I wrote this while replaying Emilie Autumn's song "Shallot" over and over again, so lines from the song found their way into the story because, well, it fit the story so well. Seriously, that song fits Ashe ridiculously well.
This is probably one of the most depressing things I've ever written. TasiasENDLESSdreams gave me the idea that fleshed this epilogue out. I'll go ahead and give her a shout-out since she's been an avid supporter of the series and I really appreciate that. Thanks! You know what? Thank you everyone. I've gotten my best ideas from you guys.
The future somehow always comes, and it comes in many forms.
There were stories of the furious assassin harlot. She created chaos wherever she stepped, her anger and cold smile all she had against the world. Whispers of her cruelty followed her every act.
They didn't know there was darkness in her empty chest, a void, deepened by the disappearance of a foreigner she never gave the details of. People assumed she killed him, an accusation that made her become strangely angry.
She refused to talk to her brother. He was Joker now. He was a hateful person, something to be despised.
When she was all alone, when no one could see, she would think back on her life and the things she had done and wonder.
Have I ever done right?
She was so alone and so empty and she wore a smile that held nothing. She was becoming a monster and she knew it, but only in private did she allow herself to think of it. She swathed herself in layers of blood to hide the hurt and feelings.
Only in private did the tears come.
But no on cared because at all other times she was killing and taking a thrill in it.
One fact was clear: there was no peace. Not for her. Peace died when her mother died. Peace died when the cycle began.
Like father, like daughter.
Her ending was unclear, except that it ended. There were many iterations of her tale repeated over and over. Most people were quite sure she killed the foreigner and deposed of Joker, setting her brother in Joker's place in order to give herself more power.
It wasn't the truth, but who cared enough to tell the true story?
The one person who knew better, her own brother, was silent on the matter. He never spoke of his sister and even more rarely saw her.
There was a version of the story he would tell to people sometimes when he was bored. He claimed it was the truth, but he claimed many things to be true.
He would always begin by saying it had been the end of it all for his sister, that she had been tired and desperate. She had looked into the face of her life and found nothing. He would emphasize nothing before taking a sip from his drink and cracking a smile at his dramatic flourish to whoever was listening.
He had an interesting story and he knew it. God bless his sister's soul.
"It had been in the works for so long…I wasn't surprised when it happened," he said softly. "She was going in so many different directions, flailing, like a drowning woman. She was looking for something, but I think it left her when Michael left. Or maybe it was the death of mother? Anyone feel like psycho-analyzing her?"
Inevitably questions as to what happened to Michael would be asked, to which he would shrug his shoulders and say he didn't know.
"Perhaps she killed him? Perhaps he left? Whatever. It caused quite the downward spiral for her, didn't it?" He would sit back at this part of the story. "But, honestly, would she ever have him? Even if he never disappeared, I doubt they would ever be together. They were too different. He was good and she was bad. Like a devil and an angel!" He would laugh. "Both of them knew it."
He would then steer the story away from Michael. That wasn't interesting to him…it was painful. The whole thing should have been painful if it wasn't so inevitable. He knew the ending for her from the start. He'd seen the signs early on.
He had distanced himself from her long ago to soften the blow.
"But it all ended."
With those words he launched into the tale.
She approached him. It was odd, and he wondered if she was there to kill him.
But she wasn't. Not at all.
"She just wanted to tell me what a wonderful and perfect person I was!" he said. "She was just always jealous of me. And then we got into an epic sword-fight! Now, she's a great fighter, but of course I beat her. I am Joker, after all. Why not? And when she lost she said she loved me and that I was a fantastic brother unmatched by no brother anywhere. I told her she would always be my little sister. I told her I cared."
That wasn't the truth, and he knew it. The real event hurt to even think about.
In the real event she had come to him, approaching him in the Prison. She had been shadowed, and when she stepped into the light he barely recognized her. She didn't look like the sister he knew. The way her light hair surrounded her face, bags under her eyes, made her look feral. There was something of the animal even in the way she watched him, red eye glimmering. She was gaunt even by her standards, a thin wisp of a girl who had already been so thin. But most of all there was darkness in her expression, a slow and frightened whisper in her voice.
Her words burst from her, desperate tears in her eyes. "How long can I live this way! ? Is there no one I can turn to! ?"
"I'm sorry, Ashe…you did it all yourself, you know? You did it all to yourself." He couldn't get entangled in her drama again. He had to maintain distance…he had to.
She shook her head. "That man is going to be my death…because he's all I ever wanted in my life." She closed her eyes. "He's all I ever wanted."
"That's very sad. I'm sure this isn't what Michael would have wanted."
"Who cares! ? Maybe I'm meant to die. I think it's the end, Bryon. The end of everything. Of this damn life I've been living, of this constant spiral down into nothing." She made angry motions with her arms, her fists clenched. "I've come to this realization that my sad excuse for a story…ends with my death. I'll never see old age, not when I can't even recall what it's like to feel."
"What do you want?" His voice was harder than he intended.
"End it for me," she said, her voice a mere whimper.
His eyes opened, shocked. "Ashe!"
"This will be my grave. No one can save me." Her voice had the odd tone of acceptance. "I've accepted it. I've accepted it all."
He said nothing, mouth firmly shut. "I…can't."
"Sentimentality from Joker?"
"I'm your brother, too."
"You're just Joker to me. I'm a rule-breaker, right? Do it! Do it if you truly value your Role!"
"I don't value my Role above you! You're still my sister!"
"Then you're useless and you're weak! I've been trying to end it for years, but I can't bring myself to do it and no one else will do it. But I'll find a way. I'll find a way."
She turned, pale hair flying behind her as she raced into the shadows. From where he said it looked like the darkness swallowed her small body.
He never said the things he would have said if she hadn't left so quickly. If he knew it was the last time he would see her he would have said a few more things.
She went to find the one man who had been a constant torment for her, the man in the torn red coat. He was in the woods as always, but she managed to easily track him down. She was quite good at such things.
She found him in a grove surrounded by thick trees, their branches entwining above them, creating a canopy that allowed only dappled sunlight through. A creek rushed through the clearing, its waters giving a few of the gray rocks and pebbles below the surface. The noise of water and birdsong filled the silence.
She stepped from the thick, green brush.
"Here to fight again?" he said, watching her. "You've been doing a lot of that lately, haven't you? It never gets boring!" He smiled.
"I don't want to fight." She stepped forward toward him. "I'm too tired to fight."
"You? Not want to fight?" He narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "I wonder what you have planned then? Something sinister, I'm sure." He shrugged and laughed.
"I'm too tired to kill."
"I wonder what you want then…?" It was more accusation than anything else. He suspected a trick. She had been trying to kill him for years, after all. It had almost become fun for him to repel her.
She pointed at his sword. "Draw it. End everything you've started."
His eyebrows bunched together. "Huh?"
"End me!" She yelled. "I'm not fighting you anymore! I'm not fighting anything! So end this tragedy! End everything you began so many years ago…Please." She was breaking down, tears coming painfully to her eyes.
"You want me to kill you?" It wasn't what he expected.
"It will be the only act of mercy you've shown me in your miserable life."
"The only?" He laughed bitterly. "Why don't you think I've killed you yet? That's mercy. But I like seeing you fight. I like seeing you get stronger. It's interesting."
"There's no where to go," she said. She held her hair up with her hands, revealing her long neck. "There's your target. End it."
"I never hated you," he said. "Despite everything, I never hated you." He drew his sword, edge glimmering. "You always hated me a lot. It was interesting. You've been sort of fun."
She fell to her knees, eyes closed, a sigh escaping her lips.
"I loved your mother," he whispered. "I saw what having you kids did to her. It destroyed her. So I guess I'm going to do what I should have done a long time ago."
She didn't care. She didn't care at all.
Her vision was dark from her veiled eyes.
All that could be heard in the clearing was rushing water and her slow breathing. Even the birdsong seemed to have paused. The muted moment was full of portent.
She waited, her hand sweating as she clenched her hair back, her knees grinding into the dirt.
As the edge of the sword sliced her skin, her mind was accosted with many things. Feelings and emotions rushed back to her. She remembered love. She remembered her mother. She remembered how she once cared for Bryon and Michael. She remembered pain as it overtook her body starting at the wound in her neck.
And then it was all distanced from her like a muted melody. She fell to the ground on her back.
"The story fits!" she cried, laughing, as the spark of life left her fast paling skin. A smile. But I could have guessed it all along. A final thought before dying.
Her arms fell into the shallow creek weakly. The sensation of cold water was the last sensation she ever felt before she fell into the deep grave of oblivion.
"That's all!" Bryon would say, voice always rather high, clapping his hands together to indicate the finality. "Don't know what happens after that."
He would then usher the listening crowd away, saying there's nothing else to tell, so they should go home and remember to attend the Circus.
It was a lie.
The part where he found her body was left out of the story.
He had been worried about her after their conversation, so he went looking for his sister, hoping for the best.
He found the worst.
There she was on the ground, red sliver shallow on her throat, crimson on the ground around her. Her skin was pale as moonlight, arms raised into the creek above her side-turned face, clear water running across her skin. She had eyes colder than usual. Even her red eye no longer smoldered as it usually did, and the blue one was pale.
He also failed to mention that no one else cared. The other Roleholders had decided that her end had long been in the works. They hated her. When he told Julius, the man's reaction was a shrug.
"She cared for you," Bryon said.
But it didn't matter to the clockmaker whose heart had turned cold so many years ago. "I suppose she's finally like her mother now."
Bryon watched him curiously. "What do you mean?"
"They're both dead, aren't they? So they're finally alike. Now get out. You're disrupting me."
He only found out the story from Ace himself later. Strangely, he wasn't angry. Not at all. He was just sad.
The funeral consisted of a brother by his sister's grave, absently tossing flowers onto the fresh soil.
He said only one thing at her graveside.
"The end. Oh God, the end."
The next few years were tense. The Mafia and Prison entered an uneasy alliance due to the strange relationship between the Mafia Princess and the newest incarnation of Joker.
"I'm a self-made man," Bryon would say, smiling. "It's a wonderful thing, really, to bring yourself out of nothing."
Meanwhile, Lilly insisted their relationship was nothing but business. "He is still my two-point-five and under my control. Why would it ever be otherwise?"
The favoritism the Prison showed towards the Mafia was obvious. The alliance was deadly, dangerous and had everyone on edge.
Blood tolerated it because it gave him advantages he could have only dreamed of before. Elliot didn't like it, and he especially didn't like Bryon when he found out that he was the next Joker.
People who Lilly disliked found themselves locked up in Prison, rotting in a cell. It was never outright said what was going on, but people found out quickly. With Bryon's help Lilly rose to power quickly, using fear and intimidation to keep her position. Blood was officially the Hatter, but everyone knew where the real power lied.
Blood did not like it at all. She was a threat to his own leadership, and one day he knew he may have to do his daughter in. At the moment, however, her allegiances made her too powerful. Elliot knew the order may come one day when he would have to do the girl in, and it made him sad, but such was life in the Mafia. He had to do what Blood said.
"I can throw Elliot and Blood in there, too, whenever I like. I do have power, my dear," Bryon would say to Lilly when they were alone.
"Then do it. Double-cross me. I dare you, and I'll blast your ass and choke you with your own whip, Joker."
He winced. "Please, call me Bryon."
But they loved each other. They did, and if anyone doubted it this was quickly proven by the birth of a daughter. The child was named Lucille, Lucy for short, and was a beautiful black-haired little girl constantly pulled between the power struggles of her parents.
But she would learn to live with it, because her parents loved her. When they were together with her, it was the one time they were themselves, not their positions.
She would hear stories of her aunt that made it difficult for her to sleep at night, but it was always okay in the end. It had to be.
Because life was a constant struggle for power.
It began with Michael and ended with Michael.
He was no longer a foreigner, out of place and time. He was home and comfortable. The greatest days of his life were ahead of him. He graduated from college with honors, becoming a psychologist who was extremely interested in helping people thought to be unfixable by everyone else.
"I'm not trying to fix or cure them. You don't fix people. People aren't broken. They simply exist," he said. "I'm just trying to understand them. How many people try that?"
He met the love of his life, a woman named Lara. She was a short frizzy-haired brunette with a chubby body and hearty laugh. Some said she was plain-looking, but she was beautiful to him, which was all that mattered. He married her, and it was a happy union.
As a social worker, she shared his enthusiasm for helping people, especially troubled children.
He opened up a practice in the middle of town, working as a therapist on the side, building his reputation and respect among people in the community.
In each of the people who came into his office, he saw glimpses of a woman he knew long ago in a dream he had. When the spoke, the memory of that woman was vivid to him.
But it had just been a dream.
He knew it was a lie in his heart. It had all been very real. Sometimes he wondered if it had all actually happened.
Every so often he would regale his love with stories of a place he used to dream of.
"What do you think this Ashe girl was representative of?" Lara would say, laughing. "Your sub-conscience must have been telling you something very strange about yourself."
"Yeah," he said. "But I think I've moved past it."
Life was beautiful.
Life was a beautiful, beautiful thing, and he was missing nothing at all from it.
That's the end of it. There's no more of this story. It's all been told. Thank you for reading this far. It's been a fun experience writing it.
Go ahead and review. It will be the last time you'll have the chance since this story is now totally COMPLETE. It feels good to finish it. It's not perfect, but I like it well enough.
On an unrelated note, I found an interesting site called fanfictionrecs . net. It has a feature that automatically turns fanfics into EPUB (an ereader format that can also be read on the computer with free software). So far I've turned Ink'n'Echo's story The Wandering Heart into an ebook and am chilling out reading it on my computer. It's a much cooler experience than reading it on fanfic. I'll probably do the same with a few other stories I really like.