Hello all.

Welcome to the end of the story.

Thank you so much to all who read and reviewed! Thank you, Flame-Wiz27, Pikachu127, Stolloss, Shadow Blues, Shadsie, SapphireDrakon, Snowest, lupyne, Carito-fox, Souldin, Twilight Smash, Dusk-N-Dawn and Luna La Pond!

I have discovered the worst thing about writing these kind of fics is that I'm unable to clarify issues with readers' comments, until the mystery is actually over. You have had no idea how close or far guesses were, even wilds stabs in the dark from the very first chapter. But now, the truth is out! Murderer and motive... who has gotten the closest?

The next upcoming fic will be a collaboration with a great writer lupyne – Smile. More details can be found on both our profiles. At the same time, please do check out lupyne's works, such as the ongoing I Am Lucario.

For a last reference, the poll stands as such:

Murderer

Pikachu: 5 votes
Fox, Luigi: 4 votes each
Falco, Ganondorf: 2 votes each
Link, Peach: 1 vote each
Lucario: 0 votes

hawk

---

Fox stared blankly back at Luigi. "What."

The plumber met his gaze, light enough to pretend he was playing poker for keeps, and strict enough to think he was about to kill. Luigi remained expressionless, although Fox's sharp eyes caught a trembling in the hand that held his gun. "Don't play-a head-games with me anymore, McCloud," Luigi spat, leering at the fox.

A small sweat started to break out on Fox's brow. The plumber was serious, and no amount of negotiating was able to get the lethal chunk of metal out of his own muzzle. There was still one last chance –

"Are you insane?" Fox drew in his breath, daring to speak back now. Something didn't quite fit. Why would Luigi accuse him now? He doubted that he'd given the plumber any reason to suspect himself… but what about – "Ganon? I bet you he's the one behind all this! Let's go and –"

Luigi twisted his wrist and shot.

A Blaster shot whizzed by Fox's head. Fox immediately took this as a cue to shut up, leaving the shot to harmlessly fly into the dark corners of the Lounge. A split second later, there was a distinct bzzt sound, and then some crashes as the Blaster hit something somewhere in the distance behind him.

"Don't try-a anything!" Luigi practically yelled, his voice shaking with emotion. The hand holding the gun trembled more violently. Fox twitched, his eyes immediately drawn to the Blaster. Torn between the gun and Luigi's furious face, Fox felt his gaze flickering back and forth between the two.

"But Ganon – " "Ganon's-a dead!" Luigi practically yelled back, his gun-wielding hand violently shaking now. Fox's jaw dropped.

"Ganon's-a dead in his room, stuck to the floor like he stabbed his pretty self," spat Luigi, not calming down at all. The hand grabbing the gun wavered dangerously, the gun twisting and turning in random directions. Fox, although shellshocked at the news, saw his chance. Suddenly diving to the side, he had closed half of the distance between them before Luigi could even protest, then delivered a well-practiced kick from his hindpaws, intending to knock the gun from Luigi's grasp.

No such luck. Luigi instinctively grabbed the gun back, acting more out of pure, heightened reflexes than anything else. Fox's hindpaw met empty air, his eyes widening for a moment before planted his feet down, trying to stay balanced.

"I said no more games, McCloud!" Luigi yelled.

A searing pain shot through Fox's hindpaw as the Blaster shot met its mark. He doubled over, stumbling backwards away from Luigi, before collapsing two steps from where he stood. Luigi walked briskly over to him, brandishing the Blaster as if it was a poisonous snake. The vulpine gripped his paw, trying to ease the pain, his ears lying flat on his head. He still managed to glare at Luigi as the man drew closer to him.

"What." Fox snarled. Wordlessly, Luigi aimed the Blaster between the fox's eyes.

"It's – not – me." Fox drew out every word, emphasizing the not. Luigi's eyes glazed over. "Well then, who could-a it be?" He yelled. "It's not-a me! Ganondorf didn't just stab himself, did he now?"

Fox shut up, inching himself slowly back away from the plumber, pushing back with his front paws. Luigi advanced, still aiming the Blaster squarely at its former owner.

"Wait – so wait! Now what?" Fox's eyes narrowed. "Why don't you get Master Hand? Taking justice into your own hands, huh?" Trying to put on an act of bravado, all this did was to make Luigi take another step towards the downed animal.

"Isn't it obvious, McCloud? What did-a Peach die of?" Fox opened his mouth and shut it, unable to think of an answer. Luigi's eyes narrowed. "I'll-a tell you. Poison. Cyanide. From your-a own medicine cabinet."

"You know I never take anything from it," snarled Fox. Luigi nodded. "Precisely. Gave-a you the perfect cover, acting all ignorant of your-a poisons and your-a medications. I didn't fall for it. Neither did Pikachu."

"Pikachu?" Fox breathed. "The mouse and I knew-a something was up," Luigi rubbed his eyes fiercely with his free hand, but then calmed down."That's why we were late for lunch, the day he – you – killed him." The thought shot through Luigi's head, and the plumber resumed his killer glare at Fox, who just gaped.

"We went a-sniffing, the Pokémon and I. He somehow remembered the poison's smell from-a Peach, and we spent a long time tracking it around-a the Mansion. Sniffing, sniffing, like some hired-a mafia thug and-a his dog. Took us days, but eventually we got a match." He shook his hand casually, causing the gun to rattle slightly in his grasp. "Guess-a where?"

"And in case you really like-a to pretend you don't know-a thing… There's something you should-a know about cyanide. Tastes-a like…" Luigi's eyes flickered to the cup Fox just drank out of. "…bitter almonds."

Fox's eyes widened. "You –"

"Got it from your-a own medicine cabinet," shrugged Luigi. "You can-a hardly blame me."

Fox just snarled again. "You – "

"You – you – I… I what?" His voice was mocking, thin, and light. "I'll-a be the judge here," hissed Luigi, drawing himself up to his full height. There was a glint in his eyes and a certain grit in his teeth as he emphasized every syllable. His hand shakily lifted up to face Fox's own face directly, and even though it was shaking, the distance was simply too close for him to miss. Ignoring Fox' protests, Luigi spoke.

"You, Fox McCloud, have been found guilty of –"

BANG.

---

Blackness. And then a little warmth. Fox's mind's eye wandered around the blackness. This was weird. Was this how it was supposed to go? He could feel his limbs, even though he couldn't see it – so it was like being trapped in a suffocating blackness that didn't quite feel that suffocating after all. He felt a limp something drop into his arms. His arms? He could feel his paws. Hold it.

Fox opened his eyes a crack, realizing that he had shut them at the last possible moment and had kept them squeezed shut. He very quickly discovered he was still in the land of the living, albeit sprawled across the Lounge floor. The heat and sounds of the real world suddenly came rushing back in a roar, so much so that he had to shut his eyes again to block them out.

When he reopened his eyes again, the realisation that he was still alive hit him. The reason for this was immediately clear.

The Blaster had fallen from Luigi's hand, and now lay behind him. Even more disturbingly so, Luigi himself had fallen face-down onto the floor – or would have, had Fox not been in the way. As a result, the Mario brother had fallen literally into Fox's arms. The fox took quite a while to process it, but very quickly ruled out the possibility that Luigi misfired.

Behind Luigi, and in front of Fox, stood a rather familiar figure. With the ceiling's lights behind it, it was reduced to nothing more than a silhouette, holding a gun which obviously had sent Luigi tumbling forward. The shadow moved slightly, unsure, then dropped the gun and ran to Fox's side.

What?

…The first thing that came into his mind was that it was hallucinations, the cruel just-a-dream scenarios; odd colours and patterns swirling before his eyes. But then as the figure walked, a shadow was cast on the floor, there was the soft footfalls against the Lounge's carpet, and the instantly-recognisable flight jacket which rustled in the small wind.

"You – " Falco cocked his head and stared at Fox out of the corner of his eye, not daring to face the vulpine directly. He didn't know whether his Starfox teammate be happy that he's back, or that…

Fox's reaction was firstly of surprise, then opening and closing his jaws like a fish out of water. Hit by the rush of emotions, he couldn't really do anything than to sit down and gape at the friend he thought he had lost.

While Fox's mind was still processing the information, the avian ambled over to him, uncertain, nudging Luigi's body off of his lap. The plumber rolled to one side, a Blaster shot marked on his right back. Nothing else was heard other than the soft sifting of sand somewhere in the room. Falco didn't look at either of them as he held Luigi's body and silently moved it to the side of the table, on the floor.

"So… it was you?"

Falco sighed. "I guess there's no use pretending, eh, Foxie?" He slipped his second Blaster into his hip holster, and sat down next to Fox, his joints cracking. He stretched his wingtips, before setting his head down in his wings. He rocked back and forth, as if trying to rock himself to sleep. Fox just stared at his teammate.

"You know, I was kind of disappointed, Fox…" Falco murmured, looking away. "Was odd that you didn't realize it was me, all the way from the beginning." Fox shut his jaws with a snap, then let it drop open again. "I – what?"

---

From an old dusty corner of his cupboard, Falco drew it out. He looked at it, up, and down, first with nostalgic remembrance, then disgust, then sorrow. He scrunched up his face in determination, then tucked the old sniper rifle under his arm and slid out of the room, making sure to close the door before he left.

Oftentimes, he would nip down to the Kitchen for a snack, sometimes with Fox at his heels. But, more often than not, they would have found that Kirby and Yoshi had once again made a sneak attack earlier than they had, and left the Kitchen empty, devoid of anything barely edible. Sometimes Falco would discover a small stool or something missing.

In any case, this meant that they would then often drag themselves up to the Storeroom for food, complaining about their bad luck and the long trip. After time, however, they had gotten adapt to cracking open crates, digging out some food within some ridiculous treasure chest.

And the best part was that Kirby and Yoshi didn't know where the Storeroom was. "A good thing too, else we'd be out of anything to eat," Fox commented.

But this time, Falco dragged himself up with an even heavier heart than ever before. He allowed the sniper rifle's butt to drag along the carpeted floor, before hastily lifting it up, for fear of anyone hearing it. He followed the well-worn route his feet were used to shuffling along, except now he went about his usual route without Fox by his side and a heart weighed down with lead.

He lifted up the sniper rifle, allowing the butt to rest in the groove of the shoulder. Like an old friend it slid into place, triggering a brief rush of memory from the bird when he last used it, when he was a small thug, way, way before he had joined Star Fox. Times were bad then, and assassins made good pay – what wasn't to like?

Suddenly he shook his head, trying to force down those memories. Suddenly the rifle seemed infinitely heavier.

He grudgingly peered through the sight, for the figure he knew he would see through it. At first he saw nothing other than a patch of green grass, but as he shifted the rifle a little a flash of blue came into view. There you are.

Falco shuffled into position onto a crate, until Lucario's head lay squarely on the sight's crosshairs.

As he readied himself, his feathered finger already on the trigger, he suddenly felt a wave of guilt. Even though he'd used the exact same rifle before for the exact same thing multiple times, this time he had it pointed straight at someone he knew. A fellow Smasher… Someone whom he had lived with for how long now? since the competition started…

So, this is Falco Lombardi, hm? He stifled a half-laugh. He remembered when he would be able to simply turn down such offers, or when he thought he would never see his old rifle again. He had thought it beautiful. Beautiful. Pretty. Now it was a lump of metal leering back at him, challenging him, daring him. It felt heavy and bloody in his rapidly-shaking wings.

He regained control of his senses with a start. He had drifted off, staring into space, while his finger still hovered right above the trigger, one inch away, just one inch away.

Falco wiped the edge of his face with his sleeve, hastily rearranging the rifle. He blinked, holding the scope close up to his eye. To his horror, the appendages at the back of Lucario's head had already started to drift up.

Emotions, Falco thought with a sudden fear, before realizing that that fear was an emotion, too. Was his guilt that strong? No matter what, he had to act now – now – before anything happened –

Quickly, he thought. It'll all be over soon, I promise. As if in a dream, his finger pressed down, and a voice in his head kept telling him it'd all be okay.

"Aaargh!"

The shout jolted him wholly back to reality. It was a guttural, hoarse voice he had never heard Lucario use before. Snatching the scope and staring through it, Falco saw that he had missed partially, either because of Lucario's premonition or that his wings were trembling too much.

Cursing inwardly, the avian flicked the barrel, aiming well at the figure running in a drunken, zigzagged path across the Garden grounds. Now he tried to console himself, telling him that it was to put him out of his misery. Now if only he would stay still!

Looking through the scope, he tried to keep the Pokémon in his sights. He fired again, but Lucario just so happened to jump to the side. The result was that the bullet entered Lucario's hip instead of head, toppling the Pokémon over onto the Mansion's marbled steps.

As Falco muttered to himself, Lucario reached out weakly, trying to crawl back up. The avian reloaded quickly, and aimed squarely at his head. At least now the Pokémon's mobility was limited – scratch that – it was completely zero. Finally, a target he could hit.

He raised the gun, and his professional side kicked in. Three shots for a single target? What gives? He entertained that thought for a moment, before suddenly feeling an overwhelming sense of shame.

Just as the trigger was halfway-pressed, Lucario turned and stared at him. Directly at him. Through the scope he saw Lucario's blood-red eyes staring straight into his, recognition flaring up amidst the dying embers.

He knew.

It's –

Falco wanted to shout Run and Go and Sorry all at the same time, but he never did and Lucario would never hear it. All he did hear was a mechanical click, and through his scope he saw a cloud of red mist, and what was left of Lucario flipped violently to a side.

---

"Your –

"Yeah, I was kind of surprised you didn't recognize it in the Storeroom," sighed Falco. "After all, you did try to throw my beloved rifle out, first thing when I stepped onto the Great Fox."

Falco strode over to the clock hanging above the Lounge door. Next to it was a odd looking hourglass which Fox immediately remembered seeing, its soft sound of sand oddly comforting. He also remembered the sand jumping, flowing alternatively fast and slow through the thin neck of the hourglass… almost as if it had a life of its own…

The avian picked it up with two fingers, carelessly toying with it, turning it upside down. To Fox's surprise, the sand still flowed upwards, falling up from the bottom half into the top, faster and faster and faster. Falco sighed, flipping it the right side up, and slowly shuffled his way back to the vulpine.

Whatever provided the light in this world had almost set, bathing the two pilots in twilight. In the lengthening shadows, the rustling sound of the sand became louder in the silence, and slightly more sinister.

"Something I don't… understand," murmured Fox. He turned to look at Falco. "Poison? You had poison?"

"It was in our medicine cupboard," admitted Falco. "Something along the lines of death-before-dishonour or something like that. Don't you remember?"

"I didn't see it," argued Fox. Falco sighed.

"You never looked."

---

Peach continued nodding, her head dreamily moving up and down in response to Luigi's constant babble of words, although it was constantly interrupted by her violent coughing spasms.

Falco, his face increasingly pale, turned to his teammate and roommate. "Don't we have a medicine cabinet?" Fox, too mortified by the situation, nodded absent-mindedly, and then realized what Falco was saying. "I… don't really know where it is," he muttered to himself, then "Go! You go!" he hurriedly urged, the bird nodding and disappearing down the hallway.

Once out in the hallway, Falco made for their rooms in a hurry. He fumbled at his room door, his feathers somehow not having the strength to open it. Every time he tried the cold handle slipped from his grasp, the icy coldness of it somehow burning his wing. Eventually he forced his wings into position, slamming the door open at long last. Breathing heavily, he stumbled into the dark room, feeling for the small medicinal cabinet he knew was there. Of course it was there.

He teased open the box, and it swung open with an ominous creak. He cast one last glance at the tiny vial in his wing. It was almost empty, but it once contained enough cyanide to poison a person in mere seconds. Colourless liquid that could easily be sprinkled onto an innocent-looking fruit. The Princess must have had the fortune of biting into a particularly concentrated portion – or else, death would have been quite prolonged.

Everyone didn't really care where Peach got the fruit from, but he did. He'd know – after all the times where Fox stole his share of food – and the chicken – he would often find himself wandering to the Storeroom to get food. But poisoning the source would have been too obvious, too dangerous.

But it had been so easy to simply poison the one Peach took, placed daintily on the very top of the fruit basket she had prepared the night before. In the ruckus following Lucario's death, half a minute was more than what he needed.

Falco shook himself out of his train of thought, his vision focusing on his wing. Some remained in the bottom of the vial. He wiped his eyes hastily with the back of his wing, as he threw the almost-empty bottle into the medicine cabinet, shutting it without so much as a backward glance. It clinked against its brother, still mostly full with the liquid.

I'll save that for me, Falco numbly thought, before running down the hallway back to the Lounge.

---

Fox didn't say anything this time, but merely looked away, lowering his muzzle. Falco blinked, not expecting it.

An awkward moment passed, then it lengthened into a half-minute. Falco agitatedly twisted at the hourglass in his hand, but it still remained sturdy and unbreakable. Eventually, he leaned backwards with a sigh, Fox tiredly flicking his eyes to his teammate.

"So, now you're going to tell me how you stabbed Link, hm?" Fox almost sneered, his voice slow and deliberate. Falco sighed, then shook his head. "Look, I didn't –" "You didn't what?" Fox arched an eyebrow at his teammate, and the avian took as his cue to stop. There was an anger underlying the fox's voice, but even so it was uncertain and tired.

A slight shifting sound caught the attention of both space animals. Falco's eyes immediately flicked to the hourglass he held, before his eyes widened.

The hourglass's sand emptied in a dramatic motion, the thin stem connecting the two halves shattering as the rest of the sand literally forced its way through, as if it couldn't wait anymore. For a moment all was silent except for the soft tinkling of glass and the shifting of sand, and then all was silent.

And then the hourglass crushed itself with a grotesque sound, splintering into silvers of wood and glass, spraying sand as it was smashed by an unseen force. The sand spilled all over Falco's lap, turning from a pale brown into deepening disturbing shades of crimson.

Falco staggered backwards. "I'm out of time…" Groping at Fox, he grabbed his teammate by the arm and started dragging him off. Groggily, Fox stood to his feet, slightly reluctant to follow. "Where – are we –"

"Away from here," Falco's voice was clearly tinged with fear and desperation. Pausing only to grab Fox's cup from the table, he almost ran to the exit, pulling a dazed fox along. Fox only followed, stumbling along because of the confusion that was stirring in his mind, but something happened that caused them both to stop dead in their tracks.

From somewhere not too far off, the voice began.

It was a long, drawn out voice, careless and at once quiet and loud. Something in the voice reminded Fox of nails scraping against metal.

The avian's face blanched, the colour draining out of his feathers. "Come on, we got to go!" He urged Fox, and without waiting for a response, burst them both out of the Lounge and staggered away. Fox tripped over his own feet, nearly falling, but Falco caught him and helped him upright, before quickly pushing him along the corridor.

---

Downstairs, in the Great Hall of the Mansion, it began.

Where was he? There were four boxes lined up in a pretty little row, each large enough to be able to conceal oneself within. Ah, then there is only one way to properly coax people out from their safe and secure hiding places, and that was through safe and meaningful dialogue and reassuring words. Any other way would be impolite, destructive and improper.

Who said it needed to be proper?

Eeny.

There was a resounding explosion, the first box on the left violently exploding and going up in flames. Bits of splintered wood flew all over the already-blackened floor of the Hall, now painted over with a dull coat of crimson, newly splattered on as if from a giant bucket of paint.

Pretty pretty colours!

Mixed with the red, many small tufts of stained blue and yellow fur drifted slowly down like the light spring rain.

---

It was the dead of the night. Falco dared to step out from his room, slowly pushing open his door with a creak. He paused, his mind immediately looking around for the hidden murderer. When he finally got a hold of his senses, he silently laughed at the irony.

Quietly making his way down the corridors, he paused a little to admire the bright moon out of a window. He stopped. The moon was gone. Hidden from sight… and neither were the stars –

Slowly shaking his head, he suddenly felt lightheaded. He wasn't on the Great Fox anymore, away from the vast expanses of space and brilliant pinpoints of light. He was here in the Mansion, hidden by the starless night and the cover of darkness. He shook his head once again and continued on his journey.

Finally, no matter how long he tried to take, trying to delay the inevitable, his footsteps still led him there after all. He laid a feathered wing on the wooden door, then pressed his head against it, trying to hear the breathing within. …rhythmic, continuous, predictable …asleep.

He pushed open the door, silently. He was alternatively glad and disappointed that Link still didn't understand how the Mansion's lock worked.

Apparently he had been afraid that if he'd locked his door, he wouldn't be able to get it open without breaking his key.

No matter what, Falco felt more than just a twinge of regret pass through him as he stepped past the threshold. Fortunately for him, the only one who could have detected it was now resting in a box in the corner of the Mansion. All because of you. he thought bitterly.

He slowly treaded over to the foot of Link's bed, carefully shutting the door. He knew Link to be a formidable warrior, someone who he wasn't sure of winning if it came down to hand-to-hand combat. And furthermore, if any semblance of a fight broke out, it would bring the rest of the Mansion running over in a matter of minutes, and it would all be over –

No. He had to play the game till the very end.

How often he had prized his double Blasters, often slinging one of them on either side of him. And now, he drew his remaining Blaster from its holster, priming it. Link remained ignorant, sleeping almost peacefully. A faint smile grew across his lips, the Hylian murmuring something in his sleep, before rolling over; much to the relief of Falco. The avian let out his breath louder than he would have wished, suddenly realizing he had been holding it for the past few seconds.

Don't worry, Falco thought, biting his tongue. Images of Lucario flashed before his eyes, before he raised the gun and pointed it straight at the asleep Link's chest. I promise this won't hurt at all. Link murmured something, then smiled faintly. Falco looked away.

No one heard the single shot.

---

"So he wasn't killed by his sword," mused Fox.

"Yeah, well, I was supposed to, but –" "Supposed to? What the – Look here, Lombardi, what do you – "

"Look, stairs," Falco abruptly brushed Fox's words aside, his face paling slightly as he forcefully dragged the vulpine to the stairwell. Fox didn't get a chance to reply as Falco quickly led him upstairs.

"No joke – Faking a fight – Accidentally swiped half the things off his table, too –" Falco muttered in between breaths, climbing stairs two at a time. Fox followed silently, stumbling over a landing and sprawling flat onto the ground with a grunt. His teammate was immediately at his side, slowly helping him up, but Fox brushed aside the wing extended to him and hobbled to his feet.

Falco shrugged slightly, then regripped Fox's arm and restarted running. Now they ran past the Kitchen, and Fox couldn't ignore the door and the still-present burnt odour coming from behind it as they quickly made their way past it.

Behind them, they heard a dull boom sound echoing throughout the Mansion.

---

It was only a matter of minutes for him to pluck out some of his own feathers, scattering them randomly around the room. It was also very easy to beat one of his Blasters into submission, silently opening it with a screwdriver – just like he did Fox's phone – and then short-circuiting the machinery within. It was also no problem at all to get a couple of chickens and to load them into the oven, setting it on high heat and allowing the gas to slowly leak out.

Falco took a deep breath. As he slowly stepped backwards, ready to make a run for it, he caught sight of something out of the corner of his eye. He paused. It was a bluish image, someone in a flight jacket, treading nervously across the Kitchen floor.

The mirror beside the oven leered at Falco, taunting him. And reflected in it was a shaken Falco, no longer the brave bird of old but now something not quite recognizable. Falco raised his Blaster towards the ceiling, firing a single shot. He heard it echo across the Mansion, almost in the way he would clear his throat to get everyone's attention.

The mirror glittered.

Falco aimed directly at his counterpart, seeing the reflection aim the gun squarely back at him. "It's you," he breathed, his voice not much louder than the rapid countdown ticking of the oven.

Then, louder, he yelled, "You!" and fired, but didn't stay to watch his counterpart fragment, falling to pieces on the Kitchen floor. Like a crazed man Falco aimed at the sides of the Kitchen, taking out all the glassware with several well-placed shots, even though his Blaster wing was trembling. If only Lucario had had that privilege, he wouldn't have suffered so –

He flew out of the door, slamming the door shut behind him.

Rounding the corner, he reached a little storeroom, set into the wall. Hurriedly – yet silently – twisting the knob open, he let himself into the small room and shut the door behind him, pulling out the light-emitting baton from his flight jacket. He glanced at it for only a second, remembering the last time he had used it: in the darkened Teleportation room, seemingly so distant and so long ago.

It was a small storeroom, almost like a broom closet. Climbing on some unknown boxes, Falco cracked a hole in the ceiling with the butt of his Blaster. Ripping away at the ceiling proved to be remarkably easier than expected, although Falco noticed his wingtips grew significantly darker under the dim light of the baton. He winced and tried not to listen to the yells and the inevitable explosion from the Kitchen.

Eventually he made a hole large enough for him to scramble into. Wordlessly, he hoisted himself up, kicking a little, but eventually disappeared into the ceiling.

---

Meeny.

A dented crown clattered loudly on the floor, rolling a couple of rounds before stopping with a metallic clang. Grating metallic noises. Interesting.

---

As the duo quickly hurried down the hallway, there was an ominous crack, the ceiling splitting open right in front of them. Fox instinctively stopped dead in his tracks, his mind suddenly conjuring images of Pikachu's last moments. He hastily grabbed Falco, jerking him backwards unceremoniously.

Falco tumbled over backwards, frantically trying to keep the tea from spilling. As he fell, the ceiling caved in, in front of them, dumping debris and plaster in the middle of the corridor, trapping the two Smashers in a dead end.

Unnerved, Falco got up, and pulled his Blaster from its place on his hip. Watching Falco fire at the wall, Fox's jaw dropped as the wall cracked, the edges burning slightly at the Blaster's power. A section of the wall splintered, and Falco took it as his cue to continually pump shot after shot into the wall. Within a couple of seconds, the section of wall simply fell over backwards, crushing an unfortunate piece of furniture on the other side.

Luigi shrugged. "Seemed like-a Master Hand cut more corners building this thing than-a we thought he did."

"This way," urged Falco, stepping through the hastily-made hole. Fox followed in a half-daze. Behind them, the explosions continued, a dulling noise, distant but not entirely ignored. Another wall appeared to stand in their way, but Falco raised his Blaster again.

---

BAM.

Falco cursed silently as he jumped backwards. It was an age-old habit of his, and yet he somehow just couldn't get rid of it, no matter how hard he tried – even when the situation desperately called for it. He would have to learn, some day... how to close doors silently, and not just instinctively slam them shut.

Behind the door he heard rustling of the bedsheets, knowing he must have woken Fox up.

He hadn't seen Fox since… then.

A patter-patter of paws and feet told him he had company. Cursing underneath his breath, Falco made himself scarce as quickly as possible, while still trying to maintain absolute silence. He dodged behind a corridor, then left as quickly as possible without looking behind.

He made his way to another closet, knowing he would have to make yet another hole in the ceiling in order to get where he was supposed to go. Falco took a deep breath, then closed the closer door behind him, took out his Blaster, and got back to work with a grim determination.

"Chu."

Pikachu pointed his nose to Falco's door, which was now locked from the outside. Luigi scratched his head absent-mindedly, running his fingers underneath his cap. Pikachu looked up at the door he was sniffing at.

"Maybe it's-a around here," offered Luigi. Pikachu nodded, putting his nose to the ground and continuing to sniff. But not more than five steps away, the mouse walked head-first into Fox's door, the short episode ending with Pikachu sullenly rubbing his head in an almost comical manner.

Luigi stifled a small chuckle, but his expression quickly grew serious as he ran his fingers across Fox's door. He looked down at Pikachu, who in turn looked back at him. "Don't tell him just yet," Luigi whispered. Pikachu looked back at Fox's door, then nodded.

They continued searching the Mansion grounds for any other traces of the poison that had been Peach's undoing, but there was no other scent. The only trace of it came from the rooms of the Star Fox crew, and now, McCloud will have to pay the price for what he has done.

First, dinner, Luigi had told Pikachu. Then, we'll see what happens next.

Just as Fox was about to question the Gerudo about something or the other, the door slammed open, startling its occupants. Luigi and Pikachu appeared in the doorway, a little scared by the sudden noise they had made. Luigi glanced at Pikachu, nodding knowingly, before walking away, his back towards the rest of the Smashers. "Pika…" the Pokémon nodded in Fox's direction, before slowly making his way to the table.

Don't trust him.

However, up above them, Falco waited. It was amazing, really, no one ever looked up. Because if they did, they might have just seen a tiny hole, a small peephole Falco had made, just to keep track of going-ons below.

He ran his feathered hand down the hefty bar next to him. It was suspended, held in place by several thin wires. He knew it to be one of the support beams, helping to hold the ceiling's framework into place, but more than that he didn't know. To be honest, he wasn't even sure he would survive this manoeuvre, or be dragged down with it.

Lifting up his Blaster, he saw a small glint of reflection. Years ago, he had begrudgingly admired Wolf's weapons, the ability to switch into a melee weapon with a long, curved blade attached to his gun. Of course, he never told Fox, but Falco had tinkered with his own Blaster in his own free time. The old switchblade he had was now fitted onto the side of his Blaster.

Now, it slid out with a soft shk. He rested in on the edge of one support line, lightly pressing on it. The large beam swayed slightly in response.

He screwed his eyes shut and sliced it through.

Perhaps it was his oversight, or maybe it was a twisted joke – the blade snapped off, although it cut through most of the wire. The beam groaned, the wire left hanging by a mere thread, and the heavy metal bar slid down and hit the top of the ceiling with a crack.

Falco held his breath.

Then suddenly, as if the force was too much to take, the remaining threads snapped in quick succession. Luckily for him, Falco squeezed himself into as tight a ball as possible, avoiding the metal bar as it crunched through the thin ceiling partition and disappeared from his view. The pilot heard a sickening snap, the crash of the crystal fruit bowl shattering, and moments later, low agitated voices of the Smashers and the remarkable absence of Pikachu's cry.

Falco bowed his head for a few seconds, before hurriedly scrambling to one side. In the confusion and the chaos below, no one heard the scrabbling sounds as the falcon quickly crawled, hidden, over their heads.

---

Miney.

Ragged pieces of green cloth, once part of a tunic, were thrown into the air, before quietly fluttering down and disappearing into ash. Fiery. Pretty.

---

Fox blinked once or twice, only to suddenly realise he had been moving, running in an unknown direction. He only felt a vague grip on his arm that was Falco, continually pulling him along. The once-alert fox only fully got back to his senses when his shuffling hindpaws slammed straight into a low staircase step, causing him to wince in pain and fall flat on his muzzle.

"Get up, we're nearly there!" urged Falco, a tinge of desperation in his voice. Through the growing haze in his mind, Fox tried to stand up, blearily looking at the unfamiliar set of stairs. "Wha –" was all he got out before Falco quickly – but gently – nudge him up them, all the way to the Rooftop of the Smash Mansion.

As he was holding Fox by the shoulders with both wings at that point in time, Falco kicked the door open, hoping it would work. Fortunately for the falcon, the door swung open outwards, creaking with disuse. The avian dragged his teammate out onto the rooftiles, Fox grateful for the opportunity to finally sit down. Far away, the muffled explosions continued.

He tumbled to the ground, wincing in pain as his knees finally buckled and lost the fight to stand straight. Falco looked at him, concerned, gripping both his shoulders in his wings. Fox blinked, not knowing whether to look at the Smasher or not, finally choosing to stare at a spot in the night sky slightly to Falco's right.

"So, where to now?" Falco shrugged, releasing his grip on the fox. He whirled around, to stare at the night sky. "I don't know. We've gone as high as we could go. I don't think we can go any further."

Fox arched an eyebrow.

"Okay – that's it – enough of this mystery talk." Fox glared at Falco, the avian feeling his eyes burning into his back. Falco turned around, resignedly, to face Fox. Fox continued, still staring at the falcon. "Why?"

---

Mo.

A splintering of wood and dust, but otherwise nothing. Nothing interesting. It was empty. …Unsatisfactory.

---

The door opened with a creak – in fact, it seemed as though all doors would open with a tired, half-ominous whine. Almost immediately, there was a thick purple fume leaking out, almost something you could reach out and touch. Falco nearly coughed out loud, but he held a wing to his beak and sidled in.

Inside the room were fumes, thick and continuous, and they blocked almost everything in sight. Wading through the nearly-opaque smoke posed a little problem to Falco, but his target loomed ahead in an unmistakable shadow. The bird fumbled with the heavy weapon he held. This just felt foreign, it just didn't feel quite right, but he knew what had to be done, and so he went about his business with his old, cold, businesslike demeanour.

Ganondorf didn't move at all. Chances are he didn't even hear the avian sneak up behind him, weapon in hand, ready to strike. He was still busy, poring over his precious spellbook with a potion in his hand and a shard of glass in the other. The magic circle glowed a little in the dim light, the candles relit, the circle a little more complete than it was three hours ago.

Falco steadied himself. One strike. It had to be one strike, or the King would Ganon Punch him in the face and it would be all over. He quickly passed a wing past his forehead and it came away wet with sweat.

Tink. With a soft grunt of triumph, Ganondorf put down the flask he was holding and absent-mindedly turned around.

The pilot's reaction was immediate. In one swift action he plunged Link's Master Sword deep into Ganon's body, striking straight in front of him. The Sword buried itself in the Gerudo up to the hilt, fuelled by Falco's fright and adrenalin. And in pure reflex and instinct, one wing dropped to the Blaster at his side, flipping it up and firing a single shot into Ganondorf's face at point-blank range.

All that happened in a second, before Ganondorf could launch any devastating moves – or any moves at all. Completely and utterly caught by surprise, the Gerudo simply just stood there, with a powerful relic of a sword sheathed through his middle and a Blaster shot in his head.

Falco hesitantly took his wing off the Sword's hilt, realising it had been gripping the hilt for the past second or two. Just to be sure, he readied his Blaster for another shot, timidly hiding behind the gun, as if it would hide him from Ganondorf's view.

But it didn't really matter, because the Gerudo simply toppled over to the side. Slowly at first, but surely Ganon lost his balance, crumpling to the floor in front of Falco. The carpet in his room made sure there was no sound as the King's head hit the floor. The Master Sword's tip glittered from his back, having pierced through his armour plates. Falco felt compelled to shoot the body again, just in case, but he had already made enough noise as it was.

He slowly retreated out of the room, making sure to shut the door. But in his state of mind, his wing slipped a little, leaving the door slightly ajar. Falco didn't look back and didn't notice, as he quickly hurried away, leaving the scene of the latest death. But long after the pilot disappeared around the corridor, the door continued to slowly swing inwards, revealing the once-mighty Gerudo dead in his own room, the magic circle a single stroke from completion.

---

Ah. This was satisfactory. Just as planned. Stabbed by the sword he had despised.

The hilt of the sword began to glow white hot, hotter and hotter until in one splitting sound, it broke apart into fragments, the large body on the floor convulsing. Wherever the pieces of sword touched, that area immediately burst into flames, quickly spreading to the entire room and beyond.

Just a moment. It was so beautiful. It was red and orange and so so pretty. Just a while more, look at it just a while more, just a while more.

The Lounge fared no better.

There was an explosion that rocked the Mansion, and the Lounge quickly became a burning hall of flame. What was once the Smashers' place for peace and quiet quickly devolved into a blazing inferno. Purple flames mixed with orange, grew big and leaped from wall to wall like Pikachu would have done.

Wooden chairs snapped in the fire, angrily shouting their last words before ceasing to exist. Master Hand's papers, long forgotten, were quickly consumed. The pillars of paper that Fox had left standing stood till the very end, as quickly shortening pillars of flame, but in the end ceasing to exist, leaving nothing. In the corner, a small carcass of a corpse, hidden underneath a heavy metal bar, was quickly devoured by the flames along with the splintered wood surrounding it that could once have been called a table.

And in the middle of it all was a badly burned table, chipped and charred and scarred. And lying some way from this table, in the last safe circle in the fire, was an old and dying Smasher, mistakenly left for dead. The heat and the fire pierced his consciousness, causing him to open one eye, and see the true perpetrator behind all the sorrow and insanity.

"It was-a you," breathed Luigi.

The table fell apart in a blaze of heat and light, the china teapot falling with it and smashing itself across the floor, shattering into a million pieces with an awful scratching sound. The teacup followed its arc onto the ground, dutifully adding more porcelain fragments to the burnt ground. There was a resounding crash as the rest of Peach's fine teaset followed, smashing themselves to powder.

The plumber's green hat drifted to the floor. A small flame quickly leaped onto it, happily licking, quickly growing and reducing the cap to nothing more than ash, and even that blew away and disappeared.

---

"Why?" Fox quietly demanded. Even though his strength was rapidly being sapped away, his voice still carried some undertones of authority. He was seated on the Roof now, the falcon slamming the door leading back to the Mansion shut with an extraordinarily loud bang. Fox fixed his teammate with a hardened expression. "Tell me."

Falco laughed, a mirthless, bitter laugh. He took his time, strolling back to Fox with his wings in his pockets, sitting down next to the vulpine. "Ya know, funny you should ask. 'coz, ya see…" – here he solemnly glanced at Fox, who stared back at him – "…you were there when it happened."

Fox slurred something, even though his eyes widened and his ears pricked up in surprise. "Non – non – sense. I was there? Where? When?"

Falco laughed his bitter laugh, not daring to stare Fox in the eye. He clapped his wing on his lap, as if Fox had said the funniest joke in the world, but he wasn't smiling and the tears weren't from laughing. At length, he finally took a deep breath, and turned to face Fox. "Yes. You were there."

"All the way in the beginning."

---

The nerve of that fox! Throwing up! Over him!

Despite the food and fun, this celebratory banquet was not turning out really good.

Falco dragged Fox by the collar, the dead-drunk vulpine being trailed ungracefully behind him, the body giving a soft thump of protest as Falco dragged it down a single step. With Captain Falcon and Ganondorf arguing over who would use the washroom first – never mind that there actually was big enough for the both of them – he had no choice but to drag his friend to the next nearest toilet.

Which happened to be pretty far away.

Cursing under his breath and taking another look at his soiled shoes, Falco muttered something incomprehensible and started to push open the door to the men's bathroom. Somewhere between there and the pinnacle of frustration, Falco had resorted to dragging Fox along by a foot. The unconscious vulpine didn't seem to mind, but it did leave his two forepaws flailing awkwardly behind him.

A THUMP came from behind him, the avian exasperatedly flicking his head back to see what trouble Fox had managed to accomplish while lying on his back, dead drunk. To his mild surprise, the fox was still asleep, snoring slightly, his eyes closed in relatively peaceful alcohol-induced slumber.

Behind him trailed a small, soft, slimy path marking Fox's muzzle and Falco's shuffling shoes. Whoops, thought Falco. Glad I ain't cleaning up.

A further crash could be heard from a nearby room. Curiosity getting the better of him – as it always did – Falco silently put down Fox's leg, drew his Blaster from its holster, and crept silently to the door.

It was slightly ajar, the large white-painted door. The thin paint layer was peeling off in small fragments, but Falco paid no attention to it. Wondering which Smasher would be in here at this time, he put his left wing on it, softly pushing it open.

The first thing he realized was the smoke that assaulted him. It wasn't exactly smoke, but it hung there, thick, menacing, and opaque. As his eyes adjusted to the smoke, he saw what had caused the final crash – a potted plant perched on a precarious sidetable had toppled over, the fine porcelain shattered into bits and the plant lying dying on the carpet.

Falco's eyes nonchantly flicked up, but then froze.

Not a very far distance away from the plant was something white. Whiter than the fog, yet somehow less bright. What was it? he wondered blankly, not having any actual answer. Yet some subconscious part of Falco's brain went into automatic overdrive, yelling at him in fear to run and move and escape. Yet his legs seemed to be rooted into the spot, held there as if by some unknown power.

Not quite comprehending the situation, Falco peered further into the mist. It was dissipating, slowly but surely, but it sure overstayed its welcome and refused to leave without a fight.

In Falco's view, the tip of the white thing expanded into a rough sphere. Following which, it grew an extension on the side furthest from him, turning it into a weirdly crooked, bent cylinder. Funnily enough, as his eyes traced the cylinder away from him, similar cylinders started to appear on its right and left –

The cylinders curved, undulated, with the impression that it was wrapped rather tightly around something. Further on, a few of them – in fact, all of them – stopped, joined together by a mass of the same whitish colour and texture. Falco's brain continually churned out screams of Run!, but another part of Falco's mind had only just started to realize what he was seeing.

The body of Master Hand lay on the ground, fingers stretched in awkward positions. His fingers had gestured in the general direction of Falco and the door, an evident sign of an attempt to escape, but the joints of the fingers were twisted into impossible angles. And now the fingers had sunk into the soft carpeting of the room, retaining their twisted shape but no longer had the firmness and rigidity of life.

Master Hand was dead.

A little crack and a crumble quickly brought Falco back to his senses. Whipping around wildly, he stared into the mist. But the opaque mist rendered his keen sense of sight useless.

As if he had wished for it, the smoke started to dissipate. Falco quickly cocked his Blaster, ready to shoot, before an odd whooshing sound reached his ears. The smoke seemed to be drawn backwards, racing backwards at incredible speeds, until it turned into a gigantic whirlpool and he was standing at its very edge, looking into the violent eye within.

The vortex was sucked through a gigantic hole in the wall, into the room adjoining it. The crack and the crumble came from another entity trying to delicately avoid the rubble surrounding the hole, but failing miserably, opting instead to slam his entire body through where there once was wall.

The whirlpool of smoke seemed to be sucked into his fingertips, the entity lazily twirling around smoke like a cotton candy vendor at a carnival. When it was done, the last of the smoke seemed to disappear into the finger, and the entity suddenly jerked to a side, noticing Falco.

Crazy Hand laughed.

Slowly running a finger down the corpse of the right-handed glove, Crazy suddenly twisted himself into a fist, as if relishing the sensation, the hand gradually bending backwards from the wrist, fingers trembling. The index finger twisted, cracking along its joints, and slowly the rest of the long fingers followed, in what was apparently a perverse display of pleasure, all the way until they closed themselves together in a tight fist.

Falco felt the sweat dripping down his collar, although he tried his best not to show it, still bravely holding his Blaster in front of him. However trained he was, this was finally starting to get to him, the wings holding the Blaster trembling slightly.

Suddenly snapping back into action, the fist uncurled itself to form a gun, almost like the ones little children teased each other with when they had nothing to do and were bored out of their skulls. This, of course, was infinitely more dangerous – and by the looks of the former Master of the Smash Mansion – infinitely more lethal.

Crazy Hand let off a full-bodied laugh, the unearthly sound reverberating off the already-damaged walls of the room. From behind the body of Master, Crazy set off a brilliant fireworks show, different coloured bursts of lightning shooting out erratically and explosively from his index finger, illuminating the room in a ghastly display, searing the air with their heat.

Falco leaped backwards and yelled "Fox!" and flung both of them to a side just as the wall separating them shattered into smithereens and a cloud of smoke with a sound like china breaking.

Some distance away, Pikachu perked up his ears, but right now Falco was dragging Fox by his hindpaw, not quite caring what obstacles his teammate ran over now. Running back towards the Hall, he thought they'd be safer there –

Behind him, the partition collapsed in a cloud of smoke as Crazy Hand threw something through it, mirroring the fatal blow he had delivered to his counterpart. The Hand followed them effortlessly through the hole in the wall, pausing only to pop his knuckles menacingly at the retreating figures.

All balance was gone, order destroyed. Chaos reigned supreme even in Falco's usually cool mind. He started to pant heavily as he rounded a corner, quickly trying to drag the unconscious fox up the steps. He didn't get up half of them before a dark shadow fell across him, Crazy Hand slowly sauntering around the corridor without a care in the world.

That day, Master Hand threw a banquet.

Crazy Hand threw him through a wall.

---

"He caught us, of course," Falco admitted, sitting down beside Fox. The vulpine teammate had kept his jaw open in surprise most of the time, only coughing occasionally. Eventually his jaw snapped shut, Fox weakly gaping and opening and shutting his mouth like a fish out of water.

"He said he'd let us go – like a game – only if we –" "– kill everyone else," drawled Fox, wheezing, completing the sentence for his teammate.

Falco tried to shrug, although the sadness was evident in his only visible eye. "He'd even set a time limit, too. Said it'd make the game interesting. So interesting… I couldn't refuse." "Honestly – Falco – I –"

"He was going to destroy Lylat." Fox's voice stopped short at Falco's interruption. Falco didn't look at him, instead opting to look at the night sky. However, as if too ashamed to look at the vulpine, Falco still continued.

"He was going to destroy it. And all the other characters' kingdoms and universes."

Fox stammered, lost for words. "I don't – think he could – actually do – such a –" "Could you really take that risk? Look, if he decided to take down Master Hand, doesn't that prove he's really, really serious about something?" Falco's voice became cold, yet desperate, and at this point he stood up and started pacing the rooftop, head in wings.

"He's Crazy! He's really, really Crazy! In fact, now that I think of it, I don't even know if he'll honour our agreement! 'Honour amongst thieves'… – but he's insane!" Falco spun around, slamming a fist into the wall such that a dull boom sounded.

"Maybe it's all been for nothing…" His wing, groping around in his flight jacket's pocket, closed around something cold.

"Nothing…"

"So that's why you killed off everyone?" Fox murmured. "To keep with his game instructions?" Falco laughed without smiling. "Yeah. Some sort of ironic, funny feeling to each one. Mouse, Peach, sword –"

Falco turned away. Fox struggled, trying to keep his mind active. He knew once he let his mind wander, that was it. There would be no coming back. He squirmed mentally, trying to find something to concentrate his energies on… "Lucario," he breathed. "The Pokémon. Senses guilt or such. First to go."

"Of course," Falco retorted. "Only problem was, that wasn't his game plan. Had to shoot him, take him out quick and fast. He was actually supposed to be the last to go… I don't think I could have kept up with the charades for long. So that's why I was so scared. Of not following Crazy."

"Eventually convinced him it'll be more fun," spat Falco, disgusted. "So we all lived a little bit longer."

"Link, too. Had – to pretend – faked his death to be a sword through the heart." Falco nodded. Fox sat, silent in thought. "What was his – Lucario's – death – supposed to be?"

Falco laughed nervously. "You don't want to know."

As the weak concentration of poison finally began to take effect, Fox's head sunk slowly in between his arms, weakly clawing at Falco's jacket. His breathing started to become more pronounced and in increasingly ragged gasps. "Can't – breathe –" Falco didn't look at him, but stood to the side, bowing his head. He made no motion to stop the vulpine from pawing at the tail of his jacket.

The bright green eyes glazed over, Fox hacking and spluttering. From somewhere distant, his teammate murmured. "You remember that time in the Great Fox? When you started to cough up hairballs?" Fox attempted to laugh, resulting in a horrible, ear-grating cross between a bark and a hack.

"And I called you – on phone – you – had to clean – up after – me," he wheezed, before coughs overtook his voice. Falco smiled a little smile to no one in particular, feeling the wind whip through his feathers, touching his cheeks as if nothing was wrong in the world.

"Only because they ordered me to." Falco rasped, his voice uneven. Fox laughed last, the final sound quickly transforming into a violent whimper. For an instant they were back in the Great Fox, seeing the comforting blackness of space whip by as the ship slowly cruised, and they would sit and chat like old friends. Fox would lazily twirl his phone in his hand, while Falco would make a wisecrack and tell Fox to get better at Arwing-piloting.

"Hold – me –" Fox breathed between coughs, feeling his paw being firmly gripped by trembling wings. He stopped shaking, although his paws continued to tremble. He slowly lowered his muzzle, curling himself up and burying his head in between his paws, still gripping Falco's wings.

"Sorry, Foxy." Falco whispered. Fox whined softly.

They stayed like this for a couple of seconds more, Fox moving shakily to lean on Falco's shoulder. Eventually Fox's ragged breaths calmed down, and then slowly faded away altogether. Falco didn't let go. For the first time in a long time, he felt something sting his eyes, his vision blurring slightly even as he stared towards the emptiness of the sky.

Ever so slowly, he relaxed his grip. Even though his muzzle still was buried in the avian's sleeve, Fox's paw fell like a dream, just like Peach's body – so unreal, so lifeless, simply hanging limply from where it joined Fox's arm, finally hitting the rooftiles with an awful final thud. Falco didn't move, still letting Fox's head rest on his shoulder. After a while, Falco shook his shoulder a little, but Fox didn't wake up.

Wake up, Fox.

If Falco had half-closed his eyes and forgot what had happened in the past couple of days, he could have tricked himself into thinking Fox was sleeping. Carefully, as if not to wake Fox up, he lifted his teammate's head from its resting place, gentling placing it on the floor. Instead of instinctively curling up, however, Fox remained limp, limbs sprawled out in an awkward fashion. Falco nudged him a little, trying to wake him up, trying to get him to stop pretending for once.

Wake up, Fox!

Why didn't this feel right? It was what he had been planning for all the while. To save Lylat, yes, yes. That was the ultimate goal. But now, he wasn't sure if the goal even existed. The pillar of support, the only reason for his survival so far, slowly crumbled and fell apart as Falco tried to justify his actions, and finding failure each and every painful time.

From behind them, a small explosion was heard. Even from here he was, Falco noted that there was an eerie glow emitting from the Mansion below him, shining out of the windows and partially illuminating the Garden grounds and the spot where Lucario was murdered, so long ago.

Louder. Louder.

The gradual explosions, getting louder in volume as they reached the Roof, were preceded by searing blasts of heat. Determinedly, Falco picked up the teacup that he'd saved, containing the final remnants of tea. The last cup in Peach's set – the only one which wasn't lying in twenty-two thousand separate pieces across the Lounge's floor. The tension in the air was awful, and it took the falcon all his strength to stop from just yelling his lungs out. The time had come.

Wake him with the noise! Wake him up! Wake up!

Fox remained motionless. The starry sky was blackened, as if the stars had gone into hiding behind the black clouds that drifted lazily by. Once far away, the explosions came ever closer, until Falco could have sworn he was right in the middle of one. Everything now boiled down to this, and suddenly the explosions stopped; leaving behind an eerie, prolonged, absolute silence.

Moments later, there was a polite knock on the door leading to the Roof.

Falco barked a lifeless laugh. "Come in."

The door blasted open, flying off its hinges. It soared in a clean arc, high above Falco's head, flying off the Roof altogether and disappearing. A second or two later, there was a resounding crash as it splintered into fragments in the Garden. Where the door once was, a single entity floated lazily out onto the Roof, casually, as if it was without a care in the world.

Theere you arre.

The avian ignored him. Crazy Hand didn't. The Hand slowly moved forward, as if it was a step. One step. The Hand stopped. Behind him, there was a boom, and a loud blast shattered the silence. Flaming bits of roof and debris of where the door once was rained down upon them, but both of them ignored it as if it was nothing more than a light summer drizzle.

Do play somemorre.

Falco looked at the cup in his wing, which was now a third full with tea. It would have been more if he hadn't spilled half of it during his flight from the Lounge, but there was still tea.

Insanity stepped forward one more step, the area behind him clearing in a blast of compressed air and heat. Falco flinched as the light flooded his eyes, but it was only temporary and the pain subsided slightly. He looked at the cup, if only to make sure that he didn't spill anything.

The voice turned mocking.

Driinkiing at a time like thiis?

"Yup." Falco glanced at the small vial in his other wing. It was a really small bottle, but it was concentrated and therefore more than enough. He let the bottle go, and it fell, bouncing once on the rooftiles before falling off the Roof altogether. It rang empty.

He raised the teacup, quickly tipping its contents down his throat before Crazy Hand could stop him, completely draining the cup and the now-heavily poisoned tea it contained, relishing the strong taste of bitter almonds. Falco tapped the cup to his head, holding it out to Insanity in a mock salute, a faint smile on playing on his face.

In a split second, he saw everything. His vision blinked out, replaced by a quick series of images. He heard the jangling of Ganondorf's chains, the shot by which Luigi fell to the ground, and Pikachu's loud cry. He smelt the foul stench in the Kitchen; felt Link's blade tremble as he ran it through its master; saw Peach as she hit the ground, Lucario's scarlet eyes widening; and tasted the bittersweet taste of tea.

In front of him, before his very eyes, he saw the Mansion go up in a spectacular searing blast of flame. An explosion ripped half of the Roof open, debris and dust flying everywhere in the crackling fire. Glass shattered, the tinkling sound oddly loud in the otherwise quiet night. Crazy Hand seemed to stare straight through him. The Gardens where the kid Smashers had spent so many memories together caught fire, and started to smoulder and burn in earnest. The far end of the Mansion, where the Storeroom was, began to crumble and fall apart, and he knew it was only a matter of time before the entire Mansion was rubble, not one stone lying atop the other.

There was the faded image of a fox and the blurry picture of laughter, the joking about the turkey and the can of Oran berries that mysteriously rolled towards him. There was the Lounge, where they sat and laughed and talked and all seemed alright with the world, but now was faded and yellowed like a world-weary old-fashioned photograph that shows something really long ago that you simply can't find anymore. And all that suddenly became a mirror that shattered into fragments and the individual glittering pieces were quickly swiftly and totally swallowed up by the darkness.

Falco managed one last word before his mind went completely blank and he keeled over, the teacup gently slipping from his grip. He didn't hear it shatter as it hit the roof. His feet tripped over the edge of the Roof and he fell the long distance, all the way to the floor of the burning Gardens.

"Cheers."

---

I promise I won't make a habit of these endnotes, but just a few things to clear up. Bitter almond is the signature taste of cyanide – as several reviewers have pointed out. The taste that Fox detects is cyanide, placed in his cup only, beforehand; so he gets poisoned while Luigi doesn't – the poison's in the cup, not the pot of tea.

No one got the correct answer, but the winner is… Souldin!

To be honest I was kind of disappointed when Souldin's review for the fifth chapter came out, almost spot on. But even though lupyne had almost hit it, Souldin was the first to come closest. So congratulations, Souldin! You get a virtual cookie. And no, it's not poisoned.

lupyne guessed at the second half of the answer by guessing that the Hands would figure in it somehow, all the way from the first chapter, and that one/both would turn up dead. So, in a way, both of them guessed at two totally different yet equally important aspects of the same mystery.

The character list at the end of most chapters is still accurate. If you wish to check, way back in the first chapter, you will not that I never explicitly said the italicised characters were dead.

Next up is a collaboration of a fic, Smile, between the great writer lupyne and myself. Do check out his works such as I Am Lucario and other older fics! Please do stay tuned for more details.

Thank you all once again for reading, and I hope you've enjoyed the ride. Here's your hat and your coat and your cane, and mind the steps on the way out. Thanks, and I sincerely hope to see you again.

End