20. one last promise (Character death)
He had never thought it would end like this.
He had never thought that his old gang would try to get him back, that they would have split down the line like they did, between who followed Apollo and who followed Starsky.
He never considered that Starsky might try to kill him, just so he could have the power that Apollo apparently still held. He never considered what Starsky might do to try to get that power.
Breathing is becoming difficult. Apollo knows he won't last much longer. He has to get Trucy out, get her to shore and into the arms of her father before confronting Starsky one last time. Apollo is not delusional; he knows he won't make it through the night, if things go the way he thinks they will.
When Starsky threw Trucy out to sea, tossed her away like a rag doll, Apollo hadn't considered he could very well lose his own life. He had dived after her, pulled her up and made it to a crate bobbing nearby. Even with his shoulder bleeding as badly as it was, he was still able to get them back to shore.
Trucy was wrapped in his coat, hair lank and damp, eyes wide with unshed tears. Apollo knows she can tell what needs to happen next, but she doesn't want it to happen, doesn't want Apollo to die like so many good people do. "Go," he rasps.
He shakes his head sadly. "I made my choice long ago, Trucy. When I became ruler of a place that should have stayed dead, when I abandoned them for my own desires… I've had this coming, Truce. For a very long time now. You don't need to see it though. So go."
And after a minute she did, tears streaming down her face, legs shaky like a newborn. She stepped onto dry land and began running past the shipping crates, through the docks and back to where the police stood, her father anxiously praying his daughter would come home in one piece. Apollo doesn't see the reunion, but he feels it in his bones.
He closes his eyes and smiles; lifting himself off the crate, he walks back to where he knows the hidden switch is, and pulls it. The secret door opens. Without a second thought he climbs down, old paths revealing themselves to his eyes.
Starsky is sitting on Apollo's old perch, an apple and a knife in his hand. He doesn't even look up at Apollo's entrance. The former king sits down and waits, growing more and more tired with every passing breath, until Starsky finishes peeling the apple and tosses the apple down to him.
"You know, for someone who is said to be so powerful, you're incredibly selfish," Starsky informs him bluntly, chewing on the peeling while Apollo licks and sucks on the apple, drawing out any moisture it has to wet his mouth. He's so tired.
"You put everyone you love in danger, and for what? To be normal? To be like them? They who threw us away like trash? Why defend them?"
Apollo sighs. "You wouldn't understand, Starsky. You… you were abandoned by your mother, a mother you knew. Us, we… we never knew any of our parents. We can't recall them. That's what makes us different from you. Sure, we weren't happy to be abandoned, but we didn't hate either. We let those above us be as they may, and we kept to ourselves. You though… you hate them, for something that not everyone is guilty of. You hate that they are allowed families, that they can be so cheerful. And you want to punish them for something they can't control. It's just like Gumshoe said—"
"Don't you dare quote him to me!" Starsky screams, jerking upright, face livid. "How dare you accuse me of being the problem! If you had just given up and come to my side like a good little pawn—"
"That's another part of the problem," Apollo interrupts, forcing himself on his feet, feeling his last surges of energy ignite, his old presence settle over him like a cloak. "You think everyone is a pawn but you. Pawns are vulnerable if they don't have rooks, queens, knights or bishops to defend them. They get wiped out so easily, and the King is toppled within a few moves." He feels himself drawing on his old knowledge as Starsky leaps down, crazed rage gleaming in his eyes. "I'll show you one last time Starsky, what it takes to be a King."
Starsky charges, and Apollo hears the quiet tick-tock-tick in his own mind, signaling the starting time of his final fight against Starsky.
Things go a little dark after that. Red flashes now and again, sometimes he can faintly hear screams of pain through the haze, feel the pain of Starsky's knife slicing deep into his flesh, severing bone and snapping tendons. But he can also feel the dark wetness on his own body, proof that he is hurting the other just as much as Starsky is hurting him.
And then the critical moment comes when Apollo knocks Starsky back, and the blond's head slams against the wall, baring his neck for a mere moment. Apollo doesn't hesitate. Through suddenly clear vision, he watches as he digs his own weapon into Starsky's jugular, and the blond let out one final, bloody scream before his eyes roll back in his head and he collapses.
The knife slips from Apollo's hand seconds thereafter, knees giving in as Death sweeps over him like a familiar lover, embracing the man and gently tugging him away from his mortal shell. The body hits the ground just as the front door, previously locked is broken down by a battering ram and a police squad surges in. He's too far away to hear Trucy's scream of denial, of feel Gumshoe's tears as the man cries for him. He's no longer there to see Klavier shake his head and bury his face in his hands, crying over the loss, or Phoenix gently take the white sheet from one of the officers and place it over him, closing his eyes in the process.
Requiescat in pace, Apollo."