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The Starving Faithful

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It was supposed to be simple. A way for him to vent the secret he's carried pent-up for the last twenty three years. The thread had popped up, looking innocent enough. It'd just been another of those "post your darkest secret" sorts of things. And, since this was the internet, they were supposed to be anonymous—relatively so, anyway.

At least. As anonymous as one can be in an infinite sea of information.

Normally, Yancy would’ve ignored this particular brand of thread, usually a cry for attention by its maker. Normally, he scrolled right past them without a second thought and instead ended up looking through others that were actually more helpful, such as "how to deal with unrequited love" or "let's talk heartbreak". Normally, he wasn’t one for sharing the details of his lack of a love life. This time, though, he felt compelled to check it out. To say something, anything, if only to ease the weight in his chest by the smallest amount.

One person had posted about the abuse they'd suffered at the hands of their stepfather when they were a child. The thread of comments—almost all of which were offering condolences and support—branching from that would've been longer than his entire body if he'd printed it out. Not that he cared if he got a response, per se, but it was nice to know, in a way, that others were reading these. Maybe they could help him, he’d allowed himself to think.

The words themselves had been easy enough to write, and, when he’d hit the Post button, a pressure he hadn’t even noticed before flowed from his shoulders and out through his toes..

I first realized I was in love with my brother when I was sixteen. Eight years later, it hasn’t gotten any better. He doesn’t know.

That had been before he left for work. Now, nine mind-numbing hours later, he returns home to his apartment he shares with Raleigh. He knocks on his brother’s door to say hi—leaning in only after he gets the all clear, unable to keep from grinning at the way the kid’s contagious smile seems to split his face when Yancy asks him how his day had been—before he makes his way to the kitchen and makes them both dinner. The knocking, of course, because one time catching Raleigh with his pants down, furiously stroking himself to something on his laptop screen, had been one time too many for Yancy’s sanity; it’s not like he needed additional fuel to fan those fucking flames. While he’s busy with the stove, he hears the front door open then close, so, once he’s done, he leaves something in the oven on low for whenever Raleigh returns. A part of his mind has always lamented the fact that they never seem to do simple things like eat together nowadays, but it’s an inevitable part of the two of them growing up, he reasons.

When he fires up his laptop and opens his email, his hand pauses halfway to his mouth, steaming pasta twined about his fork, his eyes blinking several times in rapid succession.

An unknown email blinks back, followed by the subject line “I saw your post…”

His first, irrational thought is that it’s his brother, having somehow stumbled across his alternate life online and subsequently having sent a message to the dummy email linked to his account, confronting him about the post. But then he actually opens the message, and a sigh worms its way into the air from between his lips. He chews the bite of spaghetti he’d left hanging, now cold, the pasta warming in his mouth as he reads and then rereads the message. He’s not entirely sure how to respond, so he gets up and washes his dishes and leaves them in the rack beside the sink, giving himself some time to think.

It’s when he’s drying his hands off that he hears the front door open again, keys jingling, and he puts the towel back in the handle of the drawer before he wanders out towards the living room. He leans in the doorway and crosses his arms, grinning at his brother where the kid’s kicking his shoes off.

“Have a good time, Rals?”

“Yeah,” Raleigh answers, glancing up with a smile. He’s got one hand braced against the wall for balance as he kicks his sneakers off. The first one comes off fine but the second seems more unwilling, and he grunts after two failed attempts before giving up and bending over to actually untie the laces.

“Just went for a run,” He explains and rights himself, as though his running shorts and drenched shirt weren’t explanation enough. He stretches, pushing his shoulder blades together, and gives a noise of content as he relaxes and starts padding across the room—peeling his shirt off and wiping his sweaty face with what little of the cotton is still dry.

“This lit paper has me going crazy, needed to get all the loose energy—eugh” He sniffs and pulls a face. “I reek..”

He crumples up the shirt and thinks about throwing at at Yancy for a second but ultimately he decides that he’s just run a three mile loop and getting chased and most likely pounded into the ground doesn’t really sound like a super fun way to end the workout.

Pounded another way, maybe, but that’s never gonna happen.

“House smells good, though. Guess I got home right on time.” Raleigh says, moving on from that train of thought. He has and will forever praise Yancy for his incentive in the kitchen. Raleigh isn’t completely useless, but Yancy is the one with the years of dedicated sibling rearing, and that involves a great deal of cooking.

“I’m just uh, gonna shower. What’d you cook, anyway?” He asks over his shoulder as he heads for the bathroom, already tugging his shorts off.

Truth be told he didn’t just need a run to get the writing jitters out. The paper was a pain in the ass, sure, but that wasn’t really it. Truth is, he’s frustrated. Frustrated and anxious and cooped up and feeling about three sizes bigger than his skin can hold and he just can’t figure out how to shed.

There are some nights where everything feels so tight he thinks he might just burst at the seams. He hides in his room like a coward or forces himself outside to run until he can’t think straight just to get his mind off it. Just to get his mind off his brother. Just to get his mind off all the dirty, pent up fantasies he’s been grasping and rutting against for years.

He turns the shower on but leaves the bathroom door open, not waiting for Yancy’s response before yelling out over the water.

“Hey- I was thinking maybe this weekend we should go on a firework run. It’s almost the fourth and the best stuff always goes first.”

Because if there was one thing they liked doing, it was setting a bunch of explosives on fire in the middle of the road. They’ve never been particularly patriotic ,but any excuse for fireworks is a good one. Raleigh has fond memories of sparklers in their youth, faded memories that seem almost cinematic as he recalls them. Laughing and running in the twilight as a trail of bright light shoots out behind him, the sparkler in his fist branding patterns in their vision, ghost lines appearing when they blink. He remembers his mother’s laugh and the smell of a barbeque in the back yard. Look, Yancy! He’d screamed, waving the sparklers in circles until they’d gone out.

He remembers the year he got too close to a roman candle and burnt his eyebrows off.

He remembers the year their family fell to pieces and they were barely able to keep the lights on and feed themselves. Yancy had come trotting back from work with a box of sprinklers and they sat in the back yard waving them with a bittersweet glee and a bottle of whiskey they’d found stashed in the back of the pantry - the distant phantom smell of barbeque floating on the wind.

Yancy, for his part, stands in the doorway to the kitchen for a moment, trying to get his body under control. It’s bad enough living in the same damn apartment with his brother sometimes, especially on the nights he finds himself standing outside Raleigh’s door, the urge to just enter and curl up with him they way they used to as kids nearly overwhelming. But, when the kid goes and does something like that… Well…

He knows his brother is attractive. Has been quite aware of that fact since Raleigh had turned fifteen and started dating. Girls Yancy’s age would ask him just exactly how old his kid brother was, if he was available, if he thought they had a chance. Yancy had always responded the same way: “That’s my little brother you’re talking about. Don’t even think about it.”

However, even before then, he’d known. He’d always seen the spark of beauty in the kid, something so much deeper than outward appearances; a kind of light that Raleigh’d always held just beneath the surface, a gentleness and a way of looking at the world with an unending wonder that boggled Yancy’s mind. Turning fifteen and the sudden surge of hormones that had accompanied it—allowing the scrawny kid to bulk up into a suddenly-gorgeous man—had only served to make that beauty external as well as internal. There had only ever been two times in his life Yancy had seen that spark dim, and, currently, they don’t have any parents left to die or walk out on them.

It’s the reason why, even if their bastard of a father somehow does manage to find them, Yancy will never allow the man back into their lives.

He still has nightmares of that shattered look on his brother’s face, of the broken, plaintive Why’d he go Yance what did we do wrong?s that’d poured from between his brother's lips.

For the same reason, he fights his body’s reaction to the fucking delicious sight of Raleigh practically stripping in front of him—and, okay, maybe he’d chanced a look when the kid’s face had been hidden behind his soaked-through t-shirt, but who could blame him, really?—and forces his mouth to give shape to words once he thinks he’s able, hip-checking the doorframe to stand and follow his brother’s retreating back.

“I, uh,” he marshals his thoughts as he walks, the myriad of questions that’d been thrown his way piling up in his head, “I made spaghetti. Nothing fancy. Just doctored up the sauce a little, added some meat, that’s all. There’s some waiting for you in the oven whenever you get done.”

The scent of his brother’s sweaty body practically slams into him as he gets closer to the bathroom, and, fuck, that should not be as arousing as it is. He has to shake his head and physically will himself to not get hard—well, harder, because, really, there’s no way he could’ve been completely unaffected by that god damn half-striptease earlier—before he continues following. The shower starts running, the door still open, and Yancy steps just past the threshold to add, “And, uh, yeah. We can actually go on the fireworks run tonight if you’re feeling up for it? I know it’s not exactly early, but it’s not exactly late yet either, so… I guess let me know when you get out of the shower? And don’t forget to eat something, too. I’ll be in my room.”

That said, he flees from the mental image of his brother just behind the curtain, completely drenched from head to toe, water running between the muscles he knows are there, cock hanging heavy between his legs—

He has to slam his door and grip his crotch painfully hard, doubling over as the air leaves his lungs like he’d just been punched in the gut, to not fucking cream his pants at that image alone.

Jesus fuck. His brother, knowingly or not, is going to actually be the death of him.

Raleigh’s going to be out of the shower, probably sooner rather than later, and Yancy’d told him to come talk to him—though, whether the kid’ll actually do it or whether the space between them will continue to grow is anyone’s guess—so there’s no time for a quick round of jacking off. Instead, casting his eyes about for something, anything, to distract him, Yancy’s eyes land on his laptop, still open and locked on his desk. The email from earlier is still open when he plops down in his chair and enters his password, and he casts his eyes over it yet again before leaning back in his chair, sighing and running his hands over his face, pulling at the skin around his eyes.

He still doesn’t know what to say.

He settles for pulling up his real email in a new window over the forum-only dummy, looking through the twenty new messages his boss apparently feels the need to send everyone every damn day.

Seriously, the man is beyond annoying. Apparently, when a highly successful scientist is told to run experiments out of three labs instead of one, his I.Q. plummets. Yancy’s glad he’s nothing more than a tech; he’d probably shoot himself inside of a week if he were one of the poor postdocs or Ph.D. candidates. The emails from today are the usual bullshit: complaints that someone hadn’t rearranged their station exactly the way they were supposed to, a reminder that food is not allowed inside the lab despite the fact that the man is commonly seen gesticulating wildly with a doughnut in hand—one postdoc had even complained to Yancy that their culture had been contaminated by a flung piece of frosting—and a dozen or so more messages that all say, in different words, that their productivity is not high enough and that they need publishable results before the month is out.

It’s an effective distraction. So effective, in fact, that Yancy is taken by surprise when the sound of the water running through the pipes in the wall his room shares with the bathroom cuts off abruptly. He shakes himself to dispel a sudden feeling of dread that’s building in his stomach.

He should probably do something productive. Just in case Raleigh doesn’t show. With a resigned huff, he pulls up the data he’d gathered for one of his classes, and sets about trying to take measurements even when, for some reason, half their time-lapse photos seem to be out of focus.

For perhaps a few moments, he forgets everything else, losing himself in his work. It’s a nice feeling.

But nice.

It’s been a while since they have had something fun to do. If the past was anything to judge by, they would most likely go to the nearest little stand that always seemed to pop up this time or year and inspect the wares for the biggest, meanest looking balls of certain death they could find. They might stop somewhere and get a beer and that would be that.

“Ooh, spaghetti,” Raleigh answers over the water, scrubbing shampoo through his sweaty hair. “And yeah, tonight could be good. I could use a distraction, anyway.”

If Yancy says anything else he doesn’t hear it, head fully submerged under the showerhead as he washes out the soap.

Come to think of it, they haven't spent much time together at all, lately. Not that it is anyone’s fault. They have jobs, classes, friends. That’s just how it is. And maybe..considering the dark places Raleigh’s mind often wanders, it’s for the best. Places like the freckles that run up the length of his brother’s strong forearms, the glint of mischief in his eye and the gentle curve of his lower back. Those arms tugging him close, those lips devouring him, Yancy falling to his knees in the very shower Raleigh was standing in now, lips plump, a moan from his throat as he takes Raleigh into his mouth, water beating down over the both of them as his tongue lulles and bobs around his cock. Agonizingly hot and wet and so tight—

Stop it Raleigh!

He gasps and slams forward, one hand shooting out in front of him to slap the tile wall, the other around his cock, stroking furiously as he comes. Orgasm smacks him right between the eyes and for a second he’s floating. For a second he’s nothing. For a second it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. And all the evidence is washed neatly down the drain.

Shame creeps up his neck and burns his ears and he swears lightly, hanging his head for a second to collect himself. He pants lightly and whines. Finishes his shower as quickly as possible and scurries to his bedroom.

Yancy has been on his mind a lot lately. More than usual, even. He towels off and slips into a pair of clean jogging bottoms, rooting around in a pile of Probably Clean for a loose tanktop before sitting down on his bed and dragging over his laptop. He takes another moment, a breath to center himself and shake out the jelly from his spine before opening it back up.

There, waiting for him, is the same general interests forum he’d been surfing earlier in the pursuit of ignoring his lit paper for as long as possible. He refreshes and scrolls to see which threads have grown. He checks the account’s email to see if he’s gotten a reply to one of the threads he saw—C’mon Anons, Admit Your Darkest Secret—nothing. Raleigh isn’t quite sure why he did it, only that the compulsion to was overwhelming. But maybe he’s too much of a freak. Maybe it wasn’t right to contact someone over their deepest darkest secret, even if you harboured the same one.

“Stupid..” He mumbles to himself as he rereads his letter.

 

[[ To: ybananchor@jaegermail.com

From: lotterysnacks@jaegermail.com

I saw your post…

Hey, sorry to bother you. I know this is weird and probably uncomfortable, I just wanted to say that what you said..

Well, you aren’t alone.

It’s complicated and I have no idea what to do. I feel like it’s all starting to build and there’s nowhere for the pressure to go. I can’t imagine not being around him but I don’t know how much more I can take before I snap.

Do you think you’ll ever tell him?

In any case, I hope you figure it out.

If you do, maybe pass some of that wisdom back this way? ]]

 

He sounds like a psycho.

He’s sure he sounds like a psycho.

Raleigh sighs hard and flops back against his bed, hands in his hair as he growls out a noise of frustration. He’s going insane, that’s the only option. And now he’s harassing poor innocent people on the internet. What the hell is happening to him?! And what’s more, what the hell is he going to do about it.

Nothing, apparently. There is no call to action. There is so grand lightbulb moment. He rolls on his side and stares at the wall in the direction Yancy’s bedroom. The weight on his chest is overwhelming.

“What are you gonna do, huh Rals?” He asks the air quietly. This can’t go on. Logistically, moving out doesn’t make any sense, and even if it did he isn’t sure he could bring himself to do it. They’re attached at the hip and separating like that is terrifying. He could get a boyfriend, maybe. Find someone to devote all his time into and try to channel his feelings into something not completely destructive but...wouldn’t it just be a lie? Wouldn’t that be totally unfair to everyone involved? He has no interest in hurting anyone. He’s dated before and he knows it always ends up the same way. Angry and frustrated on the couch with a six pack of beer and no way to actually explain to his concerned brother what’s going on and just why it didn’t work out. It just wasn’t right can only get you so far so many times and slamming Yancy down on the couch to demonstrate why just wasn’t ever going to happen.

 

It takes him nearly an hour, but Yancy manages to finish his measurements, closing out the program he’d been using with a sigh of frustration. He’d had to toss over half their data, and he’s really not looking forward to telling his labmates that, yes, he might work as a tech in a research lab, but, no, that does not mean that he can work miracles when some dumb nineteen-year-olds don’t know how to use a fucking microscope. In a real lab, with real scientists, people actually know the difference between the fine focus and the coarse focus. He rubs at his eyes tiredly, glancing over at the clock, then turns his gaze back towards his screen. The corner of the window where his forum email is still open is peeking around the edge of his work, and he sighs for what feels like the hundredth time that day and brings the window back to the forefront of everything else.

He still can hardly believe it.

Someone like him.

Someone who wants someone they shouldn’t. Who, like him, has no idea what to do.

It’s almost as if this other person is reaching into his mind, into his very soul, and extracting the words that best define him.

And it’s that, the spirit of kinship he feels with this other human being who is literally nothing more to him than words, pixels, on a digital screen, that ultimately compels him to hit the reply button and start typing.

 

[[ To: lotterysnacks@jaegermail.com

From: ybananchor@jaegermail.com

re: I saw your post…

No, it’s fine. It’s actually comforting to know that I’m not the only one.

I know exactly what you mean. He has absolutely no idea, but I just feels like every day I have to play this stupid game of hide and seek. Except, not really, because it’s not like one of us is trying to find the other. It’s a dumb metaphor, actually. Ignore that, I guess.

The point is that I hate the way I feel like I can’t be myself around him anymore. I mean, we’re brothers. We’re supposed to be close. But… I can’t. I can’t let that happen. Because I can’t do that to him. It’s not fair. He has his whole life laid out ahead of him, and I don’t want to drag him down with me. But, even then, I hate that there’s this rift forming between us. I hate that I feel like I lose him a little bit more every day. I hope your situation is at least a little better than mine in that respect.

Tell him? Probably not. See above about not ruining his life. I want to, though. All the time. We’re both in college and rooming together for cheaper rent. At least. That’s what I tell myself, sometimes. Anyway, it’s hard, especially when things come up where it’s obvious that he only trusts me because I’m his brother. You don’t walk around half-naked around people you’re trying to impress or might have feelings for, after all. And when he does that, I just… I want to grab him and hold him and tell him everything—all of it—so badly that it hurts. You know what I mean? It happens all the time and it’s torture.

God, I’m sorry, you probably think I’m crazy or something. I promise I’m not.

Unless, of course, I actually am, in which case I’d be convinced I wasn’t.

Alright. I’m going to cut this off here before I make a complete idiot of myself. My brother… well. I need to go help him with something, anyway, so I suppose this is as good a place to end as any.

Talk to you soon. Maybe. If I haven’t completely scared you off by now.]]

 

He hits send before he can think about it, closing the browser and then the screen on his laptop just to make sure he doesn’t do anything else he might regret later. He rubs between his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose to try and dispel the feeling that he might’ve just made a huge mistake, and gets to his feet, grabbing his keys from his desk as he stands.

He knocks on Raleigh’s door, speaking without waiting for a response.

“Hey, kid, y’wanna go get those fireworks now?” He jingles the keys around his finger. “I can drive if you’d like.”

“Uhhhhhyeah? Sure.” Comes the response a moment later. He sounds distracted and it could be the truth as he is currently hunched over his computer reading something.

The person from the forum wrote back. He wasn’t expecting it, not really, but he’d been hoping they would. If only just to see what they had to say on the matter. He reads it once and is mostly shocked, it’s like every single line is pulled right out of his head. He reads it again to make sure he didn’t misunderstand but- nope- he’s not seeing things.

Raleigh would reply but then Yancy is at the door talking about fireworks and oh- right. Yeah.

“Just lemme put my pants on.” He supplies and scans the email once more before slamming it shut and scrambling for outside clothes. His mind is racing, his heart is in his throat. He can’t believe this is actually happening. Of all the totally random things to happen, out of all the insane, ludacris things to do..

He can barely think and stumbles over a heap of clothes on the floor. Mental note, clean his room later. Man, he’s not going to be able to concentrate at all with his mind racing like this.

Talk to you soon. Maybe. If I haven’t completely scared you off by now

As is that would scare Raleigh off. As if finally, finally meeting someone who gets it would make him run for the hills.

There’s a small part of him that starts to scream when he opens his bedroom door and gives a light smile, easing out into the hall. The part of him that blushes whenever Yancy stands too close or they brush past each other in a way that should really just be basic, tactile touching. People touch, it’s not supposed to be a big thing, but the more he tries to make it Not A Thing the more it becomes one and then Raleigh can’t see any other choice but to run for both their sakes.

What a mess.

But this person… This person knows exactly what he’s dealing with. They’re even both in college and living with their brother. He has so many questions. Or… at least.. Shit, he doesn’t know. He just wants to talk. He just wants one person he can talk to any not have to worry about. Hey, I’m in love with my brother and it’s really not okay. One person he can say that to and won’t call the police. Just—he can’t believe it.

“Sure, you drive.” He says and shrugs on his jacket and shoes by the door. “We definitely need to check out the guy we got the screaming rockets from last year.” Raleigh grins and sticks his hands in his pockets. “Those were awesome.”

“Yeah, sure, awesome.” Yancy can’t help the wry note in his words as he reaches past his brother to get his own jacket from the rack by the door, because, though it’s almost July, it’s been fucking cold—unseasonably so—the past few days. The near-contact has a thread of warmth and arousal trailing under his skin that makes him pull back in alarm even as his body tries to surge forward, to seek out more. He has to blink forcefully once, twice, before he picks up the thread of his own thoughts again.

“If, uh,” damnit, “if by awesome you mean it almost got the fuckin’ cops called on us because of the noise complaints when you shot off three at once, then yeah: pretty fuckin’ awesome, bro.”

When Raleigh splutters at him—probably to defend himself, Yancy’s sure—he laughs and briefly grips his brother’s shoulder. The contact may or may not send an electric jolt up his entire arm, and he removes the offending hand perhaps a half-second faster than what would’ve otherwise seemed nonchalant. Yancy winces internally. His mask, so carefully crafted over the years, is slipping—has been for several months now. If he’s truly honest with himself, it’s part of the reason he’d felt the need to tell someone about it. And, in a way, he’d hoped that having it out there would, maybe, alleviate the pressure, would somehow make it easier, would help him to not lose his brother. Because, if Raleigh finds out—if Raleigh ever finds out—he knows that he can kiss his relationship—hell, any relationship—with his brother goodbye.

And that’s not an option.

At the same time, though, he refuses to not be a brother to Raleigh. Which is why, as his fingertips leave the doubly-covered shoulder, he adds, “But, either way, yeah, if you promise to be good, we’ll stop by his place.” A smirk tugs at the corners of his mouth as his lips pull away from his teeth. “So hop to it, brat. We’ve got shopping to do.”

Yancy strides out the door and down the hallway, calling, “Don’t forget to lock our shit up!” over his shoulder before exiting their building, the evening air puffing white with his exhales despite the season. He expects his brother to follow. He’s not disappointed.

Raleigh tromps up to the car with all the exuberance of a puppy. Yancy expects nothing less from the kid, and it’s part of what he loves about him: the unswaying happiness and optimism that he seems to carry around with him at all times. The same happiness that’d gotten them both through Mom’s death and Dad leaving them, though he’s sure that Raleigh’s convinced what he perceived to be Yancy’s unending strength is the reason they got through it all. In truth, though, he’d drawn that strength from Raleigh. It’s something he’s never told anyone. Maybe his new friend will understand.

A shiver works its way up his spine, and Yancy realizes that he’s been staring at the car door for perhaps too long. He slides the key home, opens his door, then climbs in and reaches across to unlock Raleigh’s door before starting the car.

Of course, as soon as the kid sits down, his stomach growls. Loudly. Very loudly. Brows scrunch themselves together as Yancy huffs in exasperation.

He knows he acts like an overbearing parent sometimes, but the truth is that, first and foremost, he feels responsible for Raleigh. Sure, the kid’s always been willful and strong-headed and, above all, Yancy’s always tried to make sure that he and Raleigh are equals as brothers and he just so happens to have been the only one to feed and clothe them until Raleigh turned eighteen, but…

There’s still—will probably always be—a part of him that has to coddle the kid, has to make sure he’s okay.

He doesn’t know what that says about the fact that he’s also in love with his brother. He’s not quite sure he wants to know, either. Again, more conversation fodder for his new potential friend.

“Damnit, kiddo,” his words flow past his lips, soft, mostly flat and breathy, “I thought I told you to eat something. What the hell? Did you seriously just… not?”

“Oh—” He looks down and pokes at his stomach, brows furrowed for a moment before looking back up at his brother. “I uh. Guess I forgot?”

Raleigh shifts a bit in his seat and braces himself for the lecture he’s sure will follow, quickly opening his mouth to combat it before Yancy can even go there. “I didn’t mean to. I got in the shower and did some stuff online and now we’re here.”

Food seems, for whatever reason, to always be a point of conflict for them. When they were little and Raleigh was picky, when they were slightly less little but alone and struggling to afford groceries, when Raleigh started modeling part time to pay for school and picked up the bad habit of replacing meals with running and diet coke. It’s not like he does it on purpose. He likes food and he likes Yancy’s food and God knows his brother has always, always provided it without fail, but it’s always been a little difficult.

But damn…now that Yancy has said something he realizes just how hungry he is and wilts, longing for his forgotten spaghetti as they hit the open road. He supposes he could wait until they get back home again but they’re going out for fun, so rushing on account of food seems stupid.

He can hear it now, Yancy will look over and roll his eyes and ask what am I gonna do with you, kid? The answer to which Raleigh already has at hand.

“We could stop somewhere? Ah, yeah, Yance—let’s get curly fries!”

The answer to all of life’s problems is curly fries and you can’t convince him otherwise. Maybe eating something will shake him from the anxious daze he’s in because of that email. Put his blood sugar back in the right spot or whatever. Stop his shoulder from tingling from where Yancy’s hand was and then quickly taken away. That...now that he thinks about...that had been weird. Maybe he’d shocked him or something. But it had been good Yancy didn’t linger or it would have pulled a small whine from his lips and an ache to his groin and—stop it. Stop it, fucking stop it!

Yancy’s eyes roll so hard he’s left momentarily wondering if he’d actually pulled something, huffing lightly. The memory from almost two years ago, driving past that damn billboard—an underwear ad or something of the like—and seeing his baby brother’s mostly-naked body plastered across it for all the world to see had ended up being the second biggest shock of that particular day. Not that he hadn’t appreciated the view—because, Jesus, he’d known the kid was attractive, but he hadn’t known that Raleigh could look like that—but it’d still played hell with his self-control and made it impossible to focus the entire day. He’d almost contaminated the work one of their master’s student’s thesis was riding on, only stopped at the last second when he’d realized that, no, that was a waste container, not a stock solution.

However, the biggest surprise of the day had been when he’d gotten home. Just in time to catch Raleigh climbing out of the shower, towel wrapped around his waist, wide smile at the ready to greet him home after a day of classes and work.

The words readying themselves on Yancy’s tongue had died at the fucking cadaverous way the kid’s ribs had stuck out beneath his skin, the way his arms holding up the towel had been little more than skin, bones, and too-lean muscle. He remembers the way he’d made a noise that even he would describe as wounded. How he’d wrapped a confused-looking Raleigh in his embrace. How he’d been able to feel the nubs of the kid’s spine. The single thought that’d reverberated, resonated, throughout his skull: ‘What did I do wrong? How did I not notice?

He remembers the talk they had afterward, self-recriminations ringing silent in his ears the entire time.

The memory attempts to cloud his eyes, and he has to forcefully pull himself out of it, to keep himself from falling into the past, and focus on driving.

“Kid, we talked about this,” there’s more emotion in his voice than he’d intended to let through, but even he can’t tell if it’s anger, worry, or something softer that’s coloring his words. “You can’t miss meals. Not after… before, alright? We’ll get you some curly fries, sure, but only after you eat something real. ‘S a burger sound alright? We can pick one up when we get you your fries.”

His mouth quirks upward in a smirk as a thought invades, his mind supplying words to try and break the tension climbing up his neck as he taps a senseless rhythm against the steering wheel.

“Your precious twirly taters.”

He may or may not snort under his breath after the last word, catching his bottom lip between his teeth.

Raleigh furrows his brow and sets his jaw the way he always does when he prepares to defend himself. He wasn’t trying to skip meals, he’d just forgotten. And he says as much, sinking down into his seat a little.

“Yeah, burger is good.” A pause. “You know I just forgot. I woulda remembered, I was just reading something. It’s not like-” Like he was forgetting to take care of himself again. “ I’m not.”

Yancy had taken it as a personal failure and Raleigh was horrified when his brother had finally confronted him about it. He hadn’t realized.

A sigh.

“I know, Rals,” guilt worms its way into Yancy’s gut at the expression he can see on his brother’s face; he can practically read the defensive anger there. He forces his eyes back to the road, passing someone going ten under the speed limit before he continues speaking. “I know you didn’t mean for—yeah. And I believe you, okay?” He looks away from the road for a moment to send his brother an imploring glance. “I believe you, I really do. I just… I get worried about you sometimes. Besides, It’s my job as your brother,” the word feels like it carries some special sort of emphasis in his mind, though he tries to keep it as neutral and natural-sounding as possible, “to worry about you.”

A quiet laugh to himself as he pulls into the lot of their favorite diner, sliding his Toyota into a pick-up spot before turning towards Raleigh in the seat, “Line one of the job description: keep idiot brothers from doing stupid shit. Now, go,” he props himself up awkwardly in his seat, pulling out his wallet and counting out a few bills, “get your greasy curly fries that I slaved over a hot engine to get for you. And a burger. And, I dunno, whatever the pie of the day is, I guess? For me? And, uh, I guess for yourself, too, if you want?”

“Full time job, bro.” Raleigh answers. He doesn’t mind poking a little fun at himself. Especially when it is very, very true. He would be totally lost without his brother and he knows it.

He takes mental stock of the order and nods, taking the money, unbuckling and letting himself out of the car.

“Yep, sure. Hang tight.” And then he’s jogging inside to charm the waitress into making that an extra big curly fries at no extra cost and oh—wow—those pieces are pie are huge. Thank you!

It never hurts to be nice and the Beckets are there frequently. Enough to be on a first name basis with the hostess. He remembers idly as he waits for the order that there used to be days when they didn’t even look at restaurants because it was just too much money. Even a little diner like this one that wasn’t after anyone’s wallet. The memory wells up in his chest but he lets it out with a long, slow breath and silently thanks whatever lucky stars they have that those dark times have long since passed. These days he can get five hundred dollars for a day’s work. His last big job was a couple grand and his face all over the city, maybe even the nation. Seeing yourself thirty feet tall on a billboard will never get Not Weird, but it isn’t something he is going to complain about. The work isn’t always frequent but with Yancy’s stable employment and his more infrequent but well paying side work they aren’t doing too badly. Thank God. He takes one of the little boiled sweets from the bowl next to the register and twists the cellophane between his fingers, unwrapping and rewrapping it as he waits before giving in and popping the little blue sugar drop into his mouth to clack behind his teeth.

Shit, he hadn’t meant to forget dinner. He would have gotten there eventually but he was just so worked up and distracted by that email he had sent that he didn’t even think about it. Yancy probably thought he was being dumb again. He’d have to make more of an effort. Maybe consciously stand next to him and eat so he wouldn’t worry so much. Raleigh knows the whole modeling thing makes Yancy nervous and, yes, when Raleigh had first started maybe he had forgotten to take care of himself a little bit, but he’d honestly had no idea he had lost that much weight. He felt fine and all his feedback from work had been really positive, and between all the makeup and photoshop its hard to gauge what you look like when the final product is released. He had known he wasn’t exactly big but he hadn’t thought he was so small, either. No one had said anything until months later Yancy had nearly had a heart attack. Stopped him in the hall and gathered him up and asked what he’d done to himself. The look on Yancy’s face had been little short of heartbreak and it took him literally putting Raleigh on a scale and standing next to him in the mirror to point out just what was wrong with this picture. And the revelation had been like a smack in the face.

After that he made more of an effort to be healthy. He felt better, It made Yancy happy and it didn’t seem to be impacting work any, so it was all good. He was looking for the magic point of balance and seemed to be getting there these days. He checked his phone to see the time, fiddled about online, checked his email and the forum email as well to re-read the reply he’d gotten just prior to their leaving the house. The person seemed to think that opening up would scare him off. And maybe it was a little scary in the idea that admitting to anything made it real outside the confines of his own body. There was proof somewhere that he couldn’t erase. Another human being out there that knew his deep, dark, dirty secret and now there was nothing he could do about it...but surely that could also be a freedom for sorts? Maybe opening up would relieve some of the pressure building in his body. Maybe it would keep him from wanting to scream and thrash his room to pieces. Maybe it would keep him from feeling like he was going to spontaneously combust every five minutes.

Because all, all he wants in the whole world is for Yancy to know and feel the same way. And he can’t have it. He can never have it. If he ever found out he’d just get this...look on his face. That same look when he realized Raleigh was too skinny. That look that says my brother is sick and it’s my fault. He’d take it all onto his shoulders and harbour it like a cross. Yancy would say no, kiddo, it’s not you, I did this to you somehow. I was too close, I kept you too close. And Raleigh would scream and rail against him because it wasn’t true! There was nothing Yancy could have ever done to him that would hurt him. This wasn’t- it didn’t have to be a bad thing. To cut it short, it would be a mess. And Raleigh would be responsible for destroying the only family he has left. And he won’t- can’t do it. Not to Yancy. Never to Yancy.

He sighs and waits and twiddles his thumbs until the his order is up and he pays and thanks them, leaves with a smile and a wink and makes back for the car.

“Is chocolate mousse a pie?” He asks, getting back into the car and wrestling the bag into his lap so he can drop the two styrofoam take out cups of pepsi into the holders in the center console, the smell of fresh cooked fries and bacon cheeseburger filling the space.

“Because technically I don’t think it is.”

Yancy starts from where he’d been staring at his phone. As soon as Raleigh had shut the door to get food, he’d pulled out his phone, synced up his forum email in the mail app, and stared at the sent messages folder—specifically his reply to the other person. He’d long since given up trying to find meaning in their email itself, as his own—ybananchor—was practically nonsensical unless someone actually knew that it was him. So, knowing that he knew, well, nothing about this other person other than that they loved their brother, conceivably in the same way he did, he had been tossing the idea around in his head of sending another reply, one that would, hopefully, mend some of the damage he’d probably done with his first message. The fact that there hadn’t been an answer yet only made the sick feeling in his stomach churn that much more intensely.

Then again, he didn’t know what he’d been expecting. He’d sent his reply off less than an hour ago. He didn’t really expect the other guy—or girl, he honestly wasn’t sure; yet another fact on the ‘unknown’ pile—to answer that promptly. Hell, maybe it meant that they hadn’t read it yet, so he could still somehow maybe not come off as a complete psychopath.

His mind made up, he’d written up a new reply.

 

[[ To: lotterysnacks@jaegermail.com

From: ybananchor@jaegermail.com

re: I saw your post…

Sorry about my last message, if I came on too strong. You don’t have to share anything about yourself if you don’t want to. I’ve just never really had anyone to talk to about all this before and… I don’t know, I guess I’m not sure what the protocol is for something like this. It’s not exactly something I can just bring up with my friends (if I had any), so I don’t really have any practice talking about it. Hell, I don’t even have much practice thinking about it.

I guess what I’m trying to say, what I should’ve said before, is thank you. Even if you don’t answer (and I wouldn’t blame you), at least I don’t feel as alone in this as I did.]]

 

Raleigh had opened the door right as Yancy’s thumb had descended on the send button, his eyes watching intently as the small line at the top fills to indicate his message has been sent successfully. Once done, he drops the device back into the well formed by the handle in his door and turns to face his brother, trying to feign nonchalance as he accepts the small takeout container thrust his way. Flipping it open, he can’t help the grin that breaks out on his face as he looks back up, catching his brother’s eye. He wants it to be awkward, some part of his mind is telling him that it is awkward, but all he can do is laugh at the open expression he finds there.

“Yeah, kid, it counts,” he feels his cheeks tighten as his lips pull back from his teeth, eyes being forced incrementally shut as he lets out a whuffing chuckle. “ ‘S called chocolate pie. Didn’t know they made it here, though. Guess we’ve just gotten lucky—or, unlucky, I guess. ‘F you don’t want your piece after you finish eating,” the words ring slightly to his own ears with the emphasis he tries to put on them, “then I’ll take it.”

As he unwraps his plastic fork and stabs at the wobbling confection, making sure to get some of the dollop of whipped cream decorating the top of the over-large slice, he watches Raleigh unfold the foil wrapping from his burger and take a bite. The kid’s soft groans and moans of happiness are music to his ears. They also make his pants suddenly feel three sizes too small. He shuts the to-go box of pie and places it on his lap, chewing idly, letting the sweetness flow across his tongue, and starts the car, starting when he glances at the clock.

“Well, I guess you can just continue to… enjoy that burger, kiddo,” he forces himself to laugh, though, really, it’s not that much of an effort: as much of a struggle as it is to not moan along with the kid, it’s also genuinely funny how much Raleigh enjoys food sometimes, “and I will refrain from savoring my delicious pie to drive us to the fireworks place.”

Yancy tosses his head back letting out a fake, breathy sigh, fighting the urge to smile even wider than he already is when the engine turns over; it’s seriously unfair just how happy his brother cam make him sometimes simply by virtue of existing. “Alas, it is a sacrifice, but one I shall willingly endure. Unless, no,” he pauses for dramatic effect, “you wouldn’t… be willing to feed your poor manservant... would you?”

“Nngggh,” Comes the reply as Raleigh takes another big bite, trying to ignore the idea of Yancy as his manservant. “I’m gonna make love to this burger..” It was like he couldn’t get it into his mouth fast enough and he would miss it once he had. Maybe he should have ordered two. With his free hand he reaches into the bag for fries and happily crams them into his mouth as well. Heaven. This is heaven.

Another bite, another moan and he finally registers Yancy’s request, opening his eyes and looking over. Without thinking he reaches back in the bag and offers a curly fry. It’s a good one, the coveted spiral fry, but anything for his brother. Which is why he presses it to Yancy’s lips without hesitation.

And then he regrets it immediately when Yancy’s lips brush the tips of his fingers and he audibly gasps, trying to ignore the shiver and spark of electricity that sparks down his arm, quickly shoving the last few bites of burger into his mouth in an attempt to hide it.

This is getting fucking ridiculous.

But Yancy asked and though it feels almost dirty and selfish to agree, he does. Swallowing hard. “You want pie or fries?” Or me. Fuck. Shit, fuck.

It's almost mesmerizing the way Raleigh practically inhales his burger, mouth stretching wide to fit as much of it as possible. Yancy’s mind may or may not take advantage of the opportunity to wonder how those lips would feel, how they would look, wrapped around his dick, how it would feel to have the muscles of Raleigh's throat swallowing down all he has to offer—

No.

He can't think about that. Won't let himself think about that. Besides, he has driving to concentrate on. Right. Because that's the most important reason.

But then Raleigh's fingers are at his mouth, one of his curly fries pushing past Yancy's lips. Yancy accepts it, and the distraction the hot, oily spiral offers. However, the distraction takes on a decidedly different tone when those same fingers actually brush against his the skin of his lips, and the only thing he can feel is a sensation akin to as if his entire face had been electrified, the tingling centering around his mouth. Vaguely, he’s aware of chewing, swallowing, licking his lips to savor the flavor of the grease and salt and—

It takes every ounce of willpower Yancy possesses to not drive them off the road when he realizes that the taste of his brother’s skin is mixed in with the taste of fried food. It sends a wave of want through him, and it’s only through years of practice that Yancy keeps his entire body steady, his breathing unchanged. His focus narrows to the road for a moment before he’s aware of Raleigh asking him a question.

“Pie for now,” his voice catches, cracks, and he has to clear his throat before he continues. “You enjoy your fries, kid. After all, I’m sure you charmed a waitress into giving you extra, so you earned ‘em.”

And pie will keep his brother’s fingers away from his mouth. Because Yancy’s not convinced he could restrain himself from sucking the digits between his lips if given half a chance, the taste that is purely Raleigh still exploding on his taste buds. His tongue slips from between his teeth to make a circular sweeping motion before he can stop it, chasing any remnants it can find.

“Besides, we’re almost there,” he adds when he spots signs advertising the fireworks tents they’re heading for, telling them they’re just another mile down the road. He glances over at Raleigh to see that his brother has finished his burger—christ, what is he, a vacuum?—and allows himself to grin. “Go on and feed me before all the whipped cream melts.”

The thought that the box is in his crotch, and that he’d put it there to hide the fact that he’s still half-hard, flashes in his mind like an exploding neon sign. He wants to scream at himself, to take back what he’d said, but he can’t think of a way to do it that wouldn’t make him seem like a lunatic. All he can do is hope that his brother might feed him from his own box instead of the one currently nestled between Yancy’s thighs.

Then again, since when has the universe ever been that nice to him?

So he does the only thing he can: steels himself for the consequences of his own idiocy, mind scrambling for an excuse—any excuse, anything but the truth—in case Raleigh catches sight of his… predicament.

“Mmhm.” Comes Raleigh’s response, attention fixated on Yancy’s lips rather than the words coming out of them.

Oh—right. Right, the pie. He clears his throat and shakes his head a little, reaching, of course, for the pie in his brother’s lap.

Now it could be that Raleigh just isn’t paying attention, or it could be a small miracle or the universe finally saying Hey Yancy, guess what, you’re catching a break today, but Raleigh doesn’t notice his brother’s semi. His attention is on the box and then, subsequently, the contents of the box. If he were after a good old fashion crotch oogle there were better places to get one. For now, He is happy to pick up where Yancy had left off and lift a bite of pie for him to eat.

He can’t resist the little airplane noise he makes in the process, flashing a smile to combat the echoing need threatening to consume him.

That’s right, he thinks, open up. Open up good and wide for me.

There are so many other things that thought could apply to right now and none of them were remotely alright. Raleigh realized there was a darkness in him from a very early age, but he has yet to figure out just what he should do about it. It is moments like these, nights like these, that have him ready to jump off a cliff. He’ll ride it out like he always does, but it would be a lie if he didn’t just kind of want to give up and go home and obsessively email his newest acquaintance.

Yancy makes a pleased humming sound around the pie Raleigh presents him, still laughing around the mouthful at the sounds Raleigh’d made while feeding him. Despite his laughter—or perhaps because of it—his brother continues making childish noises while spoonfeeding him pie. Yancy actually laughs aloud at one point, nearly losing the mouthful of chocolate confection he’d been about to swallow.

For that one, small, glorious moment, he doesn’t worry. He doesn’t think about his now-deflated half-boner, or the way Raleigh’s face is shining with a kind of happiness that makes his heart want to beat out of his chest. He doesn’t think about the fact that every time his mind strays to thoughts of his brother, his stomach does nervous, half-terrified somersaults. He doesn’t think about how good his brother looks even with the added layer of his jacket, or the no-longer-so-mental image he’d gleaned of that one interruption, long ago, as it tries to interrupt his thoughts.

Instead, Yancy allows himself to bask in the warmth, in the happiness, of being near Raleigh. And, for a moment, things feel normal, right, with the two of them in that car, laughing together, two boxes of pie open between them once Yancy reminds Raleigh to eat his own slice. It’s almost as if the mounting tension, the creeping, inexorable explosion, that’s crawling towards them doesn’t exist. Hell, he doesn’t even allow himself to think about the fact that they’re only using one fork between them. Only the sparkling, soaring depths of his brother’s gaze.

The last trace of chocolatey goodness is sliding down his throat just as he pulls into the lot, finding a spot and parking the car. As he steps out, he props an arm on top of his open door and grunts.

“Huh. Looks like a bigger turnout than last year. Three tents instead of one.”

He turns a mischievous look on his brother.

“What do you say we go pick some shit out, eh kid?”

“Oh hell yes!”