Chapter 11: Archeti Again


Bright light was slowly filling the window — it was the glow of a planet the ship was orbiting — though it didn’t wake Leta just yet. Still curled on her side, forearm draped around a pillow that did not belong to her, she slept on, unaware that her long bare legs were tangled in someone else’s, and that her dark hair was a pool of messy curls overhead.

Soon, the light from the window became impossible to ignore, and the young woman knit her brows together impatiently before cracking one open to half-scowl at the streak of light prodding right into her eyes. Her own bedroom had no such window. But she wasn’t in her bedroom.

“Fiearius,” she mumbled, drifting toward consciousness. “We should cover that window. And by ‘we’ I mean you.”

He only groaned into her hair. Her eyes opened at last.

Her gaze shifted over the landscape of the bedsheets, and there was Fiearius’ hand and tattooed wrist and the warm weight on her back was his arm. A lazy, sheepish sort of grin reached Leta’s face as more of the night previous returned to her mind: the marketplace, the stolen painting, the Ordenian hall, dancing, the museum theft. And then back to the bridge, where the night could have ended.

Instead, the night continued with Fiearius cracking open the hatch to his quarters, and them barely making it inside before they’d started the staggering, stumbling kiss toward his bed, and somewhere in the blur, her hands fumbled with the waistband of his trousers and his fingers sought the back zipper of her dress. In the corner of her eye, she could still see the pools of clothing on the floor.

Inhaling a deep breath into her pillow, Leta wound the sheets around her chest, turned on her back and propped herself up on one elbow. From this vantage point, she had a view of the man asleep next to her, eyes closed as he lay on his back, his hair somehow messier than usual.

By way of greeting, Leta suddenly prompted, “Hello? Room service?” A smile inched toward her face as she brushed the hair off his forehead. “What kind of hotel is this anyway?

Eyes still closed, he mumbled, “One that isn’t open yet,” and smirked with a corner of his mouth. Then he suddenly reached out and clamped her frame with all of his limbs, tugging her down to his chest, where she was quite trapped between his arms and blankets.

Leta attempted to heave herself free, but instead snorted a laugh as she dropped her head atop his chest, forfeiting into his embrace. Besides — she found she didn’t particularly want to get up from bed yet anyway.

Softening, she flicked her eyebrows up her forehead. “So last night. That was nice.”

“Nice?” he said, apparently awake now. She felt his mouth press to her forehead. “Nice? That’s it?”

“It was very, very nice.”

Leta stretched her arms out languidly, then dropped her forearm on top of his chest, half of her mind still lingering on the night previous. The recent memory of roaming hands and mouth down her flesh was enough to make a delicious shiver arrive on her skin. Their unexpected night together — and the entire day spent in the city — it felt rather like a vacation, a wonderful respite from her normal life.

And unless Leta was very much mistaken, now she felt quite certain their months of anger, strain and guardedness had resolved, quite neatly: now they were something new.

“Kind of sad to leave Tarin now,” she admitted through a sigh as his fingers drew through her hair. “Why are we going to Archeti anyway? I’ve seen enough of that place.”

“Haven’t we all? But we’re checking out a potential job.” He toyed absently with a strand of her hair and suddenly his tone warmed with mischief; she could feel his grin even if she couldn’t see it. “And it’s a good one. You know how the Society ships a bunch of supplies to Archeti every few weeks?”

Leta frowned and tilted her face towards his. “You’re not seriously going to try and steal charity supplies again.”

Fiearius laughed. “No no, nothing like that. Archeti can keep its charity.” He wrapped a strand of her hair around his finger thoughtfully. “It’s my dear old employers’ ships I’m after … Not to have or anything,” he clarified quickly. “I know, what the hell am I gonna do with three more Society ships? No, I just…want to take them. Or see if I can at least. Just because.”

“A revenge mission,” she clarified.

“I guess. They’ve taken enough from me, maybe it’s time I take something back?” A rare note of uncertainty touched his voice, and after a moment, he wondered, “You think it’s a bad idea?”

A beat of silence passed between them. Leta had to admit the idea was not unappealing.

“They’ve taken a lot from me too,” she murmured. “I can see why you’d want to. Going after them, though … that’s something we’ve never done before.”

“Eh, first time for everything,” he said dismissively, and now he seemed rather preoccupied: the palm of his hand slid up her naked back, then down it more slowly as he muttered, “Have I told you that your skin is perfect?”

“About twenty times last night, actually.”

He grinned. “It’s perfect.”

“Thanks.” Leta propped her chin in her hand. “But how are you going after Society ships? What’s the plan here?”

Good-natured disappointment came to his eyes, but he continued nonetheless. “Well, say what you will about my shit ex-partner, but Dez has been rather helpful in figuring out how to actually use this damn thing in my wrist.” He tapped the spot where the Verdant CID was embedded, then threw his arms up over his head, dropping into the pillows. “No wonder they want it back so bad. There’s more information in here than I ever knew. Including the exact timetables for those supply drops, specs on the ships that run ‘em and fortunately for us, a number of glaring weaknesses.”

“We’re still a little understaffed to be taking on Society vessels.”

“Which is why I’m going to go ask a good old friend of mine for a bit of help. Quinida Utada, you heard of her? Quin and I go way back. She practically runs Genisi. If anyone’s got the manpower to pull off this job, it’s her. And if anyone is actually willing to help me do it…Well, I hope it’ll be her.” He shrugged one shoulder. “We’ll see what she says.”

“Sounds like you’ve got a lot of work to do.”

“Yeah. But y’know what?” His eyes went to hers, and the smile grew and grew on his face. “It can wait.”

The words had barely left his mouth before he put a hand at her hip, swiftly turned them both over and pressed his lips to hers in one motion. Eye closed, Leta half-laughed against his mouth, which quickly sloped down her neck.

Just when they had relaxed into the embrace, her hand knotted into his hair, her breath in his ear, there was a loud yell from outside the door.

“Fiear!” called Cyrus’ voice from the hallway, making them both freeze. “We’ve been sitting in Archeti’s orbit for nearly 3 hours, what the hell are you doing?”

Fiearius went still, his mouth against the hollow of her collarbone. “Do you really wanna know the answer to that?”

Leta winced. Silence passed in which Cyrus seemed to think better of it, and then he called, “We’re going to get a citation. Land the ship,” just as Fiearius groaned.

“You’d better go take care of that,” said Leta. Fiearius pushed himself to his feet, untangling his limbs reluctantly.

“I’ll be right back,” he sighed, swiping a pair of trousers off the floor and pulling them on over his hips. As he opened the hatch door with his foot, he smirked at her over his shoulder. “Stay here.”


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