It was a single four letter word that greeted Fiearius’ tired and hungover mind that morning as he rolled over in bed and laid eyes on the empty whiskey bottle on his floor. So last night had actually happened then, he realized slowly. Leta had actually spent a good part of the night sharing drinks with him and a small part of the night sharing something else. Sometimes her presence was so frustrating, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to kill her or kiss her.
Last night, it seemed, he’d finally given into the latter.
By the time he lowered into the hallway, some twenty minutes of shame and guilt later, their shared bottle of whiskey was in shards littered across the floor and Fiearius was sure he could fix this.
‘Hey, about last night, that was stupid, huh?’ he would say jokingly when he found Leta hopefully alone and not violently angry at him. Or maybe ‘do you feel terrible? I feel terrible. Look, we have so much in common.’ Perhaps he could even try something a little more heartfelt like ‘hey. So. You’re really pretty. Sorry I tried to make out with you.’
But while he had a thousand ideas for how to ease over the awkwardness of getting drunk and kissing an affianced woman, there was one particular part of the conversation he was still drawing blank on. Tiredly, he ran his hand through his hair and dropped aimlessly down the stairs onto the crew deck. How the hell was he going to explain to her that the Baltimore’s only entrance was manned by at least a hundred armed Society agents? Or that even if they could get in, the prison ship was so expansive it would take hours to track down one man? Or that even if they could get in and find one man, the exits were sealed with one-way security barriers that would fry them in two seconds?
How could he even begin to tell Leta that saving her fiance–that it was impossible?
He’d known it for a while now, though hadn’t quite truly realized it until last night when everything suddenly fit together in his head. Why he hadn’t admitted even to himself that what she wanted was beyond his capabilities. Because admitting it to himself was one step closer to admitting it to her. And admitting it to her would mean losing her.
And he really didn’t want to lose her.
But he had to tell her now. He had to be honest, as much as it was likely to sting for them both. She deserved that much at least.
He was just rounding the corner into Leta’s hallway, silently reciting casual openers, when Finn approached from the opposite direction.
He looked nothing like his usual careless self, but rather, quite haggard and worried. “Hey mate,” he greeted in surprise. “Was actually just coming to find you.”
Normally, his friend was a welcome distraction, but at this particular moment while Fiearius was still grasping onto what he needed to say, he rather wished Finn had better timing. “Could you give me a bit?” he asked, forcing an uncomfortable smile. “I need to take care of something.”
“Trust me, I wish I could.” Finn smirked sadly, but it eased from his face. “It’s — it’s about Leta, actually.” Fiearius raised his eyebrows. “Look. I’ll just come out with it.” He exhaled sharply. “I just found out, but Leta’s sick. Really, seriously ill. She thinks she might be — “
“I know,” Fiearius cut him off, hoping he didn’t look as startled as he felt. How did Finn know about that? “I know,” he said again. “It’s taken care of.”
“It — what? It is?” Finn looked stricken. “You know about this already?”
Fiearius’ brow creased and he mumbled suspiciously, “I was about to ask you the same…”
Suddenly, Fiearius remembered the conversation he’d witnessed between Leta and Finn back on Paraven. He’d been curious at the time, but the whole thing had been pushed from his mind when there’d been the whole arrest and kidnapping and death sentence ordeal. But now. Now it started to make sense.
“But she’s alright?” Finn continued anxiously. “She’s not — ?”
“She’s fine,” Fiearius told him bluntly, suddenly willing this revealing conversation to end quickly.
Shock masked Finn’s face. “Seriously? Thank god. Because fuck this.” He dug a hand into his hair and laughed once out of pure relief. “Fuck. Well, glad it got taken care of … and glad you knew about it. I’ve no idea why, she just told me not to tell you … “
At that, Fiearius could only stare, unpleasant shock rippling through him. So Finn and Leta were — what, discussing him now? ‘Obviously, if I told anyone, it would’ve been you.’ Wasn’t that what she had said last night? Except Finn, it seemed. She’d tell Finn. And go out of her way to not let Fiearius find out.
So she’d lied then. And what about the rest of it? All of that nonsense about trust and understanding. At once, he felt a sting of–what was it? Jealousy? Betrayal? Rejection? It was hard to tell, but he was distinctly overcome with a desire to not go see her after all. That urge to be honest with her, to lay it out straight and come clean about everything had vanished. Instead, he wanted something else. Something very different.
“I have to go,” was all he grunted to Finn as he about-faced and started marching back the way he’d come. This time, he veered toward Cyrus’ room.
He didn’t stop until he’d climbed up the ladder to Cyrus’ quarters, barged through the hatch and gone straight for the console in the wall.
“Cyrus,” Fiearius greeted him briskly as his little brother sat up with a start and nearly scrambled off the side of the bed. He ignored Cyrus’ look of confusion and instead directed his wrist to the console screen in the wall. At once, blueprints appeared on the screen.
“I need you to look at this.”
“Can I at least get dressed first?” Cyrus mumbled.
“Look,” Fiearius ordered again. Cyrus glared up at him before groaning, wrapping the sheets around him and stumbling over towards his brother. Puzzled, he blinked at the screen slowly.
“What is it?” he asked.
“The Baltimore,” Fiearius replied bluntly. “Look it over. See if you can figure out any way to get in and out of it without being noticed.”
Now, Cyrus looked wide-awake and alarmed. He looked at the screen, then at Fiearius, and finally put two and two together. “This is Leta’s fiance’s ship… Why the big rush all of a sudden?”
Fiearius cut him a cold glare, and the moment he growled, “I want her off of my ship. Now,” Cyrus rolled his eyes in exasperation and groaned.
“What did you do?”
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
When Leta wearily cracked open her eyes in the morning, it was several seconds before she remembered why dread and guilt knotted her stomach. And then it hit her, all at once, and she was wide-awake: Fiearius. His bedroom. Last night. They’d kissed, they’d actually kissed. Drunken as it had been, it was not a night she would soon forget.
Particularly its bitter end.
For nearly ten minutes longer Leta lay in bed, pulling the covers over her face, burning with shame. The way she missed Ren, it was a constant ache, hurting her entire existence. But it was of no comfort whatsoever that she managed to exhibit self-control at the last possible moment with Fiearius. So she didn’t sleep with him, so what? She had wanted to, and perhaps worst of all, she’d let him know it.
Even now, when she winced into her hands, it was partially out of longing.
Suddenly unable to be alone with herself, Leta slid out of bed, splashed icy water on her face and then hurried to get dressed. When she began to peel off her shirt, she was suddenly given reason to pause. Lifting the fabric to her nose and mouth, she inhaled slowly, taking in the distant, rusty tang of dried blood, a hint of smoke and whisky, and even the light sheen of a man’s sweat: after last night, she even smelled like him.
With that, she hurried to change clothes.
Stepping into the hallway, Leta glanced in the direction of the mess hall before changing her mind and veering toward Corra’s room. Her door was open, and Leta paused on the threshold as voices reached her ears.
“Oh please, it was nothing,” Corra was saying. “You’re over-romanticizing it. Really.”
“Well excuse me for thinking you deserve a bit of romance in your life.” It sounded like Nikkolai, one of the Dionysian’s deckhands and Corra’s frequent fellow gossiper. “And you gotta admit, he is fine.” He chuckled and added, “At least, his name’s one letter away from fine — “
Corra giggled as Niki looked up and spotted Leta in the doorway. “Speaking of fine, you’ve got another visitor,” he told Corra, standing to his feet. “I’ll leave you ladies alone.” He grinned as he passed Leta through the door. “She’s all yours!”
But even after Nikkolai left, Leta did not speak. Pained, she simply looked at Corra, feeling utterly at war with herself. One part of her was bursting with the news. The other wished to take this secret to her grave.