The ship halls lay quiet and sleepy when Leta finally decided to make her move. Fiearius had been asleep for hours in the infirmary — of course — and most of the crew had turned in early, too. Which was her cue.
Quiet as a mouse, she drifted down the hallways to the command deck and hoisted herself up the metal ladder into Fiearius’ abandoned quarters. Her stomach gave an uneasy twist as she closed the creaky hatch behind her and flipped on a dim light switch, illuminating the mess.
She couldn’t explain her uncertainty in entering his room — after all, she was doing him a favor, just grabbing some of his clothes and things — but that didn’t offer her any comfort. Memories rushed at her, making her skin prickle: it was impossible not to remember the last time she’d been in his room, his hands tangled in her hair, then dragging down the small of her back …
Carefully avoiding looking at his unmade bed, Leta half-walked, half-wandered the perimeter of the room. Her fingertips pulled across a dusty shelf, as she noted with amusement the stack of recipe books — she always forgot that Fiearius liked to cook. Then came a set of postcards, small statues, oddities, souvenirs: probably all stolen, if she had to guess. She could just picture him pocketing these and walking away.
And then, stacked neatly against the wall, a row of guns. His own weapon’s locker right beside his bed. How nice.
Head shaking, Leta turned around and crouched to the floor toward a pile of laundry. She’d pulled a worn jacket and shirt into her arms when suddenly, she froze.
On the floor, beneath the clothing, lay a photograph. The photo was aged and peeling at the edges, but there was no denying the smiling, shining faces looking up at her: in front of a desert landscape (Satieri?), was a young woman holding a child, both of them mid-laugh.
With slightly trembling fingers Leta picked it up and looked, for the first time, at Fiearius’ wife and son.
Aela was quite beautiful, Leta thought. Almond-shaped eyes, a kind smile, and red hair that sort of exploded all over her shoulders. And in her arms was her son — their son, Fiearius’ son — laughing, his face bright and gleeful and mischievous. It made her heart clench with physical pain: he was so small.
Abruptly Leta could look no longer. She dropped the photo on the floor, and the laundry too, and crossed back toward the door empty-handed. Cyrus could get Fiearius’ clothes from now on.