((Ilario Fiametta III and Rhory Anne Broderick continued from Act II: A Mirror Dimly.))
Ilario was cold.
He had wrapped himself in what was left of his jacket, stained by salt water and blood and covered in grime, but the thin fabric offered little warmth against the chill of night. The light wind blowing in from the water made him shiver each time it caressed his shoulders, and he'd long since drawn his knees up into his chest in the foetal position. The coat had been stylish in a low-key sort of way once upon a time (not to mention expensive) but despite once being his favourite, the prevailing thought running through his head was that he would trade it a thousand times over for something thick and fluffy enough to conserve what little heat remained in his skin.
The Ferris wheel had not been designed for comfort. Some small animal had burrowed into the stuffing of the seat and removed massive chunks of it, making the slight cushion lumpy and uneven. The steel safety bar was stuck in the engaged' position, forcing him to contort his body just to fit in the small space, and the whole thing squealed and shifted on its axis with every movement he made. But it was better than the control booth.
Metal groaned as Ilario shifted his upper body, eyes straining to make out the dark shape mere feet away. Rhory was there. A small and petty part of him hoped she was just as cold, just as stiff, just as tired and hungry and in pain as he was. Generic painkillers hadn't done much against the headache that still gnawed at his temples, although without the glare of light the dull throbbing had eased at least somewhat. Nausea still curled in his stomach even though he knew he hadn't eaten in far too long, vertigo making his head spin if his movements were too sudden. The tacky feeling of drying blood make the back of his head itch where Rhory had brought the stock of the shotgun down. Still, as bad as it all was, he was still alive. His skull hadn't split like a ripe melon.
He could still fulfill his purpose.
The deep and empty ache that was Frankie still filled him, but it was lined with the deep-banked fires of anger. It was her fault. The dark-haired bitch was the reason his sister was dead, the reason he had been unable to find and protect her. Not only that, but the damage she'd done to his body meant that for now he didn't have a choice but to stay. He couldn't die. Not here, not by her. Not without Rosa. But the concussion which scrambled his mind and made him too weak to fight forced him to follow her through the long grief-stricken hours, until at last they'd come to the fun fair. There had been bodies. Those he could not save, and those he had not killed.
They hadn't spoken much, him and Rhory. She had found the control booth and settled into it like a nesting bird, her gun and Ilario's held close. She had told him not to go far. He chafed under it, wanted nothing more than to rip her head from her shoulders and run until he found his remaining sister -- but couldn't. Knew he couldn't. Knew he had to bide his time, wait until the right moment. She thought he was complacent. She would learn soon enough.
But now here he was. Leaning his head against the back of the seat, he closed his eyes, dropping in and out of a fitful doze punctuated by dreams more a series of images, and familiar thoughts. In the morning he would be better. And she would see that he hadn't run, and think he was on her side. It would be so easy -- she was just a girl, just a small, scared, hurt girl -- a killer, though -- and he could take the gun and send a bullet to that sacred place between the stag's antlers.
Not much longer, he thought drowsily, his father (blood-stained and battered as Ilario himself) watching from a nearby tree, the ground turning from sawdust and grass to green carpet, turning back again, soft noises from the control booth worming into his mind and so that he blinked and woke, and then fell under the darkness once more.
Not much longer. And then.
His eyelids squeezed tightly shut, just for a moment. A damp track was carved in the dirt and blood coating his face, sliding over the purple-swollen bruises.
Then maybe it could finally be over.
Through all this, the dark-haired bitch watched.
The cramped booth was thick with smoke from her third cigarette. One of Kimberlys, though it was too dark to see and her senses were too dead to realize it. The grimed glass was heavy with filth. It was amazing, she thought, that she could make out even the slightest detail of her companion or the carriage hed packed himself into. Not that she needed to. The thing shrieked with a harsh, rusty coo that sliced through the tin-can walls of her perch each time he rocked or twitched. Even without the sound shed know where he was. His location was simple fact. There was nowhere else for him to go.
Cigarette paper unwound itself between her left-handed fingers as she brought it to her mouth and sucked. The back of her throat felt like charcoal. She was grateful to feel it at all. Feeling had left most other places, fled most inches of paling skin or purpling fingertips. She vaguely remembered feeling. She remembered being on a rotting blue floor, mourning Ethan and Jack with those fingertips and promising to never feel so much pain again. It was funny now. She hadnt known real pain then. She hadnt known the garish splashes and deep cuts that would come later. She couldnt have known the true feeling of emptiness until her own blood and puss staged an exodus and her nerves wilted back into her bones. She hadnt known anything back then. She was never meant to. It was all too stupid and brutal to know. So she took comfort in the fact that feeling was gone and exhaled. Knowing was easier without feeling.
She crushed the spent cigarette against the panel and flicked the filter to her side. Her left hand went for the ragged box, slumped and filthy in her lap against the stock of the AK, and then stopped. Nicotine sparks rattled across the fog shed created as she stared down at her sleep-fearing fingers. She blinked through the smoke. What was the point? She may have only just learned pain, but she knew exhaustion well. Shed spent eighteen years of dark brews and white sticks building against it. Shed clawed against it for weeks at a time and got chunks of it stuck under her fingernails that she could never quite dig out. No matter how much oil and smoke she filled herself with, it broke thorough. It always won. She was just so god damn tired. So why fight it? What was there to fight it for? She peered through smoke and grime at the screeching thing before her and knew he was tired too. Knew he was fighting it. The tossing-turning shrieks said as much. Maybe part of what kept him up was the nightmare haunt of failure, but she knew that wasnt all. His insomnia was wholly unlike hers. He still had a reason to keep awake.
She didnt know Rosa well. She knew of her, of course. It was impossible not to. High school halls were built to echo with names like hers. But Rosas werent meant to be known. It would break the illusion, and school halls are useless without illusions to funnel through them. The brother, though, he had to know her. Blood is too thick for echoes to ripple through. So, what was Rosa? Was she still Rosa the Bitch? Was she colder than her open legs suggested? Rhory didnt think so. Not with her brothers warm desperation. Rhory knew ice queens. Blood didnt make them matter; if anything, they just froze it. They didnt open their arms or part their knees for any other reason than building a vice. They bend their joints to grab, trap, control. They were the kind that dreamed of December weddings. They settled for October if time was short. They made their college roommates maids of honor while they asked their sisters to be the videographers. They were the kind that shopped for wedding dresses too large for them and with empire waists because they knew how large the bump would be in five months time. No, Rhory thought. Rosa was no ice queen. She had enough blood left to know that it wasnt made to withstand the cold. Whatever the Fiametta siblings had the brother was boiling over with.
The rust-metal screams stopped. He was asleep now. She envied it. The nicotine cloud still crackled around her head like it was trying to push out a storm. Exhaustion wasnt winning. Not yet. She looked for distraction. Her left fingers had already taken to twisting at the thick layer of cling cocooning her right hand in the absence of pinched cigarettes. Dark ghosts of a stain soaked through the middle. Not blood anymore. She wondered if it was even pus. Her fingers were darker and cooler hues each day and she could hardly twitch the barest movements from them anymore. She hadnt changed the bandages in a while. She didnt see the point. Shed known from the first attempt that infection would find its way in. It hadnt worried her then and it only inconvenienced her now. After all, the wound wasnt one made for survival. It wasnt a defensive scar. It was there because her outraged hand had cried for someones neck and shed been content to pacify it. It deserved every inch of rotting skin it got. She wasnt planning on outliving it anyway.
But living wasnt the problem. Not for her, at least. Her life wasnt a part of their deal. Fiametta was the one that needed to survive. Rhory didnt believe in karma, she didnt believe in absolvement, but she did believe in justice. She believed more firmly in punishment. If he died here, neither could touch him. This place was free of any justice. Out there, hed have to face what hed done. Hed have to live with murder for however long he chose to live. She didnt care what he did after. She only knew that they both needed him out.
She also knew that the only things keeping him alive were two triggers, and she wasnt able to pull either of them.
His gun had been digging tracks in her thighs for hours by now. Shed taken it out of her bag just after hed settled into his carriage. It hadnt been the gun shed kept as a threat for the journey before. Shed used Daviss gun for that. She knew she couldnt fake the same competency with the AK as she could the shotgun: it was too heavy and bulky and her ruined digits couldnt wrap themselves around the trigger quite convincingly enough. So shed kept it in her duffel instead, where it could collide with her hip at every step to remind her it was there. Shed thought about burying it. It seemed wrong not to. Somewhere in the woods theyd walked through was Jacksons body, rotting out whatever little of him was left. He would never get a real burial. The gun would be close. It was there because of him. It held a part of him. She could almost see the black finish split into strands of his hair. She could give him a funeral. He deserved at least as much.
But in the end, she knew it was too important for dirt. And if she wasnt going to bury it, it needed able fingers.
She tilted her head back against the tin wall. It was lighter out. She could see the smoke seeping out around her. Fatigue fought up her spine quickly, forcing the nicotine into retreat. She knew what had to happen now. It was a relief. She didnt need the guns. She already had her claws digging deep. If he turned the barrel on her, shed just break them off in him.
Her work was already done. There was nowhere else for him to go.
She breathed in the last of the smoke and let her eyes close.