The liquor burned down his throat in a way Cyrus had never quite felt before. It was almost painful and he caught Addy grimacing through his own scrunched eyes as he tried to get it down. Across from them, Fiearius snorted a laugh. “So’ara wine,” he explained. “Rough, isn’t it?”
“Only a little,” Addy murmured, delicately placing her glass back on the table and trying not to look horrified when Fiearius tilted the bottle to refill it.
“The story behind it,” he went on, filling his own glass and plucking Cyrus’ from his hand,” is that to be proper so’ara wine, it has to make a journey to each of the eight Ridellian temples across the Span where they add their own ingredient to the fermentation. Something about covering the whole Span drawing the attention of the dov’ha to hear your request.” He shrugged. “Taste isn’t really a factor.”
“How did you get your hands on this?” Addy wanted to know.
Fiearius nearly smiled. “When I demanded it yesterday none of the Carthians were brave enough to argue. Found it on my doorstep this morning with a condolences card.”
“I guess that’s one nice thing they’ve done,” Cyrus muttered, unconsciously lifting the glass to his lips to take a sip until the smell reminded him and he drew it away.
“We’re not here to talk about Carthis,” Fiearius reminded him, his tone uncharacteristically stern.
“Right,” Addy put in, sounding much softer. “We’re here to mourn our friends.” The room fell quiet for a moment, none of them quite knowing what to say. Finally, Addy tried. “I wish I’d known them better, honestly.”
“You were really only on the Dionysian during the pregnancy though, you have an excuse,” Cyrus said. “I lived there for years and I still barely knew any of them.”
“Really?” Fiearius tilted his head curiously. “Rhys always liked you.”
“He liked me?” Cyrus balked. “I don’t think I ever had one conversation with the man. He didn’t even know my name.”
“He didn’t know anyone’s name,” Fiearius countered. “And what about Maya? She was really into you for a while.
That was news to Cyrus. “She was? When? How?”
“How?” Addy repeated, laughing.
Cyrus nudged her playfully and amended, “I mean — how do you know?”
“She told me.”
Cyrus’ eyes narrowed on his brother. “She told you. Are you sure she didn’t tell you just to make you jealous? Because I distinctly remember her wanting to get with you.”
“Pretty sure she only wanted that to piss off Corra though,” Fiearius muttered. “Well. Doesn’t matter. That nonsense was a long time ago. She became really reliable the past few years. Got us out of more than a few scrapes just by being sharp and paying attention. She really grew into the ship.” He looked up, reminiscing internally for a moment before snapping his fingers and pointing at Cyrus. “And on that note, c’mon, you didn’t know anybody? What about Richelle?”
At once, Cyrus broke into a grin. “Aw, Richelle, of course. That girl was a damn gifted mechanic.”
“Better ‘n you,” he heard Fiearius mumble, but by the time he managed to glare at him, his brother was innocently drinking from his glass and looking elsewhere.
“Regardless, I’m glad she stuck around so long.” Cyrus eyed Fiearius again. “Glad you didn’t kick her off after all that Paraven stuff.”
Fiearius shot him a frown and opened his mouth, but Addy cut him off. “What Paraven stuff?” Immediately, his eyes went wide and he set a pleading stare on Cyrus who laughed.
“You never heard the story of how Richelle came to be on the Dionysian?” She shook her head and Cyrus provided his brother a grin full of malice. “Oh it’s a great story.”
“Please don’t,” Fiearius begged.
Which only made Addy more excited. “I wanna hear it!”
“That was not my proudest moment…”
“I need to hear it,” Addy insisted.
“Cy, come on.”
“Tell me Cy-Cy.”
“Who would you rather make angry, me or him?”
“That’s unfair, you can’t play wife card.”
Cyrus held back his laughter as the two of them bickered, but in the end, a vigil probably was not the time or place. Besides, Fiearius just looked so desperate. “Alright alright, I won’t,” he relented and Addy immediately crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him.
“Thank you,” Fiearius sighed as Cyrus leaned over to the woman at his side and whispered, “I’ll tell you later.” It seemed to appease her.
“So,” she spoke up, and Fiearius watched her suspiciously, perhaps expecting her to keep going, but she changed the subject. “Now that the Dionysian’s gone–what happens after all this?”
The lightness in the room seemed to evaporate entirely. Cyrus nervously sipped his wine, braving the awfulness to mask the discomfort. But to his surprise, Fiearius didn’t seem as sensitive to the subject as he was.
“Depends how things play out I guess,” he admitted, spreading his hands helplessly. “Hard to say at this point.”
“Right.” She nodded in understanding and shifted again, her fingers lacing together in her lap. So Cyrus wasn’t the only one who found this uncomfortable after all. “Well. I just want you to know that we’re with you all the way. And whatever happens, we’ll have your back.”
Fiearius leaned forward, propping his elbows on his knees and fixed her with an amused smirk. “You don’t say.”
Addy turned pink. And then she frowned at him dully. “Okay, you wanna be like that? Fine. I was just trying to be supportive because you never ask for help, but you’ve been through a lot and you’re family so you can and you should, but fine. Be dismissive. I don’t care,” she said in a waspy tone that clearly meant that she cared quite a bit.
Fiearius’ smirk morphed into a grin and he glanced at Cyrus. “This one? You keep her, ya hear me?”
“Oh I intend to.” Cyrus smiled as he took one of Addy’s hands in his. She shot him a glare and mumbled something about not being property to be kept, but she didn’t pull her hand away.
The knock on the door made Leta jump. It was authoritative and business-like, which was surprising: the hallways had been ghostly silent all day, quieted by grief.
“Hang on a sec, Nikki,” she said into the COMM speaker. “Someone’s at the door.”
“It’s okay,” said Nikkolai quickly. He was in his apartment on Vescent, and though the COMM connection was clear, he sounded very far away. “I’ll let you go.”
“No, I can tell them to wait. I called you, I’m talking to you.”
“Ley, it’s fine, really.” His voice was thick with the tears he’d been shedding just minutes ago. “I need some rest anyway. Go.”
“Are you sure? I can stay if you’d like to talk more.”
“I’ve talked enough for now.”
Her heart twisted in her chest. “Well — I’ll call again soon, alright?”
“Absolutely. I’ll tell the rest of the clinic you said hi.”
Leta very nearly returned her usual response, that she’d say hi to the Dionysian for him. The words stuck in her throat as she blurted out instead, “Right. Thanks. Take care of yourself, Nikki.”
“You too, Ley.”
The connection went dead, and worry rippled through her like an acid wave. No one was taking the recent loss well, but Nikkolai had lost the most dear person he had without getting to say goodbye, all because he was on Vescent running Leta’s clinic in her absence. Logically, she knew she was not responsible for Javier’s death or Nikkolai’s sorrows, but logic didn’t stop her from feeling guilty.
The COMM disconnected and Leta stood to answer the door. When she slid it open, there was no one on the other side, but Fiearius was down the hallway, looking back over his shoulder at her.
“Oh. I thought you were asleep.” When she blinked in confusion, he added, “It’s pretty late…”
“Is it?” She hadn’t even noticed. “I haven’t really been in the mood to sleep.”
Fiearius turned around to face her, a tired smirk on his face. He looked as exhausted as she felt and, she guessed, just as sleepless. Which was only part of the explanation for why he was at her door in the middle of the night.
“Did you need something?”
The question somehow caught him off guard. He opened his mouth, then shut it again, tucked his fingers into his hair, and frowned at the wall next to him as though asking it what it thought. Leta wasn’t sure if the wall helped at all, but eventually he decided on an answer. “Yeah.” He eased a few steps closer. “Can we talk for a minute?”
“Only a minute,” Leta teased, then she moved out of the doorway. “Of course, come in.”
Fiearius lifted his brows as he walked past her into her quarters. “Bad jokes, huh? You really haven’t been sleeping.”
She closed the door, watching as Fiearius surveyed her room: he made a small circle, looking around at the silver walls like he’d never seen anything so interesting. It didn’t seem to matter that she’d only lived there for two nights and had lost most of her possessions on the Dionysian anyway. A narrow bed, neatly made. A stack of clothes she’d borrowed from Corra sat on a chair. A tablet provided by Carthis was on the table. Nothing else gave any indication that anybody lived there at all.
When he still didn’t speak up after his circle was complete, Leta decided to step in. “About earlier–“
“I don’t want to talk about that,” he interrupted immediately, finally turning to face her.
Leta paused, surprised. “Alright. Then what do you want to talk about?”
Fiearius looked her up and down for a moment as if sussing her out for something. Then he frowned at the wall again. And, most importantly, didn’t answer.
“Hang on, I’m thinking.”
“You do that.” She sighed, half-weary, half-entertained. “I’m getting a drink.”
Okay, so there were three things in the room. Corra had been nice enough to store a small collection of Leta’s favorite liquor in one of the cabinets. As she reached for a bottle of whiskey, she called back, “No ice, right?”
“No drink. I’m fine.”
No you’re not, she almost said. The Fiearius she knew didn’t turn down drinks. Or have silent conversations with walls. She finished pouring her glass and returned to the center of the room, taking a sip. He still wasn’t looking at her and he didn’t seem any closer to a solution to whatever problem was floating in his head.
“Can I know what you’re thinking about at least?”
“Words,” he answered without skipping a beat. “I’m not good at them.”
“You can be.” It was meant to be encouraging,it sounded more like a slight. “But you are more of an actions kind of guy,” she added, quieter.
“Exactly,” Fiearius agreed with a small groan. “But I need words for this.” He ran a hand through his hair.
“Is this about–“
“No,” he said before she could even finish.
“You don’t even know what I was going to say.”
“I do, and it’s not that,” Fiearius insisted, shaking his head. He made another circle, but this time, once it was finished, he seemed to have arrived at something. “Okay. Alright. I’m just gonna make this quick and painless.”
Leta wasn’t sure if she should have been amused or alarmed. “That sounds ideal.”
“This is terrible timing, I want you to know that I know that,” were the first words he managed to choose as he turned back to face her. “Finn said there’s no such thing as bad taste right now, but I think he’s wrong and this is incredibly bad taste. I know that. Know that I know that.”
Leta studied his face curiously. “Noted.”
“It’s just. With everything happening, y’know. In case.” He frowned, perhaps realizing he wasn’t making sense, took a dramatic step towards her and declared, “This is stupid. I don’t need anything from you, and, gods–” He barked a laugh– “You already know. I know you know. But I–” He fixed his eyes on hers and the sort of nervous manicness melted away. It was replaced by something far more earnest and Leta swore she saw a hint of — of all things — pleading.
“I just need you to hear it from me.” He took a deep breath and kicked the bomb straight out the side of the ship. “I love you.”
Silence fell over over the room. Slowly, achingly slowly, Leta lowered the glass from her lips. Shock descended through her and she was suddenly very conscious of her hands, of her feet, her skin, and though a thousand thoughts barrelled through her head like a speeding freight train, her mouth felt like it wasn’t interested in ever moving again.
Fiearius, staring at her face, started rambling. “You don’t have to say anything or do anything, really. I didn’t — don’t — expect anything. This is honestly just me being selfish because I can’t stop thinking about what’s gonna happen if–” He seemed to rethink the statement and shook it off. “So I had to tell you. I’m sorry. But–I just never got over you. I tried. I fucking tried, but it was you. All along, it was always you and I fucked it up really badly and I know that, but it’s you and I can’t pretend anymore that it’s not.”
He was talking so fast he almost ran out of breath. He took a moment to recuperate before lifting his hands in defeat. “So there it is. That’s it. I love you.” He stayed like that for a moment, paralyzed by what he’d admitted. Then he squinted at her. “Why do you look so surprised?”
On some level, Leta did not feel surprised. She’d — sort of known. Part of her knew. Fiearius had never gone through great lengths to hide his attraction to her. He’d admitted his jealousy of Liam, he fought for her attention in any room they were in, he seemed to trust her and go to her for counsel more than anyone else. She knew that he liked her. There was an attraction, a spark — she’d felt it, too. But she didn’t know that he loved her. And she sure as hell didn’t expect him to say it.
“Why didn’t you tell me this earlier?”
Fiearius didn’t seem to have anticipated the question. “Why didn’t I–what?” he stammered.
“Tell me earlier,” she said again. “Of all the times to choose to speak up, you choose now?”
He gaped at her for a moment, then clamped his eyes shut and massaged his fingers into his temple. “Bad taste. See? I knew he was wrong.”
“It’s not just bad taste, it’s–” Leta shook her head. “What do you expect me to do with this information? Now?” She gestured her hands to the room at large.
“Nothing,” he assured her. “Absolutely nothing. Like I said, this is purely selfish.”