Leta didn’t hesitate in trailing Fiearius and Dez all the way up to the bridge, where they were talking privately. She almost stepped inside the cabin — but something in Dez’s voice made her halt in the hallway and listen curiously.
“The Council believes that they’re invincible,” he was saying in a low voice. “Everyone living under their rule thinks they’re invincible.”
“Hell, I think they’re invincible,” Fiearius snorted.
“Well I would like you to use your assets to prove them wrong.”
“Assets?” Fiearius repeated incredulously. “I’ve got a broken ship, a supply drop timetable, and, what, you and me? To take down — what is it you said? Three Satieran frigates and their hundred person crews? Okay, Dez. Sure.”
Take down Society ships? Startled, Leta stole a glance inside. Fiearius was slanted against the wall, arms crossed, skepticism masking his face.
“You have allies,” Desophyles pointed out.
Fiearius raised a brow. “I have business associates,” he corrected.
“Business associates who would likely appreciate the opportunity to acquire three Satieran frigates and their bounty.”
“So what the hell is in it for me, then?”
“Whatever share you require. And,” said Dez, “the satisfaction of striking back.”
Fiearius’ mouth twitch in annoyance. “Well aren’t you filled with a newfound sense of vengeance.”
Dez looked only bemused. “Give it some thought. For now,” he added quietly, “I’ll leave you to your doctor in the hallway.”
Leta gave a start. Without a word, Dez locked eyes with her knowingly, then brushed past her shoulder and disappeared down the hallway, leaving Leta to swing her eyes back to Fiearius.
“What the hell was that about?” she asked incredulously, ignoring the fact that she was just caught in the act of spying. “You’re talking to Dez again? Why?”
“You’re creeping around the halls and eavesdropping now? Why?” he muttered, pushing away from the wall and eyeing her with distaste. He looked like he wanted to get back to work, but Leta stepped sharply into the room.
“You don’t actually trust him now, do you? Tell me you don’t. Tell me you’re not that stupid. “
“Of course I don’t trust him,” he snapped, scrolling through the console screen to ignore her. “Not that it’s any business of yours.”
“He’s supposed to be locked in the brig. What were you two talking about?”
“Just discussing plans. Why are you even worried about it?” he demanded with sudden irritation, cutting her a glare. “Sure as hell isn’t your problem.”
“Yes, it is,” said Leta in surprise. “Dez is definitely a problem if I’m part of this crew.”
Fiearius snorted. “Well you’re not.”
“Wait — what?”
Fiearius glanced to her, eyes cold. “What do you mean ‘what’? You leave my ship, you’re not part of my crew, you got no need to know my business. Don’t see what’s so complicated about that.”
“Leave? Leave, what — ?” Suddenly, realization struck her: perhaps Fiearius had overheard all those times Corra had asked her to leave with her …
“You think — you think I’m going with Corra on the Beacon.” Leta searched over his face, though she wasn’t sure what expression she wanted to find. In this moment he was looking her over swiftly with his jaw clenched, as if sizing her up.
“Why?” she challenged hotly, crossing her arms. “Would that bother you, if I did?”
“No,” he said, turning away. “I don’t care what you do.”
“So I up and leave tomorrow, you won’t even bat an eye.”
“No. I won’t.” He gripped the edge of the console, then turned away and paced an impatient circle in the room. A month of being bedridden must had truly gotten to him, because he was overflowing with roiling, misplaced energy.
As bad of an idea as it seemed, Leta couldn’t help herself. “Is that why you’ve been avoiding me? Because you think I’m leaving?”
Fiearius suddenly stopped making circles, pausing in the middle of the room to stare at her. “What do you want me to say, exactly?” he demanded, twitchy and agitated. “Huh? What do you want from me?”
The question felt like a test.
“I don’t know,” said Leta honestly. “I really don’t. But I wasn’t planning to leave the Dionysian.”
Fiearius met her eyes then looked away, quickly unnerved. “Well why the hell not? It’s a good ship with a good pilot and the captain’s your best friend. You could go anywhere you fucking like. Why wouldn’t you?”
“Because maybe Corra isn’t the only reason I’ve stayed on this ship so long.”
The words tumbled out of her, a vulnerable confession, but she did not take them back.
“You know the way you treat me sometimes,” she went on fiercely, “I probably should leave. Maybe it’s time I do.”
He did not refute it.
Dropping her arms in defeat, Leta stepped backwards for the door, to disappear into the hallway and pretend this confrontation had never happened. But she only made it one step when Fiearius turned to her and said abruptly, “Don’t.” His eyes were blazing over her face, pinning her in place, halfway out the door.
Feeble protests jumped out of her throat, and she started to shake her head. “Fiearius. You can’t tell me that. We can’t keep doing this, you can’t — “
“Don’t,” he said again. His eyes burned on her. “Don’t leave. The Beacon. Don’t do it.”
Leta was stunned into silence by the absolute conviction in his voice just as Fiearius was stirred to action. Suddenly, as though this were the most important task beset upon him, Fiearius marched through the room, caught her face in his hands and pressed his lips to hers.
It happened so quickly, such a swift interruption, that Leta went rigid with shock. What was going on? How had they gone from arguing to — to this? Out of pure instinct, her hands reached to grasp his wrists, battling the urge to both shove him off and tug him closer. Her throat made a noise of — desire? protest? — but he swallowed it.
Beneath her shock, the cold, scolding voice in the back of her mind pointed out how completely and entirely foolish this was, kissing Fiearius — But then, the warmer voice, the one that was kinder to her, the one that she rarely listened to, ventured thoughtfully: wasn’t it about time she got something she wanted?
And for that, she felt herself respond.
Raising herself swiftly up to tip-toe, she deepened their breathless kiss while her hand dragged upward, encircling her forearm around his neck. In response, his hand pressed into the small of her back and pushed them back a step until her shoulders met the wall clumsily. A startled breath jutted out of her lips but it was only a half-second before his mouth attacked hers.
At this point, she’d found, resistance was long-lost and futile. Heat rose between them. He pinned her wrist to the wall with one hand, his other hand clutched her hips, as his mouth pressed hurriedly down her jawline and neck. Her fingers curved against his taut shoulder, pulling his hips against hers. Their kiss broke jaggedly; she heard his gruff voice in her ear.
“Here?” He meant here, now, the bridge. “Are you — “
Dimly she knew there was every reason to halt him here — what good could possibly come of this? But for once, she found she wasn’t looking for answers. Not now. Which was why she barely breathed, “Yes,” before seeking out his lips once more. He groaned against her mouth, and then his mouth dug against her neck, down her collarbone, and dipped southward.
It was a nearly unyielding embrace. Nearly.
Just when she felt Fiearius’ hands against her obliques beneath the fabric of her shirt, she sensed something else — something off. The air shifted in the room. Her eyes went to the door to their right, and suddenly, horribly, they were not alone at all.
“Uh — “
It was Cyrus halfway in the doorway, shocked, looking rather like he wanted to bolt. And he wasn’t alone: standing beside him was Adrastreia, the young woman from earlier. Her mouth had fallen open, then she clapped a hand over it, though she looked distinctly more amused than Cyrus did.
“Sorry — I just — “ Cyrus groaned with disgust, pressing his palms against his eyes. “Just wanted to introduce you to Addy — “
Leta slipped away from from Fiearius’ arms just as Fiearius stepped backwards, turning himself away toward the front of the ship. At once, Addy chimed, “We’re so sorry! How about we come back later?”
“Yeah, okay, great,” Fiearius grunted, catching his hand in his hair and refusing to look at any of them.
“Are things always this fun around here?” Addy whispered to Cyrus; he just looked back at her with widened eyes.
“Sorry Cy,” said Leta quickly, her voice remarkably even, all things considered, even if there was a tug of dry horror in her tone. She felt like this would be the proper moment to figuratively bang her head against the wall. Or perhaps literally.
“Really. I’m sorry,” she added, her eyebrows raising faintly as she took a jagged step to the side toward the door, dazed and unsure of what to make of this moment. Adjusting her shirt, the strap of which had horribly slid down her bare shoulder, she slipped hastily out into the hallway, grimacing profoundly once she was a safer distance from the bridge and from Fiearius.