Fiearius continued to stare at her, so she went on hurriedly, rolling her eyes, “His name is Liam, he’s a freelance investigative journalist, he grew up on Vescent, he’s my age, he dropped out of school. His writing is supportive of the war but seems too loyal to Carthis and I’m not interested in him.”
“For someone who’s not interested, you sure did your research.”
“Of course I did.” Leta snorted. “But I’d never date a journalist.”
“I should hope not. You? Fraternizing with the press?” He smiled at her. “Makes me nervous just thinking about it.”
“Me too,” Leta muttered, and then she polished off the last of her drink in one shot. Whiskey burned warmly down her throat and she sighed, feeling truly relaxed for the first time all day. Perhaps it was the liquor, or maybe it was the way she could feel Fiearius watching her, but Leta felt no reservations in suddenly musing quietly, “Besides, if I started dating someone, who would keep you company when you visit Vescent?”
He did not look surprised by the comment, but he did regard her with a new, certain level of interest. Light brimmed in his eyes.
“Certainly would have thrown a wrench in some things,” he admitted quietly.
They exchanged a silent look before Leta asked, “Do you want to get out of here?”
It was fortunate that the far corner of the base lay quiet and deserted, which meant no one glimpsed two figures moving quickly across the bridge in the pouring rain, their hands clasped together as they discreetly went inside the building. No one witnessed Leta hastening to unlock the door to her room, nor she and Fiearius slipping inside quickly, not even bothering to turn on the light before they started a staggering, clumsy kiss towards the bedroom.
His hand pressed against the small of her back as he walked backwards, his mouth pressing urgently against hers, again and again and again. Breathlessly, Leta wound her arms around the back of his neck, her mouth pressed to his so hard it was almost painful. Her fingers slipped up into his hair to deepen the kiss, as his hands dug into her back beneath her sopping wet shirt.
They fumbled in the darkness before the back of Fiearius’ knees hit an armchair, and he sank into it, pulling Leta down with him. It was quiet in her room, but breaking the heavy silence of nighttime was their shirts hitting the floor, her sharp gasps of breath and Fiearius’ groan in her ear when she lowered to his lap and straddled him in their chair. Their lips were pressing clumsily and heatedly together, and she could taste the whiskey on their breath.
A corner of Leta’s mind was protesting this, but the voice was growing dimmer and dimmer in her mind as they progressed as they had a thousand times before. It was a familiar dance between them, and starting not long after the Battle of Fall’s End, it happened every six months, or every ten months, or whenever they saw one another on the station, or on Vescent. They had never fully reunited as a couple — Leta knew they couldn’t — but they seemed to have a silent agreement that this level of intimacy was acceptable. Consenting adults who trusted one another deeply: what was wrong with it, really? Leta didn’t particularly want to date anyone, but company in bed and the companionship of waking up with someone — well, she missed that, sometimes. And Fiearius treated her well. Their agree was mostly unspoken, but neither of them voiced any regret after their trysts. They would wake up together, Fiearius’ lips against the nape of her neck, untangle themselves, get dressed, say goodbye for months, and get on with their lives.
In this moment, Fiearius drew her hips closer on the chair. Her hand went to fumble with the waistband of his pants, but that was when it happened: Fiearius grasped her wrist, halting her in place. His mouth was pressed against her collarbone as he muttered, “We can’t do this.”
Leta froze, stricken with surprise. Fiearius pulled back, his face clouded with distress.
“We really shouldn’t do this.”
“Okay,” said Leta slowly, her voice shaky. “That’s — never stopped us before … but — ”
“No no, you don’t understand.” He pulled his hands off of her and dug his palms into his eyes. “It’s different. It’s different this time. I — shit I should have told you earlier — ” He groaned and then blurted out, “I need you to come with me. On the Dionysian. That’s why I’m here.”
Alarmed now, Leta pushed herself off of his lap and stood up to her feet, somewhat unsteadily.
“We’re not making enough leeway in the war,” said Fiearius, staring at her in the darkness, looking horrified with himself, “so we want to try and cut off the Society’s head by going after the Councillors, but we don’t know who they are or where they are and the only person out there with any clues is Ren Calimore but we don’t know where he is either and he wouldn’t want to talk to us anyway so–” He dragged one of his hands away from his eye to look at her. “We need you. I need you. I need you to come with me.”
“You need me to come with you on the Dionysian and find Ren so we can chase down Councilors?” Her voice was oddly shrill, hysterical. “And you’re telling me this now? Why didn’t you tell me this earlier?!”
“Because we’re trying to keep it quiet! The only people who know are me, Gates and now you. We can’t risk this getting out. It’s too big. It’s too important. I needed to wait until we were alone.”
Leta opened her mouth, horrified. They were more than alone; they were both shirtless in her living room.
“Good job with that,” she snapped. Then she reached for her blouse from the floor, hurrying to pull it on over her head.
“This — wasn’t exactly part of the plan,” Fiearius said, catching a hand through his messy hair. “And no, I don’t want you to chase down Councilors, I want you to convince Ren to tell me where they are so I can chase them down. Look, when he was released from ARC rehab, Ren pretty much took Carthis’ subsidy and ran. No one’s seen him or heard from him since. But you know where he is.” Fiearius leveled her a meaningful stare that she couldn’t ignore. “Don’t you?”
Leta wanted to tell him to leave, but she couldn’t — not when he looked so desperate, eyes shining in the shadowy darkness.
“Yes,” she said shortly. “I do. And you’re right, you do need me, because there’s no way Ren would trust you or Gates with anything.”
Fiearius’ mouth twitched like he wanted to retort, but then thought better of it. Shifting uncomfortably, he stood to his feet, and that was when Leta found his shirt on the floor and tossed it to him — or rather, threw it a little unnecessarily hard at his chest. He caught it and blinked, narrowing his eyes.
“So. That’s a yes? You’ll come?”
“Maybe.” Leta crossed her arms. “On some conditions.”
“You need to bring me back here right away. I can’t leave my clinic.”
“I would never ask you to.”
“And when I’m on your ship, I’m not sleeping with you.”
“And — ” Leta shifted on her feet. “Tell Gates to give my apartment back.”
Fiearius opened his mouth, perhaps to argue, but decisively shut it again. “I’ll…see what I can do,” he grumbled, eying her skeptically.
“Then fine. I’ll help,” she growled, “but next time you’ve got some big mission to take me on — you open with that, alright?”