In fact, she was several steps behind, her back to him as she gazed down the hallway, her fists clenched at her sides. Cyrus had no idea what she was looking at. Confused, and suddenly weary, he stepped around and glimpsed her face: she looked lost, indecisive, pained even.
“Corra?” he asked tentatively, as Fiearius called from down the alley, “C’mon, little brother, we’ve got a date with the upper atmosphere!”
But Cyrus didn’t move. Neither did Corra.
“Corra, come on,” he pressed quietly, feeling truly alarmed now. He reached for her arm, but she jerked it away.
“I can’t!” Corra muttered quietly and then turned to him, her eyes wide and glassy. “We can’t!” she cried more desperately. Her chest was heaving with emotion. “The other prisoners. In the cells. They’ll do the same to them. They’ll die. We can’t just leave them — “
Of course, thought Cyrus numbly. Of course Corra had to rescue those people — they were imprisoned now, just as she had been once upon a time …
Cyrus watched, dumbstruck, as she rushed past him into the hallway back toward the holding cells. He hesitated, glancing longingly toward the exit; but just as quickly he realized he could not — he would not — leave Corra here.
Still, he’d had quite enough action for one day, he thought, wincing as he rushed after her. When he caught up, she was already hard at work at one of the metal doors, picking the lock of a cell that held a gaunt, pale man who seemed hardly able to believe she was there to free him.
“How can I help?” Cyrus asked hurriedly, feeling certain the answer would be ‘you can’t.’ But, overestimating him, Corra handed him an extra hairpin and, too distracted for further instruction, pointed at the next cell over.
“I don’t know how to–” Cyrus began, but regardless, tried shoving the pin in and out of the lock uselessly.
How was it that he — the engineer — couldn’t break these locks, but somehow Corra could? He watched, amazed, as she broke open the door, pulled it open and the man inside, looking shocked and laughing in disbelief, got his freedom.
With shakingly nervous hands, Cyrus wrestled with his own lock — he even tried giving the bars a rough shake out of anger, which reminded him strongly of Fiearius — but then it occurred to him. He remembered what was in his other hand: a gun.
With a deep breath, Cyrus cocked the gun, closed his eyes, pointed his arm and pulled the trigger. The gunshot echoed through the whole hallway in a deafening ring of bullet against metal.
Cyrus opened his eyes carefully and peered down to find the lock exactly where he’d left it. Except only half of it. The door swung open as the cell’s occupant ran out.
Suddenly, another shot rang out. He jumped, but when he found the source (a pleased Corra smiling over at him innocently), he relaxed.
“Good idea,” she told him, beaming at him and firing one last time at the final lock. “That’s the last one, let’s get out of here.”
Cyrus didn’t even bother voicing his agreement. He just turned towards the door and ran, more eager than ever to never see this place again.
The only thing that stopped him was the heart-wrenching scream he heard just feet from the exit. Corra. Corra was — where was she?
Immediately, his breath caught in his throat and his eyes widened in horror as he looked back to witness Corra struggling furiously in the arms of a man twice her size. One of the guards had caught up to her, choking her, as she yelled, “Cyru–” before his hand clamped over her mouth, dragging her kicking, flailing body towards one of the cells she’d just liberated.
Cyrus did not consider himself particularly brave. He avoided conflict and he always dodged physical confrontation. But it took all of three seconds seeing Corra trapped in the man’s clutches for him to forget that he had no idea how to fight anyone. Without another moment’s hesitation, he barrelled towards them, his fist raised as he shouted, “Let her go!”
He swung his fist back, and then cracked it across the man’s face with more power than Cyrus even knew he had. He would have been shocked by his own daring if he didn’t immediately pull away and grasp his knuckles in pain: one thing his brother never told him about punching people was that it really fucking hurt.
He grimaced, but not nearly as bad as his victim: the guard stumbled back, releasing Corra as blood smeared all over his face.
Free and defiant, Corra righted herself and, without hesitation, unholstered her gun and shot the man in the leg. As he roared in pain, writhing on the ground, she looked up at Cyrus and laughed loudly in shock. Clearly, she didn’t think he had it in him, either. He laughed too, but it was a bubbling, nervous laugh, more out of relief than anything else.
“Okay,” she said. “Really. Let’s go.” But before they could dart away, Corra did something he never would have expected.
Like it was the most natural thing in the world, Corra stepped toward him, grabbed his shirt collar and pulled him in so that his lips clasped onto hers in in a forceful kiss that paralyzed him. His eyes widened, and then closed shut, his hands uselessly hanging at his sides as her lips pressed warmly to his. When she pulled away, a shaky gasp fell out of his lungs.
In a flash, she was gone: she was running down the hallway towards the door, but Cyrus could only stand there, dumbstruck. Warmth was spreading madly through him; he felt feverish with shock.
What the hell just happened? Had she really — ?
Cyrus never arrived at an answer. Dazedly touching his fingers to his lips, he felt a hand around his wrist and an impatient tug as Corra yelled, “Come on!” and dragged him out the door, heading back to the ship at last.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Cyrus had not recovered from his shock even an hour later. He felt like he was underwater, merely going through the motions of readying the engine for take-off, useless and distracted.
Abruptly, the engine growled at him, bringing him out of his daze. He stepped back and sighed. Now that the Dionysian’s systems were running and the ship was mercifully in the air, he didn’t know what to do. Dropping his wrench, he felt his legs wander back upstairs, automatically leading him toward the bridge. For what, he didn’t know. It wasn’t like he planned to ever tell his brother what had transpired. Cyrus was thinking now he would take that kiss with him to his grave …
Inside the bridge, Fiearius was slumped in his seat, looking sourly at Leta, crouched near him. She was tearing a bandage into strips and glaring as she tended to the cuts on his face.
“Can’t you do this later?” Fiearius was growling. “I have a ship to fly, you know.”
“And it’s only thanks to me you’re able to fly it at all,” she said bitterly, but while Fiearius opened his mouth to retort, this was when Cyrus tuned them out and dropped into the co-pilots seat, his mind miles away from Fiearius and Leta. Instead he was wondering: now what the hell was he supposed to do? Talk to her about it? Ask her why she’d done that? Or —
It took him several moments to notice the bickering had stopped. With a start, he realized both Fiearius and Leta had paused what they were doing, and were watching him curiously.
Puzzled and amused, Leta prompted, “Er, you okay, Cy?”
Slowly, Cyrus blinked his eyes. “Oh. Yeah, I’m fine,” he responded at last, though fine was probably the last word he’d actually use to describe himself. More like ecstatic, terrified, confused, anxious …
For a moment longer, Leta surveyed him through narrowed eyes, and Cyrus had the sudden paranoid sense she could see right through him. Girls had a sixth sense for stuff like this, didn’t they? Didn’t they? And she was such a good friend of Corra’s …
But after a short pause, all Leta said was, “Well, you look weird,” her voice muffled as she tore a bandage between her teeth and turned back to Fiearius.
He sighed in relief, but Fiearius was still eyeing him, like he was working things out in his head, a sight Cyrus always found unsettling. Fortunately, at the perfect moment, Leta hit the right nerve on Fiearius’ head and he jolted in pain.
“Ugh, stop,” he grumbled, glaring at her, though didn’t make any motion to actually make her leave. Instead, he argued, “Shouldn’t you be taking care of that,” he gestured to her injured leg, “Not this?”
“I already did,” Leta muttered passingly, tearing the bandage from her teeth. “Minor infection. Should be okay. Though we’re still out of supplies … ” she muttered dryly, and then abruptly, she pulled back and gasped. “What, you’re not actually — concerned about me, are you, captain?”
“If that’s what it takes to get you to go away?” Fiearius suggested dully. “Yes. Yes I am.”
Already tired of this, Cyrus adjusted himself on his seat and interrupted, purposely keeping his voice even and brisk, “On the note of supplies. We’re running low on a lot of things actually. Where are we headed next?”
Fiearius leaned back in his seat, ignoring that it interrupted the bandaging Leta was doing to his head. She bristled.
“I was just trying to figure that out actually,” he replied seriously. “Though I’ll admit supplies are second on my priority list right now.” At Cyrus’ look of confusion, he clarified, “Can’t buy supplies without credits. And all our credits…” His voice trailed off pointedly.
Cyrus was glad he didn’t finish that thought.. He knew he’d made the right choice in buying Leta back from captivity, but he’d expected Fiearius to at least blame him or Leta for how broke they were now. The fact that he didn’t was both surprising and welcome.
Maybe he’d gotten hit in the head harder than Cyrus thought.
“So job first, I think,” Fiearius said thoughtfully, leaning forward again, likely with the pure intention of annoying his relentless physician, who was edging around him to reach his wounds. “I’ve got a few leads. Little things. But I’ll reach out to some people,” he went on, “Try and get something bigger … “
Cyrus purposely didn’t ask for specifics — he didn’t want to know what Fiearius’ idea of ‘something bigger’ was.
In fact, Cyrus felt his attention slipping from the conversation. Relieved as he was to have both Leta and his brother back safely aboard the now-flying Dionysian after the longest day of his life, it wasn’t them who occupied his thoughts in that moment. Half of his mind was still elsewhere on the ship, on Corra, who had disappeared like nothing unusual at all had happened today …