Spoilers: Season 1 “The Brotherhood”
Summary: Stackhouse character piece (angst), relating to both the events of “The Brotherhood” and my version of his backstory.
Betaread by Fanwoman and fififolle.
This is what he's always feared - the feeling comes again. The dread of reality that causes his breath to become harsh and short, his heart beating faster because he wants to run away. But he has never fled, never would; he stays and takes it like a soldier should – trying his best not to betray how he feels, keeping calm under pressure.
And when they confirm it to be true, his stomach lurches, and he has to steady himself. To anyone else, it's a subtle lapse, but to him, he's breaking down – and he is, inside at least. He has always promised, even if it is only to himself, that he’ll take care of them. He feels responsible for every one of his team. They are like a family out here, everyone is, in a broad sense. But they matter most.
Family has always been an awkward issue for him. Nearly two decades have passed since the tragedy that split up his parents. Maybe he’s been trying to make up for that by being protective over his team, trying to hold everyone together in his pseudo family like he was unable to with his real one back then.
This isn't his fault. He knows that. There is nothing he could have done to stop Markham's death. But he stills feels guilty, a guilt that echoes off the one from his past. Markham isn't his little brother; he's just - was just- the young one amongst them. But the link is there in his mind, the similarity of it all. The creeping horror, accompanied by a growing sense of denial, one that he refutes. His friend is dead, dying with honor, defending their home, but dead never the less, and he's one of the few who will likely ever know why he died. He thinks back to his brother, and he's grateful that Markham at least died for something. His actual family won't be told the details, of course, but they'll know their son was fighting for them – that he'd done his job admirably and followed his orders to the best of his ability.
In contrast, Harry had never listened to him. Then again, when did siblings ever do that? His brother had carried on, exploring the abandoned building without a care in the world, despite his pleas that they'd get caught and their mom would be mad at him. He'd run the memory over so many times, hoping to work out what he could have done differently. But the truth was, he'd never been able to control his brother. What could he have done -short of dragging him away, back to the safety of home?
The second he'd seen his brother fall had been when that feeling had first risen up from the depths of his heart, a terrifying emotion, especially for a ten year old. By that moment, when it all went wrong, it was too late to change the course of events. Everything had already been set into motion; he could only watch helplessly, feeling the first, powerful tremors of the emotional catastrophe to come.
The moments after had been excruciating, as he'd stood, shocked, before finally drawing up the courage to move over and peer down to check on his sibling. His mind had mainly registered the sheer amount of red soaking his brothers clothes. He'd been out of breath when he'd reached the
nearest house to get help, panting as he tried to tell them what had happened.
By the time the paramedics were on scene, there was nothing they could do. And that had left his younger self wondering how it could be over so quickly. He'd run as fast he could. But ultimately, they'd been too late to save him. He realises now what that means; no matter how fast he’d run then, no matter what he did today, he could not save his brother, nor Markham.
He’s been trying to all these years to protect those whom he often had little power to shelter. Since his brother’s death, all he’s ever wanted is to be sure the people he knows stay safe. He wishes the same on so many others he doesn't know; in fact, that's probably one of the main reasons he entered the service. But sometimes, people who you care about die – it might be slow or sudden – and there's simply nothing you can do, or could have done, except let their memory linger on after.
Although his sense of responsibility for them is as natural as breathing, he tries to release it, because there's only so far he can protect them. Whatever duty he has is exhausted along with their lives. Beyond those ties, he still has a grasp of who they were, and will remember them until he dies. Harry had an unquenchable sense of adventure, even if it drove his mom nuts and worse when it killed him. Markham - Jamie to his friends - he was proud to be serving his country, as well as exploring new worlds. A new galaxy had to be better, he'd said.
It is a new galaxy, but it contains the same pain and the same reality - that he must go on no matter what. He has always felt responsible; he always will. Only the whom changes. He will never be free, unlike them. The feeling will come once more, with each inevitable tragedy, but next time, he might be able to cope just a bit better, thanks to practice. It won't make it easier, but then again, he doesn't really want it to be.