Service with a- oh look, there's a Beowolf eating someone alive. Yeah, the story took a dark twist last chapter lol. But hey, it's `slice of life` and a slice of life in a world where Grimm exist is going to be different to a slice of life in ours.


Cover Art: Jack Wayne

Chapter 45


It was the constant beeping that woke him up. Slow and steady, it permeated through the thick fog clouding his mind and stirred him from an uncomfortable slumber. What followed was the chemical tang of bleach and disinfectant, then the muffled groans and sounds – along with the quiet weeping.

Jaune woke to a nightmare of sterilised white walls, pale blue curtains and electrical equipment.

The hospital ward was packed full of beds, some toe to toe and others crammed in by the corners. Jaune was closest to a wall and that afforded him some small privacy, but that was all. There was a woman in a bed not one foot to his left and her heart monitor was the most fitful thing he'd ever seen, beeping erratically. Weakly.

Nurses and doctors moved around the ward in a mad rush, their faces worn and with bags under their eyes. They would lean on the bed of every patient they saw to and catch their breath. Some swayed in the midst of their work and one nurse would have fallen if not for another catching him by the shoulder.

"E-Excuse me," Jaune croaked to one passing by.

The woman glanced his way and shook her head. "I'm sorry. I'm busy." She hurried several beds down, to a person who was moaning in pain. "Time for your painkillers, Mrs Auber."

"I don't like them," a tired and frail voice replied. "They make my head feel funny."

"You need them. Here. Close your eyes and I'll see it done. You won't feel a thing."

The loud whimper told otherwise. Jaune leaned back into the pillow, eyes scanning his immediate surroundings. Normally in a hospital ward there would have been a trolley or table next to one's bed, but there wasn't here. There was nothing to allow for personal belongings and he felt like a sardine trapped in a can.

When the nurse ran by again, eyes clenched shut and breathing heavily, Jaune didn't dare interrupt her. No one came to see to him. No one offered him water or an explanation, and he didn't dare ask for one. His throat raw, he laid back and stared up at the ceiling, wishing he could be anywhere else.

A long, flat tone rang from the bed of the woman beside him.

/-/

Come the morning, he was deemed healthy enough to leave.

Not healthy – not even close – but the hospitals were desperate to clear beds and get people into wards, and to create space before infection could set in. Atlas' battleships had already opened their med bays, while medics from the military were being shuttled to Vale from Atlas. Apparently, even Beacon had offered its assistance, moving its limited medical staff into the city.

He received little care from the nurses or doctors bar a cursory warning to not exert himself and to only call back in if there was an emergency. The woman who said it must have been twenty at best, likely an intern. She'd looked on the verge of passing out herself and the obvious signs of red around her eyes told him she'd been crying before his meeting. She was half-hearted but he didn't question it. Jaune nodded, smiled weakly and thanked her for her work.

Fifteen minutes later, he was in a wheelchair being pushed out into the main lobby. The nurse who did it left him there with a quick apology and a beep from her pager. Jaune heard the words `immediately` and let the man go. Sat in the foyer unable to move, he felt even more lost than he had in the ward.

A pair of arms wrapped around his shoulders.

"Guess who."

His shoulders relaxed.

Miltia ruined the game before it could begin by sliding around to his side and planting a kiss on his cheek. She was pale and had foregone her makeup for once. He didn't think she'd slept well, but then neither had he. Too many people crying. Too many dying. For her, he managed a smile.

"Hey." His voice came out croaky.

"You sound awful. Do you need a drink?" Before he could answer, she was pushing him to a vending machine and fumbling with her purse. Lien spilled out onto the floor and she swore viciously, snatching up the biggest and leaving the rest there. Her hand trembled and it took three times to get the lien in the slot. "Grape. Right? I know you like grape."

He nodded. The machine ka-chunked and spat out a can. He tried to reach for it but Miltia beat him there, drawing it out and snapping it open. It fizzed and spat suds at her.

"Son of a bitch!" She swiped an arm to ward off some sugary liquid then offered the can to him. "Here. Do you need help drinking?"

"N-No." He had to take it in both hands, but he could hold it. It was ice cold and he simply clung to it for a moment, feeling that and being grateful for the fact he could. "Thanks," he added, drinking heavily. It was sugary sweet and full of bubbles. Unhealthy and stodgy.

It almost made him cry.

"You're moving in with me and Melanie," she said. "Your place… It's not totalled, but it's not fit to live in. Not to mention the stairs..." She gestured to his wheelchair. "Junior set a room aside. Everyone's looking forward to seeing you again."

"This is only for a few days," he said. "I'll be able to walk again soon."

"Yeah well, let's not rush it. Okay? Take your time."

Miltia wheeled him out of the hospital's doors, pulling them aside as an ambulance came by and a gurney was wheeled out and past them. The exterior of the hospital resembled an airport, with what felt like a hundred or more people waiting anxiously for loved ones to land from a flight. Children were held back by parents, while signs requested a limit of one guest per patient to the hospital itself, with a written apology for any distress caused.

"Looks bad," he said, grateful to be away from the hospital and guilty for feeling that way. The people there had done their best t look after him. They were working hard in a crisis.

"It is," Miltia said, "But it's also not as bad as it looks."

He tried to crane his neck back but couldn't quite do it. She swatted him gently with her hand and told him to look ahead, even if that was meaningless. It wasn't like he was driving this thing. She's just worried, he told himself.

"The death toll is over three hundred with many more injured. It's a tragedy make no mistake, but it's nothing compared to what happened at Mountain Glenn." She sighed and kept pushing him. "I know that's not much of an excuse but there were Grimm loose in the city. It could have been ten times worse. Beacon moved quickly – as best it could – but it was Atlas that really saved the day."

"I'll have to thank Ironwood."

"Yeah. Whole city is busy doing that. Anyway, most of the city is recovering but the hospitals are obviously still packed. That's why it looks worse than it is."

"What about Mrs Higgins and her husband?"

"Who-? Oh, the old folks you risked your fucking life for." Miltia tried to stay calm but there was a tremor in her voice. The hands on the handles of his wheelchair shook. "They're fine. A little spooked, but alive and well. They didn't even see a Grimm thanks to a certain hero." She bit off the last word, spitting the O. "Your diner isn't as fucked as it probably looked either. Your display units are wrecked, and your front door is big enough for a Beowolf, but it was all insured. Russel checked."

"Russel and Velvet are back?"

"Course. The second this shit went down, all teams that could be were recalled. They wanted to visit," she said. "They all did. But the hospital can't handle that many people right now. Russel and Velvet have been cleaning your place up. Turns out your insurance covered Grimm attack. Heh, I bet they never expected to have to pay out on that in Vale."

"If they do pay," he said. "They held off the last time."

"Weiss called them."

"Oh." That was all he needed to say. Presumably, the money was already in the bank. "I guess I can get back to work pretty soon then."

"No." Miltia hissed the word. "You're having some rest if I have to fucking handcuff you to a bed."

Jaune winced. "I – I'm sorry."

"You're not. That's what makes this so fucking annoying. Can you tell me if it happened again that you'd abandon some old coots and run to the shelters? Or would you stand behind like a hero and hold the line to protect them?"

He couldn't.

She knew it.

The rest of the journey to the Club was made in silence.

/-/

Junior's place had come out remarkable unscathed. Went to show what a difference it made to have huntress-level employees on staff. That or they'd gone to the shelters in a timely fashion and as such the Club had been of no interest whatsoever to the Grimm. There were some of Junior's gangers stationed outside and they pointed and waved to him as he approached. He managed a smile back.

"Jaune, you feeling okay?"

"Go in, man. You need a drink? Food?"

"I'm better and yes, food would be great but I'm sure Junior will handle it. You didn't have to fight any Grimm, did you?"

"Us?" the ganger on the left laughed. "Nah, man. We helped hold a shelter, but the turrets did most of the work. Only one who decided to tussle with one of them was you!"

"If you'll excuse is," Miltia gritted, pushing him through. The gangers spared him sympathetic looks – more for Miltia than his injuries, he expected. Inside, it was dim. Not dark – the lights were on – but since it was around midday, the Club wasn't open for business. There were people moving around but no one he recognised.

At least until Junior came around the corner, chatting with Roman.

They saw him in unison.

"Kid!"

"Jaune."

Roman and Junior exchanged looks, then shrugged and came over, forgetting whatever discussion they'd been having. Roman got there first and grinned around a cigar, snuffing it out in a rare moment of kindness. "Well, well, well, look what the cat dragged in. You're lucky you got out today. I've a feeling Neo was going to go in and drag you out otherwise."

"How are you doing?" Junior asked. "Are your injuries recovered?"

"Mostly. I've got stiches in my leg." He could feel them pull when he moved, hence why he'd been confined to a wheelchair. He could technically walk, albeit weakly. It was just that they didn't want him aggravating the injury. "My aura took the brunt of the damage. Kept me alive."

Miltia's teeth ground together behind him.

"Good to hear it," Junior said, looking over his shoulder. "But maybe you should not mention the whole nearly dying part, yeah? Focus on getting better. I've had a room made up for you. Across from mine. You're a guest here now. You need anything – anything – you let me or one of my boys know."

"My sword-"

"In your room," Junior interrupted. "Melanie picked it up."

Jaune smiled. "I'd kill for a meal."

"No problem. Any preferences?"

"Something greasy. The unhealthier, the better."

Junior laughed. "That's more like it! Oi, someone go get some takeout."

"What kind?" someone yelled back. "And how much?"

Jaune opened his mouth but Junior beat him to it. "Bit of everything. And as much as you can carry. Not like we won't finish off whatever Jaune can't eat. Get some for the girls, too. You know what they like."

A pair of men in suits ran out to handle that while other brought plates and cutlery. Jaune wasn't sure what to make of it and looked to Roman for help. As ever, Roman just grinned and tipped his hat. "Enjoy it while it lasts, kiddo, and don't question it. That's my advice." He stepped away. "I'll leave you all to it. Miltia, I'm sure you'll be giving Jaune a little friendly advice later. Make sure to drop a little for me as well. Okay?"

"Oh, I will," Miltia growled.

Jaune was wheeled up to an elevator. As a business spanning more than one floor, Junior had to have wheelchair access, and considering he dealt with heavy barrels of alcohol at times, an elevator made sense. Going up, he was wheeled out onto the third floor and through an employee-only door with a code lock on. That led to a corridor where the staff and members of Junior's gang slept, those that chose to live at the Club.

They came to a room set aside for him. It even had his name scribbled on a plaque hanging from the door. Miltia unlocked it and pushed him inside. Melanie was already there, duster in hand. She looked back at them and waved.

"Hey you."

"Hey." He waved back. "Cleaning, you? I wouldn't have thought it."

"Pft. Don't get used to it. And don't expect it from my sister either. This place hasn't been used for a year and a half though. Not much point you coming out a hospital to choke on dust and cobwebs."

The room was simple enough. A large double bed that looked comfortable with a wooden dresser on either side. Wall-mounted lamps on either side hung over them and there was a pot of flowers on the left. The room also had a dresser and a wardrobe set into the wall, along with a long chest of drawers opposite the bed with a television on. Next to that, along the wooden top, numerous brightly coloured cards stood. Easily fifty. Maybe more. Melanie noticed him looking at those.

"Everyone wanted to visit you at the hospital, but it wasn't allowed. Nearly started a riot with that announcement. You wouldn't believe how many bouquets of flowers you received. Russel and Velvet gave them out to the injured – turned into a PR move even though they were just trying to get rid of them before your diner turned into a greenhouse. We collected the cards from your closer friends for here. There are more at your place. General well-wishers and the like."

He wheeled himself over and picked one up, looking inside. It was from Team RWBY, each of them writing a message – Ruby's far longer than anyone else's and taking up an entire one side of it. He smiled and put it down, reaching for another. Velvet and Russel. Another was from Pyrrha, then one from Nora and Ren. There was even one from Ozpin, resting atop a box of chocolates. Half of those were missing. He looked to Melanie.

"Worked up an appetite cleaning and they were just sat there."

"Fat bitch," Miltia growled. "They were for him!"

"Chocolate is bad for you. I was looking out for his health."

Jaune laughed and put the card back. There were more, far more, but he'd read through them later. Each and every one. He drew a breath and let it go – and was surprised to find the last of his tension slip away. Waking up alone in that hospital, having no one there when he did… It was easy to think the worst in a place like that.

These colourful reminders that people had been thinking about him helped more than he'd have ever though they would. Just cheap bits of card, but the fact they'd cared enough to send them. It made all the difference.

If Miltia or Melanie noticed his tears, they didn't call him out on them.

"Things will get better," Melanie said. "You'll see. Russel and Velvet are fixing the shop up, medical teams are coming in from Atlas and Ironwood is taking over security for the Vytal Festival. Your parents are on their way here, by the way."

"What!?" He looked up.

"What do you mean, what? You nearly died. You think they weren't going to want to come?" Melanie rolled her eyes. "You're lucky it was me who talked to them and not Miltia or Roman of all people. I told them where they could find you and said they were free to check up on you. They'll be here in a day or two."

"Oh hell…" His head fell into his hands. "Just what I need. Nine people fussing around me."

"They're leaving your sisters behind. I managed to convince them that many people would just make it worse."

It was a small mercy. They'd still fuss over him and somehow find a way to blame themselves for this happening; they always did. Hopefully he'd be back on his feet by then, though with the way Miltia was hovering nearby, ready to step in if he so much as needed to wave a hand, he wasn't confident.

"You think that's bad, wait until tomorrow. We've not told your pals you got dispatched yet. Figured we could have you to ourselves for one afternoon. How often you think they'll be visiting tomorrow? Every hour? Evert ten minutes…? I'm betting on every half hour myself."

"Ha. Maybe." He leaned back in the wheelchair. "Thanks for putting them off for one day. I want to see them but… I don't know. I feel like I'm not strong enough for that right now." Emotionally as much as physically. He needed a rest. One that wouldn't be in a bed squashed up against people in constant distress.

Melanie must have read that in his face because she took a step back. "You should get a nap. You'll feel better after."

"I'll make sure he does," Miltia said. The sisters shared a long look with lines of subtext he couldn't hope to read into. Melanie nodded and backed away, content with whatever had been decided between them.

"You're not going to follow me into the bathroom when I need the toilet, are you?"

"Do you need it?" Miltia asked, deadly serious.

He shook his head.

"Good. Stay still." She rolled his wheelchair over to the bed, then fiddled with something which rose it up, helping him stand. "Don't," she hissed when he tried to do so. "For fuck's sake, let someone else do the work for once in your life." She took him by the shoulder and arm and shifted him to the side so that he was sat on the bed, then knelt and lifted his feet up until he was laid flat.

At least she let him shimmy his way into the middle. What he didn't expect was for her to crawl up after him and plop down on his right-hand side, one arm over his chest as she snuggled up against him. Her head and her face nestled into the crook of his neck.

His heart beat a little faster. "Miltia…?"

"Everyone is expecting me to kick your ass for what you did."

"Ah…"

"I want to," she said, hissing. "I want to scream and shout at you – and believe me, the only thing stopping me is the fact it won't help right now. I'm not angry at you, Jaune, I'm furious."

"Sorry…"

"Yeah, I bet. Won't stop you doing the same thing next time. Will it?" She sighed. "I had this whole speech planned out. About how you're a civilian and that having a sword and aura doesn't change that. There's a reason normal people don't all have their aura unlocked; it's because it doesn't change a damn thing, and usually makes it worse. You should have been the first to the shelters. Do you know what it was like finding you? You know what it was like to see someone you care for being eaten a-fucking-live by the Grimm?"

"I wasn't-"

"It looked like it!" she snapped. "I thought you were dead! I thought I'd arrived in time to see my boyfriend being torn asunder by the Grimm. Do you-?" She laughed. "No, of course you don't know what that feels like. You've never had to see or feel it. What happened to you, I bet that hurt but I'd rather go through that ten times than feel that crushing horror I felt when I was sure you were dead. My heart nearly exploded in my chest. I wanted to die."

"Miltia…" The words were choked. He brought an arm around her, fighting back his tears. He could feel hers on his neck and that only made it worse. "I-" He what? Was sorry? Sorry for hurting her, yes, but not sorry for what he'd done.

Selfish. He was so selfish. Was his own pride as a `good person` worth more than the happiness of someone he cared for? Someone he might even love? It shouldn't. This was exactly what his father had warned him of – of huntsmen and huntresses who saw themselves as heroes and who fought the good fight, died for it and then left behind shattered families.

"Teach me to fight," he whispered instead.

Miltia stiffened against him. "It won't make a difference," she said. "You'll never be a huntsman."

"I'm not asking to be. Just… If that ever happens again, I don't want to not be able to do anything. I don't want you to feel like this again. Teach me to fight; just enough that I can spare you this in future."

With a quiet sound, Miltia nuzzled her lips against his neck.

"When you're better."

He kissed her forehead. "Thank you."

They lay there together, the bed warm and her body warmer. It was so different to the hospital that he couldn't bring himself to let go of her, even if it couldn't have been the most comfortable position for her to sleep in.

"You know," she mumbled against his neck. "We could bang."

His cheeks turned red. "Miltia!"

"I'm just saying. You mentioned flowers the last time. There's been a whole lot of flowers. I'd say it counts."

"I can barely move my legs!"

"So? Most guys would jump at the chance to just lay there and let the woman do all the work."

"Yeah well, I guess I'm not most guys."

Miltia giggled.

/-/

"What were you thinking!?"

Ruby was crying.

Melanie's words may have well proven prophetic for no sooner had he been fed breakfast, with Junior thankfully helping him to the bathroom after, had he come down the elevator to find a horde of well-wishers waiting for him. There was Team RWBY, Russel and Velvet. Nora and Ren, Coco, Pyrrha and even Penny waiting for him.

Also, Ruby was crying.

That was somehow worse than being in a wheelchair.

He looked to Miltia for help, but she shot him a smirk and a nod, as if saying he should handle it himself since he'd caused it. Everyone else was content to do the same, watching with scowls, crossed arms and expressions mixed between relief at seeing him in one piece and anger for having to see him like this at all.

There was sympathy of course, but there was always something beneath it. Frustration born of concern, of fear at finding out he'd been badly hurt, and nights spent wondering if he would be okay. It was as touching as it was humbling.

"I didn't really have time to think. I couldn't just leave them there, could I?"

"Yes!" Ruby said, shocking him.

"B-But you'd never-"

"I'm a huntress! I'd not leave them because the Grimm are nothing to me. That's like – It's like saying you wouldn't leave some baby drowning in a vat of coffee." The analogy was a poor one. It was obvious Ruby was struggling to speak.

"What Ruby means is that there has to be context," Weiss said, placing a hand on her partner's shoulder while fixing him with a stern gaze. "While your actions were born of kindness and were, in themselves, heroic, they were also reckless."

"Doesn't that balance them out?"

"No." Blake this time. "You did something great and saved the lives of two people. Good job. We'll not pretend that isn't important and you should feel good about yourself for doing so. But that also doesn't mean you get off on being an idiot."

"You get the good with the bad," Yang agreed. "So yeah, good job on saving them. That's your good. Now you're dealing with all of us – who came home to panicked texts and calls that you might be dead after being savaged by Grimm."

Jaune flinched.

"You'll forgive us if we're just a little upset."

Everyone agreed. There were nods from Pyrrha and Ren, even an unusually sombre one from Nora. Oh, there was happiness there too – they were glad to see him. He knew the well-wishes would come in time, but whether they'd planned it or not, and they probably had while he'd been eating, they'd all decided to unite and give him the lecture first.

I guess I deserve this.

"Alright." He sighed and fell back. "I'd say I'm sorry but Miltia already told me it's an empty apology if I don't actually regret what I did. What I can promise is that I'll do better next time. I'll be faster and I won't try and fight the Grimm if there's even a small chance of getting away. There wasn't, though. The sirens – they had like three or four minutes before the Grimm were there. It wasn't like I stopped to lock up or collect my favourite jacket."

"The Grimm were delivered directly into the city," Pyrrha said. "Team RWBY-" There was a grimace from the four girls of said team. "Something happened on their mission. They couldn't have stopped it; the attack came literally the same day they arrived in Mountain Glenn. Either way, this was an anomaly. Normally, you'd have fifteen minutes or more to find a shelter."

More than enough time to put the Higgins away and run. If only he'd been granted that time, none of this would have happened. Then again, if that were the case then the hundreds dead and thousands injured would probably be a lot less as well.

"I guess we can let you off with a warning this time," Nora said. "You still should have run, though."

"I know." Jaune bowed his head. "I'm sorry for worrying you all if nothing else. I guarantee this won't happen again. Not like this. I'll be better prepared. I might even try and get a basement made with a reinforced door."

"Not a bad idea." Miltia said. "Ask Junior; he'll hook you up."

"Does that mean the guilt tripping is over? Ow!" He winced as Ruby poked his side angrily. Though she'd gotten herself under control, it was clear she hadn't yet forgiven him for being so stupid. "I'll do better," he said.

"Don't do anything. Leave the Grimm to us huntsmen. You're not working," she decided suddenly.

"He isn't," Miltia, Russel and Velvet said as one. Russel and Velvet bowed to Miltia, who continued. "We're keeping an eye on him. Probably running shifts. If you want to take any time babysitting him through the day, let me know."

"I'm not a child…"

"We'll help," Ruby said instantly.

"We?" Weiss asked. "Sheesh. But yes, I suppose we can offer assistance when we're not in lessons."

"Velvet and I will keep the diner going once it's repaired. He can make an appearance, but he's not working. Someone should be there in case he even tries. Pyrrha, can you keep an eye on him?"

"Of course. If that is okay with Miltia?"

With Miltia…?

"Fine with me," his girlfriend said. "Long as no one gets the wrong idea. We'll make a rota. He needs plenty of sunshine and liquids."

"What am I, a house plant?"

"Yes!" almost half of them said at once.

"Plants should be seen and not heard," Yang added. "Just face it, Jaune, you're going to be looked after until you're better. You can either whine about that and be ignored or suck it up and enjoy all the attention from us sexy girls. And Russel."

"Hey!" Nora said. "What about Ren?"

"He counts as a sexy girl."

"Huh. Fair."

Ren rolled his eyes and didn't bother to argue.

Russel grinned. "Now I just feel left out. Yang's got a point though, boss. Not to mention your parents are coming down. Consider it a week off work. Have fun, go out with your girlfriend and lose your virginity. It's taking you long enough."

"RUSSEL!"

"I know, right?" Miltia huffed.

"Just have a break," he finished. "The diner isn't going to fall to pieces without you, and no one is going to begrudge you the time to recover. You can come down and see how we're doing but we'll be fine. We know how to run the place."

Jaune looked to Velvet, who nodded her head, firm in her agreement and ready to fight him if he tried to convince her otherwise. They all looked like that – like they'd come expecting a fight from him. And in truth, wasn't that exactly what he was giving? With a heavy sigh, he leant back into the wheelchair. Maybe they were right. Maybe he needed this.

"Fine…"

Across the room, their faces lit up.

"You all win," he said. "And I'm sorry again for worrying you all. I'm glad to be out of the hospital too." He offered Ruby a one-armed hug which she accepted happily. "It's good to see you all again as well. Now that I've finally surrendered, can we skip the `Jaune is an idiot` part of this and move onto something better?"

It was as if he'd opened the floodgates. Everyone rushed in talking at once, gesticulating wildly and chattering about every little thing he'd missed – from what was going on at the diner to the people asking to visit him, Beacon and more. Everyone seemed determined to fill his head with the news of the last few days in as many seconds and no one had the patience to wait. Surrounded by so many people talking at once, he'd have normally been overwhelmed.

This time, he could only smile.

/-/

"How is he?"

"Alive," Roman said, puffing on his cigar and choosing not to look at the woman who had asked. He knew that to do so would be to see a rare moment of weakness, and that the act might prove detrimental to his long-term survival. "Hurt, weak and no doubt traumatised. He hides it well but there's a wariness to him. He's rattled."

"PTSD?"

"Too early to say by far. Might just be on edge. After what happened, you can't blame him."

"No, I can't." The fabric of Cinder's dress rustled. She swallowed something. It was not the first time she had drunk around him, but it was the first time did so greedily. He heard every gulp. "The plan continues as normal."

"Does it?"

"Are you questioning me?"

"No." He couldn't afford to, much as he might have liked to. "I'm just surprised."

"I don't see why. The assault went better than expected and Adam escaped. Our people are in position and Ironwood has been put in charge of security, affording us unparalleled access to his robotic units. No one can stop us."

"I agree," Roman said. "Certainly not a civilian."

Cinder remained silent.

He pushed his luck. "Any who tried would be gunned down mercilessly. That virus isn't designed to leave them merciful. Even if they surrendered, they'd be killed to a man."

"Are you having second thoughts, Roman?"

"My thoughts are the same as they've ever been. I should be asking you that question."

Her breath hitched. "Be careful what lines you cross."

"My apologies, then." He puffed on his cigar. "I've always found that metaphor a little unfitting." He knew he had her attention because he heard her stop drinking. "The thing about lines, in the sand or otherwise, is that once you cross over them, you can step back again without any problems. That's not the case here."

"Do you take me for a fool, Roman? I'm well aware of the consequences of my actions."

"Oh, I know you are. You know who is going to die and who isn't. It's not your awareness I'm calling into question. More your enthusiasm. Or your lack thereof."

Cinder's hand stilled on her puppy's back. The small thing looked up at her, confused.

With a heavy breath, she caressed him again.

"You play a dangerous game in questioning me, Roman."

"I'm playing a dangerous game either way. I just feel sorry for all those people who don't get a chance to pull out of the game. At least with what I do, someone benefits. Namely me. I'm not sure who benefits from your plan anymore." Roman walked past her. "Because it's obviously not you."

He stopped by the door, listening to her heavy breaths. That she hadn't killed him already was a miracle; he didn't dare push any further.

"I'll go talk with Adam. I think he's out drinking with Mercury."

"Would you say he is the same as me?" Cinder asked. "Adam? He hardly seems to enjoy what he does either."

"True. I guess the difference is that he measures it against the benefits. Necessity, at least in his mind. But what do I know of idealistic terrorists? I'm just a man trying to survive in the middle of a plot to overthrow a Kingdom. The diner will be up again in a day or two from what I've heard. You might want to visit."

Cinder's shoulders stiffened. "Why should I?"

"Dunno. Just figured we might as well enjoy it before it's gone for good. I bet the rewards will be worth it though," he said, voice thick with sarcasm. "I can't wait for all those amazing things we're getting for this. What were those things again? My memory fails me."

"Leave."

Roman tipped his hat.

"As you command."


A bit of a dark chapter again - though with hope at the end. Of a sort. I know some people may be upset that Jaune took any blame at all. He lived, didn't he? And he saved two people's lives. I think when reading fiction it's easy to have a very objective view and just say "Oh well, the ends justified the means. No one died and he lived, so why are these idiots acting like it's his fault?"

Well, because Jaune placed himself in danger. Because he was reckless.

Because everyone - including Mrs Higgins - expected and told him to run to the shelters, but Jaune placed his "morals" as being more important than the feelings of his friends. Morals are good and important, I agree, but I think some people overvalue them. Surely, if you really love someone, you should think of them before satisfying your own goals.

I'm not saying running into a burning building to save a child is wrong; more that jumping into a shark tank where someone is being killed when you have NO experience in dealing with sharks or wild animals is bad, and that survive or not you should expect to be very severely told off by the people around you.


Next Chapter: 28th May

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