“It’s none of your fucking business,” Fiearius snapped viciously, standing up from his seat at the dinner table defiantly.

“Damned if it isn’t!” his father spat back, doing the same. His chair caught the momentum and flew back across the floor several feet. “You’ll tell me what the hell you were doing out all day when you were supposed to be here helping prepare for tomorrow. You live under my roof, you follow my rules.”

“Well maybe I just won’t live under your roof anymore,” was Fiear’s poisonous response, backing away from the table a few steps.

“Oh is that so?! And where the hell do you think you’re gonna go, huh?” asked his father, slamming his hands down on the surface in front of him. “Who else is gonna take you in? Who else would give you a bed to sleep in and put food on the table? No one, that’s who.”

It was a common argument. When they’d first started, Cyrus had been terrified. He used to run upstairs and hide behind the railing on the landing as his brother and father battled it out with their vicious words and his mother’s sobs echoed out from the kitchen. He had hated seeing his family in such disarray. But this had been going on now ever since Fiearius had grown big enough to start arguing back and now Cyrus himself was eleven and thus big enough to not go running every time the chairs were pushed back and the words started flying. These days, he just stayed at the table, looked away and continued to eat his dinner.

“The Cordovas will take me in,” Fiearius was arguing as Cyrus absently spooned a carrot from his soup into his mouth.

“Please, like that woman needs any more rotten brats to take care of. Even she wouldn’t want your sorry ass in her house.” As Rohlan Soliveré shouted, his wife, Idya, spilled salty tears into the bowl before her as she sniffled helplessly beside her youngest son.

“Fine! Well I don’t need anyone,” her eldest son growled. “I’ll go where I want and do what I want and I won’t have to listen to your shit any longer!”

That was the worst part of this, Cyrus thought. He had grown numb to it over the years. He had stopped hiding and just learned to ignore it. His mother, however, could not say the same. She no longer hid in the kitchen, it was true. But she was nowhere near numb. Every time this happened, every instance her two loved ones went up in arms against one another, she just…broke. Fiearius and their father fighting, that, Cyrus could take without issue. It was when he saw his mother crumble into despair before his eyes that got to him. The saddest thing was that he never knew what to do about it. The best he could manage was to never talk back, to do his best in school and, essentially, be all that his brother was not. But even that didn’t seem to work.

“I’d love to see that,” his father went on, waving his hand in the air at Fiearius’ claim. Rohlan had always had a bit of a hard time containing his frustration with his son. Cyrus often thought that if he just didn’t get so upset, these kinds of things would never happen. The angrier he got, the more Fiearius fought back. It was just a neverending cycle. Though he’d never tell him. “You wouldn’t last a day out on your own. You’d come crawling home before midnight.”

“Oh yeah? You wanna bet?” Fiearius snapped, his eyes narrowing and his stance growing tense. Cyrus had seen that look before. Their father had offered a challenge. Fiearius never backed down to a challenge.

Their mother knew it too. He felt her stiffen at his side as her sniffling stopped and her eyes grew wide. Fiearius running off into the night in rebellion didn’t seem that unlikely of an occurrence, but tonight? Of all nights? The night before Concordia? They were supposed to spending tonight as a family, in harmony, as a union. They were meant to be putting aside their differences and coming together no matter what. Apparently, the exception to ‘no matter what’ came when his brother did something negligent. Which was always.

Thankfully, Rohlan seemed to realize his mistake in baiting his fiery son and attempted to backpedal. He drew his hands from the table and crossed them over his chest instead. “No, I’m not betting on anything,” he said sternly, though some of his fervor had faded. “And you’re not going anywhere. You’re to stay home and help your mother get things ready for the guests like you said you would.” But it was too late.

“Why?” asked Fiearius sharply. “You don’t want me here. You don’t want me to be around when all your family shows up. You’ll be embarrassed. Just like last year.”

Their father’s face turned stony instantly, as it always did when Fiearius called him out on something. “That’s not true,” he said harshly. It was.

“It is true,” Fiearius shot back immediately, stepping carefully around the table and tentatively towards his father. Even he, in all his gusto, daren’t step too close, however. At 14, Fiearius was one of the tallest boys at school, but their father still towered over him like a skyscraper. “You don’t want them to see me. Or talk to me. They’ll think you raised another Uncle Oron. And wouldn’t that just be horribly shameful.”

A silence fell over the room. Idya’s tears ceased entirely. Rohlan’s breath caught in his throat. Even Cyrus froze, spoon halfway between his bowl and his mouth. He couldn’t have…no….really? Fiearius had a lot of guts, of course. But he actually took it there? Cyrus’ eyes flitted back and forth between the two as, across the table, they stood poised firmly in their places, staring one another down and looking ready to attack any moment. His brother had crossed a line. A very thick line that he knew should never have been crossed. Things had gotten bad before. Many awful words had been exchanged. But nothing like this. Never like this.

Cyrus was honestly unsure what was going to happen. His father was not a violent man, at least not physically. He had never hit either of his children or his wife before nor given any indication that he would. Despite that, here? The look in his father’s eyes. The tension in his arms. Cyrus he got the sinking feeling that his brother would not be spending Concordia at home or out on his own. He’d be spending it in a hospital.

Dov’ha be thanked that he was wrong.

Long into the silence, as no one dared to take a breath, finally, Rohlan replied under his breath and with an anger unlike his character, “You’re not him. You’re nothing like him.”

Please, Fiear, just let this go, Cyrus begged in his head, still too nervous to take that spoonful of soup. Please, don’t make this worse.

Unfortunately, Cyrus rarely got what he wanted and Fiearius rarely did the right thing. In perhaps the stupidest move he’d made all day, he remarked, “Well you certainly treat me like I am. If you had your way, I’d turn up dead in a gutter too.”

Cyrus had to stop himself from groaning. Fortunately, he was even more frozen in place than before so it wasn’t a difficult restraint. He looked to his father, whose face had turned red, his eyes grown wide and his fists clenched at his sides. He seemed ready to explode any moment. Across from him, Fiearius seemed to realize he’d gone too far a little too late. Naturally, he stood his ground, determined as always not to give in, but the hesitance was apparent on his face and his legs were prepared to turn and run at any moment. Neither seemed to even notice their petrified audience. Until–

“Get out,” Rohlan growled furiously, the restraint teeming out of his breath. Instinctively, Fiearius jumped backwards at the noise, but he didn’t run. He just looked up at his father in shock. “Get out!” Rohlan roared a second time and this time, the message was received. Fiearius stumbled backwards away from him before hurrying towards the door as their mother started sobbing louder than before, unable to contain herself any longer.“Get the fuck out of my house!”

“Gladly!” Fiearius shouted back as he wrenched the front door open, slipped out into the dark and slammed it behind him. Rohlan continued to glare at him, even after he’d gone. Idya continued to weep. Cyrus just sat there with his spoon suspended in the air, wondering where the hell his brother was going, what he was going to do out there alone at night in the cold desert winter and when he was going to return.

The three remaining Soliverés stayed in that state for some time. Cyrus lost track of how long that was, but it seemed like forever. It wasn’t until Fiearius was long gone, well out of their reach, that his father finally looked away from the door. Without a word, he took his seat at the table again and, as though nothing had happened, ate a spoonful of soup. The tension in him had gone. He was as relaxed now as ever, although the remains of the incident stayed with him in his eyes. There was something else there too, Cyrus noted. Worry. He wasn’t the only one who knew what was out there on the streets of Paradiex waiting for a reckless, emotional teenager. Or rather, didn’t know and didn’t want to find out.

As soon as his father sat down, his mother’s sobs started to wane. They turned slowly into sniffles and, eventually, faded away entirely. Rholan continued to silently eat his dinner and, after she’d controlled herself, Idya did too. Cyrus, however, couldn’t bring himself to do it. He no longer had an appetite. He put his spoon back in his bowl, crossed his hands in his lap and sat quietly, patiently, trying not to think too much of what Fiearius had said. The image of his body being found in a gutter made him want to cringe. He hadn’t seen Uncle Oron’s. But Fiear had described it to him and he was really glad that he hadn’t.

But Fiearius would return. Of course he would. Especially considering the day. Fiear loved Concordia. He loved helping their mother cook the big meal for the relatives and he loved eating it even more. He loved opening up the packages and wadding up the wrapping to throw at Cyrus. He loved making up stupid stories about things that didn’t happen when everyone went around the table to say what they were grateful for this year. He would never miss Concordia.

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