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Grim Wolf
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The Very Best
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Jacob fell backwards, the hat knocked off his head. Raidon watched as it floated gently down to earth, to alight softly upon his face and obscure his features. His chest heaved for a few seconds, and then Raidon could detect no further movement.

Fast. Surprisingly fast.

You can't afford to be careless.

No. After the vengeance attempt, Raidon supposed he really couldn't.

He moved to Jacob and pulled the hat off his face before placing his gun up against his head. The shot that followed was deafening, the force of it always blinding; a thin spray of blood shot up and coated one cheek.

He didn't stop to look at the mess he'd left behind; only turned, wordless, and placed the barrel against Victoria's head.

BANG.

Cold and clean. The human body could endure a great deal of punishment before it ceased to function; he had no desire to be killed by angry victims on the verge of death.

Cold and clean thoughts did nothing to make it easier. Cold and clean thoughts did nothing to stop his trembling, stinging hand from dropping the gun it held.

Retching greeted his ringing ears, and he turned; Mizore was heaving over the bodies, her eyes wide and panicked. Without thinking he placed his hands on her shoulders; with a little hiss she twisted, trashing her way out of his grip. An icy shock of mingled guilt and shame crawled across his skin and tore at his insides.

She hates me.

She pulled back farther, her lips trembling. "You didn't need to be so scared."

Scared? I wasn't-

She took a moment to collect herself, and without thinking Raidon did the same. No need to get defensive; he had, at this moment, nothing to defend. He had killed them. He knew how Mizore felt about killing--she had never made any attempt to hide it. Now he had to deal with a simple, and very basic, reality.

Before, there argument had been theoretical. Now, it was all too real.

"Raidon," she said. "You shouldn't have done that." Incensed, Raidon opened his mouth to reply; she immediately thew a hand over it and he stiffened, tasting blood on her palm. "No, she said, softly, implacably. "You don't get to do that yet."

He couldn't stop her from speaking. No matter how hard what she said might be, she was the one saying it, and Raidon couldn't help but listen.

And listen he did. To every accusation, every harsh word she delivered. And the more she spoke, the colder he grew, until his insides ached with it. She was speaking about killing, and death; she was challenging him as an immoral hypocrite; she was accusing him of being scared.

"We're all going to die!" she screamed. "Do you want to die doing this?!"

He watched her as she scrambled on the ground, searching. She found the gun he'd dropped and pushed it towards him. "What are you waiting for!" she demanded.

He stared at her for a second. Two. Three. Waited for the punchline, the follow-up. Waited.

Nothing. Wide, furious eyes.

He picked the gun up and examined it for a moment. "Don't be an idiot," he said, and without further admonition he turned his back on her and moved to the stairs. "Back against the wall," he called over one shoulder. "And I mean it, Soryu, your leg is in no state to be supporting you. I want you sitting and leaning against something."

It was only the faint tremor at the end of his words that betrayed what he was feeling.

Ignore her. You are in the right.

As if. I've been in the wrong since I got to this damn place.


He grabbed his bag from the bedroom (right where he'd left it the first time), left his gun on the endtable, and headed back downstairs. He wasn't sure what had gone through her mind, but when he'd come back downstairs he found her leaning against a wall with her leg extended. He frowned at it; there was a considerable amount of blood and a great deal of bruising. "This will probably be useless," he muttered, mostly to himself. "I'm shit when it comes to first aid."

But then, he had plenty of first aid kits to help.

He set everything out, including a tin of those godawful crackers they'd been provided with a bottle of water near her right hand. As he started pulling bandages and other gear from his kits, he started to talk--gave voice to the thoughts as they came to him.

"Scott McGregor and Alison Walworth died because of my stupidity," Raidon said. "Because I couldn't keep my fear in check. Neither could Scott, of course..." He trailed off, closing his eyes; he'd left the hat upstairs on the bed. "Alison...Alison I killed because it was better than the alternative." To die, slowly strangled by her own body; to die at the hands of those who would follow him. The shards of her in his pants upstairs--he'd have to go retrieve those.

"Madison Stone I killed because she attacked me," he said simply. "Nearly strangled me." He drew his fingers away from her leg and frowned at the bandage. The bruises on his neck shone duly in the weak light that made its way into the room.

"You don't care about them, though," he said softly. "You care about these two. The two you saw."

He made no accusation of hypocrisy. He understood that much, at least.

"Scared?" he asked, looking up into her eyes. "Is that what you think I was? Scared?" He shook his head. "She fired without hesitation, Soryu. She saw us and shot. You could talk to her, good for you, but I could care less whether you reached a diplomatic solution, Soryu. She'd come back. She'd come after me. For the same reason Jacob died." He tightened the bandaged around her leg.

"There isn't time, Soryu," he said. "There isn't time to talk about who deserves it or why we did what we did. Victoria fired at me without hesitation; I returned the favor." He sat back up. "As for Jacob, he attacked you." He paused for a moment, uncertain--he didn't know what he could or should say, how much was allowed. "He was stronger than both of us, and he attacked you." He waved about them. "I don't have time for diplomacy, and neither do you. If I can gain an edge without killing, great, but all I have of value here is violence or the threat of violence, and I..."

No no no. He was getting distracted, unfocused; he had to say what was needed, what would convince Soryu.

"We're not all going to die," he said simply. "Someone is going to survive. Maybe more than one person. Maybe a whole fucking army of us. I don't know." He got to his feet. "Maybe you're stronger than I am, refusing to kill. I know I was weaker than you, when I was tempted to." He smiled without a trace of humor. "I'm not anymore. Tempted. But I can."

The complete lack of dispassion in him when he realized this--when he realized that he could kill, without regret--chilled the part of him that realized how inhuman it was.

"Every murderer I kill, every resource I get, every weapon I acquires gives me an edge," Raidon said. "Every enemy I eliminate leaves one fewer complication. Of course killing boosts my chance to survive; probability alone dictates that it will." His eyes bored into hers with all the will he could muster. "I'm sorry about Victoria Logan," he said. "I'm sorry we were enemies. But I won't apologize for Jacob Charles." He shrugged and glanced up the stairs. "Victoria came after me because I hurt Alice," Raidon said. "The innocent Victoria you talked to was willing to kill me in cold blood for the sake of the woman she loved."

He looked over one shoulder, to poor Victoria Logan. "I intend to live," he whispered. And then he glanced towards Jacob, only his forehead (shattered in blood, grey matter, and bone splinter) visible. "And I couldn't...couldn't stand to watch you die."
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