The door shut silently behind Sulphur. It was late. Really late. After his conversation with Todd, Sulphur hadn’t wanted to head home immediately. Instead, he had gone for a long drive. The drive had helped him to sort his feelings out, and now he felt like he was ready to address them with Obsidian. With Ethan. For this, he was Ethan. While they talked about their brothers– both new and old– he was Ethan.
He set his keys gently in his dish by the door, checking the others. Rhody and Hemie’s bowls were empty, as was Lapis’s. That was good. They didn’t need to see what was about to happen. They didn’t need to be privy to the fight that was about to occur.
Sulphur moved through the living room and into the backroom that served as Ethan’s office. The tall red-haired man sat at the desk, hunched over paperwork. He was scribbling out notes on a legal pad and signing documents as he went. However, when he head Sulphur step into the room, he set his pen down and looked up.
“Sulphur. You’re home late. Rhody and Hematite went off to see a movie and Lapis is at Connor’s. I think the lovebirds left you a dish on the stove… are you alright?”
The blonde man stood silently in the entryway, a thoughtful look on his face. He shook his head and decided there was no best place to start. He looked at the floor for a moment before looking back up at Ethan, his eyes sharp and narrowed. “I ran into Todd today. In mask. Is there something you want to say to me?”
Ethan went still and looked at him, his expression unreadable. Then, in very precisely spoken words, he said, “I have no idea what you’re referring to.”
“Don’t lie to me!” Sulphur slammed a hand into the wall as his voice raised sharply. He strode the rest of the way into the office and planted his hands on Ethan’s desk, leaning over it. “Todd told me everything, so don’t you fucking lie to me. Why didn’t you tell us?”
“Sulphur, calm down. I can explain, I promise.” Ethan stood from his desk, his hands raised as though he were trying to calm down an angry horse. It didn’t help.
“Ethan, I had to find out what really happened from the man who killed and ate my brother. Do you know how that makes me feel?” The other man stopped, his eyes widening. Sulphur didn’t feel things. Sulphur was the logical one. Sulphur was the logistics man. Sulphur never felt things. Sulphur never spoke of how he felt, anyway. This was unusual. This was concerning.
“I’m sorry. I planned to tell you eventually, I just wasn’t sure when I should–”
“Immediately! You should have told us immediately, Ethan! We deserved to know that the man you brought into our lives was the same man who killed Mal. This wasn’t fair to any of us, and you know it was fair least of all to me.” His voice cracked, unused to being used so much. He took a deep breath as he tried to calm himself down, but it wasn’t helped by Ethan’s next words.
“Sulphur, if I had told you all, you wouldn’t have accepted him. And I need him. I need Todd.”
“And I needed you to be honest with me! I needed you to at least tell me the truth. Do you know how much it hurt to find this out? I almost shot Todd in the fucking head! Because I didn’t know. I didn’t know that he and Cryptid were the same man. Because you, you didn’t tell me. Ethan, do you understand how fucked this all is?” Sulphur stood up straight, his hands held out in front of him while he spoke. He swallowed against the emotions that were threatening to cut off his air.
“I thought it was for the best that none of you knew.”
His brother started to move around the desk, in slow and precise steps. He was still treating him like a skittish and angry animal that he was trying to calm, and Sulphur didn’t like that one bit. It felt demeaning. It felt disrespectful. It felt deprecatory. It was then that Sulphur did something he had never done before. Before he could even register what he was doing, his hand cracked across Ethan’s face. There was a sharp sound that resonated through the empty room.
Ethan stopped and touched his cheek, looking at Sulphur with wide eyes and raised brows. Sulphur took in a sharp breath, but he didn’t apologize. He refused to apologize. He had never struck Ethan before, nor would he ever do it again, but god if he wasn’t furious. If he were a lesser man, this would have devolved into a full brawl by then. But it hadn’t. Instead, Sulphur straightened out to his full height, shoulders squared, and he looked Ethan straight in the eye.
“You don’t get to decide what’s best for us. You don’t get to decide what we don’t know. Now, we have to lie to the other three for the rest of their lives. Don’t think I don’t know that Todd is a part of this Pack now, whether he wants to be or not. Don’t think I don’t know what you’re trying to do with him. I know you want to haze him. It’s obvious in your eyes when you look at him. So what the fuck do we do now? What am I supposed to do now? Just lie to them forever?”
Ethan swallowed and took his hand away from his cheek. He shook his head slowly and then said, “I never… I don’t… Franklin, I’m sorry.”
Hearing his actual name come from Ethan’s lips made him pause. He clenched his jaw as he thought about how to respond to this. Ethan was clearly truly upset. He looked a little lost, almost like a puppy left on the side of the road in the rain. Like all of his tethers had just snapped. Sulphur’s face softened as he sighed and looked at the floor.
“Ethan, what do you want me to do? I don’t know how to– I’m angry. I’m so angry. I don’t know what to do or say. I understand why you did it. I understand why you needed to. But how am I supposed to trust you again after this? How are they supposed to trust you once they find out?”
The red-haired man shook his head again and closed his eyes. “I don’t have answers. All I can say is I’m sorry. This is the only thing I’ve ever… I just needed this so bad that I didn’t fully think through… what it would do if any of you ever found out. I just assumed that would never happen.”
Sulphur’s eyes flashed back up to Ethan’s and his lips twitched. “You understand that’s worse, right? That’s not better.”
“I shouldn’t have done this. I know that. But we can’t tell the others. I don’t know what they’ll do to him. Franklin, I need him. I need him like I need you. Like I needed Mal.”
Sulphur thought for a moment about telling Ethan what he had realized. He thought about throwing Mal’s real sacrifice in his face. Of telling him that he had fucked up so badly that their brother gave his life to fix him. Instead, he moved forward and wrapped his arms around Ethan. The other man went stiff. He never put his arms around Sulphur, but it was enough that he relaxed into it, resting his head on Sulphur’s shoulder.
“Don’t ever fucking do this again. Do you understand?”
“I understand. I’m sorry.”
“Prove it. Be better. Let Todd help you. Prove he’s worth it. Prove this is all worth lying to the rest of us.” He stepped back, letting Ethan go. The two men looked at each other for a long moment, years of brotherhood echoing between them. Even this wouldn’t break them. Even this couldn’t keep them from loving each other. Nothing would do that. Not even a cannibal who ate their brother.
“I’ll do my best. Thank you.”
Sulphur waved a hand as he stepped away and toward the kitchen. “i’m going to make coffee. Do you want any?”
He stopped at the doorway and looked back. Ethan looked tired. There was a sadness to him that made him look twice his age, that made his eyes look dead. He wasn’t well. Sulphur could see that. He hadn’t been well for a while. But still, the Walsh man smiled and nodded his head, light struggling to fight back the darkness in his golden eyes.