side. Mostly low level guys. Grunts. Skilled but replaceable. Don't think we've ever had an Op runner turn mid fucking mission.” Mike huffs out a laugh at that, though he doesn't look all that amused. “We know you know this accountant guy. Figured that much out. But I'd like to hear your side, Brax, I know you kid, you don't do nothing without a cause.”
Braxton looks Mike in the eye, tries to read what he's thinking from the gleam in his eye. He looks disappointed, like Brax had hurt his feelings.
“I could have lived with it, you know, if this accountant motherfucker had just been that good. We're all soldiers, we've all been in this business for a long time, we know the risks. We know there's always the chance of coming up against someone better. But that's not what happened here, is it?”
“I told him to stand down.” It's not an excuse, or maybe it is, Braxton doesn't know. His face feels like hamburger meat and he can barely breathe through all the blood and snot clogging up his nose and throat. He's done. He knows that. He's beat and it's okay. He can be okay with that.
He just need to hold on long enough for them to get bored, to give up trying to get him to talk and start cleaning up. They'd never find Chris is if he keeps his mouth shut.
Chris would be fine without him. He'd done fine these past ten years. He had Justine, he maybe even had the cute little thing the first team had failed to take out.
“Who is he, Braxton? Who is he to you?”
“Ain't none of your business.”
“None of my business?” Mike's hand finds his shoulder again, a thumb pressing against the blood mess, burning pain radiates outwards. “You lose me a billionaire client, allow him to be shot in his own home on your goddamned watch, and it's none of my business?!”
“What the hell you thinks going to happen here, Mike?”
“I don't know son.”
“I ain't your fucking son.”
Mike sighs, and he still looks disappointed as his arm goes back, hand curling into a white knuckled fist, and Brax can already feel the heaviness of unconsciousness creeping up on him, with the blood loss and more than a few good hits to his head, maybe he could sink into the dark and just never come back up.
Born on Monday.
Chris is twenty mile upstate when he gets Justine's call, looking at prospective rental properties, places to lay low for the next couple of months while he organizes where he's going to go from here. He's thinking overseas, Zurich if that job hadn't fallen through, elsewhere in Europe if it had, there was always someone that wanted money counted in Europe.
All he really had to do is work out how to meet back up with Braxton. To prepare himself for a proper reunion.
He'd always tried to keep tabs on Braxton. Had known he'd gone into mercenary work after Chris had gone to prison, known he'd branched out into working for a private security firm.
It had felt like stepping in front of a firing squad, coming out from behind that brickwall. But it had turned out alright, better than Chris had expected.
Sure Braxton had gotten angry - he'd expected that, anger, disappointment – Braxton had always been angry even on a good day. But he hadn't expected his brother to look so hurt. He's pretty sure that had been the emotion he'd seen. And that had been the opposite of what Chris had meant to do.
Staying away from his brother was supposed to keep him safe – happy? - and Chris might have wanted to see his brother, might have missed having him a step behind and the way his mouth curved upwards when Chris said something he thought was funny. But instead he made do with grainy security camera screen shots from Justine, a border crossing, CCTV of a street a few blocks from where a CEO had mysteriously choked to death.
He doesn't know what to do now. Braxton's got enough pieces of the puzzle that Chris' usual style of disappearing won't be enough to shake him.
And Chris had liked being an accountant. He enjoyed it and more importantly he was good at it. Even better at it in high risk environments.
He'd just have to be Chris for a little longer. It's not quite Christian any more, but it's not who he used to be either.
(maybe he'd get to be Chris more often if Braxton was around)
Justine tells him everything he needs to know. She'd never questioned his need to keep an eye on Braxton, never judged their enforced estrangement. She'd merely sighed heavily the year he'd tried to cut him out completely, and given him the backlog of photos and movements when he'd finally caved, when he'd realized the nagging worry didn't go away just because he wanted it to.
“Will they kill him?” He'd asked, an illogical question, Chris already knew the answer.
“Not until he gives you up.” Justine's calm computer generated voice isn't so soothing today.
Justine knows he'll never just run, is kind enough not to suggest it this time, because the men after Brax really want Chris, but they'll tear his brother apart anyway.
The phonecall to Braxton had only amps up his anxiety, his driving turning erratic, dangerous, noticeable.
Justine calls again and she had three properties addresses owned by the Fairweather Corporation by the time Chris had reached Boston city limits, has it narrowed it down to the most likely building while he's still navigating the madness that is Boston traffic.
It seems extra congested with all the roads that have been closed due to all the day's excitement, and if he wasn't stressed already, the conditions of the roads would have made his stress levels rise.
He parks as close as he dares – as close as he can – and checks his weapon. He hadn't had the time to go back to where his Airstream was currently stashed, so Chris would have to deal with this with just his pistol. He's not worried, he's made do with a lot less.
Christened on Tuesday.
Chris knows no one really notices him. Crowds and low income neighborhoods were some of the few places where an unwillingness to maintain eye contact was actually an advantage. The key, he's read, is to act like you belonged there. Now Chris doesn't quite know how to act like that, but he never goes anywhere unless he means to, and that seems to work just as good for him. Dressed in plain clothes he attracts no attention entering the apartment building where they're keeping Braxton.
Chris prefers assaulting at a distance, prefers the preciseness in thinning the herd with his sniper rifle, the sloppiness that the fear brings out in the survivors.
But they've got Braxton in an apartment building and while he knows the floor number and most likely apartment number – the one that sits closest to the fire stairs – it's not suited for sniping.
At least it's a bad neighborhood, no one's going to be calling the police at the sound of gunshots and the departments response time will be just as poor as they tended to be in the less affluent neighborhoods. He's planning on those factors giving him enough time to get in and out without being caught.
He gets to the right floor quickly enough; with his pistol is tucked away in his satchel within easy reach he makes his way up the hall towards the end.
At the sound of movement he backs up into the recess of the previous apartment's door, hitting the door with a bit more force than he'd like. The door thumps against its hinges but the man at the end of the hall don't seem to notice.
Around him Chris can hear the noises of people living – the walls in this building are alarmingly thin – but he ambient noise will work in Chris' favor tonight.
Behind him a lock clicks and Chris spins, gun up at head height, silencer suddenly pointed between two sleep eyes.
“Dougie?” The man asks, sleepy and drunk, blinking and frowning at the gun pointed at him.
“Go back inside.”
“Shit, yeah man, alright.” He doesn't sound scared, doesn't sound much of anything, he takes another look at Chris' gun then shrugs and goes back into his apartment, the door closing and locking behind him.
Chris revises his initial opinion of the area, really bad neighborhood.
From his hiding spot Chris watches the man who has exited the apartment at the end of the hall making his way to the window that overlooks the street below. He cracks it open a bit and starts searching his pockets. One hand quickly brandishes a silver lighter while the other continues it patting search of his pockets.
He doesn't look around.
He doesn't see Chris.
He finds his packet of cigarettes, taps one out and lights it.
Chris makes his move, keeping his footsteps steady and even so the smoking man doesn't notice as Chris walks towards his back.
His attention is completely on the street outside, watching his smoke blow away. The man doesn't notice him, doesn't turn until Christ is just a few feet from him, Chris' reflection catching his attention. He turns, alarmed, but Chris' pistol is already out, he squeezes twice and the back of the man's head splatters across the window.
He drops to the floor, the thud is audible but not loud enough to attract attention. Chris keeps his pistol trained on the apartment's door as he unclips the dead man's assault rifle sling. He takes a quick look at it as he slings over his shoulder and adjust the strap for maximum efficiency of movement, it looks well maintained and would do fine for what he needs it for.
As much as he'd like to do this quietly, Chris knows it's all going to get very fast as soon as he goes through the door.
“Hey, bro, what the fuck?” A voice from inside calls. “Come back inside already.”
“Yeah.” Chris lowers his voice to a mumble to answer and desperately hopes they want no more.
Thankfully whoever's inside doesn't say anything else and Chris isn't get a better opportunity to surprise them. The doors unlocked; in this sort of no questioned asked neighborhood no one's going to be messing with the guy's with assault rifles.
Married on Wednesday.
They wouldn't be expecting him – probably wouldn't be expecting anyone – Braxton didn't exactly have friends. As far as Chris could see, Braxton spent his time going from job to job. What little downtime he did have, seemed to spent alone.
Sometimes it seemed that no matter how much their brain patterns differed, Braxton connected with people no more easily that Chris himself did, a shared childhood was one of the few things they did have in common.
Chris didn't like to think badly of their father – he didn't like to think of it at all - but their childhood hadn't exactly been nurturing when it came making friends outside of family.
Uncomfortable childhood memories aside, Braxton's disconnect with the world would work in Chris' favor today.
The clock's ticking now he's shot someone in the hall.
Chris pushes the door open.
He was right in presuming they're not expecting him, they're surprised, the man closest to Chris dies with a confused look on his face. Maybe he recognizes Chris, or maybe he just can't reconcile seeing a different face where he expected to see his colleague's. His friends are unfortunately less dumbfounded.
If the walls are as thin as they sound, it wouldn't take much for a bullet to find it's way through and hit Braxton, so Chris fires, picking his shots carefully, staying low and making a circular motion that puts him closer to the open plan kitchen and no longer firing towards the back of the apartment.
He tucks and rolls for cover, let's them waste ammunition on the wall around him. A few rounds punch through the kitchen counter, but he's fairly well protected where he is.
Chris waits, they're not as well trained as they could be – but then just a week ago Chris had just taken out a good portion of their operation – it's only natural that they'd be picking from the lesser skilled to fill the lack.
They really should be staggering their reload times, he hears the first man swear as his rifle clicks empty and a second later the room goes silent and Chris is ready.
He lets the assault rifle drop to hang by his hip and exchanging it for his pistol. The maneuverability of it would more than make up for whatever advantage he's losing in ammo capacity. With a pistol he doesn't need to move far out of cover to fire his shots. One of the men has placed himself in the doorway that leads deeper into the apartment, another is half covered by the sofa, the last one is standing out in the open of the room, half crouched like he knows he's exposed but hasn't quite realized he should be going for cover.
He's the one Chris shoots first – he probably wouldn't have lasted long in this life even if he hadn't come up against Chris – he goes down mid-reload with two closely placed bodyshots.
Chris can hear the click of a magazine being slid into place, but Chris doesn't drop back into cover, just swivels and fires at the man in the doorway.
He fires as many times as he dares, a keen eye on the man half behind the sofa and the moment he raises his gun Chris ducks back behind the counter as the kitchen area is peppered with bullets.
Using the cover of bullets flying overhead, Chris rolls to the edge of the counter, leans out and shoots at the man half behind the sofa.
He's fired twice by the time the other man's aim has shifted to him.
A bullet grazes his side, hot and painful. A slowing wound, but not mortal, a problem for later. The pain sharpens his mind to a crystal clear focus, gives himself something to focus on other than his mounting worry for his brother.
More bullets fly either side of him, but Chris' hit unerringly a double tap in the chest and a final one clips his forehead as he falls spraying red across the sofa.
Chris sees movement to the side and the man from the doorway, last one standing in the room, has gotten too close. He grapples Chris' gun away before he can have it up and aimed and punches a heavy hit to Chris' chest that threatens to steal his breath away.
Chris had always been better at hand to hand than Braxton. It was easy, an almost soothing series of movements, a pattern of reactions and a challenge to counter them faster.
High stakes pattern recognition, Braxton had called it, but he hadn't sneered it, merely sounded amused, maybe a little proud.
But Braxton hadn't been a slouch either, he'd take hits like it meant nothing to him, throw himself back into a fight over and over like he thought he deserved it.
It had taken Chris much longer to accept the unavoidable, to find a way to accept it. In the end he'd shut the screaming panicked voice down, locked it up as he'd lost himself to the movements of the fight. Each bright burn of a pain a knife wound that he would survive whether he liked it or not. The only way to avoid it was to be better.
Chris dodges the next swing, directing a fist to the side and returning with a punch of his own. They're really too close to each other to get any good hits, mostly just grappling at each other for a good hold. But Chris hand hits a the hard molded plastic of a knife sheath attached to his body armor and it doesn't take much to find the handle.
He feels the man try to jerk away as he realizes Chris has gotten a hold of his combat knife. But Chris holds tight and jams the knife point through the gap in his armor beneath his arm. The knife falters as it hits rib but slides between bone easily enough with extra effort. The man gasps, blood already gurgling in his throat as Chris rips the knife upwards and lets him fall.
Ignoring the bodies he's left, Chris swaps out his half empty magazine for a full one, and opens the next door.
sneaky other boston-based movie shout out, because i am a nerd
(on the home stretch now!)
Took ill on Thursday.
Braxton's heads down, blood dripping heavily down his face, his chest a congealed mess of dark red.
There's a man half behind him, not fully committed to using Braxton as a shield, half his body is visible, the pistol in his hand is pointed at Chris. People always seemed to forget that the more body they showed, the more targets they were offering.
Of course he no doubt expected sentimentality to make Chris hesitate – or miss - but Chris loved his brother, it was ridiculous to think there was any situation where he wouldn't take the shot to save him.
Chris doesn't have any obvious tells, but the man's a professional and experienced enough that he manages to read something in Chris. His gun fires twice as he moves, his shots going wide while he's ducking out of the way. Chris fires back, his planned neat headshot ruined as his bullets hit shoulder and chest. The hit doesn't slow the man as he rolls backwards, his momentum getting him through the joining ensuite even as Chris rapid fires after him.
The bathroom door slams shut as Chris' bullets sink into the thick wood.
“You shouldn't be here.” Braxton's voice is low and vague but he sounds like he means it. Which doesn't make sense, because this is precisely where Chris should be.
Chris tries to keep his breathing even, if he hadn't have come, the next time he would have seen his brother would've been the morgue, all torn up and broken like Francis' must have been.
He can feel the anger building up, frustration that makes the air he's breathing ache all the way down in his lungs.
“Stay here.” He says and Brax makes a noise that sounds amused. It's funny because he can't move, Chris' brain informs him even though there's nothing humorous in it that Chris can see.
He moves carefully towards the door, swinging it open with a quick kick that sends a sharp pain up his side.
Inside the bathroom Chris finds the man slumped against the far wall. His shots might not have hit where he'd aimed, but from the blood pooling beneath him, they'd done some serious damage where they'd torn into the man's body. Chris can hear the wet wheezing of his breath, the sound of lungs filling with blood.
He glares at Chris as he enters the room, and Chris is struck by the realization that he knows this man. Oh, they've never met, but his face has come up many a time with the information about Braxton that he'd received from Justine. Ex-Lieutenant Colonel Michael Hunter looks older in real life though. Weaker.
Grew worse on Friday.
Hunter's pistol lays on the tile within reach, but Chris gets his boot on it before he can pick it up. Kicks it out of reach. The man's really too wounded to do much, but it doesn't take much strength to pull a trigger, and it'd be foolish not to be cautious so close to ending this.
“The fuck are you?” Hunter's question comes with blood drooling from his mouth.
Chris doesn't say anything.
“You know, we got him to admit he knows you, but a blind man could see that.”
“A blind man doesn't see anything.”
Braxton's former boss glares at him and – ah, of course – a turn of phrase. Chris feels a stab of irritation, he normally wouldn't have missed that.
People think he's slow to answer, but neurotypicals used double speak like second nature and even when it wasn't used to spite, Chris had to work to figure out what they truly meant.
But right now he doesn't care what this man thinks of him. Chris can hear Braxton in the other room snort a laughing sound that morphs into painful sounding groans. So at least he's amused one person in the room, though Braxton's sense of humor skewed towards the dark and incomprehensible on a good day, so Chris isn't sure he can count it as a win.
“Who is he to you?” Hunter snarls with bloody teeth. They always talk like that. Like they were owed something, looking down on the world so obviously that even Chris can see the contempt.
“He's my brother.” Chris only tells him because he knows he won't have the chance to tell anyone else, who won't be telling anyone anything soon.
“So you're the brother.” Hunter says. “Should've guessed when he didn't want to say nothing about you now. Oh, but he talked about you before. Pretty sure he had you figured for dead. Dead or buried so deep you may as well have been. Interesting that you can appear after all this goddamn time and he just drops his whole life for you.”
Even if Chris was able to handle leaving the job unfinished, even if he had been able to walk away after what the man had done to his brother, Chris knew Braxton would never let him live after this.
He tells himself it's just to finish the job, because it's illogical to want to protect Braxton from doing this.
Hunter starts to say something, but Chris is already lifting his pistol and puts two bullets in his skull before he has a chance to get a word out.
It's as good an end as any, and then it's over. All he has to do now is get himself and his brother out of here before the police show.
Died on Saturday.
Chris moves quickly after that, going over to the dead man and searching his pockets until he finds the keys to the cuffs Braxton's wearing.
He crouches beside Braxton as he unlocks the cuffs.
“Your nose is broken.” He says, because Braxton is staring at him and not saying anything. He's not used to Braxton not saying anything. When they'd been children, Braxton had only been quiet around other people, but he'd always be talking when it was just the two of them. Like he wanted to make up for Chris' long silences, like he'd wanted to show solidarity when there was an audience.
Chris had been the first person to break Braxton's nose. He'd been thirteen and it had been an accident, he doesn't remember the before, but the aftermath is vivid. Braxton's wide eyed look – shock – Chris' knuckles blueing instantaneously with bruising and their father's hard tone as he'd lectured both Chris and Braxton for being careless.
Braxton had never mentioned it – by the time he'd been eighteen Braxton had broken his nose five more times – but Chris always wanders if Braxton had blamed him as much as Chris had blamed himself.
Braxton doesn't say anything now but he gives Chris a smile that splits his lips some more.
“Come on,” Chris says, hesitating before slipping an arm under Braxton's and hauling him up. He makes an awful sound but manages to carry some of his weight as the two of them sway for a moment before moving.
Braxton doesn't saying anything as they pass the bodies he's left in the living room, and the hallway outside the apartment is silent and empty apart from the body slumped against the window at the end of the hall.
Outside Chris can hear the echoing wail of sirens closing in, though a quick glance around reveals no red and blue lights yet.
“We've got to move.” He says inanely, and he hates it.
He feels more than sees Braxton nod and even if the closeness of the motion makes his skin itch, he's glad that his brother seems to be coming out of his fugue state.
Braxton closes his eyes as he pulls the door shut, Chris watches him for a minute as he slumps in the seat and tries to fall asleep against the window. He looks very, very tired.
Chris sighs - he's wasting time – gets into the car and buckles his seatbelt. He looks across at Braxton as he starts the car, debates whether he should bother asking him to put his seatbelt on, but in end doesn't.
Justine's already texted him an address in south Connecticut of someone who could patch up Braxton, and it's going to feel like a long drive.
The whole day's ordeal has set him on edge, exhaustion settling in now all his adrenaline and purpose has drained away. He doesn't want to start an argument, can't think of a single way that it won't end with Braxton trying to storm off or, worse, trying to fight him, so starts the car and pulls onto the street.
No one notices a dark truck driving sedately away in the dimly lit street, not with the flashing lights coming up the street, the red and blue coloring the evening.
Buried on Sunday.
“You can leave me anywhere.” Braxton says, staring out the window.
He's been silent until they cross the state border into Connecticut, but he's straightening up now, blinking at streetlights as they pass by.
Chris doesn't look away from the road as he answers, “No.”
He can't leave exactly leave him - “I'll be fine.” Braxton says – but Chris is pretty sure he's lying, even without seeing Braxton's usual cues. He's not okay, maybe he'd be fine sometime in the future, but the likelihood of that diagnosis is in doubt if Chris leaves him in some random street with a bullet in his shoulder.
He can ask Justine to burn one of his lesser IDs, to make a spider web of travel and expenses, to paint a trail for anyone who might be left to discover, a veritable rabbit hole to fall down.
“No.” He says to Braxton's statement and the silence that follows is long.
Braxton waiting for him to continue, Chris trying to decide on the right words to use. Braxton might be the one most familiar with him, but even he misunderstands Chris sometimes. His words never seem open to interpretation until they're spoken out loud.
“Maybe,” He says, half his attention on the road, the rest watching Braxton's face for tells.
He doesn't like inattentive driving, and he doesn't like feeling a misstep away from an argument.
“Maybe,” Chris repeats, “we should stay together for now.”
Braxton looks away. He looks away but the corner of his mouth twitches upwards as he stares out the window and Chris is sure that somehow he's managed to say the exact right thing.
The cab of his truck is silent for another four miles, silent as Chris pulls up to make the right turn to that'll lead them towards the unlicensed doctor that owes Justine a favor or three.
“Don't you got some job you need to do? Somewhere you got to be?” Braxton says as they're waiting for a lull in the traffic so Chris can pull across the lanes.
“I do.” He says. Calmly. Even toned. Braxton's shoulders lower in his peripheral. “But it'd go easier with someone watching my back.”
It's not exactly a lie. Not exactly a truth either.
Braxton's shoulders rise from their slump and he turns more towards the window as a smile creases his face.
“Yeah, I could do that.”
“Seeing as you don't have a job now.” Chris tries for a joking tone, isn't sure whether he gets it right until Braxton laughs. His shoulders moving at the edge of Chris' sight, he flinches as the movement hurts his wounds, but his laugh doesn't falter.
It's past midnight by the time Chris pulls up outside a nice suburban house. It doesn't look like the sort of place serious medical procedures are done. But then, that was the whole point.
Brax is still in the passenger seat when Chris comes around. Blood is still smeared across his face, reminding Chris of how it had been a week ago and he hopes Braxton doesn't make him fight again.
“Well, you did say we'd meet in a week,” Braxton says, faint grin on his face, his eyes going in and out of focus. “Not what you had in mind?”
“I wouldn't have planned this.” Chris is being sincere but Brax grins wider at him anyway. Chris looks away, Braxton doesn't look like he's capable of standing let alone fighting, but Chris' brother has always been willing to pick a fight - no matter what his condition.
Chris doesn't want to fight. Braxton is silent for a long moment, but then he laughs that half groaning sound and says, “S'okay, this one's my bad.”
“I'm sorry.” Chris says, feeling himself frown. This still feels like his fault.
“Oh come on, man.” Braxton's face is scrunching up, his head tilting sideways like he's got a crick in his neck. “Don't do that, don't do that to me, brother. I can make my own damned decisions.”
“Yeah,” Braxton laughs, wincing as it trails off into a painful sounding groan. “But they're mine.”
Chris thinks about saving Dana. That had been a bad decision. In theory. But it made sense. In the past Chris had just done his job and looked the other way until something had been shoved in front of his face til he couldn't ignore it. Maybe he had to change that now.
Chris had enough equity to float him for a lifetime, he didn't need much, maybe he could even afford having a partner. Maybe that's what he should be doing now.
Not looking away.
That was the end of of Solomon Grundy.