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.

It was Leta’s first Ridellian ceremony and while some things were a little unusual still (the requirement that guests wear dark clothes and hoods chief among them. Something about the new couple standing out to the dov’ha apparently. She had looked at herself in the mirror of her hotel room this morning and thought she was attending a funeral rather than a wedding), there were some elements that she’d preferred as well.

Another requirement dictated that the wedding take place in unison with the sunset, another dov’ha visibility issue she surmised, but one that led the backdrop to be a gorgeous orange and made Addy’s hair light up like fire. A section of the ceremony centered around describing Cyrus and Addy’s reasons to join together had been particularly touching and Leta had cried like a baby when they painted nervous, imperfect circles on each other’s palms in permanent ink.

Her favorite part though, she realized, came at the end, when the newlyweds lead the way to the party and the crowd was encouraged to throw brightly colored powder at them, to stain their white dress clothing in patterns of vibrant multicolors.

“It’s so the dov’ha pay attention to them and bless their marriage,” Corra explained, mid-toss as they tread carefully down the hill towards the lanterns, cluster of tables and the shiny dance floor below. “That seems to be the entire purpose of this event. ‘Hey, look over here!’”

“I wonder what happens though,” Leta posed curiously, “If there’s more than one wedding in one day. Surely there must be.”

“Oh yeah, they’ll get distracted, huh? I guess that’s why you’d want to throw a bigger, more attention-grabby party than everyone else?”

Leta nodded seriously. “What a fantastic marketing scheme for the Ridellian wedding industry.”

“It’s genius,” Corra agreed and then cast Leta a skeptical look. “Dunno about your gods, but my God, doesn’t need reminding to look out for me…” When Leta snickered quietly, she caught the eye of an older woman, clearly Satieran in her garb, perhaps Addy’s great aunt or something of the like, glaring daggers at the two of them. Corra saw her too and smiled awkwardly. “To each their own.”

The sun was well-hidden over the horizon and definitively blocked out by the hill when they reached the bottom, leaving the entire area lit only by the warm glow of lanterns and the strings of lights that, attached only to dark beams, seemed to float in mid-air over the dance floor and dinner tables. Leta looked around, admiring the ethereal atmosphere and wondering how, so close to such a huge city, this place could feel so distant, as she followed Corra to a table.

Briefly, she caught sight of the happy couple, still swarmed by a crowd of people offering their well-wishes. Through it all, even with his aversion to large groups of people, Cyrus was beaming. Kalli, who Leta thought did a wonderful job containing her energy during the serious portion of the event, was now running circles around the dance floor, her arms spread wide like a bird and a flurry of sound effects filling the air around her. Her uncle, Leta realized, was trailing after her.

She swallowed her discomfort and looked away to sit down beside Corra who, as always, knew exactly what she was thinking.

“Talked to him yet?”

“Haven’t had the chance.” She glanced back over her shoulder just as Fiearius caught Kalli in his arms and lifted her off the ground where she squealed in delight. “And I think he’s avoiding me.”

Corra snorted in agreement. “Probably.”

Surely, she meant the solidarity to be comforting, but Leta had to force a smile in response. Swiftly, she changed the subject. “Speaking of which. Finn seems to be avoiding me as well.” She cocked a brow at Corra who gave her a clearly fake look of surprise.

“Oh, really?”

“He walked away as soon as I came up to you two after the ceremony.”

Corra found a glass of water on the table and sipped it. “Hm.”

Leta leaned a little closer and fixed her with the accusatory glare she knew she deserved. “Don’t suppose you had anything to do with that?”

“W-what?” Corra took another gulp of water and smiled shakily. “I don’t–no way, I–” Fabulous secret Conduit agent, Corra may have been, but when it came to Leta, even she knew she had no chance.

“Okay, fine, I told him to get out of the way until I talked to you,” she admitted, dropping her head in her hands in defeat.

“Talk to me about maybe why he had his hand around your waist the whole evening?” Leta surmised.

Corra peeked up at her through her fingers and grimaced. “Yeah? Among other things?”

“Corra.” Leta took her hand and pulled it away from her face. “Are you and Finn– y’know?” Corra didn’t answer, but by the way her cheeks turned bright pink, she didn’t need to. Leta’s jaw dropped. “How long?”

“Eh–” She saw quick calculations running behind Corra’s eyes. “About– a year?”

Her jaw dropped even more. “A year?! Why didn’t you tell me?!”

Corra buried her face again. “Because I thought you’d be mad.”

Now, Leta laughed. “Why would I be mad?”

“Because you don’t like him,” Corra pointed out, frowning at her dully.

“What? That’s not–” Okay, it was sort of true. Finn was not exactly her favorite person in the Span. But — “I don’t dislike him!”

The answer did not appease Corra. She continued to frown.

“No, you don’t understand, I don’t like him for me,” Leta tried to clarify. “But for you! I have no problems with him for you!”

The frown lessened and swayed back towards embarrassment. “I don’t know, I know you think he’s immature and irresponsible, but — he’s changed a lot since the war,” she tried to defend. “And if you talked to him now, you’d be really surprised I think, he’s gotten a lot better and really got his shit together and –”

“Corra,” Leta cut her off. “It doesn’t matter what I think. What do you think?”

She blushed again and looked out into the darkness beyond the lanterns. “I think he’s cute. And nice. And he makes me laugh. And I like being around him…”

“Then for all intents and purposes, consider my position on Finnegan Riley officially changed,” Leta declared, finding her own glass of water and lifting it in a toast. Corra turned back to her and smiled, lifting her glass and taking a sip.

Leta drank the water and replaced it on the table. Unable to help herself, she glanced back over her shoulder. Nothing seemed to have changed around Cy and Addy as they were still churning through well-wishers one by one. Kalli was now safely restrained in her father’s arms and Fiearius, she couldn’t help but notice, was deep in conversation with a pretty brunette in a dark green gown. She also couldn’t help but notice that the bar was practically abandoned.

Leta nudged Corra with her elbow and tilted her head in its direction. “Think we have time for a drink?”

————————-

The cheers were still echoing through the night when Addy hit Fiearius in the chest with her palm. He caught her wrist and smiled down at her frowning, tearful eyes.

“You’re not supposed to make me cry,” she groaned, sniffling and hastily wiping her cheeks with a napkin. A dirty napkin. Cyrus noticed first, carefully replacing the one in his wife’s hand with a clean one. “Thank you–” she muttered to him before turning her fury back on Fiearius. “How dare you. I’m not supposed to be crying at my wedding.”

“I think you are, actually,” Fiearius pointed out, earning him another half-hearted slap on the chest. He shared a grimace with Cyrus and smiled down at her hopefully. “Good crying though? Right? Good crying?”

Finally, her anger broke. She sucked in a breath and sniffed herself back to composure. “It was a beautiful speech,” she admitted, still sounding a little offended about it though. It wasn’t until she smiled warmly and threw her arms around him that he knew he was in the clear. “Thank you.”

“No problem.” He patted her affectionately on the back and then added, knowing exactly what would happen, “Least I can do for my sister.”

He braced for the hit this time and tried not to laugh when she snapped, “Stop that. Stop it, I’m serious.” Addy spun back to Cyrus for help, but apparently just looking at him made fresh tears spring to the corners of her eyes. “Gods, I can’t –” She covered her face with her hands and shook her head. “I need a minute, okay?”

“I thought we were gonna dance now,” Cyrus suggested with far too much of a mischievous smirk on his face to be innocent.

“A minute,” Addy said again, controlling her breathing. “I’m gonna go talk to Finn or — Daelen or — someone who doesn’t make me cry and I’ll be back.” Without uncovering her face, she spun around and stalked off onto the dance floor, barging straight through dancing couples who had to jump out of her way in surprise.

Cyrus and Fiearius watched her go for a moment before Cyrus let out a happy sigh and muttered, “My wife’s the best. Gods, that feels weird to finally say.”

Fiearius laughed and slapped his brother cheerfully on the back. “You’ll get used to it.”

“Suppose so.” Cyrus sighed again. “That was a good toast, by the way. Really good. Thanks.”

Fiearius shrugged. “If I can’t give a proper toast to my lil brother finally marrying the woman of his dreams, what good am I?”

They fell into silence as Cyrus nodded slowly and watched the crowd of people milling around, seemingly having a good time. And then he said, “I’m glad you’re here,” which Fiearius thought was an odd thing to say.

“Why wouldn’t I be here?” He regarded his brother curiously. “I know I hit a bit of a rough patch a while back, but–”

“No, no, I don’t mean that,” Cyrus cut him off. “I mean, obviously you’d be here now. Of course, I knew you’d come, I just mean — from before.”

Fiearius continued to stare at him blankly. “I’m not following.”

Cyrus groaned and ran his hand down his face. “I mean. Before — everything. Before, all of this happened. Before the war, before the Dionysian. Back then. Back then, I would never have thought my brother would be at my wedding. Though…back then I didn’t think I would ever have a wedding, but that’s a different –” He shook the thought from his head. “Anyway. I’m just — I’m glad. I’m glad that you’re here. And not just here.” He pointed to the ground. “Here.” He waved vaguely in the vicinity of everything. “It’s just good to have a brother again,” he decided at last. “That’s what I’m trying to say I think. It’s good to have you back.”

Fiearius eyed his brother for a moment. It was a sentiment even he had a hard time making light of, as much as his instincts wanted him to. Feelings were challenging enough. Feelings from Cyrus felt flat out impossible. But finally, he reached out and dropped his hand on Cyrus’ shoulder. “It’s good to have you back too, lil brother.”

Cyrus smiled and the two of them shared what an outsider might have referred to as a ‘bonding moment’, which was not a strong subject for Soliverés. Fortunately, Cyrus had recently become an Atelier and was already learning the ropes.

“Anyway, I should go find my wife, gods, my wife, can you believe that?” He shook his head and then fixed Fiearius with an expectant stare he had definitely picked up directly from Addy. “And I think you have your own thing to take care of still, don’t you?”

Fiearius clamped his mouth shut and smiled humorlessly. “Eh–yes. I…suppose I do.” Cyrus raised his brows and crossed his arms over his chest, apparently waiting for him to do just that. “Okay, okay. I’m going.”

Satisfied, Cyrus turned away to scour the area for the only woman not dressed in black, but Fiearius spotted the silver pot still sitting on the table beside them and couldn’t resist.

“Oh, Cy?”

Cyrus glanced back at him just as Fiearius tossed the bright blue powder from the pot directly in his face. “Dov’ha seré’a!” Fiearius cheered as his sibling attempted to glare at him through color coated glasses.

“Fuck you.”

“What?” Fiearius laughed as he walked backwards away from him. “You said you were glad to have your brother back!”

“I retract my statement,” Cyrus growled as he tried to clean his glasses and Fiearius turned away to walk across the dance floor.

Being back on Satieri hadn’t been exactly what Fiearius had always hoped for, that much was certain. The last year and a half had hardly been the triumphant return of his dreams. But as he walked through the crowds of friends and family dancing underneath the clear Satieran skies, surrounded by warm lights and brightly colored Ridellian banners, for just that moment, it felt okay. For tonight at least, home was what he remembered it as. For the first time since the Nautilus cracked open a hole in the sky, Satieri felt like Satieri again.

And gods, it was good to be home.

As good as his spirits were, a little extra spirit wouldn’t hurt for what came next. Dodging a group of preteens (his cousins? he wondered. Second cousins? It was almost impressive how many relatives Fiearius had forgotten about and Cyrus had not.), he made his way towards the bar. But just as he reached it, the music changed, everyone in the vicinity turned towards the dance floor and Fiearius watched the bartender saunter away on a break.

Sure, he probably could have reached over the bar and poured his own drink, but out of respect, he turned back around and watched as Addy pulled her nervous husband out onto the floor in front of everyone. The powder Fiearius had splashed him with may have been blue, but looking at him now, Cyrus was definitely green.

As eye-catching as Cyrus on the verge of vomiting was, someone else grabbed Fiearius’ attention just as the dance started. Only a few people in front of him, there she was, the woman he’d been looking for.

Well, shit. Apparently he was doing this sober.

Gently easing past a few grumbling relatives, Fiearius sidled up behind Leta. She was seemingly enthralled by the dance so for a moment, he said nothing, simply hovering just behind her left shoulder and enjoying the spectacle himself. Of course, Cyrus was only barely stumbling through the steps, but Addy had enough grace and a beaming smile to make up for it. Fiearius had seen this dance before at weddings in his youth, but he had to admit, this was the best performance of it he’d seen. Messy and inexperienced as it was. If anything, that made it better.

Finally, to Cyrus’ clear relief, the dance ended. Everybody clapped, Leta turned a quarter circle, met Fiearius’ eyes and nearly dropped her drink in surprise. Despite his own nerves, he wanted to laugh and as she recovered, he flashed her his best casual grin. “Hey there.”

“What the–why are you–don’t do that,” she scolded, holding her hand over her chest. “How long were you standing there?”

“Long enough,” Fiearius replied flippantly as he regarded the woman more fully now that he had her attention. Gods, it had been far too long since he’d seen that face. Nearly every day since then, he’d been haunted by the memory of that last night they’d spent together exploring Paradiex’s ruins, the last embrace they’d shared at the base of her father’s ship and the last words she’d spoken to him.

And just as badly, he remembered the final message he’d received six months ago when everything they had had at last fallen apart…

But of course, she’d flown to Satieri for the wedding. He’d known she would be here for ages now and yet he still didn’t feel prepared for this confrontation. Here she was, looking gorgeous as ever in a long slinky dark blue dress that tapered out at the bottom around her feet. Her silky brown hair was tucked into a traditional headscarf and the Satieran sun had already made its mark on her face which looked more freckly than ever. And he knew, he fucking knew he owed her ten thousand apologies.

But all he managed was, “Enjoying the wedding?”

She regarded him with something that might have been suspicion, but in true Vescentian fashion, she showed nothing but civility. “Well the ceremony was lovely. That thing they did with the candles in the beginning?”

“The ori’anné?”

“That’s it. That was beautiful. And the reception–” She gestured to the gathering around her. “Very nice. Open bar’s always appreciated.” She glanced over at Cyrus and Addy who were now huddled together over a plate of appetizers. “Happy couple. Perfect.” And then she looked up at Fiearius with a genuine smile that made his heart skip a beat. “And your toast. How long did it take you to come up with that?”

“Oh that?” He forced a laugh. “Please, that was all improvised.”

Leta rolled her eyes. “Sure it was.” She took a careful sip from her champagne flute and then, as easily as she might have mentioned the weather, accused, “I thought you were avoiding me.”

Fiearius hid the wince. “I was,” he admitted which earned him a look of surprise. But before she could comment on it, he changed the subject. “So why no handsome doctor on your arm, hm? Couldn’t convince anyone to fly all the way to Satieri?”

“One, I don’t date other doctors, you know that,” she told him, a little haughtily. “Two, only Cyrus and Addy could convince me to come back here, it was so hot today. Three. There was no one worth convincing.” She shrugged indifferently. “Besides, who says I need a man at my side to have a good time?”

“Not a soul,” Fiearius agreed obediently.

“Well where’s your date then?” she asked, crossing her arms over her chest.

“Ah right, let’s see, where’d she go?” he mused, turning from her to peer through the crowd, but only after taking note of the small flash of surprise and (he hoped) alarm at his response.

It didn’t take long to find the girl in question. “There she is.” He pointed across the way and Leta, with what looked like genuine interest, followed the line of sight. “See her? Blonde hair, purple bow, about 3 and a half feet tall?” It took Leta a moment, but finally she put her hand over her eyes in exasperation and laughed. Kalli was currently dancing wildly around Alyx’s feet. “She’s a heartbreaker though, totally unfaithful, I don’t know how long I can take it.”

“Babysitting duty, huh?”

Fiearius shrugged. “My life’s purpose it seems.”

Leta bit her lip thoughtfully and looked around her. After a moment, her expression turned toward a frown. “Who’s that woman?” She nodded towards a group of people near the buffet table. “Brown hair, dark green dress? Pretty young thing.” As Fiearius narrowed his eyes at the cluster, Leta muttered under her breath, “I think you were talking to her earlier.”

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