Better late than never I guess! :D I am really sorry it took so long to get the last chapter of this story posted. Basically I could not bear to part with it unless I was 100% happy and I kept tweaking the dialogue up until the very last minute. I've been writing this fic on and off for several years now and overall it's been a very cathartic experience for me. Thank you everyone for all of the reviews and faves and PMs about this story - I really cherish all of the feedback and hope that you enjoy reading this ending as much as I enjoyed writing it.
AoD was my first ever fandom and although I have no current plans to write any more new stories I have been very busy revising my old fic Slouching Toward Bethlehem, so make sure to check that out. I should warn you though that it is not yet finished and there are a few canonical inconsistencies between the old and new chapters I hope to be able to fix soon. I'm hoping to do the same for its sequel in the future. You never know - one day I may even finish it! *lol*
The lights of a police car flashed forlornly where it stood abandoned in the street below. Its roof was dusted by a fresh layer of snow. More continued to drift from the sky above to settle upon the frozen ground of the deserted backstreet. The wail of sirens had died long ago.
Lara and Kurtis stood upon the roof of a neighbouring building, watching unnoticed as the coroners took photographs and collected samples from the crime scene that had once been his apartment. The curtains of the open window billowed in a cold gust of wind. Lara registered it all in a daze. Just hours earlier she had been sleeping in that bed. She had braided her hair as she stood before the mirror. Now she was staring at a carpet soaked through with blood. Here and there she saw signs of a struggle: pieces of dislocated furniture, a scorched hole in the bedroom wall. The pieces of the shattered Chirugai glittered in the light reflected from the street outside. Dried blood splattered the walls. It was like something from a horror movie.
"Someone must have called the cops," Kurtis said. "But when they arrived I was long gone. Gonna be a difficult murder to solve without a body."
Lara shook her head.
"I don't understand."
Kurtis touched a hand to his jaw. An angry red line was now all that remained of the horrific gash that had once spilled his lifeblood. There was a haunted look to his eyes that she knew well. It was the same look she had often seen reflected in her own expression.
"Neither do I," he said. "All I remember is waking up with blood plastering the side of my face. My mouth was full of the taste of it. You know when you've been knocked senseless and you just lie there, watching everything glisten like a spinning top? I was watching my own blood dripping into the carpet. I could feel it draining away with every heartbeat. I couldn't understand why I wasn't dead."
Lara felt a chill run down her spine. She knew the feeling well. She hugged her bomber jacket close as she gazed down at the busy scene below. Once they were convinced they had escaped the notice of the authorities Kurtis had brought her here to witness the bloody desolation of his apartment. It all seemed like some horrible dream.
"Now I understand why my father was so secretive," Kurtis said quietly. "He was ashamed of the truth. The Lux Veritatis were descended from the Nephilim all along." Lara started in surprise at this revelation, her hair blowing loosely about her face. "They harnessed their powers to fight the Shadow War against the Cabal. The Chirugai was one of their weapons. Its power source was the essence of the Nephilim - I reached out and felt it bond with something inside me."
Kurtis lifted a hand from one of the Periapt Shards at his belt. She imagined for a moment that she could see right through his skin, to the newly imbued blood flowing through his veins. Of course it had always been there, powering his latent abilities since birth, but now that he knew the truth there was a certain majesty about him that Lara had never noticed before. He turned his hand over and closed it into a pale fist. She wondered if he was reliving those final moments as she had so often done in the past.
In the distance she heard a siren rise and fall. Its piercing cry brought her back again. The image of broken majesty faded. Kurtis stood before her once again, his shoulders tense as he lowered his shaking hand. He suddenly looked very tired.
Lara raised a hand to his shoulder. He did not acknowledge the gesture, but continued to stare straight ahead.
"I can't go back," he said. "They would ask too many questions. And I don't have any answers for them." An ironic smile touched upon his lips. "As far as they're concerned I should be dead. I was dead. All of that blood… How could I even begin to explain it to them? I can hardly explain it myself."
Lara studied him closely. His smile had disappeared. The expression which replaced it was difficult to read.
"Are you…?" Her voice cracked slightly. "Are you immortal?"
"I don't know," he said honestly. "I feel different." He turned to her. "Do I look different to you?"
For the first time she saw real fear in his eyes. It terrified her more than anything she had witnessed that night. Lara raised her bandaged hand to his face. The pentagram upon his cheek had healed to some extent, although it was now a ghastly shade of white. Lara tenderly brushed her fingers across it. She wondered why he did not simply rid himself of the mark. He had healed deeper cuts with ease.
"You still look the same to me," she murmured. "A little beat up, but I suppose that's to be expected."
Kurtis smiled again.
"I'll choose to take that as a compliment."
She was thankful for the warmth of his hand suddenly enveloping hers, his thumb gently stroking her palm. A moment later her face blanched in pain and she pulled away with a gasp. Concern flickered across his face. Lara merely shook her head.
"During the fight," she explained, gesturing to her arm. "I don't think that it's broken."
Kurtis took this in. He did not say a word as he reached out and took her arm in his hands. Lara grimaced slightly as he turned it over. It was crisscrossed with ugly bruises where she had slammed through the glass-paneled door of the church. Kurtis was silent as he surveyed the damage. She was about to open her mouth to speak when she felt a warm glow traveling through her from her wrist down past the crook of her elbow.
Lara withdrew from his grasp, gazing down at her healed arm in wonder. The bruises disappeared before her eyes. She clenched her fist and flexed the weary muscles. Nothing but a dull ache now remained. She released a sharp intake of breath she did not even realise she had been holding.
"I think I understand now," she said. "Why you didn't bleed to death that night I found you in the snow outside the Strahov." She looked up at him. "This power. It was inside you the whole time. It just needed a reason to wake up."
"You may be right." Kurtis touched a hand to his throat again. "And that tells me how I am still alive, but it doesn't tell me why."
"Maybe there is some higher purpose to all of this."
The mischievous glint returned to his eyes.
"So you do believe in fate after all?"
"I'm not sure what to believe," she said, tugging at the strap of her satchel as it fell across her shoulder. "All I know is that I feel like such an idiot. Everything is a mess. I pushed everyone away. My friends, my family." Her voice faltered as she lowered her eyes. "The people that I love."
Kurtis simply offered her a smile.
"Nothing like facing death to help put things into perspective, huh? I suddenly have this urge to go and look up my mom. Last I heard she was living somewhere in New Mexico."
She returned the smile, thankful for his deflective humour.
"I feel strangely compelled to make a large cash donation to a certain church. But I also have some serious groveling to do. Winston is going to be getting a delivery of flowers for a start."
His voice became serious: "Lara, you shouldn't blame yourself. You went through something horrific. That kind of thing changes a person."
"You're right," she said. "And I'm not going to blame myself. Not anymore."
The sky was now tinged with orange and purple as the sun began to rise over the distant rooftops. It was almost twenty four hours since Lara had arrived in Prague and she was thoroughly exhausted. She approached the edge of the rooftop, reaching out and resting a hand upon the low wall before her. She watched as the snow cascaded down from the night sky and continued to settle upon the roof of the police car below.
"So what do we do now?"
Lara turned and looked at him, considering this question carefully.
"I don't know. I suppose we could wait until the coroners leave, and then-"
"That's not what I meant."
Lara glanced away, her hair clinging resolutely to her face.
"I know," she said.
They stood together in companionable silence for a time, watching the coroners going about their grim work. It occurred to her then that she had witnessed enough death to last a lifetime. This thought sparked another realisation.
"The Lux Veritatis," she said. "You're still the last of that line. The war is over now. The Cabal has disbanded. The Nephilim are gone."
"Hopefully," he pointed out.
"You can make a choice," she told him. "Pass on your powers. Start a new generation of Lux Veritatis. Do things differently than your ancestors. Or you could let the line die with you. The power would be gone." She smiled ironically. "But no pressure or anything."
"And here I was thinking my troubles were over." Kurtis swept his jacket aside and pulled his Boran X from the waistband of his jeans, the one thing he had managed to salvage before escaping his apartment. "I thought it was all lies. It sounded like madness at the time, but it looks like Karel was right. About some things at least."
His hands faltered as Kurtis opened the chamber of the gun, checking the bullets before closing it again with a satisfying click. Lara looked up and met his eyes in that moment. She saw there the same uncertainty she knew was written all over her own face.
"Some things," she echoed.
Lara eventually called a taxi to take her to the airport. The snow was still falling as she pulled on her bomber jacket and rushed down the iron-wrought fire escape at the back of the building, stepping out into another anonymous alley of the city.
The moon was still visible in the sky above, almost overcome by the growing light of dawn. Lara came to a standstill with her arms huddled tightly at her chest. Steam rose from a nearby grate. At the end of the street a lantern still faintly glowed at the edge of darkness. It threw strange shadows across her path and in her mind they formed dark and threatening shapes.
Lara did not like to admit it even to herself, but she had been living with a death wish ever since she had crawled out of her own tomb. She had been stuck living in the past for so long she had forgotten how to cope with the present. But the truth was that even before the first cracks in her public image began to show Lara had been running on empty for many years now.
Lost in her private thoughts she soon heard the sound of footsteps clanging on metal. She turned to watch as Kurtis descended the fire escape after her. He slowed as he stepped down onto the street, one hand hooked across the railing above. He stood there and regarded her without a word. Then he lowered his hand and approached her.
She had been expecting this. She knew that she could not just walk out of his life unseen. Not again.
"No point letting that plane ticket go to waste," she offered as explanation.
He nodded with quiet restraint, coming to a standstill beside her.
As they stood together the wind picked up and swirled about her waist, biting at Lara with icy fingers. She shivered and pulled at the zipper of her bomber jacket, plunging her hands into its deep pockets. Kurtis stood with his eyes cast down and his face half in shadow.
Presently she heard a click as Kurtis made to light a cigarette. This time she gave no objection. He always smoked when he was nervous. She had come to pick up on that. The weak flame illuminated his tired features before it swiftly faded and then died. After a series of futile attempts to catch a light Kurtis abandoned the pretense. He flashed her a self-deprecating smile as he returned the lighter to his pocket.
"Can probably smoke as many of these things as I like." He indicated the cigarette. "Won't make much of a difference."
She watched as he spun the unused cigarette between his fingers before pitching it into a drift of snow.
"Not such a bad habit after all," she pointed out.
The events of the last few days were racing through Lara's mind. It seemed like a lifetime since she had first slipped away from Kurtis' bedside and fled back to England to entomb herself in her own mansion. She thought that she could escape the past. In those long and empty days she had often looked to Werner's notebook for answers. Now she knew that there were no answers for it to give.
Lara took her hands out of her pockets and looked down at the makeshift bandage wrapped about her hand. It was spotted with blood. Death. Desert. Destruction. They all flashed briefly through her mind. She looked to Kurtis at these thoughts. They were still unsure as to the extent of his powers. He had survived twice where a normal man would have bled to death. The question of his mortality still lingered. For her part she knew how she would act in his position - she would not want to know. It was somewhat easier that way.
It did not take long for a taxi to pull up at the end of the alleyway. It came to a rest at a slight angle towards them, its wheels just touching the edge of the curb. Lara looked up and gazed unflinchingly into its headlights. Kurtis did the same.
It was time to say goodbye.
Lara did not protest as Kurtis stepped forwards and reached out to her again, taking her hands in his. The rumbling of the taxi seemed almost deafening as they stood together, looking down at their clasped hands. Kurtis ran a thumb over her bandaged knuckles, his rough hands surprisingly gentle. Lara could feel the desperation building up inside her. She yearned to scream out her need for him, to lose herself in his embrace and turn the taxi away. But she knew that she needed time. They could not help each other to heal if she was still broken inside.
"Lara," he said. His voice was almost lost beneath the rumbling of the taxi's engine. "You know how I feel, how I've always felt. And I won't ask anything of you. This is not about me. It never was. I understand that now. Bit late, I know, but I finally get it." He gave a sigh and looked up to meet her eyes, determined to choke out the words. "And I'm sorry. I really am. When you figure things out I'll still be here waiting."
Lara swallowed with difficulty. Then she let go of his hands and stepped a little closer, the hint of a smile now playing at her lips.
"You might have an eternity," she said. "Can you wait that long?"
Kurtis laughed at this. She did not wait for an answer as she took his face in both hands and kissed him. In the past they had often embraced with reckless abandon and need, but this time he returned her kiss with a tenderness that made her heart ache with longing. He slipped his arms about her waist and pulled her close, reluctant to let her go. Lara was close to tears as she expressed to him in her kiss what was much too painful to say in words. They only broke apart when the taxi driver leant impatiently upon his horn.
Snow continued to drift down from the brightening sky as Lara drew back from the kiss. She kept her eyes closed, her hands now resting upon his chest and her forehead resting lightly against his.
"I guess that's my cue," she murmured.
Kurtis softly exhaled a sigh.
"I guess so."
Lara avoided his gaze, her eyes glistening with tears as she bowed her head and fumbled with the collar of his jacket. His white shirt was still stained with blood.
"I better…" she said.
Her hands stilled upon his chest. She could feel his heartbeat fluttering beneath her fingertips as she looked up into his eyes, offering him a weak smile.
"Are you sure that you're going to be okay?"
"Of course," he said brightly. "I'm still alive, aren't I? And so are you. In the end that's all that matters. You can still turn this around. We both can. Just promise me you won't be a stranger. You don't have to do this alone."
Lara considered him warmly.
"I won't be."
And she took one last look at him before she turned away. Kurtis reached out and caught her hand as she went, their fingers remaining laced for a moment before they gently broke apart.
Lara's footsteps echoed as she headed towards the waiting taxi.