Silence blanketed the room as Fiearius stared at the sight before him. Leta, here, on Satieri, standing in E’etan’s doorway, hand grasping the frame to support herself, breathing heavily and looking like she’d been trampled on by a surging crowd. Her clothes were ripped, half a sleeve entirely torn off. Her braided hair stuck out at all angles. Tiny streaks of blood covered her skin.
Leta stared back at him, her eyes wide and filled with worry, maybe relief and behind them, a thousand questions. Gods, it was good to see her. But at the same time–
“What the hell are you doing here?” he finally breathed.
Leta’s mouth dropped open, then it shut firmly. “What am I–” Her hand pushed off of the door frame and her soft expression turned hard and dark. “What do you think I’m doing here? I’m looking for you!”
Fiearius returned her frown. “Why?”
She gaped at him. “Why? Why?! You–” Words seemed to catch in her throat and her face momentarily flushed pink, but she overcame it just as fast. “– you just disappear in the middle of the night without a word. You take your fleet with you and we track them here, of all places, so Carthis thinks you’ve betrayed them and — seriously? Did you think I wouldn’t follow you?”
Fiearius steeled his expression. “You shouldn’t have.”
“Right.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “I should just sit back and watch you destroy everything you’ve worked for. Everything we’ve worked for.”
“I’m not destroying it.” Fiearius took a sudden step towards her. “I’m trying to save it. Save it from this!” He needn’t even step aside to show her the display going on just outside the window. Carthis’ bombers were barely visible above the smoke blanketing the city. The sounds of explosions both far and near had become so common, he didn’t even react to them anymore. Neither, he noticed, did Leta.
Her narrowed eyes never even left him. “Well fine job you’re doing then. Saving them. We had a plan, Fiearius. We had a goal. We were getting there.”
“The goal was to save Satieri,” he growled. “Save Vescent, save Ellegy.”
“Yes, to save them from the Society. Which you’ve just decided to rejoin? Are you fucking serious? After everything they put you through?!”
Fiearius grit his teeth and unbridled some of the anger he’d been holding in. “Rather that than be an accomplice to Carthis’ Span-wide invasion more than I already am. Rather try and fix something that’s broken than destroy millions of people in the name of military conquest.”
Leta’s fists balled at her side. “They’re out there right now destroying millions because of you!”
Fiearius scoffed. “They would have done it anyway! Gods, you heard them, this–” He threw his hand towards the window. “–was always the intention.”
“But it wouldn’t have come to fruition if you hadn’t turned on them,” Leta growled. “We could have negotiated, we could have worked out an alternative, there were other options than betraying them! But since you did, now they’re scared and they had no other options and here we are! Satieri is being leveled. Exactly what you wanted, right?”
Fiearius let out a low groan and ran his hand down his face. “Fuck Carthis.”
“Oh that’s real mature.”
“Yeah, y’know what? It is.” He grinned wildly. “Fuck ‘em! None of this matters, y’know why?” He didn’t give her the opportunity to respond. “They killed my crew! They tried to kill me! So fuck them! Fuck them all!”
“Fine. Fine. I get it. You’re angry. I get it,” she snapped, throwing her hands up in defeat. “You have every reason to be angry. Carthis screwed up, I agree with you. But if you think it’s better to fix things, why didn’t you? You didn’t at all. You just–” The words came out of her mouth teeming with disgust. “–ran away.”
Fiearius opened his mouth to respond, but found no response came out. The words hurt probably more than they should have. And she wasn’t even finished.
“Do you really believe Carthis tried to destroy the Dionysian?” Her voice became quiet and breathy. “That they want to do this?” She gestured to the scene outside the window. “I won’t disagree that they’re trying to be conquerors, but what conqueror wants to completely mangle their conquest? This is an act of desperation. A solution to a battle they knew they couldn’t win. And you? You were too busy being pissed off to show them another way.”
Finally, he found a hint of his voice. “They wouldn’t listen–“
“You didn’t try,” she cut him off, colder than he’d ever heard her. “You just jumped ship and hoped for the best.”
He shook his head, slow at first and then vigorously. “No, gods, Leta. I didn’t want to give them a solution. Because this is a battle I don’t want them to win. They can’t have Satieri.”
“So no one can, then.” The corners of her mouth turned up in an empty cold smile.
“The people can.”
“The people will be dead,” she barked. “Because of you. Because you miscalculated. Because you chose the wrong side.”
“But you can still fix it.” There was a hint of pleading behind her eyes that made Fiearius’ chest tinge with pain. “You can come back with me now. You can talk to Gates. We can figure it out and we can fix it.”
“Fix it, Fiearius. Please.” Her voice strained a little. He looked into her eyes then, unsure what else he could even say. They met one another’s gaze, exchanging a silent conversation that made Fiearius’ shoulders and back tense. Until finally, she breathed,“Why didn’t you tell me?” The anger in her face faded into pure hurt. “Why didn’t you trust me?”
Fiearius met her stare a moment longer, swallowed the lump in his throat and looked away, but when he did, the click of a gun and Leta’s gasp, drew him right back.
“This has all been very interesting, really,” said E’etan, pushing the end of the gun harder against Leta’s temple. She scrunched her face in irritation and tried to shuffle away from him, but he seized her arm and pulled her closer. Fiearius had to stop himself from following the urge to lunge at the man after seeing his hand on her. Apparently he had snuck up to her side as the two of them seemed to have forgotten he was even in the room at all.
“But perhaps now isn’t the time for a lover’s quarrel?”
Fiearius forced a grim smirk onto his face. “Couldn’t agree more…”
“Perfect. Weapon on the ground.” Fiearius rolled his eyes as he carefully plucked his gun from its holster and placed it on the floor at his feet. “Now how about we actually do fix this situation you’ve caused, shall we?” He nodded towards the console Fiearius had been using. “Call the ships back.”
A sharp laugh passed through Fiearius’ lips. “What? No, that won’t–”
But any hint of amusement or patience slipped right out of E’etan’s expression and his grip on Leta tightened enough that she audibly protested. “Do it or she loses her head.”
It wasn’t the same. Different place, different time, different situation. But something about seeing Dorrion E’etan’s hold on someone he cared about put Fiearius right back there on the day he never wanted to remember. He could feel his heart pound faster. His breaths came shorter. His fingers were so tense they shook.
Keep it together, he told himself. He’d been slipping a lot more recently. Now would not be the time to fuck up yet again.
“This is a mistake,” he warned as he did as he was told anyway, crossing the room towards the console.
“If I cared about your opinion, I would have asked for it,” was E’etan’s quick response.
“Never stopped him before,” muttered Leta, defiant and snippy even with a gun to her head. Fiearius almost smiled at the thought.
“I call them back now, we’re risking the other planets,” Fiearius went on, reaching the console and typing a command into the Verdant interface before him.
E’etan scoffed. “Forget the other planets. The Society is Satieran. The Society has always been Satieran. Better to preserve ourselves than die trying to scramble for the rest. Prevail here or we’re gone regardless.”
Fiearius exhaled a deep breath and poised his finger above the key. “Alright. If you’re sure.” He hit send and watched the screen as it provided him a confirmation, then turned back to Leta and her captor. “Don’t suppose you’d let her go now?” E’etan smiled humorlessly and pulled her under his arm. Fiearius let out a sigh and started to walk back towards them. “I assumed as much.”
“Congratulations Soliveré,” E’etan cooed, watching and turning as Fiearius made a slow circle around them, stopping in front of the door. “You’ve just made your first step towards becoming a Councillor.” Fiearius lifted his brows in supposed intrigue and rested his hands in his pockets. “Making a choice for the greater good. Well done.”
“Do I get a trophy or something?”
E’etan ignored him. “But if you’re serious about this promotion, I’m afraid you still have some loose ends to tie up.” He tilted his head towards Leta who frowned at him so dully and unimpressed, Fiearius almost laughed.
Instead, he crossed his arms over his chest and smiled. “You know I’m not gonna do that.”
“So I’ll do it for you then.” E’etan’s finger squeezed a little tighter on the trigger of the gun.
If you were going to do it, you would have already, Fiearius thought, but didn’t say in case it gave the man any ideas. “Then I’ll kill you,” he said bluntly instead. When E’etan didn’t seem too concerned about the prospect of being killed by an unarmed man, he added, “There are a lot of ways to die that don’t require a gun y’know. Good, painful ways…”
“I can’t believe you really signed up with this guy,” said Leta suddenly, sounding remarkably unafraid for someone in her position. “You picked him over us?”
Fiearius cocked his head and frowned curiously at E’etan. “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
“Doesn’t seem like a very good idea now, does it?” she snapped.
Slowly, he shook his head. “Nope. Not at all.”
“Why didn’t you just kill him like the others?” Leta asked, not bothering to sugarcoat it. “What good is he alive?”
“He has some value alive. The whole Councillor thing seems pretty handy. Controlling the fleet and all.”
Leta looked over at her captor critically. “At what cost though?”
E’etan was somewhere between amused and impatient. “Do you two ever stop arguing?” he wondered aloud.
“Nope,” said Fiearius as Leta agreed, “Not really.”
A slow wide smile spread over his face. “Well. It’s been fun. But you’ve opened my eyes.” Leta let out a tiny gasp as he shifted his grip on her, ripped her gun out of its holster and with the same hand shoved her so hard in the back, she tumbled forward onto the ground with a thump. The gun, her gun, was immediately trained on her head. The original one, in a flash, moved to Fiearius. “What’s your value alive?”
It was an obvious question, Fiearius thought. “Half the Society ships won’t listen to you anymore. They listen to me. You need me alive to win this.”
“But I don’t,” E’etan pointed out. “I need the ships. But I don’t need you. I just need your Verdant CID.” He smiled again. “And fortunately, I’m well-acquainted with the process to get it back.”
Fiearius snorted in appreciation of the idea, glancing over E’etan’s shoulder. “Fair enough.”
“Tell you what, Soliveré. I owe you one, I know that. So I’ll do you a favor.” He clicked the safety off of the gun in his hand. “I won’t make you watch her die. I’ll kill you and relieve you of your Verdant duties first. And I’ll kill the Carthian second.”