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Bloody Rose

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He stands at the top of the staircase, sword drawn, watching her.

Dread was a slow death, spreading across her face, small and delicate and so open, now, honest in a way she thought she’d forgotten, grief and anger and betrayal unfurling in her eyes like the petals of a flower, ready for the picking.

“My kind sister,” he draws out the word like the mockery it is, a testament to the enemies they are and the strangers they aren’t, the pawn and the betrayer and the killer and nothing but collateral damage to Hugo’s grand ambitions staring each other down, every part of his play performed with perfect precision, and Rutee’s grip around Atwight trembles, knuckles pulling taut. Poor form, really. He smiles. “Can you still kill me now?”

In another lifetime those hands might have been raised to reach his, their fingers slotting perfectly between one another, straining to pull him out of the landslide, the rising tide, the eternal, freezing slumber, and he might have thought: was it supposed to be this easy, to be saved?

She runs him through, instead, eyes wide and watery and horrified as Emilio staggers, falls, bleeds—and Leon laughs and laughs.