Of course, Dez wouldn’t see it that way. “Excuse me, I think I just saved your life?” he pointed out, feigning offense.
“And I’m appreciative,” Fiearius snapped, looking around. “But now you need to go.”
“Why?” asked Dez suspiciously. “If it’s Carthis, I’m not afraid of–”
“It’s not Carthis,” Fiearius insisted, “you just have to go, okay?” There were few people capable of ignoring Fiearius when he got down to pleading. Unfortunately, Dez was one of them.
“Always so grateful, aren’t you?”
Pleading wasn’t going to work then. Fiearius groaned in frustration and, without meaning to, started to pace tight circles in the grass. “Grateful? It’s your fault that psycho did this to begin with.”
“That’s hardly fair.”
“Fair? Fair.” Fiearius shook his head in disbelief. “If you had just listened to me and taken her back to the ship instead of–gods, I don’t even know what you did, lock her in a cell and try rehabilitative therapy? She wouldn’t be out there trying to set me on fire every six months!”
Dez’s stare narrowed. “I did what I thought was right, Fiearius. You would have just handed her over to Carthis and–”
“Carthis wouldn’t have tried to ‘fix’ her,” Fiearius growled.
“It was you who gave me the idea,” Dez argued, but Fiearius ignored him.
“Nor would they have been fooled into trusting her or releasing her and they definitely wouldn’t have told her about the goddamn Rowland case.” He stopped pacing and looked over at Dez, dropping his hands at his sides. “Why the hell did you tell her about the Rowland case?”
Dez didn’t meet his eyes when he shrugged and admitted, “It seemed relevant at the time.”
Fiearius could do nothing but groan once again and roll his eyes. “And you say I’ll do anything for a pretty face.”
The comment only seemed to confuse Dez who muttered, “My decisions had nothing to do with–”
A fearful voice broke through the air.
It was Leta, coming down the hill. Smoke stains streaked her face and arms but she looked otherwise unharmed. He caught her by the forearms and slowed her to a halt; he could feel her shaking.
“Are you hurt?” she breathed. “What happened in there?” She noticed Dez over his shoulder and went rigid. “You! What’re you doing here?”
“Is she the reason why you wanted me to leave?” Dez asked behind him and Fiearius was about to respond when Leta suddenly tore herself from his grip and advanced on Dez.
“It wasn’t Ophelia who caused this, it was you!”
“It wasn’t,” said Fiearius and Dez in unison and Fiearius felt Leta’s glare turn to him.
“What? It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that he just happens to show up right when this happens? You said it was Ophelia, but where the hell is she? If she was here to kill you, she certainly hasn’t tried very hard.”
Fiearius opened his mouth to respond, but Dez beat him to it. “Because she’s not trying to kill him.” The statement was met by a glare of confusion, but Dez said nothing else.
“We’re not really…sure what she’s playing at,” Fiearius told Leta slowly. “But every time she’s caught up recently, all she’s done is play a bit of arsonist and disappear again. She hasn’t really tried to kill me since–since Vescent I guess.” He shrugged. “I can’t get a read on her.”
“Personally I think she’s just lost her marbles,” Dez put in unhelpfully.
“No thanks to you, I’m sure,” Fiearius grumbled, casting him a glare.
But then Fiearius felt Leta’s hand on his arm and he looked down to find her staring at him seriously. “I didn’t even know she was still out there. I knew about the fires, but the reports — they said they’re chemical or — accidents, not –” Her grip tightened. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
To that, Fiearius just smiled at her kindly and smoothed her hair with his other hand. “Didn’t want you to worry.”
Before Leta could respond, movement caught his eye as it approached. Leta followed his eyes and she too watched as Ren, his face darkened, came to a halt before them. He stood silhouetted by the cackling flames in the background and Fiearius felt Leta’s hand drop away.
“Everyone in this building has been happy and safe for years,” said Ren suddenly, his voice level but angry, “and you two are here for a few hours and look what happens. Gone. Just like that.”
Leta stepped toward him. “Ren–”
But he cut her off. “And what am I supposed to do now? Stay here? In the charred remains of the life I wanted for myself. Try to rebuild what you’ve corrupted. Or give in. Get on that ship of yours and do what you want.”
Fiearius furrowed his brow. “This — we didn’t mean for this.”
“No,” Ren laughed. “But it’s what you knew would happen, isn’t it? Trouble follows you wherever you go. And now it’s left me with no choice. Was there ever? You told me yourself, Admiral, you couldn’t leave here with a ‘no’. Well I guess you’ve found your ‘yes’ then. I’ll help you find your Councillors.”
The words had been spoken before Fiearius could even think to stop them. At his side, Leta gave a start. She threw a look of alarm at Dez. “Ren — “
But it was too late. Dez was already frowning in thought, looking bemused. “Find the Councilors?” he said to Fiearius. “So that’s what you didn’t want me to hear.”