Cyrus watched him curiously from where he sat, the slightest of frowns creasing his brow. “You did miss it…” he pointed out quietly. “Where were you?”
Fiearius glanced back at him just as he pulled a candle out of the drawer and lit it with one of the many stray matches he had lying around on top of the dresser. “Doesn’t matter,” he told him matter-of-factly, placing the candle in a holder and sliding it onto Cyrus’ bedside table. His answer was predictable. Cyrus didn’t even bother to push it anymore. Instead he just used the flickering candlelight to look his brother up and down from head to toe. Unfortunately, there were very few clues. He looked much the same as he did at dinner the night before. Save for the neatly applied bandage on his upper left arm.
“What happened?” he asked, gesturing to it. Fiearius glanced down at the bandage and shook his head.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said shortly. Cyrus rolled his eyes. Of course not. He didn’t bother arguing as Fiearius stalked back across the room and plopped down on Cyrus’ bed next to him, crossing his legs and settling in. “So…sorry, I didn’t get you a present or anything,” he muttered apologetically. “But I did bring you these.” He dug into his pocket and produced a handful of wrapped candies, the toffee ones with the filling that Cyrus had always liked so much. “A mini Concordia feast of our own,” he declared proudly, proffering his hand. “It’s not that far past midnight, is it? It still counts.”
Cyrus couldn’t help himself but to smirk at him. “I don’t think so,” he remarked, a touch bitterly, but still smiling regardless. “But fine. I guess it’ll do.” He certainly didn’t say no to the sweets as he reached over and claimed one. “I can’t believe you left me to deal with the real feast on my own. You know I can’t cook. Or understand anything grandma says.”
Fiearius snickered and shook his head, unwrapping one of the candies for himself. “I know, I know, I owe ya one,” he admitted.
“More than one,” Cyrus replied shortly. “Without you around, the only entertainment they had was giving me complicated math problems and timing how quickly I could solve them.”
Fiearius paused mid chew. “How is that entertainment?” he asked bluntly.
“Exactly,” Cyrus barked. “I don’t think it’s fun.”
“Shoulda just hit Eiran. That’s always fun,” Fiearius suggested casually.
“Not everyone enjoys violence,” Cyrus corrected him quickly.
Fiearius just shrugged however. “I dunno, in our family? Never had anyone complain before.” Cyrus frowned and opened his mouth to argue, but realized he didn’t actually have an argument. Victoriously, his brother’s finger pointed in his face. “Aha, can’t deny that, can you?” He shook his head and made a ‘tsk tsk’ sound with his tongue. “Don’t act all high and mighty either. You’re just the same as the rest of us.”
Cyrus rolled his eyes and snatched another sweet out of his brother’s hand. The two of them lapsed into silence for a moment as both of them struggled with wrappers and remembered there was still an elephant in the room to be addressed. Finally, Cyrus spoke up. “Do mum and dad know you’re here?” he asked, though the answer was already obvious. If they did, would he have climbed through the window? But perhaps the question would lead into how they were actually going to fix this mess.
“No, hell no,” Fiearius replied vehemently. “And I’d appreciate it if you didn’t tell them.” He cast him a sharp glare and Cyrus was all about ready to protest until the actual words sank in and his words were lost on his lips. Don’t tell them? But that would mean–Fiearius realized Cyrus’ epiphany just as he had it. Quietly and, Cyrus thought, almost apologetically, he went on, “I’m not staying, Cy…I just came back to see you and get some things. They can’t know I was here.”
Cyrus was stunned. So stunned he couldn’t even think of what to say. He wasn’t staying? But how? “Where are you gonna go?” he asked breathlessly, his eyes wide and fixed upon his elder sibling.
“Don’t worry, I’ve got it all figured,” Fiearius assured him, though it didn’t bring any comfort. “I’ll be fine. And I’ll come back and visit you.” Visit? Cyrus thought. Really? Visit? As if that would make up for it? This was nonsense. Impossible nonsense. He couldn’t really be leaving for good. Over one stupid fight? No, it wasn’t possible.
“I don’t want you to visit,” Cyrus told him truthfully. “I want you to stay home. Stay here. You can’t just leave.” He reached over suddenly and seized his brother’s wrist. “You can’t. You can’t leave me here. You can’t leave us.”
For a moment, Cyrus actually believed he was winning him over. Fiearius’ stare softened and his stance weakened. But it was short-lived. “I can and I will,” he told him harshly. “They don’t want me here. You heard dad. I can’t just come back after that.”
“He didn’t mean it,” Cyrus snapped, frustrated that Fiearius would even believe such a thing.
“Yes he did!” Fiearius responded indignantly. “He told me to get out. I got out. What’s the problem? I don’t wanna live with that asshole anyway.”
“He didn’t mean it,” Cyrus said again, impatiently. “And he’s not an asshole. Okay, he kind of overreacted, but only because you were being a jerk.”
“No I wasn’t,” Fiearius snapped back, shoving his little brother in the shoulder.
Ignoring the physical assault, Cyrus replied, “You totally were. You promised you’d help mum and then disappeared and she had to do it all alone.”
Fiearius faltered slightly. But only slightly. “So?” he spat.
“And then you were a total prick about it,” Cyrus went on, unrelenting. “And got unnecessarily upset when dad asked why you didn’t help her.”
He faltered even more. “No I didn’t…”
But Cyrus didn’t stop. “And then you just had to go and bring up Uncle Oron. His dead brother! And you really wonder why he got upset and yelled at you? Gods, Fiear, I know you don’t mean to be, but you’re a total jerk sometimes. You were asking for it. No, dad shouldn’t have yelled at you like that and he shouldn’t have kicked you out, but I don’t blame him. You deserved it.”
Fiearius was no longer meeting his eyes. He had looked away and now glared angrily, defeatedly, at the place where the bed met the wall. Cyrus’ vehemence faded away as he watched him. It especially disappeared when his brother muttered, “Fine. Even more of a reason to leave then.”
Well, Cyrus thought, as much as he’d wanted to get that off his chest, now he was regretting it. Gods his brother was frustrating. He was frustrating even to the one person he actually kind of talked to. He couldn’t fathom how frustrating he was to their parents whom he refused to even make eye contact with on most occasions.
“I didn’t mean it like that…” he ventured carefully.
“No, you didn’t, but it’s true,” Fiearius growled under his breath, still locking eyes with that dark crease of wall. “Dad doesn’t want me here and all I do is cause problems, just like he says. Might as well just make all your lives better and go. I’m just the mistake.”
Cyrus fell silent, unsure of what to say. Finally, he muttered, “I thought I was the mistake.”
Despite the serious tone this conversation had taken, even Fiearius couldn’t stop himself from snickering lightly at that. “No, you were the unexpected gift,” he corrected, a little bitterly.
Cyrus shrugged and attempted a tentative smile up at his brother. “Fiear,” he said quietly. “You can’t leave.” His brother looked away from the wall at last and met his eyes cautiously. “You’re part of this family. Even if you do cause problems.” He smiled teasingly. “Even if you are a mistake. You’re our mistake. And you belong here. With us. Don’t listen to what dad says when he’s mad. When you’re gone, things aren’t right. You’re part of this family just as much as the rest of us. Please stay. For me?”
For a long moment, the two Soliveré brothers sat on Cyrus’ bed and stared at one another in silence. Cyrus with the slightest hint of pleading written into his features and Fiearius lost in consideration of his brother’s words. Even as angry as he’d been, Cyrus was pretty certain he had won. But just to ensure that. “Also, you owe me a Concordia present.”
Instantly, Fiearius broke from his thoughtful silence and frowned at him as though betrayed. “What?”
“You didn’t get me one,” Cyrus pointed out, crossing his arms over his chest. “Yours is sitting downstairs. I even wrapped it myself. But you didn’t get me one so you owe me a favor and that favor is that you stay.”
“That doesn’t seem very fair,” Fiearius muttered skeptically.
“Plus you owe me for the math problem thing,” Cyrus went on, raising his fingers to keep the list. “And for having to listen to all of grandpa’s story about the Archetian girl. And for looking after Ytra after dinner. And–”
“Okay!” Fiearius cut him off suddenly, tossing a candy that hit him in the forehead and silenced him. “Fine.” He frowned down at his little brother and rolled his eyes. “Fine I’ll…I’ll sleep on it.”
Cyrus couldn’t stop himself from grinning widely. Even with such a reluctant answer, he was positive that everything would be alright. Enthusiastically, he leapt forward and threw his arms around his brother’s shoulders. “Thank you,” he exclaimed cheerfully.
Fiearius recoiled instantly, but didn’t exactly pull away. “Alright alright,” he muttered. “Keep it down. You’ll wake someone up.”
Rolling his eyes, Cyrus released him and sat back down upon the bed. “So where were you really?” he asked again, shamelessly.
“Ha ha,” Fiearius said dully, leaning back against the wall. “Wouldn’t you like to know. Tell me about the family. Catch me up. And please tell me that someone called Tiata a liar because that’s always my favorite part of dinner.”
Cyrus could not recall, the next day, how late they had stayed up nor what it was they talked about in those early morning hours of night. All he knew was that eventually the candle Fiear had lit was nothing but a pool of wax. The candy he’d brought them had depleted into nothing but wrappers on the bedroom floor. And when he’d woken up the next morning to the light streaming in through the window, his brother was still there, passed out at the foot of his bed, snoring lightly.
Cyrus sat up and stretched, feeling more content than he had at all over the past few days. Careful not to wake his slumbering sibling, he wiggled out of the covers and gently touched down on the floor. All was back to normal. Just as it was meant to be. So, before his brother awoke and his presence was made known, Cyrus crept downstairs into the quiet living room, still bearing a few leftover decorations from the day previous. There, he poured himself a bowl of cereal and sat on the couch, enjoying the last free moments of silence he’d hear all day.
But honestly? He’d have it no other way.