Early the next morning, Fiearius did not hesitate. Quietly as he could, he slid his arms away from Leta’s sleeping figure and dressed quickly in the dark. Seconds later, he was descending the staircase to the lowest deck, his feet pounding down the metal steps. Even at this early hour, he guessed the observation deck would not be empty, and sure enough …
Dez was in upon the bench facing the great black window, reading a book. Fiearius approached, dropped his hand into his pocket and tossed the bottle of pills into his lap.
“Here,” he said abruptly. “I’m not taking these anymore. You can keep ‘em.”
He turned on his heel to leave but Dez spoke up, sounding curious.
“Can I ask why?”
Fiearius turned back, frowning. There was a multitude of reasons to refuse Flush, especially after last night. The burn of Leta’s green eyes flashed through his mind.
But all he said was, “Because I don’t need it anymore. My legs are fully healed.”
“Do you not remember the last time you went cold turkey?”
He meant the withdrawals. Of course Fiearius remembered. He’d been bedridden in excruciating pain for nearly a month. Aela had been forced to restrain him to keep him from injuring himself. Flush on its own hit hard and he’d seen first hand that its withdrawal hit harder.
But that didn’t change his decision.
“Thanks for the concern, but I’ll manage,” he said briskly as he moved toward the door. He’d have to manage. And hope to the gods it wouldn’t be so agonizing this time.
“Perhaps,” Dez mused with a shrug. “What about today?”
For the second time, Fiearius froze on the edge of the doorway. “What about today?”
“Will you manage today?” Dez asked as though it were the most mundane question in the Span. When Fiearius said nothing, he went on, “I cared for him too. Whether you’d like to believe that or not.”
Fiearius slowly turned around, shocked. But of course, Dez had been a part of Denarian’s life. A most unlikely babysitter, but the kid had been fond of him. It was something Fiearius had long forgotten. He had a hard enough time holding onto his own memories of Denarian, let alone memories of Denarian and a very different Desophyles than the one that stood before him now.
“For what little it’s worth, I’m sorry for what happened to him,” Dez continued as Fiearius fixed his stare on him. “I’m not sure I ever had the chance to say it. But I’m sorry. He was a good person. He didn’t deserve such a cruel fate.”
Fiearius moved his eyes past Dez. He couldn’t bring himself to meet his gaze. “No,” was all he managed. “No he didn’t.”
“I won’t soon forget the day I first met him. Barely three days old. Tiny and fragile and a funny shade of pink.” Dez frowned. “He then proceeded to piss on me.”
At that, Fiearius couldn’t hold back a pained laugh. “He always was a good judge of character.”
“Especially for someone so very small,” Dez agreed.
“D’ya remember Architan?” Fiearius asked suddenly.
“Was that the vile monkey toy you bought him? That made the screeching noise?”
“That’s the one. Y’know he only liked that stupid monkey because you told him you hated it so much.”
Dez raised his brows with interest. “Like father like son I suppose.”
Fiearius shrugged a shoulder, feeling his spirits lighten. He’d never been able to speak to anyone about Denarian quite like this. Not since he’d passed. No one on the Dionysian had ever known him. They weren’t a part of that chapter of his life and today of all days, there was something incredibly relieving to be found in the company of someone who had been.
But as relieved as he may have been, the seed of doubt started to sprout when Dez asked, “Have you decided what you intend to do next?”
Fiearius’ jaw tightened. “I have,” was all he said.
But before Fiearius would give him the benefit of an answer, he had to know. He stepped forward, full of steel.
“First, tell me why. Why you want to–I don’t know, what are you trying to do? Get supporters? Start a rebellion against the Society or something? Why?”
Dez lowered the book in his lap and sat up straighter. “You of all people, who would have his son by his side today were it not for the Society, have to ask me that?”
Anger struck him, but Fiearius’ voice was even when he said, “You don’t want a rebellion for my son.”
“Not only for your son, no,” said Dez. “But you weren’t the only one to lose someone to the Society.”
At that, Fiearius bit the inside of his mouth and went coldly quiet.
It was too easy to forget about Dez’s family. They too had paid debts to the Society in blood. Dez had four brothers. Two of them had been killed in action as Internal Affairs agents. A third had been taken out by one of their Internal coworkers for accidentally leaking information. As far as Fiearius knew, only Dez’s youngest sibling and his mother survived.
But it still didn’t add up. “You were the most loyal agent out there for years,” said Fiearius sharply. “Since you joined. Through all the deaths. What changed?”
“I was shown the right path,” said Dez simply.
Fiearius groaned and put his hand over his eyes. “Oh not this again. So that’s the answer? The dov’ha told you to do it?”
“Just because you’ve strayed from your faith doesn’t mean you should insult mine.”
“Didn’t have much faith to stray from,” Fiearius muttered, but Dez had already went on.
“The dov’ha told me nothing, but they made clear to me the path that we are on. The path we have always been on. When I saw you under the effects of the ARC treatment, I understood. All the lives that we have taken, the deaths we have claimed, the deaths we have caused. Don’t you see? Everything has lead us to this moment. Losing Denarian, losing my brothers, losing our power, it was all inevitable. And now is our moment to mend what we have broken.”
“So it’s vengeance,” Fiearius said bluntly. “You could just say you want vengeance, y’know.”
“It’s more than vengeance, Fiearius. It’s justice. It’s our divine calling. You can try to swerve away from the path as much as you like, but you’ll always come back to it. You’ll complete the circle eventually.”
Fiearius just shook his head. “Good to know you’re still nuts. At least some things never change,” he muttered. “But I’m not looking to overthrow anything. Nor am I going to ‘rally’ anybody. Or start anything. And it’s sure as hell not any circle. But.” He took a deep breath. “I have decided we’ll be moving forward with this attacking the Society thing.” At Dez’s satisfied smirk, he snapped, “But only because we have no other choice.”
“Of course,” Dez admitted, his tone laced with innocence. “Whatever lie you need to tell yourself to complete the dov’ha’s will. However. If you intend to continue on this path, you’ll need this back.”
He stood up and held out the small pill bottle.
“No,” Fiearius said simply. “No, I really won’t.”
“You’re better on it Fiearius and you know it. You’ll be at a disadvantage if you’re not.”
“No. I won’t.”
“If you don’t take it, you won’t have the focus to complete this.”
He thrust it at him again. “You must take it, Fiearius.” But Fiearius knocked it out of his hand. As the bottle fell to the floor with a clatter, Dez observed him skeptically.
And then, his voice colder than ice, he asked, “It’s because of her isn’t it?”
Fiearius’ body went very still. “Excuse me?” he asked, daring him to go on.
Dez leveled him a steady, knowing stare. “It’s because of the girl. Your little mistake. You’re afraid it’ll upset her.”
Fiearius took a step closer to him. “If I were you,” he growled, “I’d watch what I–”
“She’s leading you in the wrong direction, Fiearius. She’s weak. She can’t do what needs to be done. You and I are on this path because we’re prepared for it. She is not. She will slow you down and trip you up again and again.”
“She’s not weak,” Fiearius spat, his fist twitching at his side. A few more words and Fiearius knew it would have been his job to plant it in Dez’s face. “Why don’t you just–”
“She’s drawn you in with empty promises of love and affection, but if she truly knew you, she would leave in a heartbeat. You keep yourself from her and you know it. You hide your darker edges,” he gestured towards the Flush on the floor, “because you know she’d turn her back on you if she knew.”
With a growl, Fiearius stepped forward and seized Dez’s collar, tugging him towards him. “You best mind your words, Dez — ”
“Yes,” Dez agreed, unphased by the physical contact. “And you best mind your nature.”
With another growl, Fiearius released him and pushed him away. He could think of nothing left to do but turn on his heel and stalk from the room, his mind racing.