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"Don't resist," is the first thing the drift psychologist tells the remnants of their class who'll be moving on to drift compatibility.

It makes Yancy want to laugh, because close to half this class is sibling pairs, and what kind of brothers and sisters don't push back at each other?

But really, he and Raleigh don't have that kind of problem.

-

"Hey," he says, before they strap in for their first test. Yancy's version of nervous is to get real serious, while Raleigh is flying out of his skin to get the chance to drift, all the closer to getting in a simulator.

"Hey what?" Raleigh says, shifting in what looks like a dentist office’s reclining chair.

"Don't resist, right? We gotta just take it easy." It’s not that he isn’t nervous. But he’s the older brother, so he gets still, he gets calm. He gets to be the rock.

"Huh?" Raleigh looks at him funny. "Oh," he says, smirking. "Class. Right. You worry too much, bro."

"Or just enough." Yancy's smiling too, as they stick the pons and extra monitors on him. He reminds himself: it’ll work, they’re already compatible. They're supposed to be here.

"And don't chase the RABIT," the technician says through the comm, looking and listening to everything from up in the LOCCENT overlook.

Yancy hears Raleigh snort. "Keep your head!"

Yancy laughs. "Figures you'd think of Disney," says Yancy, and the countdown begins.

In the drift they are golden gods, and Yancy recognizes Raleigh's bright form by the virtue of it being the only thing he's looking for, the only other person in this rushing indefinite world.

There's no form to anything until it all distills into many things at once:

A kid comes down the stairs and you think, Raleigh, warmth and annoyance. He runs around behind you and gives you a hug, and the warmth and annoyance and some warm pride flushes in you, and then you've got deja-vu coming from just behind you. The memory's not a clean and sharp one but the sun is brighter maybe, the texture of the sweater in your face scratchier, the long sleeves you've got on scratching at your wrists.

That's me.

That's me too.

You know everything here very well, it's your family home, and you suddenly hate the taste of ketchup on your potatoes.

Yaaaancyyy!

Raaaaleeeeigh!

You turn and follow each other, running out the door. You're two boys at once, moving together.

"Right hemisphere engaged."

Outside it's the floor of the Anchorage Shatterdome for the first time your cohort visited.

Don't touch that, Yancy says, elbowing.

You would really love to though, god, they're going to get into one of those machines one day -

Raleigh, c'mon!

You're like, Yeah, I'll catch up. You're looking up at the uncovered chest of Horizon Brave.

No, man, catch up with the class. We've got work to do.

Huh?

The drift!

You look down at your chest and you've got the suit on, and then it all snaps into reality around you again.

"Left hemisphere engaged."

You're Yancy Becket, looking over at your brother. You were him just a thought ago.

Yancy's head feels twice the size it should, like when he's doing some serious multitasking, aware of his brother and his body like his brain spans the two of them now in awareness.

You got it?

Got it

"Neural handshake at 94%. 95%. Steady going, boys. Now let's try to move these arms."

-

Coming out of it, they feel a little nauseous, have a bit of a hard time standing. While they’re in the pons, the suit, the drift, it's a huge insane rush. Maybe they overdid it in the Kwoon today, now that they think about it. Not they. Yancy.

Yancy wants to say something to check in with Raleigh, ask if it was all the same for him too, but looking at his face is like a revelation in itself. It was real. They were there together, and he'd be crazy if he thought there was any difference to compare. Everything he thought happened really did just happen and he can tell it just by looking at his brother's face and understanding both the expression and what lies behind it from the inside out.

The post-drift hangover is a proof against solipsism, Yancy thinks. There's no way you could be alone and the world a product of your imagination. All this understanding has to come from outside yourself. It's amazing.

"Stop breaking your brain, you're frowning so hard my head hurts." Raleigh says, and Yancy huffs a laugh.

They lean heavily into each other on the way back, propping each other up stride for stride. The exhaustion of a long day's shift is bad enough; the drain of dropping your brain into a connector and trying to make it communicate with another one for the first time is taking them down. After calibrating and recalibrating, powering down, getting their caps off, getting the neural report and going for a full physical, it's like his head is stuffed with cotton and his limbs heavy and it's all they can do to stagger back. Yancy swears he's thrilled, somewhere under all this tired.

Raleigh yawns and it lets relief slip in Yancy, who may or may not feel like sighing, who may or may not feel relieved. Tired. Right now what he can grasp is tired.

"Feel hungover," says Raleigh, and even though his mouth is very close to Yancy's ear, it sounds strangely muted.

"Or still drunk."

"Ugh. Both. How long's this supposed to last?"

"Dunno. We'll sleep, see then."

Raleigh grunts. His head nods down, then jerks back up, and Yancy nearly smashes nose-first into the back of his head.

"C'mon, not gonna carry you back," Yancy says. Raleigh chuckles shortly. Yancy feels amusement spread warm between them - he knows, between them.

Carrying each other all the way into their room, Yancy practically tips Raleigh into the bottom bunk. He knocks a fist against Raleigh's ankle - boots off - which Raleigh is already wordlessly reaching towards, slow and groaning.

Yancy climbs up and as soon as his head hits the pillow he's nearly out. Then Raleigh says "Hey," and he remembers to take his own boots off too.

-

“The drift hangover” Hangover is exactly what it feels like, even the next day. The ache permeating his body, the cloudy mind... But if Yancy can make it out of bed every morning that he feels like shit, he can make this one too. They're gonna be pilots, this morning-after bullshit can't take them down.

Raleigh's still passed out, mouth open in his sleep, sprawled on his back. Yancy manages to get up and ready before him, that's how bad it is. And Yancy feels like he's sleepwalking, complete with floating dream-fragments he knows are from the drift yesterday. It's not serious - Raleigh gets up when Yancy runs the sink, and as he stumbles over to piss, Yancy doesn't feel any more awake for his counterpart’s consciousness. Their brains aren't really connected. He just thinks they're connected.

It's just weird associations. Noticing the frayed waist of Raleigh's sweatpants like an itch he wants to scratch, thinking of the shoelaces on his own boots, then remembering the springy shoelaces they had as little kids, worn out sneakers when Raleigh was jealous of his new ones, before Raleigh hugged Yancy during breakfast years ago, before. Drift stuff. Reminds him of the time in junior high he stayed up till 4am reading Harry Potter, got two hours of sleep and made it to school the next day. His brain was yammering weird urgent fictions about Hermione and Neville all day. It's like that, but none of this stuff is made up, just fragmented drift memories.

He ruffles Raleigh's hair on his way out and it nearly knocks him off-balance, the sensation of touch like electric current, pulling like it’s got a hook somewhere around his navel. He sways and yearns and can’t break contact. Raleigh is suddenly very necessary.

"Mmph," Raleigh says, mouth full of toothbrush and toothpaste. His eyes are closed. Yancy thinks, he’s feeling the same as me.

"Wake up, kid. Get your head in the game," Yancy says, his own head heavy with sleep and something else. He remembers, altered focus, high attention to nonverbal cues. Those were things to expect, at first, and then it’d go away.

They'd get it to go away.

-

Yancy eats fast enough that Raleigh just barely sat down as he swallowed his last few bites of toast.

"They're giving us a break till the next one," Yancy says. "We're scheduled to drift again day after tomorrow."

"Two days?" Raleigh says. Yancy gets the feeling everything Raleigh says is gonna sound like a whine today. He's not excited about it.

"Yeah, time to recover, refine our neural prints." Yancy swallows his last mouthful of instant coffee, while Raleigh messily shovels eggs in his mouth. "We'll go through forms and maneuvers. Meet you at the Kwoon after dinner? I'm with jaeger tech all day."

"Me too. Okay."

Yancy wants to ruffle his brother's hair again or pat him on the back before leaving, but as soon as he remembers where the impulse comes from, he tamps down on it. Detox.

"See ya," he says to everyone at the bench, and Raleigh's head whips around, but he doesn't say anything as Yancy walks off to shelf his tray.

Yancy likes Jaeger tech, especially today, when the noise of machines and engineering drown out the itch at the back of his mind. That "where's Raleigh" itch.

It's not an unfamiliar feeling. He's an older brother, spent years enough and time looking for Raleigh when he'd wandered off. Raleigh'd follow him everywhere for those formative years but if the kid wasn't being Yancy's shadow then that was cause for worry in Yancy's book.

Later it just showed Raleigh's knack for getting in trouble. When Yancy wasn't there, of course. When Yancy was there, there might be trouble, but they wouldn't get in it, mostly.

Before he knows it the first lunch bell rings. Thinking of not getting into trouble, the strange feeling the drift has given them and his need to settle his mind, Yancy trades one of the other guys working on hydraulics in the legs his lunch shift. He knows Raleigh will be at the later one, so he goes early, to be alone.

When Dad left, Raleigh was thirteen and Yancy sixteen. They stopped traveling and had to settle down, and then their dad won custody of Jazmine when their mom got sick. Yancy got a job, and Raleigh wouldn't leave, and things got messy. They grew up and understood their parents' weaknesses. As the oldest child, Yancy was the one their mother would lean on, confide in.

And Yancy, her ally, would tell her about most everything - everything she should know, and he just tried not to give her more than she could handle. He'd snitch and Raleigh'd snitch and they'd pick at each other. Raleigh would lash out with fists at him, and Yancy would have to restrain his little brother with his whole body, wrapping his arms around his torso, pinning those skinnier arms to his sides till Raleigh promised to stop or till they both tired out. It was like literally holding his family together. And he still knew he wasn't the one who did it all. He could only hold Raleigh then; it was their mom who held them all together.

Then, a few months before Mom died, Raleigh turned sixteen and suddenly shaped up. That was when Yancy could finally stop worrying about him running off with the druggie kids, or flat giving up on school. He pulled his grades up because he could, and Yancy could stop hunting him down to look after him, and they became allies. Right when mom needed them both, needed them most.

So even if Raleigh broke curfew for girls and Yancy stayed up, they were there for her, till she was gone, and the only ones they had to take care of were each other.

Just like Yancy had learned to let go of it eventually, trust that his little brother was gonna take care of himself because he could, now that they were going to be pilots he had to learn to stop chasing down Raleigh, afraid he was in the middle of trouble. He learned to stop checking over his shoulder to make sure Raleigh was in line, because, he thought with relief, Raleigh was perfectly fine by himself.

Yancy was real proud of how his brother had grown up. Raleigh deserved his trust so he gave it, wholeheartedly. And Raleigh gave it back.

They grew up to fit each other like hand in glove. It's what got them here.

So if the itch to check on Raleigh returns to the back of his mind, he just has to remind himself that it isn't worry, it 's the ghost of the drift they'd had. Not worry, but Yancy's immeasurable trust looking for its anchor. He feels it trying to get louder inside him, but he presses it down.

He finishes lunch five minutes before the next shift, and doesn't see Raleigh. He spends the rest of the afternoon working on an engine three times as big as him. The perspective is comforting.

Yancy's exhausted by dinner hour - and that's one way of coping, isn't it? Just work hard enough to pass out before your aches and pains start.

He's walking towards the caf, thinking warmly of hot food and a warm bed when Raleigh out of nowhere comes up alongside him, grabs him by the arm, pulls him down a corridor.

"Hey, watch yourself," Yancy jokes, but Raleigh's looking serious. He uses his arm strength and body weight to shove Yancy up in a corner against the metal wall.

Yancy's pushing and giving him resistance by physical instinct but he can tell Raleigh's not moving like he wants to fight. He's got his hands fisted by the open neck of Yancy's coveralls and they're shaking a little. Raleigh's head is bowed.

"What's wrong?"

But Yancy can already feel it. God, how hadn't he felt it already? (You're not still connected, he tries to remind himself. Still, that reasonable scientific doubt slips into his mind - who says they aren’t? The drift can barely be explained, so who's to say you and your brother aren't some walking quantum entanglement?) His heart's beating rapid-pace like Raleigh's must be, but already he can hear Raleigh's breathing calming down.

Yancy has his hands braced on Raleigh's chest, moving down to his biceps to press into his upper arms. Not too hard, not pushing away, just letting Raleigh lean into it, just protecting himself from getting plastered up against the wall.

The equal and opposite forces between them push more and less, back and forth in sync. Yancy feels the tension that came so sudden drain out of his shoulders. Time passes like molasses.

Eventually Raleigh can let up enough and shake his head. "Where the hell were you all day?" he asks.

"Leg hydraulics, then the conn pod… around. Working."

"I didn't... shit, Yancy, that was really fucking me up." He's still got a hand on Yancy's chest, not fisted in his coveralls anymore but with his palm over Yancy’s sternum, fingers bare and calloused against his collarbone. "Felt like you were avoiding me. Sucks. Not having you around but still... kind of in my head." He lets out a shaky breath.

"Sorry," Yancy says, because Raleigh really does look wrecked. He looks far worse than Yancy's felt since waking up, that first touch on Raleigh's head like a magnet sticking him there. He picked up and moved on, but it clearly left Raleigh jarred and out of place.

"It's not freaking you out?" Raleigh looks confused, a little desperate.

"You going to dinner? C'mon, let's go, we'll walk and talk."

But Raleigh doesn't want to budge. Raleigh looks at him and then down and away, forehead wrinkled. "Kind of embarrassing, man."

"Yeah, you are," Yancy says gruffly, scruffing through Raleigh's hair. He means it to be quick and rough but again like before, he doesn't want to break the contact, and Raleigh's eyes half-close. Yancy can feel the tension draining out of his brother, and he pushes his palm flat against Raleigh's head, combs his fingers through his brother's hair again. One, two more times, and Raleigh's opening his eyes all the way. Yancy cups the back of his brother's neck and brings their foreheads together. Raleigh's skin feels hot. "Sorry about that. You good now?"

"Yeah," Raleigh sighs, shuddering out a long, wet breath into Yancy's face. He takes his hand off Yancy's chest, leaving it feeling numb after the fervent press. Yancy touches his own hand to the place and Raleigh steps back, gives them something like personal space. "Yeah, let's go eat."

They walk together, apace. Raleigh shadows him through the line and Yancy finds a place where two can squeeze in on the benches, so they do. Without having to look at Raleigh, Yancy keeps his elbow and knee out where Raleigh's will bump against them, and he feels Raleigh's shin line up against his calf too, maximizing the points of contact.

Raleigh's breathing deep, and by the end of dinner he's cheered up. Yancy's the one grown quiet, sitting back to play the tolerantly amused older brother to Raleigh's antics.

"Let's do those forms," Raleigh says when they're done.

A silent nod from Yancy, and they head to the Kwoon.

After a boyhood of brawling, drift compatibility training demanded a different kind of cooperative tension. They warm up by sparring very slowly, like Tai Chi; it's something they grew accustomed to liking, a secret they keep from their old selves. Then they go through their basic forms, strikes and blocks in unison, slowly then quickly to a metronome. After dinner the Kwoon is a bit more empty and they like the time to focus.

Control is what it's about. Control is the muscle they both need to flex.

Tonight it's working - they're working - very well together. Yancy makes himself not think about Raleigh's distress, now that his brother's looking brightly at him, smiling and mischievous. He pours himself into it, occupying the complementary space to Raleigh, moving with him, push and pull. Soon they're breathing in sync, not so much listening to each other as moving together thoroughly. Yancy doesn't have to look out for Raleigh right now; instead, he's got to have faith, cooperate. Not worry about what his little brother's gotten into, but trust that everything's going to work out, Raleigh’s got it under control.

They've got it under control.

When they finish, sweating, Yancy's ready to run ten laps for a warm down. There's an energy in him nearly at the threshold to spar faster now, but the heady thing they were doing - practically drifting - it's a bit much for him to wrap his brain around at the end of the day. So he runs his laps and crashes into bed.

-

They drift again tomorrow, in a simulator.

Gonna fight a giant fucking lizard kaiju like coloring little paper dinosaurs with shitty markers for the diorama and Raleigh with his own extra set from Yancy's teacher they set them up in the garage which smelled like paint and chemicals for a month but then back to the smoke smell Jaz complained all the time but we stuck with Mom didn't we

her hair thin and her skin and her bones and her voice a crackle of static it hurt to be around to see her hurt and she didn't care not as bad as great aunt June with the hanging metal triangle loud dogs
and brown carpet like in the basement where we played video games after they shut the cable off and we were the best at offline brawl look ma look at us

look at us now

They snap forward as one in their harnesses, coming to the present, eyes open and mouths gasping.

"Right hemisphere, engage."

Some nausea and the odor of remembered smells are fucking with Yancy's head. "Gross," says Raleigh, and Yancy can hear by his echoes he's got it too.

"Left hemisphere, engage."

"Smells like home," Yancy says.

"We smelled nasty."

"Like you don't still," Yancy jabs, and Raleigh flares in his mind, laughter indignant nuh-uh asshole I smell awesome you like it.

"You're not the only ones getting olfactory side effects," says LOCCENT. "Let us know when they stop."

"Yeah," Yancy says, yeah sure funny guy nothing wrong with a little wholesome sweat. Remembering Raleigh's back shining in it. How he's got real shoulders now and used to be a skinny kid. Good thing you shaped up for Jaeger pilot school.

Yeah yeah just because you've always been fit thick and golden -ha! Me too now! Fucking look at us! Flexing and shrugging shoulder muscles, feeling how snug the suits are on both of them. The harnesses they're strapped into move to let them assume a fighting stance, but there's resistance. It makes them move slow.

Left hands curl into a fist.

We're real good at slow now, aren't we, Yance? The memory of sparring yesterday.

Right hand opens.

Sure are.

They pound their fists and palms together in one smooth unmeditated movement.

"Okay, where's our kaiju at?"

-

An hour in the simulator pushing and pulling at the big elliptical-like machines and now they're really fucking physically exhausted. Yancy's maybe rethinking his coping mechanism, exhaustion through work. He's tired of being wiped out of his mind.

Raleigh's shoving him excitedly, though, and Yancy's clapping him on the back. He's going on and on, something about how far they've come and Yancy can't help but look at Raleigh and think about how grown up he looks.

Raleigh's looking back at him though, pushing him off where Yancy's practically wrapped an arm around his head. "God, you'll never stop doing that 'look how grown up my baby brother is' thing."

"Well, you look nothing like that gangly teenager I knew a couple years ago, maybe I don't recognize you."

"Bitch."

"Watch your mouth, kid."

"Crotchety fuckin old man!"

Their arms are around each other's shoulders and it's gonna carry them back through these halls to their quarters, like nothing else could. Raleigh's hand twitches soft at Yancy's neck like he's holding instead of just roughhousing, and Yancy gets that. He just wants to give that to him, for him. He felt how Raleigh needed it, can feel it still right now, the buzz pushing up through Yancy's skin too. They're both dizzy drunk and touchy-feely in a world where it's just him and Raleigh, just like how it felt in the Drift, shining and bright.

They reach their room and Raleigh fumbles the keys on his lanyard till Yancy takes it from his hands. "Smartass."

"Suppose this is the stuff before the hangover," Yancy says, and Raleigh snorts. His nails dig into the skin on Yancy's neck and it makes Yancy's brain fizz.

They're down to their sleepwear when Yancy says, "So what do we do to head it off?"

Raleigh sits on his bunk and pats the thin mattress. "Charge our batteries."

"Huh?"

"C'mon."

Yancy gets it. With a hand on his brother's chest he pushes Raleigh backwards, then grabs his own blanket and climbs onto his brother's bed.

"Hey! Jerk," Raleigh says, but he's already jostling Yancy and crawling up beside him to lie down. He grunts, pushing for space, and Yancy sighs. Eventually they settle in pressed side-to-side, crammed tight, Yancy on his side leaning back against his brother, Raleigh on his stomach.

It's not so bad, Yancy thinks.

Yancy wakes up suddenly a few minutes before the alarm. He didn't plan to sleep there the whole night, just part of it, but he's not surprised they both ended up sleeping like logs. He's lying on his stomach, nearly half off the bunk, and Raleigh's flung a leg over his. His little brother's nose is stuck in the back of his neck, and Yancy feels Raleigh half-cocked through his shorts, poking Yancy's hip.

Yancy himself is awoken too suddenly to be sporting wood right now, but this tangle of heat and softness and breath does something for him in his lizard hindbrain he can't shake. So he shakes Raleigh off, and apologizes as he climbs out from under him to get out of bed, and high tails it to breakfast.

When Raleigh shows up with his tray at their usual table, and puts his knee against Yancy's, Yancy lets him. The morning's tension leaves him like a slow leak from a balloon.

It feels good.

-

They have their own jobs to do but Yancy looks for Raleigh during breaks, just enough to walk by, ruffle his hair, pat his arm. Standard reassurances of the physical kind. Keeping up their spirits.

Of course when Raleigh comes by, he gets bodily close. "Yo," he says, just like the dorky little brother he is, hovering behind Yancy's shoulder and then leaning in on him, chest pressed against Yancy's back again. He leans in to tell Yancy something in his ear, and Yancy shivers, and then Raleigh's gone.

Nobody remarks on it but Yancy's paranoid about any eyes on them.

Is this strange behavior? He's paranoid. It feels different, private pilot stuff, between him and Raleigh and the drift and the cramped bunk bed.

At the end of the day they're at the Kwoon again, fighting fast this time, in sync again, still strong but less strange. When Raleigh lifts Yancy up from the Kwoon floor for one last round, they brace themselves close and firm, longer than usual, before letting go.

Raleigh looks like he feels good, and Yancy dares to think that he could possibly really know how his little brother feels. He knows that part of the drift hangover can be increased emotional empathy; he also knows that studies have shown that empathy increases with nonverbal communication. Specifically touch. The effects could be staying at a low level.

When they go to bed that night it's routine. Yancy and Raleigh share only one brief nod to say, We're probably fine now. They fall asleep in their own bunks.

-

It hurts really bad. Your leg. So so bad. You've got a sick and wrong feeling in your stomach and you try not to move but it hurts, god it hurts. You're moaning and your brother's yelling "Raleigh! Oh no, no"

"Not supposed to -"

"Shut up. Did you -"

"Mighta broke my leg."

"Do you think -"

You try to sit up, but you accidentally move your leg and the pain is so much. You vomit on the ground next to you. Your big brother is fussing with you, taking the corner of his cape to wipe your mouth, wipe the splatter off your clothes. "Can I," taking your hand to pull you up to sit slowly, slowly. You're holding a clean fold of scarf to your mouth. It smells like Yancy and home.

Then Yancy goes back for help by himself. You're alone trying not to move and didn't he say you were twenty minutes out, he can run it, they can bring the car back and that's fast, it can't be too long...

You have the phone in your hand but it's dead and you keep looking at it. What's your Dad's number again? What’s the embassy address? You can't remember.

Time stretches out and you're afraid, you're afraid of the dark, animals in the dark - what if Yancy fell?

What if he broke his leg too?

What if he's lost, what if nobody believes him, why is he taking so long?

It's so quiet and cold. So quiet.

"Yancy," you try to shout, "Yancy," but you can't hardly make any noise, you're stuck, it's so quiet. Your voice strangles in your chest. "Yance!"

Yancy wakes up with his sternum pressed against the edge of the bunk, an arm and leg dangling off. The pressure on his chest is sore and crushing. He's trying to breathe or say something but he can't, his lungs and gut are tight with panic, so he flings himself back from the edge of the bunk to keep from falling. It's bizarre and terrifying but that fear and desperation he tastes sour in his mouth doesn't feel like his own.

He jumps out of bed, drops to his feet in the dark and reaches out instinctively for Raleigh. When Yancy grabs his brother's knees, Raleigh lets out a muffled cry, as if just waking, mouth unglued by Yancy's touch. He scrambles up on his elbows like he's escaping some quicksand.

"Hey," Yancy says, heart going a thousand miles an hour. He can't tell if it's him or Raleigh shaking as he crawls onto Raleigh's bed on his knees, touches his brother's chest in the dark and feels it bare and clammy with sweat.

Raleigh's kicking the blankets off, movements and breathing panicked. He nearly knees Yancy. "Aah, fuck, sorry, what's -"

Yancy grabs at his leg, his upper arm, to get him to be still. Raleigh grabs back as if unconsciously wrestling but Yancy can see by the dim glow that Raleigh sees him, he's looking at him, he's here.

"You had a nightmare."

He's still got his hand on Raleigh's chest. He moves it to his shoulder. He's crouched in bed with his brother and can feel Raleigh vibrating.

"You too?" Raleigh asks.

"Yeah. I saw. I felt it."

Raleigh's quiet but still breathing hard. Yancy goes to lie on his side, keeps a hand on his brother, pulls Raleigh's head towards his chest. Together they listen to their breathing slow, calm; Raleigh listens to his brother's lungs whoosh slower, his heart beat. Finally Raleigh says, "Sorry." He pushes Yancy's hands away so he can move his head again.

"It's okay," says Yancy. He leans away, almost off the other side of the bunk, but Raleigh grabs his arm and drags it across his chest.

Yancy lies down and settles in. Where before fear rattled in his chest now warmth blooms through it. He is content to be Raleigh's anchor.

He can feel, somehow, Raleigh's question. "Better not try that again," he responds.

Raleigh laughs, dry. It makes Yancy's arm jump on his chest. "Thanks," Raleigh says, already sounding sleepy.

Somehow Yancy's asleep again before him.

When they wake up it's like last time, more tangled than when they went to sleep, but Yancy's the one half over Raleigh, and Raleigh's the one crawling out from under him. Yancy thinks briefly that if there was any morning awkwardness, he deserves the luxury of being asleep or pretending to be asleep through it, since it was all the fault of Raleigh's bad dream anyway.

-

They take the next drift test and this simulator round puts them safely inside the cut. To celebrate and bid farewell to the teams who’ll receive their officer assignments in the morning, they go out that night to get congratulatory drinks. Celebrating with them are a brother and sister from Bandung, two best friends from Acapulco, and besides that a bar full of Jaeger flies and cadets and crew.

It's crowded enough that Yancy feels free and loose to wander up to the girls from Acapulco at the bar and ask what they're drinking. This is how he celebrates a good mood - sharing the wealth.

Jack and Coke and a PBR, Yancy's two shots and two beers in and flirting strong when Raleigh finds him.

"Cadets," he says in greeting, and gives the girls and Yancy all a loose wide smile.

"Beckets," Trini says back, and Ana Sofia laughs.

They play a game of cards over loud noise in the corner, Egyptian Rat Screw till their hands are smarting red. Raleigh pulls out a card trick or two, and Yancy suggests poker along the same lines.

Knowing each other's tells, the game's amusing for them at first but the air of competition drives the brothers to keep going.

No, they don't dance.

Alright, see you around.

The place is half empty and at this point they're doing it more to make a world record of uncanny calls.

"Wanna go home and play chess?" Raleigh says. "I bet I'd beat you then."

"Are you kidding? We're plastered."

"No, you're plastered." Raleigh smiles broad and indulgent and Yancy kicks his ankle for being so condescending. "You're lucky I'm not trying to bet on this shit."

"You'd bet your own ass and lose it, kid."

"Ah, you'd let me hock it back."

Yancy laughs, pulls out a couple ones for extra tip, how generous he's feeling, and stands up. "Better take it back to quarters, then."

-

They're drunk enough that the long walk back feels like no time at all, the cold like no cold at all, and on autopilot they stumble into bed.

Raleigh's got his shirt off and is pressed against Yancy's back briefly leaning over to get his toothbrush. Yancy leans in, then sways when Raleigh leans back, then decides this wouldn't have happened if he weren't drunk.

Yancy takes extra time brushing his teeth to let Raleigh finish and go sit on his bunk to take off his boots. Then Yancy's standing there in the doorway, strangely arrested before his brother's bowed head, his bare stomach, as Raleigh slowly struggles to remove his boots.

Raleigh manages it, then he stands, turns, changes into his sweatpants, and Yancy is still standing there and staring. He's not sure if he's ready to call this weird. He's not sure if he's ready to admit what it could be.

Then Raleigh turns and he's looking at Yancy over his shoulder. Yancy feels exposed, as if he's suddenly thrown a strange light on the situation by hesitating, standing back.

"We gonna do that, uh," Raleigh gestures between them and the bunk, "post-drift thing?"

"Maybe." Yancy says. He's taking off his shirt now and wiping the sweat off himself with it. "You need it?"

"Hey, I don't need special treatment." Raleigh's cheekbones are still red, cold-bitten and alcohol-flushed. "What about you? You need - you think we're getting used to it?"

Yancy couldn't say. But he thinks about how much his body pays attention to Raleigh's now. How sharing a cramped bed is starting to feel complicated. He'd like to say Yes, we're getting used to it.

"Dunno if I can get used to it." Yancy's tossed his sweater on the floor, is unbuckling his belt, routine and absentminded.

"Oh." Raleigh turns back to the bunk. "Yeah, okay. Like I said, I don't need any favors." He grabs his dirty t-shirt, smells it like he's going to put it back on.

It's like a door being shut in Yancy's face, and he doesn't get it for a second. He replays what he said in his head.

"I mean if you adjust fine, I'll figure it out," Raleigh says.

"Rals -" Yancy takes a step forward.

"We're fuckin' pros, pilots, I'll get over -"

Yancy touches Raleigh's bare waist and Raleigh turns back with a snap.

Yancy's standing close, really close to him. Raleigh can't back up without hitting his head. Yancy can see that he wants to, out of surprise or dismay. He can see both in the way Raleigh's eyes go from squinted to wide to narrowed again.

"That's not what I meant." Yancy touches a thumb to the skin under his brother's eye, tries to wipe the crease away. Raleigh's pupils are big and black. Yancy's drunken mind conjures up thoughts of neural loads. "I kept expecting it to go back to normal. But I don't think it's gonna. After the drift."

Raleigh looks at him and Yancy traces his gaze, flickering from eye to eye, that's how close they are. Raleigh closes his eyes hard and turns his face into Yancy's hand and something grips Yancy's stomach, seeing that trust wash over Raleigh like an ocean wave. Yancy feels submerged. He swallows.

He's got a hand hovering over Raleigh's waist nearly behind his back. He meant it as support, as comfort, but he's afraid what if it doesn't come across that way. They're not drifting right now, so he can't check in with Raleigh at a constant rate, can't expect him to be as honest as he is in the drift. Raleigh is guileless but this is a new realm. Hell, Yancy feels like he's been lying to himself for a week now, if not years.

"Yancy," Raleigh says, quiet like he's soothing an animal, voice cracked from a long night and tense moment. "Yance, you're drunk."

Yancy can't deny it. He's not that drunk, but what kind of rebuttal is that? Still. "Not that drunk."

"Drunk enough. Just, let’s get some sleep." Raleigh takes Yancy's hand off his face, shaking his head like there's something Yancy completely missed here.

He's undressed before Yancy can catch up to what's going on, just in his shorts and rolled over in his bunk. He's got his blanket pulled up and Yancy's left there, belt dangling. Raleigh's back is to him, so there's no one to watch Yancy stare.

He climbs into his own bunk and sleeps alone that night.

-

Next day the hangover is an alcohol-induced one as well as the day after drifting effects. Raleigh doesn't say anything to him, and Yancy barely staggers to breakfast, where they don’t sit next to each other. They're avoiding each other like before, but worse, because Yancy knows it’s both of them now, doing it on purpose. Yancy can feel it in the pit of his stomach. It's a bigger ache than the first time. They've tangled more of themselves up in each other now, he guesses.

He wonders how Raleigh's faring, and feels bad. He shouldn't have done that, whatever it was, last night. He's gotten all confused. He doesn't know what Raleigh needs, he shouldn't try to fuckin' guess.

But Raleigh’s not giving off waves of anguish or butting up against Yancy for physical comfort at all, not like he would’ve last time. He’s giving Yancy the space he needs but doesn't want. What the hell? Why’s he gotta act so responsible now?

Yancy nearly doesn’t notice it when Raleigh leaves the table and Yancy’s staring at his own half-full plate, unsure if he can eat. He can barely pay attention, mentally reeling, dizzy and unfocused after last night.

The memory of Raleigh's face under his hand. The look of his thumb under Raleigh's dark eye, the feel of his brother's hot skin.

Raleigh had turned his face - Yancy pictures it again, with his mind’s eye and sense memory in his fingers. Was Raleigh turning away from him? Or was he accepting the gesture of affection as any tired kid brother would? Or had Raleigh felt the same as Yancy, simultaneously sick and relieved, a deep wrongness and rightness stirring him to move?

The intercom buzzes. Yancy’s breakfast is over, most of it still on his plate, and his coffee eating acidly at his stomach.

He avoids Raleigh all day, and Raleigh doesn’t come looking for him.

-

At the Kwoon the Beckets are out of sync. It's a good thing they're not doing the simulator today. Tests have been getting more frequent, longer; Yancy’s starting to think they're going to go for endurance soon, but right now he thinks that he and Raleigh could hardly complete a neural handshake right now.

"Raleigh," he says when they're done sparring. When Raleigh looks at him, he knows: they're only fighting badly because they're trying to give each other too much space. They’re holding back. He knows because even still he can see in Raleigh's face his response and hesitancy.

Raleigh understands his tone of voice. They share a lifetime of overlapping memories, confirmations. They know each other.

"Look, I'm sorry about last night."

Raleigh squints at him and puts his hands in his pockets. "You really wanna talk about that now?" He's a bit hunched over. Yancy realizes they're still in the Kwoon, surrounded by other recruits.

"If you’ll let me apologize.”

Raleigh angles his body toward the exit, and Yancy follows him out, staying close on his heels.
They stop just inside an empty classroom.

“I’m sorry,” Yancy says. “I got fucked up last night.” Feeling the flush of warmth come to his face, he rubs his brow with a hand, shielding himself from his brother’s eyes.

“Forget about it.” And then Raleigh’s grabbing his arm and pulling his hand away and damn, Yancy didn’t know this would be hard to look his brother in the eye. Since when is this harder for him than for Raleigh? Since when is anything harder for him? “Seriously,” Raleigh says, and then Yancy looks at him. His lips are a thin stressed line but he’s got that anxious-to-make-peace look on his face, eyes big and earnest. Yancy’s pretty vulnerable to that look. He’s hyperconscious of his brother’s firm grip in the way he’s been struggling not to be hyperconscious of Raleigh all day. “It’s okay.”

Yancy shakes his head but it doesn’t mean no.

"Look,” Raleigh says, filling in the space where Yancy’s lost for words. “I'm not gonna talk to anyone about this. No way. I get it, I - if you're not comfortable" - Raleigh says the word like it’s an insult someone lobbed at him - "with those sleeping arrangements, we can just...” He lets go of Yancy’s wrist and Yancy lets out his breath.

“Hey,” he says. “It’s okay.”

“We can't let ourselves fall behind or get shitty at drifting, Yance. This can't fuck us up, okay?” Raleigh’s close enough that Yancy can see his jaw muscles shifting, his throat swallowing. “Can we just do our sparring and eat meals together and go drinking and all that?”

“Yeah, Rals, of course -”

“No more avoiding me.”

Yancy winces. "I'm sorry. I fucked up.”

Raleigh’s face softens, and he looks a little surprised. "'S okay.” He was sounding like he wasn’t expecting to be this aggressive, or for Yancy to just knuckle under and take it. “I don’t care about the sleep thing. Just stick around.”

Yancy kind of chokes on his response. “Uh - uh, okay.” He coughs. “Okay, we’ll figure something else out.”

“Yeah?”

Looking up at Yancy, Raleigh appears somehow uncertain and thoroughly trusting at the same time. It ties Yancy's stomach in knots. Yancy doesn't have a big plan. His plan was to talk to Raleigh and have things be less awkward between them, so they can drift again, so they can be good pilots. But the ache they feel after the drift, the magnetic pull, the distance between them that the drift closed making them so aware of it now, waking and sleeping… Yancy doesn't have a solution to that. He does care about the sleep thing. He’s the one who’s messed up over it.

“Yeah.” Yancy thumps Raleigh on the chest gently with an open palm and Raleigh rocks back, just off balance, smiling a little sheepishly about it. Yancy tries telling himself to feel better about this, about the direction this is going, but all he can feel is that Raleigh’s huge trust is so misplaced.

Work on it, don’t worry about it, he tells himself.

-

Despite Yancy’s lack of a clear plan, they manage to settle into a better rhythm anyway.

They spar and go through forms till they’re exhausted, then they sit with their knees bumped up against each other at dinner. They play chess till Raleigh’s yawning too hard to see. Brushing their teeth before bed, Yancy leans across Raleigh till Raleigh’s elbow clips him too hard, and they blearily stumble into each other.

Then they go to sleep in their own beds.

Yancy and his little brother are running from something. No, they’re looking for a place. A little hiding place somewhere in this big grey warehouse.

But the warehouse is their home. Yes, Yancy recognizes it now - it’s a Jaeger hangar, and they’re not kids, though he feels afraid like one. It’s empty, cold and dark and Yancy’s mission is to find a corner to hide in, cover him and Raleigh up with his blanket-cape. Till the coast is clear, for however long they have to be there. Keep each other warm.

No one can find them here. This is important. In this dream, not being found means being safe. If no one can see them, Yancy can reach out and touch Raleigh’s cheek

and Raleigh will kiss him like Yancy wants him to

it’s okay here

and Yancy will pull Raleigh over him like a blanket, under his blanket-cape where they are skin to skin for warmth, rubbing their bodies against each other. Really good, to touch like this, to tangle their legs together, making the heat strong in Yancy’s belly and between his legs, and he can feel good because it’s secret, giving him extra warmth. No one can find them here -

He feels a jerk and a jolt, a pinch on his shoulder.

Yancy’s eyes fly open. He’s on his back, twisted in blankets, and Raleigh’s grip is pinching his shoulder while he talks into Yancy’s ear. Yancy can feel his warm gust of breath and the brush of his face and his tight trip on his shoulder, nearly pinching, like a brand.

"Mmf! Nngghh,” Yancy groans and thrashes. “Fuck, what - ?” Yancy hopes, half awake but completely desperate, that Raleigh didn’t see his dream like he saw Raleigh’s that one night.

“Damn, Yance,” Raleigh says from a slightly more reasonable distance.

“Oh, god.” Yancy can feel, he knows, he’s tenting in the sheets, and he’s certain Raleigh’s noticed. He just hopes Raleigh isn’t paying attention.

"Hell of a dream, bro.”

Yancy feels the blood drain from his face. “You didn’t.”

Raleigh just raises his eyebrows.

He is going to throw up. “Fuck.” He curls up protectively on instinct, wills the panic in his veins to kill his erection, rolls over to smother it in the mattress.

“You’re a kinky bastard,” says Raleigh, eyes dead-serious-wide.

“Jesus, Raleigh. Shit.” Yancy can’t look at his brother - his brother, who he was just dreaming of above him, rutting against him, fuck - so he closes his eyes tight and lowers his head. “I’m so fucking sorry.”

“You’re really into that? Damn, that’s scarring.”

Oh god, he fucking was into it. He thinks of the dream, fresh and immediate in his mind, the feeling of Raleigh’s body the same he’s been aching for but more. It was intimate, like the drift. He wants it.

“I swear to god, no,” he lies, muffled in his pillow. “I didn’t know. I get it, if you - if you can’t -”

Raleigh’s quiet and he was right there a second ago, leaning on Yancy’s bunk, but Yancy can’t hear him anymore, and what if he’s gone? What if he leaves?

Even though he feels like he’s going to throw up from fear he has to look up, so he does.

Raleigh’s right there. With a look on his face like he’s trying not to laugh. Or like he’s going to laugh and is confused at the same time.

“You…” Yancy croaks.

“You mean,” Raleigh says, with a shit eating grin, “it wasn’t furries?”

Yancy’s going to kill his little brother. “Jesus H Christ!” he roars. “You - you’re fucking pulling my leg! You nearly gave me a heart attack!”

Raleigh’s laughing now but he looks a little scared.

“I’ll give you scarring!” Yancy’s nearly dizzy with relief, but underneath he can feel it still, the horror at himself and his dream remaining cold and twisted and shameful inside him. Even if Raleigh didn’t see it...

“Oh man,” Raleigh gasps with laughter. “I had to, I swear I don't know what you dreamed about! Which I'm glad about, I think you'd kill me if I did know.”

Yancy puts his head under his pillow. “I fucking hate you,” he says.

“Ah, you love me,” Raleigh says, moving close again to speak right into Yancy’s ear, squeezing his shoulders. Yancy feels his brother’s hot breath and swallows a groan. He can’t handle this.

“Get the hell off,” he says, pushing Raleigh’s hands away. “Go shower or something.”

“I’ll leave you some cold water,” Raleigh cracks. He lets go and then Yancy is without his warm hands to cover the lingering chill of horror he feels. He doesn’t feel like getting up today or ever.

Yancy swears. He's still aroused, hard against his mattress, thanks to Raleigh who can’t keep his damn hands to himself. The insidious memory of the dream is there and he wants, fuck. He wants to jerk off to it. The secret dream that’s his, that no one knows about and can’t hurt Raleigh. But his brother’s hands are a ghost on his shoulders, and the horror is crawling up his skin and his stomach is still twisted with panic.

So when Raleigh steps out of their bathroom, Yancy’s right there pushing past him and closing the door behind. He takes his shower, a regular one, and squeezing his eyes shut he wraps a hand around his dick and jerks himself hard and fast, trying to think of any girl he's hooked up with. Any simple standby fantasy, even just blank nothing will do, just to get him to tender nearly-painful orgasm. Anything to keep from thinking of Raleigh pressed close to him and their hips grinding, dicks rubbing together. Anything to keep from picturing Raleigh, looking at him like he’s the only thing in the world.

-

When he makes it to the last five minutes of breakfast, Yancy plunks into the seat across from Raleigh and doesn’t look up at him. He can feel his little brother’s eyes on him, though. Yancy doesn’t want to talk. Or maybe that would help, maybe he wants to talk about something normal.

“You okay, man?”

Yancy glances up. Raleigh looks actually concerned. That means Yancy must look as freaked out as he’s feeling. Like he could hide anything from Raleigh. As much as it’s probably impossible, he tries to keep the flush from crawling up his neck. “Nothing wiping the floor with your ass won’t solve later. You little shit.” His own voice comes out irritated but fond - good. Not a mess. Normal.

Raleigh’s reaction is to crack a smile. “Sorry. You woulda done the same thing.”

“Watch out, maybe you’ll have a weird sex dream some day, and I trick you into telling me.”

“Well, then I’d have to kill you.”

“I’m a cadet, I’m too valuable.”

We’re too valuable. You can’t kill me either.”

“Mm.” The end-of-breakfast bell rings.

“Speaking of our priceless value to the PPDC,” Raleigh says, as everyone else in the mess hall gets up. “We’ve got our next sim drop day after tomorrow. Clean up your dirty mind before I go walking in there.”

The last forkful of eggs sticks, rubbery, in Yancy’s throat. Fuck, Raleigh’s right. There’s no way this shit won’t come out in the drift. It’s all tangled up with Raleigh and drifting and everything that’s happened since they started.

Raleigh kicks his foot under the table, then grabs Yancy’s tray too and stands up. They have safety drills for the next few hours, then sparring in the Kwoon. Yancy plans to work himself to exhaustion, and figure out either a way to deal with this before the drift.

-

He and Raleigh basically dared themselves into the Jaeger academy. Yancy didn’t come in thinking, sure, I’ll give up all my past, present, and future secrets to my brother. No way anything will ever happen to come between us that we can’t deal with.

He remembers it still, from the first day of drift training: Don’t resist.

He has to beat it.

If he preempts a drifting disaster and tells Raleigh his problem beforehand, it’s only going to make it harder for Raleigh to trust him and for them to sync up in the first place. No, telling Raleigh isn’t going to work. They can’t skip drifting, though. Their asses - their whole short careers as pilot candidates - would be on the line.

He’ll think his way out of it, then. Redirect his thought to something he knows his productive, important. The dream isn’t important. He knows that when he had the dream it didn’t mean shit about fucking his brother. He’s spent some intimate moments with Raleigh, and he’s worried about that right now. Of course he’d dream about it. All his brain was telling him was a parable of intimacy in strange dream language. There’s nothing wrong with the dream, it’s just… not right.

It works till minute 14 second 39.

They’re attempting maneuvers through a cityscape, and Yancy thinks duck behind these buildings just as Raleigh thinks no, that’s dangerous to civilians. All Yancy’s thinking of is his own safety.

It roars through Yancy’s mind like a freight train.

The image of them hiding in the dark comes barreling through their brains - in the drift, even more vivid than his memory of the dream. In his mind’s eye and ear and hand he’s tangled in Raleigh, straining and bare skin and wet mouths - he recoils, like whiplash.

It hurts.

“Right hemisphere out of alignment!” LOCCENT calls.

He’s being knocked backwards, they’re falling, shit -

He hears Raleigh yelling wordlessly and it doesn’t mean anything -

“C’mon,” Yancy grits, trying to find Raleigh’s presence, his here and now, what they were doing -

“Left hemisphere, you’re out too… stabilizing…”

“Get a hold of yourself, Yance!”

“Yeah, yeah - on my side -”

“Right -”

“- hook!”

- and they slide back in together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, as their right hook connects with the kaiju that's pummeling them into the ground.

Their Jaeger takes a lot of damage but, miraculously, they manage to beat the kaiju without flooding the streets with kaiju blue.

When the screens go black , the drift and the lights come on, they take their helmets off and Yancy’s breathing hard, vision tunneled. He turns to his brother immediately. “God, I’m sorry, Rals, I’m really -”

“It’s okay,” Raleigh says, not meeting Yancy’s eyes. He’s red-faced and Yancy sees his jaw muscle flexing. “We made it through the fight. I just.” He meets Yancy’s gaze. “You shoulda told me!”

“Really?” Yancy says, his voice cracking. “You get why I didn’t, though!”

The technicians come in to get them out of their suits, and their mouths practically snap shut, not knowing what to say, unwilling to say it in this suddenly public room.

Finally they're back in their jumpsuits, debriefed and sent on their way. They're alone in the hallway, dinner and the evening left stretching before them, and Yancy doesn't know exactly where he's going but he starts walking, Raleigh at his heels. Raleigh reaches out and says “Yance,” but Yancy immediately says “Can we not talk about it?” Raleigh stumbles, like he’d expected to rest his hand on Yancy’s arm, balance there. He didn’t expect Yancy to move away like he did. His eyes flash.

Yancy’s exhausted and not ready to deal with how eager Raleigh is to berate him for keeping things from him. The nerves and frustration creeping up on him are partly Raleigh’s. He knows it. This is going to be a feedback loop of being pissed at each other. Fucking great.

Yancy turns away.

“Hey!” Raleigh barks, even though Yancy’s only a few steps away, even though the after effects of the drift make Yancy attuned to Raleigh’s voice even more than normal. “You can't just walk away! I'm talking to you!"

“Save it, man.”

“No, man.” Raleigh grabs his arm and spins him around roughly, and Yancy feels the spike of adrenaline at being jostled, at Raleigh’s hand squeezing around his bicep. “I’m not gonna let you fuck us up like this.”

“Me?” Yancy jerks out of Raleigh’s grasp but he’s facing him now, stepping up close to get in his face. “Fuck us up? Listen, kid,” and Yancy pushes Raleigh's chest with one hand, just enough to jar him. “I’m not the one who started this little altercation, all right?”

“Asshole.” Raleigh shoves Yancy back, harder. “You went out of alignment first! This is all on you! You think you're protecting me?” Raleigh grabs his arm. “If you woulda said-”

Blood rushing in his ears and his eyes and to the surface of his hands, Yancy shoves Raleigh up against the wall, pinning him there with a forearm on his shoulder, a hand in his collar. “Don’t tell me what to do.”

His hands are shaking. Raleigh stares at him, that cool-eyed angry look with his jaw clenched so hard Yancy can see the muscle twitching. It's anger but it also looks a little like terror, and when Yancy's got enough clarity to recognize that, he pushes himself back from pinning his brother, and it's as hard as moving in that drive suit. His limbs feel stiff and leaden. When he lets go of Raleigh he feels a moment of fleeting vertigo.

Raleigh's eyes are fever-bright and staring. He blinks, and Yancy really sees him then: pressed against the wall where Yancy put him, head tilted back, neck bared, throat moving as he swallows. He's eyeing Yancy carefully. Watching for his next move.

Their blood is pounding fast and hard and this isn't what Yancy planned.

"I'd never," he says, making the word like a punch. "I would've never said anything to you about it. I wish it never happened." His voice is rough and low as he can make it. He doesn't even sound contrite because he doesn't feel that way now, he feels anger, rising at the forefront of his mind, overwhelming everything else. He’s gotta cool down and go before he does something stupid, but Raleigh's nostrils flare and he juts his chin out.

"That’s ‘cause you're a fucking coward, Yance."

Yancy's blood boils. He swings at his brother and Raleigh dodges it, tries to get Yancy in a headlock. Yancy taught him that move; he's not gonna get away with it.

He pushes Raleigh across the hall but Raleigh just uses the wall to propel himself back harder, tackle Yancy into the steel plate.
.
Yancy actually manages to land a punch but then Raleigh catches his fists. Raleigh's pinning him to the wall and it makes him see red. The points of contact between them are hot, they're on fire, he hears ringing in his ears, he twists under Raleigh's hold because it's not enough.

"Fuck."

He hears Raleigh panting above him and it's in sync with his own breath. They’re right there together in the post-drift, hearts pounding fast and hard, adrenalin high. Yancy's body strains against itself, still in the fight, but ruled now by the physicality of it, the push and pull demanding more push and pull. He’s got no brakes.

Yancy feels the window of Raleigh’s distraction and he quickly flips them, heaving his weight under Raleigh while tripping his inside foot, till suddenly Raleigh’s the one against the wall and Yancy’s got a knee shoved dangerously between his thighs.

The throaty noise Raleigh makes when his brother shoves him into the wall is a gutpunch. Yancy feels breathless in sympathy, a rush of blood to his head, a twinge of pain where one of them took an elbow to the rib. Yancy shakes him by the shoulders to hold him at arm’s length. "I don't wanna hurt you, kid," he growls. He's forgotten all desire to run.

Raleigh’s bared throat, his hard breath, his open mouth. Saying, “You’re not.”

A bell rings. A door opens on the far end of the hall. They look, and suddenly Yancy remembers his desire to run, so he does. Raleigh doesn’t follow.

-

Yancy hides in corners of the academy the rest of the day, keeping himself busy deep in the depths of the Jaeger construction crew, working on whatever they’re working on, inventorying closets. Anything that will keep him far away and hidden from his brother. Anything that will keep his mind off the misery that surely awaits him. The dread that this is the end for them - the end of piloting, the end of their ability to have a reasonable conversation, the end of Yancy’s normal human forgivable life and his relationship with his brother.

There’s a whole laundry list of things he tries not to think about.

He misses dinner and everything, though at this point nobody’s come to him and said Raleigh’s looking for him, so he supposes the kid’s avoiding him too.

Still, when he comes back to their quarters when they usually turn in, he expects to see Raleigh. But he’s not there. Yancy undresses and washes up alone - truly alone, the first time all day - and Raleigh still doesn’t show up. He’s slightly relieved but it doesn’t mean he’s escaped any anxiety.

No, Yancy’s not going to wait up for him. And he’s not going to crawl into the bottom bunk they’ve shared on post-drift nights like this, waiting for Raleigh to show up and see that Yancy’s inserted himself there without consulting, without asking. Yancy’s not going to intrude. He wants his space. Raleigh can wake him or not when he gets back.

He climbs into his usual top bunk and hopes, sickly, that he doesn’t see Raleigh till at least morning.

-

In the pitch black, Yancy wakes up aching in his whole body, hot and tingling and yearning. He’s so hard in his briefs it almost hurts, and startled like a clap of thunder just woke him.

Instead it’s Raleigh grabbing his shoulder, one hand tight in Yancy’s hair, almost pulling. Just like he gripped it in the dream where Yancy was blowing Raleigh - shit.

Yancy arches up mindlessly and pushes his face into Raleigh’s hands.

Raleigh says, voice choked, "Holy shit.” He sounds shocked and hungry. Like Yancy feels. Surprised by what's taken him up, the desire leaping in his belly, a hot fire lit there. Yancy knows Raleigh feels it too; he knows he’s feeling what Raleigh’s feeling. They’re both so close here together in the dark, Raleigh’s breathing loud by Yancy’s ear, but fuck, it’s not close enough.

“Yance," Raleigh groans.

Automatically, Yancy says, "Shh, it's okay," but his voice cracks. He rolls onto his stomach, reaching out to touch Raleigh, and Raleigh nearly pulls him over the head of the bunk trying to shove his hands down the back of Yancy’s shirt. He needs to feel Raleigh’s skin. Yancy’s mouth is open on Raleigh’s neck, and the whimper Raleigh lets out -

"Go back to sleep," Yancy says.

“No,” Raleigh says, and Yancy can feel they’re wild with need, both of them. He tries to get a grip, pull back.

“No, you fucking ran today, you need to see,” Raleigh pants, pressing his teeth into the skin at Yancy’s jaw. “I need you." The words are hot on Yancy’s skin. He drags his nails over Yancy’s shoulders, scratching down his t-shirt in the back, down his arms in the dark. "God, please, Yance, you can't just -"

"I’m sorry - I didn’t -”

"You fucking did, don’t say -"

"Shh," says Yancy again, stroking Raleigh’s neck and shoulders hard.

“Come on,” whines Raleigh; “Come here,” says Yancy.

Yancy grabs Raleigh's arms and pulls, till he's pulled Raleigh close enough, till he butts his face against Raleigh's and gets Raleigh by the back of the neck drawing him closer. They press their open mouths together, and Yancy’s thought is not so much kiss as devour, the feeling in him desire as urgent as hunger, the way their throats move as if they’re drinking deep.

Raleigh wrenches Yancy towards the edge of the bunk, and Yancy swings himself off before Raleigh can drag him over headfirst. As soon as Yancy’s feet touch the ground, Raleigh is right there, pinning him against the ladder. Yancy hisses at the cold metal on his legs, then he’s holding his brother’s warm face in his hands, touching his neck, his ribs, his lower back. Raleigh kisses him, licks into his mouth like he’s desperate. Yancy just tries to get as much contact between their bodies to cool his feverish skin, to put the ache to rest. Still, it’s not enough. He knows.

Yancy pulls, Raleigh pushes, and suddenly he thuds down onto his little brother’s bunk. Reaching for purchase and for more skin on instinct, Yancy palms the drawstring on Raleigh’s sweats, and then feels his brother’s erection, thick and hard there under Yancy’s hand. Yancy’s head is light and his mouth goes slack as he leans in, and Raleigh’s hands are in his hair, and Raleigh says “Yance, please,” and Yancy is so happy to oblige. He opens his mouth on his brother’s feverish belly just above his waistband. Remembering the vivid visceral flash of opening his lips wide and taking Raleigh’s heavy cock in his mouth, he moans. He wants to slip his tongue down lower, get Raleigh wet with his mouth, fuck -

Fuck,” Raleigh echoes, his fingers squeezing to pull Yancy’s hair tight. Then he lets go, and Yancy feels Raleigh’s hands on his shoulders, and Raleigh pushes him away - Yancy feels the world drop out from under him - but Raleigh’s got a hand on him still, he’s pushing him back onto the bed and following close as he can, leaning over, pushing a leg between Yancy’s thighs, making Yancy’s hips buck.

Yancy gets a hand down Raleigh's shorts in back, and Raleigh makes a noise of shock, arching up against the touch, then grinding back down at the suggestion, then slides his own hand down Yancy's shorts in front. Yancy lets out a choked groan

They take each other's dicks in hand and push into each other’s fists, then bring their hands together and hold hot and tight, stroking slow in tandem. Raleigh’s arms are trembling; his elbow buckles and he collapses onto Yancy’s chest. He jerks against their hands, winces, then threads his fingers through Yancy’s and pins his hand to the mattress. Raleigh just rubs and rubs against his brother’s cock, slipping around on his cut hips and softer stomach till he comes, and with him, Yancy.

-

 

Yancy wakes up. He can feel Raleigh’s heavy weight leaning against his back, the worn sheet on his face. Raleigh probably stole the pillow in the night, or it fell off the bed, no room for it.

His brain is very slowly coming online.

Awareness brings with it some sense of urgency, something, what is it, he needs to -

As soon as he begins to roll out of bed, Raleigh’s leg hooks around his and his arm flies out from the tangle of sheets.

“Hang on,” says Raleigh.

“Get off me, Raleigh,” Yancy says, heartbeat rising to drown out his hearing, scrambling to extract himself from the sheet and his brother’s grip.

“No, nope, hey!” Raleigh’s like an octopus, slippery and arms everywhere. He’s grabbing Yancy around the middle now and he’s impossible to shake.

“Lemme just get up!”

“Yancy,” Raleigh says, voice crackling low like it does just after sleep. Yancy doesn’t normally get like this, but just hearing his name is a tiny bit soothing. “You’re panicking. Stop it.”

Raleigh holds Yancy against his chest and Yancy feels in immediate danger of relaxing into his brother’s hold. “Don’t tell me what to do.”

“Fine. Whatever. But I’m not going to let you just run before…”

“Before what? You wanna talk like this? We’re rank and half-dressed.”

“Yeah.”

“Okay.” Yancy sighs. “Look, Rals. That can’t happen again.”

Bullshit.” Raleigh’s voice hits his upper register.

“It’s just best if that doesn’t - “

“No, man.”

“It’s not fucking normal, Raleigh!” Yancy’s voice cracks. He’s tired, okay. He just woke up. This is his only line of defense.

“So? You wanted it. I wanted it. I want it.”

Yancy’s short of breath.

“We drift, Yance.”

It’s the first time Yancy’s been terrified by that. The thought of sharing everything with Raleigh whether he wants to or not. Raleigh knowing what he feels, feeling what he feels. Not being able to ignore this inner turmoil if Raleigh doesn’t want to ignore it. Having to face himself is hard as shit. Having to face Raleigh is worse.

“We’re a long way from normal.”

“Not so far you can’t go back.” Yancy says, voice small.

Raleigh snorts and Yancy wants, god he wants, this is physically painful, but he shouldn’t, he can’t -

“It’s wrong,” Yancy says, at the same time Raleigh says, “Please.” It sends a sick jolt through him, like an electric shock. Please.

Raleigh’s fingers twitch, and then he presses his lips onto the back of Yancy’s neck, opens his mouth to kiss him wetly there, puts his teeth against his skin and sucks, and Yancy can’t help the completely shameful groan pulled from his chest.

Raleigh lets him go and gets up himself to crawl over his brother, who’s rolled over on his stomach to smother his half-hard dick. Yancy wishes he had a pillow to cover his face.

“I don’t care about wrong or normal,” Raleigh says going into the bathroom. “I care about you.”

-

They sit in silence at breakfast, next to each other. Instinctively, they touch their knees to each others’, and manage to eat everything the same speed in the same order. When the bell rings, Raleigh hands Yancy the rest of his coffee, and gets up, using Yancy’s shoulder and then squeezing it hard. Shamefully Yancy's dick jumps the same time his gut drops with fear, the same time he feels relief uncurl in his chest. It’s the day after the drift and the forceful confirmation of Raleigh’s presence does something for him; it’s the morning after the night they rubbed off on each other in a frenzy and this does something for Yancy’s fucked up lizard hindbrain too.

Raleigh bends down to say close in his ear, "You promised you wouldn't avoid me."

He sounds afraid. He is afraid. Yancy knows. He can feel it, close to his heart, the ghost drift lingering still. After last night... Yancy did the deed; he’s a responsible older brother who's gonna own up to the shit he did. Even if he can’t figure out the shit he should do.

"Promise I won't." He catches Raleigh's hand with his, catches his glance briefly, then feels Raleigh's hand swipe the side of his neck as he walks by.

The jaeger tech to his left raises her eyebrows. "Trouble in pilot paradise?"

"You try living with your brother 24/7, you’ll end up fighting like a married couple,” Yancy says, cracking a half-smile.

“Well, for the war effort, you better kiss and make up.”

Yancy nearly chokes on his coffee.

-

It’s three days till their next sim drop.

It goes seamlessly, which is unexpected; Yancy’s sweating with nerves. They’ve been on edge, not fighting with each other but not wholly at peace. Raleigh, as ever, seems calmer than Yancy expects, since Yancy feels like a bit of a wreck inside.

But there is nothing to hide from his brother this time. They did what they did and they both know about it.

“Hey,” Raleigh says.

“Hey what?”

Raleigh turns to meet Yancy’s eyes as they get buckled in. “Take it easy.”

Yancy lets out a weak laugh.

“That’s what you said to me the first time we drifted. That, and ‘don’t resist’.”

Yancy exhales slowly. “Right.” The class, the manual: all feel like a hundred years ago now.

Last time they drifted, Yancy nearly fell out of alignment. Right now their initial sync rate is low, but Yancy inhales and catches the scent of grass, the tail of a memory of home, it’s just like riding a bike, like kicking a ball back and forth, I could always see where you were going with it

I see you

I’m still here

“Up to 97%. Looking good, boys.”

-

“Let’s go out tonight,” Yancy says as they take off their gear. “It’s Saturday. We should celebrate.”

“Yeah?” Raleigh says. He looks sidelong at Yancy, suspicious.

“Yeah, we should. I’ll buy you a drink.”

Raleigh snorts, but he’s smiling when he says, “You better.”

The town bar is crowded that night, like every Saturday. The night gets late fast, going by in a blur of squeezing into booths, knocking knees with his brother and some pretty girls, locals and jaeger flies, the kind who want to hear about training and the kind always trying to hook up, with other jumpsuited cadets in other groups, jaeger techs and young folk from all over. Raleigh is bright in Yancy’s mind and vision, like after any drift, but there are too many people squeezed into this bar on a Saturday night to try the tricks and games that pilots like to show off with. Which is for the better. Yancy’s been feeling more private about their drift bond lately. He’d like to just sit by and not think about them for a night.

One of the new girls clearly has her eye on Raleigh. Yancy doesn’t think Raleigh notices, not really - sure, she’s talking to him, and he’s looking at her like he notices her, but he doesn’t notice what she’s doing. To him, probably, she’s only one of many in the noise and crowd and the chance to unwind. Still, he’s a sweet kid, and when she talks to him, he’s attentive; when she puts her hand on his knee briefly, he turns.

Raleigh yawns and Yancy laughs, says “Alright, kiddo, don’t fall asleep yet.”

“Shut up,” Raleigh says, “I can go all night.”

Yancy catches the girl’s eye - what’s her name? Anita? Mina? “Suuure,” he drawls to Raleigh, but he winks at her. Unembarrassed, she snickers, and Yancy smiles. She’s eminently likeable. Raleigh’ll notice her by the end of the night.

But instead Raleigh leans over to pass the pitcher and puts his hand on Yancy’s knee, and the warm feeling in Yancy’s belly jumps, and he wants to put a hand on his little brother -

He doesn’t.

Nina and her friend get up and everyone roars at the game on TV, and Yancy leans in close to Raleigh, and says, “She’s into you, man.”

Raleigh jostles him with his shoulder. “Shut up.”

“I’m serious!” Yancy leans back out of Raleigh’s space, spreads his arms along the back of the booth. “You could hit that.”

Raleigh turns to look at him and his face is dark. “What the hell, Yance?”

Yancy shrugs and it makes his chest feel tight. He’s staring at Raleigh’s mouth, or rather his bared teeth.

“She’s nice. That’s all,” Raleigh says. Yancy’s opening his mouth to persuade, but not a word gets out before Raleigh’s shaking his head. “And none of that ‘normal’ shit. You know what I want.” He gets up, and for leverage puts a hand on Yancy’s shoulder, close to his neck, hot on his skin. Squeezes. Yancy’s mouth goes dry, and Raleigh’s gone.

When Raleigh returns, he takes back his spot next to Yancy, and ends up sandwiched between him and Maritza, one of the jaeger techs their age. They’re playing poker, which is usually a gas after the drift. “Deal him in!” Nina says, and Raleigh smiles at her, and kicks Yancy’s ankle with his heel.

“Ow,” Yancy mutters, and elbows his brother. Raleigh doesn’t lash back, as if Yancy’s the petty one.

They draw at poker, so familiar with each other’s tells that Yancy feels like he literally knows Raleigh’s hand just by the look on his face.

It’s only a few hands till blonde girl is plucking at Nina’s sleeve, leaning on her shoulder, everything short of yawning in her face to leave, and apparently she’s not the only tired one. Everyone starts giving their excuses, back slapping and hugging, laying down their cash on the bar and clustering by the coat tree.

Once he’s put enough singles down for the tip, Yancy turns to find Raleigh, just to glimpse his brother disappearing wide-eyed behind the coat tree with that brunette girl leaning into him hard. Yancy sees her push him up against the wall, stretching up on her tiptoes, dragging Raleigh’s head down to kiss him on the mouth.

All Yancy can do is stare. He’s arrested, and Raleigh’s even more impaired. In the many, many seconds it takes for Raleigh to unfreeze and figure out what to do with his hands, she’s already let him go and bolted out of the bar to her sleepy friend, who’s shrieking delightedly.

“Hey!” Raleigh yells out the door into the cold night, and then it shuts on him. He looks distracted and searching, eyes bright. Cheeks flushed. And, hell, Yancy gets it. He really gets what she was going for there.

He lets out a wolf-whistle just to see Raleigh’s head snap around and glare hotly at him. Yancy feels embarrassed instantly, but he would do it again.

Already, he can tell it’s going to be a hell of a ride home.

-

There are no girls here in the truck with them, and it feels strangely quiet after the raucous bar. Sure, Raleigh said he didn’t want to hook up with her, but he probably does now - he’s pretty sure Raleigh likes the outgoing ones. All Yancy can do is enjoy Raleigh’s flustered state, and scratch the itch to tease his little brother.

“I can’t believe she just…!”

“Yeah, bold move, huh Rals?”

Raleigh twitches to hear the laughter in Yancy’s voice, as if he’s belittling him. “Man, that hasn’t even happened to you before, okay?”

“Kid, I do my kissing round side of the bar. I don’t jump people in public.”

“Or let them jump you?” Raleigh’s cheeks are still pink and he shifts in his seat and Yancy needs to keep his eyes on the road, he has no business checking out whether his little brother’s -

“I mean, don’t get me wrong. Who could say no to her? Well, you, somehow.”

“Shut up, I didn’t say no, she just - God, I mean, I was going to talk to her - she just kissed me and ran, what’s that supposed to mean?”

“Look for her next time.”

Raleigh snorts. “What’s your deal? You want me to hook up with her behind the bar like a sleazebag? Are you into that?”

Yancy flushes. “Come on. She’d be jumping your ass behind the bar.” He coughs. “Think she’d give you a blowjob?”

“Yance! C’mon.” Raleigh’s whine only goads Yancy on.

“You’re right, that’s pretty crude of me. What do you think she’s into?”

Raleigh’s quiet, looking out the window, turned in his seat toward it a bit, legs splayed and slouched. Sulking, maybe, or in a distracted stage of drunk, or maybe he thought Yancy’s question was purely rhetorical.

Well, Yancy’d like to hear, if Raleigh feels like sharing.

“You ever pick a girl up?” Raleigh mumbles.

Yancy perks up. “You mean, like...”

“... Yeah. Like, if I were a girl… I’d want to get picked up and held. Against a wall, someone big just like, hands under my thighs, feet in the air. Wrap my legs around his waist, go to town.” Raleigh’s not staring out his window anymore, he’s looking ahead, and twitching his head to the side a little to glance at Yancy. Yancy, who feels like they just went from zero to sixty miles an hour.

“You think about that?” Yancy’s voice sounds strange, choked to his ears.

“Yeah. Fuck, Yance.” Raleigh pushes the heel of his palm on his lap. “You’re the worst.”

“You can’t blame me if you’re thinking about -”

“ - fucking? About that really nice kiss and how I want a, I want -” Raleigh puts a hand over his mouth, to press and consider the feel. Yancy’s stomach is burning with jealousy.

“You sound like a teenager, Rals.”

“Screw you, I am a teenager. Who’s never had his dick sucked. Thanks a lot.”

“What?” Yancy gulps. “How’s this my -”

“You’ve been fucking with me all night, first Nina kissing me, now you want me to talk about sex, and -”

“That kiss is not my fault!”

“Maybe not, but you kept trying to make it look like I was into her and - and now I’m stuck thinking about blowjobs and - yeah.” He swallows, coughs. “You owe me, man.”

Yancy feels himself go hot from head to toe. “What?” he says, throat dry after drinking. Suddenly the car feels very small. “Just because you didn’t hook up, means I failed you as a wingman and you gotta take it out on me?”

“I told you, I don’t want that, I - “ Raleigh stops, then mumbles, “Whatever.” He’s looking at Yancy again, his sole audience, and suddenly Yancy feels like he’s dropped the reins on this conversation and lost all control.

Maybe he had one too many drinks. He focuses hard on the road and tries not to think about the post-drift urge to put hands on his brother.

At the bar, nobody would have thought that the backslapping and squeezing into booths and casual touch was unusual, not for brothers, not for drift pilots, not for them. But now it’s just them in the truck, headed back, and it’s been twenty minutes. Now it’s just Raleigh squirming in his seat and Yancy as his sole audience, with the emotional feedback building between them in the solitude.

-

Despite the hour, despite their sim drop, despite how they felt after a few hours of partying, Yancy is wide awake when they get back to base.

He grabs Raleigh hard on the shoulder to shut him up as they enter the barracks hall - it might be an off-night for them, but not for everyone else. Raleigh tries to shake him off but Yancy won’t let him - he won’t stop yammering, and maybe he had a bit more to drink than Yancy thought.

Yancy claps a hand on Raleigh’s mouth and pivots so that he’s walking backwards in front of his brother. Facing him, he grabbing the back of Raleigh’s neck to hold his attention. Yancy shakes him a little by it. “You gotta calm the fuck down, bro. I know we both wanna be able to sleep tonight.” It’s hard to calm down, and it’s hard to walk like this, but they’re so synced up, Yancy ends up practically dancing with Raleigh till he’s backed up against their door.

Raleigh breathes on his hand and his eyes are wide. Yancy can see all the bitching and moaning his kid brother would be doing right now just in his expression. But Raleigh mumbles that he gives in, and Yancy lets him go. He gets his key to unlock, and then they stumble inside, running into each other as if trying to occupy the same space.

Yancy wants to blame their weird moods on Raleigh, but he knows that’s only half of it. The high of the day is wearing off and they are left with only each other and no distractions from the drift hangover, pulling them in like undertow.

It’s the drift hangover that lets Yancy know just how Raleigh is half-hard in his jeans, that he’s been aching to unbutton when they get back. A week ago, it would’ve been reasonable to expect Raleigh to shower and jerk off in private, and then they could even sleep in the same bed without this night getting even more complicated. But now...

Raleigh’s spitting in the sink, jeans undone but still hanging on his hips. Still too buzzed to feel the cold, he’s taken his sweater off, but his body still responds: Yancy can see him all kinds of aroused, nipples peaking under his undershirt, the swell of his dick under his waistband.

“You mind?” Raleigh says without turning his head. Yancy’s ready to leave him to it, to close the door between them, but he remembers the way Raleigh swallowed the conversation on their way back from the bar. The way he shoulders Yancy’s appeals to normalcy like rejection. He’s going to keep taking that hurt, and Yancy can’t do that to him anymore. It’s all or nothing. That’s the drift.

So he doesn’t leave.

“Yancy,” Raleigh says, then Raleigh turns and looks at him, and he keeps looking. Yancy gets the feeling of the breath being sucked out of the room.

Yancy’s seen himself through Raleigh’s eyes. He tries to remember how to make that shift to picture himself now: he’s leaning against the door frame in his own underthings, arms crossed, eyes lazily half-lidded. Appraising. That’s the word.

He thinks, don’t move. They are deer in each others’ headlights.

Yancy breaks the silence first. “Sorry,” he says, looking down, turning away. But when Yancy walks back through their room and pours himself a glass of water, he hears Raleigh’s movement, hears his exhale of breath as he stops in the doorway where Yancy just was.

“You want something?” Yancy asks, turning around.

Raleigh leans there, thumbs hooked in his pockets sagging low, the v of his open fly framing his bulge. Holy shit, Yancy’s brain supplies. He blinks heavily, opens his mouth but doesn’t know what to say.

“You offering?” Raleigh asks, and shit, he’s quicker at knowing what Yancy’s thinking than Yancy himself anymore.

It’s not that they don’t know, it’s just not having the words.

Working his mouth like a fish for an embarrassingly long few seconds, Yancy finally says, “Yeah, I am.” God, he wants, he wants to. “C’mere,” and his voice comes out low. His feet carry him over to Raleigh. “I owe you one, right?” Reaching out -

“You know I - I didn’t mean - ah,” Raleigh hisses, as Yancy hooks his fingers over the waist of Raleigh’s loose jeans and briefs, sliding against the hot skin of his belly. Without a tug Raleigh stumbles closer, proximity pulling them close together like they have been all night.

“Yeah, I know,” Yancy breathes hot against Raleigh’s neck, and Raleigh clings to Yancy’s shoulders and makes a muffled noise when Yancy’s mouth meets his skin. They push-pull dance to the edge of the bunk, Yancy ending up on his knees while Raleigh stands there kind of gaping and so turned on he can barely keep up.

But they’re there, right together. Yancy can feel the charge and pull of their connection on his skin, it’s electric. He takes Raleigh’s jeans by the waist and pulls, slow, tugging them down to his knees, takes the elastic of Raleigh’s shorts where the head of Raleigh’s dick is pushing out the material underneath - but Raleigh gets there first, pushing his shorts down, then not seeming to know what to do with his hands. Yancy nudges his face towards one, and as if given permission Raleigh spreads his hand big and cool across Yancy’s jaw, the other moving behind his head, nails raking through Yancy’s scalp. Shuddering uncontrollably, Yancy slides a thumb down the shaft of Raleigh’s dick and lets it bob there in front of him as he stares up at his brother’s flushed and hectic cheeks, his wet open mouth. Yancy swallows.

“Siddown,” he says, just as Raleigh does, all in sync. Yancy’s between his legs pulling his clothes all off, and Raleigh falls back onto the bed, his bare dick rolling up onto his stomach. Yancy pushes his hands up the insides of Raleigh’s thighs to spread them wider and Raleigh groans, “Shit, Yancy, please...”

“Relax, kid,” Yancy says, even though he’s shaking too. “Okay?” A question as much as reassurance, hands open flat on top of Raleigh’s hips at the joint of his leg, thumbs stroking down toward his inner thighs, feeling his brother’s smooth skin and then the rough pubic hairs in a smooth, sliding motion. He does it till Raleigh’s hips buck up but his mouth is fucking salivating and he’s hard inside his shorts and he wonders if he was waiting all night for this.

And then Raleigh touches Yancy’s hand, and he doesn’t wonder, he knows.

Raleigh lets loose a litany of pleas that sends Yancy’s head spinning. “Yeah, yes, fuck, please touch me,” he says, stretching down to palm the side of Yancy’s face again. Into it Yancy turns, opens his mouth on, mirroring a memory, the memory they share. He licks Raleigh’s sweat-salted palm and Raleigh whines. Yancy’s reminded of how young he is - eighteen, sure, but always younger than him. Yancy’s about to give Raleigh his first blowjob, and he’d almost pause and shudder at the threshold of this, in the half-lit room. But then Raleigh says his name, and Yancy doesn’t want to refuse him anything.

He bows his head and licks up the shaft of Raleigh’s cock, smelling musk, tasting the salt of sweat. He does it again, and again, and then just as Raleigh’s starting to squirm too impatiently he opens his mouth on the head and sucks Raleigh’s dick between his lips till his whole mouth tastes like that bitter bleachy tang. He swirls his tongue around and it’s a mess, he’s never done this before. Opening his mouth wide, he takes as much of Raleigh in as he can. His teeth scrape a bit on Raleigh’s dick and Raleigh winces and so does Yancy but they don’t want to stop.

When his jaw starts to ache, Yancy pulls off and replaces his mouth with a hand as Raleigh groans. Then he moves down to mouth Raleigh's balls, sucking one onto his tongue, letting go, jerking Raleigh’s slow and tight as he gets the other in his mouth. Now Raleigh’s cock is wet with saliva and Raleigh’s precome and Yancy pushes the wet around with his tongue, with his thumb, brushing it down and over the ridged pucker of Raleigh’s asshole, making Raleigh squirm and gasp.

Raleigh’s knees sprawl open even further. “Yance,” he says, breathless, and Yancy wants to touch himself but he has to keep both his hands on Raleigh right now.

He returns his mouth to Raleigh’s dick and takes it as deep as he can, letting his hand grasp the rest of the shaft, pumping up and down with spurts of precome burning in the back of his throat. Thinking about how he wants to touch Raleigh everywhere, he fondles Raleigh’s balls and keeps brushing down over his perineum, slick with spit, and thinks -

Raleigh’s hands grab again, one landing on Yancy’s head, and Yancy pushes on, tries to take Raleigh deeper -

“Fuck, Yancy! C-c’mon, fuck -”

Wants to bury his nose in Raleigh’s curls -

“Yance, fuck, fuck, I’m -” He cries out and Yancy feels the hot spurt of come at the back of his mouth, takes it, tries to swallow the thick bitter pool of it as Raleigh’s hips jerk and more come splashes into Yancy’s mouth. Some of it spills out at the corner of his lips. He’s got it on his face, he can feel it. What must he look like to Raleigh -

He climbs up, intending to rest his face in Raleigh’s stomach, but Raleigh is sitting up, grabbing onto his arms, and he’s going to pull Yancy’s mouth to his to his even if it means getting some of his own come on his face.

“You don’t wanna-” Yancy’s suddenly muffled by Raleigh’s mouth. Kissing his brother, opening his mouth to Raleigh’s shuddering breaths, is strange, but it stokes the fire in Yancy’s belly, makes him even harder. He nearly hurts. He can’t get enough of Raleigh, not his mouth or the heat of his breath or skin; he’s scrabbling at his brother’s shoulders and it’s insane, it’s absolutely insane -

He’s nearly grinding against the edge of the mattress, nearly reaching down to finish himself off, he can hardly stand it. But Raleigh is reaching down to Yancy’s hips, running his thumbs over Yancy’s hipbones, then pressing between his legs, rubbing his dick through his briefs. His touch wrenches a whine out of Yancy’s throat. He’s so turned on he can’t even care about how messed up this is. It only makes it hotter, more forbidden, a secret only they can keep. He can’t do anything right now that isn’t going out of his mind with need.

“C’mere,” Raleigh says, and “Let me -”, drawing Yancy’s cock out of his underwear, staring at it, panting.

“You don’t -”

“Yeah I do, I want to. I need you, Yance,” and he leans down and opens his mouth hot on Yancy’s throat. “Will you let me?” Yancy lets out a noise, and Raleigh pulls his hand out of Yancy’s briefs, and his wet mouth closes, and he -

“Yes,” Yancy says, “yes, you -” and he takes Raleigh’s hand and presses it to the front of his briefs again.

Raleigh grabs Yancy’s wrists, leaving his dick poking out the top of his briefs, and pushes Yancy back with his chest flush against his, sliding down from the bed to straddle Yancy’s thighs. Raleigh’s hands on his wrists let go and move to his chest, to press on his collarbone, ground him, and Yancy can rub his thumb across Raleigh’s bottom lip and watch it smear, can think, proud and selfish, I was the last one to kiss you here, I’m the last to leave my mark on you.

Clutching, they shiver there, braced against each other, kneeling on the floor, naked skin to naked skin, breathing into whatever space remains between them. This unthinkable intimacy that is now the most real thing, the thing Yancy needed most, something no one else could understand, a part of them as much as the drift was.

But Raleigh pushes him even further, till his legs strain, till Yancy’s nearly on his back and wiggles to get his feet out from under him as Raleigh straddles his belly and pins him to the floor by his shoulders.
Yancy’s face is screwed up and Raleigh’s murmuring something to him in a cracked voice, but once his feet can get some traction on the floor, Yancy thrusts his hips upward and lets out a moan as his dick grinds against Raleigh’s ass.

“Shit,” he says, as Raleigh gasps, and he does it again. “Raleigh, please, anything -”

“Fuck me,” says Raleigh, grinding down, and Yancy comes right then and there, hips jerking, spurting hot and wet between the cheeks of Raleigh’s ass.

“Holy shit,” Yancy says, and Raleigh leans forward to grin open-mouthed on his collarbone.

-

-

-

-

-

The day after their last test drift, they’re working in near silence together on the hand of the new jaeger, yet unnamed. Usually it’s a moment of peace after the long hours in the simulator, and the weight of a single mind is like the surprise of lifting something that’s half as heavy as you thought - you overcompensate, you swing wildly. Raleigh and Yancy have found out they do best alone together to recoup.

Today, though, they’ve both got an ear out for the dinner bell. They’re about to find out which pilot team will advance to Ranger status for when this jaeger is finally ready.

So they may be acting like all is normal and fine, but the jaeger techs are leaving them alone to the basic pre-soldering steps on the plating. Only one person can fit under this piece a time, so Raleigh is watching Yancy and passing tools before Yancy even has to ask. Yancy winks and Raleigh raises his eyebrows, like, when are you going to let me at it?

It’s just them and the pleasant silence, which doesn’t feel like silence because they’re aware of every gesture, movement, inch of the other.

They switch, and then the bell rings. Yancy grabs Raleigh’s foot and Raleigh rolls out from under the rig on the creeper, while Yancy very deliberately and calmly puts their tools away.

“Damn. I don’t feel ready,” Raleigh says.

“We’re ready. C’mon,” Yancy says, zipping up the top of his jumpsuit, then reaching a hand out to pull Raleigh up.

“Hey kiddo,” Yancy says, and Raleigh’s swaying in towards him from the hand up. Yancy hesitates, then reaches out to hug him close. He kisses his brother’s forehead. “No matter what happens, this is worth it.”

Raleigh makes a show of wiping Yancy’s spit off his forehead, then says, “Everything?” his fingers at Yancy’s nape.

“Yeah. Promise.”