AN: Don't ask me where I got the idea, but I really, really wanted to do a fic where Cyrus, Diego, and Halston went to a bar. It...didn't go in the direction I expected it to go? But I like it enough to actually post, so enjoy!
Of Alcohol and Memories
Cyrus Drake hated alcohol, and contrary to popular belief, it wasn't because he had a stick up his ass.
The reason behind his abstinence was actually just a bit more complicated than that, and rooted in memories of semi-happier times, back when he actually knew how to kind-of smile.
They'd just freshly graduated from Dragonspyre Academy. By law, all new graduates were immediately inducted into the Dragonspyrian military, be it as soldiers or naval officers or medics or Dragonriders or map-readers and strategists, and while the generals and admirals worked with the dean to determine who fit where best, said-graduates had three days of unobstructed freetime. Cyrus and Malistaire, for their part, spent those free days quietly, because Cyrus had a Plan. (A Plan that made him a deserter and a liar and a blasphemer.)
It was the last night before everyone would be assigned their rightful positions, the last night before the Plan went into effect. One of the more popular graduates, a handsome lad whose hair never failed to remind Cyrus of autumn leaves, was hosting a party where everyone was invited, even the less-than-popular crowd. Cyrus hadn't wanted to go, because he had a Plan and he wanted to spend as much time with his loved ones as possible, but Malistaire had insisted. "Sylvia's going," he'd said, and because even then - or rather especially then - Cyrus couldn't stand up to him, so they went.
Autumn Hair's estate wasn't quite as impressive as the Drake's estate, but it was large enough to hold a lot of people and a lot of booze. Cyrus had stuck to the walls as much as he could, Malistaire with him through most of it, at least until Sylvia walked through the door, but even on his lonesome Cyrus hadn't minded the party all that much. He was uncomfortable, sure, but Malistaire was happy, and it bubbled through their bond like apple cider, warm and fizzing and reminding him of times where he wasn't just a stain on the family name. It was a good feeling. It was something to carry with him when the Plan actually happened.
But because Autumn Hair's estate had a lot of people and a lot of booze, people were bound to get drunk, and the people of Dragonspyre were not Always Happy Drunks.
Malistaire was, usually, because at that point in time he had nothing wrong in his life outside of having an insecure twin brother he had to look after. When Malistaire was drunk, he was loopy and giggly and happy and loved to cuddle (that last part he'd never admit though). When Malistaire was drunk, Cyrus would take him to their dorm and they'd sit on their couch and play a botched Pictionary game until he inevitably passed out on Cyrus's shoulder. That was only usually, though. Sometimes when Malistaire was drunk, and he saw someone threatening his brother, or invading on Sylvia's personal space, he would get vicious and mean and remind everyone just whose son he was.
And reminded party-goers were. One of Autumn Hair's less relevant friends thought to put the drunken moves on Sylvia, and through their bond that warm apple cider had abruptly changed to a cold so intense it burned. Cyrus's head had snapped up just in time to see Irrelevant Friend fly across the room, crashing into a group who despite all their training just wasn't coherent enough to get out of the fucking way.
What broke out was a fight that could only be described as a bar brawl without the bar, people fighting for little to no reason, and such fights were so, so common. Always where people were drinking, there was fighting. That was Dragonspyre, and Cyrus had hated it.
So by connection, he hated alcohol. He hated the smell, the taste, the way it made people act and think. It was a poison he did well enough without. A poison that was made all the more bitter when Malistaire's hangover meant that when the Plan happened - when Cyrus ran away from his duties and his home because he hated Dragonspyre - there hadn't been a proper farewell.
They reunited years later, of course, but even so, the sentiment remained.
He hated Dragonspyre, and he hated alcohol.
Which was why he'd told his colleagues no when they came to him with their stupid idea, yet there he was, at a bar with a unicorn and a frog, because apparently, he was depressed.
"Come on, cheer up, Cyrus!" Diego's voice was like nails on chalkboard at that moment, and the conjuror in question wanted nothing more than to shove knives into his ears. A large hand fell on his shoulder, giving it the slightest squeeze. "We brought you here to have fun, my friend, not to glare at whiskey!"
Cyrus snorted. The drink he had could hardly be called whiskey at all; Malistaire had openly mocked the stuff when they'd first shared a drink together in Wizard City, called it apple juice of all things, which whiskey definitely wasn't supposed to taste like. Still, he stopped glaring and took a sip.
And yeah, it wasn't whiskey. Here I thought I was the lightweight.
And even though he hated alcohol, he wanted something stronger. Cyrus got up from his stool and went behind the counter to see what else might be available. The Lux, as the bar was called, was closed that night, but with Diego being...well, Diego, he'd managed to swoon the owner into allowing them private access, so long as they didn't wreck the place. Halston Balestrom, the one who'd actually planned this little 'boy's night out', croaked in something like amusement as Cyrus started to read labels of various bottles.
"I'm afraid you won't be finding anything as robust as what you had back in Dragonspyre," the frog said. "Ambrose and the city council all decided years ago to limit how much alcohol gets imported here. Much of the good stuff you have to buy first-hand, either on one of the other worlds or...well…"
"Through the black market?" There was a note of disapproval in Diego's voice. Halston just flashed him a cheeky grin, but Cyrus hadn't the mind to care about possible law-breaking at that moment.
"And you, being the ex Marleybonian gangster that you are," Cyrus said, eyeing at an unimpressive bottle of probably-not-really-bourbon he had in his hands, "wouldn't happen to know where to get the stronger stuff, would you?"
Both men in his company looked absolutely appalled, probably because they'd never expect the strictest and most by-the-book of professors to be comfortable with illegal drinks, but Halston seemed more than happy to oblige him. His cheeky smile turned outright devious, and with a croaking laughter he hopped away from his own probably-not-brandy and onto his shoulder. He pointed toward the kitchen door, and Cyrus followed his direction dutifully.
When they came back out, Cyrus had successfully found what he was looking for, carrying a legitimate bottle of Fireball in one hand and tequila in the other, while Halston, still perched on the man's shoulder, levitated a few other bottles of liquor, in case they wanted some variety. Diego watched with a barely concealed disgust as they set them all down on the bar.
"You aren't concerned at all about breaking rules here, Cyrus?" The Duelmaster asked. Cyrus shrugged, pulling out a few shot glasses (one of which was specially made for small sentients such as Halston. It was, admittedly, kind of cute, but he had the sneaking suspicion the frog could out-drink both of them despite his size ).
"We're all adults here," he said. "I see no harm in indulging ourselves for the moment."
"I concur," Halston settled down on the counter, next to the unicorn, and they both watched as Cyrus went about pouring them shots of whiskey. "I understand we have a school to run here, with many a curious student running about, but putting such steep restrictions on alcohol is hardly beneficial to anyone. Deprives the adults and only nourishes the inner rebellion of our impressionable teenagers."
"Speaking from experience?" Cyrus asked as he poured. Halston hummed.
"Let's just say when the Queen first banned liquor on Marleybone, it became a lot easier to commit a crime."
Despite himself, Cyrus grinned, just slightly, before he pushed two glasses toward his colleagues. Diego eyed his drink warily, but when the unspoken word when out to slam it, he downed his in time with the others, and to further Cyrus's amusement, he was the only one who actually cringed at the drink.
"I didn't know you were a man who could hold your liquor, Cyrus," Diego commented once he recovered.
I didn't know you couldn't, was what Cyrus wanted to say, but he opted for the less abrasive route. "I'm from Dragonspyre," he said instead as he prepared a second round. "The only thing Dragonspyrians are better at than fighting wars is drinking."
And yes, he hated alcohol and he hated Dragonspyre, but he was starting to realize that being a lightweight back home didn't necessarily mean he was a lightweight here.
Halston's eyes twinkled, and Diego chuckled almost fondly. "Indeed. I remember the day we hired our first two Drakes. The staff all decided to have a party right here in the Lux to welcome them. Malistaire was so skinny, I thought for certain I'd have been able to drink him under the table, but by the end of the night I'd passed out in a booth and he hardly even seemed fazed!"
Cyrus's eye twitched, and he downed his second shot without even waiting for the other two. Diego grimaced and took his own glass in hand. "My apologies. I didn't realize it was a...sore subject."
"And how in the Spiral did you not realize that?!"
Diego opened his mouth to respond, but before things could dissolve into an argument no one actually wanted to have, Halston cleared his throat. "Personally," he said slowly, with a great deal more tact than that of the Duelmaster, and he sipped at his whiskey rather than down it for the shot that it was. "I think it would do us well to talk about happier times with Malistaire."
Cyrus glared at him, and made to pour himself a shot of tequila instead. Fireball wasn't cutting it anymore. "I think," he said, "that's a terrible idea."
It was terrible because Malistaire was gone. Not dead - not yet - but he would be soon, because there was no saving him from his insanity and the risk - that stupidly massive risk he posed to the universe - was just too damn high. And worse than that, their brilliant idea to send their newest student to stop him meant there was a just as stupidly massive risk that he'd succeed, and a kid would wind up dead because of their incompetence, and possibly a great many others.
Halston croaked in a way that denoted concern, and a small green hand found his forearm. Cyrus blinked. He hadn't realized he'd begun shaking.
He let go of his shot glass with a tired sigh, the liquor held within forgotten. "Sorry…"
Halston's hand pat his forearm before it fell back at his side, though he did linger closer to the Conjuror than before. "Affecting you that badly, is it?"
Cyrus nodded, albeit very reluctantly, eyes directed to the floor. He was reminded, briefly, of that party, where he stuck to the walls rather than the group, where he only sipped an ale rather than chugged it like his peers. He'd thought that training under Baba Yaga had tempered his insecurity, but he could feel it blooming in his chest, the rafflesia arnoldii of his soul, stubborn and insistent and never truly dead. It was embarrassing.
Diego had adopted a more thoughtful expression, and he stood up to join the other two behind the counter. He looked at some of the better options they'd found in the back, as while he was not exactly the best at shooters and hard liquors, he did know how to make a good cocktail, and good cocktails made everything better. "If that's the case, my friend," he said, "then Halston's idea is not so terrible as you might think it is."
Cyrus seethed; Halston sighed.
"At least hear me out on this," the storm professor urged. Cyrus looked down at the younger man, and when Diego pushed a Cosmopolitan in front of him, he caved in with a tired sigh.
Halston's eyes lit up. "Good," he said, and with a Cyrus-shaped meltdown officially avoided, he took a seat on the counter, legs dangling off the edge. "I'll start."
And so they talked about Malistaire, sipping at what Cyrus called 'sissy drinks' and kind-of laughing and kind-of smiling. Cyrus, like at the party, had remained secluded and silent for the first part, but as the night dragged on, he started to open up, telling them of their shared childhood, what Malistaire was like as a child, how he first met Sylvia. "He used to bully me," he said at one point, his gaze distant, martini glass pressed to his lips. "Which is what brothers do, though I was too afraid to actually retaliate at the time." Or ever, but they didn't need to know that. "Then our mother died. It was the hardest time of our lives up to that point. We were only twelve years old."
"Hey now, happy memories, remember?" Diego wagged a finger at Cyrus. They'd all moved to sit on the countertop, promptly ignoring the chairs on the other side of the bar, and while they were all slightly buzzed they had enough sense to hold a well-meaning conversation. Cyrus hummed and took a sip of his drink.
"It is a happy memory," he reassured. "Not about Mom dying, but what resulted from it. Vladen Drake, our father, was never exactly the fondest of me, felt I was too sensitive and was ashamed of how different I was compared to the other Dragonspyrians. When Mom died, what had simply been a quiet disapproval became...not so quiet."
"This doesn't sound like a happy memory to me," Halston interrupted, but Cyrus waved the comment off and continued.
"Malistaire was the shining example of what a Drake should be like, so he was spared much of Vladen's aggression, but twins, especially those with magical aptitude such as us, always know when something is wrong with the other." Diego's eyes shimmered in the low light of the bar, and Cyrus briefly recalled him having some experience in the matter, though he doubted he shared as strong a bond with Roberto as Cyrus did with Malistaire. "Before, he'd simply been annoyed by my troubles, but I think when we lost Mom, something clicked inside him. His frustration turned to sympathy, and he started looking out for me when no one else would. Well, no one but Sylvia, anyway.
"He never went against Vladen directly - didn't want to lose his 'perfect' reputation - but he stood up against schoolmates and teachers and did his best to undermine them. Didn't really help either of our situations; he picked up flak for being his 'brother's keeper' and it only exacerbated my reputation as a coward, but it was the closest we'd ever been, and the bond we shared strengthened as a result."
Cyrus fell silent, staring down at the pink liquid in his glass. Diego and Halston both looked at him with what he could only describe as a newfound respect, and once again he was reminded how different the culture of Wizard City - frankly of many worlds - was than Dragonspyre. How cowardness, even if overcome, left a stain on one's reputation as a warrior and a soldier, but here it was little more than a character flaw. He took a thoughtful sip of his drink as a comfortable silence elapsed.
"This bond you have with Malistaire..." Diego spoke up eventually, looking to the man beside him. "Is it strong?"
Warm apple cider and bitter cold. "Yes. It is." It was.
Halston, who unlike the two hadn't the foggiest idea what a twin bond might feel like, croaked and inclined his head slightly to the side. "Do you still feel it, even now?"
"It's still there," Cyrus answered slowly. "But it's... numb."
"Like frostbite," his voice dropped to nearly a whisper. "You don't really feel any pain, but then you look at your fingers and see the swelling, the discoloration, the damage...and you know it's there, waiting to strike out with vicious intent the moment the rewarming process begins. Then there's that underlying current of fear you could lose your fingers altogether."
A disturbing analogy, but wasn't it fitting? Cyrus didn't meet either of the gazes boring down on him, and did his best to ignore the dramatic shift from comfortable warmth to dreadful silence by sipping at his drink.
The bond was there, but frostbitten and numb and dying, and the only reason he even knew it was there at all was because of subtle pinpricks every so often, painful and sad and lonely - a loneliness that was disconnected and raw. He opened his mouth to say more - what he didn't know - but Halston beat him to the punch.
"You don't want to lose him," he said.
"A stupid fear to have, really," Cyrus confirmed ruefully. "Even I know there's little chance at redemption for him, and while I hate to admit it, Malistaire's gone, his mind lost and spirit tainted, and no one short of Sylvia can mend him...and she really is gone."
"...There's still the young wizard." Diego supplied hopefully. "Maybe she -"
"Don't even bring her into the conversation!" Cyrus suddenly snapped at him, and the half-buzzed fire burning in his belly spurred him onto his feet, and he stalked a few feet away from the counter, Cosmopolitan sloshing around and spilling to the floor. "A child was put in charge of stopping one of the most powerful necromancers of the era! One with only maybe a month's worth of proper training, no less! If she fails, she dies, and so will many others! And even if she doesn't, what chance is there that Malistaire will actually be spared when all she knows of him is his darkness and an incredibly muted understanding of Sylvia?"
He hadn't ever meant to actually voice his doubts, his fears, until they were closer to fruition, but he'd been drinking, and he hated drinking because it brought down all of his protective walls and left him an angry, disgruntled mess, and the only reason he didn't continue his tirade was because of one stupid suggestion...
"So go with her."
Cyrus sputtered, and nearly tripped on his robe as he turned around to face one Halston Balestrom, who'd said those four words with such simple aplomb it was damn near arrogant. "Excuse me?"
"Go with her," the diviner repeated, walking over toward the edge of the counter, closer to the vehement conjurer, a firm resolve set in both his voice and his eyes. "When Brecken does get the key to Dragonspyre, she'll have to return here to restock and report on her progress. Take that opportunity to insert yourself into the situation, and get her to take you with her."
"She would never," Cyrus insisted, voice cracking as he spoke, hints of fear breaking through. "That thaumaturge and I...we're not exactly in good standings.
"I do believe that's your fault," Diego interjected. Cyrus scowled his way, and the unicorn lifted his hands in a placating gesture.
"But she's not a fool," Halston pointed out. "If she were she wouldn't have succeeded even this far. She knows you're Malistaire's brother and knows that you hail from the very world he is currently holed up in. Your advice would be invaluable; even if you had to persuade her, she would cave to the request eventually."
"But my classes! Surely Ambrose wouldn't agree to sending a professor away?"
"I can cover for you," Diego promised. "I am no conjuror by trade, but I know enough about it to teach the younger classes. With the older ones - well, I've a good feeling your lesson plans are...extensive."
He wasn't wrong. Cyrus was running out of arguments. Sweat started to bead on the back of his neck, and he drank down what little remained of his drink. "I-I can't. It -"
"I understand your reservations, Cyrus, I really do," Halston interrupted, resolve mingling with sympathy but ever-present. "Especially hearing of your history, but you can't hide from this one. What little hope there is of redemption for your brother...it rests in you."
Silence, again, but this one spent in contemplation. Cyrus crossed his arms and turned away from the pair. He breathed slowly, his eyes closed, because the fear was so prominent he wanted to reject the idea of ever seeing his home and his brother again. But that wasn't what the Plan had been for. The Plan had been so that he might learn to overcome such fear. To have courage, which was not the absence of fear but the will to march through it.
The bond was frostbitten, but he wondered if in that moment, Malistaire could feel the powerful moxie which coursed through him.
"Alright," he said when his eyes reopened, his voice shaky but none of them seemed to care. "You've convinced me."
Halston smiled wide, not his devious or cheeky smile, but something genuine and warm and proud. Diego smiled too, and standing up he took the discarded shot glasses and filled them with tequila.
"What say we have one last shot, then? For Malistaire."
"For Malistaire!" Halston concurred, already hopping over to take his glass. Cyrus followed behind more slowly.
He looked at the clear liquid within. "You sure you can handle this, Diego?"
"No, actually," the unicorn shrugged, and raised his glass with a smirk. "But I figure it might make you smile."
And yes, Diego's dramatic recoil did make him smile.
And yes, he hated Dragonspyre, but he loved his brother even more, so Dragonspyre he would endure (and maybe, just maybe, the alcohol wasn't so bad, either).
AN: Kind of garbage, but like I said, I liked it enough to post. I have ideas for a longer fic exploring the youth of Cyrus and Malistaire, from their birth up to the death of Sylvia. It might take a while for me to get to, but if anyone's interested, then I'll post it once I do start writing for it.
A few notes:
- The rafflesia arnoldii is also known as the Stinking Corpse Flower (Google it)
- The "Plan" mentioned was Cyrus abandoning his duties in order to go on his "Grand Tour of the Spiral" mentioned in his Ravenwood Rollcall video. I have several versions of this Plan, but I haven't decided which one is the "legit" one.