"He never calls you sister."
Rosalind looked up from the device she’d been fiddling with. "I suppose he doesn't."
“And you don’t think that’s strange?” Elizabeth gave a laugh a second after she’d spoken. “Forget I said that. I’m being ridiculous.”
“Curiosity is seldom ridiculous,” Rosalind said, placing the device back in its glass casing. Elizabeth hadn’t yet asked what it was and maybe that was for the best. “Though I’m afraid you’re shining your searchlight in the wrong direction. Robert knows his own mind best.”
“I didn’t mean to imply-”
“Of course you didn’t.” Rosalind took a seat on the crate opposite the one Elizabeth already was seated on and folded her hands neatly in her lap. “I don’t mind questions as long as you accept I might not always have the answers to them.”
Elizabeth nodded and let her eyes dart about the room for a bit. It seemed like she was being set up for a heart-to-heart (as close as either of the Luteces ever came to such activities) and the surreal feeling that always brought along with it set her nerves a bit on edge.
She cleared her throat. "So, seeing as you're not siblings, why do you call him that?"
"Brother?” Rosalind frowned, a gentle wrinkle of her brow that spoke more of deep thought than a dark mood. “I guess it's the best term I have for what we are. We haven’t been able to think up a more fitting term as of yet. Linguistics is not our strongest side."
“Guess you can’t be a genius at everything.” Elizabeth smoothed out a few wrinkles in her skirt. A second later they’d returned, as uneven as the moment before. She sighed.
“Knowing everything would make existence dull to say the least,” Rosalind said. “Probability and time distortions are one thing, absolute knowledge and mastery of all skills a completely different one. It’s highly likely we would have gone mad had that been the case of our current situation.”
Elizabeth nodded, drumming her fingers on the edge of the crate in a rhythm that she couldn’t remember having heard before. It still felt familiar. “I guess I’ll have to ask him when he gets back… from wherever he went.”
“Do you think it odd?”
“Do I think what is odd?”
“Us separating like this.” Rosalind straightened up further until she sat like a mannequin might. “I’m only asking because you keep glancing to my right every other second and I know for a fact there’s only empty crates to be seen there.”
Elizabeth quickly turned her eyes back to meet Rosalind’s gaze. “Sorry.”
“No need to apologize. I must confess it’s a bit of an experiment. For your sake.”
Elizabeth frowned. “My sake?”
“Yes.” Rosalind stood up and brushed off her skirt and jacket, as if there had been time for dust to gather on her clothes. “It’s our first time staying in close proximity to someone else for durations longer than a few minutes. Since the catalyst to our change occured, that is. Robert has a theory that it will make you feel more at ease with us if we separate occasionally. His hypothesis is that spending time with only one of us will make you perceive us as more human and underline that we are two individuals, not a single entity.”
“And you didn’t ask me directly because…?”
“For the same reason you chose to ask me about Robert’s word choice, I assume,” Rosalind said. She’d moved over to the workbench, hands stretched out to remove the glass case from the device. “Observation is often more informative than interview, especially concerning a subject that the participant might not have consciously reflected on. Don’t you agree?”
Elizabeth leaned back to rest her head against the wall. The ceiling was covered with cobwebs which shouldn’t have been surprising. “By that logic I should observe why Robert doesn’t call you sister, not ask him.”
“Both are possible options. You have a quick mind, Ms. Elizabeth,” Rosalind said. “I’m sure you can figure out why he might find the term ‘sister’ unfitting through the act of logical deduction.”
“You’re starting to sound like Sherlock Holmes.”
All she got in reply to that was a short ‘hmm’.
“Could it have something to do with…” Elizabeth counted the spiders going about their regular business among the cobwebs and did her best not to blush. “Well, with the fact that your relationship is, eh, deeper than what people usually expect from siblings?” Her ears felt hot.
The device made a whirring sound as Rosalind turned a dial on it. “As I’m not Robert I can’t answer that question with complete certainty, but I would say that the probability of your guess being correct is high.”
“Huh.” The whirring noise stopped. “That brings us back to one of my earlier questions: if he’s uncomfortable calling you ‘sister’, why do you call him ‘brother’?”
“I’ve never had a brother or a sister,” Rosalind said. “Neither has he, of course, but there are enough differences between us that different reactions to, for example, labels and words is to be expected. He has never voiced any discomfort associated with my use of the term and I use it as a placeholder for the time being, which he knows.”
“I think I understand.” Elizabeth abandoned her spider observation and turned to look at Rosalind again. “I couldn’t picture what it’d feel like to have a brother either.”
Rosalind gave a nod that couldn’t be described as anything but ‘satisfied’. “You have to admit I make quite a handsome man.”
“I wouldn’t know.”
“Not your area of expertise?”
Elizabeth cleared her throat. The spiders were starting to seem like an interesting option for study once more. “Let’s just say I haven’t looked at him - or you - in that way.”
“Good,” Rosalind said, unscrewing the lower part of the device. “Things could get unnecessarily complicated if you had.”
Elizabeth shook her head and choked back another laugh. Well, perhaps more of a nervous giggle. “Should I get going? I’m guessing you two aren’t that keen on staying separated for long.”
“Being apart is unpleasant, yes,” Rosalind said and wiped the oil staining her hands off on a rag. “But discomfort now will make our reunion that much sweeter.”
“…I think I’ll go for a walk.” Elizabeth faded away, leaving only a faint trace in the dust on the crate she’d occupied.
“I would say that we’ve recorded valuable data with this experiment,” Robert said, appearing on Rosalind’s right-hand side.
“Did you enjoy your time away?” Rosalind asked, securing the device under its glass casing.
“It was an interesting experience.”
They didn’t touch as they turned to face each other. Robert simply stepped closer to Rosalind, adjusting his posture to mirror hers.
“I guess I shall get to experience it for myself soon,” Rosalind said. “Come along now.”
Robert’s eyebrows rose toward his hairline. “Where to?”
Rosalind began to methodically pull the pins out of her hair, one by one. “Ms. Elizabeth seemed assured of the fact that we would throw ourselves at each other the moment we reunited and I’d hate to disappoint. I will be in our bedroom.”
She faded out of sight, leaving a wide-eyed Robert to process this information in solitude. The expression remained on his face for approximately fifteen seconds; then he shrugged and faded out as well.