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That which does not kill me...

...has made a grievous tactical error.

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For inwhichwar, the AU of the Volchok 'verse.
Kati is very tolerant of Ben's penchant for wolfing when the moon's not full. She comes along, usually, although she can't keep up, not with the crutch. Ben gallops through the woods and the fields and checks in with her every few minutes, making sure she's okay, keeping tabs.

It's a glorious evening to run.

Until a shotgun roars, twice, and sends him ass over teakettle to fetch up against a tree.

He knows right away it's bad. The silver pellets burn, and the rowan shavings immediately start the hemorrhaging and fever. He tries to get up, fails, and collapses back to the ground with a moan. One shell hit him in the right side of the chest, the other in the flank. Whining, he goes back to human.


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[Kati hears the gun go off, and her heart sinks and her gut goes cold, even as she hurries (as much as she can hurry, damn her useless leg . . .) in the direction where she last saw Ben . . .

And she's too late. Again, still, always; whenever he needs her to protect him, damn her, she is always, always too late.]


[Ben coughs wetly and tastes blood. He's having trouble breathing, but he has to hang on for her.

Has to.]

Ka. Kati. [He's cold. And someone with dark wings stands over him, somberly.] Don't. You wait, Azrael. I've earned that much.

Edited at 2013-02-13 06:31 am (UTC)

[Kati catches sight of Ben, finally -- and her heart sinks even more as she crosses the distance between them with more haste than she imagined herself capable of, dropping to her knees at his side with no regard for the shot of anguish it sends through her ruined knee.]

Bozhe moi, no . . .

[She doesn't even know where to start applying pressure . . .]

Kati. Be careful. They were. Upwind. Silver buckshot. Won't do. You any favors. Either. [Blood is running in far more than a trickle from the corner of his mouth, and he's shivering violently, even though he's burning up. A heave and a grunt, and he rests his head on her knees.]

Got things. To tell you...

Don't. Don't you do that, don't you give me any nonsense about dying.

[Her voice is severe, much more so than usual, and maybe it's on account of her attempt to keep from sounding as bleak and as tearful as she feels, because oh god, she can't fix it, she's too late again . . .]

[He shakes his head just a little.] Azrael's tapping his foot. At me. 'm sorry, honey, but. Stay if I could.

Three things, Kati. Connected. Okay?

Love you. That's one.

[Kati shakes her head and reaches for his hand, holding it in a death grip against her chest, because she can't do this, okay, she can't .

But she answers him, because part of her -- the part that trained long and hard to be a realist and a cold, calculating soldier -- recognizes that she's doing it anyway.]

I know. I know you do.

Good. [He nods and squeezes her hand, but his grip is so, so weak.] Didn't want to go. Without saying it. Didn't say it to Prissy. Should have. You know?

Two. Kati, please. Please talk to Dad.

[He swallows. God, he hates choking on his own blood.] I know it's hard. But He's not. Taking me. Okay? He's just. Giving me a Place to go.

[Something deep down in Kati's chest is in agony, and she can't bring herself to tell him she still doesn't believe in his God, can't bring herself to believe in such things even after all these years of watching him believe.

And even if she did -- she's not sure which is more unbearable, losing him to nothingness or losing him to a heaven she will surely never see.]

[He knows, though. He's always known.] Please just try. Losing you once. Bad enough. Don't want to lose you. Forever.

He loves you, Kati. More than you can fathom. More than I do, even. You know I'm not a liar. He wants you. With Him.

Just try. Please. [He's fading alarmingly, and he tries to tighten his grip on her hand.] Azrael. Not. Not yet...

[Kati tightens her own grip in response, bending over him and shaking her head. She's crying and not even trying to hid that fact. Not with him. Not now.]

Please don't, Ben, please . . .

'm sorry. Don't want to leave you. Alone.

Doesn't hurt, Kati. [And it should, he should be in agony right now, but Dad is merciful, at least this time.]

And so. You shouldn't be alone. Get another wolf. Show him. What you showed me. Still good in the world. Still love. Even now. That's three.

[Kati chokes. Because how can she, how could she ever do such a thing?]

I can't, volchok, it won't be the same. It will not be you.

And you are the only person in all the world who I love, Ben. The only one I have.

I know. Oh, I know. [He presses her knuckles to his lips. They leave a bloody imprint on her skin.]

But just because I love you. Doesn't mean I loved Janni less. Or Guri. 'Course it'll be different. How it should be. But you can love. More than one person. Ever.

You shouldn't. Shouldn't be. Alone.

Alone is bad. Please, Kati. Don't. Don't condemn yourself. To that.

[Kati bends over and presses her forehead against his hair. Her voice is thin and scared and choked with sorrow.]

I don't know how to care about anyone but you and me, Ben. You're the only friend I have.

Please. Please don't leave me. I know it is a stupid thing to ask, but please.

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