Whatever distraction Fiearius was pulling in the hangar, it seemed to be working: this long sterile hallway was empty of armed Society agents as Leta sprinted after Cyrus, her heart pounding in her chest. They were so close to Ren’s cell that she could barely breathe.
The interrogation bay was one deck below, a half-set of metal stairs that ducked downward. Leta’s feet swallowed the steps two by two, her gun gripped tightly in hand. Down here, the hallways were swept with silence. This bay was clearly set apart from the rest, as if they were underground, beneath the ship, held away.
For the worst detainees.
402 … 403 … Icy sweat touched the back of her neck as she ran. On either side of them now were not just walls, but glass windows; they allowed for fleeting glimpses into the interiors of square, singular cells, but it was the numbers on the walls that earned Leta’s attention. The numbers counted up, and her eyes flew over them eagerly. All the while, she bore the half-crazed look of a woman on the brink of something.
“Here — ” she choked, stopping suddenly, “Cy, here — “
She dodged toward cell 423, pressing her fingers to the cool glass window before she could even get a sense of what lay on the other side.
Hardly breathing, she held back her panic; she didn’t realize she was calling Ren’s name, only that her voice was clawing out of her throat and she had no control over it.
Especially when she saw that there was no movement on the other side. Only shadows filled the cell, illuminated by a singular light overhead, casting a pool around the room, but nothing seemed to be occupying that cool white floor …
“Cy — it’s not — “
Empty, it couldn’t have been empty. If it were empty and Ren was not here, then there were thousands of other places he might have been on this ship alone, or he might have been anywhere in the span or quite literally nowhere at all.
But it wasn’t empty, the voice in the back of Leta’s mind sprang awake and told her, and it wasn’t her own denial telling her that. It was logic. Because this was not a window: it was a two-way mirror.
Of course there was no reaction on the other side. Unthinkingly, without hesitation, Leta’s forehead pressed hard against the glass as she searched inside.
Her skin went cold. She felt his presence before she glimpsed it.
In the darkest corner of the room, barely discernible, was a man’s too-lean figure tiredly slanted against the wall. His lanky legs were outstretched, peeking into the light of the room. Leta’s heart was in her throat.
“You can open it,” she half-asked Cyrus. “Open it — Cy — “
She felt Cyrus cross toward the console in the wall. After seconds of typing — Leta didn’t take her eyes off Ren — the door to her right unlocked with a clunk of metal.
Leta withdrew her hands from the glass and stepped to the door, and behind her she heard Cyrus say quietly, “We need to move quickly.”
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
They had been talking about nothing, or nothing particularly memorable, when it happened. Leta had gotten in another row with her father, to nobody’s surprise, so that was the topic of conversation when Ren reluctantly slipped his legs out of her bed to retrieve his strewn clothes from the floor. He was in the middle of getting dressed and was saying, “Well, maybe you should go back to talk to him tonig–” when Leta sat up in bed and interrupted.
“I think we should get married.”
Ren froze in the act of pulling on his shirt. After a beat of silence, he lowered his arms hollowly and stared at her. “You what?”
Leta sat back against the headboard, the sheets gathered around her chest and bare freckled shoulders. “I think we should get married,” she repeated, her tone casual, but with a catch of seriousness in her voice. “Soon. It’s time.”
Ren eyed her very carefully for a moment, as if fearful for her sanity. “Leta,” he warned, “last time I brought up the m-word you almost smacked me. I believe your exact phrase was it’s ‘the most unholy institution–‘”
“I was in a bad mood that day?” Leta guessed, her expression somewhere between a wince and a smile. “I’m allowed to change my mind, yeah? I can do that?” There was a hint of nervousness in her smile, of uncertainty, and that was when Ren realized, amazingly, that she was not kidding.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Cyrus was right. She had to hurry. They had no time to spare. She heeded his warning and her head nodded slightly, though her widened eyes were fixated upon the door as it slid open, allowing her inside the chamber. After a moment of hesitation — for some part of her was scared of what she would find — she stepped inside.
The furthest dark corner of the chamber held a young man. Not that he looked particularly young in this moment. His long legs were stretched out before him at an odd, unnatural angle, his hands lay uselessly steeped in his lap, his head tilted to the side, his temple pressed against the wall. A shadow covered his jaw, his eyes closed.
Clinically, objectively, Leta knew he was not sleeping, yet she knew he wasn’t dead, either. She couldn’t have guessed what kind of Society drugs he was under, except that they had effectively subdued their prisoner.
In their life together, she had never seen him even close to such a state. If Ren was anything, he was energetic. She could so easily picture how bright his eyes got when he was excited, how animatedly he talked with his hands when he found a topic that he liked — social causes. Quality beer. Or marrying her.
But nonetheless, it was him, it was undeniably Ren Calimore. Leta circled around him like a ghost, then drifted forward and crouched on her legs. Her trembling fingers came gently to his face as she filled her vision eagerly. There were some differences — his hair was longer and lifeless, no longer spiky and careless. Her fingertips passed over a scar near his temple that made her insides clench — but the narrow face, the thin lips, now dry and cracked. It really was him.
“Hey,” she breathed softly, her thumb passing past his cheek. She was not able to pinpoint the exact moment her eyes started to swim with tears, but perhaps it was when Ren weakly twitched, instinctively, still, at the sound of her voice. “Hey — “
For a moment, his expression simply stirred with darkness, his head inclined so his eyes could crack open to look at her. Finally, recognition along with confusion passed over the lines of his tired face.