“Now, now,” said Finn in disapproval, coming to Fiearius’ aid again just as Corra scoffed. “Let him have his fun.”
“No,” Fiearius said suddenly, slamming his drink down with a sudden thud that made a few heads turn in surprise. He pushed himself away from the bar and Leta grasped his wrist at once to steady him.
“No, I think I’m done here,” he rambled on, righting himself on his feet. He turned to Corra and Leta, his eyes suddenly glinting with interest. “Plenty of night left, plenty of sights to see. Whaddya say?” His grin was slow and salacious when he muttered, “You two wanna get outta here?”
The smell of alcohol wafted from him as he leaned in close. Too close. “What?” said Leta, startled. “What’s the matter with you?”
“Cut it out, cap’n,” Corra groaned tiredly.
Fiearius kept his eyes on Leta a beat longer, then staggered back. “Fine,” he gave in simply, pushing himself from the bar. “It was worth a shot.” To Finn, he added, “C’mon, mate, let’s go somewhere we’ll be appreciated.”
Fiearius abruptly swept Leta’s drink out of her hand, cast her another smirk and turned away with Finn. Leta watched them walk away, perplexed.
“Well that was weird,” she muttered. It suddenly seemed very possible that Fiearius had been drinking all morning and afternoon by himself; it was probably worthwhile to keep an eye on him. Inwardly, Leta felt her heart clench: Fiearius wasn’t doing well, not at all.
“Where’s Cy?” Leta asked, glancing around the bar for some assistance. “Did he come?”
“Ah, no,” said Corra, sighing. “He said he wanted to stay on the ship and do some reading into the thing that shut down the engine.” She shrugged. “He likes to keep busy, I think. When he’s upset.”
Leta nodded. Then she paused, noticing the worry in Corra’s face. “How — how are things, with you two?”
Corra’s cheeks turned pink and her eyes fell. “They’re…okay,” she admitted with a small shrug of her shoulders. “Better. I think. We haven’t really had a chance to talk about it with all that’s gone on in the past couple weeks, but he’s not avoiding me anymore.” After a moment, she added quietly, “Nor is he trying to kiss me anymore…”
A sad smile spread over Leta’s face. “I’m sorry I suggested you go on a date,” she said, although this felt minuscule and silly now. “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
Corra laughed lightly and shrugged again. “It’s okay. You’re not the first person who’s thought it was, believe me,” she admitted. “I’m just glad we still came out as friends this time. Perhaps he’s grown more than I thought.” Corra stirred the straw in her drink in a morose kind of way, and then said, “but there is — this one thing … “
She looked hesitant. “What?” pressed Leta quietly.
Corra glanced over at her a little warily. “Okay, this might sound kinda crazy,” she began, leaning towards Leta and speaking in hushed tones. “But I’ve been doing some research lately into–well, Goddora.”
Goddora had been an ally and weapons trader who once owned Corra. Leta still remembered vividly the day Fiearius shot the man in the head; Leta wasn’t at all sorry he — essentially, a slave dealer — was gone.
Corra went on, “Goddora never kept digital records of the people he traded. All his transactions were in volumes upon volumes of books in his office. But! Some of his trade partners weren’t quite as paranoid.”
Excitedly, she breathed, “I found a name I recognized. I thought he was lost, but I found him, my–an old friend. An ally friend, Will,” she said, and an odd, sincere smile flashed over Corra’s face. Leta knew at once: this Will had been very important to Corra once upon a time.
Her eyes shining, Corra hastened to explain, “Now Will’s still an ally, working security at this guy’s mansion on this planet called Urdion. And okay, this is the crazy part, but –”
“You want to find him.”
“I wanna find him,” Corra confirmed, her eyes sparkling with excitement. “Find him and rob his owner blind and get him out of there.” She sat back and grinned, clearly quite proud of herself. But then her face fell.
“I was gonna ask Cy to help,” she admitted. “Get past the other security procedures or at least just have my back, something. He may not be the absolute best at burglary, but he’s done it before and he’s smart and insightful and I need him. And to hell if I’m asking his brother.” She grimaced and shook her head. “But now?” She sighed. “I dunno if I can even ask him. It seems so…unimportant after everything else.”
“If it’s still important to you, then it’s still important,” Leta stated firmly. “What about me? You don’t have to ask Cy. I can help.”
At once, Corra smiled broadly. “I won’t lie, I was hoping you’d say that,” she admitted sheepishly and then laughed. “Since when does our resident classy Vescentian doctor condone robbery, though?”
“Please,” Leta snorted. “I’m as morally bankrupt as the rest of you now. Well, maybe not Fiearius,” she said quickly, glancing at him past Corra’s shoulder.
She was startled for a moment to see Fiearius in deep conversation with a strange woman at the bar. The woman grinned up at him, fond and mischievous, as he wound a strand of her hair around his index finger.
Leta pulled her eyes away just in time to hear Corra laugh, “I’m told we have that effect on people.” To the bartender, Corra added, much to Leta’s relief, “Another round please!”
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Pain sliced through his skull, or so it felt like. Several hazy hours later (the next morning already?), Fiearius squeezed his eyes shut, combatting the throbbing in his head. His mouth was dry as sandpaper. Groaning low in his throat, he pinched the bridge of his nose. It was only to be expected: of course he was hungover.
Grimacing, he rolled onto his back, dragging the sheets with his bare torso, and realized with alarm that he was not alone in his bed. Curled on her side, a woman slept beside him, someone he did not recognize, her naked shoulders silently rising and falling in slow breaths, her long dark hair a tousled mess. Well then …
Tentatively, he lifted himself with his forearm and squinted with one eye at his unfamiliar bedfellow. Oh yeah, he remembered dimly, the images of last night hazing together in a fog. Her. What was her name again?
The sight of her wasn’t, as it should have been, satisfying. It wasn’t shameful, either. He felt nothing, quite literally nothing, as he sat on the edge of his bed, the blankets pooling in his lap.
Morning light filtered in from the window over his head as memories returned to him slowly. The girl, the bar, the funeral, the casket…That same gaping emptiness in his chest. Abruptly, he wished he were asleep again. Unconsciousness, it seemed, was the only cure.
Suddenly, Fiearius experienced a pressing need to not be here when his ship-guest woke up. He stood to his feet, hastily pulled on a worn pair of trousers from the floor and crossed toward the hatch. Presumably, she could find her own way out.
He lowered himself clumsily down the ladder, and when his bare feet hit the floor, he found someone else in the hallway, staring at him.
Leta. Of course. Always around when she wasn’t needed.
She stood poised, her arms folded, glancing him over quickly, clinically. Her brow drew together in what might have been worry. “Is your friend still here?” was the first thing she said.
Fiearius blinked back at her slowly, some cogs in his tired head starting to turn. His voice still gravelly from sleep, he muttered, “What?”
“Your ‘friend,’” said Leta calmly, her expression clearing as she nodded at the hatch to his room. “Is she still here?”
So Leta had witnessed some key moments of last night, Fiearius realized. He wasn’t regretful, but he wasn’t feeling particularly proud of himself, either. Leta was looking over him searchingly, her lips thinning out to a frown. An awkward silence fell between them, until she said, “Ludo wants to talk to you. He’s waiting outside,” and turned around, the soles of her shoes clicking away down the hall.
Really, Fiearius had no idea what the fuck that was about. But he was quite sure he didn’t want to see Ludo, of all godsdamn people. Curious and already readying himself for a fight, Fiearius suddenly felt more awake as he stalked toward the cargo bay.
Outside the ship, Ludo stood with his heavy arms folded, squinting into the distance. An assault rifle sat angled against the ship near his feet. He turned when he noticed Fiearius crossing down the ramp.
“Captain,” he greeted solemnly. His ruddy face was empty of expression, as always; doubtful he’d been mourning like the rest of the crew.
Fiearius approached, already shaking his head in disgust. A lot of balls, this guy. After all that happened, after his betrayal, after Aiden’s death, to actually dare to talk to him? To want to talk to him even. Fiearius wasn’t sure if it was truly guts or just stupidity that had kept him from disappearing into the night like the rest of them.
“What do you want?” he demanded.
“To come aboard,” grunted Ludo, like it was obvious, a waste of time to say so. “Apparently, I need permission, as a few members of your crew felt I should … not.”
Fiearius knew what that meant. It meant Corra had chased him out of the cargo bay with a loaded rifle.
“Well,” grunted Fiearius, already feeling the taint of anger in his blood, “I’m in agreement.” Deciding to be done with this conversation, he pushed himself from the wall and made to leave, but Ludo stepped in front of him.
“Agreement? With them?” he growled, redness flaring up his face. “How the hell could you kick me off? I’m the greatest asset you got.”
“You?” Fiearius laughed incredulously, slowing his walk. “Not even close. Aiden was the greatest asset. Not you. Definitely not you.”
“Hey,” Ludo grunted, his eyes narrowed to slits, “I ain’t the one who killed him.”
“Might as well have been,” Fiearius growled. “Those who stirred up the panic are just as guilty as the one that pulled the trigger. And I know it was you who stole those oxygen masks.”
A slow laugh rolled out of him. “Oh you think so, do you?”
“Think? Think?!” Fiearius’ lip curled back as, in one motion, he suddenly seized the man’s shirt and tugged him in threateningly, nevermind the fact that Ludo was twice as broad. His voice lowered considerably, barely above a whisper. “Not the word I’d use. And to hell if you think I’d ever let a fucking snake like you back on my ship. This was the last straw of many. The last.”
But unexpectedly, Ludo didn’t grab for his weapon, he didn’t swing his fist.
Tensed and poised to explode, Ludo gritted out, “I know. I know, Fiearius! I see that. That’s why I’ll come back — and do the next few jobs for free. With no pay.”
For a moment, Fiearius was stunned. But he slowly released his grip and regarded the man suspiciously. “What makes you think I want you on the next few jobs?” he asked, but his tone had lost its harsh edge.