Friday, March 26, 2010

Chapter 13 Brandon's Past

It seems like this day will never end.

Walking back, my muscles ache partially because of all the walking and standing, but also just because I'm tired. So much has happened on this short trip and the sun hasn't even set yet.

I pepper Brandon with questions about the Lost Landers. Do they invade a lot? Are they as bad as they say? Do they really eat other humans? He says we're fine. The border is very secure and they can handle them if they do get across. But he doesn't answer the question about their diet, and I don't press. Mostly because something surprising catches my eye.

It's a small park with a playground. But that's not the part that surprises me. The kids playing on the playgound-- that's what surprises me and I actually stop and stare at the sight. I haven't seen any kids other than at the village today. Another thing I just didn't think about. There are a few of the older kids play fighting like the way animal cubs play wrestle in preparation for learning to hunt when they're adults.

Brandon's stopped just a step ahead of me and I glance up at him with my thoughts hopefully racing too much for him to catch just one. The park is located in between all these buildings and there are some pretty scary people roaming around, probably keeping watch as well as some very average looking people who are probably human. It pops into my head that Brandon was a kid too once. I've been silently crying over my lost childhood and my lost future, but this is his home and his way of life.

I'm reminded again that there is very little that I actually know about Brandon and his brother.

"Brandon, what was your childhood like?" The words slip out at the same time as my thoughts do, so I'm sure it is laden with my disbelief that anyone could possibly grow up here. Right away I feel guilty. "Oh, sorry. I didn't mean it like that."

"It's okay." He says it with a gentle smile that is more out of understanding and comfort than humor. "C'mon." He starts waking again, and I follow along beside him wondering if he'll actually answer the question. Maybe I shouldn't have even asked. I'm just beginning to understand that the past is personal and not something to be pried from a person. It's information a person offers you like a gift.

Brandon slips his hands into his pockets as we walk. "I can't complain about my childhood. I had it good compared to most."

My eyes stay on him even though he seems intent on looking forward and not meeting my gaze. But he glances back at me with his eyebrows just barely lifting. "Jimmy pretty much raised me, y'know. From when I was a kid on up."

This intrigues me. It's something I didn't know and never considered. I think back over this morning and their interactions and the way Jimmy teased Brandon. "You never complained before," he'd said. Because he'd taken care of Brandon. I try to imagine Jimmy being domestic and all I can come up with is a silly image of him in an apron which is not appropriate when we're having this very personal discussion.

Brandon laughs out loud and runs a hand over his eyes. "You're a very visual person. I catch images from you as much as words."

I shake it off, blushing a little, but moving forward. "How old was he? He's hardly older than you, isn't he? And what about your mother?" The questions spill out like water gushing over a suddenly broken dam.

"Same age most people are when they join the tribe," Brandon says with a shrug. "I don't really know exactly. We don't keep track. But I would guess fourteen? Fifteen? And our mother left." He glances at me again as we turn onto the street that leads to the apartment. "We lived in the place Jimmy's living at now."

"You mean he's still there? Where?"

His eyes trail up to the highest apartment corner of our building. It's the same floor as us. "No. You mean all this time he's only been a few apartments down from us? And you grew up there?" My voice is a whisper of disbelief and self-consciousness. I stood on that balcony, and he was that close?

"He isn't usually home. I got my apartment because of rank. He could be anywhere he wants, but he stays there."

We reach the stairs and walk up them without saying a word as the thoughts brew in my head. I'm not sure what to think anymore. It feels like there is so much I neglected since I got here when I should have been asking question all this time and not just wallowing. And now our time is so short. I could just kick myself.

Once we step inside the apartment, I ask, "But what about your mother?"

Brandon steps over to the kitchen and puts his bag of goods down on the counter. I step over to at least look like I might help even if I don't know where anything goes. He doesn't look at me as he takes some cans out of his bag. "She was human, too. Jimmy's dad claimed her." He turns and opens the fridge to put away the cans. "He was an unstable experiment. It eventually caused his death."

He grabs a couple of plates, a loaf of bread, and peanut butter. "When I was really little, we lived at his old place near Henri's. So when Jimmy's dad died, it was easy for Henri to start training him."

There is something about it that seems off to me, but I can't pick out exactly what. As Brandon spreads the peanut butter on the sandwich, I think it over. "So Henri trained Jimmy after his father died. But I thought you said he didn't get involved. So why?"

Brandon hands me my sandwich while gently pushing me back, encouraging me to have a seat at the small table. Once we're seated, he says, "Special circumstances."

That clears up nothing. Brandon could have been a special circumstance. "So did he train you?"

"Jimmy trained me."

"Hm," I sound in my throat as I take a bite. Brandon is being as patient as ever, but I get the feeling that we've hit a point where the only information he can give me is hardly any information at all. Maybe the peanut butter sandwiches are supposed to be my clue that I should shut up and eat now. Peanut butter is notoriously difficult to eat.

He laughs again, probably picking up my image of me with a mouth full of peanut butter. "That's not it. It's just that we're talking about the past of someone who's living and can still kick my ass."

He smiles in a good natured way, but I can't get my mind off the darker hint within his words. "You think she's dead."

Brandon clears his throat, lifting an elbow up and placing it on the table. There's a slight twitch to his mouth as it pulls back a bit in a slight grimace before he looks away. "I do love my brother, but that doesn't mean I'm unaware of the reality about him. He's never hurt me, but that doesn't mean he wouldn't hurt the people I care about."

Like the myth. I blink a little, my eyes feeling slightly wetter than normal, though they don't threaten to spill. "Why?"

I don't really expect him to answer. I know he can't catch Jimmy's thoughts-- he said that this morning-- and anyway it's a personal family thing. It feels like he's quiet for a while, but it could just be because I'm uncomfortable and sure that I've overstepped my place.

He rests both his arms on the table around his plate. The sandwich sits there with only one bite. "It's hard to explain the mind reading thing. Especially in my case." That isn't what I asked, and I can't help looking at him with my brows drawing down in concern. Where could he possibly be going with this? "It's only one way and I can't control it. Like a flea hitching a ride on the back of a dog."

His eyes meet mine as if he's waiting for me to understand. I can see the image of a flea on the fur of a mangy dog, but I can't see how it relates to Brandon.

"I bond easily. By nature." There is a slight amount of defeat in his voice.


"A strong mental connection. In my case, it's only one way."

"So then..." Is he only nice to me because of his power?

Brandon's vivid blue eyes are clear as he watches me, probably picking up that thought like a light beaming in his eyes in the dark. Maybe he'd been expecting that thought and waited for it like any other blow. "Does it matter?" He asks. "It's all part of who I am."

I don't turn away from him. If at least some of the things I've learned in my life are true, people born with powers don't normally just develop them one day. The powers shape who they are and grow with them.

My gaze meets his own. "No; it doesn't."

Next Chapter -->


More profiles. I'm sort of excited to present Vivian's and Brandon's.


  1. Oh man. This one was laden with all kinds of goodies!

    Brandon bonds easily, even to monsters...very, very interesting.

    It seems like Henri prefers to stay away from his offspring, for the most part--he doesn't want to get involved in the lives of his children, much less anyone else. When Brandon says that Henri's interference in Jimmy's life was a special circumstance--I'm thinking it's because he's the offspring of an unstable experiment. He had to interfere because Jimmy might pose a special threat to everyone, or his power might be something that Henri wanted to harness? I'm surprised that Jimmy trained Brandon, given that Henri's neglect to train him seems like an indication that he didn't want him trained....

    Does Brandon think Jimmy killed their mother? Wow....that would be..interesting..

    I wonder if we'll get to learn more about Jimmy? He seems so important!

  2. I knew I had a Rachel comment waiting for me this morning. As I read each comment, I was practically rolling around in nerdy glee. X3

    Brandon does bond easily, but if the monster you're thinking of is Jimmy, remember that he has never been able to bond to him in the same way he can to other people. Though it is a very important thought-- he bonds only one way after all and makes a point of comparing himself to a flea hitching a ride on a dog.

    This is the part where I started to squee myself! Niiiice bit of deduction! So nice I can't even comment on it!

    "I'm surprised that Jimmy trained Brandon, given that Henri's neglect to train him seems like an indication that he didn't want him trained..." That there is an important observation because it could say a lot about both Henri and Jimmy. It really already says a lot about Jimmy, don't you think?

  3. are very right--it definitely says a lot about Jimmy...humm.....he's a very, very dangerous guy indeed--more so than I previously thought!

  4. a flea hitching a ride on the back of a dog. not the old myth about the scorpion hitching a ride across the stream on the back of the whatever can swim, but just the flea. the flea that bothers the dog. dogs don't like fleas.

    between Jimmy's dad 'claiming' their mother (for what? to do what? as what?) and all the peanut butter sandwiches, my heart goes out to her.

    Brandon the flea. Who has survived. The flea trained by the dog. Fascinating!

    I love the shots, the apartment said so much, you can rip so much emotion out of a simple shot, it's incredible!

  5. Rachel... *refrains from saying anything* But I'm going to have fun. Shh! You did not hear that!

    Oh man, SB, lol! I couldn't think of any other analogy. You're right, that one is kinda bad, isn't it? Because fleas are also bloodsuckers, and they feed off the animal. Yikes! I think that was a poor analogy in my case. I just picture the flea in the fur passively traveling. It has no control over where it goes, the dog is the one in control. It's also something of a derogatory analogy, though I hadn't intended that. Maybe Brandon doesn't like that he possesses the possibility to bond to others so easily.

    Yeah "claiming" is as bad as it sounds. To claim - Usually used in reference to strays/victims, though in some cases a person can be claimed for protection. Though Vivian was not passive in her case. She chose the person she wanted to claim her, so she actually walked right into it. She just chose poorly.

    I assume you mean Jimmy is the dog, but in this case with the analogy as it is, Jimmy can't be the dog. Brandon has never bonded to his brother the way he can to others because he can't read his thoughts. They are friends like any brothers who've grown together, one being dependent on the other.

    Though it's sort of sad and ironic that the one person that Brandon has been able to relate to like a normal person (as in minus the bond) happens to be Jimmy. I'm sure Brandon is thankful for it. I wouldn't want to know his thoughts!

    And thank you. I kinda worry about the shots sometimes.. okay well a lot. I'm no photographer.

  6. The discussion you and Rachel are having about Jimmy training Brandon got me thinking back to Jimmy's profile. I remember in his views on sex, there was something about him liking strong girls and I inferred from that that he probably didn't value weakness in general. So Jimmy training Brandon makes sense to me.

    I said at VSS that I was excited when I saw the title of this chapter and it didn't disappoint! I've been waiting to hear more about Brandon.

    The flea hitching a ride to the back of a dog simile really has me thinking and SB's comments RE: that have given me more to mull over. I love reading the comments here - they always provide another perspective that I perhaps hadn't considered.

    Every time I read Ruin, I'm in awe of all of the pictures you manage to capture but especially conversation shots. That's something I find difficult so I recognise it when others do it so well!

  7. I had been wondering about Brandon's childhood and whether he actually had much of one.

    Interesting to note the emphasis he placed on the fact that was 'Jimmy' who trained him and not 'Henri'.

  8. Carla, I think it's totally obvious who's my favorite character, lol.

    Anyway, your inferences on Jimmy based off of his views on sex were so spot on! Like I hadn't even thought about him probably being used to getting his own way. You brought that up, and in reviewing some pieces, I realized you're right. He doesn't seem like it, but he's kind of a brat.

    And no, he doesn't value weakness, so he wouldn't want his little brother to be weak. Of course, this also extends to another important relationship of his which I hope I can properly hint at or show.

    lol, I love reading the comments too. It's interesting to see how the story looks through different sets of eyes. So much comes out that I never intend!

    Awe, thanks. The conversation shots are sometimes so difficult to get. A lot of the animations for TS3 faces freak me out, so they're often just with Neutral faces, lol.

    Carnaxa, oh he had one. Kinda. I thre in some random shots here. Visual clues that I'm surprised not one person has asked what those are about. XD

  9. Interesting, some insight into Brandon's powers and how it has shaped him, nice.

    And I'm curious as to who the mystery girl with the head scarf is. I'm guessing it may be someone he formed a bond with in the past...

  10. Thanks, Poida. She's important, though hopefully not necessarily in the way you'll expect.

  11. Lunar,

    The more you post on Brandon, the more I am actually liking him, and to think I was so suspicious about him for such a long time. I believe he really cares about Paula, the gentle smile shows that. And love Paula's observation about the past. Information offered as a gift, very apt.
    Jimmy raising him opens all sort of questions.

    A plethora of information here, like a buffet. Jimmy is the dangerous one. Oh yes.

    Wonderful, multi-layered and fascinating update!

    Oh, is that Brandon's sister (one we don't know about) in the head scarf? Or perhaps a teenage love...(oh dear, there goes my romance writer synapses firing!)

  12. lol, Drew. You were quite suspicious of him, which is completely understandable. Paula probably should have been too!

    Hold onto those romance writer synapses. They make things interesting, lol.

  13. Oh, Lunar. I found this chapter very frustrating. Don't get me wrong, it is beautifully written and your pictures are great as always, but I kept struggling with the conversation Paula and Brandon are having - with what was being said and maybe even more with was not said.

    I particularly love this thought from Paula: ...the past is personal and not something to be pried from a person. It's information a person offers you like a gift.

    That is so true, but Brandon isn't giving her much, is he? There is nothing really personal in his answers.
    I mean the things he says are so generic: I had it better than others, my brother raised me, my mother left, Jimmy trained me...

    I was intrigued by "my mother was human too". He speaks in the past tense (which I presume means she is no longer) and with 'too' he obviously refers to Paula's mum. But that's all we get from him there and I find it disappointingly little. I actually admired Paula when she kept trying.

    I like Brandon, but his reluctance to tell his little sister about himself slightly put me off. And I wonder, how much of a 'bond' there really is even if he is having of a strong (but one-sided) mental connection.

    Jimmy, at the other hand, rose in my esteem. To raise a little brother on your own when you are no more than a teenager must be hard, especially in such a dangerous place. He obviously did a good job, especially since Brandon says that he had it good compared to most.

    I love Paula for simply accepting him as he is. :)

  14. I'm sorry Moondaisy. It is slightly frustrating. You get some answers, but there is ALOT here that is not said. Don't worry though, we're almost there. A lot of Brandon's past is tied into his brother's past, so there is a lot he doesn't feel comfortable telling because it's not his story to tell even if it's wrapped up in his life. A lot of stuff happened before he was born after all.

    Brandon is actually giving her a lot. He's telling her everything that is his to tell. The story of his mother is actually very important to him.

    His mother being human-- Paula catches the past tense too. "You think she's dead," she says to him. But does he actually answer her?

    And here, finally, Paula is asking questions, lol.

    As for Brandon's bond with Paula, you pose an important question actually.

    Oh wow, haha, I actually didn't see Jimmy gaining points for raising his brother!

    And yes! That's so important. She does accept him as he is, and I think that's important for him too. Oh I think that lead to another important insight-- ouch! (Don't worry, I do that when get a good thought.) I better write this down!