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Where the Heart Is

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It's snowing Wednesday morning. Not particularly hard--"Just enough to be annoying," Luke's father says over his cup of Folgers as he prepares for work.

Luke nods. "It's strange seeing so much snow again, after five years in the tropics," he admits.

Once his mother and father have left for work, he heads upstairs to Lexie's bedroom. He quietly enters her room, strips down to his boxers, then slides into bed with her. She stirs as he slips under the blankets but doesn't wake, only turns over so that now she's nestled up against him, her body against his, and Luke lets himself fall back asleep.

Luke wakes to a line of kisses being left along his collarbone. He opens his eyes and there's Lexie, still nestled against him as she presses kiss after kiss against him. "Good morning," she says to him with a smile when she sees he is awake, then climbs on top of him so that she is straddling him.

"Good morning," he echoes, then reaches up to pull her down to him. Their mouths meet halfway in a kiss, but then Lexie pulls away. "I haven't brushed my teeth yet."

"Tough," says Luke, then pulls her back into the kiss. He rolls over so that now he's on top, and keeps on kissing her as he opens the drawer in the nightstand next to her bed and pulls out a condom.

"It's snowing outside," Luke says, about a half-hour later.

"So let's stay in bed all day long where it's nice and warm," Lexie says, then begins leaving a trail of kisses down his chest.

"I'm flattered you have such an exaggerated idea of my virility," Luke tells his sister. "But I'm afraid this is an area where the reality falls short of the fantasy."

Lexie meets his eyes. "It really doesn't," she tells him, and there's a beat, a single moment which seems like it could last forever, before she brings her mouth to his for another kiss.

"It's been five years since I got to see it snow," Luke points out.

"There's been snow on the ground every day since you got here," Lexie counters.

"Yeah, but not coming down. We should go out in."

"And do what?" asks Lexie. "Build a snowman? Throw snowballs at each other like we were little kids again?"

Luke shrugs, doesn't say anything.

"Oh, all right," Lexie says, getting out of bed. "If you insist. And you're quite sure you can't handle another round."

Luke eyes his sister warily as she pulls on a pair of jeans. If he'd realized that she was this insatiable, he's not sure he would have managed to stay away for as long as he did. "Twice in a morning is all I'm capable of, I'm afraid, Lex."

Lex smiles at him as she puts on a sweatshirt, not bothering with a bra. "I suppose a girl can't have everything," she says.

Luke surveys the fridge's contents and decides that a snow day like today calls for grilled cheese sandwiches with bacon and tomato served alongside generous bowls of their mother's homemade soup (fashioned from the leftovers of Christmas dinner, of course). He puts the soup in a small pot on the back burner to heat up and begins to butter the frying pan.

"Is your secret plan to get me so used to you cooking for me that I have to go Africa with you just to get fed?" she asks a couple of minutes later when he sets a plate with two sandwiches on it down in front of you.

"Whatever works," Luke agrees amiably, as he throws two more sandwiches onto the frying pan. "I'm pretty sure you can handle grilled cheese and soup all by yourself, though."

When they're done with lunch, he makes two mugs of hot chocolate, heaped with marshmallows and whipped cream, which they bring with them into the back yard and the snow. Lexie's dressed up in enough layers to clothe an entire family, which is ludicrous because she should really be used to this weather, while he's the one who has spent the last five years in equatorial Africa.

She must be thinking more or less the right idea, because she says, "Sometimes I think you had the right idea, running off to the equator." She takes a sip of her hot chocolate. "It really is fucking cold out here."

"We can go back in if you want to," Luke offers.

Lex shakes her head. "No, go ahead, have your moment or whatever."

There's at least a dozen people standing on the Hendersons' porch despite even the wintry temps, most of them with a beer bottle in one hand and a cigarette or a joint in the other.

"You guys made it!" a familiar voice calls out. Luke turns to see Harry, smiling at him and Lexie with a big grin.

"We said we probably would," Lexie answers amiably.

"Hey, you guys want some?" Harry asks, gesturing at the marijuana joint in his right hand. "It's pretty good stuff."

Lexie shakes her head firmly and moves to press the doorbell on the Henderson' front door.

"Luke! Lexie!" Felicia Henderson greets them as she opens the door, pulling each of them in turn into a hug. "I heard you were back in town for the holidays," she adds to Luke. She was, if he remembers correctly, two years below Luke at Immaculate Conception High, while her younger brother Jonathan was in the year above Lexie.

"Just for the week," he tells her. "I leave to go back day after tomorrow."

"New Year's?" Felicia asks with a frown. "That sucks. I'm pretty sure that 'let auld acquaintance be forgot' wasn't intended to be taken quite that literally." She shrugs and waves them in.

"Anyway, come on in. Food's in the kitchen, the booze is in the basement, and people are pretty much everywhere," she explains to them as she takes their coats.

They make their way to the basement first. "You ever tried it?" he asks Lexie. With the noise levels in the house being as high as they are, his normal indoor voice is more or less the equivalence of a whisper; he would have had to shout to ensure anyone further away than Lexie would be able to hear him clearly.

"What, weed?" Lexie asks after a moment of presumably running the previous couple minutes of conversation through her in mind in search of a suitable referent. "I'm not sixteen years old anymore, you know," she points out, rolling her eyes. "I am a junior in college now."

"I'll take that as a less than fully cooperative yes," Luke says as they make their way down the steps into the Henderson' finished basement, just as gargantuan as the rest of the house. "I was just curious."

There's a few people playing a game of pool at the billiards table in the center of the room, and a few more playing beer pong at the ping-pongtable next to it. A mob of others are watching the games, while still others are seated--often two or three to a seat, many of them making out--at the comfortable-looking bean-bag seats, armchairs, and love seats which line the basement's walls. In a corner of the room, several people are playing Call of Duty in front of a large high-definition widescreen television. They, too, have their mob of spectators.

There's music playing, but the bass is turned up so much as to render it almost unrecognizable.

"If we only have two days left, I'm not going to spend it stoned," Lexie answers. She gestures with her head towards the corner opposite the television, which contains two kegs, several coolers full of cans and bottles of beer and wine coolers, and a table covered in various bottles of spirits and liquors, as well as soft drinks and fruit juices for use as mixers. Jonathon Henderson is playing bartender, more or less. "Just pleasantly buzzed."

"Yuengling?" Luke asks as they make their way to the corner. At Lexie's nod, he kneels down at one of the coolers and fishes two bottles of Yuengling out while she heads over to Jonathan in order to render their compliments to their host.

"Hey, Luke," a voice coos which is even more familiar than Harry's. He looks up from the cooler to see Gwen, dressed in an obscenely short skirt and a top which is alternatingly sequined and diaphanous, with over-the-knee black leather boots. Since he's kneeling, his eyeline is more or less directly into her cleavage, which is only about an inch and a half from his face.

"Gwen, hi," he says as he quickly rises to his feet with the two beer bottles. "Having fun?"

"I am now," she says, leaning in to him much more than he's really comfortable with. She's holding a solo cup full of what looks like cola, but her breath smells like alcohol.

The onslaught of low-frequency mechanical waves of pressure emanating from the Henderson's expensive basement subwoofer ceases momentarily, then begins again. "I love this song," Gwen says almost automatically. Luke has to strain his ears in order to recognize it as "Bottle Pop" by the Pussycat Dolls. "You want to dance?"

"Look, Gwen, I'd love to," he lies. "But I need to get going." He turns away, but she reaches out, turns him back towards her, and kisses him, in a manner that could not at all be confused with any kiss which could be considered even remotely cousinly.

He pulls away as soon as his brain processes what is happening. "You're my cousin, Gwen." Luke feels like a total hypocrite saying this, considering just what he and Lexie have been up to the last few days, but it's the easiest way to let her down. "We can't do this."

He holds her in place by the shoulders as he steps away from her, then quickly navigates his way the long way round the room, through the throng of beer pong spectators, before reuniting with Lexie. On the way, he runs into four different people he knew in high school and is obligated to engage in quick small talk, answering the most inane possible questions about his time in Africa.

Eventually, he gets to Lexie, who's now talking with two other girls he maybe vaguely recognizes, and hands her her beer.

Felicia wasn't lying about the house being full of people. The Henderson's huge three-story French Colonial house is easily the biggest in town, but there must be just as easily well over a hundred people at the party, spilling out of every room.

Neither Luke nor Lexie is exactly socially awkward. Luke's actually quite good at working a room full of strangers, a skill that served him quite well when he traveled to West Africa and found himself a stranger in a strange land. But he's not in a room full of strangers. He's in a house full of people he once knew fairly well, former teammates and ex-girlfriends and casual acquaintances who all think they know him, but who really only know the popular jock that he used to be. If in truth he was ever really the person they think they know.

Lexie grabs his hand and gives it a quick squeeze, as if she's already intuited the thoughts running through his head (which, knowing her, she most likely indeed has). Then she lets go of his hand and instead places a hand on his shoulder, gently guiding him through the house. "Don't worry," she says into his ear. "I'm not letting you out of my sight, not when there's so many of your disgruntled high school girlfriends around so eager to steal you back. Plus, you know, Gwen."

"Did you see--"

"Her kiss you?" Lexie finishes the question. "Yeah, I saw. Looked like one hell of a kiss from where I was."

"I didn't--I mean--"

"Dude, relax." Her voice is light, but perhaps not totally naturally so. "I know it's not your fault."

After about an hour at the Henderson's party, Luke begins to relax. It's helped by the fact that the frequency of people coming to him to catch up with small talk has begun to taper off, but it's helped even more that Lexie hasn't left his side since the incident with Gwen.

He wonders if it's more than a little bit suspicious, if two siblings as far apart in age as he and Lexie are oughtn't to spend more time apart with their disparate friends and acquaintances. He finds he doesn't care, that there's only so much effort he's able to put into keeping up the masquerade.

"I have to pee," Lexie announces. She glances with displeasure at the line of people waiting outside the first-floor bathroom. "You think the upstairs bathroom has a shorter line?"

They go upstairs and it does indeed have a shorter line, although not really by all that much. Lexie grimaces and gets at the back of the queue, while Luke, unmoored from Lexie for the first time since Gwen kissed him, walks into the first room he passes, which he can only assume is Felicia's bedroom. The decoration isn't generic enough to be a guest room, while being far too feminine to be Jonathon's and too, well, young to be their parents'. There's over a dozen people engaged in almost a half-dozen different conversations, either standing or sitting on her bed or one of her armchairs, plus a couple who's making out on her bed.

He sits down on the very edge of the bed in a position where he can see out of Felicia's door into the hallway, and nurses his beer, hoping no one will talk to him. This plan seems to be working surprising well, until--

"There you are," Gwen says as she enters Felicia's room.


"Hi, Gwen," he says, standing up. "I'm just waiting for Lexie--"

"Forget about her," she says, once again leaning into him. This time, there's a quite pronounced slur to her speech, and her movements lack her usual graceful coordination. "You don't need her."

"She's my sister," Luke reminds her gently.

"And I'm your cousin," Gwen agrees. "But the thing is, Luke, I can be so much more if you let me be."

Then she kisses him again, this time with an impassioned, almost frenzied abandon. The surprising forcefulness of her lunge at him combined with the unexpectedness of the gesture has him reeling backwards so that the two of them fall back onto Felicia's bed, with Gwen on top of him. He can feel her body pressed down against his, and okay, yeah, his body is . . . responding, whether he wants to or not.

Next to them, the other couple making out don't even seem to notice them.

"Gwen, no," he says and flips her over so that he's pinning her down. The new pose isn't really any less sexual, but at least he's in control now.

"I really can't leave you alone for even a minute, can I?" Lexie asks as she enters the room.

"I really wish you wouldn't," he says, as he gingerly gets up off of Gwen and then off the bed. He glances over at Lexie who, from the look on her face, isn't quite able to decide if the scene she's encountered upon is hilarious or infuriating.

Gwen reaches up, as if to pull Luke back down again, but wildly miscalculates and begins grasping at air, while Lexie interposes herself between Luke and Gwen. "Come on, Gwen," she says to their cousin gently. "You're only embarrassing yourself."

"You can be a real bitch, you know that?" Gwen asks Lexie.

If Lexie's fazed by the epithet, she doesn't let herself show it. "You don't mean that," she tells Gwen calmly. "That's just the alcohol talking."

"How much have you had to drink?" he asks Gwen.

Gwen pouts. "Just a few vodka cokes."

"You are not driving home," he informs her, then sighs. "We'll give you a ride home." Even if that means having to spend even more time with her while she's drunkenly making passes at him. The things one does for family.

"We can't take her home," Lexie says, eyeing their inebriated cousin critically. "Her parents would kill her if they saw her like this." She lets out a sigh. "I'll call Aunt Mary and tell her she'll be staying at our house tonight."

"Sleepover?" asks Gwen. "Just like old times, then?"

"Minus the footie pyjamas," Lexie says dryly, as she and Lexie lead her out of Felicia's bedroom, through the hall and down the steps back to the ground floor.

Luke sees Felicia in the crowd and makes a gesture to try and catch her eye. "Leaving already?" she asks when she comes over, sounding genuinely disappointed.

"I think Gwen has sort of partied herself out," Luke notes apologetically, with a quick glance at his cousin who is now more or less hanging off his arm.

Felicia flashes him a sympathetic smile. "I'll get your coats, then," she says, leaving and returning a minute later with the promised garments,

Luke has to help Gwen into her coat, which is both pink and significantly thinner than really indicated by the weather. Memories flash through his mind of him performing the same service for his cousin, when she was three and he was twelve. Plus ça change. . . .

They lead Gwen to Lexie's car, but she keeps stumbling in the gravel of the Henderson' driveway in her high-heeled boots, and eventually Luke just sweeps his cousin up into a fireman's carry. She definitely weighs more than she did when she was three.

Lexie opens the back door of her Jetta for him and he places Gwen gently on the backseat, then goes around and gets in the other side of the car, sitting in the backseat next to Gwen so to be better to keep an eye on her. She curls up against him, her head resting on his shoulder, but she doesn't say anything, and by the time Lexie pulls into the driveway of their parents' house, Gwen is fast asleep.

Luke gets out and scoops up his cousin to carry her into the house. "Huh?" she asks, coming at least partially awake. "Shh," Luke whispers into her ear. "Go back to sleep."

Their own parents have already turned in for the night, so they do their best to make their way into the house and up to Lexie's bedroom as quietly as possible, with Lexie turning lights on and off as they travel from room to room.

"Help me get her boots off," Lexie tells him once he's laid Gwen down on Lexie's bed. It's not easy, but eventually they get them off.

"You're going to be okay with her?" he asks, uncertainly.

"I'm a junior in college," she reminds him for the second time that night. "Trust me, I know what to do with a drunk roommate."

"Okay," says Luke, and begins to head out of her room.

"Wait," says Lexie, and Luke turns back to face his sister.

Lexie glances behind her at Gwen, who is lying in the bed with her back to them. Her groaning indicates she's still at least half-awake, but she seems pretty oblivious to the world around her. Lexie angles her face up for a kiss and Luke obliges. "Good night," he says to her.

"Good night," she answers back, and he .crosses the hall to his own bedroom.

He knows he's not going to be able to fall asleep in the state he's in right now, so once he's gotten into bed he--ahem--takes things into his own hands, slipping his hand into his boxers and around his dick.

He imagines himself in bed with Lexie, but he just can't get the image of Gwen in that miniskirt and those thigh-high boots out of his mind whether he wants to or not. In his mind's eye, Gwen pulls off her top, and a pair of exquisite, firm white breasts now hang free and unencumbered. He imagines himself reaching out and grabbing them, giving each a rough squeeze as the red areolae brush against the heels of his palms.

Because this is his imagination, he's able to do all of this without getting out of his bed, where a naked Lexie is sucking on his earlobe.

Meanwhile, Gwen pulls back the covers on the bed, then reaches out and slips his boxers down in order to go down on him, taking him into her mouth, her tongue massaging the shaft of his dick, gently at first, then with steadily increasing forcefulness and speed.

Gwen begins to deep-throat him, even as Lexie's fingertips trace lines across his chest and her teeth drag against his chin. He imagines reaching out with one hand and slipping his fingers through the bottle-blonde locks of Gwen's hair, while with the other he reaches around Lexie in order to grab his sister's ass.

His breathing--both in the fantasy and in real life--becomes heavier as he gets closer and closer to release. Suddenly the imagined scenario shifts completely and they're no longer in the bed; instead, Luke has--Gwen? Lexie? Colette? l'éternel féminin?--bent over the hood of Lexie's Jetta as he fucks her from behind, doggystyle, and then he comes and the fantasy dissolves and he has ejaculate shot all across his stomach and chest.

He grabs a dirty t-shirt to wipe off the mess, throws it across the room into the hamper, then rolls over and falls asleep almost instantly.