Corra raised an eyebrow in concerned. “You alright over there, chika?”
“I don’t — I don’t know,” said Leta honestly. “I don’t think so.”
Leta stepped fully into the room, closing the hatch behind her as she lowered to the edge of Corra’s bed slowly. Corra perched on a rug on the floor, scooted towards her, curious and eager.
“Something happened last night.” Leta swallowed. “Between Fiearius and I.”
Immediately straightening up in defense, Corra looked suspicious. “What kind of something?”
The words were met with a heavy silence. The moment Leta muttered, “he kissed me,” Corra’s eyes went round.
“Well — we kissed. It wasn’t just him. We both did.”
“Wait, what?” Corra gasped. “Explain. What happened?”
Leta pressed the heel of her hand to her forehead. “I couldn’t sleep last night. I had to ask him something — ” When Corra flashed her a perplexed look, Leta went on,” — about the deal with Dez. He was in his room, I went up there, and then we started talking. About nothing. And everything.” Her chest clenched, but whether it was out of trepidation or tenderness, she couldn’t be sure. “And one thing led to another and we kissed.”
Corra blinked her eyes slowly, at a loss for words. “I’m confused. Why would you–you wanted to kiss him?”
A long, telling silence followed. Corra seemed to interpret it and her eyes widened even more. “So what does that–does that mean–” Slowly, she looked up at her, the most subtle of curious smiles starting to form on her face. “Do you have, ya know…feelings for him?”
No, said the voice in Leta’s head at once. No, of course not. Fiearius was crude, loud, arrogant and selfish. He got her into trouble more than he ever got her out of it. And she was engaged. She’d made a commitment to someone who was kind, generous, thoughtful …
But the words in her mind did not match the words that she exhaled weakly.
“I think maybe I do.”
Corra’s mouth fell open out of shock — and also, Leta realized, some kind of delight.
“Oh man, really?” she breathed in excitement, as if this were the most juicy piece of gossip she’d ever heard.
“But I — I don’t know,” said Leta quickly. “This is bad, Corra, and honestly? I’m probably just acting out of loneliness. I haven’t seen Ren in … “
“You know, I had a feeling he had a thing for you,” Corra went on briskly, ignoring her, “but I didn’t think it was mutual. I guess I shoulda seen it coming though, the way you two act and all.”
Was that supposed to be reassuring? That meant people had noticed the particular way she and Fiearius exchanged sidelong looks at dinner. The particular way they laughed at one another and then yelled at each other seconds later. The particular way she battled feelings of envy — actual, horrible envy — when she glimpsed him flirting with women in bars.
Guilt churned Leta’s stomach, and she put her face in her hands.
“How long’s this been going on?” Corra demanded suddenly. “And why didn’t you tell me?”
Leta could only guess. “Because I didn’t want it to be true?”
“Yeah, can’t say I understand your taste much…” Corra muttered, smiling. But the smile faded. “But what about Ren?”
“Corra, I don’t know what’s the matter with me,” Leta breathed fiercely into her hands. “I miss Ren so much. I don’t know why I’m — why this is happening. And I don’t know what to do about it, except pretend this never happened.”
“Aw, hey, c’mon,” said Corra gently, getting up to sit beside Leta and leaning her head on her shoulder. “It’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’ve just had a real crazy year. I mean, you’re on a pirate ship in the middle of nowhere, you’ve been shot at, captured, this ship could go down any minute and to top it all off, you’re here because you lost your fiance. I’m pretty sure anybody with even the tiniest of hearts could forgive you for getting a little emotionally confused.”
Leta mustered a watery sad smile. “I think you’re going a little easy on me, considering I just technically cheated on my fiance.” She pressed her fingers against her eyes, willing away the scene entirely. “I just really shouldn’t care about Fiearius like this.”
At that, Corra murmured thoughtfully, then decided, “Yeah probably not, he’s kind of a jerk,” and cracked a mischievous grin. After a pause, she tilted her head. “So what’re ya gonna do?”
With an enormous effort, Leta slid her hands from her face. “Same as before,” she breathed. “This thing with Fiearius — whatever it is — it can’t change anything. I’m going to get Ren back.”
“Yeah?” Corra offered an encouraging smile that faded just as quickly as it had come. “Does Fiear know that?”
“I’ll tell him if I have to,” said Leta quietly, hoping very much she wouldn’t need to. “It’s always been this way. It’s why I stayed aboard, he knows that. It’s not as if — it’s not like I’m picking Ren over him, it isn’t like that.”
Corra grimaced. “He might not see it that way…”
“Well he has to. I’m engaged.” Leta forced her expression to harden, although she crumbled almost at once. “Gods, I shouldn’t even be thinking about this — or about him — “
“Hey, no,” Corra scolded at once. “It’s okay. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Ya can’t help the way you feel. And you guys have been through a lot together. Can’t fault ya for getting a little swept up in it.”
Leta didn’t want to admit it, but after a long, worried pause, she confessed, “I think I’m a lot swept up in it.”
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
“No, that’s definitely the only other entry.”
“Of course I’m sure.” Cyrus stared up at his brother blankly. “I’ve been reading ship blueprints since I was six. I’m sure.”
Fiearius cast him an annoyed glance before rolling his eyes and deciding not to care about Cyrus’ attitude for the time being. The judgy glares his little brother had been giving him since he’d learned to walk were bad enough. He didn’t also need the snarky know-it-all demeanor. As if everything else wasn’t enough.
“Thank you, little brother, for your expert opinion,” he barked, folding his arms over his chest and leaning against the metal wall.
Cyrus, however, was unapologetic. “You’re welcome,” he replied bluntly. “I’m serious though.” He started drawing lines around the blueprints with his finger as he spoke. “They’ve got this hangar that’s big enough and versatile enough to accommodate any needs they might have, they don’t need a ton of entry points. Anything that comes in, comes in through there. These hatches,” he circled five more points on the map, “are only there to satisfy emergency protocols. They’re probably sealed shut from the inside and even if they’re not, there’s no way you, on your ship or any ship can reach it. This whole section right here,” another drawn line over the screen, “Visibility points. Even with a cloaking device, they’ll just look out the window and our cover’s blown.” He grimaced thoughtfully and looked back at the screen. “They’ve really got this place locked down…How has anyone else broken out?”
Fiearius sighed and gazed at the screen emptily, an image he’d spent far too long staring at over the past few weeks and one he’d probably be staring at even longer for the upcoming ones.
“They haven’t,” he replied shortly. At Cyrus’ look of surprise, he went on, “Not since the modern ships. Not a single breakout. Across the board. Totally clean.”
Cyrus frowned. “I can see why…” he muttered, sparing one last glance at the prints.
“It’s impossible,” Fiearius told him expressionlessly, utterly numbed to the concept by now.
“Have you told her that?” was his little brother’s quiet, hesitant response. The hard look of defeat Fiearius gave in return said it all. Cyrus frowned up at him and sighed, “You need to tell her.”
At once, Fiearius shook his head. “No.”
His frown flattened into annoyance. “No?” he repeated bluntly.
“No,” Fiearius said again.