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And the Two of Us Are Dying

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He's dreamt of his death sporadically for the past 13 years. Usually it's when he least expects it- when he dozes off at work, on the couch at home in front of the TV, right after he's had a really good day. Or when he and Dave have to huddle together on the futon because he forgot to pay the heating bill again, and it's pretty fucking cold this high up, neighbors radiating heat notwithstanding.

It's little more than a handful of nightmarish sensations. A blade in his chest- somewhere near his heart, but not piercing it, and he has the distinct feeling that was done on purpose to maximize his suffering and make a point.

He can't figure out what it is, but okay, whatever, he rolls with it.

It's hot.

Generally you can't smell shit in dreams, but everything smells like melting plastic, oxygen getting consumed by fire, hot metal. And blood. Fresh blood near his face, and burning blood by his hands.

Little tremors down his arms and legs. Big ones in his lungs, gasping in and out air and it makes him hurt holy shit how it hurts.

A smile. It is a stark white smile, with dark articulations of pointed teeth in a face swarmed with black.

But somehow, it's all okay. And just as he's reaching out to touch something at his side- he can't quite tell what, but he knows exactly what it is, and he knows it needs comfort, he wakes up.

He's always crying.

Thank God he's usually alone, because it's kind of hard to explain why a guy who's closer to thirty than twenty is crying in his sleep, and so he mops himself off and goes on with his day. It's a little jarring, so he sometimes does shit that makes Dave go all high alert, like accidentally putting a fork in the microwave with the bowl of canned chili. He can mostly pass stuff off like that as retroactively cool, but when Dave is with him when he wakes up with tears on his face, it's a little harder.

Then, he's not the ultimate of Ironic Cool, and for a few minutes Dave can see another side of his brother that would maybe scare him, if he wasn't always trying to keep up a poker face. Dave wakes up to his Bro moving around too much, and when he doesn't respond to several elbow-jabs to the ribs, he turns around to hand him a tongue lashing, but at this distance, he can smell the tears as much as he can see them.

"Are you okay?" His voice is so small that he seems all of the 12 years he really is. He Needs An Adult, and right now, the only adult available is not acting like one.

So Bro sniffles, sucking back snot and a suspicious aftertaste of blood. He's his Bro, after all, and his Bro's the fucking epitome of cool.

Oh who's he fucking. That dream always shakes him up.

Instead, he wraps his arms around his younger brother, tucking his chin over the mess of fair hair that matches his. He smells like freshly bathed kid, not yet stenchy with puberty, and he draws in a deep breath, and lets it out. It shudders, even if he doesn't want it to.

Dave doesn't push at him, or ask him anything else, or complain. Instead, he laces his own skinny arms around his brother's waist, instinctively clutching at his source of protection. In the dark of the apartment, it feels like he's waiting.

Bro, not entirely certain of what he's waiting for, decides to fill the silence instead. He gently starts to rap out improvised lullabies, half-singing and half cadence, cupping the back of his little brother's head with one hand, the other firmly clutching the skinny side.

Gradually, Dave relaxes, the rhythm and proximity to his brother hypnotic.

His breathing changes. It evens out and deepens.

Bro waits for the dawn, forgetting the smell of blood and fire, rapping gently to the beat of their hearts.