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Where the Heart Is

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Luke stares out the window of his taxi as he watches the snow-covered lawns of his parents’ suburban neighborhood. It’s a surprisingly strange sight; after spending the last five years in West Africa, the very notion of a White Christmas seems more than a little alien.

The cab stops in front of his parents’ house. He pays the driver, making sure to give her a generous tip (it is Christmas, after all), then grabs his backpack and gets out, making his way up his parents’ walk. Before he can even ring the doorbell, a gorgeous woman dressed in a t-shirt and pyjama pants opens the door.

“I must have the wrong house,” Luke says. He’s only halfway joking. He’s seen photos and videos of Lexie while he’s been away, knows that she’s no longer the teenager he remembers, but the transformation wrought by the last five years strikes him more forcefully than he had anticipated now that she stands before him, a grown and beautiful woman.

“Sister,” Lexie identifies herself with a grin, then pulls him into a hug. “Oh, I missed you so much.” He’s missed her too, of course, more powerfully and painfully than he could ever say. “I waited up all night for you, you know,” she adds as they make their way into the kitchen.

“It’s a long way from West Africa,” he reminds her, and once he’s put down his pack, begins the ritual of making the morning coffee. His parents’ kitchen is exactly the way he remembers it, and he doesn’t even have to think as he pulls out a new filter from the cabinet and the Folgers from inside the freezer, the muscle memory still there even after half a decade.

“Coffee,” he says near-reverentially once it has brewed, and pours himself a cup. He’s sure there must be plenty of places in Paris where one can be served a magnificent cup of coffee. Charles de Gaulle airport simply isn’t one of them, and he desperately needs the caffeine.

“Brought you something from far away,” he tells Lexie.

She makes this embarrassed little giggle. “Really?” she asks, as he pulls the gift-wrapped package out of his pack and hands it to her. She holds it in her hands for a few seconds, then pulls off the bow and presses it to his chest, the adhesive sticking to his shirt.

“What are you doing?” he asks, laughing.

“You’re my present this year,” she informs him solemnly.

The moment lingers between them, pregnant, and it’s probably a good thing their parents enter the kitchen a second later, because he’s not sure he would have been able to control himself if left alone with Lexie any longer. This was such a mistake, he thinks. He should have stayed in West Africa, never came back.

But he’s here, and he tries to ignore the lingering memory of the moment which just passed between them as he greets his mother and father, is pulled into overpowering embraces by each of them. After the entire family is well- and truly-caffeinated, the four of them make their way into the living room and begin to open the presents which sit beneath the tree.

His presents are both more numerous and more expensive than he remembers them being in previous Christmases. “We had five years to make up for,” Dad says good-naturedly.

Luke also notices that the vast majority of his presents will be absolutely useless to him back in West Africa.


After all the presents beneath the tree have been opened, they retire back to the kitchen for more coffee and a light breakfast consisting mostly of coffee cake. There’s a little light conversation, mostly about the recent cold weather and Luke’s flights.

"How long are you here?" Mom asks.

"My flight back is on the 1st," Luke answers.

"Any plans for what you want to do while you're here?" asks Dad.

"Not really," Luke answers. "I thought I'd just spend time with you and Lex."

"New Years Eve, me and a few of my friends from college are going to this fancy party in the city, since it'll be our first New Years after turning 21. We rented a limo and everything. Jane and her boyfriend just broke up a couple of weeks ago, though, so we have an extra ticket if you want to come."

"Sounds like a good idea," says Dad. "You should go.

"Okay," agrees Luke. "Sure."

Then Lexie lets loose a rather audible yawn.

“Did you stay up all night?” Mom asks Lexie.

Lexie shrugs. “By the time we got home from mass it was already almost two, and we didn’t know when he would get in, so. . . .”

“You should take a nap,” Dad says. “You too,” he adds, looking at Luke, “I know you couldn’t have gotten much rest on all those planes. I’ll help your mother with Christmas dinner.”

Obediently, Luke and Lexie make their way up the steps to the second floor where their bedrooms are located, Luke carrying his backpack. As soon as they’ve turned into the upstairs hall and are no longer visible to their parents, however, Lexie grabs him and pulls him close, brings her lips to his with such ferocity it’s almost an attack. By the time his conscious mind has processed what's happening, he's already opened his mouth to let her tongue enter.

It's like he's been holding his breath for the last five years and her mouth, her kisses are oxygen.

She drags him into his bedroom, deftly kicking the door shut with her foot once they're both inside, and the second it's shut her hands are at his belt, unbuckling it. He slides his hands up under her shirt. She’s not wearing a bra (of course not, he realizes, she’s wearing pyjamas), so his hands quickly touch the smooth skin of her bare breasts. He runs his fingers against them, caressing, feeling, exploring.

She’s unbuckled his jeans and is pushing them down. He kicks off his shoes and socks and shimmies to help his jeans fall down to his ankles, then steps out of them. Through all this time, they’ve been kissing, breaking the lock between their lips for only moments at a time to take quick breaths. When he pulls her shirt up over her head, however, they have to break the kiss for slightly longer, but as soon as its off and thrown onto Lexie’s bedroom floor their lips are back together, as if there were some magnetic force drawing them to each other.

Luke breaks the kiss again to pull off his own shirt. He’s dressed just in his boxers now, while Lexie’s in her pyjama bottoms, naked from the waist up. She raises her hands to his shoulder and pushes him gently towards her bed, and he takes the hint and walks backwards until he is right in front of it and lets her push him down on top of it.

She lays down on top of him, her breasts pressed against his bare chest, and they exchange another kiss, then another. Then they start spreading out, kissing each other’s jaw, neck, shoulders. Their kisses are wild and frenetic as they claim, possess, threaten to consume each other with their mouths and their hands, desperate for touch, as if to reassure each other of the physical reality of their presence after so long apart.

They continue this for at least ten minutes, this passionate conquest of each other’s bodies as they energetically grope and kiss. Luke can feel his heart about to burst out of his chest just from the athleticism of it, when finally Lexie slips her hands into the waistband of his boxers and pushes them down.

With a fumbling motion, she reaches out, opens a drawer in the nightstand next to her bed, and pulls out a condom.

Luke didn't expect to return to find her still a virgin--hell, he's not even sure she was a virgin when he left. Still, he can't help wonder how many times she's done this, with how many boys, and feels an incredible irrational, hypocritical resentment against them for defiling his sister.

She removes the condom from its wrapper then slips it onto him. She pulls off her pyjama pants and underpants and lowers herself onto him, taking him into her. Their bodies thrust against each other with a forceful, hungry rhythm, and Luke steels himself to keep from coming before his sister.

She’s tensing and relaxing in a quickening rhythm, and the almost pained expression on her face makes him think she’s biting back moans or groans or even ecstatic shouts lest they be heard by their parents below. Then she gives one last shudder and relaxes, and he comes moments after her.

They dispose of the condom, then press their naked bodies against each other, his wrapped around hers, as they gently waft off into unconsciousness. After all, they did come up here to take a nap.


Luke wakes to the sound of his mother calling them for dinner. He gently nudges Lexie awake. She opens her eyes, blinks, then gets up. The groggy look on her face is gradually replaced by a more pensive one as she processes her situation, remembers what they did before they fell asleep.

She gets up, yawns and stretches, and Luke watches with appreciation as her naked body moves, her breasts particularly. Desire swells in his heart, but it is a more subtle longing, mixed with fraternal love and affection, than the hungry passion which consumed the two of them before they fell asleep.

Lexie cracks her bedroom door open. “I’ll be right down, Mom,” she calls down.

“Do me a favor and wake up your brother?” their mother’s voice replies.

Lexie shoots a look at Luke, grinning. “Sure, Mom,” she answers. “It think I can handle that.” Still grinning, she shuts the door again and turns back towards Luke, who has gotten out of bed and is pulling on his underwear.

In the quietness of this moment, so different then the mad dash to fuck earlier, Luke can take in his surroundings. Like Lexie herself, her bedroom is simultaneously both different and familiar. It is still quintessentially her, but a number of details are different, even as many--the bed, the furniture, the curtains--are the same.

He notices an LSAT test prep book lying open on her desk. "You want to be a lawyer?" he asks.

Lexie makes a face as she fishes a bra out of a drawer. "Dad wants me to be a lawyer," she corrects.

They get dressed quickly, him picking his clothes from earlier up off of Lexie’s floor. He watches as a Lexie pulls on a pair of jeans and a cream-colored over-the-shoulder sweater. She looks good in it, although that’s hardly an unexpected surprise.

Lexie sticks her head out of her room into the hall. "It's safe," she says, and Luke follows her into the hall and downstairs, where additional family members have appeared during their unconsciousness. There’s Aunt Mary and Uncle Pete and their cousin Gwen, and Grandma Matthews as well.

If Luke remembers correctly, Gwen is about a year and a half younger than Lexie, and the family resemblance between the two girls is pretty clearly noticeable, although Gwen is about half an inch taller than Lexie (two and a half right now since she’s wearing heels and Lexie isn’t), slightly thinner, and improbably blonder (particularly improbably considering the fact that Luke distinctly remembers that when he left for Africa, she had been a brunette with hair several shades darker than Lexie’s). She’s wearing a top whose neckline can only be described as plunging, and Luke can’t help but appreciate the view. (Of course, considering that just hours ago he had been making love to his sister, he supposes that perving on his cousin hardly qualifies as worthy of mention.)

They sit down at the dining room table. Dad’s at the head of the table, with Mom on his right and Lexie on his left, and Grandma’s at the foot. Luke’s in between Lex and Gwen, across from Aunt Mary.

Luke tells them about the work he does, and what life is like in Côte d'Ivoire, even though he knows they don’t really understand. With the exception of Lexie and Gwen, they’re not even really paying all that close attention.

“Are you still dating that French girl?” Uncle Pete asks, in the middle of Luke’s description of the fractious political situation. “What was her name? Colleen?”

“Colette,” answers Luke. “No, we broke up a few months ago.”

“Why?” asks Gwen, her gaze intent.

“Gwendolyn,” Aunt Mary cautions.

“It’s all right,” says Luke. “We . . . realized the passion just wasn’t there anymore, I guess.”

Conversation passes away from him then, and Uncle Pete launches into an anecdote about a particularly troublesome customer at the car dealership he manages. Luke just stares at his plate as he pushes the food around with his fork, trying deliberately to not look at either Lexie or Gwen.

Eventually, after cleaning up the mess and washing the dishes and several rounds of after-dinner eggnog, the extended family members leave, and it’s just him and Lexie and their parents.

They all turn into bed, Luke and Lexie staying a few steps back from their parents as they all go up the steps so that once Mom and Dad have gone into their bedroom and closed the door, Luke can give his sister a lingering good-night kiss before they part ways and retire to their separate rooms.

His room is almost exactly the way he left it 5 years ago, from his trying-too-hard-to-be-ironic t-shirts in his closet to his high-school ice hockey equipment to his collection of Ghost Soup Infidel Gold comic books, including issue #172 signed by Marcos Johnson himself, who played Luke in the original Ghost Soup Infidel Blue TV show back in the ‘50’s. It seems almost alien to him now, these relics from a past life, as he slips into his bed, turns off the light, and gently falls once again into unconsciousness, visions of Lexie dancing through his head.