Chapter Forty-four


Some days lasted forever, Phury thought much later. And when the sun went down, there was still no end to them.

As the shutters lifted for the evening, he took a seat on a spindly sofa and looked across Wrath's study at Zsadist. The other Brothers were just as speechless as he was.

Z had just dropped another bomb in what was already a blitz zone of blowups. First there had been Tohr, Wellsie, and that young female. Now this.

"Jesus, Z..." Wrath rubbed his eyes and shook his head. "You didn't think to mention this before now?"

"We've had other shit to deal with. Besides, I'm meeting with the slayer by myself no matter what you say. It's really not up for discussion."

"Z, man... I can't let you do that."

Phury braced for his twin's reaction. As did the others in the room. They were all exhausted, but knowing Z, he'd have enough juice left over to hit the fan.

The brother just shrugged. "The lesser wants me, and I want to take care of him. For Bella. For Tohr. Besides, what about the female hostage? I can't not go, and backup's not an option."

"My brother, you'd be walking into your coffin."

"So I'll do a hell of a lot of damage before they take me out."

Wrath crossed his arms over his chest. "No, Z, I can't let you go."

"They'll kill that female."

"There's another way to handle this. We just need to figure out what it is."

There was a heartbeat of a pause. Then Z said, "I want everyone out of this room so I can talk to Wrath. Except you, Phury. You stay."

Butch, Vishous, and Rhage looked around at one another, then focused on the king. When he nodded once, they left.

Z shut the door behind them and stayed with his back to the thing. "You can't stop me. I am ahvenging my shellan. I am ahvenging the shellan of my brother. You have no standing to prevent me. This is my right as a warrior."

Wrath cursed. "You never mated her."

"I don't need a ceremony to know she's my shellan."

"Z?quot;

"And what about Tohr? Are you saying he's not my brother? Because you were there the night I was brought into the Black Dagger Brotherhood. You know Tohrment is flesh of my flesh now. I own the right to ahvenge him as well."

Wrath leaned back in his chair, his weight making the thing creak in protest. "Christ, Zsadist, I'm not saying you can't go. I just don't want you to go alone."

Phury looked back and forth between the two of them. He'd never seen Zsadist so calm. The brother was focused to the point of stone, nothing but clearsighted eyes and deadly purpose. If it weren't so eerie, it would have been remarkable.

"I didn't make up the rules of this scenario," Z said.

"You'll die if you go by yourself."

"Well... I'm kind of ready to get off the ride."

Phury felt his skin get tight all over.

"Excuse me?" Wrath hissed.

Z stepped away from the door and walked through the dainty French room. He stopped in front of the fire, and the flames ricocheted off his ruined face. "I'm ready to end things."

"What the hell are you¡ª"

"I want to go out like this, and I want to take that lesser with me when I do. Real blaze-of-glory shit. Up in flames with mine enemy."

Wrath's mouth went lax. "Are you asking me to sanction your suicide?"

Z's head went back and forth. "No, because short of chaining me, you aren't going to keep me from showing up at that movie theater tonight. What I'm asking you to do is make sure no one else gets hurt. I want you to command the others, especially him"¡ªZ looked pointedly at Phury¡ª"to stay away."

Wrath took off his sunglasses and rubbed his eyes again. When he looked up, his pale green irises glowed, the disks like floodlights in his face. "There's been too much death in the Brotherhood. Don't do this."

"Have to. Going to. So order the others to stay away."

There was a long, tense silence. Then Wrath gave the only answer he had. "So be it."

With the wheels set in motion for Z's death, Phury leaned forward and put his elbows on his knees. He thought of the taste of Bella's blood, and that very special spice his tongue had detected.

"I'm sorry."

As he felt Wrath and Z look over at him, he realized he'd spoken out loud. He got to his feet. "I'm sorry, will you both excuse me?"

Zsadist frowned. "Wait. I need something from you."

Phury stared at his twin's face, tracing the scar that intersected it, absorbing the nuances in a way he never had before. "Name it."

"Promise me you will not leave the Brotherhood after I'm gone." Z pointed to Wrath. "And do it over his ring."

"Why?"

"Just do it."

Phury frowned. "Why?"

"I don't want you to be alone."

Phury stared long and hard at Z, thinking about the patterns of both their lives. Man, the two of them really had been cursed, although the why of it was a total unknown. Maybe it was just bad luck, although he'd like to think there was a reason.

Logic... logic was better than a capricious fate that screwed you hard.

"I drank from her," he said abruptly. "Bella. I drank from her last night when I went to Havers's. Still feel like having someone watch over me?"

Zsadist closed his eyes. Like a cold draft, a wave of despair came out of him and passed through the room. "I'm glad you did. Now are you going to give me your word?"

"Come on, Z¡ª"

"All I want is your vow. Nothing else."

"Sure. Whatever."

Christ, fine.

Phury walked over to Wrath, got down on bended knee, and hovered over the king's ring. In the Old Language, he said, "So long as I breathe, I shall remain within the Brotherhood. I humbly offer this vow, that it may be acceptable to thine ears, my lord."

"It is acceptable," Wrath replied. "Tender your lips to mine ring and seal the words upon your honor."

Phury kissed the king's black diamond and rose again. "Now, if the drama's over, I'm out of here."

Except when he got to the door, he stopped and looked back into Wrath's face. "Have I ever told you how honored I've been to serve you?"

Wrath recoiled a little. "Ah, no, but¡ª"

"It really has been an honor." As the king's eyes narrowed, Phury smiled a little. "Don't know why that suddenly struck me. Probably the view of you from your feet just now."

Phury left and was glad when he ran into Vishous and Butch outside the study.

"Hey, boys." He touched them briefly on the shoulders. "The two of you are quite a pair, you know that? Our resident genius and a human pool shark. Who'd've thought?" As the two of them looked at him oddly, he asked, "Rhage go to his room?"

When they nodded, he went over and knocked on Hollywood's door. Rhage answered and Phury smiled, putting his hand up to that thick neck. "Hey, my brother."

He must have paused for a little too long, because Rhage's eyes got shrewd. "What's doing, Phury?"

"Nothing." He dropped his hand. "Just a drive-by. You take care of that female of yours, you feel me? Lucky, lucky... you are a very lucky male. Later."

Phury went to his room, wishing that Tohr were around... wishing that they knew where the brother was. As he mourned for the male he armed himself, then checked the hall. He could hear the Brotherhood talking in Wrath's study.

To avoid them he dematerialized to the corridor of statues and went into the room next to Zsadist's. After shutting the door, he headed for the bath and flipped on the light. He stared at his reflection in the mirror.

Unsheathing one of his daggers, he grabbed a thick hunk of his hair and took the blade to it, cutting through the waves. He did this over and over again, letting the reds and the blonds and the browns fall to the floor in chunks that covered his shitkickers. When the stuff was about an inch long all the way around, he grabbed a can of shaving cream from the vanity, lathered up his skull, and took a razor out from under the sink.

When he was bald he wiped the residue off his scalp and brushed off his shirt. His neck itched from some of the hairs that had fallen into his collar, and his head felt too light. He rubbed his hand over his scalp, leaned into the mirror, and looked at himself.

Then he took the dagger and put it point-first to his forehead.

With a hand that shook, he drew the knife down the center of his face, ending with an S-curve at his upper lip. Blood welled and dripped down. He wiped it off with a clean white towel.

Zsadist armed himself with care. When he was ready he stepped out of his closet. The bedroom was dark, and he walked through it out of habit more than sight, heading for the pool of light spilling out of the bathroom. He went to the sink, turned it on, and bent down over the rushing water, cupping the cold torrent in his hands. He splashed his face and rubbed his eyes. Drank a little from what he held between his palms.

When he went to dry off, he sensed that Phury had come into the bedroom and was moving around, though he couldn't see the male.

"Phury... I was going to come find you before I left."

With a towel under his chin, Z looked at his reflection in the mirror, seeing his new yellow eyes. He thought of the arc of his life and knew most of it was for shit. But there had been two things that hadn't been. One female. And one male.

"I love you," he said in a rough voice, realizing it was the first time he'd ever said the words to his twin. "Just wanted to get that out."

Phury stepped in behind him.

Z recoiled in horror at his twin's reflection. No hair. Scar down his face. Eyes flat and lifeless.

"Oh, sweet Virgin," Z breathed. "What the fuck did you do to yourself... ?"

"I love you, too, my brother." Phury raised his arm. In his hand was a hypodermic syringe, one of the two that had been left for Bella. "And you need to live."

Zsadist spun around just as his twin's arm swung down. The needle caught Z in the neck and he felt the rush of morphine go right into his jugular. Screaming, he grabbed onto Phury's shoulders. As the drug kicked in, he sagged and felt himself get eased onto the floor.

Phury knelt beside him and stroked his face. "I've only ever had you to live for. If you die I have nothing. I'm utterly lost. And you are needed here."

Zsadist tried to reach out, but couldn't lift his arms as Phury stood up.

"God, Z, I keep thinking this tragedy of ours is going to be over. But it just keeps going, doesn't it?"

Zsadist blacked out to the sound of his twin's boots heading from the room.

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