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    zanoGreen
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WARNING: This story contains graphic content such as sex, violence, death, and derogatory slang.  

Imprisoned - 8. The Brothers Torres

This chapter is told from Grayson's (Boomer) perspective. The next chapter from here forward will be told from Elliott's perspective again.

10 Years Ago

"Mijo, I don't understand why you can't just go to college closer to home." Grayson's mother fussed as he hauled his bags downstairs.

Grayson rolled his eyes, his mother was always trying to talk him out of leaving. The truth was that he needed to get out of San Francisco, find his own way. He had considered going to a university in the bay area, being closer to home would mean he would save money on housing and he could enjoy his mom's home cooking. But when his acceptance letter to UCLA came in the mail he couldn't pass up the opportunity. It was a good school, and he was the first in his family to go away to college.

"Mamá I told you, UCLA has one of the best Chemistry programs. I'll have access to cutting edge research, plus they're giving me a full ride. I'd be an idiot to pass that up."

She grabbed Grayson's face in her hands. "You would never be an idiot to pass something like that up to stay closer to home."

Grayson smiled at her. He loved his Mom, and he would gladly stay behind, basque in the comfort of his familiar surroundings, make tamales with her on the weekends and help his Dad with the shop. But he needed to do this, needed it like he needed oxygen.

"Where's Pápa?"

"Out in the garden." His mother responded, as she triple checked that he had everything he needed before he left.

Grayson walked through their narrow kitchen and out the French doors that led to their small backyard.

Most of the houses in their neighborhood were the typical Victorian row houses you found in San Francisco, narrow and with very little yard. His parents worked tirelessly to keep a roof over their heads, his father sometimes having to pull extra jobs here and there to make ends meet, and his mother often having to take extra house cleaning jobs to buy groceries. They immigrated from Mexico when his mother was pregnant with him, looking for a better life then what his parents had in their small village. With no higher education they had to get work where they could find it, and Grayson was always grateful for them.

He crossed the small backyard to his father, who was planting some seedlings in the raised garden beds they had built over the weekend.

"Pápa."

His father turned to face him, sweat beading on his face from the unusually hot day. "Are you leaving?"

"Yes, Marc should be here any minute." Grayson hated this part. Goodbyes were always awkward with his father, he didn't know whether he should hug him, shake his hand, or give him a nod.

His father nodded and reached into his pocket, pulling forty dollars out that was folded in half. Grayson's eyes widened, he wasn't expecting this. His parents rarely if ever gave him money, and like hell he was going to take from them what they had worked so hard for.

"No Pápa, I don't need that." Grayson shook his head and pushed the money back towards his father. His father grabbed his hands and held them firmly, rough and calloused hands, telling the story of a man who worked hard for everything he earned.

"Grayson, I want you to have it."

"But I don't-"

"Listen to me Mijo," His father cut him off. "You have made me so proud, the first Torres to go to college." Tears formed in his father's eyes as he spoke, making Grayson start to tear up as well. Never in his eighteen years has his father ever spoken to him this way, from the heart, and he certainly had never seen tears in his eyes either.

"You have been a good son, always helping out, always being there when we needed you. So let me give this to you, it's not much but it can at least buy you something to eat maybe a little more."

Grayson reluctantly took the cash from his father and then his father did something that he didn't expect, he pulled him into a hug. It was warm and welcoming, like a cozy fire, like home.

After what seemed like hours but was maybe only a minute, his father broke from the hug and wiped his eyes. "Go make us proud Mijo, like I know you will."

Grayson nodded and turned around, heading back into the house, heart feeling heavy from the exchange he just had with his father. His mother was flitting around the kitchen rounding up tupperware containers. She had insisted on sending him off with plenty of food to feed a small army. She placed them in a tote bag and set them next to his duffel bags in the living room.

"There's tamales in there, enough for you and Marc while you're on the road."

"Mamá," I opened the tote bag which contained three medium sized containers, all full. "This is enough to feed the homeless."

"You will thank me when you can't get my cooking on a nightly basis." Her voice was joking and light, but behind her eyes Grayson could see her struggling. He wrapped her up in a hug and she sniffed softly as she began to cry.

"Mamá don't cry. I'll be home for Thanksgiving, and Christmas and then it will be summer before you know it." He tried to reassure her in a light tone.

"I'll cry if I want to." She had a stubborn tilt to her chin which made Grayson laugh.

"Gray!" He turned around to see his younger sister Gabriella all but barreling down the stairs. She was the youngest of the Torres clan at fourteen and the most athletic out of the three, with an excitement for life that Grayson always found refreshing.

"What? You thought you would skip out without saying goodbye?" She punched him in the shoulder lightly and Grayson laughed. He scooped her up in a bear hug, her feet dangling off the ground.

"C'mon Gabby, you know me better than that." Grayson said after setting her down.

She placed her hands on her hips and cocked an eyebrow at him. "Mmhmm."

There was a honk outside signaling that Marc was here. His mother stared dreadfully at the door, knowing full well that his time to leave was here. Grayson picked up one of the duffel bags and Gabriella picked up the other, his mother grabbing the tote of tamales and following closely behind as they stepped out into the hot San Francisco air.

"You will call when you get to Salinas?" It was a question, but Grayson knew it was more like a demand.

"Yes Mamá."

"And again when you get to Santa Barabara?"

"Mamá." Grayson groaned as they loaded the bags into the bed of Marc's truck.

"Mijo I am your mother, I get to worry." She reprimanded, pointing a finger at him.

"Hi Mrs. Torres." Marc called from the driver's seat, peering through the passenger side window at her.

"Marc Tran, you better make sure he calls." She had a stern tone to her voice.

"Yes, ma'am. Even if I have to call myself."

Marc feared his mother's wrath, much like her own children and husband did. In the eight years he and Marc Tran had been best friends he had almost been like a fourth child to the Torres', his mother even fussed over him the same too.

His mother brought him in for one final hug, giving him a kiss on the cheek.

"Please be safe." She said, keeping a hand on his cheek. He nodded in understanding, trying to will reassurance through it, which he knew probably wouldn't work. His mother was going to worry regardless because, well, that's what mothers did.

The front door of their house closed and Grayson peered over his mother to see his twin brother, Griffin, begin his descent down the tall staircase towards them.

He and Griffin had been slightly estranged since his acceptance to UCLA. They had always done everything together, even hung around the same circle of friends. While Grayson was going away for college, Griffin decided to stay behind and take classes at a local college and work as a mechanic in their father's shop.

Their mother stepped aside and Griffin stopped in front of him, he wasn't sure what was going to happen next. There was an empty pit in his stomach at the fact that his brother wasn't happy with his decision to leave home. But Griffin surprised him by bridging the gap and wrapping his arms around him for a tight hug.

It felt like a thousand pound weight was lifted off of Grayson's chest at the realization that he and Griffin would be okay from here forward.

"I'm glad you finally came around." Grayson said, breaking from the hug.

"I can't stay mad at you forever bro."

"Wonder Twins?" I asked, putting my fist up.

"Wonder Twins." Griffin acknowledged and he bumped his fist with Grayson's.

"God you guys are nerds." Grabriella shook her head and a smile split across her face.

Grayson hopped in the passenger's seat of Marc's truck and they pulled away from the curb, leaving his family standing on the sidewalk, his mother with tears in her eyes and his siblings with wide smiles. Grayson gave one last look at his family in the side mirror as the truck went down a hill and they disappeared from view. This was the start of his chapter, his story, his chance to strike out on his own. He would miss his family while he was away at college, but there were always holidays and breaks, and there would always be a place for him here.

Present Day

Grayson couldn't move, he was shocked, stunned at the realization that his brother was here. A million things went through his brain.

"Is it really you Gray?" Griffin asked, taking a step forward.

"Y-yeah." Grayson fought for words, it was like he forgot to speak.

Griffin approached, wrapping him into a tight hug, a lot like that same hug he had experienced all those years ago.

"I… I don't understand." Grayson stammered, still trying to wrap his head around the fact that his brother was here, alive.

"We have a lot to catch up on," Griffin gave him a warm smile. "Like how the hell, did you get so big dude."

"Me? Look who's talking mister roids." And there it was, the playful banter like no time had passed. He always deep down felt like Griffin was still alive, call it twintuition if you will.

"Wait, hold up!" Riley spoke and everyone turned their gaze towards him. "Your name is Grayson? We've been calling you Boomer for years now, and instead we could have been calling you Gray?"

"Is that seriously what you're taking from this?" Alex gave him a glowering look.

"I don't know, there's just so much crazy shit happening right now!"

"Where's Gabby?" Grayson asked, turning his attention back to his brother. He was anxious to see her, anxious to see that love for life that he found so refreshing.

Griffin's smile faltered and there was a new pain behind his eyes, a pain that told him what he already knew and feared at the same time.

Grayson felt his heart pitch, like it was about to be ripped from his chest. He should have been here, shouldn't have left after the earthquake. Maybe then things would have turned out differently.

"I'm sorry sir, but there's still the matter of what we do with them?" Diaz spoke.

Griffin shot him a threatening look, which immediately made Diaz retract. Grayson recognized that look from their mother, she used it on them as kids all the time to make them fall in line. Needless to say it worked, even for a grown man like Diaz. A new pain formed in his chest at the thought of their mother and father.

Griffin studied Grayson and the team for a few seconds before he spoke. "They're not rebels." He walked up to Ryan and reached out, ripping the Republic flag patch off of his vest. Ryan barely budged and instead just blinked at him.

"Rebels don't wear this. They hate the republic." He held the patch up to Diaz, who studied it carefully. He nodded in confirmation but Grayson could tell he wasn't convinced.

"I'm sorry for any trouble or harm that my men may have caused you. You are guests here, not prisoners." The last word he pointed at Diaz, who dipped his head in submission.

"Is there somewhere we can stitch up our chief?" Cody asked, gesturing towards Elliott. There was a slight hint of blood soaking into his shirt, indicating that the gauze wasn't working to stop the bleeding.

"I'm fine. We'll just pack it with more gauze." Elliott gritted through his teeth.

"Those cuts are too deep and you know it." Cody challenged.

"Cuts?" Griffin shot another stern look at Diaz who looked like a scolded child. Something said that he knew exactly what had happened, and that this had been a problem in the past.

"What have I told you about torture Diaz? It has no place in our society!" Griffin looked like he was about to haul off and punch him, but he showed restraint, something Grayson didn't recognize in his brother. Being a leader had changed him.

"He wouldn't have talked willingly." Diaz held his head high, clearly he felt no remorse for what he had done.

Ryan scoffed, he had anger written all over his face. "Please, he told you the truth you sick bastard!"

Diaz whipped his head in Ryan’s direction. "I broke your nose already, I can always break something else." He spat.

"ENOUGH!" Griffin yelled, his deep voice echoing off the walls making us all jump.

"One of the guards will take you to our clinic, you can stitch up your chief there." His face was calm as he spoke to Cody.

"Thank you sir."

"Please, call me Griffin. Any friends of Gray's are friends of mine."

Cody nodded and he, Ryan and Alex turned around to walk away but Elliott gave Diaz a pointed look. His face was stern, something that told Grayson he meant business.

“I believe you have something that belongs to me.” His tone was flat, and to the point.

Diaz smirked and retrieved a chain with two rings dangling from it out of the front pouch of his uniform. He handed them over to Elliott who snatched them out of his grasp and hoisted the thin silver chain over his head, tucking the rings under his shirt. He turned around and walked away with the rest of the team. But Riley stayed put, giving Grayson a look that told him he needed some reassurance that he was gonna be okay left alone.

"It's okay Riley, go with the others." Grayson said, a warmth filling his chest at the thought that Riley was concerned for him.

Riley nodded and followed the others out of the church, the doors closing with a louder clatter.

"We have a lot to discuss." Griffin put an arm around him and began leading him back to the hallway he had come out of earlier. He paused to look at Diaz, who was standing at attention, worry rippling across his face.

"I'll deal with you later." Griffin glowered at him. Diaz saluted and walked away, heading towards a hallway in the opposite direction.

"I'm sorry for any pain he may have caused your friend. Diaz is…"

"An asshole?" Grayson finished.

A grin split across Griffin's face. "Difficult was the word I would have chosen."

"Walks like a duck, talks like a duck."

Griffin opened the door to a room and let Grayson in first. The room must have been an office, judging by the solid oak desk, filing cabinet, and strategic maps placed on the walls. There was a large flag behind his desk that contained the city's seal, but instead of the words Seal of the City and County of San Francisco it read,

The Colony of San Francisco

Griffin sat behind the desk and gestured to the seat in front of Grayson. He sat down slowly, not sure what was going to happen next. Griffin pulled out a bottle of Jack Daniel's and two short glasses, pouring a drink for him and handing it over the desk for Grayson to take. He hesitated, not sure drinking would be in his best interest right now.

"You're gonna want it after what I have to tell you." Griffin stated.

Grayson took the glass and stared at the brown liquid inside, swirling it around lightly. He dreaded what was about to be said, the conversation that needed to be had.

"She's dead isn't she?" He asked, not looking up from his glass. There was a long pause from Griffin, seconds felt like minutes and in this time he swore he could hear his own heart beating.

"Yeah… She's dead Gray." Griffin's voice broke, and just then Griffin's whole world came crashing down. His shoulders began to shake as the tears came flowing out. Gabriella, the girl who he used to give piggyback rides around the house, take out for ice cream after school. The girl who's flicker of light lit up Grayson's outlook on life was gone, extinguished. He thought his parents death did him in, but this, this took the cake. It was like a hole was punched through his chest, leaving behind nothing but a giant, empty, nothingness.

He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up to see his brother's own broken gaze, tears welling up in his bright brown eyes. He knelt down and pulled Grayson into a hug as he just let the tears flow. He clutched onto Griffin's uniform, like doing so would keep him from falling deep down, down, down further into a dark abyss.

9 Years Ago

"Goood moooorning San Francisco! It's gonna be another beautiful Saturday morning in the city by the bay," The morning newscaster announced in a way too chipper tone. "Temperatures are expected to reach the high eighties today. So make sure you use that sunblock and brace yourself for another scorcher, because this heatwave isn't going anywhere-" Griffin clicked the tv off with a groan.

"How is anyone that excited." He tossed the remote on the couch next to him.

"Drugs are a hell of a thing." Grayson joked.

It was summer and a freak heat wave was running its course across the Bay Area, making people flock to the beach for the cool ocean water. It was his second week back home from college for the summer break, and he had to say it was nice being back. He missed his family something fierce, he didn't realize how homesick he would be after getting to LA. But at least he had Marc there with him, and they had some of the same science courses seeing as Marc made a sudden shift to Pre-Med.

"I for one love it, it's a nice change from the seventies." Gabriella smiled from above her book.

"You would, freak." Griffin shot back. I just smiled at her, Gabriella, always the optimist.

"Hey!" She exclaimed snapping her book shut and setting it on her lap. "We should go to the beach!"

Griffin groaned and flopped his head back on the couch. The beach was never really Griffin's idea of a good time, he refused to go into the ocean at all.

"Aww c'mon Eeyore. I won't let the big bad ocean get you." She teased.

"I'm not afraid of the ocean! There's sharks and jellyfish and rip currents, it's a respect thing." This was a lie, Griffin was very much afraid of the ocean and always had been, ever since they were kids.

"Is that why you screamed and cried when Gray and I dragged you into the ocean on my eighth birthday?" She chuckled and poked him with her index finger.

"I had just watched Shark Week! Do you know how many teeth-you know what, doesn't even matter." He threw his hands up as Gabriella and Griffin began to laugh.

"I'm glad you guys find it so fucking amusing!" He said a little too loudly.

"Griffin Arturo Torres! What have I told you about using that language in my house?" Their mother called from upstairs.

"Oooohhhh." Grayson and Gabriella both said in unison.

"I'm sorry Mamá!" He called up to her. He flashed both of them a glare. "You guys suck." But there was a smile teasing the corner of his mouth.

"C'mon Griff, it could be fun." Grayson used his position as the twin to talk him into it.

"Fine-fine we'll go! But I swear to god," He pointed to both Grayson and Gabriella. "If you screw with me you'll pay."

They both put their hands up in solidarity, promising no shenanigans. Griffin got up from the couch and began trudging his way up the stairs muttering something under his breath about not being afraid of the ocean. Once out of earshot Gabriella turned to Grayson with a mischievous glint in her eye.

"Were totally gonna mess with him right?"

He gave her an evil grin. "Baby sister, you read my mind."

Their home in Outer Richmond wasn't too far from China Beach, which was the one they frequented as children. The sand felt great between Grayson's toes as they marched close enough to the ocean where they could enjoy it, but not too close to make Griffin run the other direction.

The beach wasn't too packed either, which gave them a pick of where to set up. Griffin sat on a low beach lounger, shirt off, looking through some mechanics magazine filled with muscle cars and half naked ladies clad in bikinis. Grayson was sitting next to him and Gabriella was wading around in the water, ducking her head underneath every so often to retrieve a shell or a sand dollar she spotted.

"So, anybody special back in LA?" Griffin asked, not looking up from his magazine.

"Between classes and research projects, no."

"I figured it would be easy for you, ya know, swinging both ways and all."

Grayson was bi-sexual, which his family knew about and supported him whole heartedly. Griffin on the other hand had a way of sticking his foot in his mouth when it came to the subject.

"Dude, it’s not like I can get anybody I want just because I'm into both. It's no different then you with girls." He explained.

"I know, but you do have a wider selection."

This was true, plenty of girls and guys had hit on him on campus. Especially this cute guy who was a medical student. What was his name? Edgar, Eli, Elliott! That was it Elliott. But Grayson was too busy with school, and he was top of the list for this exciting research project next summer back east, and he didn’t want to squander that with the "college experience". Whatever that was.

"All I'm saying is that it’s good to get your toes wet every once and while." Griffin stated, setting his magazine in the sand.

"I'm gonna go join Gabby." He said, officially done with this conversation. "You wanna join?" He teased, slapping his brother on the arm.

"Yeah, right. Enjoy your pool of death." Griffin replied in a sarcastic tone.

Grayson made a baby crying face at him as he walked backward towards the ocean, which got him a middle finger in return. He turned sharply and whack! His body collided with something warm, meaty and solid.

"Shit, I'm sorry!"

"No I'm sorry, I wasn't paying attention." The man laughed, rough hands placed on Grayson's arms to keep him righted.

The man was about the same height as Grayson, brown, short wavy hair, hazel eyes and a lopsided smile. He was tan with rippling muscles and a dusting of hair on his chest and stomach that trailed down below his board shorts. Grayson couldn't help but take in the sight of the man, he was sexy and way out of his league.

The man cleared his throat and rubbed the back of his neck nervously. What did this man have to be nervous about? He was literally the sexiest thing to walk this beach.

"Well anyway, sorry." The man gave him another lopsided grin before continuing down the beach. Grayson couldn't help but stare at his ass in those board shorts as he walked away, which was perfectly round and bubbly.

"What the hell man!" Griffin came up to him with a look of disbelief. "That guy was totally into you!"

"No he wasn't, he's way out of my league."

Griffin gave him a dumbstruck look, like I had just socked him in the jaw. "Seriously, how are we twins?"

Grayson felt a weird rumbling below his feet and he looked at Griffin with a wide eyes expression.

"Did you feel that?"

Griffin nodded in acknowledgement, looking around at the sand.

The air was still, the only sound came from the ocean as the waves batted against the sand. A large flock of seagulls flew overhead and everyone stopped, mesmerized by the sight, there had to be at least a hundred of them.

"That's crazy." Griffin stated, awestruck at the sight.

Just then the ground jolted, knocking him and Griffin to the ground.

"EARTHQUAKE!" A lifeguard yelled some ten feet away, but this was unlike any earthquake Grayson had ever felt. It was strong, like someone picked up the beach and shook it violently. People were screaming, car alarms could be heard going off in the distance. He attempted to stand but he was knocked down to his hands and knees.

"Gabriella!" Griffin yelled in her direction.

Gabriella was about twenty yards away struggling to crawl towards them. So Griffin and Grayson began crawling towards her, meeting her halfway. They finally made it to each other and held hands, holding on to each other since there was nothing else for them to hold on to.

The ear splitting sound of twisting and grinding metal could be heard, and Grayson looked towards the source of the sound to see the Golden Gate Bridge collapse into the water.

Gabriella screamed and Griffin and Grayson just tightened their grip on her and each other, riding out the earthquake.

"It has to be over soon, it has to be over soon." Grayson told himself in his head, but it didn't stop, it was a never ending torrent that felt like it was going on forever.

Once the shaking stopped there was screaming, crying, people calling out for loved ones, running in different directions on the beach. Gabriella was crying and Grayson quickly picked her up to her feet.

“Are you okay?” He asked, looking her over.

“Y-yeah I’m fine.” She stammered through tears.

“Griff?” He turned towards his brother, but he was still kneeling in the sand, a look of shock on his face. Grayson dropped to the ground in front of him and grabbed his shoulders, shaking him.

“Griffin!”

Griffin blinked and looked into his eyes. “What the hell just happened?” He asked dumbfoundedly.

“C’mon we gotta get home.” Grayson pulled on his brother, but he was slow to get up, still in shock over the violent earthquake.

“Griff, c’mon!” He pulled on him harder and Griffin seemed to snap out of it, jumping to his feet.

They rounded up their important items off their spot and ran towards the street, towards their home, which Grayson hoped was still standing. A whole new flood of worries flowed through him at that thought, mainly about his parents. They were home, deciding to skip out on the beach and stay in.

Their neighborhood was practically unrecognizable. Debris lay in the street and on the sidewalks, smoke was blanketing the city from fires. People laid on the sidewalks, some conscious, others not. Grayson flashed to his parents, laying there in the street, trying to escape their crumbling house. He shook the thoughts away as they rounded the corner to their street. There were people standing out in the street, observing the damage with looks of horror on their face. Most of the houses were collapsed and on fire and once they reached their house they soon realized that theirs didn’t fare any better.

The home he was raised in, where he first learned to ride a bike, where they spent many Christmases in front of the bay window opening presents, now laid partially collapsed, a raging torrent taking it over.

“Mamá, Pápa!” Gabriella screamed and she darted for the house.

“Gabby no!” Grayson grabbed her and held her back. She kicked and screamed, cried and shouted for their parents as the house burned. Grayson held her tight until she stopped fighting, instead collapsing with him in a heap on the ground.

Grayon didn’t think anything could hurt worse than that. He would never see his parents again, never make tamales with his Mom on the weekends, and never laugh at one of his Dad’s stupid jokes again. His whole world fell apart as he, Griffin and Gabriella all held each other in the street, watching their house full of memories burn, and their parents with it.

Present Day

Grayson tossed back his shot of Jack and grabbed the bottle from the desk, pouring another. Everything inside of him hurt, his soul hurt. It was one thing to think your family was gone, it was another entirely to be faced with the reality.

“At least Griffin is still here.” His thoughts rang out, and that was true. Griffin was at least still here, his only remaining family member.

“Told you you would want that drink.” Griffin settled back in his chair, and drank his own shot.

“What happened?” The question all but blurted out of Grayson’s mouth.

“Gray…” Griffin had a pained look on his face.

“I need to know Griff.”

Griffin studied him for a little bit, pouring another shot of Jack.

“Gabby was my right hand, a job that I tried to refuse her. But she was stubborn, just like Pápa. She was killed by rebels during a supply run.” Griffin tipped back his glass and set it on the desk with a thud.

“Why would rebels attack them?”

Griffin stood up and crossed over to one of the many maps scattered across the wall. He pointed to a spot on one of the maps of the city, there was a red outline forming a boundary around Chinatown and some of the surrounding neighborhoods. It had to be at least thirty square blocks.

“This is us right here, and this,” He moved his finger over to a section of the map just south of them that was grayed out, it was roughly three square miles of the city. “This is Rebel territory. Everything else is fair game.”

Grayson studied the map for a second before taking another drink. “So you're telling me that the city is ground zero for some sort of turf war between you and the Rebels?”

“Exactly, they don’t want us here and they’ve made that message very clear.” He sat back down at the desk. “But this is our home, and we’re not giving it up without a fight.” His face was stoic and cutthroat. Telling the tale of a man who had seen a lot of battle in the short span of time that the city went dead.

“I don’t understand, you would think that the Republic would interfere, at least help.” Grayson had an incredulous tone.

Griffin chuckled and stared at his brother with a look that told him he was naive. “The Republic? Those bastards are just waiting for us to kill each other off so they can reclaim the city for themselves. Protect their reputation, so they don’t have to face the repercussions of lying to their citizens about leaving us here to rot.” There was a tone of hatred to his voice as he spoke.

Grayson sat back in his chair. The mission from the get go was shady at best, then finding out that Doctor Grimm was a rebel scientist that experimented on people, and then that they had plans to release a bio-weapon in LA. All the while they had no intel that pointed towards people actually being here, let alone a turf war, and they would have seen that on the satellite images. Doctored no doubt, covered up to hide the truth from the team. They weren’t expecting them to stumble upon this giant secret, but they did.

Griffin stared at him from across the desk, watching him connect the dots, coming to the realization that sounded like a crazy conspiracy theory. But it wasn’t, it was fact, as solid as the desk that sat between them. Everything Grayson had fought for during his time in the Army, was for a corrupt government.

Griffin looked at his watch and sighed, putting the bottle of Jack and their glasses back in the drawer he had retrieved them from.

"It's getting late, and you need rest. You should go be with your team, I'll have some of my men escort you to your rendezvous location at dawn." Griffin walked around the desk and pulled Grayson into a tight hug. "It was good to see you brother, but you have to go back, expose the secrets of this place. Make your government accountable for what they've done."

Fresh tears started to well up in his eyes at the thought of leaving him here. He couldn't, he wouldn't leave him again. He did that once already and he felt guilty for it ever since. But Grayson nodded, agreeing with his brother, for now.

A guard showed him the way to the clinic where the rest of the team was, the entire way thinking about what needed to be done. His feet seemed heavy as he approached the building, pushing the front door open. He followed a light peeking down the dark hallway, as he drew closer he could hear voices, familiar voices, draw nearer and nearer.

"One, TWO-"

CRUNCH

"Ah!" I recognized Ryan's painful shout. "You said you were gonna go on three." He groaned, nose sounding plugged.

"If I would have done that then you would have tensed up, making it harder." I heard Elliott reply.

I stepped through the doorway. Ryan was sitting in a chair with his head tipped back while Elliott stuffed little squares of gauze up his nostrils, Cody assisting him. The crunch sound he had heard was the sound of bone as Elliott reset Ryan's nose. Alex was perched on a cot in the corner, tinkering with her wrist computer, and Riley was sitting in a chair by a table, cleaning his gun.

"Boomer!" Cody had a wide eyed expression as he made eye contact with him. Everyone whipped their heads towards him including Ryan, who winced because Elliott still had a hold of his nose.

"I can't right now guys." Grayson said, fighting back tears, fighting back the urge to just lose it right there.

Grayson crossed slowly towards Riley, a need pulling him towards him, a need that they had denied themselves years ago.

“I can’t do this B.” Riley had tears in his eyes.

“Why not? What would be so horrible about us being together?”

“I…” He could see Riley fight for the words.

“Give me one reason… Please.” Grayson pleaded, holding Riley’s hands in his. Riley was fighting it, fighting these emotions they shared together. He knew that it had something to do with Gregg, but he wouldn’t dare go there.

“I’m sorry…” Riley dropped his hands, and with that he turned around, walked away. Leaving Grayson with a fresh hole in his heart.

He shook the painful memory from his head. It had been a few years since Riley walked away, and since then he had made it clear to Grayson that he would always be there for him. He just couldn’t be there for him in that way.

He felt dead on his feet, exhausted both mentally and physically, and he could feel his teammates eyes on him but he couldn't be bothered by that right now. The only thing that could make it better was cleaning out his assault rifle a mere ten feet away.

As he got closer Riley looked up from his gun and he could see the knowing in his eyes, that he knew something was wrong.

Five feet.

He set his gun down on the table and stood up, concern leaking into his eyes.

Two feet.

He was almost there, just a couple more feet and he could fall apart, and Riley would be there to help keep him together.

"Can we have the room guys?" Riley looked past him towards the team.

"Yeah, sure thing. C'mon guys." Elliott said in a supportive tone. Did he know? Riley and him had been very close since Elliott stepped on base four years ago, so there were bound to be things that they talked about, personal things. He could hear footsteps walking out of the room, growing fainter as they walked down the hallway.

"What's the matter?" Riley asked, knowing they were out of earshot.

Grayson stood there for a second and when he opened his mouth to speak no words came out, instead he began gasping, gulping for air, precious air that tried to fill his lungs but couldn't. What was wrong with him? What was this? This was something he had never experienced before.

Riley's eyes got wide and he wrapped him up into a hug, a tight hug and just like that his lungs found air again. He could breath.

"Hey-hey I got you, I got you." Riley soothed, placing a hand on the back of his neck.

Grayson held on to him for dear life as all the emotions, all the death, all the suffering he had kept bottled up for years came crashing down on him. He couldn't speak, all he could do was stand there and sob while being embraced by this man. This man that he so desperately wanted, needed, and who also felt the same way for Grayson.

"I…" Was the only pained syllable Grayson could muster.

"It's okay B. It's gonna be okay." Riley tried to reassure him, not loosening his grip, and Grayson believed him. It was like all the words Riley had were just what his soul needed.

He looked into Riley's eyes, those sharp blue eyes that he used to get lost in for hours. He bridged the gap between their mouths and pressed his lips against Riley's, who let out a soft gasp. They were just as soft as he remembered and he even tasted the same, like spearmint and this candy that he used to get at the mini mart around the corner from his home when he was a child.

Riley shuddered underneath the kiss as their lips parted and they exchanged their tongues, like no time had passed. It was a kiss like how you greeted a lover after a long time away. There was need behind it and longing.

Riley led him over to one of the cots and laid down, pulling Grayson into him, wrapping him up in his arms and holding him close. He laid there, his head pressed against Riley's warm chest, the sound of his heartbeat lulling him into a sleep he so desperately needed.

Seven Years Ago

“Gray, you can’t leave.” Gabriella stood in the doorway of his room, hands on her hips. She had been at this all week, trying to get him to not go back to LA. But there was too much pain here in San Francisco and everywhere he looked were memories of his parents.

“Gabby, I need to go back to school. I did two years online so that I could help you and Griff with Mamá and Pápa’s last wishes. But I need to finish my degree, on campus, not online.” This was the lie he told her, Griffin and even himself. Any excuse to leave this city and the pain behind.

After the earthquake that claimed their parents, and countless others, Grayson stayed behind to help out. He helped with the lawyers, all the logistics, the insurance and even the debt collectors. Even after all of that the insurance money came through and it was enough for them to rebuild their family home. Not in it’s same former glory, but sustainable and suitable for the three of them.

“You could always transfer to San Francisco State, they finally got it up and running again.” She followed him downstairs, hot on his trail.

Grayson couldn’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu at this conversation. Wasn’t it just two years ago that his mother was having a similar conversation with him? He shook the memory of her from his head and tossed his duffel bag on the floor.

“I already tried that one baby sister.” Griffin grumbled from the couch.

Grayson looked between his brother and his sister, frustration mounting in his brain. He hated being teamed up on, and it was something they always did to him. Regardless if he and Griffin were twins Griffin was “technically” born first, he was always treated like the middle sibling.

“It’s only for one more year, and I’ll be back for every break.”

“Stubborn.” Gabriella muttered.

“Hey, it’s a family trait.” Grayson pulled her into a hug. “Once I graduate I’m coming back and I’m not going anywhere, I promise.” He added, breaking away from the hug.

“I’m gonna hold you to it.” Her bottom lip trembled.

Griffin came over to him, fist raised out in front of him. “Wonder Twins?”

Grayson smiled and bumped his fist against his brothers. “Wonder Twins.”

Gabriella sniffled. “You guys are so stupid.” Her voice broke.

They all laughed and came in for a group hug, Grayson savoring every minute. He was going to miss them while he was in LA, but he would be back, he had to, they were his family.

“We’ll see you at Thanksgiving.” Griffin commanded, not leaving any room for objection.

“You know it.” He responded.

But that wasn’t true. It wasn’t true because, unbeknownst to everyone, two months later there would be another outbreak and the city would be sealed off. He would never see his family again for another seven years, and Gabriella would be gone.

He gave Griffin and Gabriella a wink and one last wide grin before turning and walking out of the house, not knowing that it would be the last time he ever stepped foot in it again.

Present Day

Grayson awoke to the sound of the hushed voices of his team. He turned his head to see them grouped around the table Riley was sitting at earlier. Elliott made eye contact with him and said something to Riley, who turned around. Grayson sat up and swung his legs over the side of the cot, he rubbed his face with his hands, his sleep was decent but it wasn’t enough. When he looked up from his hands Riley was kneeling in front of him, a look of concern on his face.

“I would ask you how your feeling, but I know that would be stupid question.”

Grayson didn’t even know what he was feeling, he felt numb if he was being honest with himself. The only feelings he could comprehend in that moment was the feelings he had for Riley, which were exuberant and complicated.

“I’m sorry.” He shook his head in disappointment, and Riley seemed to know what he was apologizing for as he shook his head and took Grayson’s hands in his.

“Don’t… I’m glad you kissed me.”

Someone cleared their throat which made Grayson jump slightly. He was blindly aware that they were even there.

“Sorry to interrupt guys, but we gotta go.” Elliott looked remorsefully at them.

Go? Grayson looked at his watch.

0400

He wasn’t ready to leave yet, he didn’t want to leave his brother behind. Didn’t he make a promise all those years ago, that he would come back and he would never leave again?

“What about Doctor Grimm?” He asked.

“They're keeping him. Good riddance I say.” Riley responded, hatred dripping from his tongue.

“But what about the mission?” Grayson could care less about Doctor Grimm, but if they didn’t accomplish their mission what would that mean for the team? For Elliott?

“Screw the mission, in fact I’m gonna have a word with General Dreyfus when we get back to base.” Elliott folded his arms across his chest. Elliott was fearless, something Grayson admired and envied about their chief. He wasn’t afraid to tell someone where to stick it or to “go piss up a rope”. That last one always made Grayson chuckle when Elliott said it.

"What are you gonna tell him?" Ryan asked.

"The truth. What happened was beyond our control, not to mention we didn't have all the intel before we came into this city." He looked at Grayson with sympathetic eyes. "Don't worry. I won't tell him your brother's people were involved. We'll say it was the rebels." He turned his gaze to the rest of the team, who all nodded in solidarity.

There was a lump so big in his throat that Grayson felt like he was swallowing an apple. He loved his team for this, for keeping his brother and their people safe in any way possible.

"Thanks guys."

"You've lost enough over the years, it's the least we could do Boomer. Or should we be calling you Grayson now?" Elliott flashed him a mischievous grin which made the tip of Grayson's ears turn pink.

"My family calls me Gray." And they were his family, they all knew it. One little slightly dysfunctional family.

Elliott rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly, Grayson always found it humorous how the big bad chief couldn't handle emotional moments. Give him a broken leg with bone sticking out, a gunshot wound that wouldn't stop bleeding and he would handle it with grace and precision. Get deep on an emotional level with him and the poor guy didn't know what to do.

He cleared his throat, which prompted Riley to speak up.

"You okay big guy?" He flashed him a grin.

"Yeah-yeah, just dusty in here is all." He cleared his throat again.

“I don’t see any dust.” Alex teased.

“Yeah, there's dust. It’s-you know what, we gotta head out.” Elliott quickly changed the subject.

“Awww, it’s okay to get emotional Ell." Riley teased further.

"Yeah. We won't tell the other chiefs." Cody even joined in this time.

"I'm not getting emotional!" Elliott argued, even though he clearly was.

"Group hug!" Alex shouted and they all converged on Elliott.

"No! No group hug!" Elliott's commanding voice came out. But they all laughed and went in for the hug anyway, Elliott trying to squirm out of it as if he were trying to escape the most uncomfortable situation imaginable. Eventually he gave up and his grumpy face showed it. After a few minutes he began wiggling away from the hug.

“Alright-alright that's good enough." He spoke up, and they all chuckled, separating from each other and satisfied with the teasing they had done.

“We have two hours to get to the rendezvous, so let's pack up and head out." Elliott ordered, the blush not subsiding from his cheeks. There was a soft spot in him whether he wanted anyone to see it or not, but they all did.

They rounded up their gear and made their way out of the clinic. It was dawn, the morning air was moderate, not too chilly, but enough to make the hair on Grayson's arms stand on end. They were met outside by a team of five men and women who were led by the guy with the green eyes, the one Riley had flirted with in the elevator earlier. Grayson stood closer to Riley, a protective side showing itself.

"Doctor Pierce, I'm Seargent Hall. We're here to escort you and your team to Telegraph Hill for extraction." He held his hand out and Elliott shook it.

"Thank you Sergeant, lead the way."

"Will do sir." He gave a hand gesture to his team to roll out and they all followed him down the street. He looked at Riley as he passed and that smolder in his eyes appeared, that same smolder he had on the elevator. A low growl escaped Grayson's throat, one that he didn't think anyone had heard, but Riley did.

"Jealous are we?" Riley gave a cheeky grin.

"Of him? Of course not!" Grayson tried to put as much convincing behind the words, but Riley just chuckled and shook his head.

"I only got eyes for you B." And he clipped him on the shoulder with his fist before following the rest of the group.

A warmth spread in Grayson's chest at those words, but there was a pit in his stomach too that formed and they collided, creating a weird uneasiness inside of him. Could he go through with this? Could he do what he was planning to do, potentially breaking this man's heart, and giving up something he had wanted for years now?

They were led in the opposite direction of the main gate they came in earlier, instead heading north. Grayson could see Telegraph Hill, and the notable Coit Tower standing out like a homing beacon in the distance and Grayson’s heart gave a little pitch at the sight. Pretty soon he would have to make a difficult decision, a choice that he didn’t want to but had to make.

They came up to a small gate, maybe about as wide as Grayson, and his brother was waiting there and on his shoulders was the cutest little girl. Her dark brown hair was curlier than his or Griffin’s, and her chubby cheeks displayed dimples as she smiled at something her father said to her.

“Figured I would see you guys off.” He said as they approached closer. Two of Sergeant Hall’s men began unlocking the gate, a job that evidently took two people. “This gate will give you a direct shot to Telegraph Hill, it’s only supposed to be used in case of emergencies. But I figured this would cut down time for you.” He added, giving a little bounce which made the girl giggle.

“We appreciate it, thank you.” Elliott said, shaking Griffin’s hand.

“No problem.” He gave him a grin. “Our colony is always open, for those who need it.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Elliott gave him a friendly smile and followed Sergeant Hall and his men through the narrow gate.

The team followed shortly after, all of them gave him a friendly handshake and a smile before stepping through the gate and joining the others. Once it was his turn he couldn’t get any words out, all of the words and emotions that he was thinking and feeling just seemed to get stuck. Instead Griffin spoke up.

“I have something for you.” He held out a black thumb drive and I grabbed it, inspecting it and shrugging my shoulders at him.

“What’s this for?”

“It’s the truth. The truth about what’s really going on in here.”

“What do you want me to do with it?” Grayson asked with a bewildered expression.

“Leak it. Expose this dirty secret to the citizens of the republic. Maybe then something can be done." He replied.

"Daddy I want pancakes!" The little girl shouted from his shoulders.

Daddy?

Grayson looked at the girl and her bright brown eyes gleamed back at him. The same eyes that he and Griffin had.

"Just a second Mija." Griffin smiled up at her. She looked from Griffin to Grayson a confused look splitting across her perfect features.

"Daddy, why does he look just like you?"

"Because Gabriella, he's my brother which means he's your Uncle."

Gabriella?

Grayson's sinuses began to burn. He had a niece and her name was Gabriella, the same name as his sister.

"You're a father?" Grayson couldn't hide the look of shock from his face.

Griffin smiled at him. "I know, pretty wild right? If you would have asked me all those years ago if I wanted to have kids I would've called you crazy. But now," He sighed a look of bliss washing over his face. "Now I couldn't imagine life without her, or her mother."

That pit in his stomach that he was feeling grew even larger. He had missed so much because he left, his brother met someone, became a father and also the leader of this Colony. An anger brewed up in him slightly, an anger towards himself for leaving all those years ago.

"You comin Gray?" Ryan called through the doorway.

"Yeah, I'm coming." But he didn't move, his feet felt like they were cased in concrete. He didn't want to leave.

"Go,” His brother urged. “And when everyone knows the truth about this city, come back. There will always be a place for you here.”

Grayson nodded and then held his fist out, tears fighting to be released. “Wonder Twins?”

Griffin chuckled and bumped his fist with his. “Wonder Twins.”

Grayson stepped through the opening and gave one last look at Griffin and Gabriella before the gate closed. A fresh tear ran down his face and he quickly wiped it away before anyone else saw.

“Wonder Twins?” Alex chuckled, a look of amusement on her face.

“Yeah, you know, Wonder Twins?” Grayson replied. Cody and Alex gave him a confused look, determining that they didn’t know what he was talking about.

“You know…” Elliott put his fist out. “Wonder Twin powers, activate!” They gave him a further confused look.

“C’mon! Twins that have super powers, one can transform her shape into any animal, the other any state of water,” He gave them a look of disbelief. “Super Friends?” He tried further. Nothing.

“Is that like a song or something?” Alex asked in confusion.

Elliott swatted a hand at the air before walking away. “God I’m old.” He grumbled. Cody and Alex both shrugged at each other and followed him.

Grayson looked at the wall of The Colony one more time, wondering if he was about to make the right choice. He turned around and followed his team down the street, knowing what had to be done.

It took them about an hour and a half to get to Telegraph Hill, because of all the collapsed buildings they had to go around which took more time, time that they thankfully planned for. Sergeant Hall’s team was friendly, most of them discussing battle tactics and sharing tips for how to better strategize during missions or when they came across rebels.

Grayson couldn’t get into the conversation, his mind still traveling back to his brother and The Colony. Would it be such a bad thing if he stayed? If he didn’t go back with his team? If he became a deserter, to stay behind and help his brother?

They began climbing the hill that led to Coit Tower, where the transport would meet them when Elliott pulled back and settled in next to him, keeping pace.

“Something on your mind buddy?”

“Nah.” Grayson shrugged.

Elliott stopped and placed a hand on his shoulder, Grayson gave him a confused look.

“I know that look. Tell me what’s on your mind.”

Grayson looked up at the rest of the group as they continued on their path, not noticing they had stopped, before he spoke.

“Have you ever been conflicted with a tough decision? Like life changing, where either choice’s outcome seemed bad?” Grayson asked.

Elliott gave him a knowing look and Grayson knew that Elliott had an idea of where he was going with this question.

“I think instead of focusing on the outcome, you need to focus on what matters most to you.” He responded cryptically.

“But both are important to me.” He responded.

Elliott thought for a moment before speaking. He placed a hand on Grayson’s shoulder and looked him deep in the eyes, telling Grayson he knew exactly what he was battling with.

“Whichever one you decide to choose, the team and I will support the decision.”

“But...”

“Riley?” Elliott grinned at him. Grayson nodded slowly, it was crazy how Elliott knew things before anybody said anything.

“Riley will be okay. He will be pissed, maybe even hurt a little bit but he will be okay.”

Grayson thought about that for a moment. It was true, Riley was tough, probably the toughest man he knew next to Elliott. If Grayson chose to stay, Riley would hate him, but not forever. An image flashed through his mind, an image of him and Riley lying in bed next to each other, waking up in the morning to see Riley cooking breakfast, and two dogs cuddled up with them on the couch as they watched movies. The image gave him butterflies, made him hopeful for a future in a world full of uncertainties, and didn’t he deserve that? He could have that future with Riley regardless of what choice he made.

“I know what I want to do.” He said, straightening his posture.

Elliott smiled at him and patted him on the shoulder. "You're a good man, Gray. I know that whatever you decide will be for the best reasons." And with that he turned around and continued his hike up the hill.

A new hope filled his chest after that conversation. The knowledge that his chief and the team supported him in whatever decision he made, gave him the energy to continue up the hill. Things would work out for the best, they had to.

They reached Coit Tower fifteen minutes before the extraction time and a chopper could be heard off in the distance, it grew louder and louder as it drew nearer.

"Time to make a choice." Grayson thought to himself as they waited for the chopper.

It went out towards the ocean and circled back around to come in and land, the minutes felt like hours as the chopper got closer and closer to them, descending slowly. The wind from the blades blew a heavy breeze over the hill and Grayson wished that wind would carry him away, keep him from making one of the hardest choices he's had to make since that day seven years ago.

The chopper landed lightly in the parking lot and they all began to move towards it, ducking slightly to brace against the beating gusts from the blades and Grayson having to hold onto his hat to keep it from blowing away.

Once the team was on the chopper he took the thumb drive his brother gave him and thrust it into Riley's hand, who gave him a puzzled expression.

"What are you doing?" He shouted over the noise of the helicopter.

"I'm not coming with."

"What are you talking about?" He asked, flabbergasted.

"I have to stay, I can't leave my brother to fight this fight alone."

"No! You're coming with, you'll be a deserter! Don't be stupid!" There was a hurt behind Riley's eyes that made Grayson's own eyes burn. He climbed up into the chopper and kneeled in front of him.

"I can't Riley."

"Then I'm staying with you!" Riley began sitting up from his seat but Grayson pushed him back down.

"No, I won't let you desert either."

"You don't get to decide what I do!" Anger split across his face. Grayson grabbed his hands in his and squeezed them tight.

"Someone needs to get the message out that there are survivors here, then maybe people will force our government to do something. I need you to do this so I can stay behind and help my brother. I already left him and my sister before, and I still feel guilty about that. I can't leave him again Riley, I won't." Grayson explained, hoping that would be enough to get through to Riley, hoping that he would understand why he was doing this. Fresh tears formed in Riley's eyes, tears that threatened to escape at any moment.

"But… I love you B." His voice broke.

Grayson grabbed his face gently in his hands and brought their lips together, kissing him deeply and putting as much feeling behind it as possible, not knowing if it would be his last.

"I love you too Riley." He replied, wiping a tear away from Riley’s cheek with his thumb.

"We gotta go!" The co-pilot shouted over his shoulder at them.

Grayson grabbed his dog tags from around his neck and yanked, freeing them from their place. He placed them in Riley's hand and closed it, sealing it with a kiss.

"We will see eachother again." Grayson's face was serious.

"Promise?"

Grayson gave him one final kiss. "Promise." He confirmed.

He flashed a look at Elliott who was sitting next to a very stunned Ryan.

"Take care of him." He tried to say without words, and as he expected Elliott gave a firm nod, telling Grayson he understood him.

He hopped out of the chopper and a few moments later it lifted off the ground, the team waving goodbye to him. He stood there, not able to move, knowing that he made the right choice.

As he watched the chopper fly away over the city he hoped that he would see them again, hoped Riley and the team would be successful at the mission he sent them to accomplish. Hoped that vision of the future that gave him butterflies would come true.

"I will see you again, if it's the last thing I do." Grayson said to himself as the chopper disappeared beyond the horizon.

It was a difficult decision to write Boomer out of the story, but it made sense to me and also opens up potential for future projects. If the pacing seems a little off its because I wanted to focus on Grayson and his history, and ultimately the reasoning behind him staying behind. I hope you guys enjoyed this chapter, it gets better from here!

Copyright © 2020 zanoGreen; All Rights Reserved.
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Thank you for reading! Please comment below and let me know where you would like to see the story go or what your favorite parts are so far. Please note that this story does not revolve around a killer virus, that's just what sets up the events that lead to the story.

If you enjoyed what you have read, please leave a reaction and/or comment for the author!

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So not happy that he stayed behind; but I do understand his reasoning.  The team is going to have to stop the terrorist attack on Los Angeles but they also need to make sure that the citizens know the truth as well.

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It was tough to have Boomer stay behind, but I understand his reason for doing so. Although it was sad, I really enjoyed this chapter! Well written! Thanks. 

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