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Act II: A Mirror Dimly; the things you do for love are gonna come back to you one by one (content & trigger warnings, private)
Topic Started: Apr 5 2011, 05:04 PM (1,286 Views)
ifnotwinter
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half Iago, half Fu Manchu, all bastard
[ *  *  *  *  * ]
[[Ilario Fiametta III continued from Nothing To See.]]

Ilario Fiametta Junior folded his arms over his chest, looking down with lips quirked into a faint and bitter smile, as though unsure whether or not he should be happy. The clock ticked softly in the background, measuring out the seconds with gold-plated hands over a quartz and platinum face. A computer sent a faint blue glow into the air from its screen, and the red message light on a phone pulsed softly. The air was heavy, hot, the curtains drawn with only the slightest crack letting in the bright light from outside. Underfoot, the plush carpet seemed to give slightly, cushioning expensive leather shoes which oozed mud from cracks and scratches, dull under a coating of sand and dried blood.

His voice was calm, his words prepared. He was not a man to offer his opinion lightly, or enter any conversation where he might not turn out the victor. "You've been busy, Ilario. "

"I have, Father. " Ilario stood straight and tall, meeting his father's eyes. They were so familiar, the same liquid chestnut as his own, the same he saw in the mirror every day. He clasped his hands behind his back, feet spread and shoulders square, refusing to give an inch. His breathing came slow and easy, his heart a reassuring thump-thump in his chest. The familiar anxiety which had always plagued him in his father's office, in this inner sanctum of the man he sought most to please, was gone.

"You're caring well for your sisters, though you've yet to find them. " The elder Fiametta's voice was bland, simply stating facts. It rankled nonetheless. Ilario fought to keep expressions off his face, choosing instead to take a step forwards. No more weakness. No more doubt. He knew exactly where he was going and how he would get there. "You've performed admirably, my son. Yet I think - still, some weakness- "

"I don't need your approval, Father. " It gave Ilario a curling and delicious sense of satisfaction to interrupt Junior (had he ever even thought of him using that nickname?). His father's eyes widened, but before he could speak Ilario took another step forwards, past him. He sunk into the red leatherette chair behind the massive mahogany desk, steepling his fingers under his chin. The feeling was akin to something like what he'd felt watching Rhory change, a creeping heat that spread through his belly and into his groin. For the first time in his life, Ilario felt powerful. He leaned back, his ripped and filthy shirt showing bruises and scrapes on his previously unblemished skin. His pants left smudges of dirt and rot-smell on the chair. His fingers played with a silver letter opener, smearing it with blood.

The AK-47 rested next to him. It was clean. Unlike him. It shone with gun oil, a magazine loaded and the safeties off, set to full-automatic. He ran a finger over the barrel, tapped the trigger with the letter opener.

His father watched without expression. His head was slightly bowed, his hands locked in front of him. He stood in the same place Ilario always had, feet dimpling the forest-green carpet. Ilario watched him as he spoke, watched him the way a hunter watches prey, Eustace and his stag.

"I've grown up, Father. I found the real world. You always told me I'd have to prove myself and I - I have. But it's nothing like what you said. " He twirled the letter opener, picked dried matter out from under his nails with the end. "Business classes and debate team aren't going to help me here. It's not your place. You always fought with words and law and you kept your hands clean. " His voice was suddenly bitter, surprising even him.

"This isn't your world anymore, Father. It's mine. "

llario's fingers relaxed around the handle of the letter opener. The blade blossomed from Junior's chest, a gleaming steel rainbow piercing his peacock-blue tie. "This is a game. " He could feel his smile splitting his face, triumphant. "I'm the winner." He let go of the stainless steel handle and reached for the gun, settling it into his shoulder as familiar as family.

"And I don't need you. "

Abruptly, his father began to laugh. It was a glottal choking sound that coughed out of his mouth, sounded liked a plugged drain, sounded like Kevin. "You still haven't found your sisters, " he says, and it's a taunt, the tone designed to get under Ilario's skin and Ilario doesn't fucking want to admit it but it's working. "You've left loose ends. Let your cross go. "

"Shut
up, " Ilario snarled, brought the gun to bear but something was wrong, the figure in the sights wasn't his father it was himself, eyes wide eyes scared breathing quick all Armani and Dutti and expensive leather loafers, pristine, untouched and Ilario's finger hesitated mid-curl--

--and the Ilario in front of him went to his knees and whispered "Please... "--

--and Ilario's face hardened and he pulled the trigger, spraying a burst of bullets into his own head but it didn't come apart in showers of crimson ribbons, it shattered, a mirror shattering and Ilario felt the blows against his own head knocking him
forwards and sideways, off his feet. He hit the dirt with his mouth open and felt leafmulch forced between his teeth, couldn't bring himself to care as his head spun and blackness encroached on his vision for one dizzying second before retreating. He lay there for one more dazed second, only vaguely conscious of the fact that one side of his head and face felt like a truck had hit it, the pain somewhere fuzzy and far away.

Words repeated through his head, frantic. Get up get up get up get the gun get up! He scrambled in the dirt, hands and knees trying to push himself upright even as the world lurched and rocked on its axis. The AK-47 was mere feet away, must have fallen from his hands as he'd gone forwards. His pack was there too, crumpled and spilling its contents. Not important. The gun. He staggered forwards with his mouth open, blood and soil spilling from his mouth, grabbing frantically for the sleek metal almost there almost there almost--

"Don't move. "

Almost.

There was a gun barrel in his face. He could smell cordite and smoke, the heavy metal scent he knew so well. The round black eye stared him down. And on the other end of it, still blurry, voice faint through ringing ears, was a familiar face.

No.

No.

Not here.

Not this way.

Not by her.


marc st. yves


light it up or burn it down we'll all die in fire


lydia hausen


if you don't look down you don't have to fall

sebastian conway


everything will be okay in the end


(so you've got to keep in mind, when you try to change the world for the better not everybody's gonna be on your side)
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nope
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throw that pussy like i'm famous
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((Rhory Anne Broderick continued from and you may say to yourself, "My God, what have I done?". Co-written by faceinabook))

His breathing sounded ragged in his ears, short and choppy. It pulled painfully at his lungs and he bit his lip hard, concentrating on the small spike of pain in an effort to slow down his frantic inhales. Couldn't panic now. Couldn't hyperventilate. In. Out. In/out in a steady rhythm, nice and slow, deep enough to bring in all the oxygen he could ever want. Calm.

He was calm.

His vision had cleared. He saw Rhory in front of him, her hands white-knuckled and still spattered with blood on the grip of the gun she was pointing at his face. It was blocky and matte black and he knew exactly what that barrel would do when her fingers finally tightened on the trigger, knew how it would look as his head or his chest blew apart into so much meat and offal. He couldn't let that happen. His eyes flicked to the AK-47 sitting tantalizingly out of his reach -- but even as they did, he knew it was the wrong move. Rhory had seen him.

Without taking the gun off him, she moved quickly, kicking at the black stock with one battered shoe. Ilario could do nothing but watch helplessly as it spun out of his reach, sliding across the torn-up ground and coming to rest against a largish rock some twenty feet away. Hopeless. It might as well be twenty miles for all the good it would do him, and he didn't have any other weapons. Even if he were to try and catch her off guard, tackle her down...but no. It was a stupid idea. Real heroes don't sacrifice themselves, he reminded himself. They stay alive and continue to do their good work.

And it was his own fucking fault she'd got him, too. He'd been so tired that he hadn't bothered checking if he were alone before sinking down for a rest. His own fault. And this was his punishment. Being held by her. He hopedprayed he hadn't done badly enough to warrant being killed by her -- but he didn't think so. This would be a punishment and a test both, to see if he would be able to finish the job he had started by the creek.

He settled back against his hands, watching her with heavy-lidded eyes. No harm in looking like he still couldn't quite focus. That was part of the villain's mark, he knew. Going after those weaker than themselves.

He was jerked out of his thoughts by her voice. It was sharp, biting, lashing across him like a whip.

“Was it at least quick?”

He cocked his head, ignoring the brief flash of pain from what he knew was going to be a truly spectacular bruise spilling across his left cheek and pooling in his eye socket. The question wasn’t at all what he’d been expecting. Settling himself a little more comfortably onto the ground, he fixed her with his best imperial Fiametta expression.

“What are you talking about?” Under the words, nothing but layered boredom, like he couldn’t even care. And deep, deep under, his muscles tense with anticipation and his mind sorting desperately through his surroundings for a weapon, a distraction, anything that might allow him to get the upper hand and finally send that arrow through his stag’s heart.

“Jackson, you piece of shit.” The words snapped out of her, her eyes flashing anger, her whole body swaying forwards for just a moment like a snake trying to strike. And just as soon the moment was gone, her movement stilling back into the coiled but controlled tension of earlier. Not soon enough. Ilario’s heartbeat jumped, hammering in his ears until he couldn’t be sure if it was the sight of Rhory turning so quickly into the monster he knew she was or the sound of Jackson’s name. “Was it quick?”

He opened his mouth to answer and found that he couldn’t. The words snagged in his throat, turned to ash on his tongue. Jackson’s face hovered in his mind’s eye with one eye destroyed and leaking viscous liquid and blood down his cheek like macabre tears. His lips were twisted in a slightly puzzled expression as though he wasn’t quite sure what had happened. It had been quick. It had been so quick, a split second that a thousand sorries were never going to be able to take back. Jackson, who had been a hero in his own right. Jackson who shouldn’t have died and who did die and who set Ilario on his path and did that mean it was right that his life ended slumped on the ground while Ilario’s got up and took the the gun and continued walking his long road? It had to, Ilario could almost see it, could understand it as a tangible thing -- Jackson gave his life so that I could be a hero -- but the words would not emerge.

Instead his gaze dropped, suddenly unable to look her in the eye. He looked at her hand for long moments, the dirty and torn strips of gauze coming away from the wound and tugged lightly by the breeze, imagining those fingers touching Jackson. He remembered what he had seen, so long ago. At school. When there had been school, and not the island.

When the words did come, they tasted like cinnamon and cloves on his lips and they stuttered in a way that he hated, voice trembling with something he couldn’t name and couldn’t fight, his own body betraying him.

“Jackson was a mistake.” He didn’t look at her. He catalogued the gun, searching for differences and similarities to his own, telling himself he was looking for a weakness but knowing in a deep and sick place that he just couldn’t bring himself to look her in the eyes. “It was. An accident, I’m sorry--” and he was startled to find that he was, he actually was.

“I never meant for it to happen. Not like.” Hesitating, how much to tell her? If she had deluded herself into thinking her road was the same as his then she might kill him if she learned everything else he’d done .But she’d heard the announcements. She would know already. “He wasn’t like the others. He didn’t deserve it.”

“Shut up.” Almost before he had finished Rhory was cutting through his words as though she hadn’t even heard what he’d been saying. A slow burn of anger curled upwards through Ilario’s stomach, and he raised his eyes once more to her face as she continued to speak. “I don’t fucking care. I asked if it was quick.” The briefest of pauses and her expression changed, a split-second moment of something painful, desperate, unreflected in her voice. “Did it hurt?”

Ilario stared blankly. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. None of this was making any sense, throwing him off balance even more than the original clash of gun and face. Did she really care? Was this some way to manipulate him, to try and gain his trust or appear more human? Not that it mattered. He couldn’t let it matter. She was still prey. He would still get out of this and then, then he would have his shot and this time he would take it and the twisting feelings which still knotted his stomach would finally go away. His heartbeat steadied, breathing slowing. He met her eyes, repressing the instinct to shudder. He couldn’t imagine using -- abusing -- Jackson’s memory like that, feeling so little for the dead boy that she would use him to try and get to Ilario. It sickened him. No. He wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of a real answer, wouldn’t disrespect Jackson by buying into her lies and machinations.

“Yes.” He held her gaze, face twisted, not bothering to hide the revulsion he felt. “It was long, and slow, and painful, and when he was finally dead I cooked and ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice fucking Chianti.” He bared his teeth. “Happy?”

The fact that he was already flinching sideways as the gun slammed into the side of his face was likely the only thing that kept him conscious and allowed his cheekbone to remain in one piece. As it was, the world abruptly dissolved into a shower of multicoloured sparkles, the sickening crack of metal on bone and flesh still echoing in his mind as he sagged sideways and forwards. His hands slammed down fast enough to save himself from the indignity of falling flat on his face and he swayed like that, on palms and knees, for long moments while the world spun and shattered around him. Blood dripped steadily from his mouth where his cheek had been pressed into his teeth, teeth which felt suspiciously loose in places. His eye didn’t seem to want to open, pouring involuntary tears down his face instead. He heard her response only dimly, a vindictive “Yes.” and spat a mouthful of blood and tears and what he thought might be a molar in her direction.

When he trusted himself to face her again, he curled back onto his haunches, good eye finding hers and glaring. The anger wasn’t just muted inside of him now, it was roaring and desperate for outlets. How dare she? Had he trusted his legs to hold him, he thought he might have launched himself at her throat -- but his world wasn’t stable enough, and besides, there was that gun. He contented himself with a crimson smile, soaring on the angry swell that lent him confidence the likes of which he’d never felt before. The chains of anxiety had broken and now he rode the fury.

“We were together for a day, you know?” He cocked his head, ignoring the sickening lurch of his stomach, eyes glittering like a magpie as he hungrily searched for the horror and anger that he knew would be in her face, leaking through the cracks in her mask. “We talked. He told me about his friends, about you, about--” struggling for a name, trying to remember from school, giving up, “things he’d done. He gave me a cigarette. He - he saved my life, when we met, I think, and.” The smile widened. Something dripped from his lower lip. “And I killed him and I got a gun, did you know? I won it. It was a fucking gift, you have no idea, you don’t -- have you even listened? So many people killing and I can stop it. Kris, I almost - she moved, but I got Etain and he helped, I know he did and I saved Timothy and Kevin because they -- they would have, and they didn’t and it was quick, and I did it because of him.”

He wasn’t even really talking to Rhory, not anymore. His head spun and it hurt, seemed like everything hurt, the world somehow too sharp and too soft at the same time. His voice dropped, smile fading as he swayed and braced himself with a palm in the dry bracken.

“I did it for him.” Jackson’s face and his father’s, overlaid like sketches on tracing paper. “Because of him, I could. The gun was because of him. He showed me the way.” Ilario turned his head, spitting copper and salt onto the ground. “He--”

The crackle of static cut him off as an overhead loudspeaker burst into full volume. Ilario cringed, the hand not propping him up going instantly to his ear in a vain attempt to block the sudden intrusion with no success. Danya’s voice blared overhead, as cocky and sure as ever as he began the list of the dead. Ilario was already beginning to tune him out when a familiar name froze his heart.

...and Francesca Fiametta both managed to get themselves caught in the tunnels, and exploded...







No.

It wasn’t true.

It wasn’t.

Frankie all unwashed chestnut hair and fine features and bittersweet smell of weed and big dark Fiametta eyes and that special tone she got in her voice when she wanted something and the way she used to beat the shit out of him when they were younger and the times he caught her going through his pills with a look like panic or anger or maybe both twisting desperate lines into her face and the sound of her screaming as JJ Sturn sunk hit after hit into his stomach as for once she protected him and she wasn’t dead because she couldn’t be because he still had to protect her.

There were tears, he realized numbly. He wasn’t crying but there were tears coming anyway and they mingled with blood and snot into a disgusting mess on his face, dripping to the ground underneath him. His ears were filled with the sound of his heartbeat and if Rhory was saying anything he couldn’t hear it, if Danya was saying anything he couldn’t hear it, could only hear his life pumping strong where Frankie’s wasn’t anymore. She was somewhere in the tunnels, a crumpled mess, a body the way Kevin and Timothy and Etain and Jackson were bodies except this one was different because this, this was his sister and she was dead and how could she be dead?

The hard barrel of the shotgun forced itself under his chin, lifting his face until his blurry eyes met Rhory’s once more. His breath came in damp and heaving bursts of oxygen as he struggled to focus, unable to make sense of this suddenly shifting world. The armor of his anger had retreated and left him naked, huddled and hopeless in the dirt at the feet of this killer and he could not bring himself to do anything but stare at her, heavy-lidded, one eye swelling shut, unable to conjure up an emotion onto the blank slate of shock and the quiet denial of no which repeated itself in each swell of his pulse.

Rhory’s lips moved. Her voice was too clear, somehow cutting through the morass of confusion comprising his mind. It cut deep, tearing holes in the blanket of numbness he’d wrapped himself in. "What about her, Fiametta? What'd you do for her?"

The words sprang unbidden to his mouth, thick and falling from a tongue which didn’t seem to remember how to work properly. “Don’t you -- don’t you say, don’t you dare fucking talk about her.”

"Do you think it was quick? I bet it hurt. I bet it was reeeeal fuckin' slow.” Her face twisted, teeth bared in what could not be called a smile. “Bet she thought about you the whole time, too. Even called your name." Her voice became a high and nasal whine. “Ohhhh, Ilyyyyyyyy--”

“Shut up!” The words exploded out of him, raw and bloody, tearing at his throat. He surged upwards, made it to his knees before the shotgun and his own dizzy mind stopped him. Balancing precariously on his heels, he stared upwards at Rhory, white-hot rage blotting out the pain, the grief, the confusion. She was worse than he’d ever thought. More of a monster than he’d ever imagined. His hands shook with the image of wrapping them around her throat and squeezing tight. “Don’t you fucking dare. She was my sister. I did this for her. I was protecting her. If you hadn’t -- I could have been with her!” He spat the words like bullets. “I could have protected her if I hadn’t -- if I hadn’t followed you -- if I’d taken the shot, fuck, you were right there, I could have just--” Ilario’s fingers twitched, mimed a trigger pull. The words tripped and stumbled from his mouth, as lost as his mind. “You didn’t even see, didn’t even know, and the sign was right there -- should’ve -- she’d still have been alive -- and what? This instead?” His good eye blazed hatred, glowing above the disgusting wreck of his face. “Whatever the fuck this is! Revenge? You think I -- for Jackson? That’s what this is? You’d say -- about my sister -- because of Jackson?” He spat again, aiming for the face this time. Didn’t care if he missed or not. “I should have pulled the fucking trigger!”

For the third time in so many hours the gun slammed into the side of his face. It was softer this time, but hard enough for his world to explode into a starburst of pain. This time when he slumped heavily to the ground, he didn’t catch himself. Rhory’s voice cracked out like a whip. “You narcissistic little shit.”

Her feet stirred the dead leaves and mulch in front of his unfocused gaze. She squatted in front of him, bringing herself into his line of vision. “Don’t fucking flatter yourself. This isn't about revenge. I don't give enough of a shit about you for that.” An expression flitted across her face too fast for him to catch before her face resettled itself. “To be perfectly honest, Fiametta, I just needed something to break.” Reversing the gun in her hands, Rhory raised the stock above Ilario’s head. “And you were here.”

Ilario was still staring at her when the cold metal slammed into his skull. A wave of blackness shot with crimson threads washed over him, and he drowned under it.





A slow cord of drool slid off the angle of his slack jaw and onto his shoulder. A moan poured out at its source. It was the third she’d counted. The moans were good, she supposed. They meant she hadn’t killed him.

Rhory could feel the dull mist of panic that the boy writhed through in her arms. The cracked brown ghosts of loafers tailed his trunk over the soil. He was fucking heavy. She grunted and lurched them forward another few steps. His muscle jerked uselessly as hers strained. It was uncomfortably familiar. Her shoulder wiped a bit of blood-tinged saliva that had flecked on her cheek and she thought of the dead cheerleader. The name escaped her now. Not just the name, but the detail; the life. She couldn’t remember the way her lips moved or how the skin bunched at her forehead or the angled sway of her hips. She was an object. Even in memory, she was meat. Rhory’s mind was nothing but a swelling pile of the stuff. Nine days of collected meat. Not just the cheerleader, but every shit-and-blood stewing pile of the stuff she’d come across. All overwritten by their inanimation. Inhuman. Unimportant. Props.

But the thing that moaned again in her arms was all too animate and all too human. Not the meat but the butcher. After nine days of learning to deal with the inhuman, she was at a loss. Even with whatever brief moments on the surface Jennifer Perez and Kimberly-Not-Kimmy Nguyen had given her, she was unprepared. She wanted to hate him. She wanted to want revenge. She wanted to want him dead. She wished she’d spared him any thought as The Killer, any sliver or beat of hate in the days after losing Jackson. She hadn’t. Ilario Fiametta the Third had been nothing but a few dead syllables to her. The hollow pain had never had a root or a cause. She’d grieved Ethan away, along with so many others. She’d shed and flaked them off. Jackson was different. He stuck. Not like a ghost or a memory but a living, parasitic thing. Jackson had never died. Jackson had just been gone. Not meat (he would never do her that mercy); gone.

And here, here was his killer. Human, living, limp in her arms. She should have wanted to kill him. If she’d known how to use the gun, she may have even gone through the motions. Instead, he was here, moaning for the seventh time in four minutes in front of the first bunkhouse. He hadn’t been important enough to want to kill. He hadn’t been important enough to hate.

No, this wasn’t meat in her arms. Those ten dead sounds she’d heard over and over in the days since hearing Coffee Boy was gone had reversed everything she’d learned. They’d burst from something inanimate. They’d resurrected. Suddenly, they were important.

Suddenly, she was quickly realizing, they had a use.

She let the butcher’s back smack against the earth with a ninth moan and shouldered open the frail wooden door. The wave of hot air and age that galed out of the brown nearly knocked her down with him. She bent and looped her forearms back under his underarms, dragging him along the rotting floor with the same calculated sense of gracelessness. It had been six minutes now. The first of them had been used quickly and wisely. She already had her tools.


Her left palm twisted back against his thin shoulder. What was left of her right crumpled against the other. The momentum was, for several seconds, slow and gentle. For another second, it halted. The boy hung drowsily in the air for the moment, looking as if he would take the first step of a sleeping walk.

Then, in a billow of dust against the old mattress and a worrying snap-and-creak of more rotted wood, he fell. It had been eight minutes.

Rhory let her gun clatter from her shoulder to the floor and drew the black scraps from her waist. She began to tie what was left of William Davis first around his ankles. His barely-conscious wrists struggled meekly against her second assault. He moaned as the last loop closed around the left bedpost, leaving his hands unelegantly writhing several inches above his bloodied head. She tugged at its sides. His fingers clenched at her, suddenly stronger but still clumsy and leadlike. The next moan was, as far as she could tell, an attempt at words.

“D-doing... to me?!” The moan-words were muffled against what may have once been bedsheets. She brought herself more heavily upon him, bracing her knees against the edges of the bunk and viced his lower back between her thighs.

“Well, first, I’m tying you up.” She tugged at the sides of her handiwork. It responded tautly. It was the knot of someone who knew what she was doing. The corner of her mouth lifted bitterly for a moment as she remembered Kurt. “Then, I’m thinking I’m gonna fuck you in the ass.” His struggling became more spirited and his moans traded words for a more desperate tone. She forced out a laugh and brought her hands against the bed on either side of his straining neck. She brought her head in close. A wing of her hair brushed roughly against his cheek. “Am I coming on too strong?.”

She tensed her thighs against his back and craned her own upwards, then back, awkwardly feeling around on the floor as she braced herself against the boy’s frenzied tremors. Her rag-bandaged hand found the dark familiar shape within seconds. There was a dull, worrying sting in what was at one time her palm as she lifted it. She lifted her left hand to support the rest of its weight and, in a single, vulturous motion, pushed her knees off from the bunkside and the barrel into his back.

His muscles snapped still.
For several seconds, the air did as well.

She waited. She wasn’t sure why she waited. The frost in the air was contagious. She stood there, gun light in her arms and heavy on his back, for several statuesque moments. Her thoughts buzzed angrily in their stone prison but her body would not react. She dug helplessly in her throat for the words. She looked for her line. Nothing came out. She simply stood frozen and strangely cold against her Gorgon captive.

A soft, low sound drifted up from the ground. She realized he was crying.

Rhory’s fingers melted suddenly back to flesh. She barely managed to keep the gun from slipping through them. She hadn’t expected crying. She’d assumed him too far a killer, too thoroughly changed. You can’t be a murderer and cry. It made no sense. He wasn’t supposed to be this human. She wasn’t supposed to care this much.

Then, another sound came. This one all too familiar.

“Do it.”

Something howled in her chest.

“Just shoot me if you’re gonna do it.”

It howled louder. It extended its claws and tore at her lungs. It shredded a path up through her throat and across her tongue and finally through her lips.

“I’m not gonna shoot you, Fiametta.” She dug the barrel in hard for a moment before pulling it slightly away. “You don’t get to get off that easy.”

The silence this time was different. Charged instead of cold. She wasn’t going to let it in again.

“I need something from you.” She paused, expecting him to interrupt. She wished he would. Instead, more prickling silence. She continued. “Jack did something for you. I want you to pay it back.”

Something halfway between a laugh and a cough choked its way out of his lungs, bubbling into the ancient mattress, bitter and angry. She set the gun down gently. She wrapped herself around her again, pressing her lips to his ear.

“I’m gonna let you in on a little secret, Fiametta.” She could feel his cheek twitch against her breath. “There wasn’t a damn thing you could do for your sister. She was never gonna get off this hellhole.” She felt his face tense. She wondered if he would bite at her. Instead, he kept staring down at the rotting sheets. “That doesn’t have to be you.”

“Fuck you.” His lips curled tiredly around the words. The shape was awkward, as if it was a word he wasn’t used to saying. She imagined it would be seeing more use in the future.

“Let me make myself very clear.” She spoke with her teeth now, spewing hot air into his ear. “You are going to make up for what you did. You are going to look his parents and his brother in the eyes. You are going to give them that little fucking bit of closure even if it’s the last thing they let you do. After that, you can rot for all I care, but you are going to get off this goddamn island and you are going to make up for all the damage you've done.”

Her voice lost its hiss suddenly. It made the words no less venomous,

“And you have a lot to make up for, Fiametta. You're not getting off the hook for that.” He couldn’t see her hollow smile, but she was sure he felt it. “I'm going to be there the whole fucking time to make sure you don't.”

She felt the muscles of his back coiled under her. He spat each word out into the sheets savagely. His lips and teeth shredded the ruins of the sheets as they moved.

“Jackson. Was. A. Mistake.” The bed shook with each quiet bellow. “You have no idea what the hell happened. You have no goddamn clue what I went through.”

“You’re right. You're so right. I have no idea what that must have been like.” The rest was somewhere between a laugh and a whisper. “I’m not a murderer.”

He writhed under her like a mechanical bull. Her knees hand the bones in his wrists rattled against the screaming wood of the frame. “You’re the murderer. You’re the monster. Not me. I haven’t done anything wrong!

A scathing bark burned in her throat. She held it. Her left hand floated up to the top of the left post and trailed softly down to his bound hands. “Oh, we’re both monsters, Fiametta.” She caressed his twitching, clawing fingers and over the knot. Her own fingers stopped at the start of his forearm. “But I’m the monster with the guns.” She pushed her nails into his skin. “And if you’re not going to keep yourself useful, then I’d rather have you out of my way.”

The silence threatened again. She was sure to slaughter it quickly this time.

“So, do we have a deal?”

A pause. Then, slowly, vulgarly, the word rolled off his tongue like a curse.

“Yes.”

Several more seconds, and a strip of black cloth fell crumpled on the mattress.

((Ilario Fiametta III & Rhory Anne Broderick continued in The Ground Won't Break To Save Your Fall))
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