Chapter 48: Boarding the Baltimore

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“The Baltimore? We’re actually going to board the Society ship?”

“‘Course not, ‘cause it ain’t possible — “

“ — watch your mouth. Cap’n says we can do it, then we can do it.”

“Yeah, right — “

Conversation swirled right past Leta’s ears. She barely heard the chattering crew as she breathlessly pressed through the mess hall and down the corridor with one destination in mind: the bridge. If this ship was really and truly headed to the Baltimore and to Ren, then she needed to speak to its captain.

Leta stalked right into the bridge, frenzied as a tornado.

“Fiear,” she demanded shakily, “what the hell is going on?”

Fiearius was near the captain’s chair, ready to lower into his seat. But he paused at the sight of her, leveling her his long, heavy stare. He did not seem surprised to see her at all, although this was the first time they’d been alone since — since — well, since the kiss. The kiss that Leta had spent all day trying to forget. A brush of the most intimate kind of awkwardness passed over her flesh (she’d been in his bed, his fingers tangled in her hair, his mouth at her neck –), but she forced the sensation away in favor of the most important matter.

“You just decided we’re going to the Baltimore?” she breathed, unsure if she should have been hugging him or slapping him. “Why? Why now? And you could have told me. Some warning would have been nice before you addressed the whole crew — “

“Well you know now,” he interrupted flatly, infuriatingly indifferent.“What difference does it make?”

“But what happened?” Leta stepped deeper into the room, gripping the back of the co-pilot’s chair. “What made you decide to do it now?”

Fiearius shrugged one shoulder, his eyes on the window. “It’s just time.”

Time for her stay on the Dionysian to be over, Leta surmised. Surely, after what happened last night, this was no coincidence. But all she said was, “So what’s the plan here?”

“We’ll dock on the Baltimore.” Fiearius dropped into the captain’s seat. “We’ll land in the hangar. Cyrus has some ideas on how to access their database to locate the right cell,” he answered briskly. Ren’s cell. Leta’s heart leapt. “He’s volunteered to go with you to find it. In the meantime, I’ll create a distraction until you can get back to the ship. From there, Cy bypasses their security protocol and we leave.” He shrugged again. “Simple as that.”

If it was so simple, Leta thought, why hadn’t they done this months and months ago? For a moment she stared at Fiearius closely, but he averted his gaze at once. Awkwardness hung between them but Leta was too steeped in wonder to care.

“I can’t believe this,” she said softly. “It can’t be that easy.”

“I said simple,” he corrected, folding his arms and leaning back. “I didn’t say easy.”

Leta shook her head, perplexed, hopeful and terrified all at once. “But you’re — committed to this?”

In a different voice than before, he posed quietly, “If you are.”

His gaze pinned her in place. The question felt like a test. Are you committed to Ren, or are you not?

Leta swallowed hard in her throat. “Of course I am.”

Fiearius only nodded, one hand straying toward the field of controls where he flipped a switch idly without looking at her. Probably this conversation was over, but Leta couldn’t stand it any longer.

“Listen,” she pressed quietly. “About last night.”

He almost smirked. “We don’t need to talk about it.”

“But we should.” Leta stepped around the chair and lowered into it. “Fiear.”

“Look,” he said briskly, no longer smirking, “Shit happens, it’s not a big deal. It was just a stupid mistake. And for my part, I’m sorry. But hey, you forget about it, I’ll forget about it. Alright? Besides, we were drunk.”

We weren’t that drunk, thought Leta at once. She was certain alcohol wasn’t the reason they’d fallen into an embrace. But if he was pretending — if he was going to offer them an out — how could she refuse?

“So we’ll forget it,” she mumbled. “Because it didn’t mean anything.”

A beat of curious silence passed between them. Fiearius raised his eyebrows at her and watched her a moment longer, and then nodded and spun back around in his chair to return all his attention to the navigation console. “Right. Get some rest, kiddo. You’re gonna need it.”

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