Heya, people! The following is the fourth non-canon chapter for Summus Proelium, as chosen by our $5+ donators! All patrons regardless of level have access to this chapter, and it will be released to the public tomorrow.
A witness. A fucking witness. How had that happened? Simon Evans had been certain that the area around this building had been cleared. And yet, there they were. Some guy in a hoodie staring as Simon and his people took care of a little problem. And now they were running away.
He wasn’t worried about being identified, not with his mother’s power keeping his identity secret. But the witness was still a problem, which he made perfectly clear by shouting at the idiots to get him before the guy could get away and become an even bigger issue by calling the cops. Fuck, tonight was supposed to be simple. Deal with a little problem that had popped up, erase that problem, then go home and not think about what a shit week this had been for a little while.
But thank fuck, one thing went right. As the hooded figure started to move through the window at the end of the hallway, Stanton produced his own pistol and took a shot. And, miracle of fucking miracles, the bullet hit home, nailing the would-be witness right in the middle of the back and sending him pitching forward out the window to crash all the way down to the pavement below. As Simon ran to look out the window, he saw the still form lying on the ground.
“At least you shot straight for once,” he muttered, clapping Stanton on the shoulder before gesturing. “Come on, let’s get the body out of sight before someone else shows up.” Because that was just his luck tonight. For all he knew, they’d get down there and find three cop cars and an ambulance who just happened to be passing by out of sheer coincidence and saw the body.
Clambering out to the fire escape, he climbed down quickly while keeping a sharp eye out for anyone who might’ve noticed anything. It wasn’t likely, given the hour and place they were in. But then, having this witness show up in the first fucking place hadn’t been likely either.
Reaching the bottom of the ladder, Simon hopped off. He glanced around carefully, watching for any more problems before he approached the fallen body. “Okay, dipshit,” the boy muttered while crouching to put a glove-covered hand on the motionless shoulder as he avoided the blood, “let’s see what we’re dealing wi--”
As he spoke, Simon was turning the body over carefully. And in mid-sentence, the face came into view. The face of the person who had witnessed that little execution back there. The face of the person who had nearly escaped before Stanton shot them. The face of the now-dead witness. The face… the face of… of…
“But Mom, why does she have to go to my school?!” Currently a ten-year-old fifth grader, Simon stood with his arms crossed, staring stubbornly at his mother. “She’s so annoying! And she never leaves me alone. She’s gonna come bother me in class and everyone’s gonna laugh!”
With a small smile, his mother shook her head while putting both hands on his shoulders and squeezing. “Simon, sweetie, I promise she’s not going to come bother you in class. Cassidy has her own class to go to. They’ll keep her there just like your teacher keeps you in yours.”
Squinting up at her, Simon bluntly demanded, “Have you met Cassidy? She’ll wander out in five minutes. You know how sneaky she is. Come on, Mom, we’re rich, can’t she be home tutored?” His voice turned hopeful at the end while he gave his best puppy-eyes. “She’d like that too!”
A slight chuckle escaped Elena Evans before she shook her head. “Sorry, my precious Orsacchiotto.” Her hand moved from his shoulder to the side of his face as she used her favorite nickname for her firstborn child, a word meaning bear cub. He was her cub and she was his mama bear. “You know how your father and I feel. You both need to go school, a real school. I promise it’ll be okay. You’ll go to your class and she’ll go to hers. All you have to do is walk her from the car up to the front door and show her where to go. Then pick her up after class and walk her back out to the car.”
Simon thought about protesting that his friends would laugh if he had to babysit a little girl, but realized it was a losing prospect and finally gave a slightly reluctant nod. “I guess.”
“That’s my cub,” Elena murmured, leaning in to kiss his forehead. “Good boy. You’ll take care of your little sister. You’ll make sure she’s safe.”
“What’s wrong with you?” The next morning, Simon was standing in the doorway of his sister’s bedroom, squinting at the lump hiding under the blanket. “You said you wanted to go to school. You wouldn’t shut up about it all summer. Come on, we’re gonna be late!”
There was a murmured response, but he couldn’t understand, so the boy marched that way and pulled the blanket back. “C’mon, Cassie, stop being dumb! You can’t be late for school, they get mad at you. You can’t--” He stopped then, staring at the huddled lump curled in on herself. Belatedly, he realized why the lump was shaking.
“Are… are you crying?”
Unfolding herself, six-year-old Cassidy turned over and shoved him. Her face was streaked with tears as she blurted, “Shut up, stupid! I--I--” She cringed, folding in on herself again as she hugged her stomach and shook her head. “I don’t wanna go.” The admission was barely audible, a whisper that was followed belatedly by, “What if I’m dumb?”
The question made Simon blink, blurting, “What?”
Shrugging self-consciously, Cassidy murmured, “What if I’m dumb? What if they try to teach us things and I don’t understand it? I don’t know anything. What if they’re like, ‘haha, Cassidy Evans is stupid!’ And what if I never understand anything? I don’t know how to do math or spell very good or do science. What if they want us to do science, Simon? I can’t do science!”
With a sigh, Simon shook his head. “You’re in first grade, they’re not gonna make you do science. They know you’re just a--they know you’re a kid, Cassie. It’s your first day. Remember kindergarten? It’s not that different from kindergarten.”
“It’s a lot different from kindergarten,” Cassidy insisted in a mumbled, fearful voice. She had curled in on herself again, sitting up with her knees drawn to her chest. “What if everyone else gets everything really easy and I don’t? What if I can’t do it?”
After a brief pause, Simon exhaled and climbed up onto the bed to perch himself beside Cassidy, putting an arm around her. “You’re not dumb,” he informed the girl quietly. “And the teacher isn’t gonna make things too hard. You’re gonna have a lot of fun, I promise. You’ll be fine. You’ll learn all that stuff. Math, spelling, science. Just a little bit at a time. I don’t know very much either and I’m a lot older than you. But I’m still fine in school, right?”
Turning her head slightly to look at him, Cassidy timidly asked, “You really think it’ll be okay?” Her voice was clearly still very skittish.
Simon, in turn, nodded, tightening his one-armed grip to pull her closer. “O’course I do. I’m the big brother so I know better than you. And if anyone makes fun of you, just--just tell me. I’ll take care of it. I’ll make sure they don’t bother you again.”
Biting her lip, the young girl hesitantly asked, “You won’t get mad if I talk to you at school?”
With a long, heavy sigh, Simon considered before relenting. “Maybe it’s okay sometimes. If you really need help. But not all the time, okay? I’ve got my own stuff, so you just--just talk if something’s really wrong.”
“Okay,” Cassidy agreed quietly. She turned a bit, embracing him with a soft, “Thanks, Simon.”
“Whatever,” the boy tried to sound dismissive, even as his arms wrapped fully around her as well. He hugged the girl while praying no one happened to come by to see. “Don’t be dumb about it. You’re my little sister.
“Of course I’m gonna protect you.”
It was a quiet, private service. Despite the public interest in the death of one of the Evans children, despite the fact that the local news had spoken of little else in the past several days, there were very few people allowed within the church where the memorial was held. Only family and close friends were there, while police kept onlookers behind barricades a couple blocks away from the building and redirected traffic.
The sun was bright, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Which felt wrong. There should be rain. It should’ve been pouring. How dare the fucking weather not understand what it was supposed to be doing. But then, nothing about these past days had been right.
Nothing had been right at all, since Simon had turned over that body and found… her. His sister.
He wasn’t sitting with his parents through the service. He wasn’t sitting at all. Instead, Simon stood at the back of the room, in a corner almost hidden out of sight. He could see his parents at the front of the room, only feet from the… the casket. Once in awhile, his father would turn slightly to look back at him. But his mother never did. His mother never looked at him--hadn’t looked at him since that night. After the trauma, the denial, the screaming, sobbing--after all of it, she had yet to look at him. Had yet to so much as glance in his direction. Which was fine. He knew what he would see if she had. He’d see disgust, hatred, revulsion.
And he hardly needed his mother’s help to feel those things.
He didn’t stay for the whole service. Even as the priest started to blabber on about youth taken far too soon by the evils of the mortal world, Simon turned and stepped through the door. He walked away from it. Why would he stay there? What was the point? What was--what was the point of any of it? His parents would be upset that he didn’t stay for the whole thing, but… but who cared?
Cassidy was dead because of him. His parents were never going to forget that. His mother would never forgive him, not now. He failed. He failed to protect her. She was gone and it was his fault. His fault his little sister was…
Somehow, he’d wandered into the small garden behind the church. No one else was there. The crowds were being kept several blocks away, and everyone else was inside. Finding himself alone, Simon slowly sank down onto the nearby stone bench. Raising both hands to his face, he felt his shoulders shake, palms growing steadily wet as they remained pressed against his eyes.
Every conscious minute that had passed since the moment he turned the body over, Simon had sworn that he would surrender anything that was necessary, even his own soul, if it would bring his sister back. The tears that came as he sat there alone on the bench weren’t for the mourners inside, for the media, or even for his own parents.
The tears were for his sister. Everything he had done, everything he’d become, and he’d failed to protect her. Worse, he ordered her death. Not knowing it was her, not knowing--none of that mattered. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. Nothing but the body lying in there, in that room full of people--criminals. His parents, his family, their friends, everyone--ninety percent of the people in that room paying their respects--their respects? How fucking stupid was that line? Paying their respects? What the fuck did that even mean?
He killed her. He killed his sister. No, he didn’t pull the trigger. He didn’t hold the gun. But he pointed it. He told the men to shoot her. He told them to kill her. His words--his orders, his--he--he was responsible. It was his fault. If he just--if he’d just told them to grab the witness, if he’d only tried to catch her instead of--instead of--
Hands still pressed tight against his face, Simon’s shoulders shook. His voice was a low, broken murmur that was muffled by his palms. “Take it back. I take it back. Please. Please, I take it back.” Slipping from the bench to his knees, he fell forward, forehead pressed to the ground. Like water through partially-cupped hands, his fingers were no longer sufficient to stop the tears from staining the cement. The words of his plea had become indecipherable aside from the occasionally understood ‘take it back’.
He hadn’t known that the witness he’d ordered shot was Cassidy, but he had known that they were someone. He’d known they were a person, and yet he’d ordered them shot. He’d ordered them killed, just for seeing the wrong thing. He could have had her threatened, could have told his parents to call Jackson over to deal with it, could have bribed the fucking witness.
He could have done a lot of things. But he didn’t. He took the easiest way out and ordered his men to shoot. His men. He told them to shoot the witness, and now Cassidy was--she was dead. He didn’t protect her. He killed her. As sure as if he’d shot her himself, Simon had killed his sister.
He didn’t mean it. He wasn’t trying to kill her, not her. And yet, did that matter? For perhaps the first real time in… longer than he could remember, Simon thought about the actual victims. He didn’t mean for Cassidy to die, of course not. But even if she wasn’t there, even if the witness had been someone else, it would still mean that someone died. And that would mean that someone else would feel like this. Someone else would see the face of their sister, their son, their husband, their best friend whenever they closed their eyes. Someone else would feel this--this hole. Someone else would feel this hole inside them. A hole that would never be filled. It would just stay there, forever.
How many holes had he given to other people? How many deaths was he responsible for? How much emptiness, grief, and rage had he birthed in others from his own choices? Not just accidents like this, but active choices? Everything he did, the people he hurt, the people he--all of it. How many others were out there with this sick, worthless feeling inside because of what he and his family did?
How many lives had he destroyed? How much despair was he responsible for? How many families were broken because of the choices he made and the actions he took? How many people out there had felt like this because of him?
And how could he live with himself knowing that the answer was far more than zero?
There was no taking it back. He could never change what he did. Cassidy was gone. Cassidy would always be gone. Nothing Simon did would ever fix it. Being sorry was worthless. Grieving was worthless. It accomplished nothing.
But Simon knew what would accomplish something. He knew what would change things, and change them really fucking fast.
Eyes opening, the boy moved his hands, pressing them against the ground before pushing himself up. The tears were gone. The pain had settled into a firm knot in his stomach, yet even that seemed to have eased, as if telling him that this was the right choice. That sense of loss, of self-disgust and hatred was all there. Encouraging him, pushing him, guiding him.
Rising to his feet, Simon took in a breath and let it out. He didn’t know how to fix all the problems he had caused and couldn’t take back the choices he’d made. He didn’t know how to take everyone’s pain away. But he knew how to make sure he never contributed to it again.
Cassie was dead. That was going to mean something. If it was the last fucking thing he did, Simon was going to make sure it meant something. He was going to end this. All of it.
He would take everything he knew, every name, every identity, every crime, every secret he’d been made privy to, every last single fucking detail of his family’s organization. He’d take all of that not to local media, not to the local law, all of which had been infiltrated, not to local anything. He would take his information, his evidence, his story and go much higher. He knew who was compromised, who was on the payroll. He knew who his parents had succeeded at turning and who was still a potential threat.
He knew who could expose the Ministry and put him, his family, and their people where they all belonged. He would end this, end all of it, to make sure he was never responsible for another Cassidy. His family would never create another hole like this, another victim. He would end the Ministry.
Simon couldn’t save his sister. But he could save every future victim, every future casualty. He could make her death mean something. Not enough, never enough. He’d trade everything, anything to bring her back. But he couldn’t. This? This he could do. This was a choice he could make. He was going to tell the truth.
The faintest sound of a foot scuffing the ground made Simon turn, pivoting soundlessly and quickly on one foot to find himself facing a girl he recognized from much closer than he’d expected to see her.
“I know you,” the young man murmured. “You’re the Banners girl. Paige. Cassidy hated you.”
Paige Banners, for her part, stared at him. There was a deep redness to her eyes that Simon knew was reflected in his own. Her voice was low. “Your fault,” she said quietly. “It’s your fault.” Her next words were spat accusingly, knowingly. “She’s dead because of you.” With that, her fingers moved, and a knife slid down from her jacket into her grip.
For a long moment, Simon was motionless. He stared at her, eyes meeting hers as he ignored the blade. They were alone here, alone in the privacy of this small garden. Finally, he spoke very quietly, his voice a simple question. “What are you going to do?”
He was met with silence, seeing the same rage, despair, and grief in the girl’s eyes that he himself felt. He saw her grip tighten on the knife, saw her muscles tense as doubt and uncertainty spelled its way across her face. Would she move? Would she speak? What did the next minute hold? What did the next second hold?
With little warning, the moment came, and the grieving Paige made her choice.
A/N- What was Paige’s choice?! What happened next?! Did Paige lash out to attack Simon in her grief? If so, did he bother to fight back, feeling as he did? Or did Paige stop herself, recognizing the grief in his own eyes. Did they team up? Could they ever do such a thing, and how would that turn out? That, I’m afraid, is up to each of you. Remember, this is a non-canon chapter. Whatever you want to assume happened next is what happened next. This non-canon line may be pursued in the future, and the people choosing that will have to decide which possible future they want to pursue. But that doesn’t mean it has to be your chosen outcome. It’s a world of infinite possibilities. What happens after this point? You decide.
Quick Paige, Break Your Dad Out Of Prison And Convince Him To Somehow Reanimate Cassidy's Brain Into A New Biolem!
Well Shit, I Wanted To Find Out What Cute Nickname Elena Had For Her Son, But Not Like This.