“It’s time for your final test, Harlot. It is a test of your loyalty, your strength, your dedication and determination. Since you’ve done so well, I’m going to give you a bit of insight as to what you will experience.” James paused, his hand sliding down Ryan’s necks, across his shoulders and down to the crook of his elbow.
“We will be injecting you with a drug. It is designed to make you experience some of your worst fears. Hence, why it’s painful. It gives us an amazing look at how you really work and what makes you tick. It will show us how strong you are mentally and that becomes the main determining factor in whether or not you join us. Are you ready, Harlot?”
“Yes, my liege,” Ryan whispered, trying not to let the terror come through in his voice. He didn’t want to lose this now. Not after he had worked so hard. He heard somebody’s fingernail flicking against glass. Then he felt the needle plunge into his arm. He took a deep breath as the fluid was injected into him. And then he waited.
It's not him, the logical part of Ryan said. The other part told him to open his eyes, which he did.
Brendon was standing in front of him.
It's just a hallucination, the sensible part of him screamed. The other part of him reached over and strangled the sensible part. Ryan smiled up at Brendon.
"What're you doing here, Bren?"
Brendon looked around the room and shrugged.
"I came to rescue you, but I guess you don't need me anymore. You've got them."
Ryan gasped. "No, Brenny. I need you too."
Brendon looked at him. "Then run away with me," he whispered.
Ryan looked away. "I can't do that. Not to you. Not to Spencer or Jon or anyone else. I can't just run away and disappear. What would that do to your parents? Our friends? No, Brendon. I couldn't do that."
Brendon shot him a hurt look. "I understand, Ryan. It’s not that at all. You could care less about friends and family. You don't even have a family. I know what you're trying to tell me. You don't want me anymore. You'd rather be with them!" he screamed, pointing at one of the Givers accusingly. Ryan gaped at him.
"That's not tr-"
"Shut up!! I'm sick of your excuses and lies! I wish you'd just tell me the truth, you damned coward! I need to move on!" Brendon raged. He fixed his gaze on Ryan. "I can't live with you, because you don't want me. But I can't live without you, because I still love you. I guess.. I guess that means I shouldn't live at all." Ryan felt his eyebrows pull together.
"What're you talking about, Brendon?" He watched as Brendon pulled a gun from his waistband. "Brendon," Ryan said nervously, pulling at the restraints that were keeping him in the chair. "Put the gun down."
Brendon smiled as he shook his head. "I'll always love you, my Mona Lisa." Then he put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger. Blood and brains spattered Ryan, who was screaming as he yanked at the ropes holding him down. They were cutting deep into him as he pulled harder and harder, his own blood running down his arms and mixing with Brendon's. Not that Ryan felt it. He just had to get free and get to Brendon. His gaze fell to his lap. A piece of Brendon's skull sat there, bathed in blood. Ryan closed his eyes and screamed, desperately trying to escape from the chair now. When he finally managed to open his eyes again, there was no blood. He looked up.
There was Brendon, as alive as ever. Ryan stared in amazement for a moment. For just a moment, until he noticed the look pain and horror on his face. He fell to the ground, face-first. There was a knife sticking out of his back. Ryan started screaming again.
Ryan watched Brendon die one hundred and twenty seven times. Sometimes it was suicide, sometimes murder, sometimes he was already dying when he arrived and sometimes Ryan killed him. Occasionally, Brendon would beg him to leave the coven to save him. He would ask who they were and where they were located. He asked all the wrong questions, even if they were for all the right reasons. Ryan would never answer him. He'd sworn his loyalty to them and he would not go back on his word.
He'd broken free of the ropes after Brendon died for the seventeenth time. That was only after cutting his wrists halfway to the bone. After that, he would hold Brendon as he died. He sang to him, comforted him, kissed him, loved him until he drew his last breath. And it hurt worse every time. Yet, he stayed strong on the outside, trying to protect Brendon in his last moments.
Meanwhile, the Givers took notes on his every movement.