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Everybody Loses; V4 Endgame
Topic Started: Nov 5 2011, 02:26 AM (10,292 Views)
ifnotwinter
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half Iago, half Fu Manchu, all bastard
[ *  *  *  *  * ]
((Ilario Fiametta III continued from Some Kind Of Righteous))

Pressed to the wall of a building overlooking the town center, Ilario breathed soft and deep. The AK-47 nestled in his arms like a baby, spattered in blood and dirt and still shining dully under all of it. He had counted bullets over and over, each time he'd pulled the trigger standing out in his mind and outlined in red. Some moments were blurrier than others, but every count returned to him the same knowledge: he had enough. He'd been careful. All the action movies which sprayed bullets like rain were right enough, but he'd had to conserve. Practicality had won out.

He inhaled gunsmoke and the sick-sweet odor that had begun to permeate everything on the island, exhaled his resolve and peace. He had taken his pills for the last time and bathed as well as he could in the infirmary, swiping a cloth over the worst of the dirt and blood that stained his skin. His throat burned dully and the other wounds, bullet grazes and cuts and bruises still hurt -- but that was far away, somewhere he didn't have to worry. He'd left his pack a few feet away. He could come back to it when all this was over; for now a weapon was all he could afford to carry.

He inhaled, exhaled. The remaining students would be here, he knew. Or dead with collars detonated but he somehow doubted that. If they'd been smart enough and cold enough to make it this far, they would be here for the end. Three were women, he remembered the names like they were written in letters of fire. Ericka Bradley, who'd killed without a thought, who'd walked her path here over the bodies of her classmates. Reiko Ishida who had done the same, who had survived this far on the blood of all who had stood in her way. And Kimberly Nguyen, Kimberly who was -- a puzzle. Kimberly was the only one who made his stomach twist uncertainly because she had only taken down two, and one had been Kris but one had been Aislyn who hadn't killed anyone. But he would consider her later. There was no one left to save, after all. She would have to be guilty.

And Ivan Kuznetsov. He'd killed too. He'd been with a girl, Ilario thought, protecting her, but she was dead now. He had failed, and perhaps he had not done all that could have been done. Irregardless he had killed, and he would have to die.

They would all have to die, now. That was the only way. It was a sad thing, he thought, a thing he would regret, but it was the way of the world. He was the only one left who had been faithful and tried so hard to save people. He was the only one who deserved to live, who still had a soul and a heart enough to have life returned to him. He was sorry for it. He was sorry for all of it, for all of them. But there would be only one.

He pressed himself back into the shadows, and breathed. There would be time. He would wait and see who acted first. The world was clear and open to him for what felt like the first time, free of the blur and vertigo which had so plagued him. There was a clear path. All he had to was wait until the time came. And when it did come...

His fingers squeezed the machine gun lovingly. When the time came, he would shoot. And he would win.

After all, Ilario Fiametta III was the only hero now.


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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ifnotwinter
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half Iago, half Fu Manchu, all bastard
[ *  *  *  *  * ]
Ilario remained steady where he was. There were four others after all, and he thought they would be more impatient. They would charge into the fray with weapons raised and they would take care of themselves, he decided, they would not need the help of his bullets. Perhaps eventually, but he didn't want to waste any of the precious ammunition, not when they would likely be willing to rip each other to shreds without his assistance.

He settled himself a little closer to the shadow. If they came for him he felt sure that he could have the AK up and firing before they had a chance to do anything. Better to remain unnoticed for now -- they knew he was there, of course, they could count and they knew his name, his face -- but perhaps in the heat of battle that would be forgotten. He would not get so lucky, of course. But it was nice to consider.

He had a good view of the center. They would come, he knew. Like lambs to the slaughter, they would come.


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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ifnotwinter
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half Iago, half Fu Manchu, all bastard
[ *  *  *  *  * ]
And hadn't he said? Hadn't he said, though, hadn't he known that they would start the slaughter themselves? Ilario permitted himself a brief glow of pride before burying it somewhere far away; pride goeth before a fall and he couldn't fall. Not now. There was just a little longer to wait and he would still have to act, he knew but for now the murderers were destroying each other in front of him.

Ericka lay on the ground like a rag doll or a puppet, strings cut. Dead? Ilario couldn't be sure but he couldn't think she would be anything else, not after the quick snap of bullets. A familiar sound now. Funny how he'd ever found it too loud and too much. It was almost friendly. He swept the area quickly with narrowed eyes, found no one, advanced. He was six feet out from the body when his vision fuzzed and when he blinked hard he saw Rosa still in the tight shirt and miniskirt she'd worn out clubbing and hadn't quite taken off before she'd passed out face-down on the bed. Rolling her over, tugging off her heels and sliding her earrings out while she breathed gin and vodka at him, laughed, didn't laugh, rolling her over to tug off pretty flats and unclasp her necklace breathing rum and wine coolers, awake, not awake, a dozen times overlaid and everywhere the softness of her skin and his father's words ringing in his ears blood spattered on the ground around the body. Ericka's body. Ericka lying there, dead or...not dead, he didn't know, but his heart was beating a quickstep inside of his body and he changed direction to lope slowly after Reiko.

His pulse calmed. His fingers touched the gun. Reassured themselves of its weight. Ericka was...inconsequential, now. Reiko was not. She had killed in front of him, cold-blooded and evil. She would be the one he would follow. The others could wait; he still had work to do and he could not, would not fall yet.

His lips twitched in what could have been a smile. The parallels didn't escape him. Ericka, Reiko, Kimberly. Rosa, Frankie, Rhory. Three girls he had failed to protect. Three girls he would bring down in order to be forgiven. And then Ivan. Ivan who would die for Ilario's sins, who would bring him forward into the light and absolution.

One down.

His fingers touched the gun.

Three to go.


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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ifnotwinter
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half Iago, half Fu Manchu, all bastard
[ *  *  *  *  * ]
As Reiko left the body, Ilario fell into step behind her without giving the crumpled shape a second glance. She didn’t appear to be going anywhere special. Away from Ivan and Kimberly being the main priority at the moment. A whistle behind them was Kimberly, Ilario thought, but he could deal with Kimberly later. She still made his stomach twist uncomfortably with her two kills, kills which she was technically guilty for but one had been Kris and he didn’t think he could fault her for that. So she would wait. Perhaps Ivan would kill her or perhaps they would both kill each other, and then he wouldn’t have to ever think on it. Until then, he had other things to consider.

Reiko, who’d killed in front of him. Reiko who had never been the strange shade of grey Kimberly occupied but was now a higher priority then ever, Reiko who had her back to him and maybe didn’t hear his footsteps or maybe didn’t care. Either way, he counted it as a blessing. Or a miracle. Another confirmation that his path was the righteous one. He dropped back a pace or two as she turned, apparently heading for a small alleyway between two houses. It was funny, how the gun which had seemed so light in his hands when he’d first begun to put it to use was now so heavy. He would have thought it to be the other way around, as bullets were used and his body adjusted to the constant weight of it. But perhaps he was just tired. There would be time to rest later, and his mind was still sharp.

Up ahead, Reiko paused. Her back was still to him and he could see a splash of what could have been mud and could have been dried blood up high on her shoulder. No cross of light between spread antlers for this one (and see how well that had turned out...) but Ilario knew a sign when he saw it, or at least an opportunity. He spared a momentary hopeprayer that his body would obey him in these final times and in one smooth motion, dropped to his knee, flicked off the safety, and fired twice.
Edited by ifnotwinter, Dec 31 2011, 03:01 PM.


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)
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
ifnotwinter
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half Iago, half Fu Manchu, all bastard
[ *  *  *  *  * ]
The gun kicked in Ilario’s hands, the smell of cordite filled the air, and Reiko fell. A series of events so quick and so simple that in Ilario’s head they unspooled almost like a children’s book, a series of statements and easy pictures. The recoil of the gun landing on old bruises. A sharp smell that went perfectly with the sound of the shots. A girl in front of him in a crumpled heap on the ground, so small and so fragile she looked almost like a doll. He knew he’d hit her at least once and thought both bullets might have found their targets. There was certainly blood that he could see.

It was strange. He could feel the place inside of him where remorse should have lived, nestled close to guilt and anxiety, but they seemed to be missing. Or closed off, at least, locked away somewhere he couldn’t quite reach them. Instead he was calm. It was...good, he thought. Surprisingly good. It allowed him to do his job after all. And there was no pleasure in it. There had never been pleasure in it, that would be wrong, but there was...satisfaction, maybe. A job well done. A good deed.

And then Reiko jerked, and screamed, and the scream went on all hoarse and bubbling and catching in great huge coughs that sounded as though she was drowning on the inside. The scream wormed its way into his ears and he winced, shrunk back for a moment, every nerve screaming at him to run away and remove himself from the sight. But he couldn’t. He was transfixed by the sight of her broken body and destroyed face. He had done that. He couldn’t run from his own fingers on the trigger.

So he wouldn’t.

He took a breath instead, deep and full of gunsmoke and blood, smooth in his lungs where Reiko’s was ragged and painful. He had to see this through to the end, he knew. He couldn’t leave her there, scared and in pain and dying slowly. He couldn’t leave her alone. Not at the end. For all she had done, no one deserved that.

His footsteps were soft as he approached, but she heard anyway. He watched her reach for her gun and fail, unable to force her fingers into action. He still kicked it away as he circled around to face her properly. Time and time again, he’d been taught not to be careless, and here on this island more than anything else. He wouldn’t let it all end with a bullet from a dying girl. He knelt and leaned back on his heels unmindful of the blood. His clothing had been ruined for days now and anyway, he thought, it was his blood as well. He’d been the one to shed it.

He reached out, fingers just grazing her undamaged cheek. She jerked away and her mouth moved, something which could have been words lost and garbled as she spat blood instead of sound. That was okay. He settled with a hand on her shoulder. It tacky with drying crimson splatters but she couldn’t squirm away from him.

He met her eyes. They were wide and impossible to read, tears making them larger and brighter than he’d ever seen, even with her glasses. She blinked rapidly. Shook under his touch.

“I’m sorry,” he told her, and was surprised to find that it was the truth. He hadn’t always been sorry. Had he? He couldn’t be certain. The world blended now, and he had begun to think that his memory was not always true to life. So much of what had happened was just a blur of exhaustion and pain and sharp too-clear images of guns and faces he’d never see again. But here, now, he was sorry. “I really am. But you have to understand, it was for the best. You know what you did.” Absently, he brushed a hand down her cheek again, ignoring her flinch. “I was chosen for this. And you made your own choices.” He stroked sticky clumps of hair with one hand, his other creeping down towards the gun. Not many bullets left, now, but still enough. God had provided. He brought it up gently, removing his hand from her face and settling his fingers along the trigger.

“But it’s okay. I’ll make it easier.” He leveled it easily at her head. Her eyes widened, mouth gaping. She struggled to speak and the noises that emerged were like his sisters talking into their pillows because they didn’t want to face him, words thick and impossible to understand. Bright red mixed with froth coursed from her lips, and he shook his head, wanting desperately to touch her one last time and offer her that little bit of comfort and forgiveness before the end.

But his hands were occupied. And forgiveness was not up to him. “I’m sorry,” he said again. “This is how it has to be.”

Her eyes were still wide and mouth still working in words he’d never understand when he pulled the trigger.


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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ifnotwinter
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half Iago, half Fu Manchu, all bastard
[ *  *  *  *  * ]
Ilario remained crouched next to the body for long moments after he pulled the trigger. What had once been Reiko Ishida and was now just some earthly shell lay sprawled at an odd angle, face crumpled and disfigured. Bone, blood, and brain formed a halo around dark hair and spread out in a silent wave as he watched. It was reminiscent of Rhory in some ways. But messier. The shot had destroyed a large portion of her upper face, and with the lower face already mangled she barely resembled a human being anymore. Just some strange arrangement of parts all locked together with a soul. In God's own image, he knew, but it all seemed so...messy.

His reverie was interrupted by gunshots, loud and quick. They were almost directly beside him -- or sounded like it -- and he cursed himself for being so lost in his own thoughts he'd forgotten that there were still people out there. He scrambled for the AK-47, leaving Reiko's gun behind with her body. He wouldn't loot the dead. Not here, not now. Not after everything. Maybe wherever she was now, it would bring her some comfort. His own comfort was the semiautomatic at his side and the knowledge that there were only two left.

Almost home.

He moved slowly and carefully out from between the alleyway. Ahead of him he could see an open door and the silhouette of someone inside -- a man, he thought, Ivan -- and there was something wrong with the light. There was something strange going on in front of Ivan. Something strange going on with the stairs, the walls, a smell that was oddly familiar and noises like...

Burning.

The house was burning. Perspective clicked into place and he saw the whole picture, the stairs and walls aflame with Ivan standing in front, gun in hand, framed in red and orange and leaping sparks like the entrance to hell itself. Was Kimberly in there? Was she burning? It didn't matter. It couldn't matter. It was perfect.

Two steps forwards, almost running, and the gun came up.


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)
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
ifnotwinter
Member Avatar
half Iago, half Fu Manchu, all bastard
[ *  *  *  *  * ]
As the shot slammed into the wall next to him Ilario flung himself sideways, feet catching clumsily and forcing him to let his own gun dip away from its perfect line on the other boy. He was balanced again within moments and bringing the semiautomatic to bear, but the damage had been done. He'd lost the element of surprise and he'd lost any advantage he might once have had. He should be dead, by all rights, but Ivan hadn't fired a second time. And his gun wasn't quite up yet. It wouldn't take long to bring it into line, just seconds, he thought, maybe less...but enough time? Hard to know. Too hard to gauge. His slender fingers kept trying to shake and give way with the effort of controlling the weapon. He might be able to pull the trigger first but then again it might be Ivan, and then it would be Ilario whose all-too-human shell would be scattered on the ground.

His mouth was partially open as he breathed. He was panting like an animal; what little stamina he'd once had long since eaten away by the island. But the other boy was talking and that was...good, he thought. It had to be good. Talking meant that his hand wasn't tightening on the trigger and it gave him a moment to get his breath back. He could still make this work. He still had the advantage.

His tongue flicked out to moisten dry lips that tasted like blood. His own? Reiko's? Rhory's? He wasn't sure anymore. He met Ivan's eyes, read nothing he could use, and looked away. "Dead." His own voice sounded strange to his ears. Hoarse and uncertain, cultured syllables clipped and fragmented. "Reiko shot Ericka. I shot Reiko." Funny how the names came back to him now, first names in his mouth like he was just mentioning people he'd talked to that day in school. "You shot Imraan. And," struggling for the name, reaching through the sludge his memory had turned to, "Keith." No last name. Didn't matter. And Aaron, he'd shot Aaron Hughes, but Ilario had heard Aaron's name more than once on the announcements and he wasn't sure if that counted.

But Aaron's death didn't matter. Keith...Keith who didn't have a last name or a face, just some murky memory of brown eyes and a hat, hadn't done anything to anyone. Neither had Imraan. Imraan had been a good person. He hadn't deserved to have his world end here in the filth and blood of the game.

Hadn't deserved to have his world ended by the boy in front of him.

Ilario watched his own hands with something like vague curiosity as they brought the gun back into line with Ivan. "I'm sorry," he said, and the words were heavy and strange and he wasn't sure he meant them, anymore, but as his fingers curled around the trigger he said them anyway.


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)
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
ifnotwinter
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half Iago, half Fu Manchu, all bastard
[ *  *  *  *  * ]
Sluggish muscles and reflexes deadened with exhaustion starvation dehydration everything didn't respond in time. Ilario still pulled the trigger even as he realized he didn't have the shot anymore, somehow Ivan was moving and he watched in horror as another precious bullet splintered the wood of the table. The world slowed and compressed down to that, splinters of wood flying and all Ilario could think was no, no, NO as the shotgun came up and he saw Ivan's hand tighten on the metal. He didn't have time to think, just dropped and heard the deafening roar of the automatic weapon as it spat death over his head. It seemed to go on forever. He covered his head with his hands and felt chunks of wall bounce off them. Ivan didn't seem to be aiming or conserving his clip in any way. The noise continued. On the ground, Ilario tried to think.

He couldn't remember how many bullets he had left. Not many, he thought. Not enough. There was still Kimberly if she managed to escape the flames he could already hear and the smoke that itched at his throat and made him think of cinnamon somehow. And Ivan hadn't even been scratched yet. Under his fingers the AK was warm with body heat and firing but he couldn't. He knew he couldn't. He just didn't know--

“Get the fuck off him, JJ!”

"...you're just trying to protect her, even against someone like me... that's something more brave than I'd ever do. In a perfect world, things would be different..."


--what he could do.

Yes.

That was all that was left, really.

Under the deafening roar of the shotgun, he pushed the AK away from him, letting it spin across the floor and nudge into a corner where he thought even if Ivan had seen it and made a run for it, Ilario could still get there first. It almost physically hurt to lose contact with it but he shook the feeling off as best he could just as the shotgun stopped firing. There was still a highpitched ringing in Ilario's ears, but the gun was empty. Had to be. Ivan would be reloading.

This was it.

Ilario flung himself across the floor the same way he'd once flung himself on JJ, using every inch of his scrawny frame as best he could. He went over the top of the table, not bothering to try and knock it down, ignored the gun -- it was big, no way it could be used at close range (could it?) and hurled himself onto Ivan, punching and kicking wildly for all he was worth.

The taste of cinnamon was still in his mouth. The boy under him blended into dark hair and bruises and one popped eye but Ilario fought anyway, fought for everything he'd come through, for everything he'd done, fought because he couldn't think of anything else to do and he had made it this far and he wouldn't, couldn't give up now.


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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ifnotwinter
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half Iago, half Fu Manchu, all bastard
[ *  *  *  *  * ]
For a few moments Ilario really thought he had it. He had no formal experience in hand to hand fighting, or indeed any experience at all; his only real foray into the world of punching and kicking had been at the hands of JJ Sturn. And he was dead now, wasn't he? Ilario couldn't recall. He didn't have time to. His world narrowed to the feel of flesh giving way under his clenched fists and the noises of surprised, anger, and pain from Ivan. He pushed his advantage as best he could -- no strategy, just rapidfire attacks. Maybe he could knock the other boy out. That would have to be his goal.

His world exploded in multicolored stars as pain radiated up his skull and into his eye sockets. Ivan had managed a hit that had included not only his nose, but the swollen bruise on his cheekbone which Rhory's SPAS had inflicted. Ilario reeled backwards as Ivan pressed the advantage and sunk punch after punch into the slender Fiametta's already abused face. Staggering back in a desperate attempt to put some space behind them, Ilario had only a moment of clarity to think a quiet expletive before Ivan crashed a fist into his jaw.

Head snapping back under the assault, Ilario's vision greyed out dangerously. He was only faintly aware of the ringing in his ears and couldn't quite tell if the effort it was beginning to take to breathe was due to the smoke in the air or the blood running down the back of his throat from his nasal passages. Not that it really mattered. He tried to take another step away and was met by a punishing hit to his stomach. He doubled over as vomit and blood rose together in his mouth, heaved a mouthful of copper and acid onto the floor as Ivan continued the assault. It was all too much. The boy's scream registered only dimly, his question even more so. If Ilario had had the strength or breath to laugh he would have.

Why?

The same reason Ivan was fighting. To stay alive. And he'd done it the only way he could, the only way anyone could and still remain sane. Remain whole. He'd fought those who'd killed others and...and he'd saved the ones that hadn't yet, ones that surely would have snapped if they hadn't already. And now it was almost the end and Rosa, Frankie, they were dead and he'd atoned for them but there was still Rhory lying cold and dead with birds pecking the meat from her dark eyes. Rhory who'd beaten him the way Ivan was beating him now, Rhory whose death had still not been absolved.

Lips bruised to paper-thinness spread over teeth outlined in red, like the smile of someone who'd forgotten how. Rhory had known. She'd knocked him out.

Ivan should have. Last mistake, monster. Ilario flipped himself to the side with the last of his strength and flopped clumsily to the floor. Not that he cared, couldn't care now, only hope the dull shine of metal he'd seen out of the corner of his eye when the last blow had landed. The AK. His only constant companion. It would save him now.

He choked on smoke and blood as he wiggled across the floor with his hand outstretched, lips still stretched in a death-rictus grin. The top one had split again. He didn't know, didn't care. He could still win this. Just another few inches closer.


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)
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
ifnotwinter
Member Avatar
half Iago, half Fu Manchu, all bastard
[ *  *  *  *  * ]
With every pained push forwards, Ilario waited for the gunshot. For the hit. For something to stop him. He anticipated it and knew it would not come in equal parts, knowing he could not die here so close to his goal pushing him forwards while his mind shrieked at him to go for cover with what little strength he had left. But it never came and he was a foot away. Ten inches. Eight. His hand scrabbled in front of him like a questing spider as his vision blurred. Six inches. His fingers brushed metal and he forced himself not to grab randomly but instead find the stock, know where the trigger was, the safety. Behind him he could hear Ivan moving.

One chance, then. Ilario breathed past the stabbing pain of abused ribs and slid his eyes shut for the barest half-second. Was the floor beneath him hardwood, or thick green carpet?

It didn't matter anymore.

He exhaled. In a motion jerky with pain and reflexes pushed past their breaking point he grabbed the AK and rolled onto his back, pushing his body up and using the wall to brace his shoulders. Ivan was in front of him. Closer than he'd thought. The shotgun was in his hand and maybe that was the kick Ilario needed or maybe he had the strength anyway, pulling from some deep well he'd never knew he could tap, but either way it was the AK that rose first and it was Ilario's body that shook with the recoil as two bullets slammed into Ivan's body.

For a moment there was silence. There shouldn't have been. The world was full of crackling flames and the groaning of burning wood, the crashes as beams started to fall and glass shattered under the heat and at the very least Ilario should have been able to hear his own ragged breathing. But he couldn't. There was a bubble of nothingness and inside of it was Ivan, blood coursing in rivers from the jagged mess of bone and sinew where his left arm had been and a matching stream from the hole in his abdomen.

Oh, Ilario thought distantly.

I guess I win.

Then sound rushed back in and Ivan stumbled backwards. His feet carried him on a meandering path out the door and Ilario realized within seconds that he had to follow. Thick smoke choked the air and made him double over coughing as he half-ran, half crawled towards the exit. He used the AK as a crutch. It bore him out into startling daylight and it held his trembling legs as he stood in front of Ivan's broken body, sprawled in the dirt.

He dropped to his knees at Ivan's words, not even certain anymore what emotions he was feeling. They were lost in the wash of adrenaline and the distant feeling of concussion, the lingering remains of the pills (how many had he taken? Too few? Too many?). But Ivan deserved something. He was dying and Ilario didn't want to waste a bullet he wasn't even sure he had letting him out of the world. So he'd talk to him. He'd help him understand.

"Not hard enough." The words were thick around his swollen jaw and the holes where teeth had been even though he wasn't sure he remembered losing them. Absently he patted Ivan's left hand. It was cold. "You could have saved her. Probably." He didn't know. He hadn't saved Rhory, had he? But he was different so that had to be okay. "But you...you killed people. Your own classmates. You murdered them. And it...it had to be this way. You understand." He thought Ivan would. Here at the end of all things, he would have seen what Ilario had. "You made a choice."

His free hand went to the gun and he dragged a ragged palm over it. "So did I. Someone had to be a hero. Someone had to save them. But now they're all dead, and people like you..." He paused. Spat blood. "You understand. Why I did it. Just one left and that'll be it, you know." His eyes were somewhere far away. "I'll be done." Saved.

It was...out of order, he thought. Ericka and Reiko had been Rosa and Frankie. Kimberly should have been Rhory and then there would have been Ivan. Himself. It would have...worked. A strange kind of symmetry. But it was was wrong, now. The story was changing.

No matter. The words remained the same. "I really am sorry." He thought he meant it more than he had before. "But this--"

No doubt now. The time for that was past. Eustace going through hell to be reunited with his God; Ilario had gone through hell and he would be reunited with his father. Eustace had been forgiven.

Ilario must be.

"--this is how it has to be."


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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ifnotwinter
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half Iago, half Fu Manchu, all bastard
[ *  *  *  *  * ]
Ilario remained in place long after Ivan had stopped breathing, crouched low to the ground as he stared at the bloody mess of a body in front of him. The sticky ropes of crimson were already congealing on the ground and the boy's tattered clothes, anchoring his body more firmly to the earth. He was dead, Ilario knew. And that was...good.

It had to be. His legs ached faintly with the effort of holding him, a distant pain eclipsed by the throbbing agony in his face and head. His eyesight was blurry in a way it never had been before; blinking did nothing to refocus the world in front of him. His gut burned dully. His mouth tasted like blood and acid-bile and it reminded him of Rhory. Ivan was Rhory, he supposed. The third he hadn't managed to save. It didn't work quite right but nothing seemed to be, not anymore.

God, he was tired.

And Ivan had been wrong, of course. His mind returned dizzily to the boy's words, again and again. Had to have been. Ilario was doing the right thing. He hadn't saved anyone in the end but he'd done what he could and he'd made it so no murderer could win. He had dispensed justice with each bullet. That had to count for something. Had to. That had...that had always been the plan, hadn't it? Make it to the end. Don't give up. And then, forgiveness. Absolution. Peace.

Yes. He was almost through, his trials finally reaching their end. Ilario did his best to focus his eyes again, blinking hard, one palm pressing against the dirt as he prepared to push himself upright. But his depth perception didn't seem to be working the way it was supposed to anymore and his fingers brushed against Ivan's left arm, the one that was so much scattered meat. The one Ivan had pulled something off, a bracelet or somesuch. Yes. It was in his right hand, on his chest. He'd asked Ilario...something. To give it to someone. He closed his eyes and tried to remember through the haze. Tabi's parents. Tabi, the girl he'd been traveling with. She'd killed someone too. He couldn't remember the name.

Ivan's words swam to the front of his brain. Aaron. Ivan had killed Aaron but Aaron had tried to kill Tabi. Self-defense. No, he thought, more than that. The same thing he'd done. Putting down a mad dog. Heroes, he thought, they do the things that need to be done.

He opened his eyes again. Fumbled at Ivan's chest and pried the fingers still supple as though with life from the small object. It was coated in blood but he could still see that it wasn't a bracelet at all. It was a hair tie. Whatever color it had originally been was hidden under Ivan's life, tacky and drying the cloth into something stiff and unbendable. Ivan had tried, he thought. He'd done his best. He'd atoned for his mistakes and even if he'd had to die (can't think it any other way) Ilario could still do this for him. One last task. The tie was slipped into a pocket.

He remained a moment longer on the ground, staring at Ivan's body. He felt he should say something but in the end nothing made it past his lips. The boy's eyes were already closed but he still folded the arms, after a moment's hesitation, across the reddened chest. Using the AK-47 as a crutch he stood, swayed, kept his footing. Glanced down at the body one last time, apologies rising in his mind but swallowed back down because, really. He didn't mean them anymore.

With the semi-automatic still supporting his weight as the ground swooped nauseatingly under him, Ilario turned away. Two steps brought him away from the line of shrubs which obscured the main street, and two more steps brought him to the street itself. Habit ingrained into him from childhood made him glance both ways as though there might somehow be a car approaching.

And there was Kimberly.

She was in front of him, far away enough that he didn't think she'd seen him yet. She was sitting by the house across the street. Behind him the fire cracked and popped as it devoured whatever it touched but in front of him was Kimberly, not upstairs, not burning slowly for her sins.

In front of him.

Unarmed.

Injured.

Alone.

His vision blurred. Was the roaring in his ears the fire behind him, or blood pumping furiously through his veins? Was the girl in front of him Kimberly or was it Rhory all dark hair and bright eyes, naked at the stream with her bloodied hand and the spreading antlers marking the soft place at her back where a bullet would have done the most damage? He couldn't be sure.

He took a fumbling step forwards. Another. Another. The gun scraped on the ground as he tried to balance himself in his suddenly skidding world. She saw him. He saw her eyes but couldn't see the color. Were they brown, or gray-green? Her hair was dark. Mahogany or black? He saw both. Her form flickered, doubled, like two pictures on transparent paper laid over one another. Rhory. Kimberly. They blended and separated and blended again.

Pain sparked in his knees. He wasn't walking any more, he thought. He was on the ground. Kneeling. He still had the gun, though. As long as he still had the gun...

"Ivan's dead," he said. He still didn't know which girl was in front of him but here, now, in this place, he couldn't bring himself to think that it mattered anymore.


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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ifnotwinter
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half Iago, half Fu Manchu, all bastard
[ *  *  *  *  * ]
"Um." The words were thick and heavy in Ilario's mouth. They tasted like copper and salt. "I think they're dead too."

He paused for a second, more for breath than for any kind of effect. "I think...everyone is, now. Except me. And you." Except Rhory was dead, wasn't she? She'd taken a gun and pulled the trigger and the back of her head had been gone and that had been it. He hadn't been able to save her. He hadn't been able to save anyone.

He let his body fold into a cross-legged position. It was easier to hold than the kneel and he barely felt the play of abused muscles over bones anymore, the spreading fire from wounds he thought were probably infected. The pain was hidden somewhere far away. Or maybe it had bled out from him slowly over time, the beginning of the end. Maybe it was the start of his reward. Whatever it was, he liked it. He floated on a cloud of numbness.

Adaptation, he thought. The remarkable ability of the human body and mind to adapt and change in response to a scenario. Two, three weeks ago he couldn't even have imagined surviving more than a day in a situation like this. Now it felt like second nature. Being without pain was the exception, not the norm. Having a moment to sit and catch his breath seemed worth everything that had come before. Was that wrong? He was faintly surprised to discover that he didn't care if it was or wasn't. He'd made it this far. Nothing else mattered. It was all far away now. Seemed strange to think he'd once worried about tests and grades.

Kimberly was still in front of him. It was Kimberly now, he thought. Rhory...was dead. And Kimberly wasn't. But there was only one way this story ended, and even if it was out of order now he knew that she was still his third and final trial.

"I have to kill you," he said. It was quiet and matter of fact. Almost a little regretful. "Then it'll all be over." It won't matter that they're dead anymore.

It won't matter that I didn't save them.


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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ifnotwinter
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half Iago, half Fu Manchu, all bastard
[ *  *  *  *  * ]
This wasn't what Ilario had expected. He'd expected blood and fire and -- and that had happened, already, but he'd always had some vague idea in his head of a grand final showdown. This was just talking. Just sitting and talking like being back at school, like being with his friends, his sisters. No pressure, no anger and he found himself almost shamefully enjoying it. Knowing that he would have to end her life to complete his passage here but in some small surrendering part of his mind not wanting to.

"I could wait." His tone matched hers. His fingers didn't move from where they draped casually over the semi-automatic. "We've got...time. I think. You can have some time. If you want it." He wasn't sure what she would want to do to make herself ready for death but, he thought, he could grant her that much. She was the gray spot after all. She had killed but one of those she had brought down had been Kris and he still remembered firing at her through the trees and missing completely. He'd hit Etain instead. Which he'd...which was okay, because Etain even if he hadn't done anything yet was with Kris and Kris brought death and destruction wherever she went, but still. He'd missed his shot.

Maybe that had been when the troubles started. When everything had begun to slide and go wrong. Or maybe it had been Jackson way back when, dead on a beach or further back still when he'd woken up into the game. Or maybe even further, trace back through a life of mistakes and failure to live up to expectations back to when he'd been the last to slip from his mother's womb, an heir for his father at the cost of his mother's life. Was that as far as he would have to go if he really wanted to fix it?

No matter; he would still earn his place and his forgiveness. All he had to do was end it. End a life, again. End the life of the girl across from him. He wasn't even a stranger to killing any more, it would be easy and right. And yet.

And yet.

Ilario bent over his knees partially to try and find some relief for sore ribs, partly to curl around the stab of guilt that was trying to worm its way through his gut. She was quiet and unarmed, not trying to hurt him, not even trying to get away from her fate. Accepting. Acknowledging. That made it somehow worse.

"It was Rhory." This time he talked to hide the tremble in his fingers, because if he talked to her, if he helped to understand, maybe he could stop seeing Jackson in front of him, shadowed but there, the innocent life who'd begun this when Ilario had made the worst mistake of his life if you didn't count being born.

"Rhory was -- I thought I had to kill her. For what she'd done. But I didn't, and I saw...it doesn't matter. I was wrong." His words were softly disjointed as he tried to connect stray thoughts. "I was trying to help. I was helping. I was...a hero." Was that doubt coloring his words? Even he wasn't sure. "But I couldn't save them. Frankie. Rosa. They still...and then there was just Rhory, and I thought." He ran out of words. His mouth moved softly.

Finally, "I thought she would be the one. I thought I could save her."

But she'd taken the gun and she'd smiled at him when she'd pulled the trigger and the back of her head suddenly wasn't there anymore and that, well, that had just been that.

"I thought I could save someone."


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)
Offline Profile Quote Post Goto Top
 
ifnotwinter
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half Iago, half Fu Manchu, all bastard
[ *  *  *  *  * ]
The question took him by surprise. Reflexively he opened his mouth to answer because there was only one answer for these scenarios, wasn't there? Of course she was. You always told people that death was happy, peaceful. You made it easier for the living because they were the ones who were left behind. But he bit the words off in his mouth before they could emerge, swallowing the lie back down and choking on the bitter taste of the truth.

"I don't know." Ilario fixed his eyes on the dirt in front of him and tried not to remember Rhory's eyes when she'd smiled vaguely at him and pulled the trigger. "She...did it. Herself. I guess you knew that." It had been on the announcements. An act of utter pointlessness, the voice had said. He wasn't too sure about that. Seemed to him like she'd done it in defiance, one last act of spite against him. Even when he'd agreed to stay with and protect her she'd never quite let go of that slow-burn hatred she carried against him and her suicide had seemed like one last spark. Fuck you, Fiametta, you don't get to save anyone. But he couldn't tell Kimberly that. "I think...she thought it was a way out. On her own terms. She didn't want." His voice caught, broke. Emotion or physical trauma, he didn't know. "I don't think she wanted to be saved."

So she hadn't even tried. She hadn't even let him try. She'd left him with nothing the way his sisters had. And he should have atoned for her already, should have brought down Kimberly the way he'd brought down Reiko and then it would have been perfect, three girls for three girls and just Ivan left for himself -- but it was all wrong now. And Kimberly was still alive.

She wasn't fighting him, though. She was okay with it. She told him he was right, that it was good, what he'd done. Which he knew. It wasn't like it was -- he knew he had done the right thing, the just thing, this was only confirming it. This entire time on the island he'd had people telling him he was wrong. Crazy. Telling him that he wasn't a hero, that he was a killer, a murderer, that he was the kind of scum he was doing his best to eradicate. Everyone except Kimberly. She knew. She agreed.

She understood.

At least you tried, she'd said. And he had. He'd tried so hard and so desperately that it almost didn't seem fair that this was what he got. Everything he'd done he'd had thrown back in his face. But he'd kept going. Everyone else was gone and he was walking on bodies but he was still walking. Had been still walking. Now he was still. Now it was all over, or almost. Not ending in fire despite the house alight behind him.

It would still end in blood, though. It was always going to end in blood. The same way it had begun. Rhory had the right idea. She'd made the end come on her own terms when she'd seen it. She'd fought back in a way that he'd never been able to bring himself to. And poor dead Ivan had fought as well, the same way Ilario had. He'd tried to save someone. He'd failed too.

But Ilario hadn't failed yet, had he? There was still someone left to save.

He slipped a hand into his pocket. Yes, the hair tie was still there. It was tacky with blood. He drew it out and held it in stained and dirty fingers. He was only partially aware of the sound of his own voice when he began to speak again.

"Ivan gave this to me. There was...a girl. I don't remember her name." It was somewhere in the scrambled mess his brains had become but he didn't really care. It didn't matter. "She died. He wanted me to give this to her parents." He stared at it blankly. "It seems. I don't know. Sick. Couldn't save her but here's...here's the scrunchie she wore when she died." He crumpled it in his fist, held onto it for a moment before letting it drop to the grass. "But he asked. And she never did anything. Never asked for this." A bark of a laugh that tore roughly at swollen vocal chords. "None of us did."

Ilario's hands returned to the gun. They lifted it easily enough. He thought there might still be bullets. Or one, at least. One would be enough. Poetic. And it was strange now, how he could barely remember what he'd done the day before the trip but remembered in perfect clarity what the AK-47 had felt like when he'd first hefted it from its box and taken aim. He'd been going to empty it of bullets. Bury it. Make it useless. He would have given up the gift which had seen him through everything so far.

It had one more task. His hands dragged across its roughened surfaces. The safety was off. His fingers curled into the oh-so-familiar space around the trigger and squeezed so lightly the muscles barely twitched. Just enough to know that he could do it.

All the things he'd done. All the things he'd seen. This was what it came down to. He had passed through his trials successfully and done his duty as best he knew. He had done the right thing. Maybe Ivan had been right and there was no goodness on this island, but there was still time. Still just enough time.

Just enough bullets.

He met Kimberly's eyes, sunken and shadowed as they were. His lips still wept scarlet over his swollen face when he opened his mouth but that didn't matter, not anymore. Heroes earned the right to bleed.

"I'm not sorry." His voice was quiet. "I did what had to be done."

As he brought the gun to bear and took aim, he let his own eyes drift shut just for a moment. He could almost feel the green plush carpet underneath him, smell ink and paper wafting around him. He could feel his father's hand on his shoulder, heavy and supporting at the same time. Almost hear his father's voice. You've done well, my son.

I love you.


He opened his eyes.

"It's okay," he said gently. "Kimberly -- it's all going to be okay."

Ilario Fiametta III was smiling when he pulled the trigger.


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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