Cyrus winced as a speck of oil from the pan burst up and hit him in the cheek. “Godsdamn it…” he muttered under his breath and Fiearius groaned behind him.
“Stand back, lower the flame,” he drolled from where he sat atop the opposite counter. “Also you don’t have to just stand there the whole time watching it. C’mon, genius, use your common sense.”
Cyrus shot him a glare, but did as he was told anyway. The meat in the pan sizzled at the temperature change and the violent spitting of oil slowed to a stop. It was difficult to admit when Fiearius was right, especially when he so often wasn’t. But, Cyrus supposed, if he was going to be right about anything, it might as well be the thing he was teaching him.
“How’s it going in here, boys?” called Addy as she leaned up against the kitchen doorway, though her eyes were glued to the tablet in her hand. “Is my future husband a gourmet chef yet?”
Fiearius slid off of the counter and sauntered towards the pantry to dig through the shelves. “More like a diner busboy, but we’ll get there,” he promised her, finding what he was looking for and turning around to drop an onion in Cyrus’ hand. “Cut this.”
“I hate cutting onions,” he muttered, staring at the vegetable in distaste.
“But you like eating them,” his brother countered. “Cut it.”
“Do you wanna be a good husband?”
“Do you wanna deserve your wonderful, intelligent wife?”
Fiearius frowned and shoved the handle end of a knife towards him. “Then you cut the fucking onion.”
Still grumbling to himself, Cyrus smacked it down on the cutting board and brandished the knife as Addy finally looked up from the screen.
“Fiear, I’m trying to get a headcount together. Are you bringing a plus one to the wedding?” she asked with that tone that Cyrus recognized as her ‘I know this question is awkward so I’m going to say it as perfectly casually as I possibly can’ tone. Unfortunately, Addy’s definition of ‘perfectly casually’ was not always the best.
But Fiearius either didn’t notice or, more likely, didn’t care. He shrugged and answered, “Probably not.”
“No?” she pressed curiously. “There’s nobody you might want to bring?” If Cyrus had not been holding a sharp object, he might have face-palmed. Wonderful and intelligent, she surely was, but subtle she surely was not.
But as awkward as it may have seemed from the outside, Fiearius just laughed. “If you’re asking me what happened after you two so very gracefully left me alone with Kalli’s daycare teacher last week, the answer is nothing.”
“Really?” Addy seemed more disappointed than shocked. “You were hitting it off so well though.”
“You know I appreciate you, Adds. I know you’re just tryin’ to cheer me up, but — I told you before. I’m just…not interested right now.” Fiearius shrugged and the kitchen grew quiet and a little uncomfortable. Only the sound of slicing onions broke the silence until Fiearius added, “But what the hell. Put me down for a plus one, it’d be embarrassing to show up to my little brother’s wedding alone, right?”
Addy beamed at him in relief, but Cyrus suddenly remembered, “Wait, what about Kalli?”
Fiearius regarded him curiously. “She doesn’t get her own invitation?”
“No, I mean, we need someone to watch her,” he clarified, putting down the knife. “I thought you were going to.”
“Sure, I can.”
“But if you have a date–”
“Oh,” said Addy from the doorway, but apparently not to them. She was staring at the tablet in her hand again, her eyes wide. “Oh.”
Fiearius eyed her for a moment before turning back to Cyrus. “Yeah, I can handle both. I can multi-task. Unlike some people.” He gestured to the pan. “Put the onions in.”
“Crap, right.” He scrambled to slide the onions off the cutting board and onto the stove.
“No, I don’t think you should bring a plus one,” Addy said suddenly, looking up at them with an expression that for once Cyrus couldn’t read. Excitement maybe? But weird excitement. Unsure-if-she-should-be-excited excitement.
“O…kay…” Fiearius muttered, equally unsure, moreso even. “That’s fine.”
“Because of Kalli?” Cyrus guessed.
Addy shook her head. “Nope. Well — that too.”
Addy grinned mischievously, but didn’t answer so Cyrus abandoned his station to join her and peer over her shoulder at the screen. It showed a new message. He skimmed it once and understood. “Oh.”
“I don’t really care…” Fiearius felt the need to clarify as he watched them, seeming a tiny bit worried now.
“But you will,” Addy suspected then turned to Cyrus. “Do we tell him or–”
Cyrus grimaced and examined his brother carefully. “I dunno…It’s a little–” Insensitive, maybe. Poking a wound Cyrus wasn’t sure had healed. Undoubtedly Fiearius’ self-proclaimed ‘lack of interest’ in romantic pursuits was the symptom of many causes, but there was no doubt in his mind that one rose above the rest. Cyrus had been raised to let things like that lie, not to dig up insecurities, no matter how obvious they were.
Addy, however, had been raised differently.
“Look what I just got.” She turned the tablet around and held it out to him. Fiearius met Cyrus’ apologetic grimace before leaning in and peering at the screen. He read through the RSVP, expressionless.
“So? I figured she was coming…” he said at last, his voice equally as blank. Or trying to be at least. It was so blank that it was obvious what was hiding behind it.
“Of course, but look here.” Addy pointed at the lower corner. “She’s coming alone.”
Fiearius glanced up at her skeptically. “Alright…”
Addy seemed a little crestfallen by his lack of enthusiasm. What the hell had she been expecting? Cyrus had to wonder. That Fiearius would jump for joy to find out that the woman he’d been in love with and inadvertently broken up with through neglect caused by an extended period of crippling depression would be attending a wedding halfway across the Span without bringing a date? It didn’t mean anything. Except that it would probably be awkward. Less awkward than if she had been accompanied, perhaps. But awkward nonetheless.
“Shit, I gotta get to work,” Fiearius declared suddenly, noticing the clock above the door.
Cyrus looked up at it as well. It was barely four o’clock. “I thought you only worked night shifts.”
“I do,” Fiearius answered, edging past them into the living room and retrieving his jacket. “But the evening cook just had a baby so I’m filling in for her shift too.” He shrugged as he pulled the hood up over his head. “I could use the extra cash.”
“Is she gonna be out long?” Cyrus asked, following him through the room to the front hall.
“I dunno, however long it takes to stabilize a tiny human being I suppose,” Fiearius muttered, tugging his shoes on.
“I mean, are you gonna be working evenings still next month?”
Fiearius frowned at him curiously, then cracked a smirk. “I’ll get someone else to cover the twelfth, if that’s what you mean. You’re not getting out of your bachelor party that easily. I have big plans. Big fucking plans.”
Cyrus was suddenly very aware of Addy standing beside him and his cheeks flushed red. “I–I don’t mean that. Kalli’s performance is on the third.”
“Oh, of course,” Fiearius assured him. “Would never miss our lil monster beating up other kids.”
“She’s not beating up other kids…” Addy pointed out. “It’s just forms and solo demonstrations and–”
“Soon enough though,” Fiearius interrupted with a grin, opening the door. “Alright, I’m out. Enjoy your wedding planning. Bye Kalli!”
From where she was playing in the back room, a little girl, or perhaps a monster, roared her response. Laughing, Fiearius stepped out and the door was mostly shut when Addy shouted, “Wait! I need a final answer. Plus one?”
The door (rather, Fiearius on the other side of it) hesitated. And then finally, they heard a decisive, “No,” before the door slammed shut and footsteps stalked out over the landing.
When Cyrus turned back to Addy, she was smiling proudly. “Knew it.”
He laughed and stepped closer to her, reaching up to brush a strand of hair behind her ear. “You are so nosy,” he cooed affectionately.
“Someone’s gotta look out for him,” she argued, sinking into his embrace as he slid an arm around her waist. “And no offense, sweetie, but you’re terrible at it.”
Cyrus snorted in disagreement, but didn’t actually argue. “Did you go through all those documents I filled out for us? The catering thing and the location and the Advocate. There were a couple spots I wasn’t sure of so I left them blank.”
Addy was nodding before he even finished speaking. “All done. There was one though I wanted to ask you about actually.” Without actually leaving his arms, she turned around, leaning her back against his chest and holding up the tablet for both of them to look at.
“Most of these are fine,” she muttered as she skimmed through different documents. “This is good, fine, done, here.” Her finger paused on one. “This one. The Certification of Marriage Under Satieran Law. It asks for a name, you just put mine, Atelier. But I think it’s talking about what joint name we want to use.”
“Yeah, it is,” Cyrus agreed. “So I put Atelier.”
Addy looked back at him. “We didn’t talk about this.”
“Sorry, did you want something different?”
“No, I just — “ She frowned back at the screen and then once more at him. “You don’t want to even consider using your name?”
Cyrus shrugged. “I did consider it. And honestly, I’m kinda tired of being a Soliveré. It’s got so many connotations now. Anyone who hears it immediately thinks of the war and all that awfulness, but Atelier? Atelier is all good things. Atelier is the man that took charge rebuilding Satieri. Atelier is the engineering firm that’s going to take the Span by storm. Atelier is my amazing daughter and my incredible wife.” He pulled her closer against him. “I wanna be an Atelier.”
Addy watched him over her shoulder for a moment, her brows high on her forehead and a tiny smile curved into her lips. And then finally, she chuckled, “You are such a dork.”
He barked an indignant laugh. “What?! I thought you’d be happy.”
“I am, now I don’t have to use the argument I practiced, it’s just your reasoning.” She slid the tablet onto the table beside them and spun around to face him, her arms draping over his shoulders. “So cheesy.”
He scoffed and kissed her quickly on her forehead. “You’re cheesy.”
“You’re cheesier,” she shot back.
“You’re the cheesiest.” He grinned as she frowned up at him. But then her expression faltered and she sniffed the air.
“Do you smell–is that smoke?”
Suddenly, Cyrus remembered. The cooking lessons. The pan on the stove. The dinner he was supposedly making. “Oh shit,” he growled, releasing his hold on her, stumbling around her and sprinting towards the kitchen as Addy laughed raucously behind him.