“You know, Rhys told me the other day he wants to start drinking less,” she remembered suddenly. “He asked me to help him. Funny, yeah? He was drunk when he asked me, though … And Amora’s great. She’s still trying to marry off Cyrus to her nieces. No luck so far, though.”
“Poor Amora, never can take a hint, that one,” Alyx remarked affectionately. “Who else am I forgetting?”
Leta felt herself clench. Mentioning Aiden’s death wasn’t exactly good table conversation, and she wasn’t sure she could manage it.
“Well, someone new came aboard,” said Leta instead. “Finnegan, this fighter pilot. The deckhands were swooning over him the other day. And then there’s Ludo –” Hesitation passed over Leta’s face, her expression losing its cheer. “Ludo’s there as well, and … “
Abruptly, the tone of the table changed. The look of cheer disappeared from Alyx’s face as she simply gazed over the table, the color draining from her face, leaving her looking stunned.
“Ludo?” she repeated quietly, letting the name fall out of her mouth like she’d eaten something nasty and wanted to spit it out.
Cyrus eyed her in confusion. “You know, Ludo, older guy, beard — “
“No no.” Alyx held up her hand.“No, I know who he is.” Her eyes had gone glassy as she stared in mild horror at the table before her. “I thought he’d be long gone by now.” She just gazed straight through them, almost scared before she dropped her head in her hands. “Oh gods, oh gods…”
The menu slipped out of Leta’s hands. Something was wrong, truly wrong.
Cyrus sat up in alarm. “Hey — hey, what’s the matter?”
When she finally took her hands from her face, there were tears welling in her eyes. “I knew — “ she stuttered, her voice barely above a whisper. “Gods, I knew, I thought so many times, I should have said something. Gods, I should have said something.”
Leta’s heart was starting to beat hard. “Said what?”
Her wet eyes looked up at the both of them as she breathed, “Why I left. Oh gods, I’m so sorry, I just didn’t– I’m an idiot. I needed to say something and I didn’t. Gods, I didn’t. And now, who knows what–” Her voice drowned in her own throat, but she found it again only moments later. “I just wanted to get away as quickly as I could,” she explained hurriedly, “and when the captain took out that Benning ship, it was the perfect opportunity. I just–I just ran.” The tears were streaming down her face now. “I’m so sorry. I’m–I’m so so sorry…”
Leta’s stomach plunged, and kept plunging. She was scared to ask, “What happened?”
Alyx turned pleading eyes upon her, as if begging her to not make her spell it out. But slowly, she took in a deep breath and said, “Ludo, he–”
“He what?” Cyrus asked, held in suspense.
Pitifully, she looked up at him and said shakily, “It was that night after the Obelon gig. A few of us went down into the town to celebrate. Went into town and drank our wages away.” She took a deep breath before she continued on. “On the way back…I guess I drank a lot. I split off from the group. Got a bit lost. I ran into–into Ludo. He said he’d help me back to the ship.” This time, her pause fell even longer, heavier and it took all her courage to continue.
“He–I didn’t really know him,” she explained, stumbling over her words. “We never spoke. But he used to–sometimes on the ship, I could feel him…watching me. But he was crew. Right? And I was lost so I–so I went with him.” Her voice crumbled almost entirely so that she could hardly say, “He– he didn’t take me to the ship though. I was too out of it to fight back I guess. Or just too weak…”
After a moment of thunderstruck, horrified silence, Leta managed to find her voice, which struggled out of her throat.
“You don’t — ” she began, with difficulty. Her eyes burned on Alyx’s for a moment longer. “You don’t have to apologize. For any of that. Ever.” The words emitted with a conviction, which was surprising, considering how suddenly weak and shaky she felt, like she had just caught the flu.
Swallowing down the sickness in her throat, Leta did not hesitate as she suddenly pushed herself to her feet nearly upending their small table in her awkward haste, without a backwards glance toward Cyrus.
“I– I’m going,” she offered blankly, almost as an afterthought: her voice sounded hollow in her ears, quite unlike herself, like it belonged to someone else. Offering no other explanation of where exactly she was going, Leta crossed toward the exit of the cafe, staggering out.
Seconds or minutes later (really, it could’ve been hours), she was back on the street, parting the crowded sidewalk as her feet carried her forward, faster than her mind could process. Really, her mind was a fog, and she hardly noticed as she nearly stepped into passers-by. Ludo had assaulted her. He could have assaulted countless others …
The thought sent a wave of anger through Leta so powerful and hot that it almost scared her.
Her feet pounded up the metal ramp of the Dionysian before she had a chance to process her surroundings
“Leta — ?” ventured a confused voice. It was Javier, who stood in the corner of the cargo bay, a broom in hand. “What, what happened?” he asked shakily.
But Leta hardly heard him. She suddenly gained a sense of tunnel vision, and everyone lingering in the cargo bay were simply blurs in her eyes as she continued forward, her feet moving of their own accord. Part of her was looking for Ludo. She had no idea what she’d do if she saw him.
Up the stairs, through the corridor — she barely noticed where she was going until she halted, sharply, directly inside the doorway of the bridge.
In the cabin, Fiearius was lounged back in the captain’s chair, his feet on the dashboard, in mid-conversation with Corra. They appeared to be picking through a box of guns as Corra said, “Why are we keeping this one? It’s older than you, cap’n — “
Leta stared at them numbly and took her first full breath in what felt like days, a long, uneasy inhale in her chest. She froze and stared, wide-eyed.
“Fiearius,” she breathed, quietly, and he cocked his head toward her. At once, her eyes sprang with tears, her expression falling into a portrait of despair. “Fiear,” she pressed again, and this time his name was heavier on her lips, painful. Fiearius fixed his gaze on her and pushed himself to his feet at once, alarm in his eyes.
Shakily, she pressed her wrist against her mouth, expertly holding back an onslaught of anger and crying. “You were wrong. He did cross you.” Her eyes swam with tears, but she tried to steady her voice as much as possible. “Alyx’s — Cyrus’ friend — she told us. Ludo attacked her.”
What if he didn’t care, what if he didn’t understand? For a moment Leta was panicked as Fiearius did nothing but stare right through her. But then his expression started to change. His jaw twitched, fury arrived in his eyes. He pushed himself toward the door, but not without grabbing the nearest gun and snarling, “Where is he?!”