Tag Archives: science fiction

The End

It’s a strange feeling to finally see the end of Caelum Lex. This silly little space opera has been such a huge part of my life for exactly three years and two months as of today and now it’s finished. What a three years it’s been.

Of course I want to thank all of you for all of your support, whether you’ve been with me from the start or you’re only just joining me now. Your comments and feedback and even just seeing that little view count every day have been a constant source of motivation for me to keep going even when it was rough and man, was it rough sometimes. But we made it through! And I can’t express enough how much that means to me. You read a lot of words to get here. Thank you so much.

As for me, I don’t know what’s next. I’m not much of an editor. I’m of the strict persuasion to just let sleeping dogs lie because if I didn’t I literally would never finish anything, so the story of Leta and Fiearius and Cyrus and everyone will likely stay as it is, here on this site, typos and plot holes and questionable late-night Thursday choices and all.

But maybe not. Maybe in a year I’ll feel differently. Maybe we’ll live to see an ebook or three.

Or maybe I’m not done with writing this Span. Maybe I’ll write the ‘sequel’. And believe me, I know exactly what that is and what it looks like and it is everything I didn’t have the capacity at the time to do with the original Caelum Lex.

Or maybe I’ll start a whole new project entirely. We’ll see I suppose. Whatever happens next, I’ll update here to let you lovely readers know where I’ve gone, so keep us in your feeds. In the meantime, I’m taking a little break to enjoy the holidays and some other hobbies I’ve had to sacrifice for a few years.

One thing though. I fully intend to keep this site up for any future readers to stumble across it or past readers to re-explore it. Hosting costs money and I’ll pay it regardless, but if you are so inclined, I will definitely not turn down financial support. No pressure though.

Again, thank you so much for reading Caelum Lex. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Dov’ha re’jia.

Chapter 50: Eighteen Months Pt. 3

“Have a good trip.” Fiearius waved him off, yawning.

Cyrus frowned and gestured towards the outside world. “Come on.”

Fiearius blinked back at him. “What?”

There wasn’t time for this. “Come. On,” he said again, gesturing more dramatically.

But Fiearius didn’t budge. “Why?”

“Just come with me, please,” Cyrus snapped before marching back into the living room, grabbing his brother’s arm and yanking it towards the exit.

“Where the hell am I going?” Fiearius wanted to know, only just letting Cyrus pull him along out of the door.

Cyrus didn’t answer as he turned around to make sure the apartment was sealed and locked. Satisfied it’d be safe in their absence, he spun around and came face to face with Fiearius glowering at him. Unphased, he looked the man up and down, his clothes wrinkled from sleeping in them, his hair pointed in all directions and an unflattering gauntness to his features.

“I wish you’d taken a shower or something…” Cyrus muttered in distaste and Fiearius’ glare only deepened. But there wasn’t time. “Come on, let’s go.”

————————

It was still early enough in the day that the PIT trains were empty. Most of Paradiex was enjoying a sleepy Sunday morning as Cyrus and Fiearius rode the R line train east, seated across the empty cabin from one another. Fiearius looked like he was having a sleepy Sunday morning of his own, yawning every few minutes and his eyes continuously drifting closed despite the constant rattle of the train.

He had stopped asking where they were going a few stops back, apparently accepting the fact that Cyrus was not going to tell him. Which was for the best because if he had continued and Cyrus had become annoyed enough, he probably would have.

At last, the train rumbled to a stop at a station Cyrus knew all too well. “This is it,” he said, grabbing the railing to pull himself up and hitting the button to open the doors. Fiearius stretched his arms over his head and sauntered after him, stepping out of the train onto the platform and squinting into the sunlight.

It took him a second, but he recognized it soon enough.

“You’re taking me to your work?” Fiearius asked, looking up at the Atelier Industries sign adorning the massive shipbuilding dock in front of them.

“Sort of,” Cyrus answered, not stopping as he walked straight from the platform and down towards the main gates. “C’mon, hurry up.”

It was a short walk from the PIT station to the entrance and Addy was there to meet them, Kalli glued to her leg. “Did you find it?” she asked as soon as she saw the two of them approaching. Cyrus held up the tablet and her face lit up. Until she was close enough to grab it from his hand and examine it. “This is the wrong one.”

“What?!”

Addy waved him off. “It’s okay, it’s okay, it’ll do.”

They fell into step together. “Sorry, it was the only one I could find.”

She regarded him skeptically. “I told you, it’s on the kitchen table.”

“Shit.”

“This is the one from under Kalli’s bed.”

“Can’t we just keep them all in one place?”

Behind them, Fiearius coughed. “Morning, Adds.”

She glanced back and smiled. “Oh morning, Fiear.” He received a distracted wave before she returned her full attention to Cyrus. “This one can still link up to the auxilliary core, right?”

“I think so…”

As they walked through the complex and out into the main docking area, they passed every ship Atelier currently had in production. Huge ships of all shapes and sizes and at all levels of completion. Cyrus was intimately familiar with the progress of each and every one, but there was one in particular that he’d been involved in more than the rest. While he and Addy continued to work on city reparations and vessel contracts under Atelier Industries’ name, they had simultaneously pushed this ship through as quickly and efficiently as they could and in only six months, a record, Cyrus was sure, it had come to fruition.

It was that very vessel that they headed towards now, parked between two huge freighters that dwarfed the little cargo ship. If someone wasn’t looking for it, they probably wouldn’t have noticed it was there at all.

“So I checked the nav system, it’s still getting that little glitch when I try to reroute, I think it’s a code error–” Addy said.

“Oh, that was on purpose,” Cyrus told her. “Leave that there.”

Addy groaned. “I told you to make a list of all your ‘intentional imperfections’ so I could stop trying to fix them.”

“I did!” Cyrus defended, “I mean…I may have forgotten to add that one, but–”

“P’ahti!” Kalli suddenly called and Cyrus felt a tiny hand tug the bottom of his shirt. When he glanced down at her, she was pointing back towards the main walkway, towards, Cyrus realized, where Fiearius had stopped following them.

He was standing some hundred feet back, his expression empty as he stared at the ship in front of them. Cyrus, feeling rather proud of himself, smirked. “Hey!” he called and waved his brother forward. “C’mon.”

Fiearius at first didn’t seem to hear him. He just continued to stare, stunned, at the ship until finally Cyrus saw him breathe, “What the fuck….”

Addy nudged Cyrus’ arm and muttered through a forced grin, “Not exactly the enthusiastic response we were hoping for…”

“Give him a minute,” Cyrus mumbled as he watched Kalli run to her uncle and seize his hand. Stunned as he may have been, even Fiearius didn’t resist when she pulled him onward after her parents. As he rejoined the group, doubled over by the tiny girl’s grasp, his eyes never left the ship and he never stopped looking like he was being harassed by a ghost.

Which, in some sense, he was. Before them, was the spitting image of the Dionysian. From the top of its dented hull to the base of its crooked ramp, it looked exactly as it had the day it had departed for the very last time.

Cyrus had poured practically all of his free time into making it as perfect (or, as Addy pointed out, imperfect) as he could. Given the results, he was pretty impressed with himself. He could only hope ‘impressed’ was also an accurate description of whatever was going on inside Fiearius’ head as they approached the ramp.

“In retrospect, maybe we should have thought the presentation method through a bit more,” Cyrus whispered to Addy and she hissed an uncomfortable sigh.

“I told you I didn’t think it was a good idea–”

“Well she rushed us, we didn’t have time, what were we supposed to do–”

Not spring potentially traumatic memories on people maybe–”

“It’s not,” said Fiearius suddenly from behind them, finally released from Kalli’s hold and gazing up at the hull above them. “It’s not my ship…It can’t be.”

Cyrus and Addy shared a look and Cyrus coughed. “It’s not,” he confirmed. “Not exactly. We found the wreckage and salvaged what we could from it. Mostly interior subsections were intact, some of the outer hull. The rest we had to piece together. Got a new engine, cannibalized some other cargo ships, retrofitted new plates and –” He gestured to the ship. “Here we are. The Dionysian Mark II.”

Ever so slowly, Fiearius edged around them and took a few steps up the ramp towards the cargo bay. Even now, Cyrus wasn’t sure what to make of him as he let his fingers trail down one of the support beams. But finally, after such a long period of confusion, Cyrus saw his face start to light up and a breathless laugh tumbled out of his throat. “I can’t believe you rebuilt my ship…”

“Well. It’s not your ship,” Addy pointed out and Fiearius shrugged her off.

“Okay, but basically.”

“I think what she means isn’t just that though,” Cyrus felt the need to explain and Fiearius looked back at him, already frowning. “This was not a cheap undertaking. The parts from the original Dionysian might have been yours, but the re-fitting pretty much nixed the value of them. And then there was the new parts, the junked ships, the manufacturing. And all the time of all the people who worked on it. It was really expensive actually. We couldn’t just pay for it ourselves…”

The frown deepened. “What exactly are you saying?”

Addy grimaced. “We had to get an investor…”

Fiearius’ jaw dropped. “You sold my ship?!”

“That’s just it, it’s not your ship anymore,” Cyrus told him. “The investor commissioned it, paid for it, it’s legally theirs.”

“You’re fucking kidding me.” Fiearius shook his head in disbelief. “You can’t just — why would you even show it to me then?!”

“Well–”

“Who is this person?” Fiearius snapped, holding onto one of the ramp’s beams defensively. “What kind of ‘investor’ would spend their money on fixing someone else’s ship?”

“The Dionysian’s model has been pretty popular since way back when the war first started,” Addy reasoned with a shrug. “Resale value skyrocketed.”

The logic didn’t sit well with Fiearius. “But the Dionysian itself?” he demanded. “What the fuck?!”

Addy’s brows creased at once and she gestured at Kalli who had her hand clamped over her mouth. “Language please.”

Fiearius let out a groan. “Why?”

Cyrus cast Addy a sideways glance. “Maybe they wanted to own a piece of history?”

Addy grinned playfully. “Or maybe they’re a fan of your work.”

“Well I don’t care who they are, they can’t have her,” Fiearius decided firmly. “I’ll buy her back.”

Finally, Cyrus could no longer hold it in. He started to chuckle and no amount of covering his face was able to hide it. “I doubt you could afford it,” he sputtered as Addy grabbed his arm in attempt to calm him, but ended up joining in.

Fiearius, meanwhile, stared at the two of them laughing in disbelief. It was hard not to feel bad at the look of absolute hurt on his face for dangling a gem in front of him only to take it away, and surely Cyrus would owe him an apology later, but for now —

“You can’t afford it,” said Leta, descending the ramp behind Fiearius. She was dressed all in black, her hair tied up in a knotted braid behind her head and a wry smirk danced across her face. “And she’s not for sale even if you could.”

Cyrus watched in amusement as Fiearius went from shocked to confused to understanding and at last, he let out an irritated laugh. “It’s you,” he stated. “You’re the investor.”

“Sure am,” cooed Leta cheerfully, leaning against the opposite support beam. “What do you think of my ship? Real beauty, huh?”

Fiearius ran his hand through his hair. “Yeah, she certainly is…” He took a step towards her and tilted his head. “Thought you had to go back to Vescent this morning.”

“Oh, I do,” Leta confirmed and lifted her hand towards the ship. “It’ll be her maiden voyage. But we’re already behind schedule because someone is out here on my ramp causing a fuss.”

Fiearius nodded in somber understanding. “Might want to blame those two for that.” He gestured towards Cyrus and Addy, who put her hand over her chest and feigned offense.

“Well. Let’s stop wasting time, shall we?” Leta suggested before throwing her hand towards the cargo bay. “Coming aboard, or no?”

For a moment, Cyrus saw Fiearius’ confidence flicker. The flirty, smug attitude faded and internally, Cyrus felt a moment of panic. This whole plan, the entire project, six months of work and his brother could let it fall apart just like that. But he wouldn’t, right? He couldn’t.

But his tone didn’t sound promising when he looked away and muttered, “Leta–”

“That’s Captain Adler,” Leta corrected at once, seemingly unphased by his negativity.

Fiearius snorted a laugh. “Oh, Captain Adler, is it? So, what, you need a first mate?”

“Oh, no.” She looked surprised. “I already have one of those.”

Fiearius tilted his head. “Pilot, then?”

“Got one of those too.”

He narrowed his eyes. “Gunhand?”

She lifted her finger thoughtfully. “Hopefully won’t need one of those much, but definitely covered if we do.” She smiled mischievously. “Hearsay tells me you’re a pretty good cook though.”

Fiearius released a barking laugh and shook his head until Leta stepped forward and took his hands in hers. “This is the Dionysian Mark II,” she said as he grew quiet. “She’s not the original. She never could be and she won’t try to be. But she’s something new. I don’t know where she’ll take us or where we’ll end up, but I, for one, am willing to take the risk. Hell, I need it. And Fiear — I love you. I still love you. It’s a problem, apparently, I can’t stop.” Her hands gripped his tighter. “And I couldn’t imagine going out into the Span without you. I don’t think we’re made for planet life, you and I. Not anymore. I want to sail the stars again and I want you with me.”

They stood staring at one another for a long moment until at last Leta said, “So! I–” One hand rose to her chest dramatically, “–Captain Leta Ella Adler. Would like to formally invite you, Fiearius Soliveré, to join me and my crew on whatever adventure or danger or horrible peril awaits us.” She smiled hopefully. “What do ya say?”

Fiearius looked down at their hands and opened his mouth. Then he closed it again. Cyrus felt his breath halt in his chest and Addy’s grip around his shoulder tightened in anticipation. Even Leta, through her confident captain-ly smile, showed nervousness around the edges.

And then finally, Fiearius took a deep breath. “For you, Captain?” He lowered himself to one knee. “For you, I would sail to the very end of the Span.” Bowing his head, he lifted her hand to his lips and kissed the back of it and even as in-character as she was, Leta’s cheeks flushed pink.

But only for a moment.

Then, completely unabashedly, she yanked him up to his feet, seized the sides of his startled face and kissed him so forcefully that he stumbled backwards a step before they settled into a warm embrace.

“Aww,” Cyrus heard Addy coo from beside him. “I knew they’d get a happy ending.”

Cyrus snorted indignantly. “Ending?” He cast her a skeptical glance. “Adds, it’s the beginning. Tell me that again when they’re arguing over breakfast tomorrow morning…”

She scowled and elbowed him in the ribs as Leta finally released Fiearius from the kiss and declared loudly, “Alright, my faithful crew, let’s get moving.”

Taking Kalli’s hand, Cyrus started up the ramp as Leta ran off into the ship. He passed Fiearius who still looked a little stunned and seemed even more so to see his brother and sister-in-law climbing into the cargo bay.

“Wait, you’re coming too?” he asked, chasing after them.

“We’re stop number two,” Addy explained.

“We’re still taking a honeymoon, you know,” Cyrus informed him. “And you’re still babysitting the tornado.” He waved Kalli’s hand and she giggled. “The location’s just changed a little.”

“Besides, someone’s gotta monitor the first voyage.” Addy squeezed her husband’s shoulder and took a turn for the engine room.

“Don’t worry, you’ll have help,” called a voice from up above on the catwalk. Both brothers looked up to see Corra hanging over the edge. “With Kalli, I mean. Not the engine, good luck with that.”

“First mate?” Fiearius guessed as they climbed the stairs to join her.

“I can’t believe you thought she’d choose you over me,” Corra laughed, shaking her head. “Besides. I’m the one with all the work for us. You like freeing allies, don’t you? Brings back good memories, right?”

“Oh, the best,” Fiearius agreed, rolling his eyes at her. “What about your other crew?”

“The Orion? I sent them on a mission out in the far reaches of Paravien space,” Corra answered carelessly as she lead them up towards the command deck. “We’ll be joining them in a few days.” She spun around and walked backwards through the hatch to the bridge. “That’s stop number three.”

In the bridge, Finn sat in the pilot’s seat, fiddling with the control panel as Leta stood over him. When he noticed they had company, he glanced back and glared. “I can’t believe you intentionally broke this thing.”

“It’s not broken, it’s character,” Cyrus argued flippantly, leading Kalli to the co-pilot’s seat.

“It’s broken,” Finn said again. “This isn’t in my contract.”

“You don’t have a contract,” Leta pointed out.

“Well I should,” he muttered under his breath.

Leta hit the COMM button. It sizzled in that ever so familiar tone. “We all set down there, Addy?”

“Sure are!” came Addy’s distorted voice. “Firing her up now.”

Standing up straight, Leta put her hands on her hips and looked around at her crew. For a brief moment, she locked eyes with Fiearius who, leaning against the back wall, smiled at her knowingly and nodded towards the bay window. She glanced at Corra, huddled behind Finn’s shoulder, a grin spread across her face. And then she looked down at Cyrus, seated in the co-pilot’s chair with Kalli bouncing excitedly in his lap.

He felt her hand on his shoulder. “We did it,” she said.

Cyrus smirked back at her. “Barely. But…we did it.”

“Alright, Dionysian,” Leta called to the bridge and Finn hit the command to start up the take-off sequence. Beneath their feet, the ship started to rattle. The vibrations shook the walls and filled the air with a cacophony of metal against metal. All eyes turned to Leta and she heaved a deep breath.
“Let’s go.”

END

Chapter 50: Eighteen Months Pt. 2

Ah, so that’s why. Fiearius tried not to internally gloat to himself and instead found the woman in question. “Oh, her. That. Is Teah.” He couldn’t stop himself from pausing for dramatic effect, taking in every moment of Leta’s anticipation. “She’s my cousin,” he explained at last. “Last time I saw her, I poured gravy in her hair. Twenty years ago. So…y’know. We had to figure that out a bit.”

Leta snorted a laugh. “This must be a fun day for you.”

He grimaced. “It’s interesting, that’s for sure.” As if to punctuate the point, at that very moment, he noticed one of his uncles staring at him as he explained something to Addy’s grandmother. He couldn’t hear what the man was saying, but he saw his father’s name mentioned twice. Turning back to Leta, he gestured towards the darkness beyond the party. “You wanna — go talk somewhere else?”

Leta blatantly hesitated. Of course, she wouldn’t want to go walking off into the dark with him. What a stupid question. Why would she–

“Sure,” she said at last and even started to lead the way. Fiearius, reeling in relief, stepped into place behind her and they were quiet as they shuffled through the crowd and out onto the path that lead to the shuttle station.

They hadn’t gone far, the noise and light from the party still following after them, when Leta asked, “So. How’ve you been?” She asked it like she already knew the answer.

“Alright,” Fiearius replied instinctively and then only a moment later caught himself. “I don’t know why I’m lying to you. I’m — I’m better. Actually.”

She glanced back at him, in the ever dimming light, her face becoming unreadable. “Yeah?”

“Yeah.” He put his hands in his pockets and took an extra step to catch up, falling into stride beside her. “Cyrus finally convinced me to talk to this therapist person and — I don’t know, it’s been helping. I think. At the very least, she helped me figure out something I could stand doing. So I have a job now.”

“Oh, yeah? What are you doing?”

It felt embarrassing to even say it. “Well, I’m the night cook for a little diner by the PIT station…”

Leta, however, seemed thrilled. She smiled up at him and, possibly in support or possibly because the further they walked from the party, the more the desert cold set in, she took his arm in hers. “That’s great!”

“Yeah,” he answered at first, looking down at where their elbows were looped together. And again, he caught himself in a lie. “Actually no.” He let out a barking laugh. “It’s pretty shit. It’s a lot of work and I get paid pretty much nothing and I always smell like old oil now.”

Leta chuckled under her breath. “I wasn’t gonna say anything…”

“Thanks…” he grumbled. “Anyway. It is what it is. And I am better. I’m just a little…” Lost was the word that came to his mind, though he didn’t want to say it. Freeing Satieri, defeating the Society, returning home, that had been his goal for so long. And he’d done it. And now that it was done, he was left feeling like there wasn’t a heck of a lot left to do. Everything wasn’t what he imagined. Nothing felt meaningful or purposeful anymore. And everything he’d wanted was–gone.

“I’m just figuring things out still, that’s all,” he finished at last with his best impression of a careless shrug. “It’s fine.”

But Leta, of course, didn’t look convinced. She eyed him for a moment, the distant light from the hanging lanterns reflecting skepticism on her face. And then her expression changed. She looked away and crossed her free arm over her chest. “I know what you mean. It’s weird, isn’t it? ‘Winning’ I guess.”

Now it was his turn to eye her. Of everyone who’d come out of this, he had thought Leta had been taking it the best. She certainly made it seem that way. But she went on, “Every day, Vescent is starting to feel closer to what I remember, but — I don’t know, it still doesn’t feel any closer to home.” She glanced up at him, a hint uncertain. “This is what I wanted, but…it’s still weird.”

Fiearius couldn’t help but agree. “You’re still working at the clinic right?”

“Yeah,” she answered at once, running a hand through her hair. “Yeah I’m working at the clinic and that’s good. It’s good to be back, but it’s not–”

“Satisfying,” Fiearius finished for her and she nodded.

“Exactly. I used to love the thrill and dangr of the ER, but it just doesn’t have that appeal anymore.” She laughed grimly. “I guess a broken arm pales in comparison to raiding Society bases.” They fell silent for a moment as they came to a stop on the path, both simply watching the lights dance around their shadows. Finally, it was Leta who cracked first and groaned dramatically, “Why is this so hard?”

At that, Fiearius let out a genuine laugh. “What, adapting to normal life? Probably ‘cause we’re not normal.”

“No, you’re not normal,” Leta barked back. “I’m supposed to be the image of normality. Classy doctor, remember?”

“Oh I’d never forget,” Fiearius chuckled. “Maybe we just need to find some new massive power structure to derail.”

Leta pointed at him excitedly. “Ooh that could work. Let’s conquer something else.”

“Where do ya have in mind? Carthis? Paraven?”

“How about Tarin? I always loved Tarin.”

Fiearius looked up at the sky thoughtfully. “Tarin’s just a rotating democracy. Wouldn’t be that hard. Could probably take it with a few well-timed assassinations and some underground support I’d think.”

“Perfect, let’s do it,” Leta declared, turning towards him, seizing his forearms and lifting them up in her passion. “Let’s conquer Tarin and claim it as our own.”

“I can see it now,” Fiearius mused dramatically, dropping his arms over her shoulders as she put her hands on his waist. “Fiearius Soliveré, Supreme King of Tarin. And at his side, Ultimate Queen Leta Adler, the most fearsome and benevolent and classy Queen to ever rule.”

She laughed in agreement and despite the bravado, Fiearius looked down at her curiously. Somehow they were standing in a strange sort of loose hug. How that had exactly happened, he wasn’t sure. But now, he was a mere foot from her and privy to examining all those new little spots that had formed on her face. She looked different. Older, more mature, more weathered by everything she’d gone through. But at the same time, nothing about her had changed. Not since that very first night he’d held her a little too tight and admired her a little too closely. Her face that had never strayed too far from his thoughts was still just as he remembered it.

It seemed her line of thinking had gone a similar way and finally it was time to address to elephant in the room. Her expression had softened by the time she muttered, “Why didn’t you talk to me?”

Fiearius’ voice caught in his throat and she went on. “Why didn’t you answer? Anything? I–how many messages did I send you? How many times did I call? And–and nothing…” Leta looked away from him.

Slowly, he shook his head. “Gods, Leta, I’m so sorry, I –”

“I just want to know what happened.”

“Nothing, I just — I couldn’t…”

Her arms dropped away from him and her face was wrought with hurt. “Why?”

He opened his mouth and nothing came out. “Why?” she pressed again and suddenly the dam broke.

“Because I couldn’t. I can’t explain it. I just couldn’t. I was embarrassed and ashamed and — I wasn’t me anymore,” he said, the words flowing from him like a waterfall. “It felt like someone had taken over my body and I could remember what it was like to be me, but I couldn’t remember how to, and then I got all these messages from you and I knew. You wanted to talk to me, but I wasn’t there so you’d call and call and I just couldn’t answer because this — this — wasn’t who you wanted to talk to.”

“Fiearius–”

“No,” he cut her off, taking a step back. “I fucked up, I know, okay? I joked about it, yeah, and then I actually did it because–” He let out a grim laugh. “I always do. I’m really good at fucking things up. And I’m sorry. Gods, I am so sorry. I don’t know what happened to me, I don’t really understand why I did what I did, I know, I should have just talked to you. Hell, you were probably going through the same fucking thing, but I just couldn’t. I couldn’t do it. And I’m sorry and I don’t expect you to forgive me, but –”

“I do,” Leta interrupted suddenly and he frowned at her. “I do forgive you.”

For a moment, the words stopped again. “Well — you shouldn’t.”

“But I do,” she said quietly, stepping towards him. “I understand.”

“What? No.” He stepped back again. “No you don’t.”

“I do,” she insisted again, once more closing the gap. “I mean, I won’t lie to you, I was heartbroken. It really fucking hurt when you shut me out like that. But — I get it. You needed to deal with something really hard and you needed to do it your way which — is a way I don’t necessarily agree with. It’s kind of a stupid way.” She frowned accusingly. “But recovery takes what it takes and — I’m glad you found your way out of it. I just wish I could have helped.”

Fiearius stared at her, lost for words. Of course, he could think of few better outcomes than this one, but it still left him feeling troubled. Why did he deserve such an easy clean slate? It didn’t make sense until —

“And what happened to us wasn’t entirely your fault,” Leta admitted, looking down at her feet. “I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t do anything about it. I just called you and sent messages, two forms of communication I know full well you’re not comfortable with.” She glanced up at him furtively. “I should have come back. I could have come at anytime, but I didn’t. I just buried myself in work and pretended I was doing all I could. But if I cared as much as I should have, I would have come back.”

Fiearius stared at her and then asked hesitantly, “Is this your way of telling me you’re over me?”

After a moment of incredibly tense silence, he smiled and she laughed and shook her head. “No, gods, no. Not at all. The opposite, even.” Her eyes fell back to the ground and she knotted her fingers together. “I was afraid. Of — I don’t know, that it wouldn’t work. Even if we called each other every day and talked all the time, that it still wouldn’t work. Me on Vescent, you on Satieri, even if we did everything right, it couldn’t have gone on that way forever.”

Fiearius released a long breath. “The thought had definitely crossed my mind…”

“I didn’t want to think about it,” she admitted, “I didn’t want to accept it. And with the clinic taking off and Vescent seeming to get better, I didn’t want to change it either. So…I don’t know. It was just…easy. To let it fall apart. To say there was nothing I could do, it was just Fiearius being Fiearius. And that was that.” Her shoulders lifted in a tiny shrug and finally, she looked back up at him. “So it wasn’t all you. We both built walls in our own ways…And I’m sorry too.”

“You don’t have to be…” Fiearius mumbled.

“Then you don’t have to be either.” She closed the gap between them and put her arms back around his waist. “We screwed up. Both of us. Let’s call it even.”

“It’s not,” Fiearius began to argue but Leta put a finger to his lips.

“It’s even,” she said again, more sternly. “And anyway, it’s in the past.”

Fiearius sighed and shook his head. “We never could get the timing right, could we?”

“We certainly couldn’t.”

“Something I’ll always regret,” he mumbled, suddenly finding her lips incredibly distracting.

Those lips curved towards a sad smile. “Me too.”

Her hands slid up the plane of his back, his moved down to rest on her hips and ever so slowly, the space between them closed until Fiearius felt the warm familiar wonder of her kiss. It was a slow kiss, a soft kiss, a kiss culminating in all the years of their strange tumultuous relationship. But here on this dark path, kissing Leta, it was the first time since the war ended that Fiearius felt…right. Right like he hadn’t been in so long.

But all good things had to come to an end didn’t they?

“O’rian! O’rian!” came a sudden shrill voice, barreling towards them down the path. Fiearius let out a good-natured groan as he separated himself from the beautiful woman in front of him and turned his attention to the tiny little woman running straight at his legs.

Kalli, as she was wont to do, stretched out her arms and, on cue, Fiearius swooped her up into his where she giggled incessantly. “O’rian, why were you kissing A’iya Leta?” she demanded cheerfully and it took a moment’s effort to not be embarrassed by the accusation of a six year old.

“I’ve no idea what you’re talking about,” Fiearius assured her as Leta blushed red and stifled a laugh.

“I’m telling ti’hma” Kalli said and Fiearius passed Leta a fake worried grimace.

“What’s your ti’hma up to right now, huh?” he asked the little girl.

“Oh, she told me to tell you it’s my bedtime and you have to take me home now,” Kalli relayed importantly.

“Is that so?” cooed Leta curiously. “And you want to go to bed?” Kalli shook her head vigorously.

Fiearius chuckled. “She just knows that if she’s good today and does everything ti’hma says, she’ll buy her the big purple dragon from the toy store, isn’t that right?” Now, Kalli nodded. Well who was he to deny his niece a big purple dragon? He looked to Leta, “I guess I better be taking her home then.”

“I wouldn’t want you to piss off a bride on her wedding day,” Leta chuckled.

And now he was supposed to say goodbye. It was good seeing you. Maybe I’ll see you again someday. But the notion just seemed so–well he didn’t want to say goodbye, frankly. So instead, he said, “Hey, I’m just babysitting this little monster at my brother’s place all week while they’re on their honeymoon. If you’re still around, I mean…you could stop by sometime. Have dinner with us or…watch a movie or something? If you don’t have to head back to Vescent right away.”

Leta’s face at once was struck by a certain disappointed sadness. “I’m afraid I’ve got to catch the first ship back tomorrow morning. One of my patients relapsed and–.”

That disappointed sadness was contagious. “Ah yeah, I figured,” he muttered. She was right after all. It would never work. One here, one there. What was the point of dragging it out? All that would accomplish is more pain for the both of them. Best just to let it fade…

“Well.” He shifted Kalli in his arms as she looked between the two of them curiously. “Have a good trip then.”

“Thanks.”

He started to turn away from her before he stopped and took one last look. “It was really good seeing you.”

She smiled back at him, the lanterns above the party catching the lights of her eyes. “Yeah, you too,” she said. “And Fiear?”

“Hm?”

“We’ll see each other again soon,” she promised. Wasn’t that the same thing she’d said a year and a half ago? Fiearius smiled back and nodded like he was supposed to, but as he turned and walked away, he had the feeling it would be the last time for a long while.

——————–

Cyrus swung open the door to his apartment and stepped into the hallway. Where did she say it was again? Damn, he should have been paying better attention.

He marched down the hall and past the living room where he saw the shape of his sleeping brother on the couch. Cyrus paused for a moment to consider him, one leg propped up against the wall, the other flayed off the edge and his spine making a bit of an ‘L’ shape. The pose seemed far too mangled to be comfortable enough to sleep in and yet there he was, still in the same clothes he wore to the wedding the night before, eyes shut, snoring lightly.

Maybe they should get a bigger couch…

But that was a problem for a later date. For now — “Hey, wake up,” Cyrus barked, smacking the wall above Fiearius with his palm. The jolt was enough to send Fiearius flailing to not fall off the edge of the cushions and tumble to the floor. He managed, but only barely. Cyrus stifled a laugh.

“W-what?” asked the weary man, blinking himself furiously into consciousness and desperately grasping at an understanding of his surroundings.

“Get up,” Cyrus ordered, smacking the wall again and turning on his heel to head towards the bedrooms. Surely, if it was anywhere, it would be there. Behind him, Fiearius stumbled to his feet and stood in the center of the living room, looking completely lost. But finally, he woke up enough to follow.

“What are you doing here?” he pressed as Cyrus ripped the sheets off of their bed then crouched down to look under it. “Aren’t you supposed to be on your honeymoon?”

“Yeah, on our way there,” Cyrus answered, finding nothing. Seriously, where the hell did it go? He checked the drawers next. “Just need to grab something first.”

Fiearius hovered in the doorway, running his hand through his messy hair. “What is it?”

“Diagnostics tablet.” Not in the drawers either. He spun around and made a rectangle with his fingers. “Just a regular looking tablet, about this big, should be around here somewhere.”

“Okay…” Fiearius glanced around the room as if his apathy might actually help locate it. Then he frowned and asked, “Why the hell do you need a diagnostics tablet on your honeymoon?”

Cyrus slid the closet door shut. “When do you not need a diagnostics tablet?”

Fiearius opened his mouth to argue, but as Cyrus brushed past him and headed towards Kalli’s room, he decided against it. It seemed unlikely that their six year old had need of the tablet last, but then again, it seemed incredibly likely that Kalli had taken the tablet anyway. He stood in the doorway and did a visual sweep of the room. The unoccupied room, as Fiearius noticed when he arrived moments later.

“Wait, where the hell is Kalli?!” he demanded with the kind of panic only possible from a man who had just lost his niece.

But Cyrus waved him off. “She’s with Addy. She came by earlier when you were still asleep.”

Fiearius gaped at him as Cyrus got on his hands and knees and put his head to the ground, squinting into the darkness beneath the bed. “I thought I was babysitting her while you’re gone.”

“Yeah, you were,” Cyrus answered, seeing a suspicious black shape near the wall under the bed. He grimaced as he reached for it. “What kind of babysitter lets someone just walk in and abduct their charge while they’re sleeping?”

“The door was locked,” Fiearius pointed out, sounding more than a little confused and still a tad too asleep to process what was happening. But when Cyrus sat up, unsuccessful, he too got on the ground and reached under the bed, his longer arm making contact and pulling the shape out from underneath it.

“Ah, there it is!” Cyrus took the tablet from his hand and rose to his feet. “Alright, that’s all we need, let’s go.” He stalked from the room and headed for the front door. Fiearius, albeit slowly, followed. Until he stopped. Cyrus had already opened the door and stepped out onto the landing when he looked back and saw his brother lingering in the living room, looking down at the couch as though contemplating whether it’d be worth trying to sleep on it again.

“Hey,” Cyrus called.

Chapter 50: Eighteen Months

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There couldn’t have been a more perfect day for a wedding.

Well, maybe there could have been. Back on Vescent, one of Leta’s long-term patients had relapsed in her absence. There had apparently been a violent riot on Ellegy, the first in nine months. And someone had been shot to death outside of Paradiex’s city hall.

But those were all things that Leta easily pushed from her mind as she watched Cyrus and Addy Atelier walk down an aisle of their friends and family, hand in hand, smiling so bright they shone. And in that moment, things were perfect. Continue reading

Chapter 49 Bonus: Sixteen Months

Cyrus winced as a speck of oil from the pan burst up and hit him in the cheek. “Godsdamn it…” he muttered under his breath and Fiearius groaned behind him.

“Stand back, lower the flame,” he drolled from where he sat atop the opposite counter. “Also you don’t have to just stand there the whole time watching it. C’mon, genius, use your common sense.”

Cyrus shot him a glare, but did as he was told anyway. The meat in the pan sizzled at the temperature change and the violent spitting of oil slowed to a stop. It was difficult to admit when Fiearius was right, especially when he so often wasn’t. But, Cyrus supposed, if he was going to be right about anything, it might as well be the thing he was teaching him. Continue reading

Chapter 49 Bonus: Thirteen Months

Fiearius stepped out onto the landing, taking a breath of the crisp night air that stung as it filled his lungs. The warm light of the apartment behind him flooded out of the windows and it was tempting to turn back. He didn’t want to leave. Gods, he didn’t want to leave. But he couldn’t impose himself on Cyrus’ family any more than he already had. It was time to go.

Another deep breath and he lifted his hood over his head. As he headed down the stairs, he reached into his jacket pocket and drew out a tiny bundle wrapped in paper. When he reached into his other pocket, however, he found nothing in place of where a lighter should have been.

“Shit.” Continue reading

Chapter 49 Bonus: Eleven Months

“We should get up,” Corra suggested for what was probably the fifth time. And once again, Finn laughed defiantly, rolled towards her and pressed his lips against hers. The feeling of his hands roaming down her bare back had worked every other time to keep her in bed, but this time, guilt and responsibility were starting to settle in.

“I’m serious,” she protested, though her efforts to pull herself out of his embrace were half-hearted at best. “Alyx is gonna be mad…”

“Pfft,” he breathed against her neck before letting his mouth explore the sensitive space just below her ear. “Captain Iwata doesn’t scare me.” Continue reading