Final Fantasy VII

Dark Vengeance

By Lucky_Ladybug

Notes: The characters are not mine and the story is! The basic concept was drawn from an old roleplay with Aubrie, and the thief character is based on the one she used in it, but I've given my own twists to both the plot and the thief. I've had this story kicking around for literally years. When I was finally almost finished with it, I suddenly realized that the ending I'd had in mind felt completely wrong. And it went into storage again. Now, I've finally had some inspiration. The ending it has now is different from what I'd originally planned, but it's the only one that really feels right to me. This takes place in my Twilight and Dawn universe, where all the characters end up transported to Earth following Dirge of Cerberus, but due to how this ends, I'm not considering it part of the main timeline. (Unless something happens to turn things around in a sequel.) Also, I'm subscribing to the fanon idea that the trio are Sephiroth clones rather than only literal parts of his spirit, but that they were imbued with Sephiroth's will. Thanks to Aubrie, Kaze, and Lisa for plot help!

The long-case clock in the hall was matter-of-fact as it announced the top of the hour—midnight, the witching time. Not that he necessarily believed in such things, but it was possible that something ill would happen—if not in this hour, then maybe the next, or in the one after it. He had been listening to the quarterly declarations for the last hour. And he intended to hear them until morning, if necessary.

The clock, as he had been told, had belonged to Mother Shera's grandmother, and then her mother, and then she had inherited it. Father Cid was always annoyed by its loud bongs, but on several occasions he had expressed gratitude that it was not a cuckoo clock. If it was, he had said that it would be very hard for him to resist the urge to "take up Yazoo's gun and shoot the thing." With several choice words inserted, of course.

But they knew he would not really destroy even a cuckoo clock if it was not his own. He was respectful of other people's property.

The silver-haired young man could hear the rain tapping on the window above him. It sounded as if it was mocking him, which, he imagined sarcastically, was quite possible. Especially in light of his own, often derisive nature. What goes around comes around, after all.

He leaned back against the living room wall with a sigh, running a hand over the gun he was holding. It was a very nice model. Well, not as good as his favored Velvet Nightmare, but it would do the job it was meant to do. And that was the most important thing. If they were attacked tonight, he would be ready for it. The brothers were alone in the house; Father Cid and Mother Shera were both working. But they did not need anyone to help them fight their battles.

He wondered if the other two had honestly not thought of the possibility of a break-in. This thief whom Kadaj had seen and chased was obviously malicious. Already she had seriously wounded at least two people who had gotten in her way—including the one whose home she had been at when Kadaj had found her—and she had apparently intended to have them dead. If she realized where Kadaj lived, then she would probably come back to kill him for the glimpse he had caught of her face.

But no . . . Kadaj was too intelligent and cunning to have not allowed the idea to wander through his mind. Maybe he was even awake in his own room, his double-bladed katana unsheathed and ready for the possible assault. At least if he was asleep, he probably had his sword at his side, so that he could easily grab it up the instant there was any unnatural noise. Kadaj was a light sleeper, especially in cases where trouble was imminent.

As for Loz, he could act so childlike, with his occasional crying and his wanting to "play", but he was not to be underestimated either. Yazoo teased and mocked him, but he knew that his older brother had excellent fighting skills. However, strength in a battle did not necessarily mean that Loz would be capable of thinking things out such as this. He usually left that up to Yazoo and Kadaj.

"Yazoo?"

He looked up slowly. Well, speaking of Loz, here he was, apparently having gotten up for a late night snack. He was blinking sleepily at the other, his expression confused.

"What are you doing still up?"

"Waiting." Yazoo spoke in his distant, vague tones as he studied his brother.

Loz frowned slightly, meeting the other's blasé gaze. "Waiting for what?" He walked over, sitting down on the floor next to Yazoo. In the dark he caught the gleam from the gun. He knew that Yazoo had a fondness for the weapons, and sometimes would get up in the middle of the night to clean whichever one was currently in his possession, but this was not one of those times. He could tell from the way Yazoo was tightly gripping it, his finger on the trigger. He was expecting trouble.

"An attack." Yazoo let Loz sit beside him, not particularly caring one way or the other.

Loz was silent. "Are you gonna say anything more about it?" He was used to Yazoo's matter-of-fact, short answers. Of the three, Yazoo had always been the most detached, and Loz had never been sure why. When Kadaj had been very young, Yazoo had been a bit more open than he was these days—but that was far in the past. And even then, and as far back as Loz could recall, Yazoo had disliked speaking. Others had believed him to be shy, but Loz had always at least known that was not the reason. Yazoo was about the furthest thing from shy, and if he were feeling sardonic, he would definitely let it be known. Sometimes Loz wondered if something had happened to Yazoo in the past that had made him so cold and serious, but at other times, he figured that it surely just must be the personality with which Yazoo had been born. He simply could not imagine Yazoo ever being any different than he was.

Now Yazoo shrugged. "Think of everything that happened tonight," he replied, "and see if you can figure it out."

Loz did this, his expression twisted in concentration. Then he looked up and over at Yazoo again. "Does it have something to do with that thief?" he asked.

Yazoo nodded. "She might come to kill Kadaj," he explained.

Loz shifted. "Does Kadaj know?" he wondered.

Yazoo shrugged. "Do you think he wouldn't?"

". . . He's probably thought about it," Loz decided.

But Yazoo did not respond. Instead he had turned his attention to the window, his finger lightly pressing the gun's trigger. The window was locked, but a small instrument was being taken through the glass, noiselessly cutting it out. Loz stared in shock at the sight. Then his eyes narrowed in disgust and anger. He took a step forward, wanting to halt the break-in before it could proceed.

With swift precision, Yazoo shot the glasscutter out of the thief's hand. A slight gasp echoed through the night as it slipped out of the pane and clattered off to the side. She should have given up right then. Instead, deciding that there was no point in secrecy, she drew a gun of her own.

Suddenly the window was cracking to pieces, glass flying in all directions. Yazoo threw his arms over his face, turning away to dodge the silent bullet. It embedded itself into the wall, and the sleek and spry culprit leaped through the open space into the living room. Her boots crunched on the glass as she landed.

"Well," she smirked, "what a reception. It's good to see I'm not dealing with idiots."

Loz growled. "I don't want to play with you," he said.

"Play? I don't want to, either." Her eyes glinted in the dark. "This is for keeps." With that she raised her gun, intending to shoot the muscular man.

But Loz was too fast for her. Without warning he was next to her, delivering a rough strike to her jaw. She staggered back, nearly into the wall. Before she could recover, Yazoo was opening fire. She hissed in anger, barely managing to sidestep the spray of bullets. One grazed her arm as she dove to the side.

The door flew open and banged into the wall, almost tearing off its hinges. Kadaj leaped into the room, his katana clutched in his hands. Automatically, Yazoo and Loz ceased their assaults to allow Kadaj his turn. After all, he was certainly the furthest thing from being weak and in need of protection, and if this was anyone's fight it was his.

"You're pretty good, to make it all the way here and even get inside," he commented as he moved forward. "But you're going to regret ever setting foot in this house." With that he charged, his weapon held high.

The thief snarled in frustration, rolling out of the way and leaping to her feet. Kadaj swung at her and she dodged and flipped, firing at him and trying to kick his legs out from under him. He was too fast for her. Easily jumping back, he brought his blade at her leg. She dove back, launching herself off the wall at him. As she leaped into the air the sword slashed at her jumpsuit, slicing through the dark material and into her flesh. Hissing in pain, she came to a landing on Kadaj's other side, raising the gun to fire at him. Before she could, he knocked it from her hand, sending it spinning across the floor. Then the sword's blades were at her throat.

For a long moment she and Kadaj looked at each other. It was not a stare of triumphant victor and angry loser, but a quiet challenge. Each was asking what the other would do next.

In one motion she was pulling another gun out of her jumpsuit and firing. Taken by surprise, Kadaj leaped to the side to avoid being shot in the head. The bullet still grazed his temple as it passed. His teeth clenched in his anger as he raised a hand to touch the injury. His fingers had discovered the crimson stickiness that was starting to run down the side of his face.

Now Yazoo and Loz sprang into action again. Yazoo fired back at her, distracting her while Loz came from behind for a physical attack. She cartwheeled away, leaving Loz to grab at thin air. As she twirled onto her feet on the couch, a cruel smirk came over her features.

Yazoo did not intend to discover what her plan was. He darted out of the way, shooting at her just as a bullet whistled over his shoulder. Another clipped his heels, but he jumped into the air and returned her fire. She growled, a hand flying to her side. Yazoo had hit his target.

Loz was coming at her again. She gritted her teeth, looking from him to Yazoo to Kadaj. They were all advancing, their expressions cold and dangerous. She would never get away now, not unless she did something drastic to distract their attention. And she had come here for one purpose only, anyway. It was time to enact it and flee.

Whirling around, she fired once, twice, three times at point-blank range. There was no chance for him to escape. Her lips curled in satisfaction. She wanted to hear the body drop without so much as a moan of pain. But the others' attention was immediately diverted from her and she had to run. She sprang over the back of the couch, silently creeping to the window from whence she had come.

But the voices made her freeze.

"Yazoo!" Loz screamed.

It was Yazoo who was doubled over, gasping as he clutched at his chest. Crimson leaked between his fingers, dripping down to his pants and to the floor. She had not missed when she had aimed, but she had aimed for the wrong one.

Yazoo coughed, blood coming to his lips. Everything was swimming out of focus. He took another step back. Maybe he could make it to the couch. Kadaj and Loz should be paying attention to the thief. She was either going to get away or try to kill Kadaj while he was not paying attention. He wanted to scream for them both to look away from him, to find the thief before she could escape, but words would not come. He choked, the blood trickling from his mouth.

Everything was tipping. The ceiling was coming into focus, but it was getting farther away. The pain as he hit the floor on his back slammed into him like countless knives. The wounds had all been jarred. And at least one of the bullets had gone all the way through. More red was coming from underneath his form to run into the carpet. But he did not notice. He gasped again, staring up at the ceiling without seeing it. It was fading. There were voices all around him, but they had already drifted into a fog. He could not understand them.

Loz was running forward to where his brother had collapsed. Yazoo was sprawled on his back, gasping in anguish as he clutched at the wounds in his chest. "Yazoo!" Loz screamed again, without receiving any reaction. Yazoo was staring at a point above Loz, but he was not seeing that, either. His eyes had grown glassy and blank.

"Yazoo, say something!" Loz pleaded. He reached out, gripping his brother's shoulder. Yazoo blinked, at last turning his head slightly so that he was facing Loz. But there was no recognition on his features.

Loz gritted his teeth. The tears were coming to his eyes now, tears of helplessness and despair and anger. He was not going to let them fall. Right now he had to do something, anything . . . ! If he could just think what it would be.

He had to stop the bleeding, if he could. He grabbed Yazoo's hand, struggling to pry it away from his chest. Despite his current state, Yazoo's strength had not completely failed. His hand would not move.

"Yazoo, you've gotta let me see!" Loz cried.

As if somehow hearing and understanding, Yazoo allowed the hand to be pulled back. Loz drew a sharp intake of breath at the sight of the torn clothing and flesh. Blood was everywhere. Normally the sight would not bother him. He and the others had been conditioned and trained to fight and to kill and to enjoy it. But when it was Yazoo's blood Loz was bothered, very much. Without stopping to think, Loz began to tear off part of his own shirt to press against the wounds.

Kadaj was standing stock still, gripping his katana as his knuckles turned white. He was viewing the scene before him, but he was not completely seeing it. He could not even think what to do. Rage was beginning to take control of his heart. Yazoo was sprawled on the floor, helpless and bleeding. The thief had shot him three times, not missing once. But she had meant to shoot Kadaj. In the dark, and in her panic, she had misjudged her aim.

The pupils contracted to cat-like slits. Kadaj whirled, his katana raised high for an attack. The thief was climbing out the window, the furious rain assisting in muffling any noise as she dropped to the ground. He moved to follow, his legs almost running on their own, without his instructions. But Loz's strangled voice made him freeze.

"N-no, Yazoo! You . . . you can't die. You can't!"

Kadaj turned back, his heart gathering speed. Yazoo's breathing had grown shallower and more pained. He was still not focusing on anything around him. And the more Loz tried to get through to him, the more his voice drew to the breaking point.

"You've gotta stay here," he said. "You've gotta get better and . . . and play!"

Yazoo blinked again. For one moment his vision cleared and he seemed to take in the scene. A shaking smirk graced his features. "Don't cry, Loz," he rasped.

Then he was gone. His eyes fell closed, his head turning to the side. The choked breath caught in his throat.

Loz just knelt where he was, staring blankly at the sight. It was incomprehensible. Maybe it was just a joke. Maybe Yazoo would open his eyes again and smirk and say of course he was going to be fine; Loz should not worry. Or maybe he was just not seeing right. Maybe Yazoo's chest was still rising and falling. Maybe he was really still drawing breath. Maybe . . . maybe . . .

Loz reached out with a shaking hand, touching Yazoo's shoulder. ". . . Yazoo?" he ventured, his voice quiet and hesitant. "Yazoo, wake up. Wake up, Yazoo . . . !"

"He won't wake up."

Loz stiffened at Kadaj's cold tones. He looked over his shoulder. Kadaj was gripping his katana, his knuckles having long ago gone white. His pupils were still slits, his visage deadly.

"He'll never wake up. Because of her." Kadaj whirled, his hair flying out with the swift motion.

Loz stared at his youngest brother. "What are you gonna do?" he exclaimed.

"What I should have done when I first saw her," Kadaj answered. He was already running to the window. "And when I'm done, she won't wake up, either."

Part of Loz wanted Kadaj to do it. She deserved it. And they had to avenge their fallen brother. But at the same time, horror and alarm were gripping Loz's heart even tighter. Kadaj had snapped. The few times he had lost control he never stopped to think about what he was doing. That was usually how he got into trouble; he was unpredictable in that state.

Loz grabbed for Kadaj, but in vain. "Kadaj . . . !" he cried, helplessly watching as the other jumped out the window.

He looked back to Yazoo. Their middle brother had not stirred or moved at all. He was not breathing. Loz knew it, but he could not bring himself to accept it. Ten minutes ago, Yazoo had been fine. Before all this had happened, Yazoo had spoken with Loz. He had known something was going to go wrong. But he had not known that he would be the one to be shot. He had not known that he would die.

Die. There. Loz had acknowledged it.

And now the tears he had been holding back broke free. For a long moment he knelt there, his shoulders shaking as he sobbed.

Tell me not to cry, Yazoo, he begged in his mind. Look at me like you think I'm dumb. Do something!

But of course there was no response. There never would be.

xxxx

Kadaj was running through the streets, heedless of the rain pounding on his back and through his hair. The katana was clenched in his hands. The thief had left a trail of muddy footprints all the way from their house. And there was only one reason why she would do something so stupid. She wanted Kadaj to follow her. She wanted him to come so that she could kill him, too, as she had meant to do.

Well, she had gotten into this over her head. He would not die. He would kill her. He would plunge the double blades into her wretched body. And he would be sure to do it in a way that would cause her to feel the most excruciating pain before dying. It was all that she deserved after what she had done to Yazoo. He would relish seeing her blood running into the street, mixing with the rainwater before dripping into the gutters.

I hate her. I hate her!

Yazoo's final moments, as recognition had at last returned to him, were still plaguing Kadaj's memory. Just like that, he was gone. And Loz had been heartbroken as he had gazed at his brother's lifeless body. . . .

Yazoo and Loz shared a bond that Kadaj had always envied to some extent, though he had partially remained distant by his own choice. But in spite of that, he loved them both. They had always all looked out for each other. Yazoo had prepared for trouble tonight, certain that the thief would come after Kadaj. And Kadaj had prepared too, but it had not been good enough. Yazoo was dead. He was dead!

At least he had managed to wound her. Not only was there mud, but also every now and then Kadaj found a small river of diluted blood. The injury to her side had surely been fairly serious. And yet somehow she was hiding from him. Either she had high endurance or she was refusing to let the bullet bother her yet.

Kadaj skidded to a stop, his hair flying away from his right eye for a brief moment. The footprints ended here, but there was no sign of the thief. Where was she? He gripped his sword, his eyes narrowed in suspicion as his gaze darted here and there. No buildings were close enough that she could have run to them without leaving more of a trail. The mud had still been thick on her shoes; it could not suddenly have been removed. And she was not that far ahead of him. She could not be, with her side.

Could she be behind the tree diagonally to his left? Surely it was not possible that she could actually be in it. He focused on it, staring into the thick branches. There was nothing. No . . . there was a movement! He came to attention, bringing up his sword just in time as gunfire rained upon him. He deflected the bullets with his blades, diving and dodging as she continued to fire.

Abruptly it stopped. Was she reloading? Kadaj glared hatefully into the thick foliage, bracing himself for the next onslaught.

Suddenly the thief was swinging down in front of him, her ponytail flying out with the motion. A cruel smirk graced the visible lower half of her face. He did not need to see her eyes to know that they were the same.

As she lowered herself to the ground she cringed, gritting her teeth in pain. She had tied a scarf around her waist, but the left side was soaked with blood. The wound was definitely affecting her. In spite of it she fought to stand upright and ignore it.

"He's dead now, isn't he?" she purred. The gun was held in her right hand, cocked upward to the sky. But she could point it at him again at any moment.

Kadaj gritted his teeth. "I don't want to talk to you," he spat.

"Of course," she smiled. "That isn't why you came."

His eyes flashed. With an abrupt cry he lunged, knocking the gun from her hand in one sweep. It clattered to the ground, firing harmlessly at nothing.

She dove for it. At the same moment, Kadaj sliced her arm. She hissed in pain, crashing to the ground to grab for the gun in desperation. But then she turned, throwing a small oval-shaped device at Kadaj. He leaped out of the way, letting the object hit the concrete and reveal itself to be a smoke bomb. Colored fog poured out, enveloping the small area. But Kadaj's vision was enhanced. He could still see enough to know what to do now.

He stabbed downward with his sword as he descended. It slashed into her already-wounded side, prompting a cry and a curse. With one hand she grabbed at the strange sword, struggling to force it back up. He would not allow it.

For a long moment as the smoke was dissipated by the rain they glowered at each other, nothing in their eyes except hatred and spite. Then she thrust a handkerchief at him from out of her sleeve. Kadaj exclaimed in disbelief as several white doves flew out of the cloth and right into his face. In the madness, he loosened his grip on the sword. The thief sneered, thrusting it out from her side as she struggled to stand. She grabbed up the gun as she rose.

Kadaj pushed the last of the birds out of his line of vision. The gun was pointed directly at him now, just as it had been pointed at Yazoo. Then it was being fired.

He leaped to the side. The bullet nicked his arm as it passed, but he only made a sound of annoyance before lunging at the wretched magician. Kicking out with a foot, he took her by surprise. Gasping, she slammed backwards onto the asphalt. In an instant he was rushing at her, the katana held high. Now he would end this. He would plunge the blade through her chest, just as she had done to Yazoo with her bullets.

A vision flashed before his eyes. Aerith, his first adopted mother, was standing with her hands on her hips. Her face showed a mixture of disapproval and sadness.

Kadaj stumbled to a halt, breathing heavily. Mother Aerith would not want him to do this. She had taught him to only use killing as a last resort, and only when in the defense of himself or his loved ones. Yazoo was already dead. And this thief was not interested in Loz. She wanted to kill Kadaj. But he was not attacking out of self-defense. He just wanted to see her dead. The thought of what Mother Aerith wanted was the only thing that could stop him.

Something would have to be done about the thief. She would only come back if she was left to roam free. But he had to get himself under control.

He had hesitated too long. She sprang up, moving to strike him in the head with her weapon. At the last possible moment he ducked, grabbing her around the waist as he went. She shrieked in disbelief, flailing in his grasp. He did not pay her heed. Instead he threw her to the ground, kicking the gun away from her. Then he stabbed at her leg. If she could not walk properly, it would be much more difficult for her to make her escape. She cursed him in frustration, her face twisted in pain.

"What the heck do you think you're doing!"

Kadaj froze, turning with narrowed eyes. Cid, his second adopted father, was running towards him. His spear was clutched in his hands, an expression of anger on his face. Behind him were several police officers.

"She was trying to kill me," Kadaj retorted. "That's why she killed Yazoo, Father!"

Cid only pulled him back by the arm. "Come on," he growled. "Get away from her. Let them take her in."

Kadaj stumbled, but quickly regained his footing. He glared, keeping hold of his sword in one hand.

The police officers came forward, examining the thief's wounds. One of them began to try to stop the bleeding, at the same time telling her she was under arrest. Another called for an ambulance. A third frowned, regarding Kadaj in suspicion. It was obvious what he was thinking.

"You're not takin' him in, too." Cid glowered, keeping a firm hand on Kadaj's shoulder. "I'll talk to him and find out what happened."

The policeman at last nodded, looking back to the scene.

Cid led Kadaj over near the tree. "Alright, start talkin'," he ordered. "What was going on here? Do you know how it looked to the police?"

Kadaj glared. "She shot Yazoo to death and got away through the window," he said. "I went after her. And we fought." He crossed his arms. He was not about to tell everything, including his struggle with the hatred he still felt for her. He was really not happy at all that there had been this interference. He had been doing fine by himself.

"Loz told me you were gonna kill her." Cid lowered his voice now, not wanting the police to hear. They already wanted to take the kid in. There was no point giving them more reason to feel like they should.

"Of course I was going to kill her," Kadaj spat. "She killed Yazoo. And she'd only come back for me again if I didn't do something."

"And what would you have done if I hadn't shown up here?" Cid demanded. "Tell me that! They're thinkin' they need to cart you off with them as it is." He nodded towards the officers.

"I'm avenging my family!" Kadaj retorted. "I don't care what they think."

"Well, you'd darn well better care!" Cid grabbed Kadaj's other shoulder, giving him a violent shake. "You wanna get locked up in prison for murder? You'll sure be able to do a lot of good in there."

Kadaj wrenched away. "If you'd bothered to notice, Father, I wasn't killing her when you came," he said. "I was incapacitating her."

A silence. Cid threw his hands in the air. "Okay, so you were incapacitating her. What for? So she'd be all helpless and you could kill her without her trying to stop you?"

Kadaj looked away. "I don't know," he said. And he honestly did not. After he had vowed to not be controlled by his hatred, had he also decided to leave her alive and let her be taken by the police? Or had he still planned to kill her, but truly in self-defense?

Things were so much more complicated than they had been on Gaia, when the Reunion was all that mattered.

Cid sighed. Somehow he could tell that they had both hit a solid wall in this confrontation.

"Look, Kadaj . . . let's go home, alright?" he growled, feeling weary. So much had happened in the last hour. . . . He had come home after work and had found Loz crying, kneeling next to Yazoo's lifeless body. Then Loz had explained about Kadaj and the thief and Cid had called the police before hurrying out to find the crazy punk.

Trust him to go getting attached to the Sephiroth clones, or whatever they were. It probably never would have happened if he had not ended up as Yazoo's manager when neither he nor Yazoo had remembered anything upon being sent to this new planet. Then the others had come along, trying to get Yazoo to remember them, and when he had, they hadn't had anywhere to go. . . .

Curse him being so dang soft.

Kadaj gave a half-hearted shrug. "Yazoo's dead," he muttered.

"Well, Loz ain't," Cid snapped. "Now come on." He placed a hand on Kadaj's back to steer him in the proper direction.

Kadaj could have resisted if he had really wanted to. But he allowed himself to be moved.

He glared hatefully at the thief as they passed. She was still being tended to by the police officer, and she gave Kadaj a sullen look in response. She was not used to being beaten by anyone, especially someone she had decided to kill. It made her furious.

"What're you gonna do with her?" Cid asked the nearest policeman.

"Once she's recovered enough, she'll be in jail," the officer said. "We've been trying to catch this one for a long time. She's got several murders to answer for now, as well as all her thieving. Hopefully she'll go to prison for a long time, if she's not given the death sentence.

"We'll need you to give statements about her," he continued.

"Can it wait?" Cid shot back.

The policeman sighed. "Until morning," he amended.

"Fine. Then we're goin'." Cid started walking again, Kadaj keeping pace beside him. Soon they were alone, the policemen and the thief far behind them in the rain.

"What's it going to be like when we go back?" Kadaj spoke after a stretch of silence.

Cid frowned. "I dunno," he admitted. "I called the ambulance and everything, but there ain't much hope of anything workin'. That girl . . . she was a good shot. Too good." He spat on the ground. "If it was just up to me, well . . . I wouldn't have minded much if you'd killed her."

"If she gets out and comes after me again, I will," Kadaj vowed, the bitterness all too clear in his voice.

Cid believed it. And he had to admit, if he came upon the scene then and it would clearly be in self-defense, he doubted he would stop the kid from going through with it.

xxxx

Loz was sitting on the porch steps, slouched forward in grief, when they got back to the house. He was digging his gloved hands into his hair, either unaware of or unconcerned about the blood coating them. When he heard their footsteps he looked up, questions in his eyes.

"The gal's being taken to the hospital with police guards," Cid reported. "Yazoo and Kadaj both got her good."

Loz gave a small, barely comprehending nod. "Yazoo's dead," he said. His voice was filled with numb acknowledgment.

Kadaj sat on the step beside him. "But I'm not," he said.

Loz looked to him, surprised now. Kadaj meant what he said. Loz had believed that Kadaj would stay on his path of vengeance, drawing away from Loz and ignoring Loz's grief in favor of his own. Instead, Kadaj was letting him know that there was still a chance of continuing with what was left of their dysfunctional family, and that he was willing to try. At the moment, continuing seemed an impossibility. But just knowing that Kadaj was staying gave Loz the slightest glimmer of hope that maybe someday, they could and would.

He slid closer to his brother.

Around them, the rain continued to fall.