“Fiear, no!” Leta shouted from behind, pulling him out of the moment. He faltered and looked back at her. She was doubled over, one hand on her knee, the other wiping the stream of blood from her face. “Fiear…don’t…” she begged and he felt his grip loosen.
When he looked back at the woman he was still holding in place, she no longer looked afraid, but smug.
“Well I guess that’s my answer,” she growled under her breath as Fiearius reluctantly released her. And just like that, the dynamics changed.
The crowd’s hesitation, one by one, started to alleviate. Their concern, their fear, evaporating slowly as they continued to close in. His gun still raised, Fiearius took a step back to stand in front of Leta, but it had lost its effect. They knew now. He’d let up once and they knew. They had the power here, notorious admiral or no.
Cyrus, who was nursing a spot on his jaw where he’d apparently taken a blow of his own, took up his own defensive position on the other side of Leta as the threatening glares surrounding them continued to advance. “Now what?” he asked, to neither of them in particular.
But Leta had her answer ready. She pushed through the both of them to have a better viewpoint and shouted, “Please, listen. We’re not your enemy. We’re on your side!”
Someone let out a sharp laugh. Another shouted, “Liar!” The woman Fiearius had nearly executed just chuckled bitterly. “On our side? You? You were the ones who put us in this position.”
“We were helping you,” Cyrus growled. “We freed you from the Society.”
“From one hell to another,” said a nearby man grimly.
“All I’ve ever tried to do is help the people of Vescent,” Leta pleaded. “Maybe I got something wrong along the way. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, for what Carthis has done to this place. I never meant–”
“It’s too late for that,” said the woman. “You’ve chosen your side.” She gestured towards Fiearius who did nothing but narrow his eyes at her. “We’ll take our city back. Even if we have to do it one Carthy bastard at a time.”
Fiearius heard Leta choke out a noise of disbelief, the tears starting to stream from her face, but this conversation was clearly over. He reached out with his free hand to take her arm and move her behind him as the crowd rustled with anticipation.
He didn’t want to shoot these people. They didn’t deserve it. Not really. But to hell if he was going to let a bunch of rioters rip them to shreds right here and now.
“Fiear, you can’t,” Leta begged behind him as he readied his gun and switched his aim between a number of the closest threats.
“Not really giving me much of a choice,” Fiearius growled, gritting his teeth and backing up against Leta and Cyrus.
“You kill them, you’ll just prove their point!” said Leta in his ear.
Fiearius glanced back at her incredulously. Though he seemed to be the only one with a gun, he certainly wasn’t the only person here with a weapon. Throughout the mass of bodies he caught glimpses of knives, pipes, tools. “You’d rather they kill us instead?”
Fiearius locked eyes with a woman brandishing a long metal bar, poised for the assualt that would start the onslaught. Fiearius adjusted his grip on his gun and, a little more desperately than intended, snapped, “You got a better idea, I’d love to hear it.”
Leta didn’t. But Cyrus said, “I think I might.” And then he spoke into his COMM, “Now.”
Both Leta and Fiearius glanced at him in confusion, but his eyes weren’t on their impending deaths. They were on the sky. Fiearius looked up just as a familiar shape soared into view, sending violent winds whipping through the area. A crazed laugh caught in his throat as the crowd looked up in alarm, stumbling backwards. The Dionysian.
“Attention!” came a garbled version of Addy’s voice from the hulking beast above them as it descended slowly into the square. “Under order of…well, me. You will disband at once or you will be destroyed.”
Some of the crowd scattered. The few that remained were simply stunned. But as Addy continued, “At the very least, if you do not leave, I will land this ship on you. So out. Shoo! Go on!” they seemed to get the hint. Fiearius managed to lock eyes once more with the woman who’d hit Leta. She narrowed her glare on him once more before turning to disappear into the streets.
Fiearius held his arm over his face to brace himself from the blast of air and dust as the Dionysian touched down. The ramp lowered and Eve was the first to run down it, guns at the ready. “Cap’n!” she began, “You need–”
“We’re good,” Fiearius cut her off, shaking his head. “We’re fine.” He looped his arm under Leta’s and helped her towards the ramp as she winced against the roar and tumult of the ship’s engines. “Let’s just get the hell out of here.”
He felt Leta slow to a stop. She was staring past him through bleary eyes, blood smeared across her mouth, gazing over the streets of Fall’s End.
He thought he could read her mind. After all this, she still wanted to stay here? She still thought it was safe to stay here? He followed her gaze and saw her fixated on the sight of her clinic, or what had once been her clinic, now a pile of ash and rubble, smoke coiling in the air. Her team of staff along with Nikkolai were attending to the few patients that made it out of the charred remains behind them. But the building was gone. Unsalvageable. And so much of what had come with it.
She stared at it in silence, still as a statue — Fiearius thought she might never move until finally Fiearius felt her grip tighten around his side. She looked back at him, clearly trying to hold back the tears lingering at the edge of her eyes, and nodded once.
Fiearius pulled her closer to his side, and together they finished the walk up the ramp and into the Dionysian.