Chapter 43: Proposition

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When the doors to his bedroom were thrown open and Corra stood on the threshold, Finn knew he should have felt a wave of embarrassment. After all, he was sitting on his couch, drinking a murky glass of whiskey. Smoking a cigarette. Alone. And it was barely noon.

Corra pulled a face of disgust and perched her hands on her hips. “What the hell are you doing?”

Adopting a look of comedic offense, he put out his cigarette in a tray on the floor and scoffed. “What do you mean, what the hell am I doing?” he said, exhaling a plume of smoke. “What does it look like I’m doing?”

“We had a call with the Conduit about another assignment,” Corra said, crossing her arms.  “You were supposed to be there. But clearly you’ve been busy.”

She looked him up and down, and he knew his state of dress wasn’t helping his case. Clinging to him and smelling like old laundry and stale liquor were the same clothes he’d worn yesterday.

“Er, yeah. Went out last night … Is it morning already?” he asked with an apologetic wince. Standing up, he dove a hand into his shock of messy hair, attempting to flatten it as he said, “Didn’t mean to blow you off, honestly. I lost track of time — and everything else.”

“I can see that,” Corra muttered dryly, raising her eyebrows as she scanned over his bedroom. Usually, Finn kept his room impeccably tidy and neat — a leftover habit from military school that he had never been able to shake. He even made his bed in the morning. But in this moment, the bed was a mess of tangled sheets, and the floor around it held mountains of clothes, lopsided stacks of books, emptied liquor bottles, overturned trunks.

Subtly as he could, Finn kicked a stack of magazines under the couch, and it was then Corra demanded, “Are you okay?” She was eyeing him closely, a touch of worry in her stare. “You’re not still upset about Callahan are you?”

“Wh — oh, nah, s’fine. I can handle being screamed at.” He grinned. “It’s just like being back on Carthis.”

Of course, being screamed at by a military officer wasn’t quite the same as being screamed at by Callahan, who hadn’t actually screamed at all. He’d sat back in his office chair across from Finn, quietly seethed, and drummed his fingertips against a long silver knife that Finn was certain he was tempted to plant into his chest. The Beacon had successfully delivered his cargo — but it’d been three days late.

One more chance, Riley, Callahan had decided at last, his eyes flashing. One more chance, one more job, don’t fuck with me again. This time, they had landed at the drop point two days ahead of schedule.

“Really, s’fine,” said Finn, who had decided to spare Corra the exact details about Callahan’s threat. She’d be overcome with guilt. So he simply dropped back onto into his seat, throwing his arm over the back of the couch as he said conversationally, “I just stayed out too late. You ever stay out so late that it’s pointless to go to bed?”

He cracked her a rather lopsided, tired, glassy-eyed grin. He wasn’t lying — he really had stayed out too late, drinking with a few old friends. He’d managed to stumble home to the Beacon around 6:00 AM.

Although Corra joined him on the couch, she did not seem placated. She glared at him with a mixture of concern and scrutiny and just said, “Uh huh. So what’s really bothering you?”

Finn opened his mouth to scoff, but then he found himself relenting. God, it always seemed pointless to keep things from Corra. She’d find out somehow. She always did.

“I guess you haven’t heard the news,” he said at last, his voice dry. “It’s all anyone is talking about. Commander Elsa Larson, engaged! Getting hitched. I sure hope I’m invited to the wedding,” he muttered gruffly, rolling his eyes. At once, Corra’s expression softened and she edged closer, rubbing his shoulder.

“Aw Riley. I’m so sorry. That really sucks, I didn’t know.”

“I’ll live,” he assured her, tilting the glass against his lips.

“Have you talked to her at all? Do you want to talk to her? Or do you want to forget she exists entirely?”

“Both,” said Finn, barking a laugh. Digging a hand into the pocket of his trousers, he pulled out a packet of cigarettes and tapped it against his open palm. “And yeah, she told me herself this morning. Real fun call. Letting me know we’re truly over ‘cause she’s getting married in a month.” Rolling his eyes, he put the cigarette between his lips but didn’t light it.

Corra’s face fell with sympathy. “You two were together a long time, weren’t you?”

“Three years. Ish. I s’pose this was bound to happen eventually. I knew she was seeing someone. Just didn’t know it was that serious. He’s a Carthian fighter pilot too, how ’bout that? Didn’t know she had a type.” He rolled the cigarette around in his lips and shot her an expectant look. “Anyway, let’s talk about something else, eh? How was your evening?”

“Wh — my evening?” She look startled, but then went on, “Well. First I had dinner with Alyx and Leta. Addy read us Cyrus’ drunk poem. And then I took Cai out dancing which he’s never done before and it was hilarious. If I’d known you were having such a crap time, I would’ve brought you too.”

“Ah, I don’t think I could live with myself for crashing your date, but thanks. As much as I would’ve loved to see Cai dance. That must’ve been a riot, poor guy.” His tone was warm when he mused aloud, “You know I’ve been wondering. What’s goin’ on with you two?”

It wasn’t like Finn to recognize this sort of thing, but even he noticed that Corra and Cai had been spending an inordinate amount of time together. At every meal in the mess hall they shared a table; they watched movies in the crew lounge; Finn had even seen Corra showing him around the gun range below deck. And now they went out dancing together. In spite of himself, Finn’s interested was piqued.

Still, all Corra said was, “Me and Cai? Oh, nothing. Nothing really.”

“That so?” Finn leaned back in his seat, knowing and haughty. “Then why’s your face all red?”

She laughed. “Shush. Don’t get me wrong, Cai is incredibly sweet and funny and adorable, but–”

“But you’re still adamantly against any form of relationship,” Finn guessed.

Corra faltered. “Well–no. No, I’ve…I’ve been rethinking that stance actually.” When Finn lifted his eyebrows, she went on, “Romance always seems so dramatic and painful, especially after what Leta just went through, but–I don’t know, I’ve been wondering lately if I’m just being a coward. And maybe whether it might actually be worth the risk. If it was the right person I mean.”

“So Cai?”

She shook her head. “Not Cai.”

“No? Even though you clearly like ‘im?”

“I do! But it’s just not gonna happen. He’s not ready for something like that. I mean, you’ve talked to him, you know how he is. He hasn’t been free very long. He’s still doing that–” she waved her hand in the air vaguely. “That thing. Where he’ll just do anything you ask him without even questioning it. Y’know? He hasn’t learned how to make his own decisions. No way is anything gonna happen between us. Not for a long while.”

“But you’d like it to?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“You just said you wanted to start something with the right person.”

“Well I wasn’t talking about him.

All at once, the mood changed. Corra clearly realized she’d said something revealing, because she bit down on her lip and went pink, though she didn’t remove her gaze from Finn’s face. Finn realized — it took him a several seconds — to fully understand she meant. She was talking about him.

“Wait,” he muttered, his voice slowing. “Really?”

Corra winced, like she’d made the biggest mistake of her life. “No. No, I–ugh, I’m sorry.” She covered her eyes with her hand. “That could not have come out at a worse time could it? I’m so sorry. Please pretend that didn’t happen.”

“You — ”

“It’s just — it’s stupid — I know you and me are just…whatever we are. I know. But all this stuff with the Conduit and saving the allies and I felt like you just got it and it really means a lot to me so I guess I just got swept up in it all and — gah, I’m sorry. It’s so dumb.”

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5 thoughts on “Chapter 43: Proposition

      1. DeNarr

        Wow, now it would be really horrible if they were transporting slaves, as after 3 days they may have been delivering DEAD slaves 😛

      2. Devin

        Seeing how easy they got off, I doubt it was slaves. That would have been a very expensive loss for Callahan.

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