Hiding. But the words dried up in his mouth when he came to look at Addy. Even in the dim light, he could see sudden raw pain shining in her eyes.
“What is it?” he pressed, stepping towards her. “Is it Finn? Is everything alright?”
“I feel like I should be asking you that,” she replied softly. “No, it’s not Finn, I haven’t heard anything new. It’s … are you avoiding me?” she added suddenly, and his mouth fell open.
“N — no! No of course not. I mean–okay, maybe a little, but it’s not you. I’m just avoiding — well, everything. I’m sorry, Gods, I’m so sorry, I’m–” He knotted a hand into his hair. “I’m kind of a mess right now.”
She nodded, just once. “Archeti.”
He dug his palms into his temples. “Every time I close my eyes…” He glanced up at her, sure that he looked just as desperate and pathetic as he felt. “I’m not avoiding you, really. Gods, I would never.”
He hoped the storm would clear from Addy’s face. But instead, she continued to gaze at him, looking thunderstruck and shaky, and Cyrus could sense it: danger was looming.
“I need to talk to you about something,” she said at last, an odd tremble in her voice. “You might want to sit down.”
Cyrus’ chest seized up. As he sank to the edge of the bed, he knew what was coming: she was done with him. The long distance thing was never going to work out. Or maybe the past few days without him made her realize she just didn’t care for him after all. Or worse, she just didn’t want to be with someone who’d caused a genocide.
They were all valid reasons and he was holding his breath waiting for which she chose when she sat down beside him and said only two words.
Like an icy wind, silence descended over the room. Addy gazed at his face, waiting for him to say something. White noise was filling his brain, and all he managed was, “You’re what?”
With a long, torturous yawn, Fiearius lifted himself to his feet, stretching his arms over his head as he left the bridge alone. He’d spent the last few hours making final preparations for Leta, for Quin, for the other ships of his other allies he’d called in to assist. Everything was set. Everything was ready. Maybe tonight he’d manage to sleep for more than twenty minutes, but first he had to talk to his crew. They were all waiting in the mess hall.
He was about to head for the stairs when he found Cyrus was climbing down the ladder from his quarters. He hadn’t seen Cyrus since they’d landed on the station, and he forced cheer into his voice when he said, “Hey, lil brother.”
“Quiet,” was all Cyrus said, gesturing at the hatch above him. “Addy’s sleeping.”
Fiearius searched over his brother. Darkness circled his eyes, his hair was disheveled, his clothes wrinkled. His eyes were glazed, like he was in a constant daze. Like he wasn’t even here, but just walking around in a dream.
“Have you been sleeping?” he asked, continuing down the hall and gesturing he follow.
Cyrus fell into step beside him. “No.”
Fiearius waited for a typical Cyrus-style explanation or justification, but he received none. Not that he needed one. He knew what was plaguing him.
“Cy, it wasn’t your fault,” he insisted. “It wasn’t you who killed those people.”
Cyrus didn’t even skip a beat. “But it was me who built the device that did it,” he said simply, his tone flat. Clearly, he’d had this conversation in his head many times before.
“But not you who used it.”
Cyrus shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. The whole thing was my idea. If I’d never pitched Nautilus, Archeti would still be there.” He said it with such even confidence, like there were no other facts in the Span as true as these, that Fiearius barely even knew how to fight him on it.
But that didn’t mean he wouldn’t try. Fiearius took him by shoulder, pulling him to a stop.
“Cy, how could you have known how that would end up? You pitched something you thought would help people. You never meant it to be used this way.”
Cyrus’ stare was hollow and unending. “Good intentions don’t negate fault, Fiearius,” he muttered coldly. “You, of all people, should know that.”
The words felt like a knife in the chest, especially from Cyrus, but Fiearius forced himself to overlook them. His brother was going through something horrible. The last thing he needed was a fight. So instead, he said simply, “What I know is what it’s like to be used by the Society.”
Cyrus grew quiet and looked away. And then suddenly he asked, “How’s Finn?”
Fiearius had been trying not to think about his best friend and how he was likely laying on his deathbed. He’d visited once only to be shooed away by medics and told there was no news. He’d just have to trust Finn to pull through in the meantime.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“He’s not dead yet,” said Fiearius with wry amusement. Eager to change the subject to something lighter than death, he added, “How’s Addy doing?”
It wasn’t immediately apparent that his plan had backfired. But then Cyrus looked up at him, still with those same dazed, wide eyes, took a deep breath and said, “Oh, she’s pregnant.”
Fiearius felt his jaw practically hit the floor. Cyrus regarded him, unenthused. “Yeah that was pretty much my reaction too,” he pointed out.
“She’s — is it yours?” Fiearius finally managed to ask.
Cyrus scowled. “Of course it’s mine.” Then he let out a crazed, tortured laugh and started to walk away down the hall. “First I’m a mass murderer, now I’m going to be a father. Funny, isn’t it.”
Fiearius found himself too stunned to even follow after him. Cyrus. Knocked someone up.
But at last he forced his legs forward and followed after his brother. Cyrus went on, “We figured out when it happened, y’know.” His voice had been empty before, but now there was a slight manic edge to it that made Fiearius nervous. “The second time we had sex. Which was the morning after the first time. One night. That’s all it took. Twice.”
Fiearius frowned. “Technically all it takes is once.”
But Cyrus wasn’t listening. “Most people — most people seem able to, y’know, date someone for a while, maybe move in together, consider marriage and then have children. It’s a process. It makes sense. But me? No. No, of course, I get a long-distance girlfriend for two months and skip a few steps right to the end.”
“It happens,” Fiearius muttered, but Cyrus almost seemed like he wasn’t even in the same room anymore, like he was a madman talking to himself. Fiearius grabbed his arm and pulled him to a stop. He looked over at him as though just realizing he was there. “Hey, are you alright?”
“Am I alright?” Cyrus repeated faintly, clearly growing more and more hysterical. “Am I alright? Am I–? No! No, I’m not alright!” he cried, with a fresh bout of frenzy that was shocking to hear. His features marred with disgust and disbelief. “No, I am not alright! I destroyed a planet full of people, Fiearius! I haven’t slept in days! I can’t think, I can’t breathe, I can’t focus. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to come to terms with it! And then! Then! Just to add onto my plate of fun, I’m going to be a dad! A dad! Me! I just spent the last hour telling my girlfriend that everything will be alright and we’ll work it out and it’s all fine while she wept on me until she fell asleep. But it’s not fine! What the fuck am I gonna do?! I don’t know how to raise a kid!”
The sheer desperation in his voice was alarming. It was a rare sight to see Cyrus so very worked up. And it was a sight Fiearius didn’t find comforting in the slightest. “Cy,” he began, trying to mend it, “Look, it’s not–”
“I don’t even like kids!” Cyrus yelled, digging both hands into his hair. “I mean, yeah maybe I thought I might have one eventually, but now? Now? Now, when we’ve basically just started a damn war.”
“Cy –” Fiearius tried again.
“And what about Addy? We’re not even on the same ship, how are we going to have a baby?! Do we get a house somewhere? Should I marry her?” Finally, Cyrus seemed to realize Fiearius was still standing there. He looked over at him, panic in his eyes. “Shouldn’t I marry her?”
Fiearius grimaced. This whole scene was starting to seem a little familiar. Too familiar. “No. She needs your support, Cy, not a ceremony,” he answered evenly. Fiearius moved towards him and dropped a hand on his shoulder. “Alright listen. Do you love her?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I do…”
“Good.” Fiearius patted him on the shoulder cheerfully. “Then you two’ll be fine.”
Cyrus looked up at him, dumbfounded. “What? How is that helpful?”
“Cy, no one is prepared to be a parent, you know that? Even the most prepared person isn’t prepared. But have you ever noticed that we’ve been figuring it out as a species for some hundreds of thousands of years?” Cyrus eyed him skeptically. “I was 22 when we had Denarian. You think I wasn’t terrified? You think I had any idea what I was doing? Of course not. But let me tell you, they put a baby in your arms and tell you to go take care of it? No matter how clueless you may be, you figure it out.”
“That’s your answer?” Cyrus deadpanned. “Instincts? Instincts will make everything okay.”
“Actually, yes,” Fiearius agreed. “Instincts and the fact that you are one of the smartest people in the damn span. And you’re having a baby with one of the other smartest people in the damn span.”