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For the Love of My Brother


Part Seven

Previously, in the present…

He’s slowly working his way up, delicately gliding over the hair on my leg and then he reaches up to gently cup my budding erection. I let him take control, going limp, letting my head loll to the side and my legs fall open. The hand on my cheek moves, his thumb brushing over my lips as he leans in, giving me the softest, sweetest kiss. He tentatively brings his tongue out, running it gently over my slightly parted lips. Giving my erection a small squeeze he pulls back and with his hand still on my cheek brings my head back up, forcing me to look at him.

I don’t want to open my eyes. I want to forget any of this has happened and go back to what we were just doing. I don’t want to see that look in his eyes. It tears out my very soul but I have to obey so I eventually give in, hoping that whatever I’ve done, what ever I have failed to get rid of, that I can fix it.

Hoping that I still have a chance.

When he’s sure he has my attention, he pulls me close, and whispers in my ear, “The evidence.”

The breath catches in my throat and my heart feels like it lurches, sputters, and then dies, because at that moment I know there is nothing I can do. There are no second chances. This isn’t something I can fix.

It’s over.

I’ve done quite a few stupid things in my life. For instance, returning the new addition to my Double Dicked Duo Series back to the video store in the Mystery Men case, not such a good idea. And trying to ignore the clerk’s disgusted stares as he dug around in the trash for my DVD, not as funny as you’d think. Or the time that I let Spike keep me up all night experimenting with O gags when I had my final senior oral report the next day. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘dry mouth and tongue tied’.

But this…this won hands down, no contest. Took the proverbial cake and then binged and purged on it. This was by far the stupidest thing I had ever done and now it was coming back to bite me in the ass.

I know why his eyes, once a calming shade of ocean blue, now hold such dark stormy betrayal. Why the mischievous smirk I had come to love now has a never before seen malicious edge to it. Why the hand that once cradled my budding erection in a gentle caress is shaking with repressed rage.

I turn my head away and close my eyes, trying to crawl away from the love I had strived so hard to find, only to have it turn so bitter and hateful toward me. I can’t bear to see it. I have my whole life to try and make amends, if that’s even possible. But no matter what happens now, he is still my brother and I’ll always love him. Even if he kills me.

He pulls his hand away and I can’t stop the pitiful whimper that escapes my throat. Even though I fear what he might do, there’s a part of me that’s sure this is the last time he’ll touch me. And I’ll take anything.

With my eyes still shut tight, I hear him get up and move away. I hold by breath, afraid of what’s coming next. There’s a small click by the entertainment system and then a heavy silence falls as the whir of the equipment stills. Soft footsteps lead away and then I hear the sounds of pots being moved around and dishes being placed on the kitchen counter. Now alone, I’m finally free to open my eyes.

I sit there; staring out into the dark night and wonder how my life will be different, without him. Will it even mean anything anymore? What am I, if not his in every way? And now he’s leaving. I always thought it would be because he had found someone new, better than me, or just got tired of me. But not because I drove him away.

A bitter, hysterical laugh gurgles up from my chest. I really do manage to screw things up. It’s a wonder he’s stayed with me as long as he has.

Will must have heard me, because he comes storming into the living room, steaming bowl of chicken noodle set on a tray in his hands, the broth splashing over the sides with every angry step he takes. I groan, dreading the thought of him eating in front of me…I hadn’t had anything since lunch. I don’t want to say anything to upset him, so I sit and wait to see what, if any, punishment I’ll get.

I keep my head down and watch his feet as he places the tray on the coffee table and then sits crossed-legged in front of me. The wonderful smell of the hearty soup invades my senses but I hold back. I’ll eat when he’s done.

He sits still for a few moments, then finally thrusts a spoon at me with a gruff, “Here.”

I’m stunned. All I can do is stare down at the shiny spoon that’s been jabbed into my hands. It isn’t the appropriate response, I should be thanking him, but with the shock of everything that’s happened, I have nothing left.

“Oh, for the love of…here!” Will takes the bowl from the tray and with a little more care than he had with it earlier, shoves it into my hands. “Eat,” he orders and then pauses and mumbles under his breath, “git.”

I nod numbly and obediently dig in. I’d usually enjoy it. He’s made it just the way I like it, with added chunks of carrots and celery along with tender meat. But I can’t taste a thing. I feel his eyes on me the entire time, sitting there, still as a statue, watching me as I take every bite.

When I finish, I meekly hand the bowl back to him. He places it on the tray and goes back to the kitchen, this time I turn and watch him leave. His movements are stiff, brisk. What I can see of his face is a mask of repressed anger and pain. I wince as he enters the kitchen and notice the mess still inside on the floor.

Almost on auto-pilot, I manage to pull myself up, ignoring the pain in my leg, and limp slowly to the kitchen. I’m not exactly sure why I feel such a strong urge to go in there. But I want to be with Will, whether he wants me there or not. I need to be with him. Plus, there is the mess to clean and that’s my job. I take care of everything, even Will.

So why did I fail him so badly in this case? I need to know for sure. I need to see the proof. The tangible evidence of my guilt. Until then, until I know without a doubt what he found, I can pretend…hope that it’s something else. Some other slight I don’t know I’ve done. Something much less damning. I pull my mind out of the past and focus on the unknown.

I stop at the doorway. I thought Will might be eating or maybe even cleaning the small kitchen but he’s just standing in the darkened room staring out onto the deck, watching as our two neighborhood raccoons battle for dominance on the rail in the dim moonlight. I walk up behind him but stop just out of reach.

Tiny needle like shivers race over my skin at the eerie stillness. He’s standing motionless; stiff, still, and silent. A gray silhouette hunched shadow of the Will I know so well. He’s usually so alive, bustling with vitality that I can’t keep up. Never somber, never sullen. This hollowed out shell isn’t my larger than life brother.

“Is Big Bad winning or is Slayer taking him down this time?” I ask, hoping to inject some familiarity and normalcy into a situation so far out of my control.

“Slayer’s tough. Last I saw she had a brood in her belly. She needs it more than he does.”

“Yeah, but he gets cranky and then gets into the trash, and I have to clean it up.”

He shoots me an angry glare and then goes back to staring at the fight. “That is the trash.”

“Great,” I grumble, almost forgetting about the life altering fight we’d just had. My toes sink into crumpled, broken, cookie chunks and I search quietly in the dark for the cookies that safely made it to the counter but find nothing. “Umm, is there more food?” The soup was good but not near enough to satisfy me.

He snickers and gives a little shake of his head, “It’s always food with you.” He points outside to the battling raccoons, “Burnt the garlic bread.”

I can’t help the chuckle that escapes. Of course he did. Will and bread products don’t mix. I don’t know why he even tried.

But that’s not quite true. I know exactly why, but I can’t figure out how it fits here. It’s guilt cooking. Instead of cooking a simple dinner, he goes all out, baking, chopping, simmering, until he’s bit off more than he can chew and in the end something winds up burnt. I finally figured it out after one too many fights. It’s his little way of apologizing without actually saying the words. Instead, he always knows just what I need to feel better and whips it up. Or at least tries to.

Luckily, it doesn’t happen often. One, I hate to fight with my brother and two, the state of his emotions are usually directly related to the degree of disaster in the kitchen. From the looks of it, Will is in a mood tonight.

But Will isn’t the one who screwed up, I am. Now I just needed to know how.

“Will? What happened? Tell me.” I plead in my best don’t-hurt-me voice; the one I know, no matter what, Will can’t ignore.

He sighs, shoulders slumping forward, a sure sign of defeat. Whatever secret he’s been holding in, clutching onto, he just surrendered to it and let the weight crush him.

“Dawn called. Basement flooded.” He’s without any inflection, robotic words flowing off a lifeless tongue.

I’m about to ask ‘when’, because his words mean nothing. I don’t understand what a flooded basement has to do with anything. Then something clicks in my brain, steel gears locking in place with a clank of metal. Of course! That’s what started it all. That’s why Will left! She made that call a month ago. She started this whole thing. I’m sure of it now. All because the basement flooded.

I knew it. I lied to myself but I knew before he said anything. So much of our lives is stored down there. Everything from when we were kids and some ‘toys’ we’d outgrown. I knew hiding it there would be risky but figured that with it tucked into one of the many boxes down there, like everything else; it’d just blend in. I guess somehow it found its way out, from hidden in the bottom of a box, to the top of the pile.

But no. No! Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m jumping to conclusions…maybe it could be something completely unrelated. I hope…desperate for it to be anything else. Just maybe.

“Why didn’t she call me? I’m the contact person while they’re gone.”

“Come on, Xand. You know she has a crush on me.”

Our parents are currently off in…Aruba? Cayman Islands, maybe? I’m never sure. Somewhere they can grift unsuspecting tourists out of their hard-earned cash and still be able to enjoy themselves. It’s their version of a working vacation. They started traveling more and more once I moved in with Will, when he moved out after graduation. They didn’t even blink an eye that I was still a minor.

With them gone, it fell to me to take care of things. The house, Will…everything. I’d go back and stay there occasionally if they’d be gone for long. Will hated being apart and would visit me but something about the house set him on edge and he despised it there. Once his grumbling and complaining turned into long drawn out pleas for me to come home, I started looking for a little help.

Dawn, the once gangly teen, now budding college student, grew up next door to our parents. She initially had a huge crush on me but as she got older she started to look at Will with those same big, baby blues. But while I noticed, he never seemed to. So once she was old enough, we started paying her to house sit…not to the extent that she stayed there. But she’d go in once a week or so and made sure to water the plants, pick up the mail, that sort of thing.

That way Will wouldn’t ever have to go back. And it worked. Now he never goes over to the house. At least that’s what I thought.

“Why didn’t you call me? I’d have handled it.” Then none of this would have happened!

“You had some big meeting or something that day…I remember, you were nervous as hell.”

The promotion. Shit! I’d completely forgotten about it. That was the day they told me the next month would be important as they were planning to promote someone. It was whispered in my ear that as long as I did my usually perfect job, it was ‘in the bag’. And then Will left and…well, not so in the bag. Him leaving, it sent me into in a tailspin and my usually perfect work was now crap-tastic. I’m probably no longer in the running, and I no longer care.

My mind is awhirl with what he found down there, in the gloom, lit only by a swinging 60 watt, water soaking his feet, alone. I’m hoping it isn’t what I think it is and dreading that I’ve been right all along.

Will continues in that toneless, blank voice, “Just thought I’d save you the trouble, go over, check it out-”

“And you never came back. Never even said good-bye!” I’m struggling to hold it together; to not burst at the seams, to not spew a month’s worth of anxiety, longing, and fear at him all at once.

“Couldn’t,” he says, cold and sluggish.

And then I can’t hold it in anymore. The floodgates open. The seams burst. And I’m throwing back at him the stilted and choked words I had replayed over and over again, every night before bed, before work, before showering, before eating, before everything. “‘Have to leave for a bit. Not sure when I’ll be back. God, Xander, I love you.’” I spit out the usually adored declaration steeped in venom. “You couldn’t say that in person? You had to leave it on the machine?! The fucking machine!”

He doesn’t move, doesn’t even flinch. He just takes it. Standing there, hunched in the dark, his eyes sightless as they stare out at the still night, dim moonlight streaming through the windowed door, shadows from the molding slashing across his lowered face. “Couldn’t,” he whispers softly, voice drifting back from a distance far greater than I can cross. He’s shut down, closed off, withdrawn into another world where I can’t reach him.

Oh, god! I want to lash out, punch him, slap him, pull at his hair, dark roots and all, and just scream and scream till it’s all out of my system. But I know I never will. I just grit my teeth, clench my fists, and try to keep my voice even but frustration and emotional exhaustion taint it. “Okay, so the basement flooded. So what?”

“So, I found that.”

He points to a dark corner where our small kitchen table is nestled, just big enough for two. A wave of relief at finally getting a smidgen of emotion out of him is buried alive under the dread as I follow his finger. Unfortunately whatever it is, it’s hidden in the darkness. I’d need to turn on the lights to see it.

I could cautiously walk back to the doorway, avoiding the utensils and cookies still on the floor, and flip the switch, turning on the glaring over-heads that would light up the entire kitchen but decide against it. Somehow it’d seem wrong to destroy this moment, teetering on the brink, balancing on the edge of doubt and knowledge… shedding light on shadows best left dark. Even if that shadow is catching hold of our slender throats and squeezing the breath from our lungs.

So instead, I search through the darkness and yank on the tiny, metal, pull-chain attached to the small light dangling over the table. I hear Will slump into a chair at the table and when I look down, he has his hands up, hovering over a thick leather bound book. I sit next to him and tentatively reach towards it. He shoots me that new look of tortured betrayal I hate so much and then calmly places his hands in his lap, shifting uncomfortably.

Without any obstacles, I can clearly see the thing that has ruined my life. The one time I truly disobeyed and out right lied to my brother is staring me right in the face. My past is coming back to haunt me, when it should have been burned, turned to ash and dust where it couldn’t hurt me...hurt us.

My journal. Worn, used, water-stained. It holds every sordid detail of my affair with Spike.

All my hopes, all my fears.

Every way that I lied to him.

Every time that I pushed and manipulated him until he had no choice but to give in.

Every doubt, every fear that he never knew. All the anger, all the disgust, the self-loathing, the revulsion, everything I swore he’d never know.

All laid out in picture perfect detail.

He’s found it once before. Luckily, I had yet to trust the page to my inner most secrets. He demanded that it be destroyed. But I needed the outlet, the voice to my insanity. So I lied and hid it away from prying eyes.

And now, those words written on environment friendly, recycled paper were ending my life.


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