Booker’s arms crossed in front of his chest as he leaned back against the crumbling framework of an old, abandoned building. “That really how you want to talk to your big brother? Your big brother who, mind you, has supported all your ridiculous little dalliances —joining the fucking Resistance to protect you, taking up arms to save your pretty prince, weaning myself off Silt—!”
“I didn’t ask you to do any of that,” Micah hissed. “I can handle myself and I can make my own decisions.”
“Like hell, you can,” Booker snarled in return. “You’re a lovesick little pup and if it wasn’t for me, you would have no sense of self-preservation at all!”
“You really think you have room to talk? You were so strung out on Silt for the last 15 years, you could barely even remember your own name most days. If it wasn’t for Harker, you’d still have a needle stuffed up your arm!”
Booker bristled in front of him. “Oh, yeah. I have him to thank, do I? Him to thank for waking me up, curing me of my addiction? Don’t make me laugh. I think my life was a whole lot better before Dr. Harker came into it.”
“You’re such a selfish bastard,” Micah spat.
“Oh, I’m the selfish one, am I?” Booker threw his head back, laughter trickling from his lips. “You’re so right. I’m selfish. I’m the one who raced after my golden prince rather than my best friend during the raid at Desmo. I’m the one who left August behind when he needed me.”
August. Micah felt a tightness in his chest, a wave of guilt washing over him. Booker seemed to see through him, feeding off his shame.
“You should be ashamed of yourself. That boy lives for you. He loves you. But you abandon him in favor of getting fucked.”
“Shut up,” Micah hissed through clenched teeth. “Shut the fuck up. You don’t know anything about it.”
“Don’t I? You don’t think I see August’s depression every day? The way he holes up, sinks into himself? He’s sick, Micah. He’s actually sick. You may not have much longer with him.”
Micah stilled. “Sick?”
“Don’t tell me you didn’t know! Or maybe you just haven’t been paying attention. The kid’s cough has only gotten worse since Desmo. He’s barely able to keep food down. And now, you’re too busy to give him the time of day!”
“He just needs rest. We all do.”
“You’re so willfully blind, Micah Veyhl. You see what you want to see. You always have.”
“I’ll talk to him,” Micah snapped. “Just back the hell off me. And stop pretending to care. You’re not fooling anyone.”
Booker’s stiff posture did not loosen. He stared down the bridge of his long nose at Micah, displeasure still etched over his face. “You don’t think I care, Micah? About you? About August? About these men?” A sardonic chuckle slipped from his lips. “Fuck you, Micah”
“Quit being so melodramatic,” Micah retorted, but Booker turned away, dismissing him with a wave of a thin hand.
“Fuck you.” He walked away, leaving Micah behind, stunned. Had he actually struck a nerve? Worn through the thick skin to his brother’s soft heart buried deep inside? Micah doubted it. He’d known Booker his entire life and never once had his brother shown anything other than hardness, callousness, and selfishness. He didn’t expect any of that to change now.
But…August. At least about August, Booker had not been wrong. It hadn’t been on purpose, but Micah had been so worried, so occupied with caring for Eden, that he had forgotten his best friend, had accidentally abandoned him. In his worry for Eden, he had forgotten what August too had endured. August who was so soft, so gentle and kind. Was it possible that Booker’s words had been true? That August could be sick?
Micah moved quietly back towards their hideaways in the warehouse district. August had been staying with Booker in an old hovel just down the way from where Micah had holed up with Eden. Micah caught his breath anticipating having to clear the air, to apologize. But as he knocked on the door of August’s den, he realized his own stupidity. August wouldn’t ask for an apology. Without waiting for a response, Micah stepped inside.
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