“Sorry, you can go, you definitely don’t need to listen to me rant.” She waved him towards the door. “I’m fine, really.” But Fiearius didn’t walk away. Instead, he sat down next to her.
“I know you are.”
“I’m not upset about him,” Leta told him affirmatively. “Or anything he said.”
“Didn’t think you were.”
Leta clenched her hands in her lap and let out a sigh. “The whole thing just got me thinking too much. About the things that are really important to me. The things that matter and the things I can’t compromise on. Things like –” She picked up the tablet Corra had left beside her and tossed it onto the furthest cushion, her expression crinkled in disgust. “That. And then–things I can compromise on, things I can forgive. Or things I should have forgiven.” She glanced over at him, feeling more nervous than she cared to admit, though he only gave a thoughtful nod as he propped his chin in his hands and stared off at the wall opposite them.
Before she could consider the implications, she asked, “Did I do the right thing?” Now, he glanced over at her, questioning. “You know, back then. When you and me–” She hesitated and shook her head. “I know, it’s ancient history now. It doesn’t matter, but I can’t stop thinking about it. When I left. Should I have stayed?”
Fiearius considered her for a long, almost uncomfortably long time. She found herself watching his clouded eye because it was easier to meet than the one that searched her intently. Finally, he drew a deep breath and said, “Well. I wish you had,” which was an answer that threw Leta off not because she hadn’t thought it was true but moreover that he wouldn’t say it if it was. But only moments later he met her gaze again and said firmly, “But no. No, you shouldn’t have.”
When Leta just stared at him, lost for words, he sighed again and said, “Look, you want my opinion? You always expect the best out of people because you always give the best out of yourself. And sometimes, for a lot of us, myself definitely included–” He grimaced. “–it’s really hard to meet those standards. But. That’s on us. Not you. Stick to your guns, they’re all you’ve got in this shithole of a Span.”
Catching Leta a little off-guard, Fiearius brought his fingers up to her chin and lifted her head to face him. “Don’t you ever change for anybody, okay?”
She provided him a weak smile, but couldn’t conjure an appropriate response. She wasn’t even sure what an honest answer would be. She couldn’t place what she was feeling in that moment, let alone vocalize it. So he stepped in for her, reaching past her to grab that tablet again. “Oh and fuck this guy. He doesn’t deserve you.”
Leta snorted a laugh as Fiearius got to his feet. “So I shouldn’t fuck him then?”
Fiearius paused and looked down at her curiously before letting out a sharp laugh and shrugging dramatically. “Who am I to tell you what to do?”
Suddenly, the COMM on Corra’s wall lit up and its owner’s voice asked, “Hey is Fiear still up there?”
“Whatcha need, princess?” Fiearius called back.
“Not sure, but this hail we’re getting? We–uh–think it’s for you?”
As it turned out, the strangely masked signal was for him and once Fiearius got to the bridge and heard the message himself, he was unsurprised. “Bit of a rude way to say hello,” Finn had remarked and Fiearius had simply shook his head. It was just like Dez.
The whole lot of them (Leta, Corra, Finn, even Cyrus and Addy who they’d passed along the way) joined him as he watched Dez’s sleek black ship dock in the Beacon’s hangar from the viewport above, curious as to what this was about. Leta knew, Fiearius got the feeling. She’d mentioned she had spoken with Desophyles briefly when she’d given him the Verdant CID back, but insisted he hear the rest of the story from the man himself. Fiearius hadn’t sought him out on purpose. He’d show up on his own eventually.
And here he was, marching down the ramp into the pressurized hangar with all his usual pomp and circumstance, acting as though nothing was out of the ordinary. Fiearius and his entourage met him halfway across the bay and gave no word of greeting. He crossed his arms over his chest and waited.
Dez stopped a good three meters away and seemed to size Fiearius up with his gaze. “You’re looking better than when I last saw you,” he surmised at last.
Fiearius responded with a tight, humorless smile. “No thanks to you.”
If Dez cared, he didn’t show it. Instead, he moved on, business-like as ever. “I have much to catch you up on.”
“Shall we speak privately?”
Fiearius glanced to his side at Leta. She looked straight back at him and frowned dully. Don’t you dare try and send me away, he imagined her saying. So he turned back to Dez and shrugged. “Nope.”
Dez hesitated for a moment, examining the gathering one by one, perhaps wondering how each was going to affect whatever it was he had to say. If Leta didn’t shut him down immediately, Cyrus probably would. Finn and Corra were notorious for pointing out anything that was illogical and Addy, though typically polite and kind, didn’t have the time or patience for bullshit. He was outnumbered and he knew it.
Still, he didn’t have a choice so finally he relented. “Very well. I suppose I should start by clearing up what happened on Ellegy.”“You somehow convinced the rebellion to betray Carthis and blow up the city for you,” Fiearius put in helpfully.
“Blow up the city for them,” Dez corrected. “But yes. Essentially. We needed leverage to bargain the return of the planet once Carthis’ invasion was complete.”
“Sure, sure, stupid plan, but I got that part.” It was all over the news, how could he not? They didn’t know it was Dez behind it, of course, but putting the pieces together was easy enough. What he cared more about was the incident that had gnawed at him for the past two weeks. Those two words that had been the last thing he’d heard before he slipped into the cold embrace of death.
“Tell me about Varisian.”
Dez’s stony exterior faltered for only a moment. Had the question surprised him? Had he forgotten about that piece of the puzzle? Or was the sound of her name just something he wasn’t prepared for?
A half second later, his answer was typically collected however. “She wasn’t meant to kill you,” he clarified. “That was an unfortunate side effect of bad timing. You weren’t supposed to even be there when she arrived. Her mission was to gain access to the Councillor’s chambers under the guise of protecting her and–”
“So I was right,” Fiearius cut him off. “She was working with you.”
Dez blinked at him. “Yes.” As though this was obvious and required no additional explanation. Fiearius barely stopped himself from gaping.
“What. The fuck.”
“Yes, she was working with me,” he confirmed again, apparently confused by the apparent need for elaboration.
Fortunately, Leta stepped in before Fiearius’ frustration got the better of him. “Since Vescent, right?” It sounded like a guess. “The two of you captured her on Vescent and you took her–somewhere. And convinced her to work with you?”
He nodded. “I had her in my custody for some time. We found that we agreed on many things. But we both knew she was still more useful in her current role, staying close to the Council. We parted ways, but remained in contact to collaborate on operations from either side.”
“Wait a minute,” put in Cyrus, stepping forward from behind his brother. “If she was working for you, why the hell did she keep trying to set everyone on fire?”
“She wasn’t. Her tasks were to assist the missions. She lead us to the Ascendian Councillor in the bunker. She convinced Calimore to provide his research. She–”
“She burned half my arm off!” Fiearius snapped suddenly, raising his gnarled forearm for all to see.
Dez just shrugged. “She didn’t know you were going to stick around once the base was burning down. She was just trying to direct you to where you needed to be. The fire thing was her idea, I don’t know where that came from.” Fiearius eyed him skeptically until he admitted, “Alright, I may have told her the Pieter Roland story. And she still never liked you.”
“Hell of a way to show it…” Finn muttered behind him.
“She was, however, somewhat singular in that opinion,” Dez went on briskly, which was perhaps the weirdest way anyone had ever told Fiearius that he was likeable, a strange statement in and of itself. “Amongst defectors and doubters, you are quite popular.”
“Well,” Fiearius snapped, unimpressed. “I’m flattered.”
“You shouldn’t be. It has little to do with you and more to do with what you represent,” Dez corrected and it was all Fiearius could do to keep himself from slapping his palm to his forehead. “Regardless, those amongst the Society are looking to you. Which is exactly why I did what I did on Ellegy.”
Finally, they were getting to the meat of it. “And what, exactly, did you do?”
“I used your Verdant chip to send out a message in your name to anyone within the Society willing to listen and consider joining the defectors.”