“Oh, Cyrus,” Daelen said cheerfully when he noticed they had company. He turned off the sink and started wiping his hands. “Just give me a moment to finish up here and I’ll get out of your way.”
Cyrus, who had accidentally frozen on the precipice of the room, looked up at him in alarm. “Oh no, it’s alright, you don’t have to–”
But Daelen, he’d learned recently, was not someone to waste breath arguing with. “Nonsense, I’m sure you two have lots to talk about, I’ll give you your privacy,” he insisted, patting Cyrus on the shoulder as he marched straight past him out the door. “Come find me when you’re finished!”
As his footsteps died out, the room was left in silence as the two brothers seemed able to do nothing but stare at one another. Cyrus could hardly believe the man he was looking at now was the man he’d seen a week ago seemingly inches from death. Fiearius was alert, responsive, healt– well no, he still looked like shit. His face was pallid, deep circles surrounded his eyes, his already unruly hair had grown into an even more unruly mess and by the looks of it, he’d probably lost ten pounds in the past month. Healthy wasn’t the right description. But ‘not dead’ was enough to soothe Cyrus’ worry.
“So you’re talking now?” he mused finally, at last stepping into the room and making his way toward the bed.
Fiearius let out a laugh that turned into a cough. “Would you rather I go back to groaning my responses?” he asked, his voice wheezy and quiet.
“Maybe.” Cyrus nudged Fiearius’ feet out of the way and lifted himself to sit on the edge of the bed. “It was kind of a fun puzzle, figuring out what it was you were asking for.”
“Yeah,” Fiearius coughed. “A puzzle both of you kept getting wrong. I wanted morphine, not water.”
Cyrus chuckled and shrugged. “Sorry, two syllables, sounds the same. Work on your consonants next time.”
“Better yet,” Fiearius suggested, “Bypass ‘next time’ altogether.” He shook his head and ran his hands back through his greasy hair.
“Good idea,” Cyrus agreed, looking him over. “How’re you feeling?”
Fiearius paused to glare at him. “How do you think I’m feeling?” he grumbled. “I can tell you with absolute clarity that I have no intention of going through this again. Fool me once, shame on the Society, fool me twice, fuck that was a bad decision.”
“No, really? So you shouldn’t have taken Society drugs for six months and lied about it?” Cyrus gasped, putting his hand over his mouth in false shock. “I never would have guessed.”
The glare deepened and then broke away as Fiearius sighed. “I was just wondering how long it would take you to get around to scolding me.”
Cyrus couldn’t stop himself from rolling his eyes. “I’m not scolding you. I’m just pissed. I have a right to be pissed. My dumbass older brother nearly got himself killed because he was too proud and too stupid to ask for help.”
“Sounds like scolding,” Fiearius muttered under his breath and Cyrus battled a powerful urge to smack him.
“Y’know what, shut up,” he said instead, his voice sharp. “You’re lucky I’m even here. I could have just left you to deal with this on your own since you so clearly wanted to. I could have let you choke to death or starve or let your liver fail, but I didn’t. I spent the last month working my ass off to keep your crew together and your ship running and cleaning up your vomit and preventing you from cracking your head open every time you nearly fell on the floor so don’t you dare give me shit for that, shut the hell up.”
The infirmary fell deathly quiet as Cyrus’ words hung in the air. Fiearius was no longer looking at him, but down at his hands in his lap. Okay, it was a little harsh for a man only just recovering, but Cyrus didn’t take it back. He was used to Fiearius’ shitty attitude, he’d had it since he was born as far as Cyrus knew, but now? He was ungrateful now?
But finally, barely above a whisper, Fiearius asked, “Why did you?” His eyes flicked back up to him and now, they were full of guilt. “Why did you stick around? Why didn’t you just leave on the Beacon with the others?”
Cyrus felt his anger crack and start to crumble away of its own accord. He’d thought about it, leaving. For maybe a half second. But it had been swept away as soon as it had appeared. Leaving had never been an option he would truly consider.
“Because you’re my brother,” he answered at last. “And as stupid as you may be and as much as I may have wanted to, I can’t abandon you.” He met his eyes seriously for a moment and Fiearius looked back, all the pain and anguish and despair visible on his face. It was hard seeing him like this, perhaps even more hard than it had been a week ago. At least when he was sick, it was physical, quantifiable, fixable. This though…
Suddenly he felt a need to lighten the mood. “Besides,” he added, a cheerful lilt in his voice. “Your girl left you. Your friends hate you. And you just went through a month of what looked quite a bit like hell. That’s probably punishment enough. I don’t feel a need to add to it.”
Fiearius just stared at him blankly. “Thanks,” he decided was the appropriate answer. “I guess…”
“If there’s anything I’m still mad at you for,” Cyrus went on, shuffling to a more comfortable position on the bed, “it’s keeping me from Addy.”
Passing off whatever awkwardness was left in the room, Fiearius raised his brows in interest. “So that’s a thing then, is it? You and machine girl?”
Even though he’d brought it up, Cyrus felt himself go red with embarrassment nonetheless. It sounded different when Fiearius said it all accusatory like that. Especially with such established terms like ‘thing’. “W-well yeah? I think it’s a thing. I mean we talk every night. And — well I really like her.”
Fiearius cracked him a tired grin. “Good for you. So ya asked her to marry ya yet?”
Cyrus frowned. “No.”
“Ooh, taking this one slow, huh?”
He rolled his eyes. “That happened one time in a bar and I was drunk and I was kidding.”
“Sure, Cy.” Fiearius nodded importantly. “Keep tellin’ yourself that.”
“Y’know what, I changed my mind, I’m still mad at you, I’m leaving,” Cyrus decided, slipping off the side of the bed and turning for the door, but Fiearius let out another cough-laugh and grabbed his arm.
“Okay okay,” he begged, trying to hold down the choking. “I’m sorry. Don’t leave, Daelen only talks to me in really bad puns, I’m dying here.”
Cyrus looked to his brother. And down to his arm. And relented. “Fine.” He sat back down and Fiearius could not have seemed more pleased.
“So what else have I missed?”
Not much, was Cyrus’ immediate gut reaction, but for his brother’s sake, he took another pass at his memory. “Well. Eve beat me at chess. Daelen showed Rhys a picture of liver cancer and he stopped drinking. For two days. Amora started ‘Friday Feasts’ where she makes more food than any of us can eat and then whines at us to eat the leftovers for the next week. I’ve been teaching Richelle and Javier how to work on the Dionysian. They’ve got quite a knack for it actually. When Nikkolai’s not getting in the way. Oh and I made enough credits fixing the other ships in the dock to keep us running for another two months.” He grinned proudly.
But Fiearius, it seemed, was not as impressed with Cyrus’ accomplishments. He was watching him with a kind of anticipation that made him nervous. It occurred to him that news of the Dionysian’s crew was not the only news he was looking for. He almost expected it when Fiearius asked, “How’s Leta?”
At once, Cyrus wanted to change the subject. But despite the pit in his stomach, he knew Fiearius deserved an answer, even if it was, “Eh…she’s good I think. Fine.”
Fiearius nodded slowly. “You’ve talked to her?”
“Yeah, a few times,” Cyrus admitted, feeling a bit like he’d done something wrong. “She’s just helping out on the Beacon. She’s alright.” He wasn’t sure if he should, but he added after a moment, “She always asks about you.”
Fiearius lifted his brows in recognition of the statement, but he said nothing else. Cyrus was left with the distinct feeling he’d somehow just struck him in the chest.
“Oh, also, I’ve been monitoring your messages,” he said suddenly, desperate to leave this topic behind. “It’s mostly notifications that you’re losing your Spaceship War? A few messages from Quin and some others asking what the hell is going on. And there was one this morning, I didn’t get a chance to read through it, but it was from an Admiral?”
Fiearius finally looked back at him, frowning, confused. “I don’t know any Admirals.”
“I didn’t think so.” Curious now what it could possibly be, Cyrus crossed the room to pick up a tablet Daelen had left sitting on the counter. Skimming through it, he eventually found the message he was looking for. “Yeah, here, Admiral Gates,” he read before looking up at Fiearius who just blinked back at him and shrugged.
His brother carefully swung his legs over the side of the bed and reached for the tablet as Cyrus handed it to him. He squinted at the screen and muttered, “Captain Soliveré, I hope this message finds you in good blah blah blah, okay, we’ve heard about your many exploits against the Society and want to commend you in boring boring, ah here we go. On behalf of the Carthian Military Council–” He looked up at Cyrus in alarm and then back at the screen. “–I would like to extend to you and your crew an invitation to our station located at the attached coordinates. We have much we’d like to discuss with you and a cause I think we can both agree is worthy of our attention. Sincerely, Admiral Gates.”
After finishing the message, Fiearius sat in silence for what seemed like ages. Cyrus too, who was leaned over his shoulder to peek at it himself, was stunned by the contents.
Finally, his confusion got the better of them. “Why the hell does the Carthian military want to talk to us?”
Fiearius glanced up at him and back at the screen, then shrugged again.
It wasn’t a very satisfying answer. “Well…are we gonna go?” Cyrus wanted to know.
Still, Fiearius said nothing. He seemed to read the message again. And then he looked up at Cyrus, his expression more perplexed as ever, and said, “Considering we’ve got no other prospects right now? I guess I don’t see why not.”