Mercy was just finishing cleaning up after dinner when she suddenly had the feeling something was wrong with Justen, very wrong. She knew better than to teleport into her twin brother's place without warning. She tried to push her worries aside. But she couldn't shake the feeling that he needed help, and so eventually she brought herself, warily, to the kitchen of his flat. The first thing she noticed was that the dishes weren't done, but the second was the sound of hoarse, ragged crying.
She listened carefully - she didn't think it was Justen, but it was definitely male. That meant it was probably Xan, Justen didn't invite many other boys to his room. Her suspicions were confirmed when she heard him say, in a tear-choked voice, "You didn't mean it to happen..." Then it was quieter for a little while, and she wondered if maybe things were all right again - but the queasy-hot feeling in her stomach hadn't gone away, so she was pretty sure they weren't. She hesitated, knowing she couldn't just knock on the door, but unwilling to leave in case Justen needed her.
Eventually she heard Xan saying he should get cleaned up, go home. She ducked back into the kitchen in case he was coming out through the door, but he didn't emerge, and shortly she realized he had probably taken himself away the same way she had arrived. There was silence from Justen's room for a time, and then, terrifyingly, a shout and the sound of fist meeting splintering wood.
She rushed forward at that, past caring whether he would want her there or not, throwing open the door. Her brother was naked, bruised and bloodied, and the wall he had just punched was smeared with red. He whipped around at the sound of the door opening, eyes wild and fiery, but he seemed to suddenly deflate when he saw who it was. "Mercy," he whispered, and she crossed the room to take him in her arms, impervious to the waves of heat spilling off his skin.
He sank to the floor, taking her with him, shaking. "I hurt him," he managed to say at last. "I couldn't stop... I slipped." Mercy knew precisely what he meant - the demon blood they shared had overwhelmed him, at least for a little while, and while she didn't know the details of how he'd hurt Xan, she could see the bloodstains, she could imagine.
"But you got it back under control," she told him. "It's okay now."
Justen kept shaking his head. "It's not okay. He'll hate me now, or be scared of me, he won't want to see me anymore, and he'd be right to leave..."
Mercy held her brother's head against her shoulder, stroking his sweat-tangled hair. "I don't know what he'll do. Maybe you could talk to him..."
"No!" Justen exclaimed, eyes wide. "No, I can't, I can't... What if this is what I am, Mercy? What if it's only going to get worse?"
Mercy had had this conversation with him before, albeit under calmer circumstances. Justen was scared by the force of Xan's feelings for him, scared of his own feelings for Xan, and trying to force him to acknowledge them would only make him resist more strongly. She let it go, for now. "This isn't all you are. Like Mom and Dad always said, right? It's part of what made you, but it doesn't define you. You control what you're going to be, Justen."
"I can't control it, though," he choked. "I couldn't today."
"You know I haven't always been able to control it either," she reminded him firmly. "Do you think that makes me evil?"
"N-no," Justen muttered, eyes downcast.
"Then don't be harder on yourself than you would be on me," Mercy said, helping him to stand. "Are you hurt enough to need healing?"
"It's just bruises," he said. "The blood's not m-mine."
"Then get yourself washed up and get into bed. I'll bring you something to eat, and some tea if you have any, and then you should try to sleep."
Justen was biddable, at least for his older sister. She left him and went back to the untidy kitchen, where she managed to find an apple that wasn't too shriveled. She took the time to cut it up for him as the water boiled for the tea. When the tea was ready, and she felt as though he'd had enough time, she took the food and drink back to his bedroom.
He had cleaned up and put on a nightshirt (which she knew he never usually wore - a concession for her, no doubt), and was in the process of trying to get his bed changed, struggling with the sheets, frustrated. "Let me help," said Mercy, and, passing him the cup and plate, gathered up the dirty sheets instead, putting them aside where he wouldn't have to look at them. Once she had retrieved clean linens, she took charge of the process of re-making the bed, while he, still trembling a little, sat down in the chair and drank the tea still boiling hot, then ate the apple. Mercy kept an eye on him to make sure he finished everything. "Do you want me to go now?" she asked once the bed was freshly made and he'd set the dishes aside.
He looked torn, but shook his head. "I don't want to be alone." He climbed into bed, sliding over to make room for her. He looked pale and younger than his nineteen years.
"All right," she said, crawling in beside him, their arms draped over one another as though they were children again, making their own little fortress against the rest of the world. Anyone else would have found it too warm, but to them it just felt like home.