“Look, I don’t know,” Cyrus was saying angrily, growing defensive and flustered as he caught a hand through his hair. He grit his teeth and sent Fiearius a dark look that said it all: they shouldn’t have been talking about this, not here, not now.
But Fiearius was unphased. They were walking through the streets of Sera after leaving the funeral. According to Cyrus, the Dionysian’s engine broke because it’d been purposefully sabotaged by someone, or something. Fiearius needed answers and he needed them as soon as possible.
“But you can trace it, right?” said Fiearius. “The virus, worm, whatever it was. We need to find out who put it there. And why. And quickly.”
“I didn’t get a chance to look at the details of it. I was more concerned with making it go away.” Cyrus sighed and put his hand to his head in frustration. “I saved it though. It still exists. And I can look into it. Just…not right now, okay? Can’t it wait a day or two?”
“No, Cyrus,” Fiearius said sharply. “It can’t. Because as far as you know, they could be tracking us right now. To this very planet. And since we don’t know who they are, we don’t know what their intentions are. So sitting here like cute little naive ducklings is not going to do us any good. I want this ship off the ground by tomorrow morning and on its way to getting some answers.”
“You’ll get your answers,” Cyrus snapped. “Later. When we haven’t just lost somebody we all cared about.”
“It’s this problem that made us lose him to begin with,” Fiearius countered, but as he watched his brother turn away, irritation and despair written over his features, his resolve crumbled. “Fine, take a day if you need it,” he relented at last, his tone softening. “But I need you on this, little brother and I need you on it soon.”
“Alright,” Cyrus barked as he stopped in his tracks and spun around to face his brother. But his fury too dissolved and he spoke more calmly, “Alright…Alright, I’ll look into it, okay? Just…give me some time.”
“Thank you.” Fiearius clasped an appreciative hand on his shoulder. Over Cyrus’ head, he briefly met eyes with Corra, but she looked away at once. Curious, Fiearius turned back to see what she was looking at.
And then he wished he hadn’t.
Javier was twenty feet away, drifting down the path, dragging his feet, clearly following them at a distance. He looked like a vagrant — his clothes torn, his face sunk and streaked with dirt and dried tears. Fiearius watched him approach.
He hadn’t seen the kid since the fatal bullet was fired. When it happened, chaos unfolded, Leta rushed to Aiden’s side, and Fiearius felt anger so powerful that he could have killed Javier on the spot. He almost did — Javier still wore the bruises from where he’d seized his throat, determined to avenge his fallen friend. The echoes of his shouts still rang in his memory and the recollection of the rage that had coursed through his veins was still fresh.
But in the end, as he’d looked into the eyes of the nineteen-year-old kid, so full of shock and regret and crushing anguish, he couldn’t do it. Fiearius had thrown him to the ground, and he’d scrambled away into the depths of the ship.
Now, Fiearius froze in place as he watched him approach. He could feel himself tense, that anger returning, the loss this little shit had caused still fresh in his mind from the burial …
Apparently Cyrus sensed it, too.
“Fiear–” he began warningly, but Fiearius held up his hand, silencing him. He said nothing more as Fiearius turned toward Javier, who halted in the middle of the street.
He lifted his head slowly, his eye wide and filled with tears. Then he spoke words that chilled Fiearius’ spine.
“Just do it,” he said hollowly. His voice strained with pleading. “Just do it already. Kill me! Just get it over with, just — “
In one motion Fiearius stepped forward and seized his collar in his fist, drawing him in and speaking in his face.
Fiearius had never been above revenge. He’d taken higher prices for lower crimes in the past and felt no remorse. No regret. But thinking of it now, thinking of an eye for an eye, Javier’s life for Aiden’s …
“No,” Fiearius growled, loosening his grip. “No.”
“Why? You want to do it,” Javier groaned, breathing hard. “Just do it. Kill me.”
“No,” Fiearius said simply. “No, I won’t.”
No, I can’t, he realized suddenly, watching as Javier trembled head to foot, a fish out of water. This kid had made a mistake. A horrible mistake, but a mistake nonetheless, that much was obvious. Javier had not meant to kill Aiden in cold blood and the act was clearly tearing him apart. Never before had Fiearius not punished a wrongdoing. But never before had someone begged for punishment after wronging him.
“You don’t deserve death,” he went on after a moment, sounding more thoughtful than angry. “Aiden wouldn’t like it. He wouldn’t want more bloodshed. There’s already been enough of that. So no, I won’t kill you. But you’ve wronged my ship and you’ve robbed my crew of its greatest asset. And you will pay for that.”
“How then?” gasped Javier. “How?“
Fiearius didn’t really know how, but he knew one thing. This kid, as he was, was a walking time bomb. If he was begging for death now, that wasn’t going to go away on its own. He’d made his own share of irresolvable mistakes over the years. Things that he could never quite come to terms with. Deaths he couldn’t quite reconcile. And there was only one thing that had gotten him through them.
“You’ll work,” Fiearius decided suddenly, and Javier’s eyes went round. “You’ll stay on the Dionysian and you’ll work your damn ass off. Doing what, don’t know yet, but whatever it is, you’ll do it and you’ll do it without argument and without question and you’ll pay off your debt.”
Javier was gasping for air now, completely overcome. “On the ship? You want me on the ship still? Everyone hates me, everyone should hate me, how am I — “
“Did I not just say ‘without question’?” Fiearius snapped. “You’ll stay on the ship. And you’ll work. That’s it.”
“But I don’t — I can’t — “
“This is not a discussion,” Fiearius growled. “You’ll be on my ship when we take off or dov’ha tia’rte, you’ll really wish I had killed you.”
With that, Fiearius gripped Javier’s shirt tighter and threw him against the fence, a tangle of flailing limbs. Then Fiearius walked on, leaving him there at the base of the wrought iron gate.
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