“Not this again?” Cyrus barked through a bitter laugh. “What, the thing that hasn’t changed? Over five years? Gods, Addy, you act like you’ve been given a death sentence since the day I knocked you up. That you’re here because you have to be, that you went to Archeti because you have to, that everything that’s happened up to now is because I forced your hand. How do you think that makes me feel?”
“I never acted like–”
“I’ve tried to make you happy,” he insisted. “Have I been very good at it? Apparently not. But I’ve tried. I love you. I want to be with you. Hell, how many times do I have to say this, I want to marry you–”
“And of course, it goes back to that,” Addy cut him off, putting her hand on her head.
“–and of course, that’s your reaction,” Cyrus growled right back. “And you wonder why–”
“Cyrus, the only reason you want to marry me so bad is to make yourself feel better.” It was perhaps a cruel accusation, Addy realized after she’d said it and she saw the flash of pain across his face. But it didn’t make her feel any less strongly about it. “You want to lock it in so you can assure yourself that everything is fine. But everything is not fine.”
He was nodding slowly now, like she’d just punched him in the gut and he was having a hard time coming to terms with it. “So the excuse about wanting a Ridellian ceremony on Satieri–”
“It’s not an excuse. I do want a Ridellian ceremony. And that is a whole other thing. Do we even need to discuss how you act about my religion?”
“What, the ancient star beings thing?” he responded, rolling his eyes and proving her point. When she just stared at him firmly, he frowned. “What? I’m sorry, it’s ridiculous.”
Addy crossed her arms over her chest and waved a hand in the air. “And important to me.” When she glanced pointedly at him, he clenched his jaw and said nothing. There was a silence between them that suddenly she felt very inclined to fill. “Maybe that’s the root of it,” she said, talking but not sure where she was going. “That what’s important to me…isn’t what’s important to you.”
The words slipped out of her before she could catch them and there they sat, hovering between them as they stared each other down in the hallway. Cyrus didn’t argue them. How could he? They were more poignant than Addy even cared to admit. She loved Cyrus and she knew he loved her, but neither of them could deny that their relationship wasn’t the stuff of legends. It wasn’t even the stuff of a good story. At best, it was a disheartening look at two people that had jumped into something far too serious far too soon. And these days, it was really starting to show.
“We’re not very good at this are we?” Cyrus said at last, his voice quiet, all traces of anger and argument gone now.
“No,” Addy agreed, shaking her head. “No, I don’t think we are…”
He was nodding again, his eyes downcast. “Maybe–I’m just gonna sleep in the shuttle.”
Addy nodded back, slowly. “Okay.”
He caught her eyes briefly, a heavy burden of sadness behind them, before turning down the hall and disappearing down the stairs.
The shuttle they had rented, as it turned out, was not a very comfortable sleeping location. Cyrus rolled off the hard, cold cot shortly after the sun began streaming through the cockpit window, but he’d been drifting in between wakingness and uncomfortable dreams about his fight with Addy for what felt like hours.
His feet recoiled as they met the freezing surface of the metallic floor, but he winced and forced his aching body to a stand. One more minute in this cramped rental was too much and not just due to claustrophobia. His sleepless night of bad dreams and solitary contemplation had at least brought him to one realization: that he needed to fix this. And he needed to fix it now.
Cyrus hadn’t bothered undressing the night before and his luggage was still inside Eriaas’ house, so he just slipped on his shoes and stepped out into the sharp morning air. The salty sea wind enveloped him and he sucked in a deep breath that made his lungs ache as he squinted through the morning light at the mansion atop the hill.
You can do this, he told himself. Just apologize and be better. They’d had fights before. Honestly, they had fights more than Cyrus cared to admit. This one may have been different, it may have been worse, but it was still solvable, he knew. It had to be.
So he started the walk up the path, bracing himself against the wind that seemed determined to knock him over and rehearsing lines in his head. He was almost to the door when he noticed the wind suddenly getting louder. And louder. And…more mechanical?
Confused, he looked up and was unsurprised to find a ship still many miles up coming in for a landing. One of Eriaas’ friends probably? Another business associate? Well Cyrus hardly cared. He didn’t want to stick around this place any longer anyway. The arrival of more guests was a perfect reason not to.
But just before he looked away, something about the ship caught his eye and made his breath catch in his throat. As the ship descended through the ocean haze and grew steadily more clear, it became more and more noticeable. The mark on its bow. That symbol. The librera.
He was probably still the size of an ant to them at that altitude, but Cyrus nonetheless sprinted the rest of the path and rammed his finger into the COMM button in case that changed soon.
“Argoatan residence, how may I–” began the professional door-answerer, but Cyrus cut him off.
“It’s Cyrus, can you let me in?” he asked, trying not to sound as rushed and desperate as he felt.
“Mr. Soliveré?” asked the voice. “Why are you–”
“Please,” he begged again, “Please, just let me in.”
“Of course, wouldn’t want to–” said the voice and the door slid open. Cyrus hurried inside and ran down the hall toward the stairs long before he could hear the second part of that sentence.
They had to get out of there. They had to leave and quickly. Gods, was it already too late? How the hell could they escape with that ship so close? It was right there. It would see them and as soon as it did? Cyrus didn’t want to think about it. He didn’t want to think about Kalli in the clutches of the Society. He couldn’t.
Addy was still in bed when he pulled open the door to the room she’d been staying in, but she didn’t look like she’d been asleep when she blinked up at him, squinting through the light.
“Cy–” she began, apology already heavy in her voice, but now was not the time for apology.
“Addy, get your things,” he insisted, crossing the room to their luggage and started piling what little had been laid out back into the bags.
She frowned at him and slowly lifted herself from the bed. “Wh — ”
“We don’t have a lot of time,” he went on, ignoring her.