It's ten AM and you're still basically asleep, totally wiped from that gig last night, when your little brother staggers into the room. You know right away something's off, something's really wrong, you know it even before you hear his suppressed hiccuping sobs or see his pigeon toed stance.
Or the blood down his front.
Sometimes the little guy likes to wear your shirts to bed. You're pretty sure it's because those constant nightmares still scare the hell out of him but he decided twelve's way too old to go crawling into bed with your big bro, and hell, it probably is. You can't lie, though. If he crawled in there with you all shaky and tense and cold sweat, you'd indulge him. Nothing would make you turn that away, not if he was twenty.
The white polo hangs on him like a dress, and now it's red to the hem and blood is running down his thighs. He looks up at you, shades off and he's trying to hide it but he's terrified and holy shit so are you.
You might have been glued to the futon a moment ago but you're wide awake and at his side in half a second.
“Shit, Dave... what happened?” you reach out for him, so worried, and he just shakes his head, choking on another tiny sob. “Where are you bleeding from, lil man? You gotta show me, okay?” you're trying to keep calm but that's a damn decent amount of blood and you haven't a clue what could have caused it during the night. A drop falls on his foot and he can't control a racking gasp that makes his back heave, but he's just shaking his head again and goddammit why won't he talk to you.
You've had enough and you scoop him up and carry him to the bathroom, dragging down the big first aid kit and swinging it open with practiced ease. You grab the hem of the shirt even as he get noticeably more upset and tries to knock your hands away. “I've gotta see,” you say firmly, putting down the foot of authority before you pull the shirt right up to his ribcage.
There's not a mark on him. His stomach and hips and ribs are all unmarked but for one or two old and healing scratches.
There's blood in the curls he's growing down there.
You want to punch yourself in the face for being so chronically, painfully stupid.
“Get this thing off you and sit your ass on the can,” you say, with enough softness to keep him from freaking out but enough authority that he'll listen. He does, his shoulders shaking a little, and you wet a towel and wish like anything you had something you could give him to stop him from looking so goddamn ashamed. You want to at least tell him everything is okay, shush him and wipe his tears like he's a scared little kid again, but there's that barrier of cool and masculinity that's preventing that kind of thing. You know it'd just make him feel worse.
So you crouch down in front of him and just clean him off, clinically wiping all the mess away with the damp towel. It doesn't once cross your mind that this is a bit gross or hey your twelve year old brother is naked and you're touching him. All you know is that Dave really needs you, and that's the only thing there's room for in your head right now. You get every smudge off his legs, then take his hands and wipe them with a clean part of the towel, and you're still kicking yourself for being so stupid.
You should have told him about this.
You know why you didn't. It didn't take a genius to realize that Dave flipped right the fuck out as soon as you mentioned something even a little bit female.
You kind of have to tell him now.
“Hey,” you sit yourself back against the opposite wall, facing him. He gives you a quick, scared glance under his bangs with red bloodshot eyes, and you take that to be a go-ahead. “This is just a thing that people with vaginas do, okay? I shoulda told you about it, probably,” you sigh. “You ain't dyin, okay? It's called a period and it happens every month and it's just gonna make you a lil bit cranky.”
“Every. Month,” his voice is quiet but dangerous, and goddamn you don't care how old he is he's sleeping with you until you're positive he isn't going to go nuts on himself over this.
Once was enough – too much – for the rest of your entire life.
“Dave, keep it chill,” you say, and his mouth twists and he looks like he might explode at you. You wonder if you should push him into doing it. You taking his limp, overemotional punches is far better than the alternative if he keeps it all locked inside and directed at himself. “Come on, lil man. I know y'can out-chill the best, I seen it happen.”
Something in your words catches him, and you see him visibly compose himself, slip his eyes closed and go right into breathing exercises and you've rarely been so damn proud. Then with barely a tremble in his voice, “can I stop bein naked and get off this throne a'shame, now?”
You give him a spare smile. “Workin on it.” You cast around desperately in your mind, but this is such a fucking bachelor pad. You rarely even have chicks over, and when you do you kick them out as soon as you can. You haven't got a single thing he can use, not to mention you haven't even bought him a pair of panties since he was old enough to deny them. You're pretty sure fucking kotex or whatever they are don't work in boxers. “... I haven't got any shit you can use, lil man. I'll grab you a shirt then make a run to the store for the crap you need, okay?” You've never wanted anything less than to leave him, at least until you're sure he isn't going to do anything crazy.
“I gotta stay sittin here?” Dave asks, the calm self-loathing and shame in his voice make your stomach clench.
You sigh, and nod. “Or y'could get in the shower. That'd probably make y'feel better.” Your razor isn't in the shower, is it? Dave's never touched it before, but with the mood the kid's in you just can't be too fucking careful.
Dave damn near flashsteps into the shower, and you tell yourself to relax as you hear the water start. “... I'll be back in ten, lil man.”
You keep your word, more or less. It's closer to twenty but still damn quick. You've got three pairs of black panties that you hope like hell will fit Dave, and you went ahead and just asked a damn lady clerk what you should get for your little sib's first period. She'd picked the box of pads out for you, all the while going on about what a sweetie and a great older brother you are, but you're in no real mood to flirt. She'd been a helpful fountain of advice, though, told you some shit about hot water bottles that there was no way you would have known otherwise – even if you had to grit your teeth at every female pronoun. You itched to correct her, and sharply, but you didn't have time to explain the whole deal and in this situation it'd required some explaining.
Thankfully when you get home the shower was still running, and you can tell from the shadow and the cadence of the water that Dave is probably sitting in the corner of it. “... hey, lil bro. I got y'some stuff. Y'gonna have to wear this fuckin lady underwear, but I'll getcha a fresh pair of boxers to put on top, okay?”
There's a quiet, “aight,” when the shower stops, and you grab a towel and hold it out behind the curtain. It's only a moment more before you snag Dave his boxers and binder, disappear the bloody shirt, and close the bathroom door with a click.
You sit on the futon, ready to pretend absolutely nothing had happened; even as you're twisted up tense as hell inside. You need Dave to come out of that room okay like you've never needed anything before.
He shuffles out and sits next to you and opens his mouth to say something. It might be thanks. It probably is.
You just look at him, and shove an xbox controller in his hand.