This was it. It would work, it had to work. Even if Oscar had betrayed them, it was unimportant. Cain hadn't really expected it, but… but no, it was not important. He could do this (would do this, must do this!), he would expose Mayor Gloria. It would be a decisive blow against his father's organization, prove that he was no longer a child cowering from his father's whip-

"Riff?"

"I'm fine, milord. Your shoe is untied, one moment."

Cain paused, and allowed the man to bend and retie the laces. Usually, such attention drew a smile, but at the moment, he was far too impatient, far too focused to allow himself to be distracted. The instant Riff released him, he was on his feet again, striding out the door. "Let's go." Riff remained behind, to take care of the pictures.

"Master Cain!"

The nobleman turned, glanced over his shoulder. He knew there was something wrong, more so than Riff was telling him, but, really… "Riff, surely it can wait until we return home?" Except he'd found his valet, his friend, his… Riff, unconscious in an alleyway only two days before and he was worried and scared for him, but this was a chance to strike against his father that he could not lose.

Riff didn't move. "No. It cannot. I need to talk to you."

"Now?!"

The blond's face was set, impassive as always. Cain took a careful step closer, then another. Riff wouldn't meet his eyes. After all he had done, the people he'd killed, Riff was the only man who knew it all and still accepted him, still looked him in the eye. That he wasn't now…

…His father could wait.

"I needed to talk to you, I need you to know before…" The man's eyes flickered with fear. "I need you to know before you understand, and there will not be another chance. I have burn scar on my chest in the shape of a rose."

Cain froze, staring at Riff. There was a distant roaring in his ears. "…You what?"

The blond ignored him. "I don't remember how I got it. I thought in the fire, but it's not old enough. That's not right. None of this is right, and I'm out of time…" he choked off, one hand moving to clutch at his shirt front.

"Riff?" Finally, finally, the blond made eye contact. For once, he looked vulnerable, and that scared Cain more than anything else.

"I'm dying. I'm dying, Master Cain, and I wanted you to know that whatever happens now, whatever is going to happen, it is not me. It is not really me. I'm real!" He sounded desperate, defensive. His fingers crept higher to clutch at his own shoulders, embracing himself. "I am real-I was always real." The valet reached out one hand, falling just shy of actually touching Cain, cradling his cheek. Briefly, he was reminded of when Mikaila's spiders had almost taken him. "I am… Master Cain, you made me real, and I will always, always love you for it."

"Riff!" The nobleman stepped forward, needing to touch him, to be held, to bury his face in Riff's coat and demand answers, proper answers-

And Cain stood alone in the hallway, one hand outstretched.


A/N: Kiss of Judas is simultaneously one of my favorite stories EVER and one of my least favorites. It's beautifully written, deftly foreshadowed, and utterly heart wrenching.

This concept hit me in the car on the way home late last night/early this morning, and I had to write it (once I was conscious enough to have it make sense). While I don't think these sorts of portents are usually capable of speaking, it worked better for there to be an actual conversation. It's never sat well with me that the two of them died before doing something like TALKING about feelings. (Though I somehow doubt that would have happened, even if they had been alive. Lovable idiots.) But this is why I like reincarnation and/or fix-it fic so much.

Their story isn't over. Not yet.

Non beta-ed, all work is my own. Please read and review!