“Cy, please,” she begged, feeling her emotions starting to get the better of her. “Please, we can’t stay here. We need to go. We need to find the Beacon, we need to deal with the arks, we need to finish with Carthis–” He didn’t respond. He barely even reacted. Leta’s desperation grew. “Fine, I need to leave, Cy, I can’t–” The words were choking in her throat, her eyes watering heavily now. “I can’t wait here — I can’t –”
“Look,” he interrupted suddenly, his arm lifting and his finger pointing to the skies. Leta did as she was told and her breakdown was momentarily paused as she watched hundreds of ships, Society ships, Fiear’s ships, lowering out of the clouds towards the city. They were landing? And then there was the bulbous shape of the ark. Or, gods, there really were three arks?! They too, seemed to be lowering, their cannons finally quieted despite the Carthian ships still hovering in the air around them.
That is, until one of those Carthian destroyers ventured a little too close to the surface, chasing after a Society vessel. The ark barely charged up before a flash of red light burst across the sky and incinerated the Carthian instantly.
“They’re protecting us…” Cyrus muttered and when one of the others arks fired upon a different Carthian ship, Leta realized he was right.
Gasps of awe reached her ears and she glanced back to find a whole flock of Satierans on the remains of the street behind her. She hadn’t even noticed them, but there must have been a hundred at least and more flooding in, all of their attention on the skies above them. All of them wondering what the hell was going on.
Again, Leta tugged at Cyrus’ arm, though with no real purpose. She didn’t know what she wanted anymore. To leave, to not have to look at this mess, this decimated city, this end so opposite from what she’d wanted. And yet at the same time, she wanted to stay. She wanted to never leave. Just in case…
Cyrus seemed to still be in a daze, staring up at the sky emptily when Leta spotted a ship separate from the others. It was coming their way and she recognized it instantly. The Beacon.
Leta took a few steps back as it hovered over them, whipping up the winds so tumultuously she had to block her face with her arm. The ship’s landing mechanisms extended and it slowly began to descend upon the flattest spot of the Nautilus’ corpse, but before it was even close enough to touch ground, the ramp began lower.
It was relieving, sure, to know there was a ship here with friendly faces, but Leta couldn’t relish in the Beacon’s presence as much as she would have liked to. They were going to ask. And she was going to have to answer. She was going to have to put into words what she didn’t want to say because if she said it, it meant it was true. It meant he wasn’t coming back. And just thinking of how to say it to Corra, to Finn, to Addy and Alyx and all of them…
Her chest felt like it might implode and she clamped her eyes shut, willing the tears out of them as best she could. Had she not done so, she might have seen the spectacular leap from the edge of the ramp, still far too high in the air, rather than just hear the thud of feet on metal that followed it. She would have seen the figure that sprinted across the torn hull and made Cyrus gasp. She would have known that it wasn’t Addy who had seized him in a bear hug so tight he coughed.
When she finally opened her eyes, Leta’s breath left her lungs in a hurry as Fiearius haphazardly dropped his brother and scooped Leta into his arms, lifting her off her feet and spinning her in a dizzy circle.
The warmth of his hold sent Leta into a shock. She couldn’t react, she couldn’t think, she couldn’t even gauge the emotions flooding her senses as she stumbled back onto her own weight and buried her head in his chest.
He was alive.
Alive and breathing and covered in dirt and scrapes but seemingly unharmed and she was so relieved and so thankful and yet at the same time really really — angry?
“Where the hell were you?!” was the first thing she managed to get out of her mouth, pulling back to look at his face which grimaced in apology.
“Right, well–funny story, that…” he muttered.
“What happened?” she demanded again, stepping backwards, nearly enough to break his embrace.
“Well, see, I was following you and Cy, but then, y’know…” He shrugged. “I realized why you didn’t just throw the damned thing to begin with.”
“Because that was stupid?” Leta pointed out.
“Because we needed it to control the arks,” she finished.
He pointed at her. “That’s the one. And that’s why I kinda–went back for it.”
“You what?!” Cyrus rejoined them now.
Fiearius cast his brother an uncomfortable glance and explained, “The big green death beam had moved, y’know? Cuz it was hit and all. It was falling. And I knew where the little ball was and where the beam was and I figured it’d–be fine?”
Cyrus did not looked like he agreed. “You’re insane.”
“I’ve been told that,” Fiearius admitted. “But I got it. And I’d already lost track of you two so I just–ran. Wherever. And the thing crashed.” He waved at the Nautilus. “And then the Beacon tracked the orb, found me, we got the arks, landed the ships, threatened Carthis, found you.” His arms around Leta’s waist tugged her closer. “And here we are.”
She must not have looked satisfied. She didn’t feel satisfied. She continued to gape at him, a frown creasing her brow and a rage burning in her stomach. His list was so cheerful, sing-song even, like everything was alright. Like nothing had even happened. Like she hadn’t been standing here crying and feeling empty and, gods, mourning him.
“P’ahti!” a voice cried out as the Beacon finally landed properly and over Fiearius’ shoulder, Leta saw Kalli and Addy running to Cyrus who caught them in an enthusiastic embrace.
“Hey,” Fiearius’ voice cooed in her ear. “It’s okay. Everything’s fine. It’s–”
“Don’t,” she cut him off, her voice harsh as she glared up at him. “Don’t ever. Do that to me again.” He opened his mouth to respond, but she slapped her open palm against his chest to silence him. “Ever!”
He frowned down at her seriously, but slowly a smile started to pull across his face. “Okay.”
“I’m serious,” she said, her very serious voice starting to crack. “Never.”
He nodded. “Right.”
“I thought you were dead.”
“I’m not though,” he pointed out.
“Doesn’t matter! Don’t ever do it again!”
“Okay.” He smiled softly at her. “I won’t.”
She slapped his chest again and stared at the back of her hand, sniffing heavily and using her other forearm to wipe away the water that she hadn’t even realized was streaming down her face. “Good,” she muttered, tapping each finger at a time against his shirt and heaving a deep breath, determined to get a hold of herself. “Just…good.”
She ignored him as he chuckled quietly, but she didn’t fight when she felt his hand on the back of her head, pulling her against him into his warm embrace. Her body ached, her mind was tired, but for the first time today, something felt right.
“Carthis is leaving,” Fiearius told her as he looked up at the skies.
“Of course they are, we have arks now,” Leta mumbled against him, her eyes closing as exhaustion started to take hold of her.
“Leta,” he pressed. “I think this means we won.” Without looking up, she pulled him closer and her eyes filled with tears.