I looked at Merleah, utterly appalled and horrified. She looked awful, and any other time, I would have cared, but right now I was far from caring. For her at least. I gave a disappointed shake of my head and grabbed Ben's hand. His expression was stoic, but I could see tears beginning to glisten. He looked up at me, and I averted my attention to Leah.
"But how could you?"
"Rylee, I had to. We-"
"He was your brother!" There were no words to describe the agony I felt inside. She stared at me sadly, lost for words.
I squeezed Ben's hand tightly. "No. There's no excuse. Goodbye, Merleah." And then I teleported. Ben and I landed in the alley I used to live in back when I was a rogue. Before I had met everyone. I fell to the ground and buried my face in my hands, starting to sob. I heard Ben sit next to me and he put his head on my shoulder.
"She let Xander be taken," I cried. "She didn't even give it a second though, she just- let him go. He was the only family she had!"
"So were you," he said. "She was trying to save us."
"And she sacrificed the only one who truly understood me to do so. He made me feel safe and loved. He brought me happiness." I dried my tears on the sleeve of the green tee shirt, and tried to stop crying. My tears slowed slightly, and I fiddled with the panther pendant on my necklace. Xander had given it to me the day before I was arrested. It was know the only things I had left of him. The letter was back at Merleah's home. I looked at Ben.
"My whole live, I've been on my own. I never knew my parents; they were taken by the MRD and I was found by the Brotherhood. They raised me as one of their own and I become best friends with a certain mutant named Toad." A certain recognition shone in Ben's eyes. I continued, "I was oblivious to the fact that what I was doing might not have been completely right. As I grew older, I became more independent. I survived on my own in this very alley, using my panther form to my advantage and feasting on prey that crossed my path. I was 16, and in my entire life, no one had ever told me they loved me. Sure, I had been praised for my talents and abilities, but those who did were more like colleagues, not family. It was like that until I met them. Merleah, Garrett, and Regina. They treated me like family. They loved me, they cared for me, they protected me. It was the first time I had ever felt that way. However, I still felt empty. I had many self-doubts and an extremely low self-esteem. I wasn't- well, fond of myself. Then Xander came along and it was all turned around. He made me feel beautiful and I loved him more than I had anyone else. I thought we had something started and that we were going to have our own happily ever after. But then I went feral and I gave myself up to the MRD. There I stayed for nearly two years. I lost all that Xander had given me and I grew deathly ill. My hair fell out, I grew emaciated, I was certain I was going to die young. Until the day Andreas Barton came and rescued me. When I returned to Xander, I was the happiest I had ever been in my entire life. However, I was afraid of going feral again. I still am. Now I am terrified. Without him, I am nothing, I have nothing. That's what scares me the most. He was my everything."
There was silence for a moment except for the cars beyond. Then Ben shifted, and spoke.
"You have me. You have Garrett, as long as he doesn't side with Merleah. Really, I think Leah was just trying to do the right thing. She's probably feeling exactly how you did. You know she accidentally killed her family."
My heart felt as if it had been stabbed. How could I have been so selfish? "You're right, Benny. I'm sorry. We should-"
A gunshot cracked and I felt something whiz right past my head. With a yelp, I grabbed Ben and shoved him behind me. Then I transformed into a panther and crept forward. I smelled the MRD strongly from my right. Giving a ferocious roar, I pounced on the man hiding behind a pile of boxes and the junk went flying. I wrestled with the scarred soldier and he struggled to fight back. Despite his efforts, I was winning. Then I found enough time to sink my teeth into his right bicep, causing him to scream with pain, and race back to Ben, changing back to a human. I grabbed the boy's hand and we were about to teleport when another gunshot rang out. We appeared in Merleah's living room and I saw her sitting, staring absently at a stain on the carpet. Her fingers toyed with a metal keychain with beads spelling "Merleah". She looked up at us both, and at first she looked somewhat happy, but it quickly changed to petrified. She scrambled to her feet, her face paling.
"Look, Leah," I said. "I'm sorry about what I said. I didn't mean it. I know what you're going through and I just want you to know that I'm here for you no matter wh-"
"Rylee," Ben interrupted, his voice quavering.
I looked at him and he was swaying. Then I saw what was wrong, just as I caught him as his legs buckled.
"Benny!" I yelled. Red seeped through his shirt on his stomach, spreading quickly. Merleah raced to us and fell to her knees.
"C'mon, Benny," I pleaded. "Stay with us." I looked at Merleah. "Get some bandages and some peroxide!" She ran off and I brushed Ben's bangs aside frantically. His eyes were vacant, staring at nothing, and his mouth was open, struggling to breath. His skin was white as snow. I pulled his shirt over his head with some difficulty and inspected the wound. I could see the bullet, but it would be impossible to take out without tweezers. His stomach was already glistening red with blood. Merleah came flying down the stairs with an entire first-aid kit and sat in front of me. She took out the tweezers first and carefully pried the bullet out. Ben gave an agonizing cry, his muscles tense. I gripped his hand with my blood-stained one.
"Don't worry, Ben," I comforted. "I know it hurts, but you're going to be okay. Just stay with us and be strong. Look at me, Benny, look at me. Don't look at Merleah. Keep your eyes on me." He struggled to shift his eyes and they said words that would have killed me to hear.
Leah wiped up the blood with a towel and then dripped some peroxide on the wound. Ben cried out in real, genuine pain as the bullet hole frothed from the alchohol.
"I know it hurts, buddy, we're almost done," Merleah said. After cleaning it the rest of the way, she grabbed the bandages and she wrapped them around his stomach multiple times, hooking them in place. Blood immediately began to seep through and she dug around the box for more bandages. I set Ben carefully on the floor and unraveled one of the bandages from my wrists. Using the opposite side, Merleah wrapped them too around the young boy's abdomen. There he lay, staring up at the ceiling, his chest heaving. Labored breaths forced their way out of his open mouth.
I squeezed his hand. "Stay with us, Benny. Don't die."
FEELS. Hope you like it! Sooooo sorry for the delay!! :P Sorry if there are any typos. I don't have time to proof-read.