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This was written for the Kill-A-Thon at oz_wishing_well . This is set post season 6.
Regrets, I've had a few.
Ryan whistles the tune, half-hearted at best, and stares down at Em City from the second floor perch. He whistles to drown out needling thoughts that wager predator and prey with his mind, distracting himself from the morality play threatening to make an example of him, so cruel it's almost funny in a fucked up way.
No one sees the blood on his hands (although they surely suspect it's there), but he feels it seeped deep beneath his skin, clogging up his pores and drowning his cells. He does what he needs to do for survival, for personal gain. There's no shame in that. Selfishness has ruled the roost most of his life and he's never made apologies for it before. Doubts only came when consequences proved too much, a domino effect of choices begetting payback begetting another bullshit day in this bullshit existence.
He's a third party assassin.
Outsourcing (usually) the dirty work to others is not so simple a task unless one has a cunning mind like his. He makes it seem rather clean and efficient. The ends justify the means (or maybe it's the other way around?) and he's made his peace time and time again. After all, you can't nail a guy for suggesting or implying a code of action. No jury would convict. Lies trip off his tongue with ease and the fault lies with those who do the deeds. Except...
Ryan has ghosts. They linger in the shadows of his pod; lurk in the corner of his eye. Some are more present (persistent) than others. He has to steady himself against them--apparitions of Gloria's husband, a man he never knew, glaring at him from over his shoulder--and he does so without letting the mask of callous indifference slip out of place. Others are out of sight, out of mind--a much deserved barbell to the head of that dickwad rapist, Keenan, who was long overdue for a trip to Hell (and, ironically, poetically, one of the few problems Ryan "handled" himself).
Every death he's helped orchestrate slides into the vault--a notch on the belt, a line on the wall, some like a one-night stand, others like a stalker he can't shake.
He's hurt people, brought tears to the eyes of those he professed to love, and pain to the hearts of those he sets apart from the rest. Ring the bell to commemorate the dead. They've got nowhere to go. Best to forget, when possible. If not, then try to stand it.
Ryan can still taste Gloria on his lips, but receives little comfort from the memory of such upending compassion. Deep down inside he knows he doesn't deserve it, her, any solace the universe is willing to dish out.
He lives a life of no take backs. Second chances are few and far between, usually reserved for other men. Maybe they're more pure of heart or maybe they swing a deal with the devil even he's not willing to compromise.
Ryan's choices are his stigmata. The most painful one, the heaviest cross he bears (that almost cracks his back in two), carries the name O'Reily. It is a burden so great it swallows him whole. He hears the broken and scared voice calling out to him, "Ryan?" and it twists his stomach into knots and strikes a flame to his conscience.
He is--was--his brother's keeper, and a fat good job he did playing that role. He protected Cyril--after the fact. He put his brother's life first--after the fact. He loved Cyril more than himself and would sacrifice anything for him--after the fact. That was the problem. It was always too little, too late and he was always short a hand. Ryan is well aware he is the one who dealt the cards that turned Cyril into a child, permanently, a murderer for life, a Frankenstein killer who believed in rainbows and sunshine and trusted blindly into being used and abused.
Ryan should have known better, and he did, but not enough to stop. If Ryan was the brain then Cyril was the brawn that Ryan wielded expertly, recklessly. Apologies are useless now--the dead can't hear them, the living read between the lines. Gloria can't kiss the wound and make it better. Suzanne can't stroke his hair, hold him close, and tell him it's going to be okay. It's not.
He was supposed to take care of Cyril, not destroy him and use him, then set him loose upon the world beholden to no one but a calculating brother. He was supposed to learn from mistakes and make Cyril's life as painless as possible, filled with a deserving love once thought lost. But all Ryan sees is the pleading look in wide eyes. He sees that goddamn sock puppet, Jericho, usurping his role and making Cyril feel safe in a way Ryan could never sustain. And when he closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, he smells the faint, putrid scent of burning flesh.
Gazing down at Em City he catches Beecher's eye as he returns from his job with Sister Pete. Ryan recognizes the look. It's peaceful but haunted. He doesn't begin to know what Beecher has fought through internally, his loss of freedom and love (as fucked up as it was)--confused, erratic, devastating--engraved on his sleeve, burned into his skin and what's left of his soul. Still, Ryan wonders if his own eyes tell a similar tale or if they're just empty.
Beecher nods in his direction before heading into his pod. Ryan continues his watch, suddenly realizing he's been hold his breath, and slowly exhales. None of this is according to plan and being in the driver's seat as a puppet master has left him with a pockmarked record not exactly meant to be cheered or revered.
Unconsciously he begins whistling again--a nervous habit more prominent since Cyril's death--and when he finally realizes what he's doing, what song is falling from his lips, bitter to the taste, it makes him want to scream, yell, set fire to Em City and overdose on tits. He wants to tell the world to bend over or fuck his ass; he wants to shank McManus. He feels the urge welling up inside to let out a strangled cry for his brother, rush a desperate plea for Gloria, demand forgiveness from his mom. The fucking song is a prophetic curse disguised in the wrappings of a blessing. And he can't outrun it.
He grips the railing tight, white knuckling it, and fights back the shakes which are a breath away from rolling over his body and buckling his knees. Slowly he makes his way back to his pod, home to one. The whistled tune echoes against his footsteps.
The record shows I took the blows and did it my way.
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