Chapter 8: Strategic Reevaluation Pt. 3

And that was that. He’d been left with more questions than answers. The rest of the week, they’d been polite, if a bit terse, and simply avoiding one another.

Of course, Fiearius couldn’t begin to explain this to Cyrus. He simply leaned back in his seat and replied, casually as he could, “What the hell is there to figure out anyway, Cy? We were a little drunk, we argued, we got physical, it’s not like some grand mystery of the universe.”

The answer was clearly not the one Cyrus wanted, but fortunately he didn’t press it. He just eyed his brother wearily and seemed to give it up. Seemed to. Up until he opened his mouth and said, “I don’t want you hurting her.”

At that, Fiearius gave a start. “Excuse me?”

“She’s been through enough recently,” Cyrus went on, furrowing his brow seriously. Fiearius couldn’t help but wonder if this had been rehearsed. “Everything that happened with Ren and the Baltimore and Satieri. It’s a lot on one person. And the last thing she needs is you mucking things up even more.”

“Mucking things up?”

“I’m asking you, as your brother and as her friend, to just lay off. She’s had enough crap thrown at her recently, she doesn’t need any more.” He paused, and then said boldly, “She doesn’t need to be another notch on your bedpost.”

Frankly, Fiearius couldn’t believe this surreal conversation was even happening. Cyrus was possibly the least confrontational person he knew.. “Wow,” was all he could say at first, almost laughing. “Just…wow. I’m so glad that’s what you think of me.” Closing his eyes, he ran a hand through his hair and shook his head. At last he admitted, quietly, “She wouldn’t be.”

Cyrus didn’t answer, though even with his eyes clamped shut, Fiearius could feel his stare. Finally, he asked with all the knowingness of a sibling, “How deep does this go?”

Dragging his hand away, Fiearius looked over at him. “I don’t know,” he admitted quietly. “I mean–I care about her. I respect her. I trust her. I don’t know?” A bitter grin ran across his face, then faded slowly toward thought, and he found himself talking more than usual.

“There’s something about her,” he went on, mumbling now. “Or, I guess, about being around her. She makes me feel better. And I don’t mean less crappy. She makes me feel– “ But the words failed him. Cyrus tilted his head at him curiously, but still said nothing. “To everyone else,” he tried to explain, “I’m just this reckless murderous psychopath with a spaceship, too far gone to ever come back from that. And I’ve come to believe them. That’s just who I am and it’s hopeless. But with her, it’s not like that. That’s not an excuse. She believes I can be better than that and it’s…I don’t know, it’s refreshing. It’s refreshing to have someone who doesn’t look at me like I’m a lost cause.”

Cyrus was watching him with a perfectly blank expression. Though of all the things Fiearius expected him to say, the last was, “I don’t look at you like that…”

Which was completely beside the point. Fiearius glared at him and then rolled his eyes. “Well okay, but you’re my brother, so I’m not really interested in you, thanks.”

“But you’re interested in Leta?”

Fiearius opened his mouth, then sharply closed it again. “It doesn’t matter,” he decided at last. “You said it yourself. She’s been through enough. Need I remind you she just got dumped by her fiance? You know, the one she spent a year trying to save only to find him off his rocker?” He snorted. “Doubt she’s in the mood for something new.”

“Pretty sure that’s up to her.”

“Sure, but it’s up to me too. And I don’t wanna be that guy’s replacement. Nor do I want to be around when he inevitably comes back from crazy town and sweeps her off her feet.”

Cyrus shrugged one shoulder. “That’s a fair point. But you don’t know that’s going to happen. I don’t think their relationship is quite that black and white. Nor do I think yours is. And you’re definitely nothing like Ren so you’d be a shitty choice of replacement regardless.” Cyrus smirked, but Fiearius felt miles away from amused.

“I’m just saying, that sounds like an excuse,” Cyrus went on knowingly. “I know it’s been a while since you’ve felt real, actual human emotions, but it’s not that scary, y’know. Trying something. Maybe there’s some risk involved, but if she really makes you feel so good, maybe it’s worth it. Who knows?”

Fiearius said nothing as he leaned his head on his hand. Although he would never admit it aloud, he couldn’t ignore the fact: Cyrus had a point.

Trying to brush that uncomfortable thought aside, Fiearius muttered, “What’s with you anyway? One minute you’re asking me to leave her alone, the next you want me to be her damn boyfriend, I don’t get it.”

Cyrus smirked sideways at him. “All I want is for you to stop causing problems,” he admitted absently. “And either of those would do it. It’s the in-between I have trouble with. Though if you choose the latter, I don’t need to hear about the details. Or worse, witness the details. Ever. If it’s all the same to you.”

Fiearius snorted. “Noted. Though it’s a little ironic, y’know. Taking relationship advice from you, of all people.”

Are you taking relationship advice from me?” Cyrus laughed. “What are you going to do?”

It was a question Fiearius should have answered by now. He knew that. His back-and-forth with Leta had been tumultuous and perplexing for months. But suddenly, more than ever before, Fiearius feel the pieces coming together — some things started making sense. Some things were coming rapidly into focus.

Reaching forward to the console, he pulled up the navigation and switched the ship’s destination from Archeti to Tarin — if he remembered correctly, Tarin was a place Leta liked. Even better then. “I have an idea.”

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