Twenty minutes and a mad sprint along the docks later, and Leta had never been happier to be inside the Dionysian’s rusted walls. Somehow, amazingly, they had all made it aboard, and the familiar warm rumble of the engine below had never sounded more beautiful: at last, they were taking off.
“I’m never,” Leta breathed weakly, her lungs still burning, “going back to Paraven. Ever. This is the worst planet in the entire span.” She sank against a wall of the crew deck, catching her breath. Corra sat on the floor at her feet and Finn was sprawled over an armchair nearby.
“Never doubted us for a second,” he said proudly, sliding his hands behind his neck. “We’ve all gotten outta worse scrapes than that. And hey, we oughta have a drink to celebrate.”
“It’s barely noon,” said Leta.
“I’m still hungover from last night,” added Corra, dropping her forehead in her hand. “I can’t even believe that worked,” she muttered. “Who would have thought flashing just a drawn-on librera would let us walk right out of there so easily?”
“Powerful mark, that thing,” Finn mumbled, sinking into the chair. “Maybe I should get one.”
Corra shot him a nasty glare and said sweetly, “Maybe you should. Might be fun watching Fiear try to kill you. I’ve always wondered who’d win in a fight.”
“Me,” said Finn simply, raising his eyes toward her. “It’d be me.”
“So what happened with that girl who got us out?” Leta intervened, recalling her with a start and straightening up off the wall. “What was her name? Richelle, yeah? Did she end up coming aboard? I didn’t see her when we were taking off — “
“Yeah, she ran upstairs. Probably to Fiearius’ quarters.” Corra rolled her eyes. “After all the trouble she went through, cap’n didn’t really have a choice but to let her come along I guess.”
“I guess we do owe Richelle some thanks,” Leta had to admit, trying not to imagine Richelle anywhere near Fiearius’ bed, “With that disguise of hers, she’s the only reason w — “
But she never got the chance to finish. Just then, footsteps pounded down the hall and Fiearius appeared in the doorway of the crew deck. The look on his face was one of such darkness that even Finn and Corra went wide-eyed and immediately still.
But he wasn’t looking at either of them. His gaze narrowed on Leta as he stormed into the room and growled out, “When the hell were you going to tell me?”
Leta was, quite simply, blank with surprise. “What?” she breathed, sidestepping his affront. “What the hell are you talking about?”
But then she felt her heart grow cold with realization. It wasn’t possible that he — how did he know — he couldn’t have possibly known about her illness. She’d slipped up once and Finn knew, but no one else; she’d kept it close and didn’t breathe a word to Corra, to Cyrus, nor to Fiearius.
Because if she didn’t say it aloud, it wasn’t real.
Her expression must have softened with emotion because Fiearius gritted his teeth as he regarded her. “So it’s true then.”
Somehow, Leta managed to ignore the alarmed stares from Corra and Finn and steel her nerves. And with that, came her defenses. He was cornering her like a caged animal, and her anger sparked and ignited.
“I — we’re not talking about this here,” she breathed furiously, averting her eyes as she went to edge around him, but she didn’t get far: abruptly, apparently in agreement, Fiearius seized her forearm and turned to drag her down the hallway.
It was useless to strain against his hold, but Leta still fought his hard grip as he manhandled her all the way downstairs. He was taking them to the infirmary, she realized with a start, which was particularly insulting: not only was this an attack from a bully, but it was going to take place in her own backyard? The infirmary was her own godsdamn sanctuary. Fiearius certainly knew how to make a point.
And for that, she shot him a deathly glare and jerked her arm away once they’d made it inside. She circled away just as Fiearius slammed the door with a bang that filled the whole room.
“I’ll ask again then,” he began impatiently, his eyes coldly on her. He stepped into the now-silent room as she pressed her back against the counter. “When the hell were you gonna tell me?”
“Tell you what, exactly?” she spat. Her hands dug into the cold counter behind her. “What is it you think you know?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” he remarked innocently, and then narrowed his glare, “maybe that you’ll be dead in a week?”
His words hit like a bullet in the chest and for a moment, she didn’t move. Six weeks, actually, replied the eerily calm voice in her mind, but all she said was, unclenching her throat, “I’ve got a little longer than a week. Lucky you.”
Her words hung in the air with a nasty sting that made Fiearius scoff in disbelief. “And how long have you been just not mentioning this? What, I’m not worth trusting with shit like this all of a sudden?”
“It’s not a matter of trusting you!” she cried, digging her hands into her hair. “I was going to tell you — when it made sense to. And I have plenty of reasons for not telling you. If you’d actually listen — “
Fiearius laughed, harsh and bitter. “Oh really? ‘Cause I can think of about thirty reasons you should have,” he barked as he halted in the center of the floor. Somehow his presence seemed to take up the whole room.
Swallowing hard in her throat, Leta paced a few steps before him. “I was stabbed in the fighting ring. Remember that?” she mused bitterly. “With a shoddy knife.” She crouched and yanked up the edge of her pantleg, exposing the seven-inch, thick scar that marred her calf. She could feel Fiearius staring at it, oddly, coldly silent, so she hurried on and stood up quickly, “It got infected. That’s why I’m sick. And that’s why I didn’t tell you. Because I was afraid you’d think it was your fault when it clearly isn’t,” she finished shortly.
Fiearius threw a hand in the air, instantly appalled. “Because I’d—what? Who the hell do you think I am? I don’t need you to fucking protect me.”
Leta ceased her pacing. “Look. I know you already blame yourself for Aiden’s death. This is the last thing you — “
Fiearius’ jaw unhinged. “Wait, what?” he demanded, incredulous and insulted; he looked ready to throw the nearest med cart across the room at the mention of Aiden’s name.