Fiearius paused, clearly surprised. “You know I’m not,” he pointed out, eyeing her with interest. “Daelen’s real serious about that confidentiality thing. You don’t think he didn’t ask permission every time he sent you medical updates? Anyway, no. I’ve been clean for 38 days and I’ve no intention of breaking that streak.”
“I was trying to get off it earlier,” he suddenly went on, to Leta’s surprise. “Months ago. I only took it to get over all the ARC shit, so once that was done, I genuinely tried to quit, but– it’s just hard. Even with constant medical supervision. It’s…really hard.”
Leta found herself nodding. She could think of nothing to say, especially when he edged closer in his chair and set his eyes directly on hers.
“Listen, I’m sorry,” he said, exhaling slowly. “I never meant to hurt you. I made a choice that was right for me at the time of making it. And at that time, I was desperate enough to not realize that my choice about me for me wasn’t only going to affect me.” He shrugged helplessly. “So I’m sorry for that. And I’m sorry I wasn’t honest about it.”
Here, he didn’t seem able to look at her any longer. “I was just afraid of losing you,” he admitted. “What we had always felt so…fragile to me. Like there would come a day when you’d look at me and realize who I am and who you are and know that you’d made a huge mistake.”
Leta didn’t realize how very still she’d grown as Fiearius kept talking. Still, quiet, as if paralyzed by the weight of his words. For several seconds she stared at a spot in the middle of the table, and then at last she picked up her gaze and looked at him — really looked at him, for the first time in nearly a month. Although he looked a little beaten up — circles around his eyes, his cheekbones more stark and gaunt — he was still very much the man she remembered, the man she’d slept next to nearly every night for half a year. And knowing that, she couldn’t bite back her confession.
“It never felt fragile to me,” she admitted quietly.
The words sat in the air heavily for a moment, until she leaned back in her seat, heaving a long, burdened sigh. She crossed her arms and went on, matter-of-factly now, “For what it’s worth, it wasn’t the drugs, Fiearius. I can live with someone who has a problem with addiction. It’s not an accident that I became a doctor — I’ve seen the worst in people and it doesn’t scare me off. That’s not why I left.” A flicker of intensity passed through her eyes. “It’s that you lied … that you thought you couldn’t trust me.”
At that, Fiearius shook his head vehemently. “It wasn’t you I didn’t trust. I–gods if there was just one thing I could take back, it’s that.” He met her stare seriously. “I do trust you. It wasn’t lack of trust that made me hide it from you. Just lack of courage.”
“Well — thank you,” she added, her voice lowering with sincerity. “For apologizing. I forgive you.”
Was their night winding down now? Perhaps it was. Perhaps this was all that needed to be said between them. They’d eaten, they’d talked, he’d apologized, she’d accepted his apology. Perhaps this was when they parted ways.
Somewhat uncertainly, Leta stood to her feet and took their plates to the sink. She wasn’t sure how to say goodbye, even just temporarily. When she turned around and her eyes set on Fiearius standing there, intense and burning with meaning, she sighed.
“Listen. I can accept that it’s — that this — that we’re over. But I can’t accept that you’re hurting yourself. If you use again, please just tell me.”
He cracked a dark, lopsided smirk, one that had won her over a thousand times before.
“Oh come on now, I would never. Only have to make a mistake twice, y’know… ”
As she picked up her bag from the floor and readied to leave, there was only one thing left to do: truly say goodbye. As they lingered near the door, Leta paused, then decided oh, what the hell and stepped closer for an embrace, which he accepted, pulling her into his chest. The warm weight of his hands on her back held her in place like an anchor.
“Don’t be a stranger,” she heard herself say quietly in his ear, a slight laugh in her voice, even though her expression was anything but comical and warm. Her forehead wrinkled with sudden distress as her chin brushed against his shoulder, her arms held his torso perhaps too tightly, one of her hands holding his shirt fabric at the small of his back. Her other hand was still knotted around the handle of her bag.
Finally, with a shaky sort of sigh, she drew away inch by inch, but then it happened: she made a colossal mistake, almost instinctively, as if she had no control over the error. She made the mistake of easing away and moving her face nearer toward his, sliding her eyes up to his, and then down to his lips. Breathing in sharply and softly, she froze.
Leta’s first thought was that Corra was going to kill her for this. But that thought grew dimmer in her mind as Fiearius met her eyes, then moved his gaze down her face. Seconds passed, and then slowly the curve of his mouth leaned in and brushed against hers in a tense, uncertain graze. She could still feel the unease between them, the uncertainty of how to move forward and how quickly. It was a slow burn of a kiss: unneedy, both of them hesitant. Clearly, Fiearius was as unsure as she was about this development.
But with a slow exhale Leta felt the tension melt from her skin. Warmth ran up her spine as the kiss began to build slowly, with more pressure and heat as his fingers curved against her back, pulling her closer. Now, the voice in the back of her mind was at war with itself. This is bad for both of us, scolded Logic and Reason. Nothing good would come of it.
But very quickly, Logic and Reason were no match for how Fiearius’ lips pressed and pressed into hers. Not for the first time, Leta silently marveled at just how good it felt, his hands at her hips and the small of her back, the expert way he held her in place. Her bag dropped to the floor at their feet and her hand went up to his neck, her fingers digging slightly against his neck.
Just as a surge of passion ran through them, Leta managed to take a hiss of a breath and regain some of herself. It took all of her effort to pull back even an inch, and it was then she realized just how entangled they’d become: her forearms rested at his shoulders, her body arched against his, achingly close. Pausing suddenly, Leta rested her forehead against Fiearius’, her chest heaving somewhat as she examined the way she was already intimately wrapped around him. She felt a surge of irritation with herself as she looked down at their intertwined bodies, but she made no motion to move.
“I — ” she stammered dropping one hand away from his shoulder. She pressed her slightly shaking fingertips against her bruised lips, in disbelief of what had just happened. And yet she was not surprised at all. Growing pale in spite of all the warmth and arousal rushing through her, Leta murmured, “Is this alright?” still short of breath.
Fiearius regarded her face closely. Then he shrugged one shoulder, leaned in and reclaimed her lips and hips and all of her and started to gently lead her towards the couch across the room.
Fiearius would have been outright lying if he’d said he hadn’t missed this. Physical desires hadn’t been at the forefront of his mind lately, but the intimacy? The passion? The spark of connection? He’d yearned for it often. Now that he’d lived out the scenario, he released a long, satisfied sigh of utter contentment. This was the best he’d felt in a month. A sheen of sweat covered his skin as he rolled over to catch his breath.
But it was then he found that this couch in the station’s lounge was not quite as wide as he’d thought. With a thud, he rolled over onto the floor.
At once, Leta propped herself up on her hand and laughed at him. “Oh come on, we’ve done it weirder places than this.”
“I’m a little out of practice lately, cut me a break,” he laughed. Heaving a deep breath, and still chuckling, he pushed himself up on his palms and glanced over at the woman lying at his eye level. But the glance turned into a stare. Maybe it was the month he hadn’t seen her. Or maybe it was the fact that he likely wouldn’t see her like this again. But Gods, she looked beautiful. She had always been beautiful, but something about losing her made him appreciate it all the more. The perfect skin, the bright green eyes, the way her hair flowed in gentle waves around her head.
He couldn’t help himself. He reached out and cupped her cheek in his palm, letting his thumb stroke the side of her face gently. “Should I apologize for this too?” he asked, his tone teasing, but his smile sincere. “I’m getting real good at apologies. I’m so sorry. I’m very sorry.”
“You don’t sound sorry,” she teased. After a moment, she added, “Well I think this one is 50% my fault, so … I’m sorry too, I guess.”
But she was right: he was not really all that sorry. They were both adults, they were not the first recently-ended couple to have break-up sex. It happened, and they would move on from it. This was the final curtain drawing to a close on their relationship.
It had to be.
He watched as Leta reached for her blouse from the floor, picking it up and sliding it on over her head. Sitting on the edge of the couch, crossing her ankles a little nervously, she caught his eye and said, “So. Listen. Not that I didn’t enjoy that … ” A rather knowing pause fell. Considering she’d been writhing beneath him minutes before, seized by pleasure, he knew just how much she had enjoyed that. Flushing slightly, she went on in her usual neutral brisk tone, “But it’s probably not a good idea if we keep this up. I mean, we can’t keep sleeping together. It’s unhealthy, even for us.”
“You sure?” he asked, raising a brow at her. “You sure you wanna give this up? I mean, it really didn’t seem like you want to.” He grinned a lop-sided suggestive grin, but he knew better. He pushed himself up to his feet and stretched his arms over his head.
“I’m kidding, I agree entirely,” he clarified, his tone more serious as he crossed the room towards the kitchen, feeling suddenly hungry again. A few more empanadas sat on the counter, so he grabbed one and shoved half of it in his mouth before returning to her side and plopping down on the couch beside her, still undressed.
“This was a ‘one last time’ sort of thing,” he confirmed, nodding his head and eating the other half. “One amazing last time.” He smirked and leaned over to kiss her on the cheek.
As Leta stood up and finished getting dressed, she said, “So. I suppose I’ll see you around the station sometime?”
Fiearius raised a brow at her. “Doubt it. I’ll take advantage of the fancy kitchen a couple more times, but I’m outta here first thing tomorrow.”
Leta folded her arms and took a moment to study him. In a neutral voice, she said, “So you’re really not going to help.”
“No,” he said bluntly. “Are you?”
“I am. I’m providing maps of Vescent and I’m volunteering for their medical team.”
Slowly, Fiearius sat up on the couch. “You don’t — you don’t actually think this will work, do you?”
“Yes,” she said, her voice plain and even. “I do.”
It was unnerving to hear her say the words. He knew Leta: she never said anything she didn’t mean. She was sharp. Unafraid to say no. She’d also been to Vescent and seen the worst of it, and yet she still believed it could be fixed? His mind started to race.
“Look,” he said after a moment. “I’m all for their noble cause, don’t get me wrong, but what makes you think they can do it? Carthis doesn’t have the best track record against the Society y’know. They’ve been fighting–and primarily losing–for decades. The Society’s got better tech, better trained people, not to mention a home-team advantage.”
“I know.” Leta nodded at him, unblinking. “That’s why we need help.”
Expectant silence filled the room. Then she reached for her bag, slung it over her shoulder and headed for the door. Out of habit, Fiearius stood to his feet, pulling his clothes on as he followed after her into the hallway.
“So — back to the pirating business then?” she asked, turning back once last time. “Smuggling weapons? Stealing cargo? Punching thugs?”
Truthfully, Fiearius hadn’t thought that far in advance. But it seemed safe to mutter, “Yeah. I guess so.”
“That’s surprising,” she mused, her voice thoughtful. “Back on the Dionysian, when we were planning those raids on Society ships … I know it really empowered you.”
The way she regarded him then made discomfort stir in his chest, though he couldn’t rightly place why. He forced an uneasy smirk. “Did Gates put you up to this?”
In a plain voice, she said, “No. It’s just a surprise to me is all.” As she adjusted her shoulderbag and walked away, she added, “I’ve just never known you to back down from a fight.”