**My Worries Melted In Your Smile**
It's a simple observation to make, and maybe not concerning to anyone who didn't know her, but Malistaire did. And his wife was the most vibrant flower he'd ever known, her petals large and bright and beautiful and her leaves a bright, glossy green, and vibrant flowers aren't supposed to be pale.
It scares him.
It scares him horribly.
He looks at her sunken eyes and gaunt cheeks, at her cracked lips and stringy hair, and it scares him. She looks dead and gray and that shouldn't bother him - him specifically - because he faces death as a profession, a passion. He's welcomed its face with smiles and jeers because 'what's death to a Necromancer?'.
Now, however, he's seeing that face on his beautiful, effervescent wife, and he realizes too late he isn't ready for it.
It scares him, and the fear is as foreign as poison in his body, and it burns and tears away at his seams; a jagged knife through thin, fragile skin, bleeding and torturous. He finds he can't wish such a feeling on even his worst enemy.
He spends his days and nights in her room at the hospital, either on the bed at her motionless side or at the chair next to her bed, and he's sitting in the chair when at an ungodly hour of the night Cyrus walks into the room, uninvited and silent. Not that family ever needed an invitation.
Malistaire doesn't move, clutching the armrests of his seat, his eyes locked onto Sylvia's ghost of a face. Cyrus stands on the other side of the bed, and his hand extends to gently brush stray hairs away from Sylvia's forehead. His touch is tender, as always, so much lighter than Malistaire's ever was, and though he no longer counts himself as an artist, there's still a painter's grace there.
They're silent, for a time, until Cyrus finally pulls his hand away. His voice is low, but it shatters the initial stillness all the same. "Have you eaten yet?"
It's a simple question. Malistaire blinks as he tries to remember.
Apparently, that's answer enough. Cyrus moves to his side and extends a hand. "Come on," he says. "There might still be some warm food in the commissary."
It's a labored movement as Malsitaire looks up at his brother. 'Bring me food', he seems to say, without having the voice to say it. Cyrus shakes his head and reaches down, fingers wrapping around his forearm and pulling it up. "No. You'll soon become part of the chair if you don't move, and Sylvia would not like to have a chair for a husband, I think."
He doesn't want to. He really doesn't want to, because what if when he's gone, she goes? What if he's not there when it - if it happens?
Still, he finds himself being pulled up, and Cyrus's arm is strong and stable around his shoulders as he guides him out of the dark hospital room and into the hall.
As it turns out, there was no warm dinner waiting for them, so Cyrus utilizes the kitchen to his own means. Of the twins, he was the better cook, but he wasn't good by any means, not even by hospital standards. Malistaire used to complain, back in their dorm room days. "You're an artist," he used to say, "Aren't you supposed to be good at making things?"
He can't bring himself to complain now, though, because the bland macaroni and cheese he is eating is warm and familiar, and the smell of slightly burnt noodles caked to the bottom of a pot some poor worker was going to have to clean brings him back to days where everything was infinitely better.
He eats slowly, meticulously, because he's not hungry yet he knows Sylvia would berate him for not taking care of himself. He pokes at his food sometimes and finds himself looking across the table at his twin. Cyrus is hardly eating himself, and though the man had persisted on a meal his blue eyes had not raised since he sat down.
Malistaire examines him, and it feels like it's the first time he's actually seen Cyrus since the conjuror first came to Ravenwood after finally, finally accepting the position as the Myth school's professor.
He's older now, but a lot older than Malistaire ever realized. The man is bald but the silver of his brows indicates he might have gone grey already, and there are far more creases to his forehead and eyes than Malistaire himself possessed. His eyes themselves are duller than he remembers, a more diluted grey than the sapphires they once were, and the lines framing taut lips he knows come more from frowns than smiles.
His shoulders are broader. His hands are more calloused and scarred. His robe pulls tight across his chest with every breath and Malistaire thinks that there must be a warrior's body hiding under there, and it startles him because when was Cyrus ever a warrior?
Malistaire looks at his brother, and he sees nothing of the bright-eyed innocent boy he grew up with. He sees none of the paint spatters and none of the indignance and none of the cowardice he'd once loathed, and he wonders just when it was his brother changed so drastically. When he no longer became familiar.
Cyrus looks up, and Malistaire wonders if he's changed just as much.
"It's been a while, hasn't it?" Cyrus asks, thoughtful and far-off, like he's sharing the same thoughts as his twin. (And maybe he is.) "Since we've had mac' and cheese, I mean. I remember it being quite the staple of ours back in the day."
Malistaire knows what his brother is doing. Distracting, maybe deflecting what really needs to be said, and damn him but it works. Malistaire can feel his lips begin to quirk up, just shy of a smile.
"It's the only thing you ever made with a bit of competency," he says, his voice hoarse from under use. He takes a sip of water, and it feels like heaven on his throat.
"Yes, well, at least I was competent in making something," Cyrus retorts, "If you had your way the only thing we'd be eating would be saltine crackers and sour apples."
Malistaire grins this time, and he looks back down at his food. He pokes at it with his fork, interest lost as quickly as it came.
Cyrus's hand is suddenly resting on his own, squeezing, and it forces his eyes back up. "She'll be fine, you know," Cyrus says, and his voice is soft but resolved. "Sylvia. She'll pull through."
On a face weathered by experiences Malistaire had never really thought to actually ask about, Cyrus smiles, and among the unfamiliar wrinkles and the little scar on his upper lip, Malistaire recognizes something. It's that smile. The kind and gentle one no student of his can even begin to imagine, so hopelessly innocent and raw. It's the smile of an inspired young boy hiding in the basement, painting fantastical landscapes as he ducks from the shame of an ignorant father because he knows he'll someday change his mind and win his love.
Malistaire knows that smile, and he believes that smile and what it says.
And he forgets that such a smile always ends with disaster.
AN: Another delve into the Cyrus/Malistaire brother dynamic, which was one sorely under-explored in the game.
I like to think Cyrus, as grumpy and callous as he is now, used to be exceptionally idealistic as a youth. Time has molded him into a stern and unforthcoming man, but at times some of that old innocence comes back...and often in the form of misplaced optimism.