Chapter 41: Paraven

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” — fuck, Leta, just, please tell me you are taking care of it — “

“Of course I am.” Her tone was cold and harsh. “And would you be quiet please? This isn’t important right now — “

“Not important?” Finn repeated, clearly fighting the urge to yell, or perhaps kick the nearest park bench. “I’d say it’s a little important. And you know what you need to do, don’t you? You need to tell Fiear — “

“Not a chance,” Leta interrupted, her voice so sharp that Fiearius couldn’t help himself: he glanced in her direction, even though, technically, he was discreetly eavesdropping on their conversation. In the shadow of a building, he slanted against a wall, arms folded, watching tourists pass him by on the boardwalk.

Neither Leta nor Finn noticed him as they walked, arguing quietly, their faces darkened. No doubt they were on their way to meet the rest of the crew at the rowdy bar near one of Paraven’s many sandy beaches.

That morning, Fiearius had agreed to land the ship here only with a groan of frustration. It had been Cyrus’ idea. Of all people. “The crew could use some downtime,” he’d said. “After all that’s happened, a holiday would do them well. Look.” He had then diligently held out a console screen and waited while Fiearius examined the photo of a long white beach, tall trees and endless waves of clear blue water. Across the bottom, it read in a bubbly, happy typeface, ‘Paradise on Paraven.’

Fiearius had eyed the image skeptically. Then he’d eyed his brother skeptically. And then he’d grunted, “Fine. Set a course.”

But Fiearius didn’t have vacation in mind. In truth, Fiearius knew little of the go-to tourist destination other than a multitude of cruise liners headed its way from every damn planet in the span. He knew that it had been purposefully developed to be the island-esque getaway of so many people’s dreams. He knew it was really fucking hot. And above all else, he knew who was running the place.

There was some sort of mayor or governor or something, but anyone would tell you who really ran Paraven: Jodar Donovan. He was the man who kept things running. He was the one raking in all the profits of his little tourist empire. And he was the one Fiearius wanted to meet. Guy like that? Surely he could find a need for a man with skills like his. And given recent history, Fiearius could use work wherever he could get it. The Dionysian’s coffers were still suffering from when his brother had bought Leta back from that fighting ring asshole.

So they landed on Paraven. The crew had excitedly piled out of the ship and Cyrus had stepped outside and looked down at his beautiful image of quiet sandy beaches and beautiful shorelines and then up at the crowded, dirty, beachside market, filled with the calls of vendors and the drunken shouts of the local bars. He looked rather disappointed. But he hadn’t complained when Corra had seized his arm and dragged him off with the rest of the crew towards what would likely be a raucous night out.

Fiearius sure as hell didn’t want to party with the crew. He had a powerful mogul to track down so he’d ventured off on his own in search of information. He’d spoken with a few knowledgeable and loose-lipped locals and was about to head out to the peninsula when he overheard familiar voices that made him take pause and duck out of the way.

Admittedly, he was surprised to find Leta out here. She didn’t seem like the type to enjoy the tacky souvenir stands, fake palm trees and flashing neon lights this city offered. And yet …

“Let’s just — go meet the rest of the crew at the bar, okay?” she was saying to Finn, a desperate strain to her voice. “I’m figuring it out. I promise — “

“Fine,” Finn breathed uneasily. “So you won’t tell Fiear. But Cyrus, Corra — someone — “

“I’m taking care of it. Trust me.” Leta threw Finn one last dark look before she pushed away, leaving him and disappearing into the crowd.

In spite of himself, Fiearius’ interest was piqued. He glanced over his shoulder, deciding that Donovan could wait.

As though he was just strolling along and happened across him, Fiearius approached Finn, who was standing and staring worriedly after Leta, and amicably slapped him on the back. “Hey mate, fancy running into you here.”

Finn gave a start. “Shit, what’re you doing out here?” he demanded in surprise laughingly, though his laughter died off; he looked most unlike himself. He looked troubled. “Actually — mate, glad you’re out. I need to ask you something.” He ruffled his hair, stepping out of the crowd of people to speak more privately.

“How well do you know Leta?”

Surprise ran through him, like it was an accusation. Fiearius folded his arms, unsure how to answer. Unintentionally, his mind flashed to the recent memory of their little heart to heart in the infirmary. Or when they’d drank together in the Dionysian’s kitchen. Or  fallen asleep beside one another on the floor of a dirty, dank cell.

“Well enough,” he replied at last.

A look of uncertainty passed over Finn’s face. “Right. What does that mean?”

Fiearius shrugged. “It means she’s been on the ship for a while and I’ve talked to her some.” A curious frown creased his brow. “Why do you ask?” He didn’t particularly want to ask this, but nonetheless, he forced a smirk to his face and added, “You interested or somethin’?”

A grin ran slowly across Finn’s face. “Well — yeah, of course. I was going to ask how seriously Vescentian women took their marriage engagements, s’all.”

Fiearius fought to keep his expression neutral, his tone even. “Not sure. Not that it matters much anyway,” he added, and Finn lifted his eyebrows curiously. “That girl ain’t Vescentian anymore.” Fiearius breathed a one-note laugh. “She’s Dionysian now.”

The grin flickered on Finn’s face.  “You think so? Well, I suppose I could believe that … She’s been around awhile. And seems like she really trusts you.”

Fiearius paused and eyed him a little warily. Trust him? Obviously not enough to tell him whatever she’d been talking to Finn about. “Maybe, maybe not,” he replied, trying not to sound disgruntled. “What’s this about?”

Finn forced an uneasy smile. “I just think you should talk to her.”

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