Chapter 29: Meaningful Relationships Pt. 2

Cyrus sighed, watching as she started paging through the papers. “It’s okay. I’m not very good at auxiliary weapons calibration. We all have a weakness,” he admitted with a teasing smirk before leaning back on his hands and stretching out his legs in front of him. “So what were you up to last night while we were out?” he asked. “Riveting adventure, I’m sure?”

As she tucked the prints neatly together, she responded brightly, “Absolutely. I started a new novel.”

Although, truthfully, reading wasn’t exactly how she’d spent her evening … but for some reason she wasn’t sure if she wanted to tell Cyrus how she had. Or who she had spent it with. Then, immediately, she scolded herself. Why wouldn’t she tell him? She had nothing to be ashamed of.

“Also, I drank with your brother,” she added, dropping the neat stack of blueprints with a thwap on the floor. At once, Cyrus gave a start.

“You what?” he asked incredulously, his eyes widening. His penetrating stare pinned her in place.

“What do you mean, ‘what’?” she said back, feeling herself become defensive, almost self-conscious. “I was in the kitchen reading, he passed through and offered me a drink.” She decided against including they had also downed shots, made several drunken toasts, told long stories and that she’d actually woken up with a bit of a headache.

Clearly, Cyrus was having trouble processing this story already. His eyes narrowed, searching over her in alarm. “Why would you say yes?” he asked, perplexed.

“Whiskey,” said Leta. “He had whiskey, Cy. I never turn down whiskey. Why are you looking at me like that?”

His mouth was hanging open, and he looked fearful for her sanity. “Just…” he began after a moment, looking away from her. “Not…what I would have expected.”

“Hey, me either,” said Leta fairly. “Maybe he still feels guilty about the combat ring, I don’t know.” But even in her head, Leta felt that wasn’t quite it, and she found herself muttering, “He was all pissed off at Ludo, that’s why he was drinking. I just happened to be nearby … “

There wasn’t accusation in Cyrus’ gaze, not exactly. More like a guarded level of suspicion. And with that, Leta suddenly said, “Whatever you’re thinking, don’t.”

“I know my brother,” Cyrus replied at once. “It’s a little hard not to.”

Leta felt an unease crawl over her skin, slow and uncomfortable. Guilt twisted her stomach, even though she’d done nothing to actually warrant guilt. Except, perhaps, drink a little too much. After polishing off the bottle, she and Fiearius had saluted each other drunkenly and gone their separate ways to bed. Right before, there had been an odd, awkward moment when they brushed too closely together at the kitchen counter, but that moment had lasted only seconds; it was completely dismissible.

“He wasn’t coming onto me if that’s what you’re getting at,” said Leta after a short, sharp pause, kicking idly at the papers on the floor, scattering them back into a mess. “You would know by now if that’s what he’d done last night. Because he’d be dead.”

At that, Cyrus laughed. “Okay, okay, fair enough. Maybe don’t kill him. He’s kind of useful. But you have my full permission to beat him with a blunt object of your choosing.” He shrugged and eyed her briefly before cracking a mock grimace. “I still can’t believe you actually agreed to spend time with him though.”

“No kidding,” said Leta, snorting. “My defenses must’ve really been down … ”

Leta was glad the subject was dropped, senseless as it was. But even as the conversation faded, even as they started discussing Corra again, Leta couldn’t shake the odd sense of unease, nagging the back of her mind.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

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“C’mon, this isn’t the first time you’ve helped me steal,” Fiearius was saying, his breath exhaling a white cloud in the air as he fell into step beside Aiden, who shot him a good-naturedly dark glance. They were crossing down the icy streets toward the wealthy side of the city, Corra in tow. She lagged a few steps behind, unusually quiet and stony, which was odd, since Fiearius knew she loved this sort of job: pure, old-fashioned thievery.

Of course, Aiden did not. “Isn’t it?” he said, looking weary as he rubbed his hands together against the wind.

“When we met,” Fiearius reminded. “Don’t you remember?”

“Well, I try not to,” Aiden put in.

“I was on the run with a case of rather valuable documents I’d just lifted. Probably woulda been caught too if I hadn’t run into you.”

“Oh, now I remember,” said Aiden, but he laughed warmly. “I was standing on the sidewalk. You barreled into me, shoved the box in my hands and told me to run.”

Fiearius grinned proudly. “Did I ever thank you for holding onto that for me? ‘Cause thanks.”

“You didn’t, but you’re welcome. I got free ship passage out of it, at least … “

“Well this one’ll be different,” Fiearius promised. “Just gotta get into this guy’s fancy mansion, make sure he’s not paying attention, grab the shiny and get out. Gardién’s wife gets her necklace, he gets a whole ‘nother year to figure out the next anniversary theft and we get enough cash to make it to Ellegy and back.” Absently, he pulled a coin out of his pocket and started flipping it between his fingers. “At the very least,” he went on, glancing back at Aiden, “you’ll be more prepared this time. Speaking of which, how’s the distraction plan comin’?”

Suddenly, Aiden looked startled. “Plan? Wait now, I’m supposed to have a plan?”

Fiearius smirked, knowing full well Aiden was exactly the kind of person — unlike himself — who kept plans to each minute detail. He was certain Aiden knew exactly how to keep Sanilac Mauve in conversation as he and Corra snuck through his house and nabbed the necklace. After all, Aiden had the personal connection: years ago, Sanilac had fired Aiden from his teaching job at the university.

It was no wonder, then, why Aid agreed to help on this job.  Even good, honest people had a taste for vengeance.

The three of them continued down a sloped icy street, silent and thoughtful until Aiden looked over his shoulder. “Corra, why so quiet?” he asked, and then smiled. “You’re not nervous for this, are you? The captain’s plans always go so flawlessly.”

Corra looked up at him with round eyes, like a student caught not paying attention to the lecture. She stammered, “Oh yeah, no. I’m…I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

Fiearius cocked a brow at her, curious. It wasn’t like Corra to be so silent nor was it like her to be so mopey and it definitely wasn’t like her not to take the bait on mocking him. With a worried glance at Aiden, he told her, “Thought you’d be more excited about this. Haven’t pulled one of these jobs in ages.”

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