The clarity comes in the moment when he realizes Snow isn’t coming back. Judging by the expression on Lebreau’s face, she figured it out seconds ago, and there’s a rushing in his ears that swells to emptiness.
“He’ll be fine,” Maqui maintains, faith unshakeable. “We got bigger problems.”
And he nods his head to where PSICOM is advancing and Gadot can’t help but swear. Kid’s right. He swings around, gun out, and glances back at Lebreau, “You start getting people outta here. Take Maqui with you. Yuj, with me.”
No Snow around to save the day—time for NORA to pick up the Hero’s slack.
Yuj comes to stand beside him, gun trained and ready, and there’s something in the set of his jaw that would make Snow proud. Across the way, the Pulse Fal’Cie is starting to go down—taking Snow and Serah with it—but they can’t worry about that right this second. They’ve got to focus on getting these people out—it’s what Snow would do, if he were here.
(Except Snow would insist on trying to save everyone in the Fal’Cie too, but Gadot’s never been Snow.)
They hear the scrambling footsteps of people fleeing (to where? Where can they run?) behind them, and PSICOM soldiers get nearer and nearer; Gadot glances at Yuj. “When I tell you to run, you run, y’here?”
For a second, it looks like he’ll protest, and then he looks at the soldiers again and swallows. Yuj nods once.
Gadot grins, settling easily into a fighting stance. The PSICOM soldiers send their dogs first, and it becomes brutal quickly, shots and teeth and blood flying, and Gadot feels a bullet graze his arm, and he fires off a shot at someone about to shoot Yuj, and he yells, “Yuj, catch up with the others!”
The boy does and Gadot shifts to better block the path, and he pulls out one of the grenades he’d filched from Snow and tosses it into the crowd. People go down and Gadot fires off shots rapidly. In the distance, he can see more soldiers coming his way, and his arm’s starting to burn. Looks like it’s time to join the others. Hopefully, he’s bought them all enough time. Gadot runs—
Lebreau catches him when he stumbles into where they’ve stopped to analyze the situation and escape possibilities. Her hands fly up to wipe sweat and tears from his face, but her eyes never leave the wound on his arm. There’s a tightening in her face, and then she pulls out a potion and uncorks it, gently sticking two fingers into the bottle (and, oh, he remembers what she can do with her fingers and shivers) and then running them gently over the wound. Healing and pain mesh into something intangible and there are spots and darkness encroaching on his already fuzzy vision and he clings to Lebreau and forgets for a moment that she’s not Snow and can’t quite hold his weight.
She stumbles back, hissing under her breath, and then Yuj and Maqui are there, helping, cool hands on skin too hot and too tight.
Her fingers return to the bottle, back to his skin, and he thinks she murmurs something about being glad the bullet hadn’t been stuck in his skin. That, or she’s saying something about what she’d do to him if they were alone right now. Honestly, either one makes his limbs go like jelly (or maybe that’s the potion pumping through his veins).
Darkness comes over him like a current and he can’t find an anchor so he rolls with it.
(Not Snow—he can’t keep fighting. Never been that good. Never that strong.)
The first thing he hears when he wakes is gunfire and Maqui’s choked pain-cry. Yuj yells next, something between fury and fear, and the gunshots pick up, and Gadot struggles to sitting and sees Lebreau, hair falling out of its messy knot, and her clothing torn and blood-stained. Her gun’s out and firing, and there’s a look on her face that he knows to fear and those soldiers will soon learn to fear. Carefully, he reaches for a bag of potions next to him (and has to ignore the open and used potions littered around him) and he crawls to where Maqui is, eyes wide and staring, and if Gadot were Snow this wouldn’t have happened, because Snow is a Hero and Gadot isn’t, but Snow’s gone, maybe dead (not dead, the Hero never dies, or was it always?) and then he pours the potion over the wound in Maqui’s chest that had missed his heart by enough that there’s still some hope (thank— thank something that it had gone all the way through).
He empties nine potions before Maqui’s breathing evens out, and then Gadot staggers to his feet. There’s a gun nearby and he picks it up, standing beside one of the civilians, who nods at him, respect in her eyes, and then they help fight off the soldiers.
The last one falls by Yuj’s shot and then he runs to Maqui’s side, cradling the unconscious boy’s head, and Gadot grimaces, and sits back down, arm afire with tension and a memory of pain. Lebreau is over in an instant, shaking fingers tracing the lines of his face, and then her kiss is feather-light on his forehead—relief. “We’ve lost seven,” she tells him, voice strained.
Gadot nods once—if Snow were here, they would’ve lost maybe half that. He blinks the fuzz from his brain: he can’t keep wishing for Snow. Snow isn’t here, won’t be here for awhile yet, if at all.
Gotta get these people moving. “We’ll rest for a bit,” he says, “Then we’ll keep going.”
People nod—faces sweat-lined and crumpled with exhaustion and loss—and Gadot stands back up, and places a hand on Lebreau’s shoulder. She leads him a ways away from the other, enough for some privacy, but not enough to be too far to protect them in a pinch. “We’re out of the Hanging Edge, but we’ve got to find a place to take them,” she says.
(If Snow were here... he’d have an idea, both of them know it.)
“Right now, we’ve gotta move forward,” Gadot says finally.
(It’s a ‘heroes don’t need plans’ cop out, but they’re so far out of their league that there’s not much else they can really do.)
“And what?” Lebreau asks, voice bullet-sharp, “We let them herd us straight to PSICOM headquarters? We need a direction, Gadot, or we lose.”
Losing isn’t really an option, is it? These are the people of Bodhum, people they know, plus the tourists who came for the fireworks they always over-charged to keep the shack running. All these people did nothing to deserve this fate except wind up at the wrong place at the wrong time. But other people won’t understand that—because it’s not them, because Pulse is a fucking scary thing. “If we can get to a large city... They won’t be able to tell us from normal citizens.”
She looks at him incredulously for a moment, and then frowns. “So which city?”
And both of them look at each other for a time and then she shakes her head, and she closes the distance between them and presses her mouth to his, trembling. He wraps his good arm around her waist.
Fuck, but what are they doing but playing at heroism? (Where the hell is Snow when they need him?)
Cavalry finds them a day later. Gadot is carrying Maqui, who’s pain-crazed and whimpering; Lebreau and Yuj herd the despondent refugees onward, and all of them heft their weapons as the soldiers approach. A long-haired man with an unshaven face approaches them and half-grins. “Easy there,” he drawls, “We’re here to help. Cavalry—not PSICOM. Come with us, we can help.”
Yuj bares his teeth and Lebreau puts a hand in front of him. “Why should we believe you?” she asks.
“What choice have you got? We outnumber and outgun you. Cid Raines would like to... Er... Exchange words, and all that. After that, we’ll decide what would be best and safest for you,” the man says, grin falling.
None of the soldiers have hands on their weapons, and all of them remember what it was like to feel protected just at the utterance of words like PSICOM and Guardian Corps and Cavalry. Plus, hunger’s starting to set into a gnawing ache and they’re running low on potions. Not to mention the ammunition shortage. To be honest, they’re running out of time, anyway. May as well take a shot.
(If Snow were here, they’d keep fighting. But he’s not—and there’s nothing left to do.)
Lebreau and Gadot exchange a long glance, and then Lebreau looks at the soldier, head held high, arm still barring Yuj’s rage. “Fine. Take us there. But, first—we need food and healing.”
There’s a flash of sympathy for a fraction of an instant on the guy’s face, and then he nods his assent toward some of the men, and then they usher everyone onto the Cavalry ship with the efficiency of people trained to do this. Gadot feels a twinge of envy, and then follows.
Cid Raines is a rather striking man, even Gadot has to admit. Idly, the man reaches a hand up and scratches at his wrist, all while regarding him and Lebreau. “So, you are the pesky Purge survivors. Interesting. For while PSICOM runs itself ragged over this Pulse L’Cie threat, they keep expending resources to track you down, as is the will of the people.”
Tensing, Gadot demands, “So what? We die because they say so?” Lebreau puts a hand on his shoulder and he asks, quietly, “Is that why we’re here?”
“Indeed not. Sometimes, the people don’t understand the full picture and make uneducated choices.”
Lebreau steps forward, eyes hard, and that’s Lebreau—hard as diamonds and always fighting. “So what do you plan on doing with us, then? You’ve got to have some sort of plan.”
He steps around his desk, hand clasped behind him now, and circles his office, eyes thoughtfully on the ceiling as he considers them and their predicament, and Gadot can feel the hair on his arms standing up in irritation. There’s no way Snow would stand for this guy, no way that he’d agree to whatever plan he’s about to come up with. Lebreau tightens her grip again, glancing at him; he settles back and unclenches his jaw.
“Palumpolem,” Raines says, with a note finality to his voice. “We’ll get you cleaned up and positioned in Palumpolem. With PSICOM so focused on the Pulse L’CIe, they’ll hardly know you from the ordinary citizens.”
The two of them exchange a glance—it’s crazy, but what else can they do at this point?—and Lebreau gives a slight nod and Gadot exhales heavily. What a mess they’ve suddenly found themselves in. Gadot looks at Raines and asks, “Pulse L’Cie threat? You mean Serah Farron.”
“In part. She’s not the major factor here, in that she has already completed her Focus. No—I mean people like Fang and Snow Villiers and—”
Lebreau cuts him off. “Snow’s alive?”
“Indeed. And, if I recall, on his way to Palumpolem. Perhaps you can catch up with him there?”
And the two of them grin. Because things are finally starting to look up again. They’ll help Snow complete his Focus and then—well... The grins fall from their faces—because they’ll have Snow back for a little while, but then he’ll be gone again, crystallized with Serah, and then they’ll be on their own again. To struggle on without their hero.