It was that they began in chaos, and that she ended in shame.

He can still remember, when he closes his eyes and lets the sewage spill into the pipes around him, the rushing tides of dawn, the stirring light in the air. Raphael's anger (over what, is lost in the swirls of water) and the explosion of wood and raining splinters.

Karai. He remembers her name and the weight it carries. "I believe we have matters to discuss." (with or without your leader)

Her headband was red, he recalls distantly, not sure it matters. Sure it doesn't. And she betrayed him. That probably matters more, but it comes second.

She spared them and they lived.

(but she almost killed him that final night and his shell's weight means he can't forget.)

He always trusted her, Karai. The warning signs were there, a smile that was too fond and almost-not-quite friendship that never got anywhere but the burning stars. He looks up on nights and pretends he can count them, but the night is always younger and he is always older.

Her smile now is nothing but for when he's gazing up at her with glazed eyes. Enemies far longer than allies, and he still traces the upward curve like curls of grass.

(like the curl of his sword against her neck)

And he'll never know if Fate pulled their puppet strings, or if they paved their own way to destruction. In the primal dance of predator and prey, he's not sure who's who anymore. His choice was his own, and hers wasn't good enough. Was never good enough.

("go ahead do it finish me" "no")

For now he watches the severe storm as it passes over the horizon, and knows that it will not come tonight. One day, he will remember to forget it all.


"I need a few bucks, Mister."

She stumbles out of the trash heap and leans against the alley wall, smooths her rumpled skirt, cocks her blonde head. He glances at her sideways and adjusts his baseball cap. "For what?"

"This n' that." She averts her eyes and twirls a grease-slicked strand of hair through her fingers. "Look, I'll work for it. Ya know I'm good."

"I don't want your services." He doesn't bother to hide his disgust, but softness finds a place in his voice. "And you don't want me."

"Hey, don't got high standards, man." She gestures to his anatomical oddities. "Know who you are. Don't care if you're a lil' screwy, everyone is in these parts."

"Not like me," he says gently, and now sees her tired, pale face for how young it is. "It's better for both of us if you just forget."

"Nah, nah." The woman flicks her wrist dismissively, old copper and tin-wire bracelets rattling on her skin. "Stop freaking. Just said, I know who you are. You're one of those super-guys always cleaning up this side of town. Like Batman," she grins almost eagerly. "Rumors 'bout you green people all around. Anyway, just wanted you to know I was good for your money."

"I don't have any. Sorry." He pulls out the insides of his overcoat's pockets, gives an apologetic shrug, then turns to the building on the far side of the street.

The click of her heels creeps up next to him on the pavement; he turns and sees her leaning against the streetlamp, a glass earring glinting under the light and arms pulled up in a cross beneath her breasts. "Well, damn," she mutters. Her blood red-lipsticked mouth stretches slightly. "Guess you're no Bruce Wayne, then."

"Sorry to disappoint."

A lapse of silence, and she rests a fist beneath her chin, an eyebrow raised. "What're you standing out here for? Ain't nothing around here but my kind n' a few worse."

"Just watching."

"Yeah?" Her head rolls toward the building. "Saki's digs, huh? Heard the guy's a total douche. Didn't he bite it?" She pauses, leaning forward slightly, her mouth tightening. "What's he got that you're so interested in?"

He only pulls his coat more tightly around himself. "You're going to have to get your money from someone else."

"Ah. Yeah." She can take a hint at least, and detaches from the streetlamp. "Well, thanks anyway."

She starts down the sidewalk, a self-trained sway in her hips, and he breathes the night air through his mouth. "Hey."


"That's a nasty habit you're indulging."

She laughs, and he thinks it's sad at how pretty a sound it is. "Can't help it. Gotta have my pops, ya know?" Silence grabs the night once more, but he can feel her breathing. "We all got bad habits, man. Some worse than others."

She leaves. And he watches the building.

(two weeks later he finds her dead against an alley wall with a syringe in her hand. still cant tell whose was worse, in the end)


It wasn't supposed to end like this.

He had to be the first to go. From the moment he drew intelligence enough, he wrote his own fate into the walls of the city.

("I don't know if he'll make it")

He can only watch the shuddering movements of his brother's chest, the blood seeping through bandages and spreading over skin. Too much of him. A rip in the chest, a clean slice where sword has bitten through to flesh and bone. Heart. It's still somewhere down there.

(oh god)

His own pounds in his head, the whirring of movement around him, sound coming only in white-noised rifts of voice and the wind of his own mind. So much blood. And a pale, sticky hand in his own where it grasps for his warmth. He must have offered it all, because now he only feels cold.

(Oh God)

Someone pulls his wrist and he lets go, feels weight against his weightlessness as someone pushes him out the door. Redness in their eyes, and he can only see it growing as blood and pouring from their mouth as they talk. "I don't know if he'll make it."

"I trusted her, not him." His words are cracked like gravel, his own voice ringing somewhere too far away. "Me. It should have been me."

The gentle voice is like swarming bees in his head. "It's not your fault."

"It should have been me."

"Get some rest." A soft hand on his shoulder and he almost flinches. "I'll do everything I can."

He climbs topside to count the stars, and sees only the lights from the city that refused to take him first.


(when you kill her, you do it with the sword she betrayed you with. you do not have it marked. you just know.)

(and you forget to remember that you waited for her at all.)


I will never accept Karai as she was portrayed in Back to the Sewers.