It had only been probably twenty minutes before that peace was disturbed by the sound of voices approaching the ship. Absently, Leta glanced down into the bay as Fiearius and Quin strode up the ramp in such deep conversation they didn’t appear to notice her.
“–can’t sway to them,” Fiearius was saying, sounding both angry and tired. “They’re gonna keep trying to push us out, but we need to stay strong on the Ascendian lines. No matter what.”
War talk, Leta realized at once and felt far less bad for overhearing. She decided not to disturb them and leaned back against the wall to return to her book. Despite the intention, however, she couldn’t help but listen to the scene going on below her.
“Easier said than done, sweetheart,” replied Quin as she trailed after him. “You ain’t out there with these fuckers.”
Fiearius slowed to a stop in the middle of the bay to look back at her. “Wanna trade?”
“You mean, do I wanna hunt down the clandestine leaders of our enemies and murder them in their sleep?”
“Who said they were sleeping?” Fiearius laughed.
“I’ll pass regardless. Sounds like dirty work. Commanding a great fleet on the edge of triumphant battle?” Quin sucked in a breath between her teeth, impressed with her own accomplishments. “I think you and I can both agree that’s where I belong.”
“Wouldn’t trust anyone else with it,” Fiearius agreed.
“Which of your little Council is next anyway?”
Out of the corner of her eye, Leta saw Fiearius frown as he stepped further into the bay to lean against a stack of crates, crossing his arms over his chest. “We’ve got a lot of information about the Synechdan Councillor, but I’ve yet to garner a hint of where he could be. The Ellegian I know next to nothing about except where they are. Ellegy. Which is all well and good except that there’s no way we can get there. Fortified as the gates of the dov’ha themselves. And then there’s the Satieran. Who is,” he sighed, “entirely a mystery.”
Quin made a tutting noise with her tongue and leaned up against the crates beside him. “Stalemate then?”
“For the time being.”
She nodded her head slowly and then a mischievous smirk pulled across her face. “Guess you’ll have time to make the annual Carthian fundraising gala this year then, huh?”
And now, Fiearius groaned loudly. “Please don’t remind me. I still need to find an excuse to get out of that.”
“You’ve been excusing yourself every year.”
“So have you!”
“Sure,” Quin laughed, “But I ain’t the great admiral, am I? No one could give a shit if I show up. Fact, they’re probably happier that I don’t. Can’t screw things up for ‘em.”
“If I do go, they’ll probably quickly feel the same about me,” he grunted. The bay lapsed into silence for a moment and Leta briefly considered jumping into the conversation lest she continue to eavesdrop. Besides, she too wanted to know if Fiearius really would attend the fancy Carthian ball this time around. She’d been to several and frankly, she couldn’t imagine the man there. Just as she was about to say so, however, Fiearius picked up the threads from earlier.
“Anyway. Keep our people right up there with them on Ascendia. It’s important.”
“Carthis is still gonna keep pushin’ us out,” Quin remarked, admiring her fingernails absent-mindedly.
“Of course they are,” Fiearius growled. “Because they know if I’m watching I’m not gonna let them pull the same shit they managed on Vescent.” Internally, Leta felt a small swell of — what? Gratitude? Appreciation? Perhaps admiration. “Well fuck ‘em, I’m not just gonna stand by and allow these pieces of shit to take over the Span. Stay in touch with the local rebellion. I want them a part of this. It needs to be their victory so when it ends, they’re left with the major stakes.”
“Will do, my captain,” said Quin.
“And we’ll do the same with Ellegy when it comes to it,” Fiearius continued to mutter, his stare focused on the floor. “And Satieri…”
His voice trailed off and again the bay grew quiet and again Leta thought she should make her presence known. Accidental as her overhearing this conversation was, she nonetheless felt like an intruder, which was a feeling only made worse by what happened next.
“You alright, darlin’?” Quin asked suddenly, looking over at Fiearius, a crease of worry marring her brow.
Fiearius didn’t look up at her as he released a heavy sigh and mumbled, “ I’m fine. Just — got a lot on my mind.”
Half-fascinated, half-weary, Leta knew she should have looked away when Quin pushed herself from the wall and turned to face Fiearius fully. She definitely should have looked away when the woman placed one hand on his jawline and the other slid around to his behind. And she wished she’d covered her ears when she said, in a voice that let everyone listening know exactly what she meant, “Well why don’t we go take those things off your mind, hm?”
Fiearius let out a breathy chuckle and seemed to relax against her. “You can try,” he mused back, looping his own arms around her waist.
“That a challenge?” asked Quin.
“If you’re willing to accept it.”
“Oh, honey, I’m willing to exceed it.”
Leta’s common sense finally caught up to her and she looked away, forcing her focus back onto her book where she read the same five words thrice without ever registering them. Even without visual confirmation, she knew that he had leaned down to kiss her and that she had kissed him back and she could practically hear the look of adoration on Fiearius’ face when he said, “I missed you.” She’d certainly heard it enough times herself.
“Don’t you get all sentimental on me, Soliveré,” was Quin’s response before she apparently stepped out of their embrace and thwapped his side affectionately. “Now why don’t you go get whatever it is we had to come back here for, hm? Got a bottle of the good stuff I stored back in your fancy admiral’s lounge I think we both deserve.”
“Sir, yessir,” was Fiearius’ laughing response as he too pushed himself off the wall and headed off into the ship. Quin, after a moment, sauntered after him, leaving Leta alone in the silence of the cargo bay once again.
She couldn’t remember exactly what Fiearius had said about his relationship with Quin. That they were friends, that they were allies and that they simply took comfort in one another every so often. But Leta knew Fiearius better than that by now. She knew the tones of his voice, the meanings of his actions and the looks he gave. And after that display, she knew that whatever he’d said was going on with Quin, he’d certainly misrepresented it.