Chapter 36: Burning Away the Past

Once again, Alex was becoming concerned with the lack of men that they were finding. Though he was certain there couldn't be many, he was at least sure that most of them would be closer to where they were. But as they crept through the different rooms of the manor, they found no evidence of anyone even being nearby.

They soon found themselves in a large rec room of sorts. Furniture for comfortable lounging was set up around the sides of the room. Different tables for different games were placed around the room as well. Pool, air hockey, poker, you name it. Even a few old arcade machines lined up the farthest wall, obviously for whatever children the previous occupants of the mansion had.

But as soon as the three friends entered the room, they stopped in their tracks as they found someone with them. Standing just a few feet away, leaning on the nearest pool table, was a snow white fox.

"Ah," he said with an air of faked surprise, "you're here."

"Joey," Alex growled, his eyes glaring at the fox who merely continued his game, hitting the cue ball into the solid seven, sinking it straight into the corner pocket.

"Took a little longer for you to escape then I had thought," Joey muttered, lining up his next shot and aiming for the six ball, as he shot the cue ball curved rather then going straight. It struck the eight ball and sent it straight into the side pocket. "Dang."

"So you gave me the knife on purpose?" Alex inquired, already fuming over his cousin's usual attitude.

"Well, it's not like I figured you'd need it," the fox replied putting away the pool cue. "But I didn't want you to take too long, poor old Frosty might have figured out your pink girly-friend was playing him like a fiddle." His eyes then focused on Aeris, who felt a shiver go down her spine. "And my oh my, how wonderful it is to see you both again on this fine day, Leo Aeris."

Alex looked at his two friends in shock, neither responded, still staring at the canine in front of them.

"Oh yes we've met before," Joey chuckled. "Too bad they didn't see fit to tell you that. But since we're on the topic, let's get full introductions out of the way." With the same grace he always showed, Joey bowed down to the three of them, a grin plastered on his face as he rose. "Joesph Kage, at your service. Though I can't really say what my services entail... Just know that I take great pleasure in everything I do."

Rather then give a response, Alex raised his pistol up, ready to put a bullet in his cousin's head to shut him up.

"Hold it," Joey warned, quickly retrieving his own pistol with amazing speed, aiming squarely at Alex. "Now you know how much I hate these things, don't make me use one."

"Pointing a gun at me won't stop me from shooting you," Alex said flatly, his eyes still focused on the center of Joey's forehead.

"Ah," the fox said with a smile, "but I've got something right here that will do just that." Never moving his gun or gaze from Alex, Joey stepped across the room and stood before a line of chairs. The three friends noticed a large sheet placed over them, and it looked as though something was moving inside.

Without hesitation, Joey pulled the sheet away to reveal a bound black and white husky. A gag over her mouth while her hands were cuffed behind her back.

"Kerissa!" Leo cried out in shock, stepping forward to run to her side.

"Ah ah ah," Joey cooed, shifting his aim toward the gray cat, stopping him in his tracks, "we wouldn't want anyone doing something foolish now. That's how you end up with a lot of bodies." He then grabbed Kerissa and brought her to her feet. Taking a knife out of his clothing, Joey wrapped an arm around her and pressed the knife to her throat, still keeping his gun aimed between the two cats and hybrid.

"Let her go," Leo demanded, "she has nothing to do with this."

"Oh, you'd be surprised," Joey laughed, looking back to his cousin. "So make your choice Alex, discard your gun or else this cute girly here is going to have a nasty spill... of blood..." he chuckled lightly. "Get it?"

Alex just stood there, his gun still trained on his cousin as the white fox's mouth twitched into a toothy grin. The pistol in his hand shook with the anger that was coursing through his system, his face showing it in a venomous sneer. In his mind, he was already prepared to just pull the trigger and be done with it, leaving the husky's fate up to chance. But Kerissa's eyes stared him down, forcing him to see the tangible fear and panic that shown within them.

"Alex..." Leo pleaded, seeing his friend's hesitation and worrying for the fate of his girlfriend.

After a momentary standoff that seemed to last an eternity, Alex's grip on the pistol tightened as he growled in frustration. A metallic click from the pistol then sounded

With a thud, the clip of the pistol landed on the floor, followed by its host. After a quick swing of his leg, Alex kicked the gun aside, sending it across the room and away from anyone's reach.

Joey's face began to twitch noticeably, as the though he were suppressing a laughing fit.

"So the collared beast canbe reasoned with," Joey mused, his palpable amusement still evident. His eyes shifted to Aeris, causing her to flinch back a pace in response. "By the way Aeris, I never voiced how impressed I was at your abilities to trick Frost and his men, you're quite the little actress." Though it seemed impossible, his grin began to grow, threatening to take up his entire face. "But... I think there's someone who has you beat. Isn't that right?"

Another thud of metal then sounded, the eyes of Aeris Leo and Alex all turned to the source, the handcuffs binding Kerissa lying at their feet. As they looked up to who was previously wearing them, they could see the husky's face showing a proud smirk as she removed her gag.

"Oh Joey," she giggled, "you do know how to flatter a girl."

There was almost a noise to follow the reaction of the three friends, their jaws dropping as they gaped at the dog and fox standing together.

"What... what's the meaning of this?" Alex demanded, attempting to put command in his voice to cover the shock.

"Poor Alex," Kerissa pouted, "I thought you were smarter then that. Yet you can't see the obvious, even when it's right in front of your face."

"K-Kerissa?" Leo breathed, stumbling forward as he stared at his girlfriend, unable to believe what was happening.

"Sorry Leo," the husky said flatly, "it seems your single once again. Though I can't really say there was even a relationship in the first place..." Her eyes fell on Alex as he glared at her. "You know Alex, I'm surprised you were never suspicious of me. Then again... you were always much more paranoid back home, probably why it took me so long to track you down."

"Track me?" Alex repeated, showing confusion to her statement.

"As it should seem obvious by now, I've had my eye on you for some time. I told you of my work, and Frost is one of my best employers. Hell, he was offering a king's ransom just to get information on you back home. I nearly figured out where you were held up too, then you go and kill Frost's son, making him leave the city and putting me out of a job. But imagine my surprise, how after all this time I get a call to come to this Canadian trash heap and hunt you down once again. I was at it for some time too, getting your daily routines planned out for Frost. Of course, things got all the easier for me at that cafe, ensnaring Leo with a lovely scheme of deception."

"But... but I thought we were..." Leo tried saying, fumbling at his words while his body trembled, feeling his heart being clawed out of his chest.

"You thought what?" Kerissa asked, smiling. "That there was actually something there? Well of course, you were supposed to think that. Goodness though, you made it too easy for me really, all I had to do was giggle like a ditz enough times and act like I gave a damn about you. Then it was off to the apartment to keep even closer tabs on Alex. And my oh my was I surprised to see the angsty crossbreed trying to get into the panties of a pissy cat. Frost nearly did back flips when I told him about that juicy little morsel of a detail, especially when I snapped that wonderful pose of you two tongue wrestling like horny teenagers."

"No..." Leo cried, unable to look at the girl he had such feelings for anymore, "this... this can't be happening..."

"Oh it's happening alright," Kerissa giggled, uncaring of the feline's own emotions. "Though I can't say the job was fully enjoyable, having to help in seducing Jake as he came into the city wasn't fun. Honestly, I was prepared to cut out the bastard's eyes myself before Frost's boys bound and gagged him. Not to mention how annoying it was playing matchmaker for you two lovebirds. Really, it's just not healthy to flip-flop your emotions like you've been doing, and Frost wouldn't let me go until he was certain a pink corpse was just what was needed to fully dismantle his crossbred adversary."

Seeing both Alex and Aeris suspended in a mix stunned silence and boiling anger made her smile even larger, even as she looked down on Leo's shaken form.

"Don't feel too bad about yourself Leo," she said with a note of compassion in her voice. "I did have fun when I wasn't stabbing you three in the back. But even still... you're cute and all, but you're just too stupid for my tastes." Unable to take it anymore, Aeris' eyes gained a fire of a nuclear explosion as she ignored the gun aimed at her by the arctic fox and stormed over toward the proud dog.

"You bitch!" she shouted, raising a fist and striking Kerissa in the jaw. She tumbled backward, both the sudden pain and the shock of it all nearly knocking her down to the ground. "I knew you were nothing but some husky tramp!" The furious feline was preparing to mangle the canine in her sights before Alex jumped forward and pulled her away, worried for her safety as Joey still had them dead to rights. Though oddly enough, the white fox merely snickered at the display of girl on girl violence.

"Ugh," Kerissa groaned, rubbing her face and feeling the blood that was dripping from her cut lip. "You fucking pink... argh, I'll make sure you pay for that!" Her own furious gaze shot toward Joey as he continued to smile amusingly. "You hold them here while I get Frost, I want to see this hussy bleed."

Joey's beaming face shifted, a devious smirk etching over his mouth as eyed the husky making demands of him.

"I have something else in mind," he said devilishly. Before Kerissa could even question him, Joey's hand reached out and gripped tight on the husky's shoulder. Pulling her forward, the fox brought up his knife and stabbed into her chest.

Gasps of shock left the three friends as they witnessed the display. Kerissa could only stare at the fox, eyes wide as her lips twitched, attempting to speak but unable to make a voice. As the sporadic movements of her dieing body slowed, the blood dripped down from the wound and puddled onto the floor.

"Nothing personal dear," Joey said softly, digging the knife in deeper as he brought their chests together in violent embrace, allowing him to bring his muzzle to her ear and whisper. "I've waited far too long to set up this reunion with my cousin, I can't allow Frost's own fantasies for him ruin this for me."

With one last wheezy attempt to breath, Kerissa's eyelids fluttered for a moment before finally closing, her arms falling limp at her sides. Chuckling, Joey pulled his knife free and allowed her body to collapse at his feet.

"Honestly," Joey muttered through an amused grunt, "it's always seeing that look of shock on their faces when you surprise them like that that makes it so invigorating."

Alex was the first to get over the shock of seeing Kerissa die, now his face twisted into disdain as he glared at his cousin.

"You're sick," he spat, disgusted by how his own family member could act in such a way.

Joey's ears twitched as he heard those words. His gaze moved toward his cousin as a crazed smile rippled onto his face. The fox's body began shaking, not of fear or of anger, but of laughter. As a hysterical fit of joy bottled itself into his being, his body trembled with the need to let it out. And let it out he did.

Tilting his head back, the white fox burst with laughter, his voice carrying throughout the room. Shivers crawled down the spines of Leo and Aeris as they were forced to listen to it. Their skin even began to crawl as Joey's laugh took a dark turn, slowly shifting into a mad cackle just before it dwindle down to a snicker.

"Says the pot to the kettle!" he cried out with the last of his breath. "Goodness Alex, you sure do love putting yourself on a pedestal around your peers. Face it, the only thing that separates you and me is body count. Which I regret to say... you utterly trounce me in."

"No," Alex said in defiance, "that's not true." Again, it was all Joey could do to keep from doubling over in a heap of laughter.

"Oh come now Alex, you may be able to fool your friends, but I've seen your work first hand." Aeris and Leo both felt their blood freeze as Joey's twisted gaze locked onto them. "Tell me you two, what exactly has my dearest cousin told you of his past? That he's killed those who wanted to kill him? Exactly what detail did he use, hm? I'm sure he left out all of the fun little ways he decided to exact his revenge on those who took out my dear relatives." He looked away from their uncertain faces, looking down on Alex and pointing an accusatory finger at him. "You're nothing but a monster Alex, it's written in our own blood, especially in yours if the nonsense Frost spouts is to be believed." Alex's gaze fell to the floor, unable to look at any of them as he saw the truth in what his cousin was saying. "All you can ever bring about is pain, misery and a lot of blood."

"No!" Aeris shouted, stepping forward. Even Joey's expressions changed to one of surprise at the sudden display. "Alex isn't a monster! He's done some horrible things certainly, but they were only to even worse people. But you, you're just a psychotic killer who toys with people like they were things to you!"

"Yeah," Leo added, standing next to his feline friend as he glared at the fox, "I've never been given a reason to mistrust him. All he's ever done since we've known him was help us, he's always been there and I know I can can on him for anything!"

"Aeris... Leo..." Alex murmured in suspended shock, seeing his friends standing up for him in such a way.

"Alex is nothing like you Joey!" Aeris finalized, still as confident as ever. But Joey looked unswayed by their words, simply smirking at their proclamations.

"Ah, such naivety," he mused, staring fondly at the bloody knife in his hands, "I remember back when I had that. It's so easy to lose, yet impossible to regain. No matter, it's not you nor your feelings that I'm after, it's my dear cousin Alex." He pointed a challenging finger toward the hybrid, his eyes filled with determination. "So Alex, ready to end this here and now?"

"If you're so eager for it," Alex growled. With an excited nod, Joey grabbed another knife and tossed it toward Alex, who caught it and immediately brandished it toward him. His vision quickly shifted to his friends however. "Both of you, stay out of this. I know Joey, he won't hurt either of you now, I'm the one he's interested in." Though they wanted to protest against it, the tone Alex spoke in was enough to stop any defiant words from his friends.

Aeris and Leo both backed away from the two. Joey smirked as he tossed the pistol in his hand away and held up his own knife, his cold eyes focused on his crossbred target.

"No need to worry about any other inhabitants in this old manor," Joey added, giving Alex a sly look. "I've made sure we won't have any interruptions. Don't worry about Frost though, he's fine. Incentive ya know, so you'll give this your all."

Without another word, Joey rushed forward.

The two cats looked on in surprise as they saw the raw speed the fox displayed. Moving even quicker then his bulkier opponent, Joey dashed forward and was on Alex in a matter of moments, swinging his knife forward at his cousin.

Alex stepped backward and held up his own knife, catching Joey's attack as their knifes clashed and using his strength to keep it from cutting into him. His face twisted into a serious look of determination, Joey's own contrasted with a jolly expression of his own enjoyment to the situation.

"Just like old times, eh cousin?" Joey asked with a chuckle. Alex didn't answer, instead kicking a leg forward. Joey quickly disengaged and jumped back, avoiding the attack before lunging forward once again.

The hybrid saw the move coming, countering by catching Joey by the arm and delivering a fist into his gut. As he gasped suddenly, Joey took the chance to swing his knife upward and cut across the arm Alex held him with. It forced him to let go and allow the quick moving fox another chance to attack.

Alex dodged the stabbing knife this time, causing Joey to stumble forward. Taking advantage of the offset of balance, the hybrid swung his own knife upward. Joey growled in pain as he felt the tip of the weapon run across a portion of his chest.

Stopping for a moment, the fox looked down at the cut on his shirt, seeing where he was hurt. A laugh escaped him as he noticed how shallow the cut in his flesh actually was, only small trickles of blood oozing out of the cut. After running his thumb across the wound, the fox beamed at Alex as he stuck his tongue out and dragged his reddened thumb across it.

"It's been a while since I've had to know that taste," Joey said, cleaning off the appendage while Alex looked at him in disgust. "Now, let's really get things started."

With a swift flick of his wrist, the knife in Joey's hand was thrown froward, narrowly striking Alex and clattering to the ground. As the attack caught him by surprise, he wasn't ready as Joey rushed him, a new knife in hand and swinging forward. It made contact, making a cut across his thigh and forcing him to stumble back.

Still as quick as ever, the fox charged forward and brought his knee up to nail Alex in the chest.

Keeling over in pain, Alex was unable to defend himself as Joey grabbed onto the back of his shirt and threw him forward. A loud crash followed as the hybrid tumbled forward and crashed into the nearby pool table.

"Good gracious," Joey gasped in disappointment, "your docility has made you so rusty! You used to be able to do so much better in the long run. Hell, even Jake put up a better fight when Frost had me go after him." Moving toward his downed cousin, Joey's face twisted into a sinister smirk. "I suppose I should end this quickly then."

As Alex began pushing himself up off of the table, Joey held up his knife and was quick to clear the gap between them. Before the hybrid could defend himself, Joey thrust the knife forward with his greatest precision.

A cry of pain shot from Alex as the knife dug into the front of his left shoulder, the cold steel being pushed into his flesh until the handle was pressed against the opening.

"Oh quit your whining," Joey scolded, looking down on his wounded cousin with dismay, "I've barely cut you."

Aeris and Leo looked on with horror as Alex lay beaten, his demented cousin standing over him with a new knife in hand, pointing out the order of the different places he would pierce next.

Ignoring their friend's demand, the two cats rushed forward to save him. Leo grabbed the nearest pool cue while Aeris stuck with her fists.

His large fox ears twitching, Joey immediately caught on to what the felines were up to.

"You wait here," Joey whispered to Alex, playfully slapping his cheek before turning around, "I've got two annoyances to deal with." He chuckled softly as he thought of something. "Think I'll make a game of it... see if I can beat them without spilling a drop of blood." Alex tried standing, to catch his cousin from behind as his back was to him, but Joey quickly kicked his foot back and slammed the hybrid back into the table.

As the two cats neared, Joey smirked as he charged toward them as well. Leo swung his stick out to bash into the fox's head, but Joey merely ducked with ease and swept his leg across the floor, knocking the cat's legs out from under him. Aeris' threw her punches with an intense ferocity, but even that wasn't good enough as the white fox back-stepped out of their way.

With his attention on Aeris however, Joey didn't notice Leo as he stood up, still holding the pool cue with an iron grip. With one swing, the gray cat connected to Joey's skull. A loud crack resonated across the room as the stick split in two, the other half flying away at amazing speed.

Joey simply stood there, his head still turned from the force of the blow. Slowly, he returned his gaze to the cats, his eyes wide with a crazed joy as he grinned devilishly at them, red trails of blood staining his white teeth.

"Not bad," he said, spitting out the blood that was beginning to fill his mouth. Then without warning, Joey struck out and knocked Leo to the ground in a single punch. Aeris threw her own, but the canine side-stepped the attack and kicked her in the chest, throwing her to the ground as well.

As she attempted to get up, Aeris was stopped when Joey fell to the ground after her, looming over her as the hand he used to prop himself up was mere inches from her head. Just from the close proximity, Aeris could easily hear his heavy breathing, smell the sweat on his overexcited body.

"I bet you've wanted to be in this position with a fox for a while now, huh?" Joey mused, snickering as though he were at a party. "At least a half-fox anyway." With his other hand gripping his knife, Joey dangled it above her, suspensfully dragging on his strike. But he quickly grew bored of toying with the feline and stabbed down.

"Aeris!" Leo cried, trying to force himself up as he watched the knife being brought down on his friend.

The pink cat held her eyes shut as the point of the knife was brought closer and closer to her. She awaited that painful touch of its cold blade penetrating her skin. But it never came. Opening her eyes, she could still see Joey above her, but his hand was at her side. The knife was there as well, stabbed through her jacket and through the floor.

"Now thatmust be a mood killer," Joey laughed as he retrieved another knife from his clothing. Just as he did with the other, the fox brought the knife down on her clothing, pinning it to the floor like an insect being preserved. "Like I said, no blood."

Observing his work, the fox could see the careful knife placements, keeping Aeris' arms and body restrained.

"How... many knives... does this guy have..." Leo questioned through his weak breathing, attempting to pull himself up.

"Oh, just enough," Joey answered, stepping over to the gray one and kicking him in the chest as he was on all fours. With a groan of pain, Leo was again on the floor, allowing the fox to give him the same treatment as Aeris. "There, annoying friends at bay, now it's just me and you Alex."

By now, the hybrid was able to get onto his feet, his good hand trying to reach the revolver he still had tucked away.

"Don't be so hasty," Joey pouted, giving his cousin his fullest attention as he approached him. With a kick to the back of the knee, Alex's legs buckled and he was knocked onto his stomach, screaming in agony as he landed on the knife that was still lodged in his chest.. Joey laughed at the misfortune and sat down on the hybrid's back, wrapping his arm around his neck and lifting his head up, slowly tracing the tip of his newest knife across his face and chest. "So tell me Alex, where do you want it? Across your scared neck? Or maybe into your black heart?"

"Surprise me," Alex spat, struggling against his cousin's hold on him.

"Both it is then!" Joey cried with glee. Now with his target in mind, the fox bent Alex's head up further, exposing the thin flesh of his neck. "Now dearest cousin, I'd just like to say that our time together has certainly been fu-" The crazed fox was caught off, his voice ending with the loud thud of a fist making contact with his jaw.

With Joey thrown to the ground, Alex was able to push himself up and see the one who had just helped him. The crossbreed's eyes widened with surprise as he saw Leo standing beside him, rubbing his knuckles tenderly as he winced from the bruising pain. Alex also noticed how tattered his clothing was, large pieces of fabric missing, still pinned down to the floor where he left them.

"Thanks," Alex muttered, soon grunting in pain as he pulled the knife out of his shoulder, gushing more blood on himself.

"Yeah..." Leo mumbled, hardly able to believe what he had just done himself.

"Don't forget me!" Aeris shouted, still lying on the floor with her knife restraints. Quickly losing his edge, Leo rushed over to the pink feline's side.

Both cats now safe and sound, they looked to onward to see Alex now pinning down Joey, still conscious despite Leo's blow.

"Do it!" the fox shouted, feeling the tip of the revolver pressed against his forehead. Alex's fur was bristling as his breathing intensified. Even his eyes were becoming bloodshot, matching the anger coursing through him. "Come on Alex, kill me! Spill the blood of your kin, we both know it's not your first time. Go on, kill me!"

Alex's hand began to shake as he listened to his cousin coax him forward. The sudden surge of hatred for his cousin and anger for all he had done was running through his veins like a poison.

But, his gaze shifted, away from his cousin and onto his friends. Aeris and Leo both stood there, worry in their eyes as they watched and waited for the outcome of this bloody conflict. As his gaze lingered on them, the twisted visage of his rage filled face softened, his eyes falling back on his thrashing cousin.

"Only for the right reasons..." he whispered, slowly standing up and stepping away from his cousin.

Joey rose himself, rubbing his throbbing jaw as he stared daggers at the hybrid.

"Is that... morality I see?" he pondered in disgust. "After all you've done... you still think you can hold the fantasy that you're some righteous hero? That you're some kind of a-" Again the fox was cut short, made certain as Aeris stepped close to the canine and delivered a powerful kick to his head, knocking him out cold this time.

"He really does try and talk your ear off," Aeris spat, her hatred and loathing for the white fox still showing on her face. But that was soon changed to worry and concern as she could hear Alex groaning in pain, clutching at the wound in his shoulder.

"Argh, my arm," he growled, unable to even move the limb in the slightest without flooding his nerves with unspeakable pain. But as he saw the concern in the faces of his friends, he was quick to shrug it off and avoid showing it in his face. "It's alright... I'm fine." Though they still looked worried, both cats nodded their heads. Aeris' gaze soon moved back to Joey, still sprawled on the floor.

"What should we do with him?" Alex looked down on his cousin, feeling a sense of pity outweigh his anger.

"Leave him be," he replied, gaining shocked expressions from the two cats. "His hatred for me, I can't hold that against him, it'd be too hypocritical. I'll give him this chance..." With another solemn nod, Aeris soon found herself eying the still bleeding corpse of the black and white husky. It made her look to her friend, catching his gaze as he too looked at the one he thought cared for him.

"Leo," she said, sounding as sympathetic as she possibly could, "I'm so sorry."

"Yeah..." Leo sighed, "me too... But that's life I guess, you fall for a girl... girl rips your heart out... girl get's killed by a crazy fox... that's life."

They stood idle for some time, the three friends calming their nerves and catching their breaths. Soon however, Alex looked onward to where he should go next.

"We need to get out of here," Aeris said, looking for an exit herself.

"Not until I find Frost," Alex muttered, stepping toward the nearest door he could find.

"No Alex," Aeris shouted with firm determination, moving in his path and looking directly into his eyes, "forget about him. You're hurt, we need to get away from this place." The hybrid's eyes narrowed into a glare as he stared at her.

"Frost has to die," he growled, quickly becoming agitated as his path was blocked. Aeris could sense the overwhelming need in his voice, wanting to go after that wolf so badly, even if it meant his life.

"No, no you don't haveto, you only want to take revenge on him!" she cried out, shoving him angrily in her frantic fury. "You're going to get yourself killed Alex. Please, don't do this to yourself! We can escape now and make it back home."

"And then what?" Alex shouted. "Go back to the apartment and act like this never happened? Frost knows how to find me Aeris. Even if I were to leave the city, he'd go after you to get to me. He won't rest until he sees all of us dead! I can't just let him get away tonight!"

As his anger continued to rise, he looked between both Aeris and Leo, seeing his friends there. Though their concern for him was obvious, he knew he couldn't simply walk away from this.

"You don't know what it has been like all this time! That horrible searing pain in the pit of my chest, calling out in a frenzied blood lust, wanting to see Frost pay for what he had done to me. How it's fueled me for so long as I hunted down those bastards!" He forced himself to pause, catching his breath as he felt his anger rising. "Even after... even after I wanted to end it all, to start a new life for myself here in this city. That feeling still shadowed me everywhere, never going away, making me realize just how horrible of a person I had allowed myself to turn into."

Unable to look at his friends, Alex turned away from them, feeling his body trembling as he told them everything.

"But slowly... as I grew to know you both... I felt the fire of hate in my being dwindling. I-I could never explain it, but after some time, I could actually feel it disappearing. But... it was only being replaced by something else. A feeling, or a sensation that I couldn't understand or explain. It frightened me... even as it completely enveloped the burning hatred in my heart... Then on that day, that day when those dogs attacked us, I felt that feeling flarewith such an intensity that I thought I would go mad, and even then I never could figure out what it was."

Then, he looked back to his friends, surprising them as a warm smile crept its way onto his lips.

"Not long ago though... I came to realize what that feeling meant. Before, all I ever knew was this crippling need for revenge, to take the lives of those who took everything from me. But now... I know what it's like to have something worth protecting. Both of you... my friends." Alex's eyes then narrowed into a hardened gaze of determination. "Frost will die tonight, but not because of what he did to my family. But because it will mean you both are safe."

Aeris stood there, staring at him. She wanted nothing more then to just hit him, to strike away the infuriating determination that just couldn't be faulted.

"You just can't-"

"Neither of you can stop me," Alex interrupted, "this will end tonight. I won't allow my past to continue ruining my life or that of anyone else."

He then stepped toward her, wrapping an arm around the feline as an attempt to console her. Aeris wasn't sure how to react. She knew she couldn't stop him now, but she wasn't going to let him go at it alone. But, as if sensing her own resolve, Alex sighed as his saddened gaze fell on her.

"I'm sorry," he whispered to her. Before she could even understand what those words meant, Alex raised his free hand and brought a fist across the back of her head.

There was pain, but only for a moment. Aeris' eyes quickly fell shut, her body collapsing against Alex's. Leo gasped in shock at the sudden attack, looking wide-eyed at his friend as he lay Aeris on the ground.

"A-Alex... what did you..."

"I can't have her risking herself against Frost. Joey might not have aimed to kill either of you, but hewill." Alex's eyes locked onto Leo's, forcing him to cringe with unease as the gray cat saw the seriousness burning within them. "I'm going to find Frost now, you stay here and look after her."

"No," Leo answered, shaking his head with uncertainty. "I can't just let you run off on your own. If something were to happen..."

"You're not letting me run off," Alex stated, "you're looking after your friend. Just in case Joey was wrong and more of Frost's men are around." Without waiting for a reply from the cat, Alex turned away and searched the room. Eventually, he found Joey's pistol, tossed aside like trash. Picking it up, he tossed it over to Leo who caught it with a momentary hesitation. "Use that if you need to."

Looking down at the pistol, Leo could feel the same weight Aeris felt. The sleek power, the hardened metal, the hint of fearful intimidation the weapon brought, it all coursed through him. With a firm nod, Leo wrapped his hand around the gun and knelt down beside Aeris, his ears perked up to catch any sound out of the ordinary.

With his own nod, Alex retrieved the revolver he still had and stepped out of the room, quickly finding the stairs that led to the second floor.

Alex was shaken, but not surprised as he saw the condition that the rooms of the second floor were in. There were in fact more guards, even more then he had anticipated given how many attacked him on the street.

But the problem was figuring out exactly how many bodies littered the rooms as he navigated through the puddles of blood and piles of spilled organs. The hybrid could recognize his cousin's handiwork. Some of the lackeys were cut to pieces, some were carved into like pumpkins and others held a horrified expression on their face. They never stood a chance.

Oddly enough however, as Alex traversed the mangled remains of the criminals who Frost employed, he had a moment of great clarity.

Joey had heckled him over what he was, a killer, a butcher, a monster. He did so without restrain, even back when they had encounters in the states. The disturbed fox always compared them as reflections of one another, altered only by a halfway split in species.

Now though, Alex could see the stark differences in their pursuits of goals.

Even Frost's men behaved in similar fashions when it came to their victims. Alex had no doubt in his mind that their own fates were tantamount to that of what they had planned for the hybrid and his friends.

Realizing this, Alex began to wonder just how wrong he may have been when seeing his own actions as equals to their own.

Alex's thoughts were broken however as he reached the third floor, having not seen any evidence of Frost on the second.

Stepping off of the stairs however, the hybrid's ears twitched as they caught the muffled noise of something. It almost sounded like music. The sound only grew louder and louder as Alex crept toward a closed door, flickering light flooding out from the small crack at the bottom.

The door was opened only a crack, just enough for Alex to slowly push against it. Not even a creak from it sounded and Alex was able to peer inside the room, immediately being assaulted by the different sights that the room had to offer.

From first glance, it appeared to be a study. Books of higher reading clung to shelves at one side. A small table of different alcoholic drinks sat at a nearby corner. The noise that flooded the air the same way the light did came from an old radio in the furthest corner, playing classical music that seemed aged. The light thud of raindrops of glass accompanied the music as two large windows, nearly covering the wall from floor to ceiling, showed the storm that was still going on outside. There was even a fireplace, source of the flicker light, and sitting before the fireplace was a wolf, a half-empty bottle of wine in hand as he peered into the crackling flames.

Frost hadn't noticed Alex's intrusion, lost in the tantalizing fire before him. Just to look at it, the wolf felt himself being drawn into it, the bright colors washing over.

Without a word, Alex raised the revolver up, his eyes set on his target without a flinch or falter. With a single deep breath, the hybrid pulled the trigger.

Sparks flew from the radio, the music dieing as the bullet shattering through it put a stop to the offending sound. Frost nearly fell from his seat, his head whirling around to see Alex standing in the room.

"A-Alex..." he breathed, utterly shocked to see the crossbreed before him.

"You could never higher good help," Alex muttered, answering the unspoken question that hung on the wolf's lips. Frost could see the battered form he held, having a good idea of what he had already been through. "All of your men are dead Frost. Now, it's your turn."

Frost huffed to himself, the surprise of the hybrid's visit now a faded memory. His cold eyes stayed locked on him, not a tremble or quiver of fear daring to upset his calmed demeanor.

"So then," Frost said flatly, "get on with it. Shoot me."

"No," Alex replied, shaking his head as he put the revolver away in his clothing, "I wouldn't waste the bullet on you."

"Hmph, even when weakened you'll try to act tough," the wolf muttered, noticing the injury Alex had in his arm. "I don't know if you're proud, or just stupid."

"Funny, that's just what your son said."

With a furious growl, Frost threw the wine bottle in his grasp. With a sudden step back, Alex dodged the bottle as it shattered on the nearby wall. Given a moment of surprise, the wolf got out of his chair and swung his cane at the hybrid.

Despite his age, the old wolf was still strong. The cane came down hard across Alex's muzzle, nearly breaking his nose on the impact. Quickly recovering, Alex lunged forward and buried his fist into his gut, then he followed by striking his elbow across Frost's face.

Stumbling back, Frost spat out the blood filling his mouth and swung his cane once again at the hybrid. Seeing it this time, Alex grabbed the end of the solid stick and twisted it. A loud snap sounded as the cane broke in two.

His anger growing by the second, Frost charged the crossbreed, using his end of the cane to jab into the cut in Alex's shoulder. As the fox-hybrid cried out in pain, Frost seized him by his hair and smashed his face into the mantle of the fireplace.

"Look into the flames half-breed," Frost growled, forcing Alex's gaze into the fire. "They hunger for the souls of the wicked! Your sins shall be their kindling!"

"You seem pretty good at seeing the evil of others," Alex spat, struggling against the wolf's hold on him, "but you seem to ignore you're own!" Raising a foot up, Alex kicked off of the wall and broke Frost's grip on him, using the freedom to bring his fist up and uppercut the canine in the jaw.

Leo sat still, putting his full attention into his surroundings. All of his focus was being used as he guarded their spot. The grip he held on his pistol continuously shifted in tightness as he became idle.

With the stillness that hung in the air, it was reasonable for the gray cat to topple over in surprise, upon hearing the waking sounds of Aeris next to him.

"A-Aeris, you're awake," he said uneasily, looking off toward the door Alex had exited from, hoping to see the hybrid standing there now.

"Wha..." Aeris murmured, rubbing her head as her thoughts pieced themselves together. "My head... ugh... Wait a second, Alex..." Her gaze became frantic as she tackled Leo. "Leo, where's Alex?"

"H-he ran off to find Frost," Leo answered, becoming worried for what was taking Alex so long.

"That idiot," the pink feline growled, her eyes catching fire with anger. "We need to get him, now." Without waiting for a response from Leo, she grabbed his arm and rushed forward.

Their speed was unmatched as Aeris dragged Leo through the different rooms in search for Alex. Even as they came across the bodies of Joey's victims, she remained undeterred with her search and continued onward. The determination she showed was one that meant business, nearly shouting out that nothing on this earth would stop them. She was soon proven wrong.

As if an act by a supernatural force, the thundering booms outside become even more violent. Added with the louder bangs shattering the sky, the lightning strikes became more and more frequent, coming closer and closer to the solitary building set atop the mighty hill.

Then the two cats were stopped, stumbling over themselves as the building began to shake at their feet. Every inch of the manor vibrated down to the foundation as a bolt of lightning struck the house. It tore into the roof and left a gaping hole atop it.

With the feeble rainfall of the storm, there was no stopping the smoldering wood of the newly formed skylight from catching fire. The old, dry wood was quickly devoured as the flame grew. A ravenous hunger propelled the disaster forward, threatening to destroy everything.

Both Aeris and Leo could sense it, hearing the crackling flames and detecting the faintest scent of smoke.

"We have to hurry," Aeris shouted to Leo, now having something else to force them to run even faster.

It didn't take them long to reach the study where their friend was. But as they entered the room, their eyes widened in horror at what they saw.

Even with only one arm, Alex's furious anger toward the wolf he fought was all he needed.

With one more powerful swing, the wolf was knocked down, sliding across the floor to the nearby wall.

Alex stood there as the wolf picked himself up, his heavy breathing sputtering out his mouth. His exhausted body threatened to drop at any moment. Even his bleeding seemed to slow, the pumping heart within his chest skipping at irregular moments.

As Frost stood before the hybrid, his bad leg wobbling from the weight put on to it, a crooked sneer of a smile cracked across his jaw. It stayed with him, even as his hand reached into his suit, gripping onto the pistol that was hidden within.

"Come on Alexander," the wolf growled, his eyes leering, "let me send you off to hell with the rest of your mongrel family."

With a furious yell, Alex charged forward at the wolf. It never even registered to him that his friends had just appeared through the doorway, witnessing this last act. Before Frost could even pull his weapon free, he was tackled by the crossbreed. Their intertwined bodies flew backward, shattering glass as they went through the windows beyond them, disappearing into the world outside.

"Alex!" both felines shouted, rushing toward the third-floor window. Their frantic eyes darted about, trying to catch a glimpse at one of two bodies that were expected to be below. But they didn't see anyone, not a crossbred or a wolf. What they did see however was a balcony, clinging to the side of the second floor, placed just below that very window.

Quickly piecing it together, the two cats ran from the study and back down to the second floor. Searching the various rooms, the soon came across one with two new occupants within.

Two large window panned doors were opened, leading out to a balcony and letting in the howling winds and dripping rain. Noticeable on the balcony itself was a stone railing, but even more clear was the section that looked broken.

Splatters of blood decorated the damaged stone, becoming diluted from the sprinkling rainwater. But there was also a trail that led to inside the room. The trail followed a straight line to its owner, a wounded wolf who clawed at the ground.

With the worst of luck, the malicious wolf had landed first, his lower half shattering through the stone with a painful impact. Now, his already damaged legs were twisted into unnatural directions, bone and raw flesh showing itself as blood quickly oozed onto the rich carpeting. His pathetic growls and whimpers of pain were only beaten by the obvious truth,that no matter how hard he tried, he wasn't going anywhere.

Alex, suffering the least of the impact, crawled across the ground with greater ease, using both legs in the process. Finding a table, the hybrid gripped onto its edge and pulled himself up. The moment his feet were trusted to hold his weight however, a horrible pain shot through his ankle and he collapsed onto the ground, growling in frustration at his own inabilities.

Leo and Aeris moved to help their friend, crossing the room as he lay there on his stomach. But Alex wasn't even aware of his friends' presence. The hybrid's senses were too far gone as he became aware of something. It was the sound of an old memory, hearing the powerful crackling of flames and smelling the distinct scent of smoke.

As it dawned on him, Alex's expression slowly shifted to an astonished smile. Then without hesitation, he began to laugh hysterically.

"Oh god! What poetic justice!" As he laughed, Aeris and Leo picked him up and supported him on his feet, wrapping his arms across their shoulders to keep him balanced.

"We need to go," Leo urged, becoming worried about staying within a burning building, even if it was a large one.

"There's one more thing I need to do first," Alex breathed, retrieving his revolver.

For a few moments, Alex simply stared at it, his eyes running up and down the surface and examining every detail about it.

Checking the cylinder, he could see four unused bullets still lying in wait.

"You know Frost," Alex said, looking down on the injured wolf with something he never thought he would show, pity, "I really was planning on letting you go. You could have stayed away, live on without fearing I might find you. Too bad you decided to end it all like this..."

"Bastard!" Frost spat, his risen voice quickly turning into horrid coughs, blood forcing its way out of his mouth.

"Do you hear it Frost?" Alex asked, ignoring the wolf. "That crackling flame? That inevitable fire? It's coming." The hybrid's gaze narrowed as he looked into Frost's eyes. "All of your men are dead, no one is coming for you. Soon, the flames will reach you. Your fur will be singed away instantly, your flesh will char and melt into ash and your blood will boil until it evaporates. You used to always say how the flames of hell's judgment come for us all. Well now, they're coming for you. Can you say you'll go without punishment?" With a heavy sigh, Alex's eyes shifted back to the revolver. "Despite everything you have done. The pain you have brought to me and all the other innocents that came before... I'm going to give you a gift."

Aiming the gun at Frost, he took in the sight of fear that took over the wolf's face. After several moments of him taking in the wonderful sight, he pointed the gun away and fired it into the nearby wall.

The gunshots sounded three times, each just as loud as the other, making identical holes in the flat surface. Then, as the sound of the last gunshot ceased, Alex tossed the weapon forward.

The revolver landed two feet in front of Frost, just close enough for him to reach with his greatest effort, but far enough to prevent him from doing with it what would first cross his mind.

"There," Alex stated, "enjoy your gift. Maybe you'll learn something about yourself before you use it." With nothing else to say, he nodded his head to Leo and Aeris, both having remained silent as they watched the event go on in front of them.

The three friends turned toward the door and began leaving. Frost watched them go, his eyes darting between the gun and the crossbreed that had ruined him.

"You hellish monster!" he shouted after them. "Do you think you've saved yourself? That I'm the only one who knows of what demons your kind truly are? There are others Alexander, and they will find you. You'll be hunted down like the monster you really are!"

Stopping for a moment, Alex looked back to Frost, shaking his head as he sighed.

"I have no doubt that there are others like you, I've always thought that. But... I've come to realize two things... That such people are few in this world... And unlike you and your kind, I know I'm no monster."

While Frost yelled out in furious anger, Aeris, Leo and Alex left the manor as it went up in flames.

It took some time, but the three friends made it back to the damp streets of their city. Not a soul was out, the streets empty of any and all life.

Far off in the distance, the wale of a firetruck's siren rang out, becoming muted by the relentless explosions of the thundering storm. It was clear where it was going, but it was no use. By the time the trucks would reach the manor, it would be nothing but a heap of scorched wood and ash.

"Don't worry Alex," Aeris said, breathing a sigh of relief as the horrible experience was over, "we'll get you to a hospital in no time."

"No," Alex stated, shaking his head even as he was being dragged by his two friends. "No hospitals."

"Alex," the pink cat snapped, nearly shaking the hybrid silly out of her frustration, "I know you're proud and all but you are hurt badly. You need medical attention."

"I'm one for licking my wounds too," Leo added, gazing down on the hybrid with worry, "but you did get beat up pretty bad in there." A momentary shift in Alex's posture occurred as he heaved a sigh.

"Don't you two think it will look suspicions? Someone with unexplainable wounds entering the hospital, right after police find a massacre."

"Shit," Aeris muttered, realizing that he was right.

"Don't worry," Alex added, smiling, "I've been through far worse." Both Alex and Leo were surprised as Aeris then let out a loud groan.

"Dammit Alex, you always say that as if it was supposed to make us feel better." With an opposite response, Alex gave a weak chuckle.

"Frankly, I'd be more worried if it did."

"Ow dammit that burns!" Alex growled, flinching as the peroxide soaked cotton was pressed against his cuts, burning his wounds like acid.

Since they had gotten back to the apartment, Alex was set down on the couch to rest.

As it turned out, the hybrid was already prepared for just such an occasion, having Leo retrieve a first-aid box he kept in his room. Now Aeris helped tend to his wounds while Leo was in the kitchen working on the next task he was given.

"You're such a baby," Aeris said, taking a great delight in pressed the cotton harder against his wound, eliciting another yelp of overly dramatic pain.

"It's the beatings and stabbings I can handle," Alex grunted, nearly biting his lip off, "but this damn liquid."

"It's done Alex," Leo then called, stepping into the living room. A small needled was pressed between his fingers, still dripping from the boiling water it was previously submerged in.

"Thanks," Alex nodded before taking it. Taking a moment to thread it, Alex stuck the needle into the flesh near the cut his cousin had given him in the shoulder. With a fluid motion, the needle was pushed in and out of his body as he sewed the wound closed.

"I really don't want to know where you learned that," Aeris muttered, starring at the action.

"Self-taught," Alex answered, "just one more thing you need to know when you've been through my line of work. Me and Jake have kept ourselves from falling apart because of it."

After the stitching was done, Aeris helped to bandage his smaller cuts. Soon after, Leo and Aeris were looking over themselves. Thankfully, there wasn't much in terms of wounds, other then bruised muscle and aching bodies.

With everything looked over, the three friends slowly came to terms with what had happened. At first they kept silent, discussing in their own minds. Soon however, both Aeris and Alex looked to Leo, the gray cat's eyes looking down at the floor.

"Leo..." Alex began, uncertain of what he could actually say. Aeris was quick to pick up on what the hybrid was trying to say, taking over for him as she found the words.

"Leo," she said, her voice brimming with care, "are you going to be all right? About Kerissa and everything?" Leo's eyes shifted between the two, unblinking as he took his time answering.

"I'm fine..." he muttered. "I'm just a little tired... that's all." Though there were truth to his words, it didn't stop his friends from noticing how crestfallen he had become. "It's late, I'm going to go to bed."

Giving an understanding nod, Aeris and Alex turned away from their friend as he walked toward his room. Shortly after, they heard a heavy thud on the carpet. Looking back to Leo, they found the comical sight of the gray feline collapsed on the floor in front of his door.

"It has gotten late, hasn't it," Alex said through a yawn. With the danger gone, it allowed his tired body to drag down his conscious mind into the dark depths of rest. Though so many things were running through his mind, his body told him it would be something to ponder on another day.

As his mind drifted, he rested his head on the back of the couch. The apartment then fell into darkness as his eyes shut and everything lay still. A smile stayed on his muzzle throughout that night, as for the first time since that horrific night he lost everything, his sleep was not plagued by the nightmares of his past.

Aeris smiled as she caught the signs of a deep sleep on Alex. It reminded her of her own dreariness and how her bed seemed to be so far away. It was no problem to her however as she laid her head back on the sleeping form of her couch company. Even as she drifted away into unconsciousness, she could still feel the slow rise and fall of Alex's chest and the mesmerizing rhythm of his beating heart.

A/N: Ha! I told you guys this would be out soon! And damn, this is even longer then 35. Ugh, kinda glad I split them up...

So fuck yeah! Look at all these words! Stuff happened! Conflict! Blood! Death! The cries of thousands (more like dozens (cough)) of LeoXAeris shippers cheering all at once when our favorite gray furred cat became single again!

And we see more of Joey! (stadium sized crowd cheer) Isn't he just a treat? Really, he's like one of my favorite characters I've made. Just how he is, with the whole crazy knife wielding crazy person vibe he is going on about. When you really look at his personality though, he shares some traits between two other characters, Jake and Alex if you can't tell. He shares Jake's carefree attitude (minus the perverted parts obviously) added with Alex's brutality in violent situations. That, if you look closely into it, you can see the relationship that Alex and Joey have with each other, the deeeeep emotional stuff that is like so deeeeeeeeeep. (like reading the script of the Max Payne games while falling down a bottomless pit kind of deep)

Question. Is it technically fourth wall breaking for a character to identify literary elements? ( i.e. poetic justice) Like say a writer puts in foreshadowing in their story, then two seconds later, a character is like, "This seems to be foreshadowing something." Is that fourth wall breaking? Or is that just some term I'm not familiar with... ugh god I feel terrible for not knowing...

Okay bitches! That's the story Crossings, hope ya'll enjoyed it. Don't let the door hit your ass on the way ou- (thwack!) Ouch!

Don't tell them that! The story isn't over yet!

Well actually, it's very close to being over... I know I know... You don't have to cry... Your torture is almost over... (cough)

Really, there's only going to be about... I don't really know... Either one or two more chapters. I'm not a hundred percent on the number just yet. No more then two though, that's a definite.

So yeah, hope you guys enjoyed this long ass chapter. See you guys (hopefully) soon.