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Family Ties, Those Cut and Those Stitched Together

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Hunter didn't want to do it. 

Despite everything, he didn't want to do it. 

But he had no choice; if he didn't do it, Luz would have to.

He would never allow that. 

Belos's body lays limp on the floor. His mask is broken, and his cape is frayed and singed at its ends—courtesy of Luz. There is blood pooling from his stomach; a lone, red ice shard protrudes from it—courtesy of him.

The room is deathly silent.

Hunter lets out a shaky exhale as his eyes shift from the corpse and onto Luz. There's blood dripping down her face. The cut is deep—just under her eye—and it looks like it hurts.

It looks like it hurts, but Luz hasn't even acknowledged it. She just stares at Belos, eyes wide and jaw agape.

Despite everything, she didn't want him to die.

But there wasn't any other alternative. If he lived, he would've continued to hurt, to hunt, to kill. There is no redemption for a man like Belos. There's a thousand weeping souls who would attest to that. Belos deserves—deserved—this. Hunter knows that. He deserved far worse. Hunter knows that and yet–

His knees buckle beneath his weight, and he falls to the floor. 

he didn't want to do it.

Somewhere in his heart, he wants to call out for his uncle. No one should mourn a man like Belos, and yet, here he is, fighting the tears in his eyes.

Luz turns to look at him, eyes glazed and unfocused. "Hunter…" she says, and her voice sounds like shattered glass. "Hunter, are you okay?"

"Am I okay?" He laughs. It bubbles through his throat, wet and hysterical. "Luz, you're bleeding."

"Oh," and she laughs too. Except it's much less a laugh and more of a garbled, pathetic sob. "I-I guess I am, huh?"

The room echoes with the sound of their airy, shaken chuckles, and then Luz speaks again, "Hunter," she croaks, "I'm sorry."

Hunter's laugh becomes strangled. Ragged. There's nothing to be sorry for, he wants to say. But the words don't come out. He isn't laughing anymore. He's not even sure if he's breathing.

His eyes peel back to the corpse. It's blurry, he realizes. No, it's not just the corpse—the whole room is blurry.

He tries to take a deep breath, but the air won't seem to reach his lungs. He needs to breathe. He needs to breathe. But he can't. He's suffocating. He's being buried alive. "L-luz," he wheezes, "g-get me out." He's drowning in piles and piles of dirt. "Get—get me out!

"Hunter," Luz says. Her voice wobbles, but it sounds a lot more steady now. "You're okay. You're safe." She bends down. His blurry vision makes it hard for him to see her face. "You're safe. Breathe with me, okay? In and out, just like Eda taught us. In and out."

In and out. He breathes in and out. In and out until the dirt erodes from his lungs. In and out until the room becomes less blurry, and he can see Luz's face a little more clearly. In and out.

He's okay.

His heart isn't quite hammering in his chest anymore, and he can see Luz in front of him, hands outstretched but not touching him.

"C-can I hug you?" Luz says.

Hunter gives a meek nod. Gently, Luz wraps her hands around him, and Hunter clings onto the fabric of her sweater tightly. It's warm. Luz's hugs are always warm.

"Is it bad that I didn't want to kill him?" he asks a moment later. He hates that his voice breaks. "That I m-miss him even now?" 

"No," Luz says. She doesn't miss a beat. "He meant... he meant something to you. Even if he was terrible. Even if he didn't deserve it." 

It feels nice to hear that. He thinks he needed to hear it. Hunter stifles a sob and lays his chin on Luz's shoulder. The two of them stay like that for a minute or so.

"I'm sorry." He hears Luz mumble. His jacket is damp with her tears. When did she start crying? "I-I'm sorry you had to–"

"It's not your fault," Hunter says because it isn't. Quietly, he adds, "You're my sister. I'd do it again to protect you."

"I—"

Hunter prepares to argue his point. Prepares to say that he's her older brother, and that there isn't anything he wouldn't do for her. Prepares to say that even if it hurts, he'd do it a million times over because she's more family than Belos ever was. He'd choose her over him every single time. He wouldn't even hesitate.

"—Okay," Luz says. She doesn't argue against him this time. Maybe she's too tired to do so. He understands if she is. He's tired, too.

Silence trickles through the room for a few minutes. He feels Luz go slack in his grip. He thinks maybe she fell asleep, but that's quickly disproven when he hears her say, "Do you think Eda will be here soon?"

"I think so," Hunter responds. "It might be hard to dig through all that rubble though. We just have to wait."

"Yeah." Luz murmurs. "I just… wanna go home."

"Yeah… me too." 

He hears Luz let out a yawn. "What do you wanna do?" she says, voice exhausted and soft. "A week from now, I mean."

"A week from now…" Hunter tries to picture it. It feels foreign, in a way. Distant. Far away. "Maybe I'd go and have a flyer derby match. It'd be nice to do that again."

Luz hums. "Can I watch?"

"Of course," Hunter says. "You're going to see me and the Entrails win. I'm the star player, you know."

And then Luz laughs. It's quiet and subdued and tired, but it's genuine. Hunter laughs, too. 

Despite it all, they'll be okay. 

A week from now, he'll be flying with the Emerald Entrails. Luz will be cheering them on from the sides—her gash will be mostly healed, and Luz will probably make a dumb joke about how they both match now—and maybe Amity will be there, too. She'll say she's just there to humor Luz, or something along those lines. Maybe after the match, they'll all go out to eat, and Hunter will give his leftovers to Flapjack. 

They'll be okay. Somehow. Hunter's sure of it because he has a family now. A real one.