Flooding Back


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Also Featuring the Vanguard

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Scene Title Flooding Back
Synopsis Determined to punish Gabriel for what he did to Claire in Madagascar, Peter Petrelli finds that the ghost of reason behind his eyes has other plans for the serial killer.
Date January 6, 2010

USS George Washington


It flashes behind his eyes like lighting behind clouds. The thrumming noise of footfalls nearby makes him want to cry out for help, collapsed in the Admiral's office as he is. But the situation, the source of the pain, the source of the debilitating agony that lances through his heart like burning knives isn't something they can help him with, isn't something they could ever understand.

Clutching his head and trying to strangle his screaming, Peter collapses to his knees, one gloved hand pawing at the desk in front of him, sliding paperwork aside to flutter to the floor. He scrambles on hands and knees, trying to move out of the way of the only partly closed door he had ducked into. His shoulder bumps something that was leaning up against the desk, it topples over with a clatter, rolling away from him, brass and copper bits on it glinting in the fluorescent light.


It rumbles in his mind, like a roll of thunder pounding behind his eyes. A choked, whimpering noise rises up in the back of Peter's throat as he curls gloved fingers in his hair. "No— " his breathing hitches in the back of his throat, back arching, and he collapses onto his side, knees curling up to his chest as his ability turns inward, attacking him at his core in painful but harmless fashion.

We need Gabriel. You are ruled by your emotions!

"Claire," he breathlessly whispers, gloved fingers clawing at his neck for a noose around it that does not exist, except for in his mind. "He tried to— "

She does not matter!

The pain comes back, like a taser applied to his spine, causing him to convulse on the ground, fingers clawing at the air, mouth opened in a breathless scream as his legs bend and heels scrape against the floor with a squeaking scuff. Peter rolls onto his side, and Kazimir's voice assails his mind with surgical precision. He can't form words, can hardly breathe, but Kazimir no longer has such frailties.

Do you know who matters?

The voice in his head growls out to him, and Peter curls up on his side once more, gasping and panting once the shocks of pain through his body come to a throbbing end. He doesn't need to respond for Kazimir to take that opening, to remind Peter of why they're doing what they're doing, why the mission matters more than the moment.

I knew I could not trust you.

Then, it all comes flooding back.

Amato's steps as he makes his way across the abandoned building to the slightly out-of-place chair where his master is seated are quiet. He is still wearing the dark suit, long coat, and dark red scarf that he had on when he encountered Gillian earlier in the day, though there is more need for the warm clothing now than there was then.

The tall, thin Italian gracefully drops to one knee when he reaches the dais, lifting a now gloved hand to rest it on the chair's leg beneath it's shrouding cloth. Amato is silent, waiting to be received before he offers his findings for the day.

When Amato drops to one knee, there is a low, tired sound that rumbles from Kazimir's position upon the chair. His hand moves from his face, eyes slowly turning to view Amato in the uneven lighting that casts him in half shadow. Kazimir regards the man for a time, then straightens in his chair, sliding his cane from his lap to clutch the wolf's head in one hand, tapping the steel tip down on the wood palette with a gentle rap. "Today has been busy, the list narrows by a margin, yet remains a daunting task…" Kazimir lowers his eyes to the floor, as if inspecting Amato's shadow, then lift up to the man again. "How has today found you, my conscience?"

Amato lifts only his eyes, his forehead furrowed with worry. "I have found one, Master, but she will be of no use to the Work. She…I saw more with her. More than the act of the sin, but the story behind it." Amato lets his eyes close, only to open again a moment later. "She does not seem to be the sort that is on this list, though. She let them have her own sister in order to save herself. She has lied about her status more than once."

"Intriguing." Kazimir's chair creaks as he leans back against it, the telltale strain of old wood. "She had a sister?" One brow slowly raises, then lowers as his thoughts shift and change. Rolling his thumb over the cap of his cane, Kazmir's eyes wander the uneven shadows and light, brow furrowing for a moment. "You say you saw more in her presence?" His eyes finally settle back on Amato again. "What do you make of this? You have always been, if nothing else, consistent in your senses." His head cants to the side, as if to view Amato from a slightly different angle. "What made the difference?"

"I think perhaps she did, Master." Amato lifts his head a bit then, in order to better look Kazimir in the eye. "She knew something was going on, which has never happened before. Her sister was this 'Registered,' however, and so perhaps in frightening away one demon, we shall vanquish another?"

Kazimir listens, his focus as intent as his gaze, an unflinching blue that much as Amato has often seen, contains more compassion that most would imagine Kazimir capable of despite his laundry list of deeds that speak otherwise. "Did she give you a name?" He consider that for a moment, "Names are such powerful things aren't they? Knowing even but one can open so many doors that once remained closed, unlock a vault of secrets that was better left closed…" He shakes his head once, slowly, rubbing one hand over his brow for a moment after his words trail off, eyes half-lidding in momentary weariness.

Amato nods at that, his face relaxing the slightest bit. "Not willingly. She is Gillian Childs."

Peter gasps out a sharp breath when that memory peels away from his senses, feeling the presences gone, but the intention there. His gloved fingers rake through his hair, struggling to comprehend Kazimir's previous involvement with Gillian, what he could have possibly ever wanted from her, what the truth behind his quest for her augmentation may have been. But there in that thought, in that memory, Peter finds only more questions. But before he can even begin to formulate proper responses, he is assailed once more by images of the past.

There is no conversation in his approach, only the surveying of pale blue eyes on a familiar young face, that of his demolitions expert Dina, and then that of the blood-spattered and motionless form of Munin. He is given pause in his approach by this, faint wisps of black rising up around his arms in ephemeral tendrils of ashen shadow. Soon, though, they fade back into his body like stalking vipers.

Again approaching, there is finally a vocalization for his discomfort, brow lowered and blue eyes affixed on Munin's form. There is no greeting for Dina, she was expected. "How is she?" It's the first sign of something that might be construed as compassion that Kazimir has ever afforded anyone, let alone Munin. His eyes divert over to Sylar, then Dina, then back down to Munin. One black-gloved hand reaches out, lightly brushing a lock of blood-stained hair from her face, his hand turninig to one side to brush leather-covered knuckles over her cheek.

It's a good thing that Dina's established she didn't know who Sylar is…because otherwise she probably wouldn't talk to him this way. Or maybe she would; it IS Dina. "Water, y' bloody shite-for-brains gobsmack Yank! I can't clean and bandage her with an empty bucket, now can I?!" She snaps. Meanwhile, she's starting to strip Munin; getting the girl's clothes off her and tossed to the side as quickly as she can. She won't know how bad the wounds are till she can get at them, and get her washed off…right now there's too much a mix of her blood and the bonewoman's blood to tell anything.

She looks over at Kazimir's commentary. "Not well" is her initial, and terse, answer, before adding more. "She got poked up by some kinda mutant zombie focker. On toppa that, looked like she couldn't breathe a bit, and I think she mighta got tackled down. I'll know more once I get her patched up." Any concern for rendering the teen increasingly naked in front of Kaz and Sylar doesn't look to have even crossed her mind. Dina's in Practical Mode.

The verbal abuse hurled at Sylar doesn't gain a reaction - perhaps it'd be better for him to snap back at her then let bygones be bygones. No, instead, it's just filed away, and he rolls his shoulders as if trying to get his muscles to relax. There's a time and place for punishment, and now is certainly not the time. There's another scrape of plastic against cement as he summons the bucket into his hand, but he doesn't go for water yet - he listens to the steady, unnatural heart beat of Kazimir's from when he first picks it up, to the point wherein the man is standing just beside the table. As Dina gives her diagnosis, it's then he steps back, walking away with long strides towards where he knows there's a working faucet. He's cleaned his clothes here a couple of times.

"She has athsma." Kazimir's informative expression confers little, save that his eyes never depart from Munin, steady and focused, though his countenance remains remarkably neutral. His head does turn though, towards the wall facing the parking lot when the faintest suggestion of a raised voice can be heard. One brow raises, until he considers the pair of usual suspects that are missing, and turns his attention to Gabriel. "Mister Gray," He intones, "Insure that Munin does not succumb to her injuries. Her death would be a crippling loss to us." He lowers his gaze down towards Munin again, withdrawing his gloved hand from her cheek finally.

"Dina," Kazimir's voice is quiet and stern, "Tend to her wounds. If she is injured, Gabriel should be able to discern the nature of her injuries and what is wrong with her," His eyes divert momentarily over to Sylar, "if he puts his mind to it." His gaze drifts back to Dina again, "If there are complications…" His hand reaches into his jacket, removing an overly large cell-phone to rest on the table, "Use the sat-phone to call Elias and have him transport her to our hospital in the Balkans; He knows where it is."

Eileen; her face haunts his mind even in moments unlike this one, but the other young woman — the Irish woman — she is an unknown quantity, and yet her name is still fresh in his mind. His breathing hitches again in the back of his throat, gloved hands cover his eyes, mouth opens to try and form words, but fail to make any semblance of sense, just fear and trust making equal course through the fore of his consciousness. These memories hammer at him, drive him to strangled howls of pain and confusion, and yet they refuse to stop.

"I have procured a shipment from our erstwhile compatriots south of the border, a special shipment that I have been waiting for." Turning back to Ethan, Kazimir watches his expression, as if searching for something unsaid, and then continues on inside as the two delivery men arrive at the same time.

«Gentlemen,» Kazimir's spanish is immaculate. «Take the truck out to Staten Island and burn it. You will find the other half of your payment in the laundry room of the house on 232 Falcone circle along with replacement identification and passports.» He dismisses the pair with a wave, and they both dip their heads down in silent nods before taking their leave, returning to the truck.

"This shipment is preparation for certain upcoming events, and you are to keep the particulars of this cases' contents to yourself." He continues on into the warehouse as the cargo door of the truck slides closed with a slam, followed by the driver's and passenger's doors opening and closing. By the time they're fully inside, the vehicle is already preparing to leave. "No one outside of you and I are to be made aware of the case's contents until such a time as I inform you otherwise." The clack of his shoes and the click of his cane create an even rhythm amidst the low and rough tone of his voice as he walks towards where the case has been carefully laid out on its own palette, six feet long and four feet wide, and almost as deep. No markings of any kind, save for a polished metal lock on the front.

Ethan eyes the two men as Kazimir adresses them. He says nothing, simply sliding his gloved hands into his coat pockets he moves silently and steadily at Kazimir's side. He looks at the case intently, akin to a child eyeing a box on Christmas morning. Trying to guess its contents without actually appearing excited. He must appear indifferent. That's how professionals operate. So in an indifferent tone he mutters, "What do you 'ave 'ere then? A fuckin' nuke?"

Something between an awkward laugh and a choke of horror rolls through Peter at memories of Ethan Holden, recollections of pride and jealousy coming together to knit themselves into a tapestry of memory that fuses in the corners of his mind, rewires reactive notions and suppresses feelings of indecipherable emotion that comes in hazy recollection of Ethan's name. The face of a stranger is replaced by the face of a man who could have been treated as a son, by the face of a man who would eventually kill him.

Entering the warehouse, Kazimir's footsteps quietly come to a halt just within the doorway, his dark shadow long and grasping towards their gathering, as if it was hungering to get just a few inches closer, ever so subtly darker than the black of his suit. "Herr Volken." Hans' accent slips more towards German as he bows his head, and those words elicit Kazimir to slowly begin to stride in, leveling an assessing blue gaze on Hans' four subordinates.

"Prompt as always, Hans." Kazimir's voice, rough as it is, shows a modest level of pride in it as he paces in front of the gathered. Rico, while Kazimir isn't looking, begins to pick at a small piece of mango skin stuck between his teeth. "I take it you realize that Code 21:25 has been enacted." The words are said with a rough exhalation, And just how significant that is?"

Hans nods, taking a step forward ahead of the group, "I do, Herr Volken." He averts his eyes to the floor, "It means we've almost reached our goal. The time to act, is upon us." Pale eyes track from the floor to Kazimir, and then to the people gathered behind him. "May I formally introduce my hand-picked operatives?" Kazimir's silent nod is all Hans needs as he motons to the sniper beside him.

"My Lieutenant, Ellinka Dolukhanov, former Spetznas trainee. I believe you will recall her from the 2006 Prague operation." Hans' words are met with another slow and shallow nod as Kazimir looks Ellinka up and down, a woman now two years further removed from her old life, and hardening in spirit for it. "She is the most capable sniper in all of the Vanguard, and was trained as a counter-intelligence operative."

"It is an honor, Lord Volken." Ellinka bows her head as she mumbles those words in a hushed voice, keeping her sniper rifle held close to her chest. The weapon is fearsome looking even when held in comparison to a humble looking woman as her, a Steyr IWS 2000, a weapon designed to disable tanks. Kazimir's gaze settles on the gun for a moment, nodding with an approving inclination of his head, recalling now her efficiency in disabling military police in that offensive.

"This is Drake Leeds," Hans motions to the man wringing a black knit cap behind his back. Drake gives a bit of a crooked smile, nodding silently. "Former SAS communications and saboutage expert. I believe you and he worked recently with Ethan Holden in Yugoslavia."

Once more Kazimir affords a silent nod, Drake was one of the few who have seen Kazimir in the last five years, outside of Hans himself. But as Hans continues, his direction goes to the other familiar face, the south-american man in the black beret. "This is Rico Velasquez, I believe you and he are well acquainted."

"Sierra will be pleased to know you're here," Kazimir considers those words even as he continues, "Should she turn up." Still yet unaware of Sierra's death, Kazimir unintentioanlly sets his close compatriot up for an unfortunate revelation later on. "It's good to see you again…" A gloved hand comes to rest on Rico's shoulder, and Kazimir gives a reaffirming, if not somewhat controling squeeze as he notices Rico's slacked posture.

"I do believe King requires no introductions." Hans cracks a smile as he motions to the enormous Nigerian standing behind him. The behemoth of a man nods with a reverent expression on his face, "He is eager to be put to work." At Hans' words, Kazimir settles a hand on the soldier's shoulder, moving it from Rico's, and shakes his head subtly.

"Enough with the formalities, Hans." Blue eyes move up to King for but a moment, then track back to the man he restrains from posturing any further. "You're here to perform a task, nothing more and nothing less."

So many faces, so many names, their presence drills memories of betrayal, of mad certainty and lunatic planning into the core of Peter's mind. Self-loathing turned outwards towards a world that robbed not only the innocence of youth but the finality of death from a man who had already lost so much. The sound of dropping bombs thunder behind his eyes, pain and agony roll in equal measure, the sound of two world wars colliding in the screams of concentration camp prisoners and trench warfare. Yet even amidst all this pain, the memories keep coming.

"Munin." A misjudgement, a miscalculation, but towards the same result. Holding up one hand, Kazimir focuses the lasers towards the ceiling, tracing winding and zig-zagging patterns that meet with squawking cries of avian bodies as wings are split from bodies, heads are severed from necks, and then in some coup de grace, a pulse of darkness erupts out like an explosion of black fog edged by ashes, and as the birds dive towards Kazimir, their bodies are stripped of flesh, blood and life as ashen clouds of feathers and brittle chalk-dry bones explode against his form. Their lifeless bodies become so many powdery eruptions on the concrete floor, siphoning their meager essences into himself.

No distractions. It's almost irrational now, he has no focus, no meaning. He has to find out what makes Wu-Long…


The situation has deteriorated. Wu-Long is missing a leg. Strictly speaking, half a leg.

The severing could have been measured on a ruler, how straight it is, an oblique angle down from the back and center of the man's thigh and down to the front of his knee, the onion-like cross-section of muscle, tendon, bone, all abbreviated on the same surgically-perfect sizzling plane. Through some miracle of coincidence, the thickest part of his artery is left sealed almost shut with molten skin, leaving the soldier down on his side, the stump of his upper leg flailing in the air. Its other half lies on the floor, still clad in a fraction of a pant leg and disused boot.

Wu-Long stares at the ceiling even as its torn to pieces in helter-skelter geometry. There are no stars. Instead, he sees black wings, hears the havoc of screams, isn't Western enough to be reminded of angels. Deserter he might have been, but there were a few lines he'd never crossed. Never turned a weapon on a comrade in the field. Serves him right.

He isn't thinking straight either or, perhaps, pointlessly, he's trying to hide. He calls darkness, and darkness answers, swirling in at the furthest reach that either his erstwhile master or his — friend? — had ever seen, a three-hundred foot globe that bloats out inside the walls and then through them, flaring, erratic, wild, a light show that consumes the entire building, but shorts out every time Kazimir — Sylar — Kazimir opens the swizz of lazers out into the sky, only to recover again like some deranged strobe light. If he had a little more presence of mind or his sense of irony intact, he might have tried for Morse. Save our souls.

Dully, he's aware his arm is cut up too, and a corner's missing from his earlobe. Relatively minor inconveniences. His lip curls. He bleeds. He feels a scream coming on, and nulls the sound around his own head in a gesture some might see as petulant. His gun is gone.


The name echoes through the space, distorted by the ability gone wild, but when it shimmers through erratically, it doesn't sound like Sylar. It sounds like the screech of multiple voices, male and female, and smokey tendrils of darkness seem to twist out from an extended hand, playing along the invisible telekinetic grip that winds around Wu-Long's remaining ankle. In jerks, the Chinaman is dragged closer, leaving streaks of blood as he goes. There is nothing left but hunger. He's waited too long.

Sylar's scream is a confirmation given notice and lost in the pounding of his own heart. Kazimir struggles forward, lurching like some starving beast as he yanks Wu-Long's bloodied body across the concrete, and with a flick of his wrist turns him right-side up. Stepping over the mercenary, Kazimir's lips pull back into a snarl, "Show me." The globe of darkness was amazing, a large enough field of soundless, sightless umbral perfection that he could block out all life and light within it, he needs this ability, he wants and craves it.

A swift kick is given to Wu-Long's bloodied stump, wetting the tip of Sylar's shoe before he drops down, slamming a knee into the man's shoulder, one hand held out in a choking motion, a low harmonic rumble of telekinetic force pinning Wu-Long down to the ground. "It's up there, in there." His voice ebbs and flows with the sound of countless others, what monster he had become?

But like a dog chasing a car, Kazimir has no idea what to do with Wu-Long once he's grabbed a hold of him. He can feel, smell what is locked away in his skull, but how to open it? Lasers might damage what's inside, too quick, too sharp. Kazimir growls, frustrated, angrily, pushing down with another violent thrust of telekinesis as he straddles Wu-Long's chest, holding out his free hand as a glimmer of black and metal whips through the air.

His cane.

Too much thought, effort, and twisting to use the sword. No, just crack it open, like a coconut. Kazimir stares down at Wu-Long, eyes wide and hands shaking. "Give it to me." He rasps out, before bringing the snarling wolf's head cane down like a hammer.


And Again.

And Again.

"STOP!" Peter finally manages to scream, tears welling in his eyes as he feels that helplessness of Sylar's hunger behind his eyes justa s Kazimir had felt it in the face of Zhang Wu-Long. The scream cracks at the edges, turning into a ragged sob as his fingers brush down his face, lips contorted into a lopsided grimace of pain as he exhaled a shuddering sob to the air, a weak and broken noise of crying that tightens the muscles in his back and makes him convulse from the sickening, tactile memory of the man's skull breaking under the assault of the cane.

Let it not be said that the Black Widow is unnecessarily cruel. By all accounts, she seems to be proceeding in the course of Plan A, and even pitches a chin-jutting gesture to the sharp-dressed man before she rounds the corner into the kitchen. There's the muted sound of a pitcher being poured, ice and all crashing down into the throat of one glass and then another.

It is with the grace of a valet that Amato moves toward the door to open it, and it widens upon the revelation of their visitor. Amato bows his head, but he does not speak until the door is closed behind Kazimir Volken - closed and locked. "Master," he greets with a second nod. "Would you care for refreshment?"

Being greeted by Amato in Lucrezia's den seems to come as something of a surprise to Kazimir, his blue eyes lingering on his Conscience for a brief time before he steps in wordlessly, cane tucked under one arm carefully. "No, thank you." The rhetoric of asking for refreshment is an attempt to inject some level of normalcy into Kazimir Volken's very presence, for none among the Vanguard have ever seen him eat, drink, or even sleep.

"It's good to see that you're…" The choice of his next word might seem jovial, were Kazimir ever inclined to jest, "familiarizing yourself with the Lady Bennati." His blue eyes catch sight of her silken silhouette pouring the glass of water, only allowing Kazimir to turn and look back to Amato with one raised, gray brow.

Amato's own expression is one of incredulous innocence - a 'Who me?' turned righteous. "I am not one to turn down an invitation of such caliber," is his verbal answer, though it is as uptight as the look on his face. "Though I cannot say I approve of her hostessing methods."

She's just three steps away from being reunited with her master and their priest when she pretends to have her feelings pricked by words overheard just before her return. She affects a wince and a playful pout in retort to Amato's poking her hostessing habits. "Your water," Lucrezia croons, delivering the requested beverage in a long-stemmed wine glass instead of a tall tumbler. "With ice," she adds, noting Kazimir's presence with a deferential nod before slinking over to a Queen Anne chair and taking a seat as though she were assuming a throne. She crosses her legs at the knee, showing off everything from ankle to hip, yet remaining somehow just this side of indecent. She suckles her cigarette and eyes the two men taking up space in her den as if she might be debating which of them to eat first.

Naturally, this is all an act; a great deal of affection, even in close quarters, and nothing at all akin to what might qualify as the 'real' woman clad in such ridiculous clothes.

Confusion rolls across Kazimir's features in consideration of Lucrezia Bennati, a famous star in Europe, and somehow the spider in Kazimir's great web. So many disparate people pulled together under their own unique circumstances, gthered together for a cause so grisly. How one man could gravitate so many towards him seems like something out of a dream, or a novel, but not the hard-pressed reality of this terrifying organization. It is like an oily, slithering shadow of the Company and its founders.

A tall taciturn man with silver hair and a thin but bristly beard, his gaunt face illuminated by the glow of burning coals, a chisel grasped between old, bony fingers like the leathery roots of a tree — they call him Regin the dwarf, metalworker and builder of houses made of glittering gold and flashing gems. His real name is Grigori Zhukovsky, and like his father and his father before him, he is a smith.

He's also a common criminal, arms dealer, thief, and when he tells Kazimir that he knows a man with the military who can help supply him with what he needs, there is no doubt in his mind that the truthfulness and sincerity of his tone isn't just another one of the Russian's illusions.

Intent inspection over the documents in his lap affords Kazimir some measure of illumination, light from the nearby hearth casting craggy shadows across his weathered face. He assesses the old smith, reclines back in his leather chair, one gloved hand coming to rest at his chin. The glow of the fire in the hearth reflects off of the lenses of Kazimir's glasses. "Marvelous," is his assessment of what is detailed in the list he holds, blue eyes drifting from type-written lettering to the man who was once his quarry.

"I have heard stories of Stepnogorsk, that the Americans are trying to help the Russians dismantle operations there." Help is said with such irony in his tone of voice, a subtle raise of tone that has become so clear to Grigori now in these years since his assimilation. "I will need two."//

Never let it be said, that Kazimir Volken ever did anything in small scale.

"Aleksandr Kozlow," Grigori says, following Kazimir's gaze. "A veteran of the Second Chechen War. Medical officer." Wryness creeps into his tone as he speaks, withdraws an embroidered handkerchief from his back pocket and uses it to wipe the sweat from his brow. "He fought in Grozny where developed quite a reputation for extracting confessions. His ability is a unique one — I think you'll find it quite useful. His //superiors certainly did."//

The paperwork is folded back, revealing a second layer of military service records, and a dog-eared black and white photograph of a young man in military dress. Kazimir's blue eyes narrow in subtle scrutiny of the photograph, as if he could judge aman simply by an expression on his face or a reflection in his eyes. It doesn't quite work that way, but when that same scrutiny is leveled on Grigori, Kazimir sees thorugh the man as if he were as clear as a window pane. "You trust him." The affirmation is grumbled out in the moments before those documents are folded closed, and paperwork is laid aside. "That is enough for me."

"I would like to meet him soon."

Hugin and Munin, the bombs that would herald the end of the world; thought and memory. Peter's breaths deeply the scent of the leather gloves covering his face. The memories seem to have tapered off, trickling now where once there was a blown dam of torrential import. But the moment he rests a hand to the floor, tries to push himself up from his knees, there is the specter of Kazimir Volken behind his eyes again, stroking him down to the floor with a volley of emotional content.

Getting to New York was an interesting affair, though far from impossible. Yvette knew enough of the trail of smugglers to get herself over the ocean and to New York, and enough of other things to secure a place for herself in the city before making the final leg of the journey to the warehouse in question. Her long white coat rustles and moves with the wind, and a white gloved hand holds Kazimir's cane easily in her right hand. Her steps are light and quiet, though more from habit than any specific intention of sneaking. Matters simply are the way they are, none the less.

She steps into the warehouse proper, taking in the crates, the birds, and Kazimir sitting on a white dressed… throne? One eyebrow quirks slightly upwards, and her eyes glitter with something that might be amusement before fading back to even lines again. She brushes her thumb over the cane and moves forward again, stepping over the cold floor and ignoring the birds up high. Those might enter the conversation later, at some point, but for now they were more mood than anything else. When she comes up to the dais she holds the cane up to Kazimir, resting over both hands, and the sensation brought to his innards is quite simple, if firm.

It's determination.

The footsteps do not rouse Kazimir from his silence, though their softness and grace are mistaken to belong to another young woman, that is until the furl of white cloth of her jacket comes into view in a broken piece of mirrored glass crooked up to rest againstone of the crates. The black scarf, the blonde hair, and that white streak. Kazimir's breath hitches in his throat as he leans back, watching Yvette approach slowly and hold aloft the very object he had charged her with repairing — his cane.

Blue eyes settle on the instrument, a gift from Ethan so long ago. It's a sign. But the bearer of this omen is not whom he expected, Mattias perhaps, or one of Rico's men, but not this. Never this. "You were not meant to come." His words strike like a hammer on stone, possessed of an adamancy and distaste only the tone of a parent can muster. The old and clearly wooden chair beneath the cloth creaks and groans as Kazimir rises up from it, his hands pushing against the shrouded arm rests.

"I gave you an order," Hard soled dress shoes thump with muffled report on the cloth-covered palettes as the black clad man strides towards where Yvette stands, much in the same way Amato once would. He hesitates in both speech and motion at that thought, and his feet do not take those final steps to begin descending from the makeshift dais. "Why?" No other would be given the chance to explain insubordination of this level, they would be as much dust, bone and ash. But Yvette, her insubordination time and again is forgiven. Kazimir's greatest weakness, his last vestige of humanity.

Yvette keeps the cane held in place, and doesn't move save for keeping her eyes on his. It's important, in a sense, that he takes it himself. She watches him step down from the chair, and move closer. She's not immune to the tone of his voice, he matters too much for that, but she had expected it. She was, after all, not supposed to be here. Not according to him. In reply to his question she looks at his face, his hands, the tired features of his skin, and then back again to his eyes. Her head tilts to the side, like a puppeteer cut off the string that holds it, and her eyes crinkle up again. Just a touch. A soft smile.

The determination remains within Kazimir, that soft tug at his gut, but it's soon accompanied by something else as well. A warm sensation. Caring. Protective. Where else would she be?

The cane remains on her hands still, and she stands there waiting. There are no others here, save for the birds, and maybe that's a good thing. No others are really supposed to see this thing. Haven't the eyes for it, or the mind to understand the reasons. Yvette waits.

Emotion, it is Yvette who can spur this decaying body of his to some semblance of life and emotive response. Chemical stimulus, endorphins, adrenaline, all are things he no longer needs to sustain his life. That black vapor coursing through every fiber of his being holds his withered frame together like some bizarre shell. But to feel again, to be allowed that spark of life in her presence, that is perhaps the most cherished gift of all. Perhaps that is why when her smile is concealed by the black of her scarf that Kazimir's black heart sinks deep into the pit of his stomach.

One foot comes down with a click of his sole on the concrete, then another. He takes the last few steps towards Yvette, reaching out carefully with his bare hands to take one light grasp at the middle of the cane. He hesitates n lifting it, letting his blue eyes meet her crimson ones. There's hesitation, nervousness, things he is so unused to feeling. When he lifts the cane up from her hands, it is not simply the cowled smile that has moved his hand, it is her knowing look. That she has come here to be someone he can lean on, one he can trust unquestioningly. To Kazimir, there is no greater pride than being truly out-thought by one's pupil, and for all of his inverse that she is, Yvette clearly has surrogate father's keen intellect.

Taking the cane in hand, Kazimir holds it aloft, regarding the wolf's head and the slight gouge in the steel at its brow. One hand holds the haft of the cane, the other the steel grip below the wolf's head, and with a twist he unsheaths the sword from within the hollow of the cane, a rapier-thin blade that reflects the dim light clearly. Not a single sign of the split in the blade from before — whole. Grigori's unique talent, truly a masterpiece.

Laid low to the floor again, Peter barely has time to process the strange emotions that memory brought back in him before— like a brawling man delivering a kick to the kidneys of his downed opponent— Kazimir slams another memory down atop Peter, knocking his consciousness back into that hallucinatory landscape of the past.

"I trusted you to act with discretion." Biting words come with a rough, gravley voice, followed by the slam of one hand against a table. Kazimir Volken is not a tall man, not a young or strong man, but for what the spectacle-wearing old soldier lacks in physical presence, he makes up for with force of personality. "You disobeyed a direct order and nearly cost me one of my men in the process."

With Feng seated in a chair, and Kazimir's darkly dressed form looming over him, the younger of the two men in the room feels all of an inch tall in comparison. "I don't want to hear a single word of excuse out of your mouth, or so help me I'll rip your jawbone out of your idiot head." Blue eyes narrow, and as Kazimir turns, his gloved fingers clench tightly into creaking fists.

The old man paces away from the table, towards now darkened windows occasionally lit by the passing of falling snow. "If you had reported back to Holden like I asked you to after taking your shots, he might have been able to come up with a solution to Grigori's ability." His lips pull back to reveal white teeth, a snarl like a feral dog would make. "I'm disappointed in you, Daiyu."

Opening his mouth to speak, no words come, Feng knows better. His eyes slowly slide shut, hands curling closed in his lap, shoulders rolled forward. "You're worth more to me alive than dead, Daiyu, that is the singular reason why I don't kill you where you sit. Your recklessness today put Hans in traction, which means I'm going to need to bring someone else in charge of this theater while we follow Grigori's trail." One gloved hand moves to rest on Feng's shoulder, and he can feel the pinpricks of pain beginning to lance through his flesh.

"I have no choice but to reassign you." His hand moves from Feng's shoulder, and Kazimir's footfalls quietly take him across the floor, hands folded behind his back. "I'm sending you overseas, to Argentina. Velasquez and Ramirez need extra hands putting the Argentinian compound into operation. Consider this your permanent assignment until I think of what to do with you." Pausing by the door, Kazimir's lips downturn into a frown, "perhaps some time out in the jungle with those two will teach you some patience."

A face he recognizes out of context sets Peter's breathing more level, gives him pause to try and roll onto his stomach, get up on his knees and scramble away from the memories that scramble his own. Moments of uncertainty play at the periphery of his mind— where is Feng Daiyu now? But those thoughts are jarred away by the feeling of a psychic boot slammed down on the middle of his back, seething tendrils of black smoke issuing from his flesh as he feels the sharp, shooting pain they give. Kazimir is not done with him.

Braxton H. Pendragon XIV has never actually felt tense in a room with Kazimir before. Disquieted once or twice, mmmaybe. Off balance, perhaps. //Slightly intimidated. But never really afraid. Except afraid is a strong word, isn't it? Afraid. Tense is better. Definitely better.//

So, Braxton is tense now while he waits in a room full of stainless steel and computers still running Windows XP, several robust desktops and a single more mobile model all whisking and humming and tick-tick-ticking on in monotonous ignorance. They're audible (just like the air conditioning, when it cuts on) largely because both men are silent where they stand, which is more unusual for one than it is for the other.

Kazimir has the test. It seems like the result might've been more suspect somehow if Pendragon had held onto it while it processed or. Settled. Chemistry's never really been his thing, beyond barest necessity. He itches restlessly at a sideburn, registers that his palm is sweaty, and lets it fall back into a subtle brush against the starkly pressed cut of his trouser leg. It's very black. The shirt beneath is very, very blue. Brings out his eyes.

"Thing takes fuckin' forever," remarked drearily when the oppressive silence becomes too much, he glances (unsubtly) at his watch (for the seventh time) and inspects the ceiling tile directly over his head for cameras or spiders that might fall on him or cracks. There are none. It's a ceiling tile.

Kazimir is always something of a silent and stoic observer when around Hector, for all the scrutiny he affords those of his flock, Hector's brilliance has always earned something more of personal attention. In a way Hector's natural adaptation of the mechanical arts reminds Kazimir in a way of his own past as a scientist, and while the interior of a desktop computer may not quite be the same as the interior of a screwming Jew, there are at least some mechanical similarities in their approach.

Biology fascinates Kazimir, piques his interest and somehow keeps him attentive during the process of something so mundane as watching protein chains take a reactive stain. His grayed brows furrow, blue eyes narrow, and the chin he is rapidly losing to the weight of age alights up, allowing him to regard the petre-dish in his gloved hand.

These early tests are so primitive, no one truly knew where to look for the building blocks of the evolved. The clear fluid slowly turning red inside of the dish is spinal fluid; not the most plesant thing to to part with, with the fetal curl required to get the needle between vertibrae and— well— the needle.

"Red," Kazimir states flatly, laying the dish down to settle on the top of the table, pushing it with two gloved fingers towards Hector with brows raised. "Now I'm not sure how to react…" Kazimir admits, brows lifted and back straightening as he leans away from where he's left the dish in front of Braxton. In a way, this is like discovering that your brilliant son only is because he is an austistic savant; it is both humbling and confusing.

Ah. Well.


For all that he's not supposed to be moving, much less up on his feet so soon after having had a needle pierce his spine, Braxton takes an undead step closer to peer down at the dish himself. He does it without lifting a finger to touch and the absence of immediate and invasive feelery pawing over the result's container is odd in itself.

At least the fear tension's gone — evaporated in a chilly puff of hope sublimating in his gut, up through his lungs and out his nose at a quavery breath. His normally precisely angled shoulders have adopted a certain slump, and for an invaluable beat, he looks lost. Utterly and entirely lost, like a switch's been flipped off in the back of his head and took all the lights with it, leaving him to stare blindly out've blue eyes for longer than is strictly natural or sane.

When they finally tick back into focus, they flick blankly over the wall ahead and then aside to Kazimir, magnet to iron anchor. Whunk.//

Crossing his arms over his chest, Kazimir's dark gray brows furrow as Braxton's reactions are assessed for surprise or lack thereof. Quantities of surprise are peculiar things; surprise of being caught, genuine surprise of revelation, they are measured part and parcel by generations of experience. A gloved hand settles as firmly on Braxton's shoulder as handcuffs would around a criminal's wrists; that same firm finality in the touch.

"You and I," the old man intones in that sandpaper tone of voice, equal measures rough and unplesant, "are going to need to have a very long talk about your future, Braxton." Those leather-covered fingers squeeze firmly into the younger man's shoulder, as tight as his voice sounds. "But before we do," he notes with a certain mirth, "we should try that test one more time."

"Just to be certain."

Hector— Peter's fingers twitch, brow tensing as he breathes in deeply, trying to measure out memories that do not belong with ones that do; all his time impersonating the very man who now assails his senses blurs the line between his memories and the flashbacks Kazimir is forcing onto him. "Stop!" Peter screams, desperate now for anyoen to hear his cries for help, even as his arms fall out of his own control, dropping limp with the pin-prickling sensation of numbness.

Running wild, a group of young children rush down a wooden boardwalk, weaving in and out of sweaty and tired dock workers at a warf market. Vendors call out, craving attention to sun-battered fruit in stacked crates, to canvas blankets laid out with AK-47s and stacks of boxed ammunition. Young, rugged men in olive colored jackets and camouflage pants stand around, smoking, guns slung over their shoulders.

Much of the attention is drawn to a ship far off from the busy port, a brand new cargo transport, her red and black hull popping out against the deep sapphire blue of the ocean's calm waters. "«Ricardo! Ricardo!»" Stepping out from a crowd of soldiers, a young woman in a black tanktop in camouflage pants comes charging down the pier from a black raft, carrying a duffel bag over her shoulder, "«Ricardo it was amazing!»" She practically leaps into the arms of one of the young men, smoking by the arms dealers, throwing her bag down to the ground as her arms wrap around the back of his neck, and a single kiss is pressed to the scruffy cheek of a much unshaven man.

"«Dahlia,»" Ricardo leans back, reaching up with one hand to hold her chin, regarding her like how a man at the market would inspect an animal. He turns her head from one side to another, eyes shadowed by the brim of his green military cap, "You've gotten some sun," he remarks with a croaking laugh, patting her cheek as she slides her arms down to her side, cracking a smile to the bearded soldier.

"«You've gotten…»" Her chocolate brown eyes drift up and down, and then a smirk crosses her lips, "«Soft in the middle?»" One hand lunges out, jabbing at Ricardo's midsection with an extended finger. There's a laugh, and the soldier shakes his head, a broad smile creasing his sweaty cheeks. "«It's so much hotter here, I can't believe it.»

Ricardo's focus is drawn beyond Dahlia, to a man only a few years his senior, with wavy black hair and a more trimmed beard, cigar hanging out of his mouth, and a black Captain's hat adorning his head. "«Who's he?»" Guarded suspiscion comes over Ricardo as he leans in to Dahlia, voice lowered. But she just raises a hand, settling on Ricardo's chest before pushing away slowly.

The approaching man stops, looking up from Dahlia to Ricardo, then back to her. As she presumes to speak, he nudges her aside and offers a hand out, "«Mattias,»" there's an eager smile, "«Captain Mattias St.Croix of the Invierno.»" Ricardo stares down at the offered hand, switching his cigarette from one side of his mouth to the other with a slip of his tongue. Glancing up to Dahlia, then back to the hand, he reluctantly takes a hold of it — but the hesitation only lingers in the motion, not the grip.

"«I hope my sister did not treat you too unkindly, Captain.»" Professional, if not a bit tense, it's hard not to see the uncertainty and anxiety in his sister's eyes. Clearly there's something between the two of them, but it has to go unsaid, because the man walking down the pier behind them on a slow and casual approach earns every last ounce of Ricardo's attention. "«If you will e'scuse me.»" He pats Mattias on the shoulder, slipping past to quickly approach a man dressed in a night black suit in the middle of summer in Brazil.

Hands tucked in his pockets, the weathered old man looks like he has spent his fair share of time under the sun, even if his skin is several shades too pale to reflect it. Gray hair talls in long waves down to his chin, all swept back away from his face. "«Rico.»" There's warmth in his tone of voice, "«My boy.»"

"«Kazimir.»" It's a relief to see him, and as Rico approaches, there are no pretenses of military structure, it is like a father and son meeting after a long time apart. Kazimir holds his arms open, accepting the younger man towards him, giving a few quick pats on his back with leather-gloved hands, just long enough to show the gesture of affection, but Rico is quick to depart as the prickling tingle of something else creeps up in his skin. "«How did Russia treat you, I hope my idiot sister was not too much of a burden.»"

Kazimir's lips crack into a smile, his head shaking as he keeps walking, motioning Rico to fall in at his side as he rests a gloved hand on his shoulder. "«No, no. Dahlia is an enchantress, a wonderful young woman. She and Captain St.Croix hit it off rather quickly," there's a shift of blue eyes to Rico, giving a reassuring smile. "«Don't worry, he's a good man. Trustworthy, loyal, smart. She'd do good to have someone like him.»"

Sucking in sharp breaths and beginning to convulse on the floor, Peter recalls the brunette-haired woman, the one who spared no words to Rico, recalls how he knew who she was, how he knew what her role in things could have been, all memories appropriated from Kazimir. But here, assailed by images of what could have been, and the guilt of what he did to her life, the world seems to be slowly turning upside down from glimpses Peter assumed truths of, and the dirtier facts laid beneath.

Had this been anyone else, on any other day, Kaizmir Volken would have simply left them a pile of ashes on the ground. But as the bitter old man lurches away from the man Dianna had affectionately called Mik, Kazimir can feel a taut thread pull on the center of his being, a hook sunk into his heart that threatens to yank his very soul from his body, even as he sees those black tendrils of smoky unlife beginning to coil around Mik's hands. It is a horror he has seen only once before.

Mik looks down at his hands, seeing the corsucating shadows seeming to bend to his will. Eyes tainted a gray-blue peer up at Kazimir, and slowly he rises to look at the man with horror and apprehension. "What— what are you?" Mik asks in a whisper, staring down at his hands as he backpedals through the ashen remains of the men Kazimir had killed. But the immortal before him does not answer, only lowers his head and narrows his eyes.

"Mikhail." The name is spoken as a grave utterance of recognition, "how you have grown." Mik — Mikhail — stops in his tracks when he hears the stranger call his name. A swallow comes next, fingers flexing as he looks down at the shadows that sink and slither thorugh his skin harmlessly, feeling their connection intuitively to the old man standing before him.

"How do you— " he chokes on his words. "How do you know my name?" The young man tries to shake the darkness off of his hands, to no avail. Kazimir is frozen in his steps, looking at the thin line of darkness that is coiled harmlessly around Mikhail's hands, extending back like a tether into his chest.

"You are Mikhail Wagner, son of Heinrich Wagner." Mikhail's eyes peer intently at Kazimir when he speaks those words, hushed silence come over him. "I was a good friend of your father, and I saw you the day you were born." Which would be impossible, given how young the man before him looks. "You know who I am, if you kept your father's journals…" Stepping into the moonlight, Kazimir watches Mikhail carefully.

Dawning realization drops over Mikhail, and all the insane stories he had passed off as the ramblings of a deranged psychopath. Now, presented with a tether of shadow that he can feel as though it were a part of his body, Mikhail is left to question just how insane his father truly was. Swallowing anxiously, he releases that cord of darkness to slither its way back to Kazimir and into his body. "How— You aren't— You can't be— "

"People change." Kazimir intones, his slow gait affording him time to collect his thoughts as he considers this serendipity, bringing up a hand to rest on Mikhail's shoulder. "But there is always something tell-tale in their nature that stays the same. Your father was a brilliant man, Mikhail, brilliant beyond his years and you are the product of that brilliance." Eyes avert down to the young man's hands.

"You have been given a great burden." Blue eyes alight back to Mikhail intently. "A great curse, and a man long ago once told me that you must not be defined by your burdens, but use your burdens to find your own definition of self." There's a hint of a smile beneath that mostache. "Come…" Kazimir says to the shaken young man, squeezing his shoulder.

"Let us find your Dianna. Let me show you what we could be, together…"

Barely able to breathe, Peter's eyes grow wide as he recognizes the expression of Mikhail Wagner's younger self, recalls the horrified revelation about Wagner's ability, and traces that back towards his discovery of someone like Sylar, who was everything Mikhail Wagner was, and so much more. Sylar, in a way, was a realization of the Ubermensch project, the super man, and everything Heinrich Wagner would have wanted to see.

Smoke rises up in thick plumes from across the desert, shattered remnants of tanks dot the rocky field where scrub grass and bright blue skies meet on a seemingly endless horizon of brown and blue. Shards of metal are scattered across the sand, burning pieces of a Hum-Vee demolished by an explosion. Nearby, a tank has been torn apart, its turret wrenched off and barrel bent forward, not by merit of an explosion, but something else.

Sand clinging to his bloodied wounds, a soldier donned in desert camouflage crawls on his side, blood trailing in a dark stain behind him, one arm dragging him along by gloved fingers sunk two knuckles deep into the sun-baked earth. Rippling waves of heat rise up off of the ground, heat reflected like a brick oven onto his tanned skin streaked with blood. Each draw of his arm draws out a growling sound of pain and frustration, and the soldier unclips his sidearm from his belt, thumb flipping the safety off, and as he collapses onto his stomach, the soldier brings the gun to bear, aiming ahead of him at the smoke.

Limping out of the burning wreckage of the tank, a battered and shirtless man in tattered camouflage pants with his head wound in a blood-stained turban displaces smoke in an unusual manner. It moves inches away from his body, like something unseen was blowing it away from him. He swallows, wet and heavily, blood mixed with it, before he turns his head sharply and spits out a tooth. "«Almost,»" he curses in Arabic, limping forward with one muscled arm hanging limp and broken at his side, the other reaching out towards the gun-wielding soldier on the ground.

9mm rounds explode from the barrel in a quick burst of three shots, and with each firing a sonorous hum and a rippling shield of force appears in front of the hulking Iraqi mercenary. Bullets deflect in mid-air as if they were peppering the armored side of a tank. "«Almost does not count.» The telekinetic man intones as the ground vibrates around him, lifting rocks and dust up towards himself as he focuses his power towards the wounded soldier.

Almost doesn't count, except— The moment the soldier feel the pull of telekinesis lifting him off of the ground and snapping towards the hulking figure, that soldier unclips the last weapon he has from the back of his belt. Yanking the pin out and letting it go in the telekinetic tug, it shoots towards its intended target along that same impulse pulling the soldier in. The moment he sees what is happening, the telekinetic relinquishes from the pull, and drops both soldier and grenade down.

One lands several yards away, the other lands at the telekinetic's feet.

It is only long after the dust has settled and bodyparts have stopped raining from the skies that those who were observing the scuffle move in. A crisp black suit does little to dissuade the desert's scalding heat from Kazimir Volken's shoulders, but in the same way that the desert does not seem to mind the temperature, neither does he. At his heels, the sultry steps of a woman hiding her fair skin beneath an expanded parasol may seem as though an angel had come down from heaven, but Lucrezia Bennati's buxom form stops short of beckoning either dead soul up to heaven.

Circling around the bloodied crater, one dark skinned man in clothing as tan as the desert moves carefully up to the one man who is not rent to //bits by the explosion, a soldier laying motionless away from the blats of the grenade. Crouching down at his side, Abdul-Aziz Nwabueze brings the gleaming edge of his knife to toy with the corner of his throat, and when dark eyes narrow, the hunter of men looks up to Kazimir with a squint.//

"This one is no' dead, I will finish 'im." King states greedily, turning his knife around in preparation to plunge it into the soldier's body. But Kazimir raises a gloved hand, sharp enough to serve as a warning to a dog, and clear enough that King understands its meaning, and backs away from the battered soldier.

Lucrezia's brow arches just a slight touch as she regards the bodies, twirling her parisol silently as she watches Kazimir move to kneel at the soldier's side. Blue eyes squint against the sun as he feels around at the soldier's throat — not for a pulse, but for something more metallic. The jingle of dogtags come up next, flipped around in Kazimir's hands. "This one is cunning, able to take down Raj Singh on his own… he saved us a great deal of trouble." Squinting at the tags, Kazimir nods his head slowly and lowers them down to his uniform.

"Call Jensen, have him get the helicopter out here. Tell him that Corporal Edmond Rasoul will be joining us for the evening."

Unable to get up from the floor, Peter's body bounces up and down, legs and arms shaking as his eyes roll back in his head, mouth open only as much as his slacked jaw allows, a line of drool rolling out of the corner as seizures wrack his form. His neck muscles contract, head lols from side to sude, and he can not longer fight what is happening within himself.

The crucifix hangs heaviest, a carving in black wood with a silver inset of Jesus Christ weighing it down in a tilted dangle from the rosary beads. He pushes them along the thin chord they rest on, bulkier in her hands, small and delicate in his. They click together, gleam dull, and it's not obvious whether Iago Ramirez is praying or simply trying to tell each bead apart from the other and the prayers that go with them. Few things about him are //obviously read. Kazimir Volken can ordinarily make a good guess when others cannot, but it won't take the old Nazi's insight to know that Iago is neither praying nor studying the rosary in his hands.//

He's grieving.

His disappearance had not gone unnoticed, neither his subsequent return. None of his men had turned him away at the entrance to the bunker, and they'd been wise enough not to question either his departure or his reappearance. The furnace is blazingly hot, pouring its heat out into the room of cement, rock and iron, prickling sweat from skin and soaking into the stifling material of his black clothing.

Something's been burning, the stench of smoke thick and a metal poker now standing to cool in its rack, but whatever it is, Iago's finished, seated upon a wooden work bench with his back towards the entrance of the room, elbows on his knees and a bottle of bourbon between his ankles. A pistol, too, is the remaining item brought with him, currently set aside almost reverantly, polished silver that reflects the firelight. As for the time of day, the time of evening, it's impossible to tell.

For the two of them, the time doesn't matter anyway. Iago Rameirez //can't sleep, and Kazimir Volken does not need to. It's that sleeplessness that plagues them both in individual ways that has the latter of the two making his way down the concrete steps. Typically he over-emphasizes his steps, walks with a pronounced heaviness which is a part of his presence, the very thing that makes him Kazimir. But now, in this moment, there is no need for such theatrics; Iago is no one he needs to intimidate — not any longer. Quietly making his approach once to the bottom of the stairs, Kazimir's footfalls are soft against the floor, but the scuff beneath the soles grinding grit into the concrete is just announcement enough.//

He stands still, just at the edge of the amber light afforded by the furnace, that fiery illumination casting his shadow long and dark against the wall behind him. "The others are afraid to check on you…" Kazimir finally offers, long after Iago has had a few moments to become accustomed to his intrusion. "I imagine they have reason to fear." Only with that does he begin to approach, gloved hands folded behind his back, brow furrowed, firelight reflecting in the lenses of his glasses to give him an unintentionally infernal countenance.

"Do they?"

Iago is accustomed to standing when Kazimir enters the room. This time, rather, his back seems to bend a little more, clasped hands up to his forehead to grind his knuckles against his brow, a subtle kind of pressure only visible to his leader from the tension under black cotton pulled tight over his shoulders. He has to, apparently, think long and hard on Kazimir's query, before he lifts his head to regard the furnace once more, eyes hurting against the harsh light radiating out from it's impossibly hot center. "No more than usual," he finally gravels out, his voice rough from both drink and sleeplessness. His spine goes straight, palms find the edge of the bench, and easy does it, Iago levers himself up to stand.

Whatever he's been doing, it didn't leave marks. Not on his face, anyway, no sign of injury save for some old bruises on his knuckles, one of which ahs the rosary beads wrapped almost punishing along the ridges of bone. The pistol is picked up, too, but not holstered or slid into his belt, only held as he now regards his leader with a stony kind of expression. Not so different to the one he always wears, if laden with question. Accusation.

Finally, he adds, "And less than others."

The pistol goes as unregarded by Kazimir as the rosary does, neither of them ultimately a concern for him; he's neither a storybook vampire or a flesh and blood human, mistakes others have made in the past. "I'm sorry," Kazimir explains in a flat delivery of the words, blue eyes moving from Iago to track back towards the heat and glow of the furnance. There's nothing written on the old man's face, just the craggy shadows of his cheeks emphasized by the firelight, dancing flames glowing white in the lenses of his glasses, "for how all of this turned out." Behind his back, Kazimir wrings gloved hands together with a creak of that black material. His shoulders rise as a breath is drawn in; the scent of ash and soot strong on the hot, dry air.

"I only came to ask you a question," the old man states in solemn tone, "then you can return to your grieving." As he looks away from the fire, tilts his head up so that Iago can see the blue of his eyes behidn the oval lenses of his glasses, Kazimir moves forward with a step and lets a single arm sweep out slowly from his side. One gloved hand is held out, and only in that gesture do the corners of his chapped lips turn down into a frown.

"Are you still with me?" Kazimir asks, the gloved hand held with fingers spread and palm turned nearly up, an open invitation of trust to test Iago's loyalties, despite the tragic loss that he has suffered— perhaps //because of the loss he has suffered. "Are you still one of us?"//

The furnace throws sparks as often as it does flames, the light detracting from whatever it's been used to burn, but bleak shapes manage to struggle through the blaze. Paper occasionally tries to escape in pieces, burns to ash before it can quite make it, swirling sparks like fireflies. Fabric, too, as if clothing had been bundled and tossed into the immense maw of heat, coming apart as it blackens. There's broken glass, too, cracked faces of photo frames, the paper behind them scorched to nothing. The fire is still lively with activity, as much as the two men within the room are still and slow moving.

Iago looks at the offered hand, then looks at his own. The rosary is not released, and the pistol is not relinquished either, not immediately, considering it for a long time. The impulse to aim it towards Volken's chest could be there, or against the underside of his own chin, but it's anyone's best guess as to what he's considering before he briskly shoves it under his belt.

His hand is warm and rough in the way he clasps it to Kazimir's gloved one, fingers tight and grip secure. "I am with you," Iago states, simply, almost beneath the sound of crackling flames and the groan of machinery somewhere distant, words dragged out and as deliberately placed as the beads on the chord in his other hand.

Kazimir's eyes narrow when the hand is taken, squeezed in like return, but not quite released. He looks past Iago, to the fire, and to the burning picture frame within, watching glass shatter under the immense heat. //Family is an important thing, in the end, and the ability to let go of them when it is most painful to is among the most difficult decisions that must ever be made. It is only when Kazimir's eyes move back from the furnace and settle on Iago's far darker once, that the handshake relinquishes, and Kazimir solemnly bows his head in response to Iago.//

There will be time to send him following after, when the Work is done.

Peter's eyes are open now, blue irises staring up at the ceiling as his back arches and limbs tense, lips curl into a hesitant expression of either pain of frustration, but there is no such simplicity behind the countenance offered. "Allow me…" he breathes out deeply, "to take over from here…"

Stavanger's domkirke is the oldest cathedral in all of Norway. It's also the designated meeting place for Carlisle Dreyfus and Kazimir Volken. Summer finds the flowers outside the relic in full bloom — splashes of coquelicot and Venetian red offset by a drab stone exterior, dewy lawn sown with ryegrass and white clover, and a silver mist that has not yet evaporated in the warmth of the early morning sun. Dawn is pink. So is the wild rose that Carlisle wears attached to his lapel.

One of the Briton's large hands sits in his jacket pocket. The other is lighting a tobacco pipe made from meerschaum, palm cupped protectively around the bowl. "He deserved a better death than he chose for himself," he's saying. "A proper burial. Some sort of marker."

"Would we all ask for as much…" States the gravley voice at Carlisle's side, "would we all." The flowers seem less pristine here, now, their colors fading as Kazimir steps from the interior of the cathedral to stand more properly at Dreyfus' side. There's some solemnity in his voice, some regret, some uncertainty; all of it in solid context with the grim task that the man he meets here today has accomplished. Standing beside Carlisle, there is no feeling of malaise coming from Kazimir, and yet all those beautiful flowers droop in his presence, like a thousand colorful soldiers bowing their heads in reverence or shame.

"Did he suffer?" Comes the unusual question. Kazimir affords the other man no eye contact, just squares his shoulders and keeps his head down, regarding the grounds instead of the man, too solemn a meeting for anything other. Perhaps in a way, taking in this beauty before his mere presence despoils too much of it, this is like mourning. Kazimir himself isn't certain he has the capacity to mourn any longer.

There's a moment's hesitation from Carlisle in response to Kazimir's question, but when he answers his voice is careful, steady. "Yes." He has no reason to lie about that, not to Kazimir. If he'd given him some other answer, the elder of the two men might have cause to scrutinize his expression and the downward pull of his lips around the pipe's mouthpiece. His teeth click once against it as smoke begins to rise from the bowl, filling the air with smell of tobacco, complimenting damp earth, wilting petals and the cold humidity of daybreak.

"I'm finished," he says, then. "I have the wife, my boy. Allegre's blood is the last I want on my hands."

There's no pleasure found in the words that Carlisle says, and equally no comfort in the notion of //retirement. In a way, there is no real organization to retire from, but on the same turn, Carlisle Dreyfus has always been Kazimir's most loyal, most trusted. Exhaling a tired breath from old lungs, Kazimir looks askance at Dreyfus, brow furrowed. "A son…" he admits in a hushed tone of voice, nodding his head slowly, gloved hands squeezing together where they fold behind his back. His own lack of mortality, and lack of ability to experience the rearing of a true child naggles at the back of his mind.//

"Are you certain?" Kazimir asks in sandpaper speech, those blue eyes squinted against the light of the sun to Carlisle's downturned lips. "When you live the lives that people like you and I do," Kazimir admits with a shake of his head, "reintegrating to society is more difficult than it was leaving it." His posture changes, beginning to walk forward now, having lingered at the front of the cathedral for long enough, and the slowness of his pace is silent invitation for Carlisle to follow.

"Sometimes, wolves cannot ever don sheep's clothing again." Kazimir adds, a hint of irony behind the words.

Carlisle falls into step alongside Kazimir, as always, half a pace behind him. In times like these he's less a wolf and more a loyal wolfhound conditioned to heel. "No," he agrees, "which is why I've decided to consent to staying on as a personal consultant." Like ghosts, the pair floats through the mist, their silhouettes composed of shadow. In the distance, church bells are ringing — the domkirke is too old to be outfitted with anything that heralds the morning except for the sibilant stirring of doves in its highest tower.

"You should have no difficulty choosing my replacement when the time comes," Carlisle continues. "Holden's son will be twenty-five next year. As a line of work, killing suits him — from what I hear, he follows orders well."

"Royal British Army, yes. It would have that effect on him, my opinion of their military force has considerably improved over the decades." Kazimir offers a nod of his head, but unfortunately seems disheartened by the notion of recruiting young Ethan. "He's not… exactly what we'd hoped for, is he?" A look is afforded to Dreyfus, sidelong and brief, "Though I suppose there may well be other alternatives that can be explored. Do you truly think he could replace you, though?"

Coming to a halt, Kazimir's dark frame twists at the waist, gloved hands folded behind his back. "Very few people could ever take the name Fenrir and utilize it so wholly, you have— and will always be— my most trusted, and my most //dangerous." It may not be the compliment that Carlisle wants, but it is the closest thing to praise that Kazimir has ever offered.//

##BFA877|"With a heavy heart, then…" he offers quietly, "I will accept your terms. Family is important, but I will expect you to honor our… agreement, about your boy?" One gray brow raises slowly, testingly. "Should he prove to be… unusual."#

"Do not project your hopes for the Holdens onto my family," Carlisle warns. As for whether or not he believes Ethan to be a successor worthy of his title, he remains silent for the time being. The ringing of the bells, meanwhile, draws to a close, though the sound echoes in the still air for several long moments after. "Go to London," he suggests instead, "and visit your investment there. Perhaps the situation has changed since I last looked in on it."

A mild look is afforded to Carlisle, gloved hand lifted to rest on his shoulder. "I believe I will…" Kazimir offers in quiet consideration, giving Dreyfus' shoulder a firm squeeze. "Take good care of that boy of yours, Carlisle, and do keep in touch. It would not become me to need to send the new wolf after the old wolf… or his pups."

That notion causes Peter's face to wrench up, eyes scrunched shut and jaw tensed, neck muscles flexing against the pain of images thrust into his mind. "No!" Peter grates out through his teeth, "Sss— Stop!" They fight, struggle, battle one another for the shared space as they have vacillated so easily in the past from one man to another. The time for fluidity and fluctuations have long since passed.

Bare-chested and skin glistening with a fine sheen of perspiration, the long, lean image Sasha Kozlow presents is not representative of what comes to mind when most people think of the phrase medical officer. Most of the soldiers that Kazimir has known during the course of his life, save a small handful, have been disciplined enough to at least dress themselves before answering the door. Instead, only a bed sheet draped loosely around his lower half adorns the doctor's wiry form.

Although his mouth is split wide into a wolfish grin, teeth tinged pink from whatever the brisk knock at his hotel room door interrupted, his musculature is distinctly feline and seems to ripple as he stretches one arm above his head, bent at the elbow, and leans into the wooden frame to regard his employer with cool blue eyes set in a handsome if somewhat haggard face. A lit cigarette dangles from between two fingers, filling the hall with the smell of smoke — bitter and acrid, but not so potent that it masks the stink of sweat, alcohol and something else clinging to him like a second skin.

"Dobryj vecher, Volken," he purrs in his native Russian. "«I wasn't expecting you so early.»"

Blue eyes narrow, a twisting expression of distaste rising up on Kazimir's features as his chin raises in that scrutinizing posture he affords the young man on the other side of the door with. "«Mister Kozlow,»" Kazimir grates out with a firm exhalation of breath thorugh his nostrils. "«I had expected you to be dressed at the inception of our meeting, that would have made this a bit less awkward.»"

It is not so much Kazimir's sense of modisty that he is referencing, but rather what comes barreling through the door when Kazimir steps aside. Struggling and screaming, mouth covered with duct tape and hands bound in the same silvery adhesive, a young man with a bruised eye and reddened face is dragged in by his bound arms and legs by a pair of broad-shouldered Russian gentlemen.

They push right past Sasha into the apartment, muffled screaming coming from the bound and gagged prisoner. "«I'd heard a great deal about your //exploits,»" Kazimir begins, pushing past Sasha as well, removing the dark fedora from atop his head once he's indoors, brushing snow off from the brim. "«I thought I'd get an example of if first hand.»"//

A crash comes from inside as the bound man is thrown up onto the coffee table in the dimly lit living room, an ashtray and several empty beer bottles flung to the floor from the movement. "«Hans, if you would.»" Kazimir motions to the bound man, while the thinner of the two escorts moves to slam the door shut, and Hans withdraws a sixteen inch long hunting knife from his belt.

Annoyance ticks at the corner of Sasha's mouth as he steps hastily aside to avoid being bowled over by the bound man. If he has any misgivings about the way this meeting is progressing, he does not voice them aloud. A glance directed over his shoulder toward the bedroom sees his facial expression become more guarded and wary for reasons that aren't immediately apparent. While Hans is busy with the hunting knife, he moves behind the couch, removes the pair of slacks slung across its back, and pulls them on one leg at a time, belt tinkling.

"«Is this poor fellow someone you pulled off the street?"» he asks with a pointed arch of one brow, pausing to pull the bedroom door shut. Or at least as //close to shut as it's capable of coming. These are temporary lodgings — everything from the plumbing to the hinges on the doors does not work quite as it should. "«Or is there something you'd like me to extract from him?»"//

"«No, Hans will be doing the extracting. I would like to see your more humane talents.»" Kazimir notes with a quirk of one brow, turning his attention towards the man bound on the table. His back bucks, head shakes from side to side as muffled screams rise up in the back of his throat upon seeing that gleaming knife raised. Hans has no objections about his task, stoic expression remaining wholly neutral as he plunges the blade into the bound man's stomach, dragging it slowly from left to right, slicing him open with butcher's precision, then proceeds to perform the extraction that Kazimir had mentioned.

In the end, it all looks like so many cherry red sausage links spooled out on the floor. He's still screaming.

Kazimir watches, blue eyes narrowed and lips downturned into a frown as blood spills like spilt beer over the edges of the table. "«Repair him,»" instructs the darkly-dressed man, waving a gloved hand at the writhing form on the table, "«and be mindful not to remove the duct tape over his mouth, he is… //very persuasive.»"//

Sasha cinches his belt tight and steps out from behind the couch, the shape of his mouth resembling Kazimir's when he first opened the door. What disgusts some men has no affect on others. "«Excessive,»" he observes, taking to a knee beside the coffee table and the man bleeding out on it. The sliver of space between the bedroom door and its frame reveals a small, slim shape wrapped in soiled bedsheets as Sasha had been, but whoever is standing on the other side only allows Kazimir and Hans to glimpse the curve of one bare shoulder, fingers curled around the edge of the door.

He was with a woman.

Strangely, Sasha is muttering reassurances to the dying man under his breath as he takes his innards in his hands and fits them back into his belly, arranging the cords with careful precision like a child piecing together an old jigsaw puzzle that's been played with so many times the edges have started to wear and lose their shape. He knows what he's doing, and seems not to care that his pants are now ruined, smeared with a greasy combination of his patient's blood and excrement.

When the healing process begins, it's slow and gradual like the frost that forms across the window panes in St. Petersburg this time of year. Skin knits together, forming ugly ridges of white scar tissue that resemble rows of teeth. By the time it's finished, the man is gasping behind the gag, round and bulging. His belly is, too, distended the way a pregnant woman's might be in her final trimester.

"«He'll live,»" Sasha says, then. "«I don't expect he'll //want to.»"//

Eyes rolling back into his head again, Peter's voice is a strangled sound mixed between a growl and a hiss, gloved fingers curl shut against his palms, and slithering black tendrils of smoke rise up from inside of his clothing, snaking around his limbs in coiling umbral fog that harmlessly passes thorugh flesh, bone and cloth in equal measure. "Stop fighting me…"

Classy hotel suites should be expected to afford a decent measure of security, especially when they aren't located on the ground floor. And this might, of course, be cause for concern for Kazimir Volken when the interior of his suite becomes visible through the door to reveal that it is not as empty as he left it, one of the chairs occupied by a strange man in round-lensed sunglasses, sitting as if he were patiently waiting for Kazimir to return, not moving except briefly to move a piece of imaginary lint from his dark coat. "You're a difficult man to get ahold of, do you know that?" he says as if his being present in this suite were as natural and expected as anything could be.

The immediate reaction that the darkly dressed man standing in the doorway makes is a squint of blue eyes behind the lenses of spectacles. He turns, looking to the number on his door, and then quietly steps in to the room and slides the door shut with a soft click. "You seem to be at a disadvantage," that's not exactly how that sentence is supposed to go. Kazimir intones in that sandpapery voice, quietly tucking a wolf-headed cane beneath one arm as he walks further into the room, one gray brow raised.

"You seem to presume you know who I am?" There's plenty of room for questioning in the tone of Kazimir's voice as he casually walks across the carpeted floor towards the high-backed chair Raith's found himself seated in. "Tell me, stranger, who exactly do you think you have slipped into the company of?" A look around the room is given, and Kazimir's focus settles back on Raith, countenance stony.

"Good company, I hope." The reply is dark enough without the small, wry grin that accompanies it. The man in dark glasses allows his remark to hang in the air for a moment before he speaks again. "There are stories here and there," he says, "And if I've heard the all right, you're the sort of man who sees a problem in the world, and knows that it's up to him to fix it. And I think you'd agree with me if I were to say that this world is having some very serious problems right now." A very strange tactic to break into someone's sanctuary, however temporary, without a decent threat prepared.

"So," says Kazimir's guest as he leans forward in the chair, "What are we going to do about them?"

The last time Kazimir Volken honestly laughed was two years ago, over a subject few others would find humorous, harkening back to an even older memory. There's no reminiscence here to make the smile form on his lips, only the uncanny //bravado of this man seated in his chair. "You know, there's something to be said about Serendipity…" he offers in another step towards the chair Raiyh's seated in, one gray brow arched and a deep breath drawn in before being exhaled in a slow sigh.//

"Well then, Jensen," what, "I think you and I may have some interesting possibilities to discuss." Lifting one gloved hand, Kazimir allows a brown spider to crawl across the leather of his glove, skittering across the top of his sleeve, and two more crawl out from beneath the chair Raith's seated in to scurry past Kazimirs' feet and out from beneath the door.

"What does the King of Swords have to offer me?" It seems this is //exactly who Jensen Raith was looking for.//

Teeth are clenched, and Peter's voice is strained through them in a defiant growl. But even as his voice tries to offend the force taking it over, he also speaks in the other cadence, more in control now, more calm and composed. "This is the only way to set things right."

"Now they know fear, and fear is a weapon stronger than any sword, or any gun." He looks to Amato, "My Conscience," His long-time nickname for his right-hand aide, "Has worked miracles in striking fear into the hearts of those we fight. Our task is not an insurmountable one, but it is one that even as many as we are, are inacapable of completing. We are but enraged fleas striking out violently at great pyramids." His eyes then fall to Ethan, "Fear was but the first step, fear for the Evolved for their own safety, pushing them to lash out. Now, it is humans themselves that must come to fear. We alone cannot complete our task, but any animal, when backed into a corner, will defend itself. Humanity is no different." He pauses in mid stride, one hand gesturing animatedly to Ethan. "Phase Two, is Ethan's to perform, and you will follow his lead in these ends. The Evolved will be blamed for the taking of human lives — Martyrs — for the cause. This will stir even the most reluctant of souls to arms against their percieved threats. Brothers will turn on sisters," He briefly looks to Sierra as he says this, "Fathers to sons, and the city will collapse into itself from these shaky foundations it balances upon." A smile crosses his lips, "Then, at the end of this phase, we will be the ones that will be turned to as saviors, as vanguard."

Kazimir walks back to the chair, shoulders squared, "I rely on all of you to complete this next step we are within now. To protect not only our Work, but each other. You are all, each and every one," His eyes drift between Ethan and Amato, "Vital links to the chain that we pull tight around our enemies' throats. If but one link breaks, the hold is lost." With that said, Kazimir breathes in a deep breath and taps his cane once on the cloth-covered palettes. "As Ethan will take command of the Second Phase, I will be working on laying the ground-work for the Third Phase to come… but therein lies the reason for this meeting…"

As Kazimir speaks, Munin gives Elias' hand a tiny squeeze, trying to work some of the nervousness from her muscles and joints. Like the others, she remains silent in the old man's presence and hangs on his every word even though they leave her with a bitter taste in her mouth and an uncomfortable tightness in her heart. Now, however, is not the time to argue — there will be plenty of time for that later, when either she and Ethan or she and Amato are alone.

Ethan stands tall and proud as the mandate is given. Power is handed over to him, his features are as if they are carved from stone. Except for a moment, a very brief pause in time, his eyes barely wander over to Amato and.. was that a smirk? It would have happened too quickly for anyone to be sure. But after that instant his eyes are back on Kazimir, not a word. Only breathing.

Sierra listens to the elders words every last one of them coming to her, and she straightens herself a bit stiffly breathing deeply. Evenly she focus's her eyes on each person as Kazimir speaks about and she gives a soft nod of her head to each when adressed. Her eyes drift from elder to Wolf and she turns to watch him careful not to let any emotions grace her warrior features.

Amato doesn't need to see that smirk to feel the sting it would have caused if he had. But like that smirk, his own wince at the subtle shift in power is minute and quick. His heart had swelled when he was praised, if subtly, and it's that swelling that he will cling to for solace once back in Cliffside, or wherever he ends up tonight. Eager to hear more, Amato turns his head ever so slightly, as a bird might when interested or curious, though his expression remains blank, save for a slight pinching of his features.

With Kazimir's words strong and full of both real and implied violence against others, Elias listens all the more intently. Really, he doesn't mind violence; if he did, he wouldn't have gotten to where he is today. He only minds it when it gets out of hand, and given that the whole group is surrounded by enough weaponry and ammunition to start a small war, he minds just a little bit.

Munin wouldn't have to give his hand a squeeze to show that she was nervous. He's nervous, too. Elias would wager that all of them were nervous. The initial phase of The Plan is done; that means it's time to put away the hammer and bring out the scalpel. Strategy comes next.

Straining under the burden of memories, under the burden of guilt for having built this organization of killers, madmen, psychopaths and monsters from the ground up, Kazimir and Peter's joined horror as the revelations finds some semblance of equilibrium between their desires and dreams. Exhaling a shuddering breath, it is clear that Peter Petrelli has finally lost the battle against the other spirit that has housed itself for so long at the back of his mind, supped on for memories and knowledge.

But it is Peter Petrelli who strikes the last blow, forcing one of Kazimir's own memories up to the surface of his thoughts, enough to bring tears to his eyes as he lays there on the floor.

Munin is in the process of pulling a dress over her head when the word 'ball' so succinctly leaves Kazimir's lips. There's a brief pause that doesn't last any longer than the time it takes her suck in a sharp breath. In the next instant, she's zipping the dress up the back and poking her head around the side of the dressing screen to look at the old man askance. She's still wearing the tortoiseshell reading glasses, though her hair lays in such a way as to veil one half of her face. The other has adopted an expression of apparent surprise, lips pursed and one shapely black brow arched.

"I'm sorry?" she asks, then ducks behind the screen again. "I thought you said we were going to a ball." Her leggings join Ethan's shirt, discarded with a flourish of her arm. "I couldn't have heard you correctly, because balls have music and waltzing and things, and all I know is ballet."

There's a grumble of a laugh that stirs from deep in Kazimir, a pleased smile crossing his face as he rest his hands on his hips and regards Munin's silhouette behind the screen with an amused sigh. "Exactly why I came up to get you myself an hour early." There's something of a patient cast to the smile he offers Munin, brows furrowing together. "Come on out," he makes in rumbling demand, holding out a gloved hand towards the screen. "You've plenty of time to worry about your hair later, you're the only woman coming to the ball with us to meet Mister DeLuca, and I would prefer if you were able to entertain him with a dance."

But there's the confusion again, because Sierra is somewhere in the city, somewhere nearby, and yet she's not attending the ball. "You, Amato, Ethan and I will be the only ones in attendance, I want to make a good impression to him… This will be the first time he's met anyone outside of myself and Ethan." A moment's pause, and then something even more unlikely, a moment of lightheartedness. "Otherwise I'll have no choice but to ask Amato to dance with him."

Munin steps out from behind the screen and takes Kazimir's hand, smoothing the wrinkles from her dress with the other. A nomadic lifestyle restricts the size and variety of the young woman's wardrobe, allowing her two steamer trunks worth of belongings. She owns only two dresses, one in red and one in black, and the one she's wearing now is the latter of the two, sewn from silk and chiffon with a low neckline designed to emphasize the shape of her throat rather than her bust. Provided she takes his advice and does something nice with her hair, it's more than appropriate for a formal function if paired with the right shoes.

"You ought to ask him anyway," she says, giving Kazimir's hand a playful squeeze. "I'd like to see the look on his face."

"Were I not worried he'd hole himself up in his room praying for the evening, I might just entertain that idea to see the smile on your face." Kazimir's eyes drift up and down the dark dress, fingers winding around Munin's tiny fingers as he guides her over. "The key to a good waltz, when you don't know how, is to be mindful of the one taking the lead. Knowing DeLuca as well as I do, he'll wish to lead the dance…" Kazimir's hand raises up with Munin's to shoulder height, his other hand coming down to rest against the small of her back. "Put your hand," he nods towards one of hers, "on my shoulder, and be mindful of my collar." Or less carefully worded, don't kill yourself.

Watching the young woman with those tired eyes, Kazimir can't help but smile. "The things we do, often lead us away from a normal and fulfilling life. At times, I wonder if I made the right decision in bringing you to us, but then when I see you like this— see the smile on your face, see how contented you are— I know in the end I made the right decision. No matter how short lived it may be."

Munin's smile wavers at that, and Kazimir may detect the faintest flinch shudder through her slim frame as she follows his instructions and places her hand on his shoulder. When she speaks, however, her voice is as clear as the air in the winter and as smooth as glass, vibrant and unfaltering. "You've done wonderful things for my life, Dziadzio," she tells him, "and now you're going to do wonderful things for the world."

She glances down at her bare feet, red lacquered toenails a stark contrast against the plush carpet beneath her soles, then back up at Kazimir. "I'll take all the time I can get. This family is my heart."

Brows tense as Kazimir watches Munin, listening to her in a manner that indicates surprise, his lips hesitating before creeping up into a more reluctant smile than should be. But by now the only thing he's showing that hesitant show of affection to is the wall over her shoulder. "Follow my lead…" is all he can say to those words, slowly and carefully moving his feet apart and drifting to his left in a graceful gait, "and pay attention to where my feet are. When you dance with mister DeLuca, don't look at your feet, look at him… It's important we sell this moment."

Tension comes in Kazimir as he looks down to Munin, smiling faintly. For all the paternal affection that he tries to hide, it still exists somewhere down inside of him. But for all the paternal affection he would want to afford her, there can never truly be any. For in the end, no matter how long the dance is drawn out, the song will always come to an end, applause will rise, and the ball will draw to a close. Some people will make their way home, others will be forgotten as faces in the crowd.

And what makes it hardest of all on Kazimir, is that he knows the two of them can never have a happy ending.

None of them can.

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