There was a stunned silence in the room. Nobody quite knew how to react to that, though Nate did not let go of Kane's hand.
"Betrayed him?" Apollo echoed, now slowly moving closer to his girlfriend and close friend. He sat down on a chair opposite Kane. "In what way?"
Kane didn't respond directly to the question. Instead, he looked up at Mavis with weary eyes and said, "No doubt Kegan told you exactly what I did. Now allow me to explain exactly why I did it."
"I wish you would," Mavis said forcefully, though she allowed her boyfriend to pull her onto his lap.
Kane closed his eyes briefly, then looked round the room at Esther and Priya, who were still sitting in their original places, almost identical looks of worry on their faces; Maya, who was almost hiding in the shadows by the door with an unreadable expression; Joan, who had an intrigued eyebrow raised; Mavis, who still looked murderous; Apollo, who looked very concerned; and finally Nate, who was smiling reassuringly at him.
"Kegan...got involved with criminals when he was fourteen," Kane began, clearing his throat several times during his sentence. "It started with wanting some extra money to help our struggling family go on holiday, but it soon progressed to something bigger. He fell in with the wrong crowd, and that wrong crowd influenced him into stealing more and more, dodging danger, getting in trouble with the police. He was arrested twice for assault when he was fifteen, but I made sure our parents never found out about it. It'd… It would have broken their hearts."
He let out a long, tired sigh and closed his eyes. "Once, when I was thirteen, Kegan roped me into one of his schemes. One of his so-called friends challenged him to steal a certain artefact from Cliffordstown Museum, so he recruited me to help him do it. I idolised my brother, and although this sounds extremely stupid now, he told me that it was perfectly legal and I believed him. I stupidly believed him."
"You okay?" Nate asked softly, when Kane's pause grew longer.
"Yeah… I'm just… Nevermind." He breathed in deeply and continued: "So we snuck into the museum without being detected initially, but a security guard found us. Kegan attacked him and beat him almost senseless, scaring me to death. Thankfully, that was when I came to my senses. I deliberately set off an alarm."
"That was the betrayal, then, I guess?" Apollo said.
"Yeah…it was. But that wasn't all. When he realised what I'd done, he came at me with a knife. He was absolutely livid; he nearly killed me. I finally tried to fight back and ended up stabbing him in the stomach."
The reactions of the others were immediate. Most of them gasped, a couple of them had their hands over their mouths, and Esther and Maya both bit their lips.
"I almost wish he'd died," Kane muttered under his breath, so quietly that despite the silence in the room, only Nate and Mavis heard his exact words.
"Kegan said you promised you would never leave him," Mavis said, her voice noticeably softer than before. "He said you promised you would stay with him, no matter what."
"What changed, then?"
"Kegan almost killed that security guard, Mavis!" Kane responded, taking in a shaky breath as the pitch and volume of his voice rose. "He was going to make himself a murderer and me a criminal! What else was I supposed to do?!"
"You still nearly killed your brother!" Mavis maintained.
Nate immediately shot to his feet. "Didn't you hear Kane?! If he hadn't, Kegan would have killed him!"
"I heard, Nate," Mavis said calmly.
"Would you rather Kane had been stabbed instead of Kegan?" demanded Nate.
"Kane did what he could," Maya added, speaking for the first time since re-entering the room. "He was only thirteen, Mavis."
Mavis raised her hands defensively, narrowing her eyes. "I should hope you'd know me better than to want Kane to have been stabbed in his brother's place," she said coldly. "Kane is one of my best friends."
"You're not acting like it," Maya said coolly, sidling closer to Kane.
"When I want your opinion, nurse, I'll ask for it," Mavis growled at her.
"Enough fighting," Joan suddenly ordered, sliding off the table. "Has everybody reported everything they've found?"
Nobody spoke, which Joan took as a 'yes'. "Good. Then we can begin working on a plan to use our findings to locate the children and rescue them. Take a fifteen minute break and meet back here."
Kane immediately stood sharply up and left the room. Before Nate could react, Maya had shot after him. Sighing in disappointment, Nate leant back in his chair and closed his eyes. He knew now wasn't the best time to ask Kane about any crushes he had, but that was the only thing Nate really wanted to do right now. He could hardly bear sitting back and letting Maya go and comfort Kane, but he knew he had to make it fair. There WAS a chance that Kane would prefer girls, just as there WAS a chance that he would prefer boys. Until Kane told someone which one was right, Nate couldn't in good conscience prevent Maya from potentially improving her relationship with Kane, however much he wanted to.
"You okay?" came a male voice.
Nate opened his eyes and noticed Apollo standing next to his chair, a mildly concerned look on his face. Nate nodded wordlessly, rubbing his eyes tiredly.
"Do you need to talk?" Apollo asked.
Nate shook his head. "No, I'm fine. Thanks."
Apollo gave a small shrug and headed over to Mavis, who was sitting on one of the tables, her legs angrily swinging. She watched Nate slowly leave the room, followed by Esther, Priya, then Joan.
"I can't believe they thought I would rather Kane be stabbed," Mavis snarled at the ground.
"It...DID sound like you were saying that, Mavie," Apollo said reluctantly.
To his surprise and relief, Mavis sighed and said, "Yeah. I...actually didn't know that they had been in the middle of a robbery when Kane stabbed Kegan. If I'd known that, I wouldn't have said that Kegan's anger is justified. I can see why he hates Kane so much, but honestly, Kegan had it coming. He tried to make a thirteen-year-old into a criminal, and not just ANY thirteen-year-old. MY best friend. I was friends with him at the time, remember?" Mavis's eyes suddenly widened. "I wonder why he didn't tell me…"
"I bet he has a reason, Mavie," Apollo assured her. "It might have been around the time the two of us met, and remember what was happening then?"
"Monty was sick," recalled Mavis, shivering slightly at the memory of her older brother lying in that hospital bed, white as the sheets covering him. "I suppose he didn't want to add to my troubles."
"I surmise that's exactly why he didn't tell you."
Mavis sighed, closing her eyes briefly. "He's an amazing guy, Apollo. If you weren't in my life, I'd probably be dating him."
Apollo snickered. "I'm glad I came into your life, then. It's better for everyone."
"Even Kane?" Mavis asked dubiously.
"Yep. You'd have had competition for Kane's affections, Mavie."
"Really?" Mavis frowned. "From who?"
"Maya and Nate," Apollo replied, smirking. "They both have crushes on Kane."
Mavis's eyebrows rose in surprise. "Really? Have they told you that?"
"No, but it's really obvious to me. I guess I COULD be reading the signs wrong, but just like I correctly deduced that Kane had a crush on you, I'm pretty sure I've got it right this time as well. I have an eye for these kinds of things, you know."
"Uh huh." Mavis smirked back at her boyfriend. "Come on, let's go take advantage of the ten minutes we have left of our break."