Fiearius scrolled down the page of the article he was semi-reading. It was about a woman who had been saved from certain death by her faithful puppy. Or something like that. Despite the absolute silence of the cold, clean white hallway of the Carthian hospital, he was finding it a little hard to focus on the puff piece right now. He considered giving up and simply placing the tablet on the bench beside him, washing his hands of it. But what else was he going to do? So he scrolled back up to the top to try again.
And that was when the door burst open.
Suddenly, the silence in the hall drained away and was replaced by a cacophony of shouting and yelling and screaming. Fiearius looked up at his brother who was sweating like a maniac, breathing like he’d just run a marathon and only barely holding himself up on the doorframe.
“I think I’m gonna pass out,” Cyrus confessed, his eyes glazed over and his voice shaking.
Now, Fiearius did put the tablet aside as he leaned forward to regard his sibling. “That woman in there is having a baby right now and you’re gonna pass out?” he asked skeptically.
Cyrus met his stare with crazed panic written all over his face. “Yes.”
Resisting the urge to roll his eyes (barely), Fiearius stood up, took his brother’s arm and gently guided him to the bench. “Sit down, breathe deep, count to ten,” he ordered.
Cyrus, perhaps having no better ideas, did as he was told. He crumbled onto the seat, seized the edge as though his life depended on it and heaved the most shallow deep breath Fiearius had ever heard. “It wasn’t supposed to happen like this,” his brother despaired, in lieu of counting. “We had it planned. There was a date and–and a time. They were just going to cut her out, like normal, but then–She wasn’t supposed to just–come out on her own. It was planned. It was all planned.”
Fiearius let out a frustrated sigh that he hoped would pass for empathetic as he patted his brother on the shoulder. “Nature doesn’t care much for plans, Cy.”
Cyrus’ eyes swung up to him in alarm. “What if I’m not ready? What if I can’t do it? What if she gets here and I’m just–what if I can’t figure out diapers? What if I feed her the wrong thing? What if I drop her?” His panic was starting to grow again, his breath coming out even shorter. “If she gets injured? I don’t even know how to–Fiear, what if she gets sick and I don’t know what’s wrong, what do I do? What if the doctors don’t know what’s wrong? No one knows what’s wrong! If something happens to her–” His words caught in his throat and Fiearius was almost sure he was about to totally lose it, but somehow, he just kept going. “What if she hates me? What if she cries all the time and I can’t ever make her stop? What if I’m just really not cut out for this?”
Fiearius said nothing as Cyrus continued to shudder and hyperventilate on the bench. He just held his shoulder and waited. And waited. And waited a little longer. Until finally, gradually, his breathing started to even out. The tension started to loosen. Fiearius could have sworn he even felt the air in the hallway around him shift.
Hopefully, that meant it had passed.
“You alright?” Fiearius asked when he was more certain that it wouldn’t send Cyrus right back up again.
“I’m counting to ten,” Cyrus mumbled, his eyes not leaving the wall opposite him.
“Good.” Fiearius finally released his grip and crouched down in front of him to meet his eye level. “Cy?”
“You’re gonna be fine.”
Cyrus stared back at him, unflinching. “Am I?”
“Yeah. You are.” Fiearius clapped his hand on his arm. “You’re gonna be a great dad. And everything’s gonna be fine.”
He continued to stare, until finally, mercifully, Cyrus started to nod slowly. “You’re right,” he agreed through slow, concentrated breaths. “It’s gonna be fine.”
“So,” Fiearius posed, “You done?”
Cyrus looked down at his hands, checking that they were no longer shaking. He drew in a deep breath. He clamped his eyes shut in concentration. “Y-yeah. Yeah, I’m good.”
“Alright.” Fiearius got to his feet. “Then stand the fuck up,” he yanked Cyrus up off the bench, “and get back in there,” then shoved him back towards the door, “‘cause the mother of your child is pushing a fucking living human being out of her body and she needs you right now.”
Cyrus glanced back at him with a moment of hesitation, but then his expression shifted. He frowned in determination and nodded decisively and pushed through the door back into the delivery room. Almost at once, silence descended yet again. Fiearius was left alone in the sterile Carthian hallway and he sat back down on the uncomfortable metal bench where he picked up the tablet again and stared blankly at the article still on the screen.
Where did he leave off again?