Isis’s spine straightened and she went ramrod stiff at Cat’s direction. She didn’t want Isis involved. It was a sick twist of irony and exactly what she deserved. The first time in years she had shirked the guilt and grown past martyring herself for a cause that never should have been hers to bear alone, and her sister, the closest thing she had to a twin, was asking her to stand down. To separate herself from the family.
Her eyes shuttered as she pulled away from Cat, something in her yearning for the contact to continue. She felt the touch of her partner, of her child enough, but something in her was still deeply touch-starved. She would say nothing of it now, and instead donned her mental armor just as she always had.
She turned from Catalina and stood in front of what had once been Z’s armor. She laced her hands behind her back, crushing her own fingers as she choked back tears with her back to her sister. Ziccarra had been many things to both of them. To Isis she had once been a hero, an icon, an idol. Then a terror. But always… Ziccarra. Always beyond words and mere mortal description.
Guilt was a poison in her veins and a lump in her throat as she shoved hair off of her face, her back still to her sister. “It never should have had to be you.” They had all failed Catalina in so many myriad ways. Through hypocrisy and ignorance, through shame and guilt, through love and through death. It was, of course, supposed to have been Isis. She had been groomed to become Matriarch from birth. She was the first Liafador of their generation to complete the Pit - and still, nobody was quite sure in just what ways it had altered her. Her father had planned for a coup against Ziccarra, and to rule using her as a ceremonial headpiece. They were all too blind to see the diamond in the rough, the marvelous grace, the beauty under pressure, the strength through adversity that Catalina carried in her with beatific grace. It was supposed to be Isis, but of course, it could truly only be Cat.
Isis followed Cat without thought, and the thin newspaper crumpled in her hands before she laid it out on the counter and smoothed it, simultaneously smoothing the anger from her own features. Zeon was cutting a swath through Liafadors and Catalina was telling her to stay on the sidelines, when for one of the first and only times, she wanted to directly enter the fray. Every instinct in her body screamed at her, wailing for her to repair what she had broken, begging for her to pay her penance.
Zeon had taken so much from them, the true toll may never be told. And guilt slithered into her gut like a snake. Because nobody understood Zeon like Isis understood Zeon. They were two sides of the same coin. If something had gone just slightly different in either of their lives, they could have ended up exactly the same. Isis understood the cold calculation behind Zeon’s fiery rage like nobody else. And she understood the damage that Zeon would continue to do if left unfettered. And she was responsible for it, because she had let it go unchecked. She had thought she was protecting the family, hunting down fringe zealots. When really the true danger was coming from deep within. God. When would she fcking learn.
“I didn’t know her, didn’t know of her.” And now she never would.
For one brief moment, Isis looked Cat directly in the eye and for a split-second, there was perfect synergy. They both knew what needed to be done. And Isis was being asked specifically by Cat to sit it out. Her sister had to know it went against every instinct she had. And even now, Isis could feel rage boiling in her veins, cooled immediately by the harsh burn of ice. Her killer mode coming home to roost.
She choked back another sob and surreptitiously wiped a tear from her eye in an attempt to quell what would be yet another deluge. It was of course of no use, and the tears fell silently as Isis stopped bothering to fight them.
Without second-guessing it, Isis strode over to her sister and took her cheeks in her hands, bringing her face close to her own.
“If you fall in battle to Zeon, and I am not there because you have requested I remove myself from the battlefield, I will drag you from the pits of hell and bring you back to life, just so I can kill you myself. Do you understand?"