Chapter 36: Decisions

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The moment felt — a little bit — like going back in time.

Inside Corra’s quarters on the Beacon, Leta slumped into the tremendously comfortable couch with her feet propped up. Her head leaned on Corra’s shoulder warmly, although it was Corra who was requesting advice and comfort at the moment. Leta did not mind: she’d nearly talked herself hoarse in the last week, catching Corra up on Fiearius, his injuries. Liam …

“I’m just not sure, y’know?” Corra was saying in regards to the daunting topic of future plans. “I know Riley and Alyx want an answer if I’m gonna stick around or not, but I don’t know. I can’t make up my mind.”

Leta nodded in solidarity. The Future was a terrifying notion for all of them. Currently, with Fiearius discharged from the hospital and operating at about 70%, they were headed towards a Carthian warship in the orbit of Ellegy to meet with Admiral Gates to find out what might be their next steps, but Leta didn’t expect much. She felt just as up in the air as Corra did.

Still, she tried to be helpful. “Well maybe you should weigh out the pros and cons.” Simple advice from a simpler time, she mused internally. “Why would you want to stay on the Beacon and why would you not?”

“Well.” Corra sucked in a breath. “I feel like my time away from the Beacon was really good for me. I can take on the jobs I want to do, the important ones, without having to worry about supporting a whole ship full of people. I can move more freely, more easily, more stealthily. I was able to do a whole lot of good out there on my own and I want to continue to do that.”

Leta waited for more, but Corra went silent so she prompted, “So why do you want to stay?”

She stayed suspiciously quiet and, Leta couldn’t help but notice, her cheeks turned just the slightest bit pink. Finally, she shook her head and said harshly, “Stupid reasons. You’re right, I should go.”

“I didn’t say that,” Leta laughed, nudging her with her elbow. “No reason’s stupid if it’s important to you. What is it?”

Corra opened her mouth to answer, but before she got the chance, the doors slid open — without a knock of warning — and footsteps marched angrily into the room. Leta was not surprised to look up and find they belonged to Fiearius.

“Good, you’re here,” he said sharply, locking his remaining good eye on her as he strode her way with purpose.

“You could have knocked,” Corra muttered, but didn’t press the matter when Fiearius shoved a tablet at them in lieu of an explanation.

Leta sat up a little to get a better look at what was on the screen, but as soon as she saw the familiar headline and byline, she lost interest and settled her head back into the crook of Corra’s arm.

“Have you seen what your damned boyfriend wrote?” Fiearius demanded, all frustration and fury. It was about all he had been since he’d gotten back on his feet and started paying attention to his war again. As pissed as he constantly was about the slew of bad news he’d been catching up on, Leta wouldn’t deny that she was glad to have him back in the arena, at the very least to feel like there was someone on the same page as her. Someone to share her anger. There was certainly plenty to be angry about, with Liam Andrews’ Carthian-commissioned article only one amongst them.

Leta, however, didn’t much have the time nor willpower to focus on that particular grievance any more than she already had. So it was with a calm sigh that she admitted, “I have. And he’s not my boyfriend.”

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Fiearius’ demeanor falter from anger to confusion. He mumbled, “Wh–” and then Leta felt Corra make some sort of gesture behind her. Telling him to drop it, she assumed. It was a sweet sentiment, but unnecessary. She had only lingering, distant sadness now — Corra had coaxed her through most of her anger earlier this week. Now, Leta felt mostly at peace about what had happened. Especially now that he’d actually published the atrocity apparently.

“I read an early draft of it,” she explained, swinging her feet back to the floor and sitting up finally. “We haven’t spoken since so I didn’t know he went through with it.”

“Oh,” was all Fiearius could manage. He furrowed his brow, looking a little taken aback, probably having at least briefly planned some scathing speech about how terrible of a person Liam was that was now rendered moot. It took him a moment to regroup.

“Well this is fuckin’ shit,” he finally said, throwing the tablet on the cushion beside Leta. “Does he have any idea what this kind of crap’s gonna do?”

“He knows,” Leta said. “He definitely knows.”

Corra snaked her hand around Leta’s back to pick up the tablet and look over it herself as Fiearius paced back and forth in front of them. “I knew this was gonna happen. They don’t want to deal with it. They don’t want to fight, but they don’t want to retreat, they’re just gonna get the public on their side and bomb the hell out of it ‘till it’s clear enough to stick a flag in.”

“That’s probably the intention, yes.”

“God, ‘the people of Ellegy have been swept up in the Society’s systemic hatred of Carthis and its people and seem to stop at nothing to riot against them even if it means dismantling their planet piece by piece,’” Corra read from the article with a grimace. “This is nasty.”

“It makes it sound like the rebellion fuckin’ tricked Carthis into invading just to attack them,” Fiearius groaned. “That they were Society all along and we walked into their trap.”

“I doubt it’s just Liam who’s writing things like this,” Leta added. “Maybe not yet, but just watch the news feeds over the next few days. It’ll all come out and it’s only a matter of time before Ellegy’s in real trouble.”

“Ellegy’s already fucked,” Fiearius said bluntly. “I’m more concerned about Satieri.”

Leta felt herself go still. “Satieri? We haven’t even won Ellegy–”

Fiearius was already shaking his head. “And yet Satieri is what Gates wants to talk to me about tomorrow morning. This?” He gestured to the tablet still in Corra’s hand. “Just confirms it to me.”

“They–we–can’t win Satieri,” Leta said slowly.

“Not strategically, no,” Fiearius agreed. “Not like we won Vescent or Ascendia or how we attacked Ellegy, but if we’re not attempting to preserve what we’re attacking? If we’ve decided the entire populace is terrible and against us–” he waved at the article again, “–and can be sacrificed for the greater good? Well.” He shrugged helplessly. “Becomes a bit more possible, doesn’t it?”“That can’t happen,” Leta said at once, a note of desperation in her voice. This conversation was starting to feel familiar. She’d had it with Liam. Everything was going wrong and no one was fixing it. “That can’t happen–”

“It can’t,” Fiearius interrupted sharply. “And it won’t. Not while I’m still fuckin’ standing, that’s for damn sure. They’re gonna wish they left me on Ellegy to die.”

Leta felt herself smiling, despite herself. “Well, they might have wanted to. I didn’t really give them a choice.”

Fiearius grinned back. “Gonna wish they left you behind too then.”

Leta felt Corra watching her curiously, all the knowingness of a friend in her eyes, and her cheeks grew a little too warm. If Fiearius noticed, he didn’t show it.

“Don’t worry, Carthis ain’t gonna touch Satieri with their grimy greedy fingers,” he said. “Not my home. They’re just feeling backed in a corner. I’ll think of an alternative. We’ll figure this out.”

Leta was about to express her trust that they could find a solution when Corra’s COMM beeped once and Finn’s voice emerged from it.

“Cap’n? Beacon’s givin’ me some funny readings. Could be a stealth ship. Wanna check it out for me?”

Corra cast a glance at each of them in turn before replying to Finn’s message, “Yeah, I’ll be right down.” She sidled off the couch and headed for the door, leaving Fiearius and Leta alone for the first time since he’d managed to drag himself out of the Carthian hospital.

“So, ah — ” Fiearius glanced toward the door, probably wondering if he should follow Corra out. Something, however, made him stay. And then ask, as awkwardly as always when discussing feelings of all things, “You alright?”

It was always a funny sight, the great fearsome space pirate showing hesitant concern for her. “I’m fine.” Amusement colored her tone. “My pride’s a little wounded, but I’m fine.”

Thankfully, this seemed to bring Fiearius — the normal Fiearius — back. He provided her a skeptical frown. “You let that asshole wound your pride? Bullshit. That doesn’t sound like you.”

Leta laughed. “He accused me of being too self-righteous.” Leta paused. “He’s not wrong,” she had to admit.

“Well–” he began, but then seemed to think the better of it. “He’s a piece of shit anyway. Good riddance.”

A silence pooled between them, full of uncertainty. She could think of nothing she wanted less than to talk to Fiearius about her failed relationship. At the same time, though, despite all of her misgivings and perhaps thanks to the lack of sleep she’d been getting lately, she couldn’t help but begin —

“It’s funny though, isn’t it? Ren and I fell apart because he thought I’d lost my way amongst pirates and criminals. That my sense of right and wrong had slipped. But my last two significant relationships ended because of the opposite.” She snorted a laugh at the irony of it. “So I don’t know. Am I self-righteous? Does it matter? No, probably not.” She looked up at him to find his eye trained on her, watching every movement with what looked like careful scrutiny.

Well this had been a mistake. Could he possibly make her any more embarrassed for her brief moment of weakness?

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