The Depths of Demons Chapter 10
"There are no happy endings, because nothing ends."
--"The Last Unicorn"
"Hes not there anymore. He and Scarlet left yesterday night in a helicopter, for a little town far north of here. Its near the mountains, covered in snow. Its called Nemoran. And if hes in a helicopter, hell have had to stop along the waywe should be able to make it a little after he does."
"No one knows. Hed been acting strangely since he arrived there. Hed locked himself in his room for a day, and when he came out, he and Scarlet left in the helicopter."
"Maybe hes finally gone nuts. Maybe amnesia wasnt the only thing that blast gave him."
"Im just sayin."
"Well, you can say it somewhere else. You can stay here and Ill take the airship."
"You couldnt fly it, especially not all torn up like it is."
"Are you coming?"
"Yeah, yeah. I just dont see why were doin this."
"You dont have to see why, Cid, we are."
"Nowait, I do see why. You figure, if we find him, just maybe we can find Cl"
But she was ignoring him. She patted Mylar softly on the head. "Come on. You ready?"
Nodding, she stood and followed them slowly out of Junon.
"Shut up, Scarlet. And stop hanging on me. Get back into your seatI cant fly like this."
"Youre doing well enough, to me."
"Just, just go back to your seat."
"You havent even told me where were going, yet."
"Nemoran, I told you"
"Yes! But why?"
"You found me to kill me, Scarlet, so why dont you do it and put me out of my misery? Id rather be dead than listen to your incessant screeching."
"Youre flying the helicopter. If I kill you now, its suicide."
"Dont you think that would be a bit fitting, that we go down together?"
"Why are we going to this town? Why this one?"
"Im taking you to the person you really long to kill. Im taking you to her."
"Yes. Im taking you to Sairobi."
Night fell softly upon her, its colors lighting the sky, red then purple then blue, darker and deeper, until it was too dark to tell where the blue became black, save where the stars pierced the sky with their light. For long hours, she watched it, night deepening, changing.
Tucking Millie, already fast asleep, into bed, Sair sighed, brushed one hand through her hair. Her dark hair had never grown out, though shed not cut it. It stayed the same length, so that when she looked in the mirror, she could still catch the ghost of her former self, the smiling girl who had escaped slavery and left her parents to rot in the prisons beneath Tur-Ah.
But she could not regret it, not really. She could not regret having known Jem, though often she had to struggle to convince herself that she had not somehow caused his death. Perhaps, by making Scarlet jealous, or by some error, some small mistake shed made, shed led him blindly into the darkness.
No. She couldnt think like that. She couldnt think like that and remain sane, remain as she had to be for her daughter, who, in all the world, had only her mother and a picture of the father she could never know.
Shaken suddenly, Sair stood, wrapped her arms around herself, glanced furtively around the room. A dark cloud of apprehension, some cold premonition, had come over her, and for a moment, she couldnt breathe.
Youre in trouble. Get your gun, sweetie.
No, dont be ridiculous. Its nothing. Youre being silly, scared. Because tonight is the anniversary of the night it happened. Youre just shaken. You got spooked last year, too, and it was nothing.
No, this time it is something. Get your gun. Get Jems gun.
She found herself leaving her daughters room, crossing the hall into her own, turning on all the lights to be certain there was no one hiding in the shadows. Nearly crying, trembling shaking shuddering, she reached the closet, pulled the door quickly open, removed Jems jacket, his blue Turks jacket, from where it had hung all the years shed had it. Though she was by no means short, shed forgotten how tall Jem had been; when she put on the coat, she found that it hung nearly to her knees.
Still shaking, she moved to the dresser. With trembling hands, she pulled the top drawer jerkily open, fished through socks and underwear until her fingers touched the cold metal they sought. Quickly, she removed the gun, checking to make certain it was loaded, tucked it inside one of Jems coat pockets.
Closing the door, she caught that ghostly image of herself in the mirror, that smiling girl, and behind her, the faint image of a tall man with dark hair and golden eyes, his hand protectively upon her shoulder.
Trembling, crying, she turned away, walked into the hallway and into her daughters room.
"Im sorry, honey," she whispered, wrapping the yellow blankets around her daughters body as she pulled her from the bed, smoothing her dark curly hair.
"Mama?" Millie whispered in a soft, unconcerned, sleepy voice.
"Shh, shh. Everything will be all right, honey. Dont you worry." Millies feet dangled over Sairs arm, tiny and almost completely covered by the blankets. The sleeping child was wiggling her toes slightly, and her fingers were gripping the sleeve of Jems coat tightly. Clutching her daughter firmly, cradled protectively against herself, she stumbled out her front door, into the snow and into the night, heading toward the inn, where her daughter would be safe.
"Why the hell must it be so damn cold?"
"If you dont like it, Scarlet, you can go back to where we left the helicopter," Rufus told her, trudging onward through the snow. Good luck starting it, if you do, he thought, knowing they were out of gas, and also that hed landed it badly. Shed have trouble even if she knew how to operate the thing, and he knew for certain she did not. Not that he cared. She could freeze to death back there; it would matter little to him. "Or you can stay here and shiver until your feet fall off, if you like. Whichever you prefer, of course."
"You cold bastard."
"Werent you the one complaining about the cold?"
"You know what I meant."
"And youre hardly one to be accusing me, Scarlet. Now shut up, or Ill put a bullet through you."
For a moment, they walked in silence, shivering in the darkness as the lights of the town slowly became brighter; the streetlamps were covered, their brightness muffled, in a soft layer of white.
Rufus had been in Nemoran once before, a long time ago, but he could barely recall it. It was nothing to him but a blur of white and the smell of meat cooking by a fire, mingled with the scent of someones harsh cologne. His mother had taken him there, just the two of them, before Saeio had been born. He could remember her soft laughter, tinkling like a bell as he traced his finger across the fog his breath had made upon a window.
"Here," he said, stopping suddenly. The snow had slowly given way beneath them to a road, the barest hint of it, dirt that had once been paved with cobbles long since come loose. All around them, pine trees rose into the sky, dark green covered in white, their branches weighed with snow and with all the years theyd stood there. But he could just see it, the break in the trees where a path had once been, a path that led to a house. "Theres a house down through the trees. Im not sure if youll find much warmth there, but we can rest there for a moment."
She glanced at him skeptically. "How do you know theres a house down there?"
He laughed. "What, you think Im lying? That Im going to drag you there, out into the woods, and shoot you? If I wanted to kill you, I would have already, if simply to stop you from irritating me."
"Then why did you bring me here at all?" she demanded, whirling around and nearly slipping, her high heels sliding through the snow, red shoes in the darkness.
He didnt answer her, but headed toward the house, leaving her to follow, or not to. It didnt really matter to him.
The house wasnt far down the path. It took him only a minute or so to reach it, the worn down, deserted house, that was nonetheless locked. Kicking the door open, he stepped inside, into the darkness, his heart jumping when a rat scurried in front of him, its tiny eyes shining.
Breathing heavily, he reached his hand out and felt the side of the wall, finding at last the plastic switch, flipping it upward. Dim light cascaded through the house, illuminating the small, one-room place, showering brightness upon the broken table and chairs, the shattered stones of the fireplace, the single shredded painting that hung upon one wall.
"What the hell is this place?" Scarlet demanded, pushing him forward and stepping inside.
Rufus knew that house, just as hed known the path. But hed known the house when the painting was still a painting, when the table sat upon a rug in the center of the house, when the fireplace had held a fire. I know this place. He asked Scarlet quietly, "Why havent you killed me yet?"
"Truthfully?" she queried, turning around to face him. She slid her hands down the side of her dress, ridding her fingers of a nonexistent stain. "I dont know. Maybe because I wanted you to be afraid of me." She wrinkled her nose. "Why arent you afraid of me, Rufus?"
But he didnt answer her. He strode to the center of the room, stooped, pulled the only whole chair from the ground and set it upon its feet. The shadow of a young boy was still there, stained upon it, where hed sat so long ago.
"Lets get out of here."
"I thought you said we could rest"
"You can come back here later. I want to find her first." I want to get out of here. I want to get out of here now. I can feel my mothers eyes upon me. When she died, this is where she came. Shes waiting for me here. She is ashamed of who I am and what I have become.
Turning, he walked back out of the door, back down the path, willing himself not to run. He headed toward the inn.
"Are you okay, Mylar?"
Nodding, she clutched the banister, trying to keep her balance. She closed her eyes, fighting off nausea. "Its justIve never been in the air before. I mean, Ive been onon ships, but its not the same thing. Its a b-bit frightening."
The woman named Tifa grinned at her. "Oh, it will take a while for you to get accustomed to it. But youll be fine." Turning away, she swept her arm out in front of her, indicating the rest of the ship. "It used to be much better. But, well, it got nearly torn apart, and Cid had to throw it back together as he could. Hell never stop grumbling about the repairs hes had to make, though."
Mylar nodded, biting down upon her lip, turning away slightly. The skin of her lower lip was still tender, but not even the slight pain could rid her of her habit. Shed been doing it too long to stop; she merely hoped she wouldnt reopen the wound. "Tifa"
The woman sighed. "I know. You want to ask me what Im doing. Why we were in Junon. Why Im helping you. You see, Im looking for someone, too. He disappeared a few days ago. He saidhe said he had something important to do. But, I dont know. And it scares me, because I dont think hell come back. Hes searching for someone, the way Im searching for him. But shes dead. And I dont want him to be."
"Actually, I was going to ask you how much longer it would take us."
The woman blinked in surprise. And then she grinned, and laughed. Soft at first, the laughter grew until it filled Mylars ears, and she was laughing too, her fingers loose now upon the banister, laughing and laughing.
But Tifa stopped, turned serious eyes toward her. "And why do you want to find him?"
Even you betrayed me.
She tasted blood again.
"I dont know," she whispered, and Tifa nodded.
He stopped short in the snow, shock running through him at seeing her again. She looked just the same, just the same as she had that night. Her hair was still short, curling slightly around her earlobes. And she was even wearing Jems coat.
Scarlet saw her. Standing beside the woman, Rufus could feel the fire of her hatred seep from her skin in waves, nearly lighting the darkness around them. She moved, took a step forward, ready to run at Sair, but Rufus clamped an arm around her waist, held her back.
Because of the girl who stood next to Sairobi in the entrance to the inn.
He could barely see her, standing dark against the light from the inn, but he knew her. He knew her, as he had known the house.
It was his mother.
NoRufus, your mother is dead. And shes too young to be your mother. Look at her; she cant be more than twenty or so.
But it was. The girl looked just like her. Even after so many years, he remembered exactly how she had looked, her bright smiling face, frightened or laughing or crying as she held him close.
But its not.
"Oh my god."
"Let me go, Rufus! You brought me here so I could kill her, you told me you did! Let me go to her." Scarlet struggled in his grasp, but he was strong, and he held her. He kept his eyes upon the girl, who said something to Sairobi, then slowly turned and walked back into the inn.
Sair headed down the street to her own home.
"Shes getting away!"
"Relax, Scarlet. I know where she lives. Ive known for two years. Ten minutes is not going to make a difference."
Saeio! his mind screamed.
Except that it wasnt. He felt the sharp bite of certainty, gripping him tightly, its fist in his stomach, telling him, making him know. That had been his sister. His sister was alive, and she was there, only a few short steps from him.
"Rufus?" Scarlet asked, whimpered almost, going limp against him.
"Im going to talk with Sairobi alone, first."
"Like hell you are!"
"Im taking you back to the house. Youll stay there until I come for you."
She sagged against her front door, the fear still bright and deep and deadly within her, and so much sharper, because shed seen them.
Rufus and Scarlet. They were there, in Nemoran. The shock of seeing them quaked through her. It was not simply because she knew why they had come, but because she had not seen them since that night, and everything flooded back to her, a wave of memory and grief, paralyzing her. She could do nothing but sit, her head against the door, weeping.
She knew she should return to the inn, get her daughter and run, but there was nowhere to run to. Shed chosen a small, secluded town, because it meant there would be less of chance she would be found. But it also meant that there was nowhere for her to go, no way to get out of the city on a snowy night.
And she simply lacked the strength.
Shed lived the past few years of her life in fear, always glancing over her shoulder, afraid someone had come, at last, to kill her. And here, tonight, it would be ended. No matter what the outcome, it would be ended, if she simply stayed where she was. If she tried to run again, if she succeeded, if she tried again to build a life for her and her daughter, that fear would still be with her, hanging loosely upon her, just as Jems coat did.
And she did not want to do what she had done before, when she had first been set alone in the world, pregnant and grieving and frightened. Shed moved from town to town to town, never staying at the same inn for more than a night, always glancing backward as she took the deserted streets and kept her head bowed, trying to escape notice. She could not do it again, not even if it meant her death. Her daughter was safe, and that was all that mattered.
Dont fall apart now, Sairobi Genevi, Sairobi Payne, Sairobi Buckley. Be strong. Stop crying, you silly child!
Remarkably, she did. She lifted her head, moved slowly to her feet, sliding upward against the doorframe. With soft, careful steps, she crossed the room, sat in the rocking chair shed used so many nights when Millie had been unable to sleep, and waited.
She waited for them to come.
"Dont you dare leave me here, Rufus."
He said nothing, turning his back upon her. "I hardly have control over what you do and do not do. If you follow me, or if you stay here " He raised one hand, showing his indifference. "Do what you like. But Ill kill you if you try anything." Saying nothing more, he headed toward the door.
"Did he scream?"
"What?" Rufus turned back quickly, swiftly removing his gun from his the pocket of his white coat. He pointed it toward her.
There was something in her eyes, something he didnt like. "That man you killed in Tur-Ah two years ago, that Hawsonhed been your teacher, right? You betrayed him, just like you betrayed everyone else. Like you betrayed Darra. Like you betrayed Jem. Did he scream?"
"Shut up, Scarlet."
"Its just that you seem to think youre so different now. Dont let yourself think that having amnesia changed youthat that girl changed you. I know who you are, and so do you. So dont delude yourself into thinking that you could possibly change." She leaned forward in the chair upon which she sat, the chair hed placed upon its feet. "Did he scream?"
He cocked the gun. "Im warning you, Scarlet."
"You betrayed him, you know. He was only trying to help you. Did he scream? Youre just like your father, Rufus. I bet you didnt even care when you saw what happened to Jem. And you betrayed himyour best friend, just like you betrayed his sister. Shed been your best friend too, hadnt she? Did you know that she screamed when she was being hurt? Before we let that thing kill her. Yes, she screamed, shrieked. I bet that girl will scream, too, when I return to Junon and find her. You betrayed her too, didnt you?"
"SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUP! I didn'tI never betrayed Darra, or Jem! They were the ones who betrayed me! You told me!"
She laughed, that snide, cynical laughter he'd heard so many times before. It rang through the small room, touching every corner, seeping into the wood, pushing his mothers laughter out into the night. Scarlets voice became soft as a feather. She tilted her head backward, arching her neck; her fingernails dug into the wood of the chair. "You know, you shouldn't believe everything you hear, Rufus. Especially not what I said back then. But I have a secret to tell you now. Do you want to hear it?"
He kept his silence, his eyes narrowed, the gun pointed toward her. It would be so easy to simply move his finger, squeeze it slightly. He would be able to silence her.
He hadnt betrayed them. And he hadnt betrayed Mylar. Shed been the one lying to himshed known, and she hadnt told him.
Scarlet grinned; the smile slid up her face, curving her cheeks, but not touching her eyes. Those eyes remained cold and lifeless, almost frightening. But Scarlet didnt frighten him. "I was the one. I was the one who hurt Darra. You see, your father wanted me to prove myself before he sent me to Tur-Ah, to make sure I was, cutout, I suppose, for the job. Do you want to know how? He gave me a whip and he gave me a knife, and he gave me a syringe.
"I was meant to get information out of her, but thats not what your father really wanted. He knew she wouldnt talk. I told her I would spare her if she took that syringe and stuck the needle in her stomach and gave me as much blood as I wanted. She did it, too. I didnt believe she would, but she was one tough girl. She didnt even whimper until I took the knife too her.
"It was most entertaining. Not so fun as what I did to her brother. But she screamed. Oh lord, did that girl have lungs on her. She screamed and she screamedshe screamed for god to save her, for you to save her. You should have seen it. She thought you would save her. Isnt that a laugh? I didnt know you then, or I would have told her that you didnt care about anyone other than yourself enough to save anyone. Oh, yes, she screamed. But she wouldn't talk. Isn't that amazing? She wouldn't betray her brother. He was the last we needed to find, but she wouldnt tell us his name, or where he was. Not even in the end. That was the kind of girl she was. And you didn't even avenge her deathYour Hawson, did he scream?"
"SHUT UP!" The gun wavered. His finger spasmed, but he caught himself; he didnt shoot.
"Do it," she whispered, not leaving her chair. "Do it, Rufus. Shoot me. Avenge Darra, avenge Jem. Silence their voices in your head. They scream to you at night, dont they? Telling you it was your fault, that you could have saved them. Theyll stop, if you kill me. Theyll know you cared enough to avenge them. Do it Rufus. Just pull the trigger. Just shoot."
He lowered the gun. "No. Whatever happens, I'm not going to kill you."
For a moment, she looked at him, blinking. Then she turned her gaze downward. She broke into sobs, rocking back and forth slowly. "Oh God Rufus, Im so scared. I dont know what's going to happen. I can feel their ghosts calling out to me. Theyve come to haunt me. I can feel their fingers upon me, scratching at my eyes. Oh God Rufus, Im so scared." She was trembling, vulnerable now, after everything.
"Don't worry," he told her softly. "Ill take care of you, Scarlet. Ill take care of everything. Stay here. Ill go finish it. Ill come back for you when Im through."
She nodded, then said nothing as he turned and walked out the door.
She was surprised that they knocked.
"Its open," she called, raising her gun, keeping it leveled at the door.
She was even more surprised to see Rufus alone.
"You can put down your gun, Sair. Im not here to kill you," he told her, stepping inside and closing the door behind him. Snow clung to his hair, to his coat.
"No thanks. I think Ill keep it as it is, but thank you for asking."
He laughed softly. "Just the same as always."
"No," she whispered, shaking her head. "No. Im not who I was then. Whoever I was then died with Jem. I dont know if he would even recognize me anymore." I dont know if he would still love me.
Rufus came farther in. He had a gun, but hed placed it back in the pocket of his coat when hed closed the door. Watching her carefully, he sat pulled a chair from the kitchen, moved it across from her and sat. "He would. Jem would have recognized youloved youno matter what, Sair."
How ? She swallowed, hard, tried to keep her hands from shaking. "If you havent come to kill me, then what do you want? And why did you bring Scarlet?"
He closed his eyes, leaned back in the chair. "Originally, yes, Id come to kill you. I dont know why, after all these years And I dont know why I brought Scarlet. Maybe so I could keep an eye on her, so she wouldnt take over Shinra while I was away."
"She doesnt want Shinra. She doesnt even want you. I dont think theres anything in the world that she actually does wantnothing she can have, in any case."
"I know she doesnt want Shinra," he replied coolly. For a moment, he sat, silent, his eyes scanning the house, the walls, the toys scattered on the floor. "Was it a boy or a girl?"
"Her name is Kristin. Shes not here."
"You brought her to the inn. You must have somehow known we were coming; maybe you heard the helicopter. Thats why we saw you leaving there."
"If you mean to kill my daughter, Ill shoot you now. And then Ill shoot you again, after youre dead. And Ill find that bitch and kill her, too."
"No. I wouldnt kill her, although you can kill Scarlet for all I care. Shes better off dead, anyway."
Her breathing was heavy, though she no longer felt quite so frightened. She was the one with the gun in her hand, pointed toward him. If he took a step toward her, shed shoot. "So why are you here now, if not to kill me?"
A thoughtful look crossed his face. "He didnt scream, did he?"
"What?" She shook, trembled; his words shattered through her. She knew whom he meant, of course, but not why he was asking. What the hell does he want from me? Hasnt enough been taken? What does he want from me?
"Jem. He didnt scream."
"No. Scarlet had given him something that prevented him from talking." She blinked back tears. She saw him there again, Jem, tied up and bloody, his eyes seeking hers, as Scarlet used her knife to rid him of his life. "So I screamed for him."
Rufus nodded. He shook himself. "I came here I want you to tell me something. I want you to tell me about Darra, and Jem. After, after Jems death, Scarlet told me that Darra was his sister, and that theyd simply been using me, that theyd been involved in some organizationI dont remember what she said it was called. Some organization that was plotting against the Shinra company and planning on killing my father. Not that the old bastard didnt deserve it "
"You shouldnt have listened to her."
"But is it true?"
She sighed softly. "Darra was actually Kristin Buckley, Jems sister. It had been his wish that I name our child after her, if it was a girl. And they were involved in an organization planning to stop what your father was doing to the planet. You knew at least some of that, that Jem was doing his best to free the slaves. You knew that I had been a slave, but you said nothing about that to anyone. Not until after Jems death, at any rate. But no, they were not using you."
"And why should I believe you?"
"And why should you not?" she shouted, anger pouring forth. She closed her eyes momentarily, trying to calm herself. "Why would I lie to you? I can kill you now, Rufus. I am the one with the gun. I have no reason to lie to you."
"Then how do you know?"
"How do I know? How would I not know? Jem told me everything. He wouldnt have pretended to be your friendand you should know that, too. You knew Jem better than that. You knew that he wouldnt have done something like that to you. He cared for you. He worried about you. He damned your father to hell and back for everything youd been put through. And you should have known Darra better than that, too. She died before I could meet her, before I even met Jem, but I know she wasnt pretending, simply from what Jem told me about his younger sister. You honestly believe they were lying to you? That for all those years, Jem only pretended he cared about what happened to you, and never once slipped up, or glare at you, or say something truly mean? For Gods sake, Rufus!"
He said nothing. He drew his mouth into a thin, flat line, and said nothing.
"Tell me something else. Whowho was that girl I saw you speaking to at the inn?"
"You know. You already know who she is, or you wouldnt have asked me."
"You know? How inhow do you know who she is, who she really is? Its true, then? She"
"Im sure of it. Jem told me a little of what had happened to your mother, that shed been having an affair with some man, and that your sister wasnt your fathers child. They were both to have been killed, along with your mothers lover, but he escaped somehow with Saeio. Your mother was executed, but they couldnt find the man. They eventually searched the town of Nemoranthis townransacked his house, and found him hiding in the forest outside of here. But they didnt find the child."
"Her father had been smarter than that. I doubt if he cared about his own life, but hed saved the childs somehow. She looks like you. Her name is Kailyn. When I first saw herI asked her mother if she was adopted. And she told me that the child had been left on the doorstep of the inn a few days before the Shinra people came to find Saeios father. So she kept the child. And Saeio is Kailyn."
He nodded. He stood.
"Rufusare you going to talk to her?"
Shaking his head, he moved toward the door. "No. Not yet. I dont know if ever. She doesnt know who she is, and its probably better for her if she never learns. Shes not my fathers daughter, so maybe she escaped the taint."
"Youve changed," she stated, nodding slightly.
"Scarlets in the old house at the end of Flei Roadthe house Saeios father lived inif you want to kill her."
"Why didnt you?"
"She wants death too much for me to give it to her."
"Not for me," Sair whispered as Rufus walked out of her house and out into the snowy night. In less than an hour, it would slowly become dawn.
Kailyn held Millie gently, rocking her, crooning to her. "Shh, honey. Your mama will be back soon. She had to do something."
Oh God. Whats wrong? What is wrong? Ive never seen her like that. Mother said Sair came from a horrible place, butOh god.
"Yes, Mother?" She stood, the child still cradled in her arms, headed toward the outer area of the inn, where her mother was calling for her. "Sair brought Millie hereshe needs me to look after her for tonight. Can you get Shennie to do whatever it is?"
"Shennies got her hands full. Bring Millie withI just need you to show some people to their rooms," her mother called back, her tone slightly impatient.
Sighing, Kailyn hurried, pushed the door open with her elbow, stepped into the light. Millie had stopped crying, but was far from asleep. Squirming in Kailyns arms, she asked again where her mother was. "Shell be coming for you soon," she whispered, praying it wasnt a lie.
"Show these people to rooms fourteen and fifteen, will you?" her mother demanded, tossing two sets of keys at her.
Catching the keys with her free hand, she turned to the three who stood in front of her. The two young women seemed preoccupied, glancing furtively around the inn at those sitting in tables, talking. The older man seemed simply annoyed, impatient.
"Come on, come on," the man said gruffly, pulling the woman with long hair by the arm. "Hurry it, would ya?"
"Im sorry," Kailyn whispered, trying to keep her tone pleasant. She shifted Millies position. The girl continued to wiggle, trying to be released. "Oh no you dont. As soon as Im done, youre going right back to sleep, young lady," she whispered, turning to lead the three through to their rooms.
But the other girl made a soft noise, ran to the door, clutching the doorframe and gazing out into the darkness.
The older man tapped his foot, blowing smoke-rings toward Kailyn, who waved them away. "What in the hell? Mylar, get"
"Rufus!" the girl named Mylar shouted and disappeared into the night.
She flicked the light switch upward with her free hand, her fingers cold. Her heart pounded rapidly within her; her breath came short; her vision seemed somewhat askew. It was difficult to think. Sair had only instinct, reaction, nothing but pure movement and motion. Thought was gone. Reasoning was gone. What moved her went beyond anything she had ever felt before.
Light cascaded over the floor, across the broken room, its shattered remains. It illuminated the chair, the woman sitting upon it. She was leaned backwards, head resting against wood, fingers tightly clenching the sides. Her hair was loose, falling freely over nearly bare shoulders, longer than Sair remembered it. The woman wore a terse smile and a dress redder than the blood that Sairobi Payne meant to spill. It was low cut, and short, the material shimmering in the light, a sea of red.
She hadnt been certain how she would feel, seeing the woman again. She didnt know how she would react, how her heart would stop, then skip, then beat so rapidly it would certainly wear itself into death. Jems face flashed in front of her, his golden eyes open and staring into her, deep, deep into her, with all the pain he had felt in those last moments and had not been able to express. That pain that Sair had been feeling for four years. Everything flooded into her, and suddenly, that night was still happening, despite the years that separated her from it. It would not end until Scarlet was dead, from Sairs actions. It wouldnt end for either of them, or for Jem, four years dead.
Feeling cold all over, she stared at the woman in front of her. It was only a shell, a corpse that breathed and moved, but had no life within it. The girl who had inhabited that body had been killed long before Sair knew had ever known her, and her body was waiting to join her. A feeling alien to her moved into her stomach, gripping her with icy fingers, squeezing her being. In all the years Ive waited for this, I never expected to feel your pain. But it wont stop me from doing what I must do. I wont pity you.
"On your feet," she choked out, her voice rough, shaking. She turned slightly, bringing her right arm upward, bringing the gun¾ Jems gun¾ up with it. Her arm was straight, but shook; taking a breath, she brought her left arm up also, steadying herself, fingers wrapping over fingers, across cold metal.
"Well, well. Sairobi Payne." Scarlets voice was wintry, unchanged. Pulling her mouth into an slim line, bringing her brows together, she stood and took a step forward, high-heeled shoes making sharp clicking noises upon the smooth, hard floor of the house. "I suppose youve come to kill me."
"Ive come to do what should have been done years ago." Four years shed spent, teaching herself how to shoot that gun, preparing herself for this moment. She stood, feet apart, arms straight in front of her. No longer could she feel the metal in her grasp. The weapon had become an extension of herself.
"And Rufus told you where to find me?"
Sair said nothing. Her breath moved painfully out of her. She wondered how it would feel when she pulled the trigger, when the bullet left the barrel, which had become a part of herself; the shock, the recoil, the sight of what it would do to the woman in front of her.
"I trusted him." Scarlet took another step forward, her heel coming down heavily upon the ground. Sairs eyes fell to that shoe, the red straps that spiraled themselves up and around a slim, stockinged ankle. In a whisper, Scarlet spoke again, her voice beginning to break. Gone was the husky, smoky quality she had always feigned; her voice was the voice of a frightened child. There was a catch in it, as though she was have difficulty swallowing. "I shouldnt have."
"He trusted you," Sair retorted, Jems face flashing in front of her. She felt her fingers jerk, aching to do what she was stringing out in time.
"What is it you want? You can kill me, but you cant bring him back."
Sair nodded slowly. "Youre right. I can kill you."
"What is it you want?" Scarlet took another step forward.
Taking a step backward, she said warningly, "Dont come any closer, Scarlet."
She stepped forward. "Why not? There is nothing that I lose. Either way, you intend to kill me. I move forward and I have the chance of saving myself. What is it you want, Sairobi Payne?"
"Exactly that. Pain. Ive always wondered why Jem chose that last name for me. It doesnt matter, really, but it fits. And I want you to feel the pain Ive known. I could simply kill you, and I will, but it is not just that. You want to die. I want you to feel pain." She could hardly hear herself speaking those words. Time had slowed, or perhaps sped up and left her behind. This was not Sairobi Payne, Sairobi Genevi, who raised her daughter in peace, teaching her what was wrong and what was right. This was a woman who cared nothing about morals or what she was doing. This was a woman who felt the need to see blood spilled onto the ground, who needed to hear the sound of another dying by her hands.
"You cant make me feel pain. Whatever you do to me, I dont care. You should know that by now." Scarlet took another step forward, another. Her eyes glittered in the light.
A slow smile spread across Sairs face. She shook her head, looking straight at Scarlet, straight into her eyes. She felt no fear; she felt no mercy. "Yes, I know that. That pain you seem to crave. But there is something you need to understand. You are wrong. I can cause you pain. All those years, you envied me, because you wanted Jem. And you killed him, taking what pleasure you could from that death. But I have something you will never have, and could never have gained from anything you did. I have memories of him. He loved me, Scarlet. And he never loved you. You never held him in your arms, or were held by him. You never saw him when he smiled, just slightly, softly, standing in the rain, drenched by the heat of summer, his hair clinging to his forehead, never felt the warmth that comes from knowing that smile is meant only for you. All this that I had, you could never take away, and never can. And I have his daughter, our daughter. Do you understand what I am saying to you, Scarlet? He. Never. Loved. You."
She saw her words impact the woman, as terrible as any bullets could be. Scarlet blinked, slightly, her eyes widening, then shutting suddenly as she took a step backwards. The woman was yet too close, too close for Sairs comfort. But there was no waiting.
Do. It. Now.
"Jem," she whispered softly, her own eyes widening, a feeling of nausea creeping over her, no longer breathing. She took a slight step forward, and she did it. Her fingers, left index upon right, squeezed the trigger. Once, and the bullet flew, pushing her backwards. Twice, and another followed, nearly knocking Sair from her feet. She stepped backwards, watching in slow motion what the metal did to Scarlets face.
The first bullet hit, and the womans make-up coated face exploded, imploded, shattered in a spray of red, chips of bone and flesh, a crushing, breaking sound. Scarlets shriek pierced the air with a thousand needles. Sair squeezed her eyes shut, telling herself not to cry, but she could not stop herself. Before the second bullet hit, finishing the job the first had done, Sairs breath came in gasps, and deep sobs were wrenched painfully from her throat. She could not say why she was crying; she had done what she had planned on doing, killed the woman who had killed Jem, who had made Sair watch. But the sobs continued coming from her. She let herself slide to the floor, the gun falling from her hands, hitting the floor with a thunk.
She pulled her knees against herself, rocking backward slightly, weeping.
"Jem," she whispered again, her eyes closed so tightly she wondered if she would ever open them again. And then she remembered her daughter, back in the inn, and found the will to open her eyes. Scarlets bloody, broken body was crumpled a short distance from where Sair sat.
With a deep breath, she pulled herself to her feet, glanced at the gun laying upon the ground, then turned and left the building. She went to find her daughter, to hold her close.
A whisper; a breath. It was the beginning of everything. That was how it started. How it would end, he did not know. He merely felt his feet moving him, his legs, his arms pulled backward, pushed forward; he felt the snow slide beneath him. But he did not feel anything else.
Rufus ran. Out of the streets, out of the town, into the winter night.
He didnt stop, though he heard her calling. If he stopped, he might have to think.
If he stopped, he might have to change.
Even if hed wanted to, if her shouts had pierced the barrier in his mind, he might not have been able to stop. There was something else in control of him, something else strong and deadly; it had caught him, as it had before, and it was pulling him closer, ever closer to the edge. He knew that, somewhere inside, he knew; but the edge of what was uncertain.
Time was strung out in front of him, slowed, stilled. There was nothing else but the moment he was in, that night, the darkness and the falling snow and the way the wind brushed across his bare hands. The air was cold, broken about him in chilled pockets of snow and ice and the fog of a childs breath. If he pushed his arms out in front of him, he might be able to swim through that air, fly perhaps, leave his body behind him. There was darkness ahead and there was darkness behind, and all that lay below him was the cold, cold white birth of the sky.
Ahead of him, the whiteness ended.
That terrible thing that had control of him would not allow him to continue; he felt himself slow, slip softly through the snow, come nearly to the edge of the cliff. He took a step farther, daring himself to fall, not quite able to. Darkness stretched onward, downward; a sea of black dotted with white falling snowflakes. Where it ended, or how it would feel to fall through that darkness, he didnt know.
A word, and she was there, beside him, pale fingers clutching his white coatsleeve, pulling him backward slightly.
"You have to be careful, Rufus. You arent fully healed yet."
He turned in a quick, smooth motion, pushing her back, removing his arm from her grip, and time slowed even more, almost stopping as he saw her twirl.
Like a dancer, like a bird, she whirled in the darkness from the force of his push; her coat whipped around her, a sea of blue cutting through the sea of black as she landed in an ocean of white. Her brown hair swirled around her head. Backward, she thrust her arms behind her, fingers pressing into the feathery coldness. Her hair spilled over her shoulders as she tilted her head upward, eyes closed.
Mylar said nothing. And she stayed there, as she was, sprawled backwards in the snow. The edges of her pants, up to her ankles, and her coat had been turned a darker blue, wettened by the snow.
Snowflakes floated slowly through the darkness, large and impossibly white, each perfect in its soft creation. They created a halo of white upon her head, gently touching her hair.
The snowflakes touched her eyelashes, melted.
DarraKristin Buckleyon the ledge outside the Shinra building, snowflakes catching on her eyelashes, melting, covering those sad eyes.
Mylar, sprawled in the snow, and she was the same.
Taking a step backward, he removed his gun from his pocket, pointed it at her. He felt cold metal in his hand; he felt the snow seeping through his shoes; he felt his finger loose upon the trigger, cradled in the hollow his bent knuckle had made.
But he felt nothing else.
An angel in the snow, Mylar froze.
Run, reach, find.
But she knew they wouldnt make it. They didnt even know which the direction the two had gone; it would be impossible to make out which scattered footprints had been made by the president of Shinra and the girl who followed him into the night.
"Im scared, Cid."
"I know, but what can we do?"
A crack split the night, breaking through the snowing world like thunder.
"What was that? OhOh God"
"Hooo-leeeee shit. That was a gunshot."
He hadnt been aiming at her. If he had been, he would have hit her; he knew how to handle guns. But that wasnt much of a comfort to her as she stayed upon the ground, fingers slowly freezing where they were buried in the snow.
"Thats what he said, too. He was just like you, just like youdammit. He was sprawled backwards, like you are." He fired again, just over her head once more, then took a step backward. "I didnt want to kill you, Mylar. Why the hell did you follow me?"
She closed her eyes; she did not move. "I wanted to say I was sorry. I should have told you."
"I cant tell whereit could have been from anywhere around here, Teef! Theres no way were going to find them. Damn bastard "
"No. Cid, we have to."
"Youre nuts. We all are nuts. Were nuts to be out here in this damned, God-forsaken place! Do you hear me, Tifa? Do you hear me, world? Were nuts! Were all God-damn nuts!"
She sighed. She continued onward.
"Rufus. Dont do this. You dont want to do this."
But hed shot him anyway. Hed shot Hawson anyway, though hed told Rufus that he didnt want to do it. Hed shot him anyway, though he had not wanted to. It was the same. She was Darra, she was Hawsonwhoever she was, he knew he would shoot her. He could see it, playing out before him; he could see his finger squeeze the trigger. He could see Mylar dying.
Even though he didnt want her to die.
"Rufus, Im sorry. I thought what I was doing, what I was teaching you, was for the best. I thought, if I could help you not to feel, I could save you from your father. Rufus"
And hed shot him. In the leg, in the stomach, where it would not kill him quickly. Hed watched Hawson lie there, on the floor of his office, bleeding and begging for forgiveness.
"Yes, he screamed! Oh god, he screamed. It was like, like he pulled the universe apartthe world, he just ripped the walls apart with the way he shrieked. It was so loud, but I couldnt take it back. And I didnt want to take it back, not then. Id shot him, and he was still begging for me to forgive him. He screamed and he screamed. He told me he was sorryfor a moment, hed be silent, then hed ask me to forgive him, then it would start again. And he was screaming. I can close my eyes and see his face still in front of me. The way he was lying on the floorlike you, in the snow, arms out, holding himself, holding yourself up. And he screamed. Like Darra did. I didnt save hershe was crying for me to save her. We used to sit outside, on the windowsill, when it snowed. The snowflakes fell all over her, her face, her hair, just likejust like you."
"Rufus, listen to me!"
"NO!" He moved toward her, jerked her roughly upward, his fingers digging into the back of her neck. The hair there was soft, like a babys. He pushed the barrel of the gun against her temple. "Will you scream, Mylar?"
She swallowed. "No," she whispered softly. He had to strain to hear her. "No, I wont scream, Rufus. Now let me down."
And then a pain burst through his knee, sudden and shocking as her foot connected with his leg, and Mylar was loose, tumbling down into the snow again, tangled in her coat. Blue and white and dark brown hair, the world starting over again.
One whisper, one breath. The fog of her breathing upon the air. The movement of hands in the darkness, slowly sliding away the night, revealing dawn beneath the shadows, firelight scattered across the broken fragments of glass. He saw his reflection there, in the window of night.
"Why are you doing this?" Mylar asked him, pushing herself with her hands, sliding backwards in the snow. "Why are you being like this?"
"Im not who you want me to be, Mylar." I cant be. I am who I am. I am what I was made to be. There cant be two of me. The lesser of two fragments, and it cannot be merged.
"No. No, youre Rufus Shinra, president of the company that bears your last name. Go ahead, then, Rufus Shinra."
"Stop it." He raised his gun once more, aimed; she stopped moving, sat still in the snow.
Laughing, she shook her head; her hair moved, sliding across her shoulders, sliding back, disturbing the snow that had settled there. Moonlight, slowly fading, danced across her face. "Do, it then! Do it, Rufus Shinra! Just go ahead and shoot!"
Shoot. Thats what Scarlet told me to do. But Scarlet wanted death, and has likely at last found it. But thats not what Mylar wants.
"What do you wantMylar? Why the hell did you come after me? What does it matter to you?"
But she didnt answer him. She raised her voice, shouting, almost screaming. "What do you want, Rufus? What the hell do you hope to gain by killing me? Why is it important? Why does it matter? What does death ever give you? Why do you have to bewhatever it is you think you are?"
They could not be merged. The pieces did not fit together. Who he was: who he had been, who he had become. The latter meant nothing, it could be erased in time. The other would not be so easily thwarted. It was there, it was him. He was who he was and he could not be changed.
But Sairobi had said hed already changed.
"No," he told her, answering a question neither had spoken but both knew.
"Then shoot me, Rufus Shinra."
He raised the gun and fired.
The sky seemed to shatter above him, as though it felt the impact of that bullet, that anger shot to the heavens. Shouting something unintelligible, he whipped around, fingers releasing the weapon. A bird, it flew into the darkness beyond the cliff.
Brushing snow from her coat, from her pants, Mylar slowly stood, walked toward him.
"Youre bleeding," he said when she reached him, touching the sticky substance near the top of her head. A small amount was matted there, in the curly mass of hair atop her head.
She nodded. "I think that first one must have just grazed me. I didnt feel it." Tentatively, she raised one hand, touched the top of her head, brought her fingers in front of her vision, examining the warm redness. "If I didnt feel it, I doubt it can be much," she told him.
"Im sorry," he said.
Nodding, she said nothing. She turned, look backwards, toward the edge of the cliff. In the snow, she could see the imprints of feet, the hollows where shed fallen. But by the next night, the fresh snow would have covered everything, every hint of the scars her feet, her body had left.
The snow will wash everything away, she thought as they headed back toward the city.
In the sky above them, it slowly became dawn.
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