A/N: Hello, all! Long time, no see, huh?

It really has been forever since I've posted a Lab Rats one-shot. And I'm pretty sure I've been promising this one-shot to you for literally years. Three years, in fact, after checking when I posted Bruises. This was the story Bruises began as, a harsher, more melancholy take on their childhood. It's not part of the same story as Bruises, to be clear, it's just a variation on the same theme. This one is sadder.

I'm going into Camp NaNoWriMo in July, and focusing on original fiction, and then it's back to school for me pretty quick after that, so this will probably be an isolated event. I'll try to reply to your reviews, though. :)

Episode: None, but early, maybe even pre-show. It's right on the line, there.

Rating: T, for angst. Again, tis a sad one.

Warnings: Angsty angst

Inspiration: I've always gotten the feeling that all of them are really insecure one way or another. For once, I'm focusing more on Adam's insecurity than Chase's.

Be the reason someone smiles today! :D And please do let me know what you thought of it, if you get a moment. I'm excited to hear your impressions. :)

It wasn't always this way.

When they had been children, Adam was secure in his place as older brother. Not that he could have told you that, really, but if you had asked, "Who are you, and what do you do?" The answer would have been a grin, and, "I'm Adee, an' I help Bee and Chasey."

But back then, they had needed him, especially Chase, to reassure them, check their capsules for monsters, and squeeze in close to when the house made strange noises at night. Adam had his place, knew his job, and thrived in both.

He wasn't sure when exactly things started to change, but slowly, surely, they had.

As they had grown, things shifted. Chase outgrew his fear, if not his sensitivity, and suddenly, Adam wasn't the one he came babbing to about his latest discovery, because Adam didn't understand what he was talking about anymore. Chase attached himself to Mr. Davenport, instead, and even though Adam didn't really understand why, it hurt not to be Chase's model anymore, not to be the one who held the highest yes or no in his world.

It was good, too, in some ways, because Adam could see how much Chase was thriving, and Chase still went to him or Bree when his mind worked too quickly, and he was overwhelmed, or when Mr. Davenport had upset him somehow. Adam and Bree found themselves entertaining one another more, as Chase spent more time away from them, and while it wasn't perfect, it was good.

But change. Always change.

Adam lost Bree next, lost her to worlds in screens where she learned what a normal girl was, and how she wasn't one, and everything she should change to become one. They were lies, of course, stupid little lies, but they had no way of knowing that then, and Davenport barely noticed that Bree was floundering. She was left torn between two worlds, and Adam couldn't help her. He didn't understand why she would want to be anything but her, because he thought his little sister was awesome just the way she was. He could only hold her while she cried about not being able to go to school, or meet boys, or have any friends her own age.

"I'm only a little older," he would protest. "And Chase isn't that much younger. We're your age. We're friends."

And sometimes she would smile, and sniff, and agree, and ask what he wanted to play next. Sometimes she would sob, and shake her head.

"We're family," she would say. "We have to love each other. Friends you get to choose."

Adam didn't understand why you couldn't choose family to be friends with, but he never asked. Deep down, he was afraid to know what she might say.

Training made things worse, in a way, even though it pulled Chase back to his side (where he belonged, some little voice insisted) and Bree out of her fake, normal worlds, because it made things abundantly clear how much things had changed. Chase was the leader, the planner, naturally talented and precise. Bree's superspeed had a plethora of uses, getting them in and out of impossible situations impossibly quickly. And Adam... Adam was distractible, always latching on to the wrong detail or association. All he had was his strength. It was useful, sure, but he knew what it meant. Slow, stupid, and strong. That made him the grunt. Chase was the leader, Bree was the lieutenant, and he was the grunt.

It soured everything, once he realized what everything really meant. He was the oldest, supposed to take care of his little brother and sister, protect them. But who had the shield? Chase did. Who could get them out of any bad situation instantly? Bree could. Adam could take a hit, sure, and would, gladly, but if he wasn't fast enough to take it before it got the others, what good was that?

What else did big brothers do? They taught their siblings, helped them learn from their own mistakes. Bree wouldn't learn from him, aching for a different reality then the one they lived in, the one Adam was happy in. Chase was beyond anything Adam could teach him, Adam fully understood that (and was proud of it, if he was honest.) If anything, Adam should be learning from him.

Eventually, Adam got it. He was obsolete.

It was a big word, a beautiful word, if you separated it from its meaning. Ob-so-lete. Round lips in, round them out, snap them in and sideways for the sharp 't' at the end. A tasty word. He still remembered hearing Mr. Davenport say it once, and asking Chase what it meant.

"Oh, um, obsolete." Chase had blinked at him from over the project he was tinkering with, mind only half on Adam's question. "Something that's obsolete isn't, uh, it isn't needed anymore. Usually because they're found something newer or more efficient that can do the same thing better."

Adam thought about that. "So, it's like being replaced?"

"Yeah, they go together. Obsolete things get replaced."

"Huh, cool. Thanks, Chasey."

And Chase had shot him one of those lightning smiles that meant that he saw you, and was glad you were there, but his mind was already moving at a million miles a second and he would be gone in an instant. And he was, pulled back into metal and glass in a heartbeat, leaving Adam still mouthing the big, sad, beautiful word.

It made perfect sense, if you thought about it. Adam was the oldest model, the first experiment. Corrections had been made in the others, things tweaked, added and removed. And Chase was far from perfect, but just looking at his abilities, it was clear that the troubleshooting had paid off. He didn't need Adam to teach him, or mentor him, or protect him, not more than any of them would keep each other safe in deadly peril. Chase could always look after himself. He knew it, and Adam knew it, too.

Most people never understood that Adam was loud because he was scared. If he was loud, and ridiculous, and larger than life, then they couldn't forget him. Maybe he could distract them from realizing that they didn't really need him, stop them from noticing that he was obsolete. And if nothing else, if nothing, nothing else, if they got rid of him, at least they would never be able to forget him.

It wasn't entirely that, of course. He had a naturally odd and tangential sense of humor, and creativity. He just... exaggerated it, leaned in even past the point where it was fun, sometimes, because it made them see him.

He pushed his strength for the same reason. Sure, it was nothing special, but it was something, and it could still be useful sometimes, even if it was slow and clunky. That was why bionic brother toss came to be, along with all the other super-strength hijinks. It was just another way of saying I'm still here, that he was strong enough to take care of them when the speed and the smarts weren't enough.

It wasn't always this way, but this is the way it is now.

Adam's fear sparks on Chase's fragile arrogance, and Bree's saccorin dreams of normality, and they argue, mock, bite. Chase wants to be like Mr. Davenport, Bree wants to be any of a dozen different girls on Disney, and Adam just wants everything to stop. To go back. For them to be children again.

And not even saving lives is quite enough to reconcile him completely to losing the one he wants for them.