“Well … I’m flattered, Corra.”
“No,” she said sharply, pointing her finger at him. “You’re not. Just — don’t even — ugh.” She suddenly drew her knees up to her chest and buried her head in them.
He could think of nothing to say, nothing to alleviate the awkwardness in the room. It was true that Finn was spending three nights a week in her bed, but she’d always made it clear that was where their relationship stood: the bedroom. They had fun, they laughed, they drank together, and then she kicked him out in the morning. It was an arrangement, casual and easy, and that was that.
“Corra,” he said at last, his chest twisting: was he really about to hurt her? It had never occurred to him that he had that power. “You’ve no idea how much I respect you as a captain. And a friend. But I thought we set ground rules between us, didn’t we? And you know me,” he laughed sourly, “you know I can’t do commitment right now.”
“I know that,” she said into her knees and let out a snort. “Believe me I know that.”
“I’m — I’m really sorry. I had no idea you… you’re not hurt by this, are you? By me?”
Corra snorted again and looked up at him pathetically. “I’m not hurt, I’m just embarrassed.”
She cracked a weak smile, and Finn, glad to follow suit, said, “There’s nothing to be embarrassed about, a lot of people can’t help falling in love with me.”
“I didn’t say I was in love with you,” Corra groaned, rolling her eyes. “I just–look, you’re really fun. And you make me laugh. I like being around you. So I just thought, y’know, if I’m ever gonna learn how to trust someone enough to have a more serious relationship, maybe you’d be a good candidate, that’s all.” She shrugged helplessly.
“Hey, I like being around you too. But … if you want to try out dating,” Finn said, “and you think I’m a good candidate? Oh you — you are just so wrong about that, captain.”
To his relief, Corra laughed. “In retrospect, it was a pretty stupid idea. But, hey, I like what we have right now, really. So if that’s all you want, that’s fine. Please don’t feel bad and please let’s not make a big deal out of this.” She cracked him a lopsided grin. “I can just as easily conduct my great dating experiment elsewhere.”
“Sorry I can’t be of more help,” he muttered, though he meant it. “You deserve a worthy contender.”
“And I will make it my personal goal to find that person. As long as you agree to keep me company on my my many lonely nights in the meantime.”
“That,” said Finn, allowing himself to grin in spite of his guilt as he threw an arm around her shoulders and squeezed, “I can do.”
Corra giggled and stretched out her arms in front of her. Then she seemed to remember something significant and eyed him seriously. “Oh and — I know you don’t think so but… you’re a good guy, Riley. Really good. So forget Elsa. She doesn’t even deserve you anyway.”
– – – – – –
“So you two are really a thing now, aren’t you?” Leta couldn’t help but ask as she smirked at Addy, who sat across from her on the medical bay counter. Although romance was the absolute last topic Leta wanted to discuss these days, even she had to admit how meltingly sweet it was to see Addy flush pink and become suddenly very interested in the stethoscope sitting on the counter.
“I guess we sort of are,” said Addy, nervously tucking her blonde hair behind her ear. She’d come to Leta in the medical bay just for a routine check-up, but ended up staying to visit and gossip.
Leta could only imagine how Cyrus was taking his newly-minted relationship status. When he wasn’t stressing about his brother, he was probably floating on cloud nine.
“Although I’ve no idea when we’ll see each other again. I’ve never done a long-distance thing before. Do you know when we’ll be near the Dion — oh.” Addy clapped her hand over her face. “I’m sorry, I totally forgot. Here we are, talking about me and the Dionysian when you just went through a break-up — “
“Trust me, I’m glad for the distraction,” said Leta, snorting and waving off her concern. “Besides, I can’t avoid the Dionysian forever. And I don’t want to — I miss Cyrus too.”
She heaved a sigh. Just then, the doors swung open and Alyx popped her head in.
“Hey, sorry to interrupt, doc, but you’ve got an incoming call. System’s reading it as unidentified so I’ve no idea who it is. Want me to dump it?”
Considering how many security hurdles Cyrus put the Dionysian through, there was no one else it could be. No one else would know to reach her on the Beacon. And Cyrus always called Addy first, not her. And she’d already talked to Daelen this morning. Which meant …
“No, I’ll take it,” she said at last, feeling oddly decisive about this. Addy threw her a hopeful look. She had to talk to Fiearius again eventually, didn’t she? “Patch it through to my quarters, please.”
Upstairs in her room, Leta inhaled a deep breath, lowered to her chair and reached for the communications console screen. Whatever Fiearius had to say, she would let him say it, quickly and succinctly so they could get this confrontation over with. It was inevitable, after all; he’d tried calling her nearly every hour for the first week she’d been gone, but those calls had petered off as he got sicker. This was the first she’d heard from him since, and there really was no avoiding this man. He seemed to take up more than his share of the span. She switched the dial to take the call.
“Fiearius. Hey. Listen — ”
But it wasn’t Fiearius’ gruff familiar drawl that filled the line. It was another voice, curious and puzzled.
She nearly choked on her tongue. “Ren?” she gasped. “What the hell is — are you alright?”
“I’m fine, I’m fine. Gods, every time I call you, you think I’m on my deathbed. Though I suppose I can’t blame you for that,” he added, his voice warm and friendly. Clearly he had no idea that Leta’s heart was hammering in her chest, nor that she was experiencing not relief, but a rush of disappointment that it was not actually Fiearius on the other line.
Recovering herself, Leta managed, “What’s going on?”
“Sorry to track you down like this, especially out of nowhere,” he said, inhaling deeply. “But I’ve got a proposition for you.”
– – – – – –
As Cyrus made his way down the stairs towards the Dionysian’s infirmary, he wasn’t sure what he should expect inside. It had been nearly a week since he’d visited his brother. Daelen had assured him that Fiearius was nearing the end of his recovery and insisted Cyrus take some time away from the sickbed. “For your own health,” he’d said. “I’ll tell you when he’s better.”
And this morning, apparently, he was better. Cyrus couldn’t even guess what that meant. ‘Better’ didn’t seem that hard in comparison to the writhing, screaming, delirious mess Fiearius had been for the past few weeks. The echoes of his desperation still haunted Cyrus on quiet evenings sometimes. The fear that this was the end, despite Daelen’s assurance otherwise, still hadn’t quite faded away…
But he was ‘better’. Right. That was something. Finally things could be looking up and Cyrus was starting to be hopeful that they might at last be leaving this planet after their extended stay. Not that it was a particularly bad planet. The tropical city of Kaadihn had actually been quite a sufficient host. There was plenty to do both in work and entertainment, the climate was a nice change from their usual backwater stops and the locals hadn’t once questioned why a crappy out-dated space junker was sitting in their docks for a month. Still, too much traveling had caused Cyrus to grow weary of even the best locations quickly and as he stepped through the door of the infirmary, he couldn’t help hoping ‘better’ meant ‘able to fly the ship elsewhere.’
It only took a moment inside the dim medbay to notice the change since he’d been here last. It was cleaner, for one. The counters were now free of the many bottles of medication that had scattered them before. It was calmer, too. Instead of rushing around the place like a madman, Daelen now stood by the sink rinsing equipment as though he had all the time in the world. And most miraculous of all, it was quiet. In the center of the room, Fiearius was leaning back in the hospital bed, not screaming, not shouting, not flailing nor groaning nor sounding like he was barely crawling his way out of hellfire. No, he was just leaning. And when he saw his brother, he even almost smiled.