In the wake of his confession, heavy, angry silence descended over the bridge. It felt like the shaky aftermath of a bomb explosion. Fiearius did not know what to say next. He desperately willed Cyrus to say something — anything. But Cyrus simply sat back in the co-pilot’s seat and glared through mistrusting eyes for a full minute. Fiearius folded his arms and tried to wait.
“Cyr — ” he started to plead, but Cyrus cut him off.
“Let me get this straight,” he muttered sharply. Fiearius went quiet, feeling almost impressed: he’d never heard Cyrus sound so nasty. “You were on some Society-made drug when you worked for them. But your wife told you it was dangerous so you quit. But then…after the ordeal on Satieri last year, you took it up again? Because Dez told you it would counter the effects of ARC?”
It was an oversimplification, but Fiearius had to agree. “Right,” he muttered tiredly. He leaned back against the wall, folding his arms in defeat. “Pretty much.”
“And you just kept taking it?” Cyrus laughed in disbelief, looking Fiearius up and down like he’d never heard anything so stupid. “Even after you were better.”
“I tried to stop, but…”
“You couldn’t, right, you said that,” Cyrus said bitterly. “But you’re going to quit now?”
“That’s the plan,” Fiearius heard himself mumble. He could barely look his younger brother in the eyes. It was like being fifteen again: he was the screw-up, constantly getting in trouble, disappointing their parents, while Cyrus brought home straight A’s and judgment.
“Daelen seems to think he can help me break the dependency,” he went on. “Though I don’t know if it’ll be that easy.”
Cyrus’ mouth twitched with disgust. “What, you mean like…withdrawals or something? So you’re going to be sick? For how long?”
Fiearius hadn’t anticipated this many questions. “It took a few weeks last time,” he admitted. “It’s…difficult. But it’s that or die an undignified painful death, or so I’m told.”
Cyrus’ eyes got wide. “Wait, Flush will kill you? But to get off of it, it’s…” He started speaking quickly. “Then…what’re we gonna do? With the ship, I mean. While you’re recovering. And what if it–Daelen really thinks you can–you’ll be alright?” Apparently this was starting to catch up to him. He could practically feel the stress emanating off of Cyrus. “Is that why you said we’re doing nothing? What happens if–if something happens?”
Cyrus clenched his eyes shut, putting his hand over his face. “Dov’ha ti’arté, Fiearius,” he growled. “How could you do this? Wait.” He dropped his hand suddenly. “Does Leta know?”
Fiearius simply shook his head. Cyrus actually let out a short laugh, unsurprised.
“I was going to tell her. I tried to tell her. But–”
“But you couldn’t,” Cyrus prompted. “Right.”
”She’ll murder me, Cy,” Fiearius grunted. “She’s gonna fuckin’ murder me.”
“Can you blame her?”
No, he couldn’t. He couldn’t blame Leta for hating him. Which was why he had a plan for how he would tell her. He’d take her somewhere private — his room, probably — and have her sit down. He’d confess his sins. He’d apologize. He wouldn’t lose his temper and, hopefully, neither would she. And then —
Movement in the doorway made Fiearius look up. Leta materialized there, as if she were a manifestation of his thoughts, and she looked terribly upset. Her eyebrows drew together in distress, and she said suddenly, “Tell me it’s not true. Tell me you wouldn’t be so stupid,” which made Fiearius’ stomach drop.
Well, so much for that plan. How the hell did she find out?
It didn’t matter. He needed to fix this. Startled, Fiearius pushed away from the wall.
“Leta,” he began, feigning calm and holding a hand out to her. “Maybe you should sit down. So we can — ”
But Cyrus interrupted him. In a voice full of venom, he muttered, “It’s true.”
Fiearius watched Leta’s expression change. Astonished, she stared at Cyrus, then turned her gaze on him and gaped. “This — this whole time?” she breathed, and Fiearius realized, with a twist of his stomach, she meant, the whole time we’ve been together. Six months.
“You’ve been abusing Flush the whole time?” she went on. “Are you on it right now?”
“Leta, please,” he tried again, venturing a step towards her. If he could just get her somewhere else, somewhere without an audience, he could fix this. “Can we just–”
“How — how could you not tell me? Fiear, Flush could’ve killed you!” she cried. “You’ve got a crew to lead, people who need you, and you could’ve killed yourself! One wrong dosage — ”
He shook his head. “No, that wouldn’t have–I knew what I was doing.”
Leta cocked her head, full of sarcasm. “Oh, did you?”
“Yes,” he hissed, hating the desperate plea in his voice. But it didn’t stop him from pressing on. “Look it was–I didn’t want to take it, okay? But it was just a shitty means to an end. It was right after Satieri. I was sick and losing my damn mind and it was a way out so I took it, that’s all.”
“A way out?” Leta’s voice rang around the bridge, echoing with anger. “Who the hell told you it was a way out?”
Fiearius hesitated. Then he said, his voice lowered, “Dez.”
For a moment Leta regarded him with nothing but shock, like she did not believe him. Then she closed her eyes, disgust and realization washing over her like a bitter, acidic wave.
“Dez gave you the pills,” she said through gritted teeth. “So. You’ve been hiding this from me. And taking advice from Dez?”
Fiearius clenched his eyes and put his palm to his temple. “I know, okay? I know, it was stupid. Really stupid. But you have to understand, I was desperate.”
“I know how desperate you were. I spent a month straight in the infirmary trying to make you better!”
“I know!” he said. Behind him, he could feel Cyrus pacing the room, his head in his hand. “I know that and don’t think I don’t appreciate that, but–well it wasn’t working, okay? I needed a drastic measure, someone handed me a drastic measure and I went for it.”
“Dez handed you a drastic measure,” Cyrus said, halting in place and glaring straight through him. “Dez who had just recently been trying to kill us.”
“Yes, Cyrus, I am acutely aware of that, thank you,” he muttered, then turned back to Leta. “Listen — “
“So that’s why you took the pills,” Leta finished, breathing hard. “It doesn’t explain why you kept taking them.”
“Yeah, well,” Fiearius grunted. “Funny thing about Flush, once you start taking it, you can’t stop.”
“I know about addiction, Fiearius, I’m a doctor! I could’ve helped you get off them! Why didn’t you tell me?”
He averted his eyes sharply. Six months of guilt dropped onto his shoulders. Why hadn’t he told her? Gods, if only he could go back in time, he would have.
“I thought I could quit it on my own,” he muttered, shaking his head at his own stupid notion. “I thought I could just handle it myself and you’d never have to know.”
“Oh that’s comforting,” Leta laughed. “You thought you could abuse amphetamines and keep it from me forever.” Suddenly, Leta’s expression cracked with real, raw hurt. “After everything we’ve been through — ”