“You told me to do this,” Fiearius said suddenly, his voice colder than Cyrus had anticipated. When Cyrus just gawped up at him, he said again, “You told me to do this.” He cocked a brow. “Five years ago. I wasn’t sure. I didn’t think good would come of it. And you told me I should. You told me you wanted to go home. And I’m doing this–not for freedom and liberty and all that bullshit. I’m doing this for you.”
Cyrus felt his words catch in his throat. “I didn’t ask you to–”
“You did,” Fiearius snapped, his voice rising again. “You did ask. You wanted me to do this so one day, you could see Satieri again. So your daughter could see it.” He slammed his palm down on the table, so hard that it made Cyrus jump. “You think I don’t know how fucked up this is? You think I don’t see, every fucking day, how much more damage we’re causing than fixing? It’s been one step forward, three steps back for five years, Cyrus, and you think I don’t realize that?”
“Well–” Cyrus stuttered, but he was immediately cut off.
“And the funny thing is, you don’t even know the half of it!” Fiearius cried, a manic tilt to his voice as though this was, in some sick way, hilarious. “You have no idea what I put up with. The way Carthis uses me, the way the damn media treats me, the shit from my own fleet, not to mention the actual battlegrounds, do you even know how many people I’ve lost, Cy? Do you? I would give anything to end this. Anything. But I keep going through all of it because for some fucked up reason, I still believe in what you said to me five years ago. That one day, I can fucking go home.”
For the first time, Cyrus found himself at a complete loss for words. His mouth hung open stupidly as his brother just shook his head.
“But sure, you’re probably right, it’s pointless. It’s all pointless, it’ll never work. I think that every minute of every waking hour, but you think you have the right to come in here and lecture me about it? How fucking dare you,” Fiearius growled. “Fuck you, Cyrus.” And with that, he turned on his heel and stalked out of the room, leaving his half-eaten meal sitting on the table.
Cyrus was left reeling. Whatever exchange he’d been anticipating, it certainly hadn’t been that. For a long moment, he was dumbfounded and speechless. And then, slowly, when the shock wore off, he started to get angry.
‘Doing it for you’ Fiearius had said. He was doing this whole war for him? Bullshit. Convenient excuse, maybe. Pin all the guilt on someone else. But Cyrus knew better than that. It wasn’t his fault all this had happened. Regardless of what he’d said five years ago, the choice to join Carthis and all the choices since then had been Fiearius’ and Fiearius’ alone. In what universe was he supposed to take the blame?
“I can’t believe him,” he groaned finally, balling his fist on the table. Addy remained silent at his side. “Acting like this was all my doing? That I started this war. I didn’t fucking start anything, I want it to just end already.”
Finally, he heard Addy mumble, “Who doesn’t?”
He looked over at her. “Thanks for sticking up for me, by the way,” he remarked, a little crueler than he’d intended and at once he regretted it. Her eyes narrowed on him and she stood up from her seat, taking the abandoned plate with her.
“I’m not getting involved in your sibling rivalry,” she told him, her voice sharp enough to slice right through his pride. “If you two want to argue like children, keep me out of it.” Cyrus winced and dropped his head again, feeling even more stupid and ashamed now. That is, until she added from the kitchen, “And for the record, I agree with your brother anyway.”
At that, he gaped at the kitchen door. “You’re kidding me.”
“I’m not,” she answered, returning to lean in the doorframe. Quickly, she waved her hand and amended, “Not about you and what you said or any of that, but–” She looked away from him and sighed. “He’s right. I want to go home. And I do think it’s possible.”
Cyrus frankly couldn’t believe his ears. “But at what cost?” he demanded. “The people of Vescent wanted their home back too and look how that turned out.”
Addy sighed again, heavier this time as she returned to the table and sat back down. “I know. I’m not saying it’s easy or simple or black and white, but some change, any change, is better than where we started.” She reached over and took his hand. “Cy, I want Kalli to see Satieri. I want to see my father again. I want to build a home and a life for our family.”
“We have a home,” Cyrus said at once and she recoiled her hand. “Adds, we have Archeti. We can build a home and a life there.”
She fixed her eyes on him seriously. “I don’t want to build a life on Archeti.” Cyrus opened his mouth to respond, but found no words came out. She shook her head. “Archeti’s been fine, don’t get me wrong. And I’m glad that we’re helping people who need it, I am. But–gods–” Suddenly, she fell back in her chair and touched her fingers to her temple. “Look, when you told me rebuilding Archeti was what you wanted to do, I was proud of you. And of course, I wanted to be with you so I agreed to come without a second thought, really. But Cy–” She leaned forward again. “I didn’t ever think we’d be staying.”
Cyrus again found himself dumbfounded. “What did you want to do then?” he asked, his tone coming off a lot more accusatory than he’d intended.
“I don’t know,” she admitted. “I thought we’d go back to the station eventually, maybe Carthis proper, work on ships, hell I even considered coming back here.” She gestured to the Dionysian around them. “Because I thought we were on the same page, Cy. I thought the end goal was still Satieri.”
“I-it was,” Cyrus stuttered, shaking his head. “I mean, of course, I’d love to go back there, but– gods, Addy, you really think that’s gonna happen? After everything we’ve seen? You’re so focused on this dream, I’m tired of waiting for our lives to start when it may never even happen.”
Now, he stared at her and he knew that she knew exactly what he was referring to. Most people referred to the couple as ‘partners’. It fit and neither Cyrus nor Addy had ever refuted the title. It sounded more appropriate than ‘boyfriend and girlfriend’ anyway for a pair of people raising a child together. But Cyrus had an old-fashioned streak and while he was content being Addy’s ‘partner’, there was another word he would have preferred.
Unfortunately, when he’d proposed to her a few years ago in the most romantic manner he’d been able to conjure, she had apologized profusely and insisted that if she was going to be married, she wanted to be married at home, on Satieri in a traditional Ridellian ceremony. Only a year into the war at the time, Cyrus hadn’t really disagreed. But as the war dragged on, his agreement started to wane. Addy’s resolve, however, had not.
“Cy, c’mon,” Addy said, shaking her head, wanting him to stop, of course. It was her typical reaction when he brought it up.
“What if it never ends?” he asked, apparently more daring this evening with every subject. “Hell, what if we outright lose?”
“Cy,” she scolded.
“I’m just saying.” He took her hand again. She didn’t fight, but she didn’t reciprocate either. “I love you. I don’t want to put off everything for us because of politics. And I don’t just mean a wedding, I mean our home, our family. You don’t like Archeti? Fine, we’ll move. We can go anywhere, do anything. I’ll be happy with you no matter where we are.”
Addy looked down at their interlocked hands and then up at his face. “And if I want us to move to the CORS and work on the active Carthian fleet?” she asked bluntly.
It was a test, Cyrus knew. And as his mouth hung open without a response for each passing beat, he knew he was failing it. “Well–” he finally blurted out, without follow-up.
She slid her hand from his and stood up. “That’s what I thought.” She started walking away from him, but she paused in the doorway. “Cyrus, I love you, I do. You’re an amazing father and a genuinely kind, talented person. But–” She looked away from him. “Sometimes I think we’re just very different people…”
And then she was gone, disappeared into the dark hallway of the ship, leaving him alone in the dining room, just as stunned as before.