Disclaimer: I own none of this.
Deryn was busy unloading all the boffin’s clothes, so Alek took their bags to the cabin they shared. It was just as small as he remembered, but now it had another cot on it, identical to his own. He slid Deryn’s trunk under it and placed his on his bed. For a moment, he stared out the window, reminiscing on all that had happened since he’d first been in this room.
And then he smiled.
The door opened with a click, and he turned to see Deryn, trailed by a small boy. A midshipman, Alek realized. He was Alek’s height, and almost as skinny as Deryn, with dirty blond hair and wide blue eyes. “Thank you for the help, Mr. Wilson. Unloading all her barking luggage and trying hold on to Tazza at the same time would have been bad.”
“Everyone just calls me Mr. Miles, Dylan, because my brother and I have the same last name so...” his face fell. “Nevermind. Just call me Mr. Wilson,” he said in a strange accent. It was both British and American.
“Alright. I’ll put in a good word for you with the captain, Mr. Wilson.”
His expression brightened fractionally. “Thank you.” Miles saluted and trudged out into the hallway.
“He’s a chatty one,” Alek said drily. Deryn crouched and retrieved her suitcase from under the bed.
“Give the boy a break, Alek, Newkirk only just brought back the news his brother’s dead.”
“Oh.” Alek bit his lip as Deryn began placing the folded clothes on a low shelf. “His brother was a midshipman also?”
“Aye. There was Miles and Levi. Americans who moved here to join the Air Service from what he told me.”
“Hmm,” Alek murmured, buckling the empty bag closed and kicking it under the bed.
“Dylan Sharp, we meet again,” Alek looked from the ground to the boy who had just walked in. He had jet black hair and sharp features which were currently set to scowling at Deryn.
“Aye, we do,” she said, her pleasant tone sounding forced only to someone who knew her well. “Life seems to have arranged itself nicely for you.”
“Oh, it has,” he took a threatening step toward Deryn and past Alek, his tone malicious. “And you, not even a midshipman anymore. Just a zookeeper.”
Deryn’s hands slowly clenched into fists, but she shook her head at Alek when he stepped to come to her aid. This was her fight with whoever this boy was.
“It’s nice that we’re on the same ship again at last,” she said, lacing her voice with barbs. It clicked at once in Alek’s mind, like the parts of a machined sliding into place. So this was Fitzroy, and Deryn was reminding him of when she’d beat him out for a place aboard the Leviathan.
Fitzroy ignored her. “And I’m sure we’ll be seeing much more of each other in the future.”
“Aye. We certainly will,” she smiled sweetly at him. “Don’t you have some flechette bats to feed or altitude drills to run, Mr. Fitzroy? I would hate to see you kicked off for a silly mistake.”
His lip curled. “This isn’t over, Sharp,” he snarled, but withdrew from the room in a flurry, knocking into Alek’s shoulder on the way. He waited until the boy was out of earshot to hiss in pain. Deryn spat out the window.
“That, my prince, was the charming Sebastian Fitzroy you’ve heard so much about.”
“Very charming,” he agreed.
“And you are very sarcastic today.”
“Oh, am I?”
Deryn didn’t answer that, just raised an eyebrow and shoved her suitcase under the bed.
“I’m glad to be back on the Leviathan,” Alek said, completely serious, “but why exactly are we here? I’m sure it has something to do with Singe, but--”
“Don’t question why the hand feeds you, Mr. Hohenberg, or it may just stop,” she said, and flicked a piece of hair from his face.
“Very philosophical, Mr. Sharp,” he shook his head, grinning smugly at her as a multitude of new strands fell in place of the single she’d removed.
“But I don’t see the harm in doing some skulking, eh? I’ve still got many friends here.”
Alek nodded, and they set off in different directions. Deryn was headed to talk to some riggers topside, and Alek was going to talk to the middies.
Luckily for him, they were all in the mess hall.
There were four of them, seated around the familiar round table eating the potatoes Deryn loved. There was a single empty chair, and Alek assumed that it was where Levi Wilson would’ve sat there, so he stayed standing.
“Alek! I see you still remember where we eat,” Singe said as he forked a potato into his mouth.
“Yes, I do,” he replied, and crossed the room to lean against the window. “I also remember that you all are the best source of information on an airship.”
Alek pretended to ignore the cold glare from Fitzroy.
“That depends what kind of information you’re asking about,” a boy Alek didn’t know said.
“Mainly what we’re doing here.”
“Well, shouldn’t you of all people know that?” Sebastian drawled. “You are, in fact, the one that doesn’t belong here, so you should have a reason to be.”
“Quit your blethering,” scolded Miles.
Fitzroy’s sneered, “You might learn to respect your betters, Mr. Wilson.”
“You’ve got quite a superiority complex, haven’t you?” Miles’s chair skittered along the floor as he stood up. “What makes you so much better than me?”
Their hands curled into fists at the same time.
“Calm yourselves!” Singe ordered, and Miles unballed his hands, taking a step back. It was clear that Singe was the leader of the middies. Except for Fitzroy.
“I’m not sure where to start, the list is so long,” he fixed Miles with a fierce gaze, “I’m stronger, faster, more intelligent--”
“That’s enough, Mr. Fitzroy,” Singe held a hand up to stop the other boy’s advance. “It is not the time or the place for this. I suggest you direct your anger elsewhere. Like mucking up the gastric channels, if you aren’t careful.”
Alek wasn’t sure he’d ever seen the boy so in command before. When it had just been him and Deryn, he’d always followed along like a dog, and Alek just thought he was always like that. Now, though, he was completely in his element defending Miles and talking down Fitzroy.
Admitting defeat, Mr. Fitzroy stormed out just as he had with Deryn. Alek found himself thankful he was nowhere near the doorway.
“That was...pleasant.” He said. Miles snorted and shook his head, and he and Singe took their seats.
“Aye, very. You can sit if you want,” Singe motioned to the recently vacated chair. “I suppose you still want some answers.”
“I don’t have all the information,” he began, lowering his voice although there was no one around but the middies, “but we’re taking on lots of extra aerial bombs. So many that we have to stop in Unst at the very tip of Britain on our way to Norway to resupply our food because there isn’t enough room to bring it on now. You can guess why we’re going to Norway, I think, and we’ll be meeting up with two more airships in Unst for assistance.”
“Do you know which two airships?”
Singe shook his head, “I don’t think it’s been decided yet.”
Alek could feel a smile creep across his face. If Deryn still had friends aboard, then maybe he still had some influence. And it had been far too long since she’d last seen her brother.