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Just look over your shoulder

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Disclaimer: This is pure fiction. I do not own any of the characters, nor is any of this true.

This story is already finished and will be uploaded on a weekly base without exceptions. This is my first multichapter fanfic and I think I did a relatively good job. I know that First POV is always a bit weird and cringy to read, but I tried to make sure that you’ll get used to it and that it won’t be so bad after the first chapter, please give it a try! This story is my baby, and feedback, good or bad, is always very much appreciated :)

I created a soundtrack on Spotify, feel free to check it out here (x). At the beginning of every chapter, I will list the respective songs I used when I wrote the following chapter, maybe you’ll like them!

In those 15 chapters, I tried to get all of my thoughts and feelings about various precarious topics out there in hope I can make people understand. This is all I really want to achieve and I’m quite proud of myself for that.

With that being said- lets dive in. I hope you enjoy and stick to the end with me :)

Chapter Text

Just look over your shoulder

 

As we were in the beginning, are now, and ever shall be. World without end.

 

Chapter 1

 

The first thing that comes to my mind when I wake up, is that today is my birthday. I know that because I counted 2.083 notches in the palm-bark yesterday morning. Gerard’s birthday was on day 1.895, 153 days ago. The 9th of April, to be exact. My birthday is on September 10th. Christmas is in 106 days, but it’s not like it matters, really. We came here exactly 2.084 days ago, or, to put it simply, almost 6 years ago. What year it is now, I’m not sure. I can’t remember what year it was that we got here but trusting Gerard, it was still in the early 1900s. Gerard was 12 back then, only just started to grow up. I was only 9 and it’s a wonder that we survived for so long. We were still kids then, after all.

 

Gerard is my brother, by the way. He’s nowhere to be seen when I sit up and stretch my limbs. You’d think to sleep on a mattress made of dry grass, bracken and leaves would be somewhat comfortable, considering the many, many nights both Gerard and I spent sleeping on one, but I don’t think that will ever be the case. I’m not complaining, though. I have other things to worry about.

 

At my feet sits Robin, our pet parrot.

 

I smile at him and stroke his feathers carefully. They are really beautiful, a mix of yellow and blue. Gerard named him, saying that one day he wants to write a book with a character named Robin in it.

 

Absentmindedly, I pick the sleep out of my eyes, hoping that at least today I can see a little bit better than most days. You see, I came here wearing a pair of glasses, but I grew out of them at least 4 years ago. It’s very sunny and bright today though, so I’m not hoping for much. On cloudy days, it’s usually a lot easier to get used to the light.

 

Gerard’s birthday was on a cloudy day earlier that year, and honestly, it’s way more important to me to see better on his special day rather than to see a little better than usual on my birthday. I don’t care about my birthday much, but I always cared a lot about my brother’s. And it’s not like I’m blind or anything, it’s just hard to see something in the distance and my eyes hurt after a while when it’s really bright outside.

 

On days like today, I’m brutally reminded of how much I miss my mother, my father, and Brian. Brian lived here with us for the first 77 days but then he died one night and both me and Gerard never knew the real reason why. He was just dead when we found him in the morning. Without him, we wouldn’t have survived a day. He was the one who put us in the lifeboat, paddled us here and taught us how to survive on a desert island.

 

He taught us how to fish, how to make a fire and how to make knots with reed and how to build a roof out of bamboos. He told us that we would die if we’d drink too much water from the ocean and how important it is to take care of our teeth. On some days, he would ask Gerard for a walk without me, saying that I’m not big enough yet to know some of the things he would tell my older brother. I never understood what he meant by this, but maybe someday I will. The only thing I noticed was, that sometimes, Gerard would look upset or perturbed after they came back from their walk but he’d never tell me why, no matter how many times I asked.

 

It was always important to Brian that we took a bath on every second evening and that we sang together when we sat around our fireplace. He said that music is something very important in life and that we should sing as often as we could. One of the most important things he told us was, that we always needed to take care of each other, no matter how old we got.

 

It’s my fault that we got here in the first place,though Gerard says that’s not true and that no one is to blame.

 

It was on a rather ugly day when my mother finally gave me and Gerard the permission for our father to take us with him on one of his journeys. Gerard didn’t want to come at first, saying that he’d rather want to stay at home but finally gave in when I said that I wouldn’t go without him and be knowing how much I wanted to go, he couldn't say no in the end. He could never turn a single one of my wishes down and still can't to this day.Our journey started in the Atlantic Ocean, or so father said, and the plan was to get to a country called Australia. We sat on the deck, my small legs curled around Gerard’s middle from behind and my chin propped on his shoulder while he was painting something with the street chalk father allowed him to use after hours and hours of begging. I remember looking up from his creation on the ground for a second and I caught our father looking at us with both a smile and something like uncertainty in his eyes. I wanted to ask him why he was looking at us like that when I heard a loud noise. I remember that I thought that something probably exploded deep down in the ship and I wished that I was wrong with my assumption.

 

I wasn’t, though. And it was then, in the middle of the South Pacific, that our ship caught fire. It was so sudden, too sudden and everything happened very fast from then on.

 

Gerard stood up so fast that he accidentally caused me to fall on my back, the chalk falling to the floor with a clinking sound. He pulled me up with his chalk-dusty hands in panic and screamed for help. Brian, the shipyard, came and grabbed us both painfully on the wrists and dragged us in one of the lifeboats, jumping in right along with us. Everyone was screaming and I started to cry when our boat hit the water beneath us. Gerard put his arms around my middle and told me to cover my ears, so I did. A moment later, I heard another loud ‘poof’ and when I dared to look up, the entire ship was on fire and all we could see was smoke and nothing but smoke for what felt like hours.

 

We screamed for our father, but his voice fainted a little more with every second and soon, we were alone, out on the ocean with nothing but the clothes we wore. I fell asleep sometime after, exhausted and with tears streaming down my face and when I woke up, Gerard was right there, stroking my hair and the spots behind my ears where my glasses sat a bit too tight and was probably smearing red chalk all over my face, matching his look fairly well. While I was out, Brian had spotted a few boxes floating on the surface of the water that must have fallen out of the ship, and got them on the boat with us.

 

Inside was nothing interesting for kids but still very useful, as we learned later on. Inside one box were only women’s items: 3 dresses, a hat, 2 blouses, some old jewelry, an umbrella, a hand mirror and a hairbrush. I assumed that these were the belongings of Mrs. E. Pines who was on the ship with us.

 

Box two held a scissor, a pan, a big and a little saw, a pack of kitchen knives, a few empty papers and an ink pen, at least 5 large linen-cloths, a music box that played 4 different songs and an old book.

 

In box number three, that was also the smallest, was a bunch of yarn, some more linen, and a few empty jars.

 

We got thirsty very fast and after the first day and night, I lost all hope that father would come find us. The nights were cold and the days too warm. Brian told us stories about Fairies, Dragons, and Goblins and encouraged us to hold on just a little longer. And then, on the second morning, we saw it. Our new home. Of course, we didn’t know that this island would become our home for many years, but we were so relieved to see land, that we didn’t care. I squeezed Gerard’s hand and he smiled at me, brushed his thumb over my eyebrow with his other hand and pulled me in for a hug.

 

Brian hoisted the sails and paddled us on land and helped us out of the boat, making sure that it wouldn’t drift away. It smelled wonderfully sweet of flowers, soil, and nature. After exploring for a while, we found a little creek and just jumped in, not caring about our clothes, and drank as much as we could. Brian found some bananas and we ate them so fast that we almost forgot to chew.

 

During the first day, we brought our few belongings on land and started to settle for the night. That was the first time Brian taught Gerard and me how to use the right items that nature offered to build a shelter. It wasn’t much, but that night, we fell asleep on the warm sand with full bellies and with some kind of roof over our heads.

 

The next morning, Brian knocked the first notch into the bark of a tree and started to collect wood for a signal fire, in case someone would come by.

 

No one ever did.

 

As the days passed, Brian taught us all the things we needed to know so we could survive out here. We learned to appreciate nature, explored the island that actually seemed a lot bigger than when we first saw it, swam in the ocean, ate together and told us stories from home. All in all, it was an okay life.

 

Until the day Brian died and it was just me and my brother, all alone, too young and scared.

 

That evening, as Gerard held my fragile little body close to his after we buried Brian’s body and placed flowers on his grave, I asked him to ‘move out’ with me, because I just couldn’t stay there any longer. I felt really sorry for him at that moment because I knew how much he hated to see me like this, but he understood and just allowed me to cry, probably spilling a few silent tears himself when I wasn’t looking. At the end of the next day, we had packed all our belongings back into the chests as well as bananas and other fruits, had put on our most decent clothes and were in the lifeboat once again.

 

Gerard had gained some muscles over the last months due to relatively hard work and was strong enough to paddle us around the island for a while until we found our new home. It was a beautiful little beach, surrounded by the same nature that we had gotten used to on the other side of the island. Later, we even found a little cave not too far from the beach, a clean river that marched in a rather small waterfall and a lake surrounded by large rock walls. I’m not sure how you would call the nature behind the beach, but Gerard says it looks like some sort of jungle or rainforest, judging by the many adventure and nature books he read back home.

 

In little digits, I notched the number 77 in the bark of a palm tree and then notched in the first new line that marked our first day here. I just stood there for a moment, staring at the number and wondered how many more mornings I would repeat that action. Gerard then came to me, tapping me on the shoulder and when I turned around, I saw Robin for the first time.

 

He just sat down on my shoulder, just like that, Mikey! I’m gonna call him Robin.” And from then on, we had a new companion.

 

Robin returned every day after that and we taught him a few sentences that he would repeat in the funniest voice and sometimes inappropriate situations. My favorite word that he can say is 'Gee', simply because I love Gerard and because Gee was my first word when I started to speak as a toddler. He really made me smile for the first time in days and does so until now.

 

117 days after we left the other side of the island and came here, we officially opened our new home. And it really was a home. A house, that offered us shelter and safety and happiness, that grew even bigger over the years and more professional thanks to the skills we taught ourselves as we got older, stronger and taller. We built 4 rooms and a basement where we stored food and water and even added a patio later on. We built the walls out of bamboos and other wood we found, added windows and even a swing and for one of Gerard’s birthdays, I made him a hammock that he immediately spun between two trees outside our house with a huge smile. We had our own bedrooms (much to my disliking, but Gerard felt that it was about time that we slept in separate beds) and tried to somehow build furniture with the materials that were available.

 

Though it wasn’t the way I wanted it to be, I had to admit that I liked my bedroom. It is on the second floor next to Gerard’s, which I’m glad for. We decided not to add doors just in case there was a fire or something and we needed to get out really fast. Gerard let me have the old music box that we found in one of the chests. It is probably my favorite item on this island.

 

It plays a song that I remember from home but I don’t know the name of it, only that it has got something to do with a rainbow.

 

Gerard asked me if he could keep the papers and the ink pen so he could draw pictures and I let him, remembering how much he liked to draw back home and even in the second as our life as we knew it, ended and changed forever. He’s really talented, too. I always loved the pictures he drew and the stories behind them. Most of all, he preferred to draw characters that ‘saved the world’ with the reasoning that one day, he wanted to save the world too.

 

We divided the few clothes and linen we had among ourselves. Gerard used to be a little chubby and therefore, he gave me all the women’s clothes, saying I was all thin and bony and kept the others for himself. I didn’t even mind that my robe from then on contained dresses and blouses. Of course, they wouldn’t fit yet, but I grew into them over the years. No one would see me anyway besides him, and he never made fun of me. He lost a lot of weight since then but refused to take the dresses from me, saying that they suited me.

 

I choose between four outfits every day. My favorite is a dress that isn’t even really a dress but more like a long t-shirt. It used to be bright yellow with light red hems, but as the years passed, it got a little dirty and is now the color of mustard.

 

My second favorite piece is a light-blue blouse that is just long enough to cover my butt and few my upper thighs. It has holes in it now and the seams are pulling threads but I don’t mind about that. Number 3 is a simple armless, tight-fitting, white dress that ends just over my knees. The last outfit is a combination of middle-long puffy white underpants and a loose leather top that I made from one of the dresses that had a broken zipper. I grew out of it a little so it barely covers my bellybutton, but as I said, there’s no one here to make fun of me and Gerard just smirks lopsided whenever he sees me in that outfit.

 

On days when it’s really sunny and I need a shield for my eyes, I wear the hat that came with one of the boxes. It has a ribbon to tie under the chin which is actually pretty useful, especially on windy days.

 

Gerard’s robe contains a brown pair of underwear that I made out of the rest of the brown leather dress and a white button-up that is still a bit too big for him. He also has another few pairs of white and brown loincloths that he combines with a dark-blue vest that suits his dark brown, almost black, hair.

 

Every time I tell him that he needs to cut it, he gets mad at me but when I tell him how much I like his hair shoulder-length, he surrenders and lets me cut it. My dark blond hair just ends over my chin but since I have some waves going on, it looks a little fuller than his. Over the years, I taught myself a few braiding techniques and sometimes, Gerard lets me braid his since it’s longer and much more fun to play with. I have the habit of curling my bangs behind my ear. I Probably copied that from Gerard since he’s the one who started it when his hair got longer.

 

When I was lazy on the day before and didn’t do the laundry, we borrow clothes from the other, but since I’m usually very consistent with my chores, it hasn’t happened too often. Not that either of us minds sharing clothes; we did that even when we were back home, much to our mothers complaining.

 

As I said, Gerard has lost his chub, though he is not nearly as thin as I am. During the years and due to the tasks he does every day, like fishing, cutting bananas and coconuts off the trees or repairing something on the house, he has gained muscles. Though they’re only really visible on his upper arms and maybe his shoulders and back. But he’s really strong and does most of the hard work. I’m responsible for tasks like cooking, laundry or keeping the house clean. I’m not weak or anything, not at all actually, but the only visible muscles are the ones on my upper arms and maybe a little on my tummy and flat chest.

 

The sun burns down relentlessly almost every day, yet Gerard is really pale. I’ve got a little tan going on though. Gerard hasn’t grown much since last year but I had a growth spurt not long ago and now I’m almost as tall as him. I’m sure I’ll overtower him in a few months and the thought makes me smirk to myself.

 

Robin makes a sound and startles me, pulling me out of my little bubble of thoughts and memories.

 

“Have you seen Gerard?” I ask him, though I don’t expect an answer. He knows our names, the few sentences we taught him and sometimes laughs along with us, but I don’t think he understands the full meaning of a sentence. It’s nice to have someone to talk to though. He nibbles on my fingertip before he flies out of my window and I rub at my eyes some more.

 

Since Gerard is nowhere to be seen, I decide to get up to go looking for him. I tuck the mosquito net that I made from one of the polyester cloths away and walk to my clothe-box. Though I only slept in my white underpants, my skin feels too warm and itchy already and I can tell it’s going to be one of those unbearably warm days again. I decide to wear the yellow dress, since it’s my favorite, brush my hair and braid two longer strands on either side of my head to the back. To stabilize them, I add two clips that I made out of the white shells Gerard brings back whenever he was out diving.

 

I take a quick look in the hand mirror, wondering if I look like a normal 14-year-old boy. It’s really hard to make statements like that since there’s no one else here to compare myself to.

 

Sighing, I put the mirror down and exit my room. I jump down the two stairs that lead to the 2nd floor and am immediately blinded by the sun and my eyes need a moment to focus.

 

The sand is really hot today but our feet got used to it over the years. We haven’t worn shoes since the day we came here.I place my right hand over my eyes as some sort as a shield and look for my brother. He’s not out swimming, or at least I don’t see him, he’s not in the house nor is he fishing by the reef. He’s probably in search for wood in the forest so I decide to start with the laundry for the day because yeah, I was a little lazy yesterday.

 

I grab the self-made banana leave basket and collect both Gerard’s and my clothes that desperately need to get washed and carry them down to the laundry station by the water. It really only is a place in the shadows with two big stones to slap the clothes against and a cord between two trees, that are located in the sun, to put them on so they can dry without lying in the sand.

 

Just as I hung up the last piece on the cord, someone covers my eyes from behind. I smile and feel all warm on the inside because of course, it’s Gerard.

 

He leans in close to my ear and whispers, “Birthday boys don’t get to do the laundry!”

 

That makes me smile even more and I cover his hands with mine, putting them away and when I turn around, Gerard pulls me into a hug and lifts me up off the ground a little.

 

“Where were you when I woke up?” I ask him giggly when he puts me down again but he doesn’t answer my question. Only now I notice the little yellow flower in his right hand. He beams and plugs it into my braided hair.

 

“Come on little one, I have something for you!” He takes one of my hands and drags me in the direction of our house.

 

“Why do you still call me little one? You do know that I’m almost as tall as you, right?” I say, trying not to fall. Running on sand is not as easy as it sounds.

 

“That doesn’t count, I’m still older than you,” he snickers and sounds slightly out of breath when we arrive at the house.

 

“Wait here!” he says before going inside. I obey and kneel down. I draw a smiley face in the sand and Gerard returns a minute later, hands behind his back.

 

“I know it’s not much but..here. Happy birthday Mikeyway!” He sits down in front of me so our knees are touching and hands me a piece of paper.

 

I take it and when I see what the drawing is of, my eyes lit up. It shows me, wearing the light-blue blouse, facing the ocean. I remember that day. It was a few months ago on a pretty windy day and the cool breeze felt very good on my warm skin so I just stood there for several minutes to soak it all in. I had my eyes closed, but he probably didn’t see, since I was standing with my back to him. My hair was totally messed up due to the wind and my blouse kept flying up my thighs. Luckily, I wore one of Gerard’s loincloths that day. Everything in the picture looks peaceful and my heart skips a beat.

 

 

 

When I finally tear my eyes away from it and look up at my brother, I can’t help but throw my arms around him. “It’s beautiful, thank you!”

 

He puts his arms around me and squeezes a little. “’M glad you like it.”

 

“I love it!” I say, and to show him that I really mean it, I lean in and peck him on the cheek.

 

“Ew!” he squeaks and wipes his cheek with the back of his hand.

 

I just smile and look at the picture again. He used colors that we made out of shells, blossoms, and other things since the ink pen is long empty. It’s very rare that I get a picture; I think I have only 3 of them in total. Gerard is very sparing with the few papers he owns so I know that this is a very precious present. Sure, he sometimes draws on dried leaves or stones, but it’s not the same.

 

“So,” he says after a moment, shifting in the sand. “What do you want to do today? You choose.” He smiles at me and I curl my lips up slightly, thinking.

 

“Can we go out diving? I haven’t been out there for a while.”

 

You see, we have two reefs. One is pretty dangerous because of the many sharp stones and shells in there and the sea tangs make the water turbid so we mostly avoid that one. The second one though, on the far end of our beach, is absolutely beautiful! Clear water with corals in all different colors, see stars, anemones, big shells that you can’t accidentally step on and lots of pretty, tiny fishes.

 

“Sure, whatever you want!” Now we both smile all teeth and stand up.

 

“I’m gonna go bring this to my room, meet you down here in a second,” I say, turning around and going inside. I fix the picture on the wall, remove the flower Gerard gave me from my hair, lay it down next to my pillow and jump down the stairs again with excitement bubbling up in my chest.

 

“Ready?” he asks and beams at me, already removing his shirt.

 

“You bet!” I say and start to remove my dress. We’re not ashamed to be naked in front of each other, in fact, we’re only wearing clothes because Brian always said that it is rather rude to run around naked, so we mostly hold on to that.

 

A moment later, we’re both running towards the ocean and dive right in. The temperature of the water is pleasant, not too warm and not too cold. Thanks to years of practice, we’re both pretty good at holding our breaths for a while and stopped being bothered by the salt that used to burn our eyes.

 

We spend at least an hour diving for shells and sea stars and I even find a few new pearls for my collection. In moments of sheer happiness, we just goof around, drown the other for a few seconds, laugh at something that is super funny, splash or play catch in the water. We have a great time and I’m sure I’ll remember this exact moment for a long while. Sometimes we forget what it feels to be free, even though we have the entire generosity of this island all to ourselves.

 

When my fingers start to get wrinkly, we decide that we should take a break and swim back towards the beach where we lie next to each other on our bellies in the sun.

 

-

 

“How’re your eyes today?” Gerard asks me in the evening while we’re having dinner.

 

“You know,” I say, waving my hand. “Same old, but it’s okay, I’m sure I’ll get used to it eventually.”

 

I know he doesn’t believe it, hell, even I don’t believe it, but he just nods and stuffs a piece of grilled fish into his mouth.

 

After a moment of silence, he says in a sad tone, “I’m sorry if today was like, super lame or whatever. I’m sure it’s boring to spend such a special day with your boring bro-“

 

Shaking my head, I interrupt him. “No, Gee. Don't even say it. You know that’s not true at all.”

 

He sighs and drops his head.

 

“Hey, c’mon,” I say softly, scooting closer to him and dropping my arm around his shoulders.

 

“You’re my favorite person to spend my birthday with, okay? Look at me,” I say quietly, and when he finally does, I brush one of his strands out of his face.

 

“It’s just... you’re 14 now, this isn’t the life a 14-year-old boy should have.”

 

I shake my head once again.

 

“No, maybe not. But it’s exactly the life I want!” I’m hoping to sound as earnest as I mean to because it’s 100 percent the truth. Everything is okay as long as he’s there, he should know that by now.

 

Gerard smiles a little then, strokes my eyebrow with his thumb and drops his hand to my shoulder. “Love you Twee.”

 

Hearing him call me this makes me smile back at him. “Love you too, Gee.”

 

Gerard chuckles and squeezes my shoulder softly. “Come on, we should get ready for bed.”

 

He’s just about to get up when I catch his wrist and stop him.

 

“No,” I shake my head a little. “Can we..can we just stay for a bit longer? It’s nice here,” I say and look at the flames of the fire in front of us for a moment. I’m not quite ready for this day to end just yet.

 

“’Course we can, Birthday Boy,” he nods and smiles at me sweetly, bearing all his tiny teeth. He scoots closer and leans his head on my shoulder again. In response, I lean my head on his head and sigh, watching the waves crash on the beach in the darkness while the fire flickers a little weaker as the flames become smaller and smaller.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

 

 

34 days after my birthday, there’s a terrible storm.

 

We spent the days until that day like all the others so far. We went swimming in the ocean, wandered around the island, teased each other, made new jewelry out of shells and other things we found, searched for food and had a few arguments. There were even two days where we didn’t say a thing to the other because we got on our nerves, which, to my liking, happens too often lately.

 

No ship came ever by to rescue us. I wouldn’t ever admit it to Gerard, but I’m thankful for every day that passes without a ship crossing the horizon. It’s too complicated to explain the reasons. Maybe it’s because I’m happy and feel at home here, now. I miss father and mother, but on the other hand, Gerard has always been my best friend and I’m starting to feel like he’s the only person I need, though I kind of always knew that. Our parents and sometimes even aunts and far away related cousins told us sometimes that we were unhealthily close for siblings because we only ever did everything together. It was never just Gerard or just Mikey, it was always Gerard and Mikey and therefore, I'm glad that he's the one who's here with me.

 

Only a few days after my birthday, I found myself waking up in his bed. The reason was a frightening nightmare and since I couldn’t fall back asleep but also didn’t want to wake him up, I just crawled in next to him. It’s nothing new, really. I did that more than once in the 5 years we’ve been here.

 

Gerard never judges me for it or asks any questions. He is well aware of my nightmares. Even when we lived at home and my screams woke the entire house at night and our parents came to my room, it was him who I found comfort in and who I wanted to crawl under my blanket with me, so it’s nothing strange or special. In fact, I dearly enjoy being that close to him most of the time.

 

The next night, I slept in my own room again but Gerard made sure I was okay before he went to bed himself. There have been a few nights when he couldn’t sleep or when I heard him sniffle quietly and I was the one who comforted him. He never tells me the reasons, but I guess it has got something to do with our situation here. I know how much he probably wants to get away from here.

 

Anyway. We kind of saw the storm coming. Once a year, between my birthday and Christmas, the weather conditions change drastically for a few days. Well, to us they’re not really drastic anymore because we got used to them, but at the beginning, it was pretty extreme, even for us.

 

Most of the time, it’s brutally hot and the sun burns down remorseless (we used to cover ourselves in mud as some sort of shield from the sun, but our skin got used to it and soon we didn’t need it anymore) but towards the end of the year, though we don’t count it in months but in notches, the weather changes from hot to windy, joined by downfall and thunderstorms and then to bearable warm until it gets hot again. It’s never cold here, except for when you get too deep into the forest where the sun doesn’t come through the thick leaves of the trees, but the wind and thunderstorms can be pretty unpleasant, especially when you live in a self-made house built out of bamboos and bracken.

 

And it’s not like we never get thunderstorms or rain during the year, because we do, but it never gets as extreme as this huge storm.

 

Every year, when we first feel the weather changing and then see it in the sky and the behavior of the nature and animals around us, we prepare ourselves for that very incident. We pack all our belongings and bring them to the cave we found on the 19th day here. Yes, I remember dates and numbers like that, I don't know why. Maybe because that's all you have left to remember events from the past. The cave is located about 10 minutes away from the beach and surrounded by palms, wildflowers, bracken and other plants and trees. It’s not as big as our house, not by far, but it’s enough for the time being and grants us shelter.

 

It always hurts to say goodbye to our house, even if it’s just for a few days but we’ve learned the hard way that we can’t stay there meanwhile the storm. During our first 365 days here, we didn’t know anything about the weather conditions and due to that fact, we weren’t prepared when the storm hit. It was in the middle of the night and we were terrified. The roof in Gerard’s bedroom collapsed and hit him on the head. He was bleeding pretty badly and I was scared because it was dark and I didn’t know what to do.

 

We somehow made it through the night, wrapped around each other and hoping for salvation. Three days later, the storm calmed down and that was the first time we saw the mightiness that it had left behind. Trees and plants were unrooted, the water was nothing but foam and dirt, fishes and turtles lay dead on the sand and many parts of our house were ruined. We also hadn’t seen Robin in days and were shattered.

 

It took us 5 weeks to rebuild everything and to clean the beach but we learned from our mistakes and soon we promised ourselves that we would be prepared the next time. Which we were every year after. Sure, we can’t do that much about the house situation, but we do our best to steady it and we make sure that we are safe.

 

The cave is kind of like our little vacation-house. Sometimes if we feel like it, we spent a couple of days there for no reason but it’s always nice to be there and when we come back home, we appreciate our house even more.

 

A few days ago, when we figured it would be this time of the year again, we started to bring our belongings to the cave and started to work on the house. We covered the windows with big panels that Gerard built out of solid wood. We unhitched objects like the swing and hammock, the shells and flowers on the façade of the house that I put there as some sort of decoration, or our mosquito nets and lanterns, and buried them in a hole we dug in the sand under the basement where it’s most safe.

 

We made sure to reap bananas, avocados, coconuts and other fruits before the wind would tear them off. We fished and made sure to bring as much water to the cave as we could carry and just like that when we returned for the last time to grab the last few things, it started to rain and when I looked at Gerard, we shared a knowing glance.

 

Robin never comes with us, but he’s waiting for us when we finally come back and we’re always relieved to see him.

 

-

 

We just settled for our first night in the cave and are now eating dinner. I can hear how the wind gets louder and the rain heavier and the faint rumbling of thunder in the distance.

 

“You think it will ever be as bad as that first time?” Gerard asks around a mouth full of papaya.

 

“Nah, I don’t think so. We know what to expect now and we got ourselves prepared so I wouldn’t be too worried.” I smile at him and he nods.

 

“You’re probably right.”

 

“Of course I’m right! I’m old and wise now!” At that, Gerard laughs and throws a banana skin at me.

 

“You wish, Mikeyway. I’m almost 18 which means I’m much older and much wiser than you.”

 

“Hey!” I squeak when the banana skin hits me. “You have at least another 200 days until you turn 18.”

 

“Still older than you!” he argues and grins.

 

“You’re the worst, Gee!” I mock and chew extra loud to annoy him. He hates when I do that and glares at me, but it’s all in good fun.

 

When dinner’s over and we get ready for bed, the familiar fear that I always get around this time sets in. Gerard seems to notice and scoots closer to me without saying a word, lays down behind me, tucks his knees in the crook of mine and puts his arm around my belly. I immediately relax and try not to think about the thunder that’s getting louder, but instead focus on my brother’s breath that tickles my neck.

 

-

 

I woke up about 10 minutes ago, but haven’t yet opened my eyes for two reasons: The thunderstorm got worse during the night,- which it still is, judging by the darkness- the lightning is blinding my eyes even though they’re closed, and I feel incredibly relaxed because Gerard is stroking me, which was what woke me in the first place, I think. It’s the same slow rhythm all over again; he curls a strand of hair behind my ear and then soft fingertips caress my jawline, neck, and shoulder. It’s really soothing and I can feel Goosebumps on my arms even though I’m not at all cold.

 

I’m kind of familiar with this gesture, but he usually only does it when I’m crying and tries to comfort me. I’m not crying now though. In fact, he’s in believe that I’m asleep. It’s maybe a tiny bit weird for a matter of fact, but I’m so relaxed and at ease that I’m not even questioning his actions.

 

Without really thinking about it, I press in a little closer and finally open my eyes. We’re both lying on our sides and he’s looking right at me and yes, it’s pretty dark in the cave thanks to the lantern that is almost out, but I can just make out his facial expression and he looks kind of alarmed when he sees that I’m not asleep anymore. I wonder how long he’s been doing this but I can’t quite bring myself to say the words.

 

“Why’d you stop?” I whisper instead when his hand stops the pattern on my skin.

 

“I’m sorry,” he whispers back, sounding a little embarrassed.

 

Now that’s something I don’t get, he didn’t do anything worth an apology and to show him, I shake my head in a weird angle against my pillow and say, “’T’was nice, you should keep going.”

Without questioning the strange look on his face, I nuzzle back in and tuck my head under his chin. I can feel him shiver a little and I’m guessing he must be cold so, in a quick motion, I pull up the thin blanket that’s trapped between us and pull it up to his shoulder. A moment later, he starts the stroking again, though not as serene as before but still relaxing enough to put me back to sleep for another few hours.

 

-

 

When I wake up the second time, it’s morning. The rain rattles on the roof of the cave and the wind has picked up. The thunder seems to have stopped for now, but it could start again every minute. You never know with this weather.

 

Gerard is still asleep, facing the wall. He must have turned away from me at some point of the night.

 

When I sit up, my belly rumbles and I’m quite thirsty so I decide to make breakfast. The cave is not really big but we tried to separate it in two areas: Kitchen and place to sleep. The ‘kitchen area’ is really only a little fireplace right by the entrance where we also stored our food and water. The sleeping area is on the far end.

 

Not bothering to get dressed just yet, I climb out from under the thin blanket and crawl to the entry, putting the bracken shield a bit to the side with one hand to spy outside. I’m immediately hit by rain in the face and when I look up, the sky is grey and the treetops are waving in the wind. I sigh and close the self-made shield again, and get ready to start a small fire.

 

Gerard loves cold peppermint tea a lot and it’s also a good replacement for toothpaste. All we can do to keep our teeth clean is to either drink peppermint tea, eat peppermint leaves or chew on a piece of Miswāk that Brian showed us on the 4th day here. It’s better than nothing and really, no one likes morning breath.

 

After a moment, it’s getting smoky in the little space we have and I have to re-open one of the bracken shields a bit. I really don’t want us to die of smoke poisoning. The sudden rush of cool air makes Gerard shift under the blanket and I can’t help but grin to myself. When the fire is finally burning for real, I carefully put in six hand-sized, clean stones that we collected the day before.

 

You see, whenever we need hot water, and I mean really hot, we make a fire and lay some clean stones in there so they can heat up. That’s yet another technique Brian taught us. The entire floor in- and outside the cave is of massive stone and to our luck, there’s a little pit outside the cave that is about 20 inches deep and as large as two coconuts. I fill that pit with water and when the stones are hot enough, I put them in there.

 

The water heats up pretty fast and we have hot water within minutes, which is exactly what I need right now for the tea.

 

When the water seems hot enough, I throw a handful of peppermint leaves in there and mix them with a bamboos stick that I also used to get the stones out of the fire to prevent from burning myself. The fresh smell alone wakes me up fully and is so worth doing this whole process every once in a while. Besides, I want to surprise Gerard and it might be a nice way to say thank you for comforting me last night, or whatever it was he was doing.

 

Honestly, I don’t care what it was because it was a really sweet gesture and it felt nice.

 

When I think the tea must be ready, I grab two coconut shells and fill them to the brim. I put Gerard’s aside so it can cool down but I personally like my tea warm and fresh.

 

After several long moments of drinking in little, careful sips, I decided to wake my brother up.

 

With the coconut in my hand, I gingerly crawl back to the sleeping area and sit down next to him, adjusting my thin underpants. With my right hand, that is warm from holding the provisional cup, I touch his shoulder gently and try to slowly turn him towards me.

 

“Hey Gee, get up! It’s morning and I made you tea,” his first response is a little croaky whine but eventually, he turns around and rubs his eyes. He’s still not sitting up though, only yawns and pulls the blanket over his eyes.

 

“Wha’ time s’ it?”

 

“Don’t know, but probably still early.” It’s really hard to tell with the weather all messed up like this. It’s like the inner clock is completely twisted.

 

“Come on, Lazybutt! I’m bored and your tea is probably cooled down by now!” I grin and try to pull the blanket away, but when I start to pull he shrieks, clutches it tight and curls in more on himself.

 

My first thought is that he’s trying to play so I try it again two more times, but then-

 

“Damn it, Mikey! Stop! You can’t just do that!”

 

I haven’t heard him so angry in a long while and I’m so stunned that I let go of the blanket and sit back a little, holding my cup close to my chest with both hands now.

 

“I’m sorry,” I say, but I honestly don’t think I did anything wrong. I can hear him sigh and after a moment, he pokes his head out from under the blanket.

 

“Don’t be, just... please don’t do that, okay?” His voice is a lot softer now and I think he sounds sorry too.

 

Putting my tea down, I crawl to the entry to get his. The fire is burned down and is mostly embers now, which comes in handy for cooking lunch later. I grab his cup and another container with mashed bananas and a self-made spoon and knee-walk back to him.

 

“Breakfast,” I offer quietly, hoping that this will lighten up his mood. Finally, after a few more moments of awkward silence, he sits up and stretches with the blanket in his lap. He brushes a strand out of his eyes and yawns again. When he sees the tea and mashed bananas, he smiles a little.

 

“What’s the occasion?” he asks. We both know how rare it is that either of us makes tea, just because it’s so elaborate.

 

Suddenly feeling shy, I shrug my shoulders and look down at my cup.

 

“Y’know..you were very nice to me last night and I wanted to surprise you. It’s no big deal.”

 

When I don’t get a response after a minute, I look up and once again, I don’t know what I did wrong. Gerard looks very, very ashamed and kind of sad, kind of like he did last night when I caught him stroking me. He pinches the brick of his nose with thumb and pointer finger and squeezes his eyes shut. Now that there’s actual light, I can make out a light blush on his nose and cheeks.

 

His next words hurt me so much that I can’t breathe for a moment.

 

“But it is a big deal, Mikey. You know, I don’t think we should be so close anymore and, you know..not sleep together anymore.”

 

When he opens his eyes again and looks at me, my eyes well up before I can stop them.

 

“What? But you were the one who started to cuddle..” My voice sounds as broken as I’m feeling. “What did I do?”

 

“Nothing! You did nothing. And I know I did, it’s just...I think we’re both too old now to do this kind of stuff,” he says, waving his hand awkwardly and sounding upset. That’s a lame answer and he knows it. Of course, age is no reason to quit sleeping together.

 

“What?!” I say again because he makes zero sense to me.

 

When he just sighs and lets his head hanging, I’m getting angry. All we ever did was to be close to one another. We’ve been sleeping together for as long as I can remember and we decreased it anyway by having separate bedrooms. I can’t just give up the rare nights I have with him, he knows that I need him in moments like this!

 

“What is it, Gerard?! Do I smell? Do I not cook good enough for you? Did I say something wrong? You’ve been acting very weird lately, you know that? You can’t just abandon me like that and not give me a proper reason why we can’t be close anymore, okay? I mean, what does that even mean?! This isn’t just about you!”

 

After my little outburst, I expect a reasonable answer or even an apology, but all he does is shooting me an evil glance and saying, “You wouldn’t understand,” and climbs out from under the blankets, gets out of the cave and then he’s gone before I can stop him.

 

All I do for the next 5 minutes is to stare at the entry with tears still in my eyes, jaw agape and waiting for him to come back, but he doesn’t. I can’t believe what just happened. The day started so well and in less than 15 minutes everything goes downhill?

 

Worst of all, I don’t even know why. I really tried to be nice and sincere to him but apparently, I did something wrong, though he said I didn't. I hate to argue with him. It hurts and makes me sad and angry all at once. And now... Well now he’s out there in the storm and I’ll probably die of worry. He didn’t even put on clothes, he’s just wearing a loincloth and nothing else. Not that it’s really cold, but he could get hurt or anything.

 

I pull my knees up to my chest, wrap my arms around them and put my chin on my kneecaps, thinking.

 

Gerard has been acting weird for a while now, though never as bad as today. The first time I noticed was probably a few months before my birthday. He brought back a lot of fish one day and when I hugged him from behind and gave him a quick peck on the shoulder like I often do, he pushed out of my arms and awkwardly played it off as being disgusted by my actions which was weird because he’d never done that before. He kind of smiled oddly though, so I didn’t think anything of it at the time.

 

Occasionally, I would catch him staring at me while I was changing clothes or relaxing in the sun or even while we were eating. On some days, he wouldn’t let me hug him and he’d act strangely when I did something as random as stretching my body after coming back from swimming or when I tried to give my shoulders a massage when they were aching after sleeping on the wrong side. So yeah, since that day, there were a few incidents like that, but as I said, I never gave much thought to it.

 

Now and again, he would harass me in the strangest situations but then stop quickly when I told him to go away. Whenever this happens, he’d look a little shocked, almost as if he didn’t realize what he was doing.

 

I guess I’m no different though.

 

Lately, when I let my mind wander, I’d catch myself thinking about him more and more, which would be okay if it wasn’t for the weirdness of my thoughts. If I don’t stop myself fast enough, they’d turn into something that I can’t even explain and more often than not, I feel embarrassed if I’m not able to stop these thoughts from happening.

 

Another thing I noticed recently is, that I get annoyed really fast for no real reason. In those moments, it’s like I can’t control my mood at all and I absolutely hate that feeling. I have more nightmares recently which unsettles me, I get sad too often because I’d think about things I can never have or people I lost and that in return makes me angry because there’s nothing I can do against any of it. Then I’d let my mood out on Gerard, who, of course, doesn’t deserve it, but as I said, I feel out of control in these situations.

 

Gerard seems to be annoyed with me a lot lately. On some days, I don’t even have to do anything and he’d be mad at me. Especially in the mornings when there is no reason to be upset, yet he’d bleat at me. Sometimes, when I ask what I did wrong, he would give me a reasonable answer and then I’d apologize, but sometimes I find his answer ridiculous and just snort at him.

Maybe today was one of those mornings again? Maybe I molested him without realizing it? Though that’s still no reason to say things like that.

 

I guess we’re both a little guilty.

 

If Gerard stays with his decision, I would be truly heartbroken. We don’t even sleep together every night, just occasionally when one of us has a nightmare or we just don’t want to be alone. But in those nights, I need him and I thought he feels the same way. I just hope he’s not having enough of me after all. I can’t help wanting to be close to him.

 

Sighing sadly, I decided to make our bed and get dressed. Might as well do something to keep me distracted...

 

Since there’s not enough space to stand up, I get up on my knees, flush the blanked and fold it in half before laying it back down on the sleeping mats. Then I crawl over to the pile of clothes and put on the simple white dress. It might be my upset brain, but it kind of smells like Gerard since he was the one who wore it two days ago and I didn’t see a reason to wash it after since it wasn’t dirty. It’s rare that we share clothes but when we do I appreciate the little stretch in the cotton, because he’s bigger than me, and I like his smell. I quickly brush my hair and braid two strands to the back of my head before securing them with the clips.

 

Not knowing what to do next, I kneel down by the fireplace and stare at the embers. It relaxes me a little and I start to pick at my fingers. I just hope Gerard is okay. The wind has slowed down a bit, but the rain got heavier and I thought I heard rumbling again. It’s really unsafe out there and I’m incredibly mad at him for making me feel like that.

 

I lean my back against the wall and grimace when something sharp pokes me in the back. Grabbing behind me, I immediately know what it is. It’s my old music box. I can’t remember bringing it here so it must have been Gerard. He knows how much I love that thing and knowing that he inwardly does care and wants to make me happy, actually makes me beam on the inside and smile sadly to myself on the outside.

 

I spin the winding cross and open the casket. It’s playing the rainbow song and I’m hit with another wave of sadness. Music just makes you emotional, I guess. I lean my head back against the wall and promise myself to apologize to Gerard as soon as he’s back. I still don’t think I did anything wrong, at least nothing major that made him say the things he said, but still. Something upset him and since I’m the only person here, it must have been something I did.

 

For now, I just hope he’s okay.

 

-

 

The music box has run through at least a dozen times when Gerard gets back.

 

He’s completely soaked and dirty with sand and mud and leaves, but I don’t care. I just knock down the lid of the music box and throw myself at him, not caring if he wants me to or not. I was dead worried about him the last two hours. I tell him that and squeeze my arms tighter around him.

 

“Don’t you ever do that to me again!”

 

After a moment, he puts his arms around me too and I’m so relieved that a tiny sob escapes my throat and I bury my face in his neck that is cold and wet from the rain. I can feel him shiver against me, he must be freezing.

 

He pulls me in closer and we both say, “I’m so sorry,” at the same time.

 

“I can’t explain it, Mikes. I don’t understand my own thoughts anymore. They,- they frighten me sometimes and I keep telling myself that they don’t mean anything but..I’m just confused you know...I don’t want to hurt you.”

 

He sounds so in pieces that my heart aches.

 

“Don’t you get it?”, I put forth and pull back a little to look him in the eye but keep my arms around his waist as if I’d let go, he’d run away again.

 

“You’re only hurting me by not wanting to be close to me anymore.”

 

He considers my words for a moment, but I can’t read his face. I’m distracted by him shivering again and I don’t care about his answer anymore. His health is way more important to me than the two of us fighting. I only now let go of him to get the blanket from the sleeping area. I wrap it around him and make him sit close to the fireplace where the embers are still glowing lightly. I then grab another smaller cloth and start to rub his hair dry and wipe some smudges off his face.

 

I’m relieved when he lets me and even leans in a little, closing his eyes.

 

“Where were you even?” I ask carefully.

 

“Looking for Robin,” he answers.

 

“Did you find him?”

 

“No..I wanted to go home, but I couldn’t,” he says, voice croaking towards the end of the sentence.

 

“But you didn’t?”

 

Maybe he was there but it was all destroyed? The thought alone is horrifying.

 

“No,” he says again and turns towards me. I look at him, stilling my hand in his hair and tilt my head to the side a little.

 

“We always come back together,” Gerard says, looking genuine.

We both smile at each other mournfully and that’s when I know that the fight is over. Not forgotten, but over. At least for now.

 

-

 

The rest of the day goes by relatively well, though the tension between us is a bit tense. There are moments when Gerard won’t look at me or when I have to hold back because I would like to sit a little closer to him. But after all, we’re not fighting anymore, which is the most important thing right now. It would be horrible to spend the next few days in here not talking to each other or worse, quarrel over nonsense.

 

“Have I ever told you that I like the way you do your hair?” Gerard asks me over dinner that evening. We’re sitting by the fireplace again, eating a grilled mango. The weather got worse again which mostly happens during the late hours of the day and it gets even worse at night.

 

“Yeah you have, actually,” I say after I swallowed my bite.

 

“It’s just,” he says and tilts his head to the side. “I can’t remember that the boys back home braided their hair you know?”

 

I snort a laugh and raise my coconut cup to drink some water.

 

“Yeah well, they also didn’t wear dresses and hats and jewelry,” I say and chuckle when he rolls his eyes.

 

“That’s not how I meant it! I was just saying that I don’t understand why they didn’t do it. The girls, sure. But is it not normal for boys to braid their hair or wear girls clothes? I mean, what even makes girls clothes girls clothes? I wore mums shoes and dresses a few times and didn’t think anything of it..- you know what, forget it, it’s stupid,” he says when he sees my bemused face.

 

He ducks his head and some of his strands fall over his eyes. I think he’s ashamed again which, anew, confuses me. That’s the 3rd time in less than 24 hours and I’m starting to think that it has got something to with the way I behave. Gerard is one big mystery, seriously.

 

“Well,” I say and shift around a little. “I bet the other boys also didn’t run around in just their underwear all day long like you do.”

 

I wiggle my eyebrows at him but he just rolls his eyes again.

 

“Yeah, but that’s just because I don’t have anything else. I mean, why do there have to be certain standards for boys and girls?” he asks, but it sounds more like a statement than a question.

 

“Oh Gee,” I say and pat the top of his head. “Stop thinking so much. You can’t know everything. If you want to hear my opinion on it, I think everyone should do and wear whatever they want as long as they’re happy and aren’t hurting anyone.”

 

That being said, I get up on my knees and collect our dishes and awkwardly knee-walk to the entry to quickly wash them in the rain.

 

When I’m done and turn around, Gerard hasn’t moved from his position against the wall and looks deeply in thoughts. I sit down in front of him and carefully reach out to touch his thigh.

 

“Gee?” I say in a soft voice. After a moment, he tears his eyes away from the spot on the ground he’s been staring at and looks at me. I try to smile at him a little but I’m still unsure how to act around him.

 

He sighs and says, “I think you’re right,” referring to what I said a moment ago.

 

I grin a little smug and say, “Of course I’m right. I’m wise and you’re not, remember?”

 

He rolls his eyes dramatically and snorts but for the first time in hours, probably even the first time all day, I can see a tiny smile on his lips. It’s not much, but I take what I get.

 

“Good,” I say and pat his thigh. “C’mon now, bedtime.” I pull my hand away and search in the basket behind me for peppermint.

 

When I find the leaves, I pass Gerard a few and start to chew on some myself.

 

While my mouth is busy chewing, I remove the hairclips and card my fingers through my hair in a poor attempt to untangle it. It’s been a while since I washed it, judging by the sand grains that fall out and the slight grease I feel on my fingertips when I remove my hand. I peek over at Gerard and, of course, he’s looking. I blush and hope he’s not grossed out or something.

 

Oh well, there’s nothing I can do about it right now and besides, his hair is always a giant mess.

 

In a quick move, I pull the white dress over my head and put it aside. Now I’m only in my puffy white underpants but that’s okay. I never sleep in more clothes than necessary.

 

When I’m done and crawl over to the sleeping area, Gerard is still looking at me weirdly and I realize that we haven’t talked about the ‘sleeping next to each other/being close’ situation.

 

“Uh..” Scratching my shoulder, I look down and sigh.

 

“I can sleep by the entry if you want me to..?” I suggest, not knowing what else to say. It’s not like there’s much space left where one of us could sleep anyway.

 

When there’s no reply, I look up and surprisingly find that Gerard is smirking lopsided at me.

 

“You know I wouldn’t allow that. Come on, it’s alright,” he says and removes the white button-up I made him wear earlier. Did he really just say it’s alright?

 

“But I thought-“ I start, but he won’t let me finish.

 

He throws his shirt in the pile of clothes and sits on top of the blanket and then asks in a rush, voice pitched with a hint of anxiety, “Did I make you feel uncomfortable last night?”

 

I thought I made that clear by surprising him with the tea this morning but apparently, I didn’t.

 

“Of course not! Is that what you were thinking?”

 

If anything, I enjoyed it but I can’t quite bring myself to say that to him. But maybe that’s what made him say the things he said this morning? Maybe he thought he made me feel uncomfortable? That wouldn’t make any sense though because, in my opinion, I didn’t do anything that could have given him such an idea.

 

He nods awkwardly, looking in thoughts.

 

“Okay,” he says then and shakes himself a little before he crawls under the blanket and lays down.

 

Disbelievingly, I stare at him. “You have some serious mood swings, Gerard. Seriously, you confuse me sometimes.”

 

I lay down myself and turn my head in his direction only to find that he’s already looking at me. He looks a little stricken and I feel bad for saying that.

 

“Sorry,” I say and shift a bit closer. He’s not flinching away, which I take as a good sign.

 

“Aren’t you cold?” he asks softly and offers for me to get under the covers with him.

 

“Nah, I’m good,” he nods and drops the blanket again.

 

For the next minute that actually feels like hours, we just stare at each other and my stomach feels kind of weird. I’m writing it off as a relief because we’re okay now and I’m also glad that I don’t have to sleep at the entry. It could also be the mango I just ate. Mother was right, no sugar before bed because it raises the blood sugar and makes you jittery.

 

“Well,” he says suddenly, almost startling me. “Good night I guess.”

 

He smiles some and I can’t help but do the same.

 

“Yeah, night Gee.”

 

Taking one last look, he turns around and we both breathe out tight air.

 

-

 

I wake up again that night, but not because of Gerard, but because it actually got a bit parky in here and I’m cold.

 

It’s dark and my brain needs a moment to make out where Gerard is. He’s still facing the wall, it looks like, and the blanket is wrapped around him.

 

I grope around until I find the opening and just slip under it awkwardly. Gerard has warmed the blanket up pretty nicely and I can feel his body heat from where I am. I really shouldn’t, it’s not fair to him, but it’s just too tempting; In really slow moves so he won’t wake up, I crawl closer until I’m pressed up against his back.

 

I don’t think we’ve ever slept in this position. It always seemed a tad bit strange because he was always the taller one but this is actually truly, undeniably nice and all of a sudden, I want to get even closer. In a swift move, I gingerly put my arm around him and rest my palm on his ribs before I press in closer still. This way, my face is right in his hair and when I breathe in, his hair smells like dry sand and saltwater and not at all greasy like I thought it probably would from the looks of it. Apparently, my nose and brain find that smell very pleasant.

His skin is all warm and my whole body relaxes and my stomach does this weird swoopy thing again where it feels all tingly and mellow.

 

Just as my eyes fall shut, I feel him shift slightly.

 

“Mikey?” he says very quietly.

 

“M’ cold,” I reply, just as quiet.

 

In response, he takes my hand that’s resting on his ribs and pulls it up his chest before he snuggles his nose against our knuckles.

 

Now, the feeling I get when he breathes warm against my fingers and cuddles back against my chest is something that I’ve never experienced and I don’t quite know what to do with myself.

 

“This is nice,” Gerard whispers and makes a sound almost like a purr.

 

I’m not sure what my brain is trying to tell me, but it’s like it screams at me and I’m momentarily overwhelmed. I do feel incredibly good though, so in response, I nod timidly and whisper a faint “Yeah,” back at him.

 

He squeezes my hand softly and breathes heavily through his nose and a moment later, I can feel him falling back to sleep.

 

My brain is still rattling, but I can feel just how tired I am myself and the rain pattering on the roof swings me to sleep.

 

My last thought before I finally drift off is that Gerard is probably not the only one who’s not understanding his own thoughts anymore.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

 

 

We spend the next couple of days like we do every year when we’re captured in here. We talk. And I mean a lot.

 

It’s just natural because what else could we do in such a small space? Going outside for a long time is not an option and that means all the things we usually do, like swimming or doing laundry or just usual chores are no opportunity. So we talk.

 

It always starts the same way; We talk about nonsense, just your usual small talk until it becomes a full conversation and the topic turns into seriousness.

 

“Do you ever think about..?” Gerard would ask me in a small voice and I’d look away. It’s hard for me to talk about the big things but I think it’s even harder for Gerard since he is older and witnessed and memorized more than me. My memories of home blur a bit more every year, but I think it’s a whole other deal to him. Gerard never forgets anything, good or bad.

 

The main topics we talk about are different every year. For example, 4 years ago, we talked mainly about Brian since it was not too long ago that we had lost him. The following year we talked about our parents and home. Last year we talked about the future and our hopes, dreams, and wishes.

 

Trust me, every year, at least one of us ends up crying if not both of us. We mostly avoid talking about the heart-wrenching stuff during the year because it hurts and it feels vain because we can’t change anything about our situation and the past or prevent the future.

 

The year we talked about mother and father was probably the most agonizing conversation we ever had. It’s so incredibly painful to lose your parents. We never got a chance to say goodbye to our father because everything happened so fast that tragic day. The last memory I have of him, is him smiling at us though, which is a slight consolation.

 

Both I and Gerard hugged our mother goodbye and promised her to be good boys and she kissed our foreheads. Neither of us knew that this would be a farewell.

 

When we sat here and talked about our last memories with them and the thunder shook the earth, we both cried and couldn’t stop so for a long while.

 

We wondered if they got divorced after father came back- if he ever came back- or if they sat at home, slung around each other and cried like we did. We wondered if they ever got another child or sold our toys because it was too painful to look at them or if they did nothing at all or went out searching for us.

 

Of course, we’d never get an answer to any of those questions, but talking about it seemed important to handle our loss and somehow make it okay.

 

“I think it’s like in that book, remember? Where the mother lost their children, and waited by the open window for them to return?” Gerard said while the lightning flickered outside.

 

“You mean Peter Pan?” I said, sniffing in his lap.

 

He stroked behind my ear where the bows of my glasses were jammed, and over my hair that had gotten too long and said quietly, barely audible over the rain, “Yeah... like in Peter Pan.”

 

The next morning, the storm had subsided almost completely so we decided to pack our things and get ready to go back and by noon, we were home and started to rebuild things around the house.

 

“We will be okay without them, Twee. I know we will. We have each other.” Gerard said at last when he noticed me staring into the distance the first night we slept home again.

 

He cupped my cheek with his right hand and stroked over my eyebrow like he always does in really important moments, before leaning in and kissing my forehead like mother liked to do. It was comforting and I trusted Gerard’s words.

 

We would be okay.

 

-

 

Sitting by the fireplace on the 3rd evening, it’s me who’s brave enough to ask the question for the very first time after all these years.

 

“Do you ever think about Frank and Raymond? What they’re doing or how they might look like now?”

 

We hadn’t done anything special yesterday. The mood was still slightly off after the fight but there were moments when we would tease each other in the pristine, brotherly way that we always have.

 

It wasn’t cold last night so I didn’t need Gerard to warm me and we both slept through the night without any incidents.

 

I think tonight might be the last night in the cave and not that I don’t like being here, but our bodies are starting to protest.

 

We can’t stand up or walk around except for little pee-breaks, but that’s about it. There’s barely any daylight in here and our muscles ache from the lack of movement. I desperately need to bathe and we’re running low on food.

 

The storm is coming to an end though, we can feel it thanks to the years of practice and experience.

 

Gerard throws the little stick he’d been playing with in the fire and sighs, resting his chin on his knees.

 

“’Course I do. I went to school with Ray, and Frank often came over to play...I could never forget ‘em.”

 

“They liked you a lot. You know, Frank always got excited when you played with us,” I say, and watch as the little stick burns down.

 

“But he was your best friend and Ray probably I thought I was weird.”

 

I can’t help the audible scoff that escapes my throat.

 

“Well that’s because you are weird, but in the best way, honest!”

 

He tries to hide his grin behind his kneecaps but I know it’s there. “And also,” I start and shift a bit closer, leaning my back against the wall next to him. “You got it right that Frank and I were close friends, but so were you and him. And he wasn’t my best friend.” I bend my knees and lazily rest my forearms on them. Then I let my head fall back against the wall and turn my gaze towards him.

 

“Was he not?” he asks and pinches his eyebrows together, looking me directly in the eye.

 

“Nah,” I dock my ankle against his and pull my lips into a smile. “That’s always been you.”

 

He smiles this crooked little smile where he first grins so much that you’d think his teeth fall out and then realizes what he’s doing and tries to hide it by awkwardly pulling his lips together in a way that almost looks uptight.

 

It’s my favorite Gerard smile because it’s completely honest.

“Yeah?” Another thing he’s trying to hide but, it’s obvious that he’s beaming on the inside.

 

I nod-smile and pick at my fingers absently.

 

He looks me up and down a few times before saying, “Maybe Raymond is married now,” he stops briefly when I pull a face.

 

“No, but think about it! He was my age and his parents always demanded that he needed to be married by 18. He’s almost 18 now, so who knows?”

 

It’s true. I remember overhearing a few hastily conversations between Raymond and his father when I and Gerard were over for the afternoon or even spent the night. I remember that his parents used to be super strict, which, fine, I get that. Our parents were strict, but they would have never demanded such a great big thing as this was from us.

 

Mother and father were stern and they gave us a lot of rules we had to follow, but we did have our freedom, which in my opinion, is something absolutely indispensable. They let us be who we wanted to be and raised us with open minds like it should be.

 

I remember that he sometimes appeared very forlorn and that made me sad because Ray’s personality used to be super cheerful and happy. He was always smiling, yeah, but I knew that on the inside, he was broken. His parents tried to make him into something he wasn’t. I could see that, even though I was still very young back then. It wasn’t hard to overlook.

 

He loved his parents dearly and they loved him back just as much, but they also destroyed him at such a young age. Maybe because their parents used the same methods on them and they didn’t know it any better. But that’s no excuse, in my opinion. They could have made him experience the same, carefree childhood that I and my brother had, but something went significantly wrong.

 

I guess even adults have to learn a lot of things, sometimes even more than children.

 

“I just hope it’s someone who he really likes,” Gerard continues, startling me a little.

 

I nod in response and try to imagine him with a nice girl by his side. Whoever that girl is, she is pretty lucky. Ray is a lovely person.

 

“Do you think his hair got bigger?” Gerard asks and we both laugh.

 

“I don’t think that’s possible, but probably,” I say and try to imagine how he looks now. Probably pretty tall, since he was the tallest out of us 4 back then. He liked to dress in casual clothes when he was both out or at home and not the stiff, church-like clothes his parents constantly made him wear. He was always open to try new things and take risks, he handled complicated situations with such ease that it amazed the people around him. He was extremely talented and always tried to soak in as much of life as possible.

 

If I had to name it, I'd say that he was one of those 'wonder-kids' who were always good at school, could play any instrument, were nice and clever and socially engaged and knew the answer to everything.

 

I would give a lot to see him and Frank one last time because just like with our father, we never got to say goodbye properly.

 

I wonder if they have other friends now and replaced us. It hurts, but I hope they did. I hope they were able to move on just like I and Gerard did, forcibly. All I want for them is to remember us and our friendship. We had something very special.

 

“I wonder if Frankie is still in Catholic school,” I say, trying to change the topic.

 

“How old is he now?” Gerard asks and I think for a moment.

 

“Should be 13. I think he was a year younger than me, wasn’t he?”

 

Gerard shrugs his shoulders in an ‘I don’t know’ kind of way and grins suddenly.

 

“Remember how much he hated those ties? I mean, they made him wear those silly outfits even in pre-school. I’m just glad we didn’t have to run around like that.”

 

I smile at the memory. Yeah, he always complained about his school outfits and said the ties made him choke and look stupid. But he liked to go to church on Sundays, not like most kids, and sometimes even took me, Raymond and Gerard with him. It was something that grounded him and gave him strength that he often needed, thanks to the illness he had to fight.

 

“At least his parents were nice. His mother always cooked the best pies and his father had a great sense of humor. Oh, and remember when he took us fishing with him and Frank that one day?” I say, beaming at the memory. It was a fantastic day. It was still early summer and it was all foggy in the morning and the grass was wet from the dew of the night.

 

He took us three to a lake by a quarry. The water was clear and deep and neither of us could swim yet, so he dressed us in swimming vests in case one of us would fall in.

 

He showed us how to make a fishing root with a long stick, some yarn, and a hook and he taught us those funny fishing songs. His mother had prepared sandwiches for us and little bottles of self-made cherry juice and even some candy to keep our blood sugar up, or so she said with a smile and a wink when she gave Frank the basket with goodies.

 

We didn’t catch a single fish, but it didn’t matter. We still had a great time. I think it was a month after I and Frank met in kindergarten and apparently, our parents were relieved that we became friends because we were both pretty shy. It was just natural, that when Frank came to our house for the first time, that I’d invite Gerard to play with us and soon, we three became close friends.

 

I and Frank only went to kindergarten together before his parents made him go to a private Catholic school, but since we lived on the same street, it was easy to stay in contact. One summer, me and him went to a holiday camp with his church group and our friendship got even deeper.

 

I remember that he was always the smallest kid, like, always, and therefore got teased quite a lot but I stood up for him like a friend should. In return, he would stick up for me when the kids at the playground would tease me for my glasses and my too long and lanky limbs. We made a great team. He was always fascinated by art and asked either me or Gerard to draw little pictures on his arms because he wanted to look different. One winter, he even cut his long hair all by himself into a strange mix of long and short strands. Others thought it was weird and his parents even grounded him for a week, but it suited him and made him happy.

 

He would cut slots in his pants on purpose and always wore at least 3 t-shirts at once because he always got cold, no matter what season of the year. His mother once told me his immune system didn’t work properly and therefore he got sick very fast.

 

He was always hyperactive no matter what time of the day, always needed to do something. It was either amusing or exhausting to watch for people who didn’t know him, but it never annoyed me or Gerard. We accepted him for who he was and he did the same for us in return.

 

Frank was one of a kind, that’s for sure.

 

“Do you remember that kid.,” Gerard says suddenly, snapping his fingers, thinking. “What was his name, Jimmy? John?”

 

“You mean James? Of course, I remember him, Frankie was totally in love with him!” I say, grinning from ear to ear.

 

Gerard’s eyes widen at that and his voice sounds excited and honky when he says, “Was he really? Why didn’t he tell me?!”

 

I shrug in response.

 

“Maybe because he was ashamed? I don’t know. I remember that he always turned dark red whenever James talked to him while we were in camp or whatever and said that he didn’t like him at all when I asked him about it. It was adorable.”

 

Gerard huffs a laugh and scratches his toes on the ground.

 

“You think his parents would have been okay with it? I mean, I guess they knew that they were friends and all but did they know that he liked him?”

 

I have to think about that for a minute. I don’t remember Frank’s parents were super strict, (except maybe for the church stuff) but on the other hand, I mean, we were still so young and relationships and love, in general, were boring topics to us. We much more cared about being allowed to go to this super awesome new water-playground they opened in the park near our house, or playing hide and seek in our basement.

 

I knew Frankie had a crush on that boy because he told me when I promised not to tell anyone, but I didn’t know what that was like since I had never had a crush before. The only people in my age I knew and cared about were Ray, Frank and my brother, but I don’t recall being in love with either of them. If I had to choose though, I probably wouldn’t have picked Ray since he often appeared to avoid this particular topic for certain reasons. I can’t remember that he ever liked a girl or a boy in the time we lived at home, and he definitely was in the right age to have crushes. We always figured that he was fine by himself. And if that’s what made him happy, then so it is.

 

I probably wouldn’t have chosen Frank either, because he obviously liked that James kid for several months and I wouldn’t want to come in between those two. Gerard? Well, I never thought about it until now, so I honestly don’t have a proper answer to that. Maybe I would have picked him though because we were together all the time anyway and he has always been my hero, but as I said, I don’t know what it’s like to have a crush on someone, let alone be in love. To be honest, I’m not even sure if I know the difference between the two.

 

I was never told what love feels like.

 

“Why wouldn’t they be okay with him liking James?” I ask Gerard in return after a moment, because I can’t find a response to his question.

 

“Because he was a boy? Think about it, Mikes. Adults only ever talked about women marrying men. Have you ever heard anyone talking about girls liking girls or boys liking boys? At least I don’t.”

 

I narrow my eyebrows at his words. I guess I see where he’s coming from, but I’ve honestly never thought about this before. I’ve always thought it was natural for boys to like boys and the same for girls. I’m confused and I’m not sure if I understand what he’s trying to say.

 

“Maybe they thought it’s wrong? Or maybe it’s forbidden by the law?” Gerard continues, looking sadly in the direction of the entrance.

 

I snort. To that, I know the answer immediately.

 

“Baloney. Come on, Gee don’t be silly. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that.” I hesitate for a moment when I don’t get a response. “Or do you think there’s something wrong with it?” I tilt my head to the side and wait for an answer.

 

He snaps his head back and looks at me funny.

 

“Of course not. But I’m not like them. I’ve always seen the things a bit different than most people, you know that.”

 

I consider this for a moment but shake my head in the end.

 

“I don’t think you’re right. I think a lot of people see the things like you, or me, by the way, thank you very much, but they just don’t say it. Maybe because they’re afraid to speak up.”

 

I change my position so that I’m sitting cross-legged in front of him. Suddenly, this topic is very important to me for some reason. I take a long breath for what I’m about to say next.

 

“I think it’s like the thing with the hair and girls-clothes you told me, remember? People have this retracted opinion on specific things because important people on the television or in the papers say how certain things apparently are or have to be when really, they only tell lies or at least not the whole truth. They’re all wrong though. Don’t you think that every single person was born the way they are? I think so. And something like love can never be wrong. Relationships, no matter which people are in it, are great and precious and should be accepted for as long as it’s reciprocated on both ends. I think the people on TV have no right to say otherwise. That’s what should be forbidden by the law!”

 

I’m mostly done with my explanation for now, but I have one last thing to say.

 

“The world never matches the thoughts and things that go on inside our heads, Gee. But that doesn’t mean they’re wrong.”

 

Gerard looks at me and sighs. “But why would they be so mean? Don’t they know that they’re hurting addressed people? Hurting people, prohibiting certain things such as love and telling lies is forbidden, Mikey.”

 

He looks really upset and crushed and I have to ask myself if he ever got hurt in that regard. The thought makes me sad so I try to say something to cheer him up.

 

“I know. But maybe the people on TV have changed while we were here? Who knows, maybe everyone is smart and wise now.” When I hear him giggle slightly, I know that I have him back.

 

“You mean wise like you?” he asks and tips his fingertip to my nose.

 

I grin and nod feverishly. “Exactly! See, I knew you thought I was wise and smart.”

 

He rolls his eyes and snickers. “Yeah yeah, whatever. I guess you’re right after all. Seriously, the world needs more people like you. You would make a great superhero, you know?”

 

Hearing him say that brightens me up. “You mean like the heroes you want to write about?”

 

My heart does a jump. Gerard’s opinion on superheroes is pretty particular and I know what big of an honor it is that he would pick me as one.

 

He smiles sweetly and nods. “Yeah. You would save the world with your cleverness and I would write about it and we’d become famous and everyone would love us.”

 

I touch his knee with the tips of my fingers and look him in the eyes, smiling.

 

“Keep that in mind for when we get out of here.”

 

He strokes over the fingernail of my pointer finger and nods. “I could never forget.”

 

--

 

While we talked, it got late and Gerard’s yawning and eye-rubbing told me that he must be pretty tired. I told him to go to sleep since we’re having a big day tomorrow, and only a few minutes later, I heard him snoring softly.

 

I’m tired too, but not quite ready to sleep yet. I have too many things running around in my head after the conversation we had, memories about Frank and Raymond, mother and father, Brian. Hope that the world really did change after we left.

 

Our mother always told me that I overthink everything too much and that I shouldn’t waste my thoughts and time on ‘unimportant things’, but that’s exactly the thing; nothing was ever unimportant to me. Maybe that’s why Gerard’s words that first morning in here hurt me so much and still plague me in moments of silence like right now.

 

I sigh and pull the thin covers over Gerard’s sleeping form before I crawl over to the entrance to peek outside. The weather seems to have settled mostly which means we can actually go back tomorrow if it stays that way. That’s both good and bad. As I said, I and Gerard need our full body circulation back, we need food and water and sunlight, but I’ll also miss how close we are in here. And I mean the talking and occasional cuddles. The fighting part was obviously no fun for either of us.

 

I have a feeling that as soon as we’re back, we won’t be as close anymore. We don't really have a choice in here but back on the beach, we have separated rooms and another everyday life.

 

Maybe I have to work out a plan, I think, as I stare out into the black night. If Gerard thinks he’s harming me by being close and all, then maybe I need to find a way to show him that that’s not the case at all. To be honest, after the last three days in here, I feel like I want to be even closer to him, probably because I got used to the idea of us being like that for mere hours at once. I’ve always been the clingier person of the two of us.

 

And I wouldn’t mind a repetition of the way we cuddled that second night.

 

I blink a couple of times in the night sky before I shrug out of my clothes, make sure the fire is out completely and then crawl back to the sleeping area. When I’ve laid down and made myself comfortable, I take a minute to look at my brother in the dim light of the lantern. He looks exhausted and tired, even though he’s fully asleep by now. His face is scrunched up and he breathes too fast. A long strand has fallen over his eyes so I carefully brush it away. I hesitate for a moment, but then I brush the pad of my thumb over his eyebrow like he does with me all the time.

 

I wonder why he does it but I think it has got something to do with the glasses I’m missing now. When I got my first pair of glasses at the age of 4, Gerard always stroked behind my ears because I just couldn’t get used to the pressure of the bows. They always felt too tight and itchy. It’s another habit he still does occasionally when I get a headache or he just gives me a head rub and pays special attention to that particular spot. The eyebrow thing probably comes from those times, mostly evenings when I snug into his bed and was finally allowed to pull them off and my face looked different without them. I know he liked to touch my face in the weirdest places and when there was no barrier of the glasses in the way, he took that as a chance to stroke over my eyebrows.

 

No one was ever allowed to touch me, especially my face, except maybe my parents and occasionally Frank, but Gerard was always the exception to everything.

 

Doing the same for him now feels kind of strange. He’s in a vulnerable state right now and he didn’t give me the permission, but I just had to try it out.

 

While I’m stroking over his eyebrow for a second and then third time, I think I’m starting to understand it. It makes me feel connected to him in a way that is familiar and comforting. It’s kind of like I can see myself through his eyes and is strangely intimate, as weird as it sounds.

 

As I drift off, I realize that I feel closer to Gerard than when we came here almost 4 days ago. We survived yet another storm, another bad fight, another painful conversation and another few days on this island. I never doubted that we couldn’t, but I guess we can survive anything together.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

 

“Do you think we’re soulmates?”

 

I was right and the weather allowed us to come back home after 4 days. Gerard woke me up when it was almost midday and stunned with our bags he had already packed, saying that he couldn’t wait for me to wake up and when I asked him why he didn’t just wake me, he waved his hand and said that I needed my beauty sleep. I just laughed and stretched my tired limbs.

 

We both got dressed and ate a quick breakfast before returning to the beach. The walk there was a bit taxing considering how little we had moved the last few days and also because the storm had unrooted a few trees, there was mud everywhere and the ground felt cold and slippery beneath our feet.

 

When we saw the beach for the first time, both of us smiled brightly, ignoring the mess the storm had left behind. It was just good to be back.

 

We put down our bags and went to work without hesitation. Gerard rebuilt a few parts of the house that didn’t make it and I started to clean the beach from dead leaves and branches. While I worked my way down to the water, I noticed a small item that must have been washed up. I expected it to be a box full of crap, but to my surprise, it turned out to be a wooden box full of old, dusty action figures.

 

In the 5 years, we’ve been here, we only ever found 3 items on the beach. Mostly after stormy nights because the waves were higher and wilder, I think. It was never something useful and I can’t even remember what the things were, except for one time when it was a tin box full of old hard candy. We ate the drops within two days and got a bad tummy ache in return, but we weren’t complaining.

 

I kept the action figures from Gerard, figuring they would make a great Christmas present. They looked like strange monsters to me but that’s what made me sure that he would love them.

 

After only 3 weeks, everything was back to normal. The house was intact again, the beach as clean as ever and the weather was all sunny and warm. Not as warm as before, but still warm enough to walk around without three layers of clothes. As I said, it got never cold here, or even close.

 

“What?” Gerard asks me, poking his head around the corner. We’re both inside, enjoying the luxury of four walls and a roof over our heads and relaxing after a long afternoon of fishing and doing chores.

 

“Do you think we’re soulmates?” I ask again, rolling my eyes and grinning while stroking Robin’s feathers who’s sitting on my lower arm. He came back three days after we returned, unharmed and healthy as always.

 

“Where did you get that idea from?” he asks and puts the new forks he’d been working on to the side before walking into my room.

 

I shrug my shoulders and tilt my head to the side a little. “I don’t know, just a thought?”

 

That’s not really true but I can’t bring myself to tell him the whole story about how I always secretly wished that we were soulmates and would share the same thoughts or could talk imaginary and confuse people around us.

 

Gerard sits down a bit distant from me and looks me up and down in a mocking way.

 

“What?!” I snap and feel myself blush under his stare.

 

He chuckles and looks down, smiles in his lap and shakes his head. 

 

“Nothing it’s just..first you ask me if siblings can be in love with each other and now you want to know if we’re soulmates? You ask the funniest things, Mikeyway.”

 

It’s true. About two weeks after we got back, I asked him that exact question. The one if siblings can love each other in the mature way like mother and father did. He just pulled a face and looked down like he did a minute ago. He never answered me so I figured he didn’t have an answer and I stopped being bothered. I’m not sure what made me ask in the first place. Maybe it was my subconscious wanting answers after the long conversation we had about boys liking boys and all, and how some things were forbidden by the law.

 

I’m more than a hundred percent sure that it’s normal and natural for people with the same gender to love each other, because I’ve seen it happening with my own eyes, thanks to Frankie, but I’ve never seen something similar happening with siblings. I don’t think it’s wrong for the same reasons I said to Gerard before; love is love and everything is okay for as long as it’s on a consensual level. I wanted to hear Gerard’s opinion on it, but I guess he just never gave a thought to it, which is totally okay. It’s not a daily topic, after all. I just wanted to know if he maybe ever witnessed something similar around him in the years he is ahead of me.

 

In moments like that, and really only in moments like when I desperately need an answer, I wish we were still at home and I could read about it in books or ask my friends or parents about it. How can I ever continue learning if there’s no one here to teach me? And I don’t mean things like Mathematics because that’s just boring and complicated, but about life, about history and important aspects and values. My knowledge stopped with primary school and that upsets me. Sure, Brian and Gerard taught me a few things, but not nearly as much as I’d like to. Gerard knows a few more things considering his age prostitution, but I know he also complains about the lack of things he doesn’t know and probably never will know.

 

I don’t like that he’s making fun of me right now for wanting to know things, and when I don’t say anything back to him, he sighs and skids a bit closer but still keeps his distance. He does that a lot now, just like I anticipated and it's slowly starting to destroy me, bit by bit. I can't tell him that though, so I try to swallow it down as always.

 

“Aw, come on. I didn’t mean it like that. I mean, what even defines soulmates? I know that the girls in higher grades always talked about their best friends being their soulmates, but is that it? Just friends?”

 

He sounds sincere now so I look up again but keep my face stern.

 

“No, I think..” I start in a weak voice and continue to stroke Robin’s head. “I think there’s more to that than being friends. They made us read that book in 3rd grade about two siblings who called themselves soulmates because they always felt it when the other was sad or needed help, even if they weren’t in the same room.”

 

At that, I have Gerard’s attention, it seems because he suddenly looks very interested.

 

“You mean like reading thoughts?” he asks and leans forward a little with big eyes.

 

“Kind of? I’m not sure, I don’t remember much of it. All I know is that they called each other best friends even though they were sisters and I figured since we are also best friends and brothers, that maybe we were soulmates as well. You always know when I’m sad even if I don’t tell you” I say, finally daring to look him in the eyes.

 

He looks bemused and says, “That’s because I’ve known you since the day you were born, Silly. But I can’t read your thoughts.” A short break, and then, “Or can you read my thoughts?”

 

His curiosity finally makes me grin, but I have to shake my head. “Nah, sorry to disappoint you.”

 

He does look a bit disappointed but half smirks when he says, “Man, that would be cool! I could use all the secrets that you keep in there against you!”

 

I glare at him but he ignores it. “Hey! How is that nice? It’s not fair to sneak up in someone’s mind and steal their secrets!”

 

He smirks even more now, kind of evil and wiggles his eyebrows. “Why? You keepin’ some dirty secrets from me? Anything you wanna tell me?”

 

My eyes widen at his words and I let out a shocked gasp. It must scare Robin because he makes a sound and flies out my window. I cross my arms in front of my chest and shoot him an angry glare.

 

“How dare you say that about me!” I say exasperated in a high-pitched voice, but he just laughs which makes me blush even more than before. He clearly wants to embarrass me.

 

“If you must know, no. I don’t have dirty secrets and even if, I wouldn’t tell you! You always tease me about things anyway, so why give you another reason to. And also, they’re called secrets for a reason.”

 

He stops laughing at that and defensively lifts his hands.

 

“Fine, fine. No dirty secrets. Relax Mikes, I was just making fun.” He looks a little sorry and I take a breath to calm down.

 

“Just don’t humiliate me, you know I don’t like that,” I say in a small voice and he looks even more sorry, though I can tell there’s still a tiny smirk behind his facade.

 

“’M really sorry,” he says and scratches his neck. “To answer your question from before... I don’t know if we’re soulmates or whatever. I guess we are but without the ‘reading minds’ part. I do know when you’re sad and you always know how to make me feel better. Not even mother or father could do that, you know?” He smiles a bit and I feel myself smiling back, my anger subsiding.

 

“Sounds good to me,” I say and scoot closer so we’re finally next to each other. I’m feeling vulnerable and I need his comfort even though he was the one who put me in that state. I miss him so incredibly much lately that it hurts both physically and mentally. Without his permission, I tuck my face in the crook of his neck and in return, he cards his fingers through my hair and down the back of my neck.

 

“Why are we always fighting..” I mumble, barely audible but loud enough for him to hear. I don’t even care that I sound like a whiny child.

 

I feel him chuckle and leaning his chin on my head. “’Cause we’re brothers. It’s normal. Also, you’re a stinker.”

 

“Speak for yourself you butt.”

 

He pulls back and looks at me outraged before his face turns into something I really try to avoid most of the time because I know immediately what he’s about to do. He’s in play mode. Evil play mode!

 

“You did not just call me a butt, Mister!” he growls and I can feel his hands wander down my shoulders and arms to grab around my wrists so I can’t flee, which I was totally trying to do. He knows me so well.

 

“Please don’t tickle me, I’ll take it back I swear!” I say so fast that I’m tripping over my own words, but he won’t have it.

 

“Ohhh no, Mikey. Too late for that now!” he says and grins widely before tackling me to the ground, straddles my thighs and starts tickling my belly and that mean spot right under my ribs.

 

He knows he’s not playing fair because even though I’m strong, he’ll always be stronger than me and right now, there’s no way for me to push him away, especially not when I can hardly breathe from laughing like a maniac.

 

“Please stop! I said I take it back! I-can’t breathe like that-

 

“ I try to gasp out under my laughter, but it’s barely working because he just tickles me harder with every word that leaves my mouth.

 

He grins down at me and moves one hand up and under my armpit where he continues the tickling. He’s so mean, that spot is the worst and he knows it! A strange squeak escapes my throat and I wind my head from left to right while trying to kick him with my legs, but he’s barely bothered by it.

 

“Please stop, I’ll do whatever you want!” Now, that was probably a mistake to offer, but he does stop and narrows his eyes while his hands grab around my lower arms so I can’t trick him by sneaking out from under him and run away. He leans down and stops just a few inches away from my face, so close that a few strands of his hair tickle my cheeks. He’s still grinning like crazy when he says,

 

“Aaanything?”

 

Now I really do regret what I said because I’m not too keen on the idea of doing his chores for a week or serve him or wave him cool air with bracken leaves. It wouldn’t be the first time. Gerard is a mean big brother.

 

“You’re a mean big brother!” I say out loud and try to look annoyed but I can feel myself grinning. I’ll just tackle him down next chance I get and make him take it back. I can be mean too. (Little brother specialty!)

 

We’re still in the same position, but now he tilts his head to the side a little and huffs out a breath when he says, “Give me a kiss!”

 

Okay, that’s not quite what I expected but it’s definitely better than the things I had in mind. I roll my eyes and lift my head a little to press a quick peck on his cheek.

 

Gerard grins when I lay my head back down and says, “Again!”

 

I sigh but repeat what I did a second ago.

 

“Again!” he says, a little softer now, and smiles down sweetly at me.

 

“Gee, you already had two, the deal was one!” I say and can’t help but giggle a bit. There wasn’t a deal but whatever. He looks so funny from down here. His face is a little round and his hair is totally messed up and there’s a blush on his cheeks from laughing so much. And wow, his eyes are huge! His teeth are the funniest part though because it looks like he still has all his baby teeth. Of course, he doesn’t, but they’re so small and even that you could easily mistake them as milk teeth.

 

“Last one, I promise!” he says and releases the grip on my arms a bit.

 

“Scouts honor?” I ask and lift my eyebrows in a testing way. He rolls his eyes but never stops smiling.

 

“Cross my heart,” he says and suddenly leans down to kiss me instead of me kissing him.

 

It’s shocking for a split second because he’s actually kissing me on the mouth instead of the cheek I thought he was aiming for. It’s nothing new, we kissed each other dozens of times like that, but it usually only lasts a second if not less. This kiss right here is already going on for over three seconds and I’m confused and I don’t know how to react.

 

It’s not unpleasant, but my belly does this weird swoopy thing again and I have to turn my head to the side to take a breath because the feeling gets too overwhelming. Gerard pulls back immediately and sits up straight on my thighs. When I look at him, he doesn’t exactly look shocked but more like, surprised? Confused? I’m not quite sure. At least he’s not mad or anything because that would seriously kill the mood.

 

“Uhm.,” he mutters and nervously runs a hand through his hair. It’s one of his habits, like chewing on the tip of his pointer finger or biting his lower lip.

 

That makes me smile and I lift my hand up to poke my finger in his bellybutton, all the confusion from moments ago washed away. He squeaks and slaps my hand away before he pokes me in the bellybutton myself and stands up. He helps me up and we brush the sand off our clothes that I apparently missed while cleaning up in here.

 

Then another thought crosses my mind.

 

“Please tell me you’re wearing underwear under that!” I say and point to the white dress he once again borrowed from me. His evil smirk is enough of an answer.

 

“Gerard! That’s my dress and now I have your.. Gerard-Germs on it!” I whine and glare at him.

 

He just honks a laugh and puts his hands on his waist, which looks really girly.

 

“Yeah well, I would have put on something else this morning but if I recall correctly, someone was a Lazybone and didn’t do the laundry yesterday,” he says in a challenging way and taps his right foot on the ground.

 

“But-“ I start but he stops me by patting his flat hand on the top of my head.

 

“C’mon Mikeys, it’s just me,” he grins and I sigh and roll my eyes.

 

“Yeah yeah. I guess it was my fault after all,” I say and wave my hand defenseless.

 

“Glad you see it that way,” he says and shoots me another huge smile before wandering off in the direction of the door.

 

As he walks away, I can’t help but notice the way the dress curls around his thighs with every step, and how deeply black his hair looks against the contrast of the bright white and how he easily could be mistaken as a girl like that because I didn’t cut his strands in a while. That reminds me of the way his hair smelled that night in the cave, like dry sand and saltwater, and my hands automatically clutch on my belly because I’m overwhelmed with that strange feeling that I came to notice more frequently lately.

 

“You coming?” Gerard shouts from where he is, probably already down in the basement. Right, time for dinner.

 

I nod dumbly to myself and slowly make my way to follow him, suddenly feeling sick.

 

-

 

Lord, have mercy because I am in misery. My eyes are weak from so much crying and my whole being is tired from grief.

 

It’s been two whole days since I last sat a foot outside my room, except maybe for pee breaks, but that’s about it. If Gerard wouldn’t bring me food and water every few hours, I’d probably be unconscious by now, or at least extremely dehydrated, though I barely touch the things he brings me. The only thing I’ve seen in the last 48 is the ceiling because I haven’t even bothered to turn and lay on my belly, let alone sit up. The only light in my room is the faint sun rays that sneak through the sheets I hung over my windows the first night I started to feel like...that.

 

I haven’t spoken anything more than ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘leave me alone’. Sometimes, my body would be shaken by heavy, involuntarily sobs and strange crying noises that I didn’t know I was capable of making. After those outbursts, I’d go back to staring at the ceiling again, not bothering to wipe away the tears.

 

My entire body hurts, my face is puffy and probably red from crying, my throat is sore from trying to suppress those painful sobs and my bones and muscles hurt from all the motionless. I know my body hurts but I can’t feel it or be bothered by it because it feels so indifferent.

 

There’s this dismal numbness that is slowly overtaking my body, my senses and, most frightening, my thoughts.

 

When I was 7, I had a terrible asthma attack. An ambulance came and brought me to the hospital where they put tubes down my throat, glued stickers on my chest to check my heartbeat and fastened me on a cold mattress in an even colder room so I couldn’t move. It was disturbing and I still have horrifying nightmares about that incident.

 

However, when I finally calmed down and could breathe on my own again, they put me into a room with a young woman who couldn’t be older than 21. It’s usually the rule to put kids in a room with other kids and adults with adults, but apparently, the hospital was packed and that was the only free bed so they gave it to me, saying I needed to stay a few more days to make sure it wouldn’t happen again and run some tests.

 

My mother, who was with me the whole time and held my hand, was sent home when visiting hours ended, and so I was left alone for the night but she kissed my forehead and promised to be back early in the morning. She would even let Gerard stay home from school so he could come too.

 

Of course, I couldn’t sleep that night, even though I was incredibly tired and exhausted from the events that happened earlier that day, but I was afraid it would happen again in my sleep and I wouldn’t notice and suffocate, so I forced myself to stay awake.

 

The girl who shared the room with me was very quiet the whole day, but around 11 that night, I heard her crying. It started with soft sniffing but after a while, she cried her heart out. Half an hour after she started, a curvy nurse with glasses and a blond ponytail opened the door, closed it behind her and sat down on the girl’s bed without turning on the light.

 

I guess they thought I was asleep, but I could hear everything that they said.

 

It turned out that the young woman had lost her baby. Apparently, it was still in the early pregnancy, but it destroyed her like she would have lost it while she was holding it in her hands.

 

The girl poured out her heart and the nurse listened to everything she said while occasionally stroking her arm or her shoulder. I’ve never heard so much pain in a voice.

 

I had no idea how badly a heart could break.

 

She said that her life would be pointless without a child. All she ever wanted was to see her eyes on a little version of herself but some higher force took it away and her heart right along with it. She said that she wasn’t sure if she could ever be happy again if she could ever find joy in anything again. The nurse told her that her child had gone to the stars for a reason and that she had to keep trying for another baby.

 

That made the girl cry even more and I heard her whisper that it wouldn’t ever be the same, she had lost her baby, her baby, and since that was everything she ever wanted, she lost herself as well.

 

She was broken beyond repair.

 

“One day, you’ll wake up and it will feel okay, I promise.”

 

That was the last thing the nurse said to the girl before she stroked her hair and left the room. It seemed to help because soon the sniffling came to an end.

 

It’s the pain in her sobs and her voice that I remember until that day and I’ve never thought I could feel such pain, even prayed that I would be spared from it, but that’s how I’m feeling right now.

 

Maybe not as extreme as what she went through, but it’s a close thing.

 

Worst of all, I don’t know why. I honestly don’t know why.

 

It started shortly after Gerard tickled me a few days ago after I watched him walk away. I wrote it off as another mood swing because I keep having those a lot lately, but I don’t think mood swings can get that bad, especially not without reason.

 

That same evening, after I sat in my room and those strange sobs escaped my body, Gerard rushed into my room and wanted to know what had happened, but I couldn’t give him a proper answer since I had no idea what was happening myself. He sat down and wanted to comfort me, but it was like a switch was turned and I snapped at him, telling him to leave me alone. He didn’t deserve it, of course, he didn’t, but it felt like my body was out of control.

 

He tried to help me a few more times but I kicked him out every single time. He told me that he was worried and begged me to talk to him, but I just ignored his pleas.

 

-

 

Another day like that came and went and now it’s my third day in this state. It’s almost like counting notches in the bark of the palm tree outside our house all over again.

 

I’m tired and exhausted and my head falls to the side where I see a sheet of paper next to me on the mattress. I’m so tired and weak and it’s an effort to stretch my arm out to grab it, but I do it anyway.

 

It’s a drawing from Gerard. He must have smuggled it in here while I was asleep.

 

It shows him and me in the middle of nothing, just white around us and we’re hugging. He’s holding me tight while I’m sobbing into his shoulder. It hurts to look at it, but what hurts, even more, is that it’s not just me who’s crying, but him as well.

 

 

 

Suddenly it’s like it’s getting too much, like the pressure in my chest is exploding into pieces and I have to sit on my hands and knees to let it all out and somehow manage to breathe. And then, to my utter surprise, I cry for him. I’m howling and bawling until I feel his arms around me and then I collapse against his chest, but thankfully he’s holding me up.

 

Then it hits me: I’m scared of being lonely. Just like the girl was scared of the nightmare of spending her life without the child she hadn’t been gifted yet. I’ve lost so much already, my parents, my friends, my home. Losing Gerard would destroy me and break me beyond repair.

 

I clutch so hard at his shoulders that I’m probably hurting him, but my body is on autopilot again.

 

“Don’t ever leave me,” I say, or at least try to say after not having spoken for so long. My own voice sounds so strange to me and I’m shattered by the fact that I let myself slip that much into misery. I’m usually so positive and happy about everything and now it feels like I’ve woken up in another body.

 

“Mikey,” Gerard says, but his voice is distant. Only when he pulls back and shakes my shoulders, I’m able to focus on my surroundings and on him through gleamy eyes.

 

“Mikey, what are you talking about? Why would you think that?!” he says and I see tears escaping his eyes.

 

“Talk to me! Did you do something? Why would you say that?!” Now he’s shouting and pulling me in again and I’m glad for that because I couldn’t stand a second longer of seeing his face like this. He wasn’t even that upset and drained after we got here, and that has to mean something.

 

All the worrying about losing the only person I have left, my best friend, my family and my soulmate, all the worrying about us getting older and the too many nights I’ve spent alone since that night in the cave before and after, all of that comes crashing down like a meteoroid, without warning and it hurts so much. It was him all along, the reason why my brain shut down and made me act like that. Maybe it was a self-mechanism to my own protection for the day when I lose him or when he’s having enough of me.

 

But it’s real and true and right here; I cannot live without him. I was born into this world to spend it with him and I’m praying to every God out there that the girl from the hospital back then didn't give up and got pregnant again and was able to love that new baby as much as the one she’d lost because otherwise..otherwise she must have gone over her own head eventually.

 

I’ve been in this state for only 3 days now and I’m already at my limit. I couldn’t take much more of it, I’m pretty sure.

 

In a weak attempt, I eventually try to explain all of this to Gerard, everything that happened the last few months, my worries about losing him and how much I need him in every aspect of life. I’m keeping the story about the girl to myself though because even she doesn’t know that I know her story. But I do, and I’ll keep it safe in my head until my last breath. I owe her and her Starbaby that much.

 

“Oh Mikey Sweetie, my darling little brother... I need you to listen to me now, okay?” Gerard says in a very soft voice and wipes a tear from my cheek before continuing.

 

“What I did in the cave, I did that to protect you-no listen to me,” he says when I try to argue with him about that damned protection thing.

 

“Listen to me,” he says once again and I do so. “I promise I will explain it to you one day, and that day will come, but for now I can’t tell you. You know I don’t promise easy, right?” he asks and I nod my head. It’s true, he never makes a promise for nothing.

 

He smiles very lightly and takes a deep breath to continue.

 

“However, if I’d known that cut being close would bring you into this state, I would have never opened my mouth. I’m sorry that I did this to you and I’m asking you to forgive me, but Mikey, I’ll always be here okay? Even if we get older, even if we die as old, wrinkly men on this island, I’ll always be here. Don’t you know that yet?”

 

When he’s done, he does the one thing he always does in the most important moments; he strokes over my left eyebrow and runs his pinkie up and down behind my ear.

 

“Can you make that a promise as well?” I ask and my voice is shaking. My head feels heavy and I let it slip into his hand that is resting on my cheek.

 

He smiles for real now, a sad smile but still a real one and says, “Yes,” and nods, more to himself than at me and takes my hand.

 

“I know you’re tired, but you should come out for a bit. It’s already dark outside so your eyes won’t hurt that much, okay? Just let me take care of you. Trust me, you’ll feel better after a bath and mashed bananas.”

 

I let him lead me down the stairs and to the beach. I even let him remove my underpants that I haven't changed in days, much to my embarrassment, but he doesn’t comment on it, and then I let him wash my hair and my body while I just sit there and look at the stars.

 

After, he hands me a clean cloth to dry my skin and then dresses me in his white button-up and makes me sit by the fireplace where we eat together. The hot air from the fire feels good on my skin. I don’t feel numb all over anymore, though I feel like I won’t be back to normal for a while.

 

We barely speak, but there’s no need to and by the time I finished my bananas and drank a cup of water, I’m so tired that Gerard has to steady me on the way back to my room.

 

He stays that night, and the night after, and then a week passes, and then a month, and then we decide to use my bedroom as our bedroom and his room becomes a dressing room.

 

He’s not always there when I wake up in the morning, but that’s okay because he’s always there when I go to sleep and after two months, on day 2.190, which happens to be Christmas Day, I’m okay again, because Gerard throws his arms around me and kisses me on the cheek when I give him the action figures that I found on the beach after we returned from the cave all those months ago.

 

Late that Christmas Evening, when we eat our special Christmas dinner and I look over at the tree where I notch in the lines, I can’t believe my eyes.

 

“I think... Gerard! It’s been six years, can you believe that?”

 

I can hardly believe it myself, to be honest. I thought I would notice when I’d carve in the line that marks six years, but I must have missed it a few weeks ago while I was trying to put myself back together with Gerard’s help.

 

“It feels more than that,” he says and shakes his head disbelievingly. Then he smiles brightly and says, “Let’s make this a great year, okay?”

 

I smile back at him and nod, because yeah. I have a good feeling about the new year that will start in a few days. He’ll turn 18, I’ll turn 15, Robin is still around us day after day and we barely fight anymore, which is the most important thing, for both of us. I feel like my break-down a few weeks ago helped us renew our relationship because we’re both a lot happier with our new living situation.

 

Who would have known?

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

 

It’s only six days after Christmas and it’s been one of the hottest weeks ever on this island. Moving is exhausting, you feel sticky all the time and my eyes hurt like crazy thanks to the sun that burns down relentlessly twelve hours a day. There’s not a single cloud in the sky or even the hint of one. I don’t mind the heat as much as Gerard does, though. I fact, he’s like a whiny baby about it all.

 

Right now, he’s lying down by the water not too far away from me, arms and legs stretched out like a sea star, where he found a sweet little spot in the shadow of a palm tree. Every now and then, I can hear him mutter things to himself like, “Gonna die,”, “Too hot,” and “This is it, we’re finally melting.”

 

Every time he does it, I can’t help but grin and shake my head amused. I think he’s being cute and giving the circumstances, I let him complain. Not without being a teeny bit sassy about it, though.

 

“Stop being overdramatic, Gee..” I call over my shoulder in his direction, not minding the smug tone in my voice.

 

I take a quick glance at him, seeing that he hasn’t moved at all in the last 15 minutes, and smile to myself yet again. His hair, which desperately needs a cut, lies messily around his head and there are patches of sand lumps sticking to it. The only item of clothing he’s wearing is the brown leather loincloth and nothing else. Understandable, every extra layer would be torture. I, myself, are wearing his white button-up and the sun hat. I stole it from him this morning because I had nothing left and I’m glad that the shirt is kind of long-ish, because there wasn’t even any underwear for me to take.

 

Gerard doesn’t need to know.

 

“Too hot...” he mumbles again and I flash him a smile when he turns his head slightly in my direction before staring up at the sky again. I roll my eyes and let my lips curl up into a smirk one last time before returning to what I was doing before, which would be taking watch.

 

You know, it can get pretty boring here, and if you don’t find anything that entertains you at least for a few hours every few days, you’ll go insane. I remember one time, a year or so after we got here, I was so bored that I built myself a hula-hoop out of wet wood that I curled, with Gerard’s help, around a big enough and hopefully round enough looking rock. After the wood had dried, I removed my creation and actually had fun playing with it until it broke in the middle after only two days, but it was fun while it lasted.

 

Another time, I tried to dig a tunnel into the sand, but all I got, in the end, was a weirdly shaped hole with super cold and strange smelling mud at the bottom. It was cool to hide in there though and it kept me busy for a few hours.

 

We could play soccer or tennis or baseball, but that would contain running around and moving more than necessary and neither of us wants that.

 

A tiny cracking sound pulls me out of my thoughts and I stare down at the white eggs in the sand pit. A few days ago, I and Gerard discovered this turtle egg lair and sadly found out that the mother lay dead on the beach right by the water, tangled in masses of seagrass. So, without question, we accepted our duty and kind of became part-time parents and protected the eggs in separate shifts.

 

I know that it isn’t necessary to protect them and it’s probably normal that the mother doesn’t stick around after laying the eggs, but then again, I don’t know how nature works in that regard and I like looking out for people and animals, Robin, for example, so why not spending time with this and doing something good?

 

Actually, this happened before and we just watched in awe as the babies hatched and run towards the water without a second thought. I find it fascinating that those little creatures know how to swim from the second they poke their heads out of the eggshell and even more so that they can crawl so fast.

 

“Gerard! I think the babies are hatching!” I call out and excitedly sit on my heels.

 

A moment later, Gerard sits down next to me and looks in awe at the tiny baby turtle that cracks its way out of the white shell. There are at least 15 of them and now that one started to hatch, the others are following their sibling's task.

 

“Look at them, Mikes, they’re so small!” Gerard says rapturous and carefully lifts Number One up and holds it in front of his eyes, the heat he was complaining about minutes ago completely forgotten. The baby rows its legs hastily and we both laugh thrilled.

 

While Gerard admires his little turtle, I carefully take Number Two, who just got free, in my hands and say in an overly dramatic voice, “Your name shall be Pig and you have to win this fight for me, your mentor and part-time father Mister Michael James Way! You have to win against your brother..-“

 

I stop and look over at Gerard who looks confused for a second but quickly catches on and says, with a huge smile on his face, “Lola!”.

 

“-Lola, well, your sister I guess- so I will win against my stupid brother and claim victory over this island!”

 

Gerard accepts the game with a challenging look and we both get into position, directed to the ocean. We nod at each other and then Gerard says:

 

“Turtle Masters and Baby Turtle Warriors, get ready in position to defend our victory in three, two, one- and GO!”

 

And then, after we carefully sat them down on the sand, our turtles crawl, pretty fast actually, down to the water where they can swim away into freedom and find their new homes.

 

“Go Pig, you can do it! Make your mentor proud!” I cheer and crawl on hands and knees after my baby turtle.

 

No Lola- No that’s the wrong direction, don’t you know your instincts at all!?” I hear Gerard whine a few steps behind me and when I turn around, his little representative apparently decided that it wants to go back to where some of his other siblings are still in the eggs. Shortly after mine is now following three more, who are crawling in baby steps into freedom.

 

“C’mon Pig, we’re winning, keep going keep going! Wohoooooooooo!!!!” I scream because my turtle did indeed just hit the water and now tries its first wobbly swimming pulls before diving under and disappearing into the ocean ahead of him.

 

Carefully, so I don’t step on the others, I let myself fall on my back and kick my arms and legs into the air in victory, not caring how ridiculous I must look. I’m still cheering when Gerard finally crawls down the few meters to the water to where I am sprawled on the wet sand, shoving tiny grains of sand into my face in the process thanks to his not so graceful movements.

 

“Don’t worry Lola, I get it. It’s way too warm to function correctly. Not all of us are resistant to the heat, am I right Mikey?” he says in a sulky tone and when I decide that I cheered enough for myself, I sit up, brush the sand out of my face and see that he’s sitting there like a grumpy child with his arms crossed and patches of sand on his knees and elbows. Lola just dove under and now follows Pig to wherever it drags them.

 

“Not all of us can be sun-hating Vampires, am I right Gee?” I say smugly and giggle when Gerard gets ready to slap me on the arm but I’m quicker and get up to make space for the rest of the baby turtles, who are crawling their way down to the water.

 

Gerard does the same and actually holds his hand out for me to shake it.

 

Now, this could be a trap. It’s not his nature to accept a loss without at least complaining about it. I suspiciously look him up and down a few times, but he looks sincere so I carefully stretch my hand out to shake his. After a moment, his grip tightens and his lips curl into an evil smirk.

 

“Think I let my baby brother win that easily?” he sneers, and before I get a chance to respond, he grips my hand even tighter and turns me around in a quick move so that I’m standing with my back to his chest.

 

“What are you- ouff!” I try to ask, but then Gerard puts both of his arms around my belly and lifts me up completely and carries me deep into the water.

 

“NO! Gerard I swear don’t throw me, please I’m still wearing my-“ but the next thing I know is that he laughs devilishly and throws me into the water with my clothes still on.

 

When I can manage to swim to the surface, I see that Gerard joined, as well in his underpants, and splashes happily around.

 

At first, I think about tackling him down for nearly drowning me, but he looks so carefree at that moment that I can’t be really mad at him. So what I’m doing instead is swimming towards him and stopping right in front of him with a huge smile.

 

Gerard smiles back hugely and beams when he says, “In for a ride?”

 

I beam just as much at him and say, “Hell yeah I am!” before awkwardly trying to get a hold on his shoulders.

 

“Wrap your legs around my waist or else you’ll fall,” he giggles and giggles, even more, when I wrap my legs around him and cross my ankles for better support. Then I tuck my face in his neck, which is kind of complicated thanks to the hat that’s dripping with water and wrap my arms around his neck as well.

 

I know what’s coming next.

 

“Hold your breath!” Gerard announces and when we both catch air, he dives under and swims towards the beach. We could swim blindly because we know every inch of this island and reef, but it’s way more fun to keep our eyes open and watch the fishes and corals floating by and feel them tickling our skin.

 

Gerard swims in strong pulls under the water and tiny bubbles of air tickle my face, making me grin so that salty water floats through my teeth, but it’s okay, it doesn’t really bother me.

 

The temperature of the water down here is genuinely pleasant and cools our over-heated skin down in only a few seconds.

 

When the water is low enough so we can easily stand again, I loosen my grip in the same second that he pops up on the surface, where we cross the last tiny turtle that finally found its way to freedom.

 

“That was fun!” I say when we’re both on the beach again, both of us dripping from head to toe.

 

“Yeah but it’s still not fair that Lola wasn’t used to the heat. She’s only a baby, there was no way she could have known what was waiting for her out here,” Gerard complains and shakes his head like a dog in order to dry his hair.

 

“Whatever, I still won,” I say after removing my hat and am just about to shrug off the blouse when I remember that I’m not wearing anything under it.

 

Gerard notices and singsongs, “What’s the matter Twee? You embarrassed?”

 

I am, in fact, a little embarrassed, but he doesn’t need to know that.

 

“No? We look just the same and you walk around naked all you want most days so what should I be ashamed of..”

 

Of course, I’m blushing, thanks to my annoying older brother who smirks at me as if I didn’t just say something reasonable.

 

Now I’m even more embarrassed, but I won’t give him that much of credit, so instead, I shrug and pull that damned blouse over my head in one swift motion. Gerard, it seems, didn’t expect me to do so because his eyes widen and then he looks away quickly.

 

I find that quite amusing, to be honest, it feels good to be the one making him act weird for a change.

 

“I have to put it in the sun for a while because I don’t have anything else so if you feel uncomfortable you maybe shouldn’t be around me for the next hour,” I say, trying to keep the nervous jitters out of my voice and try to grin instead and make my way towards the laundry station.

 

You see, normally when one of us is naked, we just don’t talk about it because it isn’t really that big a deal, but lately, Gerard thought it would be hilarious to tease me about my body since it ‘changed’ so much, as he would sometimes say.

 

I don’t think that’s fair because he’s a boy just as much as I am and his body changed the same way and I never made fun of him because of it.

 

I know my voice is kind of different now and often croaks when I speak in higher octaves and I know I have those weird hairs on my body now, but so does he but instead of just letting it drop, he teases me about it whenever he gets the chance. Whatever.

 

I’m not saying that I’m not looking at him sometimes, like when he changes or just got out of the ocean or whatever, because I do (though I would never admit it to him), but I know he looks too, which is bizarre to me because if he finds body hair so interesting, he could just look at himself. I’m new to this and he isn’t, so I’m allowed to look, right?

 

-

 

After lying in the sun for a while and waiting for my blouse to dry, I decide to go make dinner. Apparently, Gerard was indeed uncomfortable around me because I haven’t seen him since he teased me earlier. Now that I’m back in the house though, I can hear him rummaging in our room, probably cleaning up or something.

 

It’s still hot and now that it’s getting late, the air feels kind of humid and stuffy. As I’m standing in front of our stocks in the basement, I come to realize that we haven’t had anything to eat since this morning. Now that I’m standing in front of all the food though, I realize how super hungry I am and my belly growls for attention. Cooking would take too long and we don’t have any fish in stock anyway. A big bowl of pickled mango catches my eye.

 

The last time we had Mango was a while ago and I’m wondering if it’s still eatable, but when I take it out of the shelf and check it for possible mold, I can’t see any. It does, in fact, smell really good still. Not as sweet as fresh mango would smell, but still good enough to make my belly growl again.

 

It does taste strange. Like, seriously, mango shouldn’t taste like that. It’s not sweet and fruity, but bitter and kind of prickly against my tongue and after swallowing it and slurping some of the juice we potted it in, my throat burns and then my belly. The feeling is gone as quickly as it came and now that my stomach received food, it wants more. I’m not even surprised that I eat three more slices and drink half the juice because after you swallowed the first bit, it doesn’t actually taste too strange, you know?

 

I would eat the entire bowl if I could, but I have to be fair and let something left for Gerard. I’m wondering if he finds that it tastes strange. If not, I’ll just eat it.

 

When I’m trying to climb the staircase a few minutes later that leads to the first floor, my head suddenly starts to swim and I miss the first step twice before finally managing to climb up with the bowl precariously in my other hand that’s not clutching the rail.

 

When I finally reach our room after what feels like an hour, my head spins so much that I trip and fall down, butt first, on the floor. It kind of hurts, but apparently my brain never found anything funnier and I managed not to spill the mango slices on the floor, so what I’m doing is laughing. And I mean hysterically.

 

Gerard, who stands about a meter away from where I am on the floor, just looks puzzled and kind of confused at my outburst.

 

That makes me laugh even more.

 

“Uhm, Mikes?” I hear him say over my laughter.

 

“You gotta try these, they’re so yummy Gerard. They’ll make your belly feel so warm!” I giggle and hold the bowl up with both hands so he can grab it. When he takes it after a moment of hesitance and raised eyebrows, I let myself fall flat on my back and clutch my poor belly that hurts now that I laughed so much in such a short amount time.

 

-

 

“’M tellin’ you Gee, Lindsey Ballato had a total crush on you!”

 

“No, she did not! And even if, who was Mr. Casanova in elementary school and had a dozen of girls running after them?”

 

“So, what, I never liked Sarah or Alicia or Kristin anyways, they annoyed me! And you’re just jealous because your little kid brother was so popular, m’ I right?”

 

“Pfft, lier!”

 

“Jeeaalous…”

 

Okay. I don’t know what was in that pickled mango, but whatever it was, seriously made me and Gerard say the stupidest things and act like maniacs.

 

Gerard hesitated for only a second before shrugging and stuffing his mouth with the leftover slices I gave him and then his eyes went big and he clutched his throat and belly after swallowing.

 

He stood there for several minutes and then shook his head and smirked down at me, helped me up from where I was still lying spread on the floor to drag me out of the house.

 

After that, it was just a weird combination of running around and chasing each other, tripping and falling over too many times, getting laugh flash after laugh flash, pulling stupid faces that were so funny that we couldn’t breathe properly and slurred sentences that made no sense at all. What a scenario of events in just one day.

 

This went on for about two hours before we decided to take a break and lay down on the sand beside the stairs that lead to the first floor. It’s still crazy hot despite now that the sun is setting and even down here in the shadows, the sand is warm and everything spins when I close my eyes.

 

Judging by Gerard, who squints his eyes every so often, he feels the same way.

 

“So maybe I was jealous,” Gerard states after neither of us had spoken for a little while. For a second I’m confused as to what he’s referring to, but then my brain gets the message and quickly catches interest; I change my position from lying on the ground, spread like an eagle, to getting up on one elbow so I can look at him properly.

 

“For real?” I ask and try to steady myself a little more on the slippery sand, ignoring that my voice breaks on the last syllable.

 

His eyes are closed but he peeks one eye open and looks up at me before grinning and shoving me over with his hand.

 

“Hey! What was that for?” I squeak awkwardly and mentally slap myself because apparently, my voice has a mind of its own. My head seriously spins at that point and I feel tipsy and I’ve already forgotten what we were talking about when Gerard gets up suddenly, maybe a little unsteady, and pulls me up on the arms with a honky laugh.

 

He looks me up and down in a bizarre way a few times with that evil smirk still plastered on his face before grabbing me roughly on the hip with one hand and sticking two fingers inside the chest pocket of the blouse that I’m wearing yet again.

 

Then, in a swift but also uncoordinated move, he pushes me up against the trunk of the palm tree where we cave in the notches.

 

It all happens a bit too quickly for my head to adjust and when I can focus again where I am, he’s pressed up against me from chest to knee and grins at me with a light blush on his cheeks.

 

“Ouch,” I say, because, ouch! Now that I can focus again, he did shove me a bit too rough against the tree.

 

His expression softens a bit and he slurring, “Sorry,” before starting to run both his hands up and down my sides, shoving the cotton of the blouse up and down in the act.

 

“Did I hurt you?”

 

“Not much,” I say and return his light smile. And then, all of a sudden, I’m brutally aware of his palms on my hips and ribs and his breath on my cheeks, which kind of smells a little bitter, owing to the strange mango he ate earlier. I’m figuring my breath must smell the same and I’m wondering if it drives him as much crazy as it drives me crazy. And I don’t mean crazy in a nauseating way, but more like in a very strangely pleasant kind of way.

 

What’s wrong with me? This is the most ridiculous thought I have ever had!

 

While I’m standing stock still, my eyes never leaving his, his hands wander up and down my sides a few more times before sliding higher and then one of his hands disappears into my hair and the other slips under my left armpit awkwardly. It tickles at first but I don’t even have time to let a giggle or laugh arise before he says, sounding kind of helpless,

 

“You,- you wouldn’t know..”

 

“Wouldn’t know what?” I breathe out shakily as his fingertips stroke over my scalp and I can feel Goosebumps forming on my arms and the back of my neck.

 

He considers this for a moment until he pinches his eyes shut and leans his forehead against mine.

 

“Sometimes you look so..it’s so difficult sometimes not to-“

 

“Not to what?”

 

All this nonsense is driving me nuts and my body is going crazy too; I feel like I broke out a sweat and my legs are tremulous and my heart beats so fast that I’m getting dizzier by the second. What’s worse though, is my belly. It’s doing that swoopy thing again but this time it feels ten times worse and every time Gerard says something or strokes over my skin or even just looks at me, my entire belly drops out.

 

My brain tries to tell me something, I can feel it, but it’s not coming through the fog that’s occupied most of my brain cells, so in a frustrated movement, I tip my face forward a bit and immediately crash against Gerard’s cheek with my nose. The smell of bitterness is even stronger now and my mind goes bedlam.

 

I’m about to fall over, so in a poor attempt not to, I quickly grab him on his upper arms and manage to only fall forward a step. A tiny weeping sound leaves his throat and his hand in my hair tightens weirdly alluring.

 

Now it’s my turn to squeeze my eyes shut.

 

“Mikey,” he whispers, his breath mingling with my own now that he’s so impossibly close.

 

My mouth doesn’t seem functional like it lost the ability to talk because all I do is breathe in and out very fast. Then, suddenly, he lets his head drop to my neck in the same moment that his left-hand slips down to my hip again.

 

Automatically, my head falls back against the tree trunk and I have to swallow hard as I feel first his nose and then his lips pressing down against the juncture of my neck and shoulder.

 

This is too much. I feel like my body is about to explode. I’m not used to this kind of sensation.

 

“What are you doing?” I try to ask as steady as possible but it comes out in a whispery breath. I’m about to shove him away when my entire body freezes at the feeling of something hard lined up right under my bellybutton.

 

Gerard seems to notice in the exact same second as me because he shrieks and pulls away from my embrace entirely. The light flush on his cheeks extended to a full-on flush that seems to even spread down to his shoulders.

 

“I’m sorry,” he says quickly and covers his face with his hands, dropping his head in the process. His breathing is still as fast as my own and now that I get to look at him from a few inches away, I notice that he’s shaking. His hair is sticking up in all directions, his shoulders heave up and down hard and his toes are curled inwards.

 

I also notice that his underpants have, in fact, adopted a weird shape which I’m figuring must have been what I just felt on my belly. My face heats up even more at that. It is not very polite to look as obvious as I am right now at someone’s private parts and I abashed turn my head to the side so I can’t betray myself by looking anymore.

 

I don’t understand this. I have never seen this happening to him before or to anyone at all and I don’t know what to do or say to make this situation better.

 

“I’m sorry,” he says again and balls his hands into fists against his eyes. He looks so mortified and it’s all because of me. I’m angry and mad and confused and my head still feels foggy and tipsy and my belly is going nuts as well as my heartbeat. On one hand, I want to walk away as fast as possible and never talk about any of this again, just because I don’t know what’s happening, but on the other hand, I want nothing more than his hands on me again. My lumbar areas feel so tingly and hot in a way they never felt before. But this isn’t about me and my confused feelings right now, because he’s obviously distressed and needs comfort.

 

I can’t stand seeing him like this and suddenly I don’t care about his weird body reactions anymore, I just pull him into a tight hug and hold him as close as possible.

 

He stumbles a little but seems to let me. He doesn’t return the hug in the way he usually would, though. He just stands there and lets me hold him.

 

“I don’t understand,” I finally admit in a hush and feel my cheeks flushing with embarrassment, obviously referring to what I just saw. Something tells me that this must be something really private if it makes him act like that.

 

I feel him shake his head against my shoulder and then he says, very quietly and kind of out of context, “You can’t be mad at me.”

 

This, once again, confuses me.

 

“’M not,” I say because I am not. He didn’t do anything wrong.

 

“My head kinda hurts..” he slurs and sighs miserably.

 

I nod dumbly because I don’t know what else to say. I’m getting a headache myself and I’m promising to any God that might be up there that I’ll never eat old, sunburned fruit again in my entire life. Maybe it was stale and we poisoned ourselves after all. Then I decide to kiss him on the hair, just because it feels right at this moment.

 

“C’mon, we should go get ready for bed, okay?” I say and try to sound as gentle as possible.

 

He nods against my shoulder before finally pulling back. He won’t look me in the eyes as he did before but instead looks on the ground which I’m kind of thankful for at the moment because I don’t want him to see my face like that. The flush hasn’t really subsided yet and I don’t want to look feeble in his eyes.

 

It’s gotten really dark now and the crickets chirp happily in the humid air of the night as we slowly make our way to our room.

 

-

 

Though I’m super tired and exhausted and have a giant headache, I can’t seem to find sleep. Not much like my brother, who fell asleep five minutes after we lay down.

 

I still feel Gerard’s lips on my neck, though they were there for only a few seconds.

 

That, and the memory of his breath on my face and the way his hands felt on my body, make my heart beat faster and as much as I’m trying not to, I can’t help but also think about the way his underpants looked, giving a rare idea of what must be happening inside of them.

 

Why did it happen though? And why in that moment? Does that happen a lot to him? Does it have something to do with the strange way I felt in my loins? Does it hurt? That would explain why he clutched at his face and made that weird whiny sound.

 

But then again...

 

He did press me against the tree trunk first and though I couldn’t read his expression, he did seem to enjoy himself.

 

Did I enjoy it? The way he pinned me against the trunk or how his hand felt in my hair or how close he was? Did I like the feel of his lips on a part of my skin where they never were before and I certainly never imagined them to be?

 

It frightens me to admit it, but yes. I did enjoy it, if in a way that is foreign and strange to me.

 

What does this mean now? And did he mean it when he said he was jealous of the girls who were after me in elementary school? Thinking back, he never seemed bothered by it, only teased me about it from time to time. I was young though, so how could I possibly distinguish between jealousy and teasing?

 

There are so many things I don’t understand and it’s exhausting to know that I’ll probably never understand any of this. Who could I ask? Gerard, who immediately shuts down as soon as I bring topics like this up?

 

I sigh and try to lose track of these thoughts but to no avail.

 

After another hour of staring at the ceiling and listening to Gerard’s regular breathing, I decided to give up on trying to fall asleep. If my body doesn’t want to, I can’t force it to, can I?

 

Carefully, so I won’t wake him, I slip out of the mosquito net and tip-toe to Gerard’s old room where we now store the clothes. The only item I can find in the dark is the blouse I threw on the ground earlier and pull it back on, not bothering to button it up all the way.

 

I quietly make my way down the stairs and out of the house, down to the beach and make myself comfortable on a big rock by the reef. The moon shines bright tonight and there are no waves crashing on the beach. It’s very quiet and peaceful out here actually, and the fresh, though still warm air, helps me clear my head.

 

I don’t feel dizzy and tipsy anymore and I’m thankful for that because it’s a strange feeling not to be in charge of your own thoughts and actions. Not that I couldn’t control either, but it was certainly difficult and seemed unimportant at the time so I let my mind and body do whatever they wanted.

 

Now that my head is aired out a little, I remember how father often acted when he came home late in the evening and smelled like alcohol and cigarettes. Alcohol.. we surely did not consume alcohol, right? All we did was eating a small, innocent mango that may or may not lay in the heat for a while too long.

 

Whatever it was, I blame my stomach. If it wouldn’t have made those sounds and made me hungry, well then, I wouldn’t have eaten obviously stale food.

 

I’m just glad it didn’t make me sick. That would have sucked extra on top of all things.

 

“Hey,” a voice says behind me and I startle. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to scare you. What are you doing here?” Gerard asks and sits down next to me on the rock, wearing nothing but the thin sheet that we use as a blanket.

 

He pulls it up higher and over his shoulders as soon as he settled down in a comfortable position.

 

All I want to know is what happened earlier and if he would have kissed me on the mouth if I’d asked him to and like I long for right now, or if he really was jealous and what would happen next, but I just can’t bring myself to ask any of these things. I don’t want to make him uncomfortable again or in believe that he should be ashamed of what had happened.

 

When did I start making up excuses when it came to my own brother? It was never like this before and I’m mad at my own thinking. This is not how it should be. Bothers should be able to talk about everything without thinking about consequences.

 

The biggest consequence would be that he would move back to his old room again, and if that would happen, everything that we built up so carefully over the last few months would be shattered and I cannot let that happen.

 

So instead, I simply say quietly, “Couldn’t sleep.” It’s not a lie but it’s not the whole truth either.

 

Gerard seems to accept my lame excuse and nods before looking back at the ocean where he was looking before.

 

I pull my legs up and rest my chin on my knees, looking in the same direction as him.

 

“Does it bother you that we live here?” Gerard asks after a while, voice just loud enough for me to hear in the quiet night.

 

“No,” I say honestly and without much hesitation because it doesn’t. It never bothered me to be here with him.

 

He doesn’t say anything to that, so I ask concerned, “Does it bother you?”

 

Now I turn my head back in his direction, looking closely and searching his face, that is gleaming bluely by the moon, for concern. He looks deep in thoughts and then says, to my complete and utter surprise, “No,” but offering nothing more.

 

I always thought he hated it here and wanted to get away from this island as soon as possible. Maybe I was wrong in my thinking all these years.

 

“I miss them, though,” he whispers, still not looking in my direction.

 

He doesn’t let me know who he is missing, but it’s not like I can’t guess. Thinking about home makes me sad and he’s obviously upset about it right now, which makes me sad in return. We had such a fun day, I don’t want it to end like that.

 

“C’mere,” I say gently and shuffle closer to his side. He sighs sadly and does the same until we’re sitting pressed up from hip to hip and shoulder to shoulder next to each other. I put one arm around his shoulders and make him rest his head on my shoulder and when he does, I slip my other hand under the blanket to where his hands are clutching at the sheet.

 

I tangle my hand in one of his and lean a bit more into him.

 

After a while, I feel him turn his head a little more into my neck and a second later, I discover two wet spots on my blouse where his eyes must be leaking.

 

There could be many reasons for him to cry at that moment, but it doesn’t matter. Whatever it is, he needs to let it out and I’m right here to hold him. He doesn’t tell me the reason and I don’t ask, but slowly rock him back and forth and try to offer comforting words and shushes against his hair.

 

He smells like warm sun and salt water and there’s also this very special note to it that can only be described as Gerard. It’s comforting in its own way and it makes me emotional on a peculiar level.

 

I don’t allow myself to cry as well, he doesn’t need that right now, but it surely is a close thing.

 

“I’m so confused,” he finally admits into the dark night and sniffles as I pat over his neck and hair soothingly.

 

Then I nod against his head and say, “Me too, Gee,” because that’s exactly how I’m feeling about everything lately.

 

It’s a frightening feeling, but knowing that I’m not alone in this lessens that unpleasant feeling. At least a little bit.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

 

 

It’s on an early morning in February when it happens to myself, totally unexpected and without warning.

 

I’ve thought a lot about the incident at the end of December, when we ate the Poisoned Mango as we like to call it now, that made us act like we were different people and Gerard shoved me against the tree.

 

He never told me what it was exactly that happened that night, but I figured it was just something that had happened for a certain reason and wrote it off as a onetime thing. He also never came that close to me again after that but in moments of weakness, I found myself stroking my fingertips over the spot on my neck where he kissed me.

 

There were rare moments during the last month and a half, when I was alone in the house or took a walk into the back of the island, when I would sit there and look down at my crotch, wondering if the same could happen to me, how it would feel, if it would hurt or not and most importantly, what actually happened when it did happen. I even dared to touch myself down there a few times out of sheer curiosity, but when nothing exciting or out of the ordinary happened, I’d be even more embarrassed than before. Just thinking about this made me feel guilty and unchaste.

 

I wished there was someone here to explain it to me and answer all of my questions that I can’t cross out of my head anymore since that night.

 

I’m not completely stupid, I know about the gist of the bees and birds; I know that it takes a man and a woman to make a baby and I know that this particular act is called sex and I know which body parts are needed.

 

Well, okay. I know the word, but the actual act of doing it is foreign to me except for a rough idea of it in my head. Most 14 something boys probably now all about it, but then again, they don’t live separated on an island in the South Pacific with no one there to communicate or teach them.

 

Back home, it wasn’t really ordinary to talk about such private things when you were among your friends or colleagues. Sex was something that people did after they got married and if you didn’t stick to that, you counted as dirt by social standards, or so I heard.

 

I personally never heard any of the older kids talk about this topic, probably because their parents told them not to or they just weren’t interested, considering the age of my friends and myself.

 

However, as I sat alone in those moments and thought about these things, I wondered if Gerard knew anything about sex. I even wondered if he’s interested in it and thinks about it sometimes, if he would like to try it or if he’s indifferent to it.

 

Since my little private studies never revealed into anything, I eventually gave up and tried not to think about this topic anymore and it almost worked for a while.

 

With a huge intake of breath, I woke up from a very weird dream a few minutes ago with the white dress sticking to my sweaty body. The first strange thing about this is that it was relatively cool last night, even so, that I decided not to sleep in just my underpants and now I’m soaked with sweat even though it isn’t really all that hot in here.

 

The second thing I noticed was my irregular breathing and that bizarre tingly feeling in my crotch area. When I sat up, I embarrassedly discovered the odd-looking bulge that formed a tent in my lap and caused me flush a deep shade of red.

 

Thankfully, Gerard had already left to go out fishing. I definitely do not need him to see this.

 

I’ve been sitting here for mere minutes now, not knowing what to do. Should I touch it? Is that the same thing that happened to Gerard a while ago? Where did it even come from? Looking closely, I notice that there seems to be a wet spot against the white cotton like something is leaking from the tip.

 

This whole situation is making me nervous. For all I know, I could be sick! Maybe I broke something while I was sleeping, but surely I would have remembered if I hit it against something, right? Though I have to admit that it hurts a little bit. It’s nothing bad, but it does feel uneasy the longer I’m sitting here.

 

I haven’t yet dared to pull the cotton away and take a look because I’m afraid Gerard could come in and see it.

 

And then, as if on cue, I hear his footsteps down in the basement, probably storing the fish he caught. Quickly, so he won’t notice, I pull my knees up to my chest and surprise myself with the invidious sound that escapes my throat at the change of position. The small amount of pain I might have felt a minute ago is completely gone, now that there is some sort of friction.

 

And now that I know how it can feel, apparently, I crave for more but then there’s Gerard standing in the doorway with a puzzled look on his face.

 

“Are you okay?” he asks and comes closer.

 

I start to sweat even more and my face burns up in embarrassment but he can’t possibly know the reason why if I don’t tell him. I can’t really help but draw my eyebrows together in vain because the pressure in my crotch builds up by the second and I’m afraid that if I move, something terrible could happen.

 

“Mikey?” he asks concerned when I don’t respond. He kneels down by my side and puts his palm on my forehead.

 

“You’re not getting sick, are you?”

 

The touch of his hand makes me flinch away a bit, not knowing how to handle all these new sensations and at the same time, I don’t want his hand to ever let go again.

 

“Please go away,” I whisper, in hope he just gets it and leaves me alone until I figured out what to do.

 

“Why, Mikey, are you-“, and then he gets it. His eyes dart down to where I wound my arms around my shins and withdraws his hand quickly and stares at me with wide eyes, a blush forming on his own cheeks.

 

I feel so humiliated that I feel tears forming in my eyes. I pull my arms tighter around my knees and can do nothing to suppress the tiny whine that leaves my mouth.

 

He seems to finally get my agony because he wraps his arms around himself, leans away and turns his head in the opposite direction, giving me a little privacy.

 

“If you wanna..if you want to talk about it..we can,” he stutters out but never looks at me.

 

I consider this for a moment, but I’m not too keen on the idea of us talking about my private parts, not right now anyway. There is one thing that I need to know though, “Is it bad?” I ask hesitantly and feel even more humiliated when he gives a laugh.

 

“Leave me alone!” I say distressed and crunch my face up in pain and shame. It’s so unfair that he makes fun of me in such a vulnerable situation.

 

“Sorry, sorry I didn’t mean to laugh, but..but no, Mikes, it’s nothing bad, okay? Promise,” he says, a little more gently now and that relaxes me a bit.

 

I dare to look at him and see that he’s looking at me as well, the smile on his face looking odd and uptight.

 

He awkwardly scratches the back of his head and says, “Uhm..so, I’ll like, give you a few minutes..just come down if you want to, you know..talk. Okay?”

 

I nod dumbly and watch him nod in return. Then he runs his hands over his face and sighs before getting up and exiting the room.

 

When he’s gone, I breathe out heavily and consider my next step.

 

It did soothe me a bit that he said it’s nothing bad but that doesn’t help me know what to do to make it go away.

 

When I’m sure he’s out of the house, I carefully get up and lift the white dress over my head. Now I’m only wearing my underpants that have a similar wet spot on them like the dress. Taking a deep breath, I hook my thumbs into the waistband and start to pull them down mid-thigh.

 

Removing the cotton is not as easy as it normally is, given to the extra amount that is now in there.

 

So, I’m no stranger as to how my own genitals look, but they certainly never looked like that. The tip is flushed red, almost purple even, and there are some veins popped out along the shaft. And it was never, ever this big and well, hard. I haven’t even touched it yet, being too sheepish, but I mean I do have eyes.

 

When I dare to finally touch it, my belly tightens and my breath hitches in my lungs. I can’t even begin to describe the feeling that seems to overwhelm my entire body. I quickly remove my hand pull my underwear back on ashamed. Maybe distraction helps to reduce it.

 

It does, actually.

 

While I got dressed in just my white dress again because there was no clean underwear, brushed my hair and knotted it back the way I always do and ate my peppermint, the bulge subsided and the weird feeling stopped almost entirely. It’s still kind of there, now that I got a vague idea of how it can feel.

 

I feel betrayed by my own body because it did something it never did before and makes me feel like a little, uninformed child.

 

After another 10 minutes, I decide to go meet Gerard and finally get answers to the many, many questions that built up over months now. I’m super nervous and kind of embarrassed, but he said we could talk about it, and I trust him enough not to make fun of me anymore.

 

-

 

“I know this must sound super fake, coming from someone who is feeling like that all the time, but you really shouldn’t be embarrassed about it, okay?”

 

We’re sitting down by the stairs again where the sand is fairly cool beneath us.

 

When I don’t say anything but bury my face deeper against my knees, he sighs and says, “I’ve been waiting for this to happen, you know..”

 

“You..what?!”

 

He sighs again and takes a deep breath.

 

“I wanted to tell you all about it for a while now, I mean-I knew this would happen to you eventually because..okay look.” He shifts around in the sand and sits opposite of me.

 

“Please look at me? I don’t bite,” he says in a small voice and I can’t resist him so eventually, before squinting my eyes one last time against my knees, I pull my head up and rest my chin on them instead. I don’t dare to let go of my legs though, it could happen again at any time for all I know.

 

When he sees that I obeyed him, he smiles sweetly and nods to himself. “Okay, so, remember when Brian would sometimes take me on a walk without you?”

 

I nod at that.

 

Apparently, Brian told Gerard about all those things that formed questions in my head over the last few months when things started to change between us and also for just myself.

 

Brian would put his hand on one of Gerard’s shoulders, saying, “Listen, Lad, there are some things you should know for the future..”, and then he would tell my brother all the mysterious things that happened when you became a ‘man’, as he called it.

 

As Gerard started to explain, his face turned into a slightly scrunched up expression and sometimes he would stop for mere long moments, seeming deep in thoughts until he continued.

 

He told him that once you hit puberty, your body changed completely. Your skin, especially in the face, would look blemished, your hair became greasy pretty much after washing it, you became taller seemingly overnight, your voice got deeper, you started to sweat more and you had pretty extreme mood changes.

 

“Do you think that’s why I felt so sad a few months ago?” I ask him when he looks at me sympathetically.

 

“Yeah, that’s what I was thinking at the time,” he says and smiles sadly.

 

“And what do you think now?”

 

He sighs and says, “I think that whole puberty thing was a factor, yes, but I think I made it worse with the whole, you know, quit being so close thing,” gesturing with his pointer finger between me and him hastily.

 

I hate to admit it, but he’s got a point.

 

“It’s okay now though,” I say gently and try to cheer him up by smiling for the first time since yesterday evening.

 

He relaxes a bit, but I can tell he’s still thinking about it. I don’t have time to do anything about it though, because he continues speaking after exhaling audible.

 

Brian told him about the weird hair that suddenly would start to grow in places you never had hair before and that at some point, you’d grow a beard if you didn’t shave.

 

As he’s saying that, I press my upper arms in closer to my sides, thinking about the armpit hair that I’ve had at least for a year now.

 

“Down..” I stop, clearing my throat awkwardly before continuing in a small voice and hoping he gets what I mean, “Down there too?”

 

I’m surprised when he doesn’t laugh at me but instead pulls the right corner of his mouth into a tiny smile.

 

“Yeah, that too. Apparently also on the chest and belly, but Brian either lied about that, or I’m not as much a man as I thought I would be.”

 

Now he does laugh, but he’s blushing and looks a little uneasy.

 

My feet curl inwards and there might be a tiny smirk on my face when I say, very quietly and sheepish, “I- have those... I mean, down my belly..”

 

He rolls his eyes and says, “I know, duh..I’ve seen you-you know.”

 

Now we both blush and grin abashed at each other. This whole conversation is so awkward.

 

“I guess since you’re manlier than me, you’ll also grow a beard first.”

 

Now, that’s a weird thought. “I don’t like beards, though,” I say and giggle when Gerard kicks me with his toes.

 

“Beards are awesome!” he says and runs his fingertips over his chin where there are still no stubbles that could give a hint of facial hair.

 

“Some of the things don’t make sense though, like, my skin is clear and your voice isn’t that much different, my hair doesn’t get greasy so fast and you never had those extreme mood swings.”

He looks lost in thoughts as I say it but quickly reacts to answer.

 

“I don’t think it’s the exact same for anyone like the basics are similar to every boy but everyone experiences it differently? I don’t know, I’m not smart..”

 

“Yes, you are! Gee, I’ve wanted to know these things for months now and in less than an hour, you told me almost everything I wanted to know. That’s pretty smart to me.”

 

He smiles down into his lap but shakes his head lightly. “That’s just because Brian told me.”

 

“But you remembered all of it over the years.”

 

We smile at each other and then he keeps talking.

 

He still hasn’t said anything about what happened this morning or back in December and I’m desperate to know, so when he finishes his speech about growth spurts and muscles that would apparently grow overnight, whatever, I ask, almost so quiet that I don’t hear my own voice, “And what about the other thing..”

 

He freezes for a moment, but then he lays back down on his back, bends his knees and crosses his arms behind his head before saying in an almost dreamy voice with a smile on his face, “That thing..it’s just awesome Mikes. I mean, as long as you know how to handle it. Probably a gift from the Heavens if you ask me.”

 

Okay, that was certainly not the answer or reaction I was expecting, but Gerard is full of surprises.

 

I expect him to say something else but when he doesn’t and only stares up at the sky, still with that dreamy smile plastered to his face, I want to know,“And where does it come from I mean, does it have something to do with..is it..sex?”

 

Finally speaking the word out loud for the first time in my life is awkward, but I just have to know. All the thoughts I had lately about kissing and being touched in forbidden places and body parts that you shouldn’t be thinking about so intensely, finally made me ask this embarrassing question.

 

I know I’m blushing again, but I don’t dare to look away from him now. I need to be taken seriously for once because this is important to me and I just need to know.

 

Gerard turns his head slightly in my direction and looks up at me from under his bangs, grins his baby-teeth-smile and emerges a pretty blush of his own.

 

“One morning, you will wake up only to find a wet spot in your underwear and memories of a weird dream still floating your mind. You’ll wonder what happened, but since it’s something that never happened, you won’t understand it. That’s why I’m telling you now.”, Gerard quotes Brian in a ridiculous voice, now with eyes closed and face directed to the sky again.

 

It’s called ‘to have an erection’, or ‘to be aroused’ and usually it ends in ‘masturbation’. The words sound foreign to me, but Gerard is quick to explain them, almost as if he was reading my mind which momentarily reminds me of the conversation about soulmates and I feel my lips curl into a tiny smile while listening to him.

 

Apparently, once a boy hits puberty, your testicles and penis start to grow and change looks slightly, which, yes, happened to me as well. Hormones would start to produce sperm liquid, which happens to be the wet feeling in the underwear and is needed for reproduction.

 

A boy can get an erection or feel aroused for any number of reasons; While you’re asleep, when you feel sexually attracted to someone, when you’re thinking about something sexually, when you see something sexually happening, when someone (or you yourself) touches you either right on down there or in places that are sensitive to you, or, when you are simply about to commit to the actual act of sex.

 

During the first few years of puberty though, sometimes an erection would happen for no real reason, often more than once a day and mortify you to no end.

 

At this point, I need to disrupt Gerard.

 

“But wait,” I say, completely and utterly confused, hitting my right hand over my eyes distressed and super humiliated because now it comes all crashing down at once and staggers me right off my feet.

 

Memories of the cave flash up in my mind, when I tried to pull the blanket away from Gerard’s lap and he screamed at me, all the mornings he wouldn’t be there when I woke up, me, waking up this morning, confused and startled, Gerard, pressed up against me..-

 

“Does that mean you were- when you -”, there’s no way possible that I can finish this sentence without fainting right in front of his eyes. This is all too much, I’ve never felt so vulnerable in my life.

 

To summarise everything he just said, you get aroused when something sexually happens.

 

Me, okay. I somehow get it now. I’ve always felt drawn to Gerard, and in a totally new way for a while now, though I never thought it was this, but he, in other words, just admitted that he feels like that towards me as well and probably has for a very long time.

 

Suddenly, I get very angry.

 

“Why would you know all of this and never tell me anything about it?! Do you have any idea what I went through the past year?! Why did you hide it? How long has this even been happening to you? Why did you never tell me, Gerard!”

 

I withdraw my hand in anger from my eyes and pound both my fists into the sand on either side of my body, making Gerard jump and sitting up with a startled look on his face.

 

Then his expression changes and he looks sad and full of sorrow and guilt. He lets his head fall forward miserably and I hate myself. See? Another mood swing. I really don’t like them.

 

Sighing and in a swift motion, I plaster myself at his side and touch his knee lightly.

 

“I’m sorry...I didn’t mean to scream at you, but you gotta understand, I mean-“

 

“It’s okay. You have every right to be mad, but Mikes I was just trying to protect you, you know..”

 

He sounds so small and young right then that my heart aches.

 

“You don’t have to protect me,” I say gently and lean the side of my head against his.

 

He huffs and says, “I’m your big brother-“

 

“Yes, and I’m your little brother and I can take care of myself. You protected me all through my life but I’m an adult now. Maybe you should let me protect you for a change.”

 

At that, he titters lightly and turns his head a little so that his face is close to my own, making my belly tingle.

 

“I like looking out for you. I’m not very good at it, but it’s my duty and that will never change so you better get used to it.” A short break, and then, “And you’re not an adult.”

 

“Yes I am, I get erections now!” Gerard seems to be just as stunned by my words as I am because he pulls away from my embrace to properly look at me. It swipes the sadness off of him though, and that’s enough to make me happy and not caring about what I just said (okay, maybe a little, but whatever).

 

“So, you’re basically saying that I’m an adult then, too,” he states, looking smug from head to toe.

 

I roll my eyes after punching him on the shoulder and say, “Urgh, fine. But just to be clear, I’m giving you extra credit here because you’re turning 18 soon.”

 

“Jesus, you can’t let me be in glory for one second, can you?” he says and pretends to be annoyed, but I know he’s absolutely not.

 

“Okay, but let’s still go back for a second”, I say because there are some things that are yet unsolved but I need answers to.

 

After asking with another blush high on my cheeks, Gerard explains that there isn’t really a way for an erection, as I know it’s called now, to subside, if you don’t do anything against it. But if you do, you have at least a few hours of freedom before it would happen again; that is if you’re lucky and you have your thoughts together.

 

“And how do you do that?” I ask curiously, clutching my arms tighter around my legs, feeling both anxious and excited about the answer. I can’t believe it, but now I want to try it out with him. I mean, if he knows how to do it, he can help me, right?

 

To my surprise though, Gerard just looks at me startled.

 

Was that the wrong thing to ask?

 

“What?!”

 

“Uhm.,” Gerard mutters, scratching irrelevantly behind his ear, flickering his gaze to my where my crotch is hidden behind my shins and turns scarlet.

 

“How did you, if you didn’t- I mean I thought..how did you get rid of it this morning, then?”

 

Something tells me that waiting for it to go away wasn’t the common way of doing it and I feel yet again like a stupid, unknowing child.

 

“Forget I said anything,” I murmur embarrassed, feeling exposed by the look he’s giving me.

 

“No it’s okay, hey-look at me,” he says and when I uptightly do so, he admits, “I didn’t know.”

 

Then he gulps audible and whispers, after coming to the conclusion that I am indeed just an inexperienced 14-year-old boy who wouldn’t know anything about this, “So you seriously don’t know.”

 

After that, we stare each other boldly for a long moment while my heart starts to beat faster and my palms get sweaty so that grains of sand stick to them.

 

After meekingly clearing his throat and letting his eyes dart briskly to my lips and back to my eyes, he asks, in a husky tone that I’ve never heard him use before, “Do you want me to tell you?”

 

When he says it, I feel a rush of heat flush through my body and starting to pool in my groin again. I can feel my face reddening, but so is Gerard’s.

 

My mouth drops open a bit and my brain is shouting at me to quit this right here, but I can already feel my body betraying me, so instead of getting up and running away like I maybe should, I nod.

 

Then it’s like a switch is pulled inside Gerard, because without hesitation and shame, he says, “It’s fun to start teasing yourself before getting to the real business.”

 

A tiny whispered, “How..?” is all I can manage.

 

“Depends. What are your sensitive spots?”

 

I take my time to think about it, but in the end, all I can do is shrug my shoulders and look down at my knees which are still pulled up my chest.

 

“I wouldn’t know.”

 

I hear Gerard click his tongue and then he says, “Yes, you do. Think about December for a second when-”

 

But he doesn’t even have to finish the sentence, because then I get it and my fingertips automatically find the spot on my neck where he kissed me, back when I had no idea why my body was reacting so strongly and I didn’t have a name yet for it all.

 

When I look up from under my bangs, he watches me intently with slightly parted lips and equally big eyes as my own. It astonishes me that Gerard knew about my weak spot even before I did and that alone makes my guts twist in the best way possible.

 

Feeling brave for the first time today, I reach out to take his hand in mine only to press his fingertips against the same spot where I had mine just now.

 

It’s a pleasant feeling but it isn’t as strong as when I felt his lips against that spot. I’m about to reveal this to him when suddenly his hand sneaks up higher my neck and curls into my hair. At first, I think he wants to stroke it, but then his fingers tug on some of my strands lightly and my breath hitches.

 

“Do you remember that too?” he huffs out and stares at me in wonder when my eyes flutter shut and my hand grasps around his wrist when he repeats the action. The feeling is so strong that I feel my belly tightening as a result, and all the worries my brain shouted at me only moments earlier seem to be washed away.

 

“What is this feeling?” I ask, sounding breathless and bewildered, with my eyes still closed.

 

“Hmm.. arousal, want, desire.. a lot of things,” he says easily, reminding me of how inexperienced I am and making me feel shy again.

 

He seems to notice because instead of tugging on my hair, he gently strokes over it which leads me to open my eyes and smile up at him and my heart does another swoop when I find that he’s looking at me lovingly.

 

There’s another moment where we just look at each other, his fingers still caressing my scalp, and I’m so gone for him, I just know it.

 

His fingers stop then for a moment and he scrunches his eyebrows together, blinking at me which looks like he’s in memory of something.

 

I was right.

 

“I wasn’t even 13 yet when it happened to me for the first time.”

 

“Oh..am I late to this?”

 

A short snort escapes him and he shakes his head, restarting the stroking.

 

“No, I think I was just early. Maybe. I don’t know if there’s a set time for it. What I’m trying to say is, that even though Brian elucidated me into everything, it still scared me to no end and it took me a while to figure out how to live with this around you.”

 

“I never noticed,” I say honestly, because yeah, thinking back, there were a few situations where I got suspicious, but never in my life would I have thought about this.

 

“I did a good job then!” he says and grins sheepishly.

 

Suddenly, there’s another burning question forming in my head.

 

“Was it because of me?” Because I don’t recall getting the erection this morning because of him.

 

He looks confused for a moment, but I can see the second he gets it because his eyes widen.

 

“No!” he says quickly and I can’t hide the slight disappointment that must be showing on my face because he adds, “I mean, not at first. Jesus Mikey, you were only a kid. That..that only came when you probably grew up a little.”

 

He basically just confirmed my thoughts from before and my brain makes me want to do things to him that I never even dreamed of before. It’s like piece by piece, this whole confusing concept is coming together and the final product is what my subconscious was screaming about all this time.

 

“What comes next?” I surprise myself by asking, eyes never leaving his.

 

He seems to know exactly what I’m talking about, because in a slow and considered move, he sits closer to me and brings his mouth close to my ear, removing his hand from my hair which upsets me at first, but his next words really make up for it.

 

“You wrap your hand around it and start rubbing it until the pleasure starts building up.”

 

It’s too much and I can’t hold his gaze anymore. I have to shut my eyes and my knees involuntarily squeeze together in a very pleasing way, so much even, that a tiny, strange sound leaves my mouth without my intention.

 

The thought of doing what he just said makes me raise my hand, the one that was wrapped around Gerard’s wrist until a moment ago, and slide to a spot on the back of my upper thigh where my legs are still bent, not caring about the grains of sand that are sticking to it.

 

When Gerard sees this, he freezes but doesn’t back away.

 

“I feel anxious,” I admit in a tiny breathless whisper, but don’t let go.

 

Immediately, Gerard’s face softens and he tilts his head to the side a bit. Then he smiles sweetly and says, “Aw Twee. I’ll go now, you know what to do now.”

 

What? That’s not what I meant at all! In a quick move, I catch his wrists again when he gets ready to stand up and looks at me startled.

 

“No,” I say, but nothing more. I can’t do this alone. Well, I suppose I could, but I don’t want to. I want to do this with him. So much, that it scares the Holy Ghost out of me.

 

He’s already half turned away from me but stops in his tracks when I stop him.

 

On an intake of breath, I squeeze my eyes shut, and on the exhale, I remove my arm from around my legs. Then, I finally part my knees for the first time since we sat down here together almost two hours ago.

 

The only sound I hear is Gerard’s huge gasp and when I open my eyes again, his eyes are fixed on the spot between my legs where, for the second time for today, a tent is forming under my white dress.

 

I honestly didn’t feel it swelling that much, but I guess all the talking about this topic and the light hair pulling eventually lead to that result. It’s quite fascinating, actually. I had no idea what my body was capable of.

 

I know I’m blushing again, but right now I could care less because Gerard’s eyes darken like they never have before as he sits back down next to me without really seeming to realize it.

 

“No,” I say again dumbly, sounding desperate and in another moment of bravery, I take his hand and direct it to my crotch.I can almost feel his hand on me, but then he seems to realize what is happening and uncurls his hand from mine and puts it over his face.

 

“Mikey we- we can’t do this..”, he mumbles into his hand and my heart sinks.

 

“Why not?” I ask, suddenly feeling nervous and self-conscious.

 

“We shouldn’t be doing this,” is all he says, offering nothing more.

 

I’m about to accept that because if he doesn’t want to, that’s okay. It’s his decision. But as I let my gaze wander, I notice the bulge between his own legs and I know that he wants to. I know why he’s acting like that, I know that his response would be that he needs to protect me and that he doesn’t want to hurt me, but that’s almost a funny thought by now.

 

It shows me that he cares though, and that makes my heart flutter.

 

Looking at his erection does the weirdest things to me and if he’s not going to touch me, then I’ll do it on my own. I’m starting to feel frustrated now, I need to find a release in all of this eventually or else I’ll go crazy.

 

“You don’t have to look or touch, just don’t go,” is what I manage to choke out before I finally, finally put my flat hand over my cloth-covered erection with firm pressure, nothing compared to the light touch from this morning.

 

The sensation I feel when I press down is so strong and sudden and feels so incredibly good, that it pulls me off my feet and my other hand that isn’t touching myself curls into a fist in the sand. The sound that escapes my throat at the touch can only be described as a moan.

 

I’ve never heard myself make such a sound and I’m yet again surprised as to what my body is capable of.

 

When I press down for the second time, I open my eyes and see that Gerard looks at me with lust in his eyes that makes my belly curl in on itself.

 

“You...Mikey-“, he gasps out and before I can react, his lips are back on my neck and his right hand curls around my ankle.

 

My name never sounded so beautiful coming from his mouth and I forget the hand on my crotch for a moment because I’m greatly distracted by the feeling of his lips on my neck.

 

When he parts his lips and traces his wet tongue over the skin there, only to stop and close again over my pulse point and suck, I lose all ability to speak and cry out in delight instead.

 

My free hand shoots up and closes around a bunch of his hair on the back of his head to hold him in place and I feel him groan against my skin.

 

Without really thinking about it, I tilt my head back, exposing more skin for him to kiss, or well, suck on. At this point, he can do whatever he wants and I’d take it greatly without a second thought.

 

I’m so aware of everything that’s happening right now, like the moist breath on my neck when he exhales hotly through his nose or how his hair smells or how his hand on my ankle now wanders up to my knee and then slides down to where the hem of my dress pools around my thighs.

 

I’m maybe a little, okay, very, nervous about him touching me, because I can feel myself leaking against the cotton again and what if finds that gross? But then I’m reminded that the exact same thing is happening to himself right now, has for years now, and he spoke of it as a gift from the Heavens so he must be enjoying it and then nothing of that matters anymore, because he slides his hand under the hem of the dress and curls his experienced fingers around my erection.

 

A shocked “Hhhaaa,” escapes my mouth at the feeling of it.

 

My entire body relents and now that there’s no hand for me to steady myself on and keep me in a sitting position, I fall back down on the sand, while my knees fall apart more and another loud moan leaves my mouth, causing Gerard to curse against my neck where I pulled him down with me.

 

I haven’t heard him curse a lot in my life, always thought of it as something wrong, but right now it really does it for me.

 

When his hand gives a squeeze and starts to pump up and down slowly, my back arches off the ground involuntarily and my toes curl inwards in the sand. I feel him shift in position so he leans over me a little. Then he releases my neck and instead presses his forehead against mine with his eyes shut tight and his lips are slick with spit and parted and then he swipes his thumb over my tip and my eyes roll back in my head, feeling my belly tightening in the most amazing way.

 

“Gee, what’s happening to my- nggghhh..to my body, I feel- hhhhhaa, I don’t know what’s happening-“

 

He curses again and then there’s his other hand, cupping the spot right behind my ear, and breathes out a whiny, “Mikey, you-,“ before he pulls my head up and presses his mouth on mine so hard that our teeth crush together.

 

All the times we kissed, it was never on that level of intensity and I don’t know what to do at first when he moves his lips messily over mine, but I quickly figure out what to do and follow his lead. The sounds he’s making in the back of his throat in return are nothing I ever heard before, so needy and out of control, and I’m pretty sure that I’ll fall asleep to that sound in my head tonight.

 

The kiss and his hand pumping faster now are taking me to a point where the air stays in my lungs and my entire body tightens. I even have to break the kiss, much to his dislike, but I can’t help myself anymore. What I’m feeling right now can’t be compared to anything I’ve ever experienced in my entire life and it’s damn amazing, but it doesn’t seem to lead to something.

 

“Gerard what-“

 

“You gotta let go, Mikes,” he says out of breath, almost slurring the words and starts to stroke me impossibly fast.

 

My free hand gropes around in the sand and lands somewhere next to my head when I feel my eyebrows knit together tightly and involuntarily and my mouth falling open in the same moment that my head tips back and the aching between my legs turns into something even more, like electric shocks and heat and the greatest delight.

 

Then there’s Gerard, looking down at me and that’s it; A loud “Uhhhhhhhhhhhh,” leaves my throat and my hips buck into his first as the final straw snaps and a hot liquid lands on my belly where the dress drew up somewhere in the process.

 

It seems to go on forever, but just as I think it wouldn’t stop, it does and my body goes slack against the sand.

 

I lie there for what feels like an eternity with my eyes closed, waiting for my breathing to become normal again when I feel Gerard withdrawing his hand from my crotch only to rest it on my hip, sticky with what I suppose must be sperm. The thought alone is strangely arousing on its own and sends another wave of sparks through my twitching body.

 

His forehead is still pressed up against mine, his own quick breath mingling with mine, still so close that it wouldn’t take much to kiss him again, so that’s what I’m doing.

 

This time, it’s much gentler and when I tilt my head slightly to the side and he presses in closer, it feels like we were made for this. He nips at my bottom lip and then kisses over the same spot and everything is perfect.

 

That is until Gerard suddenly pulls away from my embrace and looks down at me with shock on his face as if only now realizing what just happened. As he sits on his heels, I see his eyes widen in fear and he quickly turns his head to look over his shoulder, as if checking if someone saw us, which is totally ridiculous.

 

Then I notice the dark wet spot against his now flatter loincloth, understanding how he must feel right now because I feel just the same.

 

We’ve just crossed a line that neither of us probably even thought about and yes, that is a scary thing. Not to mention that now that it’s over, the embarrassment comes back in full force. Not that I let him do this, but more like the whole concept itself. But I don’t want to feel rejected and he doesn’t need that either, so when he hasn’t moved from where he sits, I reach out and take his hand, making him turn his head back in my direction.

 

He hesitates and looks stricken for a moment, but when I smile at him slightly with a blush still on my cheeks, he goes and lays down beside me in the sand.

 

I can feel that he’s in a vulnerable state right now, just like me. But when he, much to my surprise, shifts and rests his head on my chest and buries his face into the cotton of the white dress, all the embarrassment and fear seems to dissolve into the warm air of the day.

 

He puts his forearm on my belly so that his hand rests upon my ribs next to his head and holds me there. Then he presses in closer with his torso and throws his leg across one of mine, sprinkling sand across me in the process, so we’re tangled from head to toe.

 

Automatically, my left hand finds its way to his head where I begin to card gently through his hair. Then a tiny grin flashes across my face while dreamily looking up in the sky, much like he did earlier.

 

“So that’s what it can be like.”

 

I feel Gerard huff a small snort against my chest and his hand squeezes my side.

 

“Yeah, that’s what it can be like.”

 

“I feel so fine right now, like nothing really matters and my body feels very light,” I state happily and nicely exhausted, stretching my legs against the sand and trying to work the muscles in my shoulders but that’s kind of difficult with his weight on top of me, which I’m not complaining about though, because I really like the feel of that as well.

 

“’M tired, too,” I admit and once again feel him laugh against my chest before burrowing his face deeper against the white cotton and winding his arm tighter around me.

 

“So sleep,” he mumbles and exhales through his nose, creating a hot spot on my ribs which gives me Goosebumps. He must be equally exhausted after this.

 

All I can manage to do before passing out into a light and pleasant sleep is a nod and one last movement of my fingers in his hair and a tiny, “Thank you,” on my lips.

 

-

 

Waking up a few hours later is almost like torture! We fell asleep outside when the sun did not yet stand high in the sky but now it’s afternoon and we’re basically cooking. I don’t think my eyes ever hurt this bad. We also didn’t clean ourselves up after what happened and the sticky feeling on my belly and crotch is everything else but pleasant like before.

 

Gerard is still fast asleep somewhere dragged over my upper body and my skin is sweaty everywhere our skin touches and he might be even drooling a little on my collarbone. It doesn’t bother me though. Nothing he ever did bothered me, or at least most of it didn’t.

 

I’m hot and I feel itchy and my eyes hurt, but that still isn’t enough reason for me to wake him up and do anything about it. Instead, I start carding my fingers through his hair again, keeping my eyes closed as some sort of weak protection from the devil that is the sun right now.

 

After a while, I start stroking his neck and shoulder and as far down his back as I can reach from this angle. His skin is hot and I feel grains of sand sticking to his spine and hip. I continue stroking his skin there until I let my hand wander up higher again, along his neck and then jaw, over the bridge of his nose, the spot under his eyes and then over his forehead and into his hair again.

 

It’s really lulling and relaxing to do that and I could go on forever, but after some time, I feel him stir and mumble out an incoherent sentence against my collarbone.

 

“Hmm?” I hum out, not really feeling like talking just yet.

 

“’Said where are we,” he says, clearer this time, but still husky with sleep.

 

“Beach.”

 

“Bad idea.”

 

“Yup.”

 

Then, he slowly sits up ungracefully and stretches his arms. “Mmm...I do feel rested though,” he says and yawns with his fists rubbing his eyes.

 

“Yeah, and sun-cooked.”

 

Now I opened my eyes but immediately regret it. “I hope all of this was worth getting me blind!”

 

I hear him giggle and then there’s his hand stroking over my hairline, brushing some of my bangs back where they unbound from the clips.

 

For a moment, he looks down at me with something that I would like to call love in his eyes, but then he breaks eye contact and looks down somewhere next to my head that is still resting in the sand. Then he turns his head and looks in the direction of the ocean and his face falls completely.

 

He sighs and closes his eyes, withdraws his hand from my hair and starts to inconsequential finger at a loose threat on his loincloth, his dark hair falling into his face.

 

I sit up, trying to ignore the sticky feeling between my legs and touch his knee lightly before asking, as gently as possible,

 

“What is it?”

 

I see him purse his lips as if in thoughts and then his shoulders fall and he sighs again, quietly.

 

“Please talk to me?”

 

He finally turns his head to me, looking at my face for a few seconds before saying, completely emotionless, “We should maybe get some work done.”

 

My hand, that was resting on his knee, falls down into the sand and my eyebrows knit together confused. I don’t even have time to ask why he’s suddenly acting like that, because with one last look at the ocean, he gets up and disappears into the house, leaving me completely bewildered and concerned.

 

In a quick motion, I pull my legs back up my body and rest my chin and mouth on my knees, the tip of my nose brushing lightly against the rather blond hair on my kneecaps.

 

I decide not to freak out yet, maybe he needs a few hours to digest what had happened. I think I even need some time myself, to re-point all my thoughts and to fully understand all these new things. After all, I did learn a lot today, more than I learned in all the 6 years we’ve been here at once, even.

 

His reaction would be okay and understandable if it wasn’t for that look on his face he’s used quite often today.

 

I guess I just have to wait and find out.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

 

 

Frustration.

 

That’s the only word to describe my current mood. I’ve been frustrated for days now. It’s been exactly 7 days since the thing happened and I almost wish I could rewind time at that point. The mood between me and Gerard can only be titled as plain awful. It’s not like we’re fighting, but he rejects me. And that’s even worse.

 

It hurts.

 

I let him alone pretty much all day on that very day, figuring he just needed some alone time. But when he didn’t cuddle up against me that night but kept his fair distance, that’s when I got really concerned.

 

I tried to talk to him about it over breakfast the next day, but he would just change the topic and look down at his food or stare out the window or not react at all.

 

I tried everything; I left him alone, I pleaded, I screamed at him, I tried to be nice, but nothing helped.

 

On the first evening, after we did our chores and took some well-needed baths, I decided to approach him because I noticed the tiny longing looks he’d been given me over the day. But when I wrapped my arms around him from behind and kissed him on the shoulder, he shrugged out of my embrace and went into the forest until it was pitch dark outside.

 

On the third day, he wasn’t there when I woke up fairly early in the morning. I thought about using his absence to touch myself alone properly for the first time, but while it did feel nice, it never felt as incredible as when he did it and, in the end, I gave up and waited for it to go away again, my frustration only raising.

 

At some point during the week, in a moment of weakness, I asked him if he could kiss me again because I craved the feeling (though I didn’t say that), but he just shook his head and looked away guiltily without saying something.

 

The worst thing is that I know what if feels like now. I’ve never been kissed or touched like that before, no one ever bothered and I certainly was not interested in such things for a long time. Now it’s different though.

 

I’m feeling frustrated because he won’t talk to me in full sentences, won’t even look at me most of the day and when he does, he looks sad and guilty and longing. He won’t listen when I need to talk about my nightmares and I’m frustrated because he won’t show any kind of affection towards me or touch me. And I don’t even mean in a sexual way. It’s been so long since he last hugged me, or simply smiled at me. He avoids me as much as he can in any way possible.

 

Deep down, I don’t care if he never kisses me again or touches me in forbidden places or tells me about the wonders of adulthood. All I want for us right now is to go back being kids again, who would chase each other all day and laugh about nonsense.

 

All I want is to have my brother back.

 

He pretty much turned into a stranger over the last week.

 

On the late afternoon of the 7th day, I decided to give it one last try because I simply cannot take much more of this.

 

I find him sitting down by the stairs with his arms curled around his legs, the wind messing up his hair, making him look absolutely unhappy and beautiful at the same time.

 

Taking a deep breath, I walk down the stairs and stand grievously in front of him, not daring to sit down.

 

I feel totally stupid. There’s nothing intimidating about me, nothing that shows magnitude. All I have to offer are wobbly in-turned knees, feathery hair, too long and skinny limbs and a croaky new voice I’m still not used to.

 

He’s definitely noticed me by now, but he continues staring at the ground.

 

“To be straight, I don’t regret what happened last week, you obviously do. But Gerard, I don’t know what to do anymore and if you continue being like this, I will-“

 

“You will what, Mikey! Scream at me some more? Cry? Beg for me to talk? Go and tell mother and father what an ass I am if they come back? Move out? Well, have fun with that because we’re stuck here and there’s no one here for you to cry your eyes out to or to complain about how mean I am being to you, so leave me the hell alone!”

 

The only thing I can perceive are the tears that well up fast and hot in my eyes and him getting up to leave, but then I react and grab him tightly around the wrist.

 

“No! I’m not letting you leave just like that again!”

 

The words barely come out but when they do, they’re high-pitched with shock and tears and grief.

 

“Let go of me!” he growls in a dangerous tone that scares me and tries to pull his wrist out of my grip.

 

“No! Not until you tell me what’s going on-“

 

And then he slaps me straight across the cheek with a loud smack, leaving me to tumble backward with my palm pressed against the spot he just hit. I’m so perplexed that I can’t speak and my entire body starts to tremble in dread, making it hard for me to stand.

 

Gerard never hit me. Never.

 

I stare at him with shock and tears in my eyes and mouth slightly open and he looks equally shocked as to what he just did, looks apologetic even, but a second later he looks angry again and spits out,

 

“All I did was trying to protect you! If they ever come back and find out what happened, they’ll separate us and throw us into prison! I tried to prevent that from happening all these years but all you ever do is ask ‘What’s wrong Gee? Why don’t you want to sleep in my bed anymore? Am I not good enough for you anymore, Gee?’ in your ever so sweet voice but the answer is No! No to everything! Do you finally get that now, Mikey?”

 

After that, I truly feel like throwing up, his words and the way he quotes me so odious. Doesn’t he see how utterly much he’s hurting me right now?

 

“Shame on you, Gerard,” I say bitterly and humiliated, my breath caught painfully in my throat and choking me. There’s nothing left for me to do but to swallow my pride and ignore the shattering pain in my heart. But still... “I don’t understand,” because I truly don’t. Who is he talking about? Why is he suddenly talking about prison and people finding out? About what?

 

“We are brothers, Mikey!” he screams at me from the top of his lungs and moves his arms around wildly.

 

I’m shaking my head confused because, well, I know that.

 

“Brothers don’t do that, okay? Brothers aren’t so close to each other! They aren’t supposed to be attracted to each other and they certainly don’t have sex together! It’s wrong! It’s forbidden!”

 

“But you-“

 

“You forced me!” he spats out bitterly, but I know he’s not believing his own words. He knows just as much as I do that I didn’t force him. I didn’t force him to touch me, like me the way he does or to kiss me or to fall asleep on my chest. Those were all his own decisions.

 

“Throw around these horrible things all you want, but at least stop lying to yourself, Gerard.”

 

I’m about to leave, grab my things and go wherever, but then he says, “You can’t have me,”simple and plain, and that hurts a million times more than him hitting me.

 

I turn around from where I just walked past him, hand still on my cheek and tears mingled with snot and reddened skin, “Who says that, you? Who told you all these things?”

 

Then he turns his head away with a betrayed look on his face and tears of his own running down his cheeks and says, suddenly very quietly,

 

“Brian did.”

 

That takes a moment for my brain to register because I never thought of Brian as someone like that, but I don’t think Gerard is lying, either. Instead, I clench my jaw and say, pain and disappointment audible in my voice, “And you believe that?”

 

He must so, because he doesn’t say anything in defense.

 

It startles me that he thinks that way, him above all people. All the conversations about equality and love thrown away like they never mattered.

 

A final nod and a “Good to know,” is all I have left to say before turning around and leaving for good.

 

I don’t know where I’m going, but something will come of it.

 

-

 

I’ve been walking for at least two hours, judging by the way the sun stands now.

 

I don’t know where I’m going, but it’s not like it matters. I just needed to get away from home. I thought about going back to the cave but quickly discarded the idea because that place would be too painful with all the memories we’ve created there.

 

Deep in the jungle, it’s cold and unfamiliar. All I have with me is the light blue blouse on my body and nothing else. No food, no water, nothing from home.

 

Maybe it’s for the best that way.

 

After another hour of walking around aimlessly, I’ve reached the other end of the island. I think I’ve been here only once before, with Gerard, years ago when we explored our new environment. I didn’t like it here then and I don’t like it now.

 

The beach here is of rocks and not of the white sand I’m used to. It smells like rotten fish and not like the clean ocean-air that I love so much.

 

It looks cold, dreary and unfamiliar. I’ve crossed a couple of weird looking animals, some sort of monkeys and reptiles on my way here that I’ve never seen and I wonder if they’re dangerous. I’m scared and lonely and my heart aches. But I wanted this, right? I wanted, no, needed to get away from there.

 

Trying not to think about Gerard and all the cruel things he said and, well, did, I take a breath and go back into the forest. I’m starting to get thirsty and I should probably find a water source before it gets dark.

 

I do, indeed, find a small pond about 500 meters away from the beach and even found two fairly big rocks sitting next to each other that serve poorly as shelter.

 

It’s evening when I threw a few brackens unlovingly over the stones as some sort of roof and made a tiny fire to warm up to, but the fire is as useless as the hungry growling from my stomach. I couldn’t find anything to eat earlier, not even berries or bananas. Gerard is the one who knows how to fish without a spear. I mean, I know how to fish, but I don’t have any equipment with me and without it, I’m useless. And I’m still cold. I can’t even feel the heat from the flames. My body feels numb and motionless, much like my soul.

 

I feel like there’s a huge wave of emotion coming up and I know I’m not prepared for either one of them.

 

It starts with realization.

 

As I sit there, with my forearms braced on my bend knees and a dead straw of grass between my fingers to stop me from ripping my hair out or something, a thought that is as painful as a fist to my gut floats my mind.

 

It comes so fast and unexpected; I was thinking about something entirely else but then, one, clear and simple sentence takes over my brain.

 

I am in love with Gerard.

 

And then, that one sentence takes on different shapes:

I’m in love with my best friend.

I’m in love with a boy.

I’m in love with an adult. (almost)

I’m in love with my soulmate.

I’m in love with my brother.

 

Then, the one last, precarious straw that I so desperately tried to hold on to to keep me sane snaps, and I almost hear my heart shattering into pieces inside my chest while tears start to fall from my eyes like heavy raindrops.

 

The blade of grass falls to the ground and my mud and grime-dirty hands shoot to my face where I begin to sob uncontrollably.

 

I know I once said that I was never told what love feels like so I wouldn't know if I was in love with him or anyone at all, but oh was I wrong all this time. I know so well that it feels like.

 

I fell in love with Gerard without even realizing it. I always knew we were pretty close, closer than most siblings I used to know, but that it would turn into love one day, pure, adult love... I would not have thought that.

 

And of course, I always loved him, but in the normal way, you love your family. This though is something completely different. This is huge and scares the last remains of my soul out of my body.

 

I know that this is different because I felt it a long time coming. At least looking back now, I know that it was always there, crawling under the surface and waiting for me to discover it. And it would be great and wonderful if it wasn’t for this situation.

 

It’s not even for the butterflies I feel in my stomach or the touches or the kisses, but for the glances he would give me when he’s worried about me, it’s for the way he always knows how to cheer me up or hold me in the right moments when I need him the most. It’s for the many nights he sat sleep drunken by my bed to make sure that I was okay after waking up from a nightmare. It’s for the way he says my name and makes me feel like I’m never alone.

 

It’s for moments when he feels unwatched while drawing and he’d look deep in thoughts, his teeth worrying his lower lip without even noticing. It’s for the way his hair smells and the warmness of his hands and those huge eyes that always watch me so intently with protection and adoration.

 

It’s for when he looks so indescribably beautiful when he would wear my white dress, or when he curls his hair behind his ears or when smiles and those dimples form under his eyes. It’s for the way his voice sounds and how he would sometimes chew with a slightly open mouth while being deep in thoughts or how awkward his pinkie fingers look when he spreads his fingers while talking wildly and excited about a new idea he got.

 

It’s for how he said that he would never stop protecting me, no matter how much I disliked that.

 

I love him because he is my brother, but a higher force decided that this term wouldn’t be enough to explain everything that I’m feeling towards him.

 

It’s for the way he loves me back but never dared to admit it. I know he does, because I always felt it, in one way or another.

 

It has to be love what I’m feeling right now because, despite all the horrible things he said and did, I miss him so much that it’s hard to breathe and think.

 

The next feeling that makes itself home inside my body is grief. Pure, bitter and honest grief.

 

My cheek still throbs where he hit me, but I know he didn’t mean to and he’s probably hating himself right now for doing it. That, or he’s glad I’m finally out of the house and doesn’t have to see my face anymore.

 

I’m wondering if he’s looking for me? It’s hard to tell and I decide that he probably isn’t. But it’s a nice thought.

 

His words hurt me so much. I feel so humiliated for the way he mimicked me earlier, the way he made me sound like the neediest and forlorn person on the planet.

 

“..What’s wrong Gee? Why don’t you want to sleep in my bed anymore? Am I not good enough for you anymore, Gee? In your ever so sweet voice..”

 

All I ever tried was to be sincere and honest with him and show him how much I cared for him. I honestly thought he appreciated that more. How can I ever face him again without feeling absolutely ludicrous?

 

He made me look like a little, desperate child again and again and with every sentence, he spat in my face, it hurt more than I ever thought words could hurt.

 

“..there’s no one here for you to cry your eyes out to..”

 

“..but the answer is No! No to everything!”

 

“You forced me!”

 

“You can’t have me.”

 

All of this echoes over and over in my head in his voice, taking me right back to that horrible conversation and after another hour of bawling my eyes and heart out, I’m so exhausted that I feel like I could pass out from my headache so I decide to call it a night and crawl in the small space between the rocks, trying to tuck all of my too long limbs under my body.

 

I don’t like it here. God knows what animals sneak around at night in the jungle. It smells unfamiliar, I’m cold and hungry and I ache all over.

 

I am so, so sad and alone. I feel small and wrong in my own body.

 

I feel like we became stranger in a matter of seconds when we fought. Everything I believed to know about him until that point vanished in a flick. I’m not even sure if that was considered fighting. In my eyes, that was something more. Something more painful and agonizing.

 

My stupid weakness brought him into a situation where he got badly hurt and caused him a kind of pain I could probably never understand. And not just today, no. It was probably building up inside of him for months, if not years. Every move I made, every word I said. He said that he tried to prevent terrible things from happening, things that didn’t make sense to me, but he must have had his reasons. That in return makes me incredibly mad because If he would have said something and made me understand what was going on inside his head, maybe things wouldn’t have gotten so horribly out of control.

 

But still...I can’t help but wonder what Gerard is doing at this moment. Is he already asleep? Is he out looking for me? Does he even miss me?

 

Was running away really the right thing to do at that moment? It certainly seemed like the right thing to do, given the circumstances. But then again, what if he wanted to say something else but just didn’t know how? I guess I’ll never know because it’s too late now. The damage is done and is done greatly, on both sides.

 

We’ve never been separated for more than a couple of hours, except for when we were at school and that one Summer when I was at camp and while I had fun, I remember how much I just wanted to go home to be with him again. Every night, I made believe that he would somehow magically stand in front of my uncomfortable camp-bed because he sneaked away from home and crawled under the covers with me. It wasn’t much, but my childlike thinking helped me back then.

 

It doesn’t now, however. I seriously feel like passing out, but how can you fall asleep when your brain is shouting at you nonstop? The fire is out completely now and as I watch the last remains of the embers expire with red and tired eyes, I make a promise to myself that I’ll go back first thing tomorrow and see if he’s still mad at me. But will he forgive me for running away or for hurting him? Will I be able to forgive him for everything he did today?

 

I don’t have an answer to either, but living under the same roof with Gerard while he probably hates me to hell is still better than living here, all on my own with no promise of, well, of anything at all, actually.

 

But after telling myself that I’ll be going home and be able to see his face again, there’s a tiny spark of hope bubbling up inside my chest that finally lets me drift off into a light and restless sleep for a few hours.

 

-

 

However, when I wake up very early in the morning with a cooled down body and pain all over, especially my face, I change my mind without second thought. I woke up every 10 minutes from hunger and pain and strange sounds from the jungle that scared me. It was a mistake not to eat lunch yesterday when I was still at home and in the end, I’m only even more tired and exhausted than before.

 

It’s anger that comes next. And when it does, it comes in full force.

 

Gerard, the person whom I came to realize that I love most in this world, hit me in the face and didn’t even make a move to apologize. By hitting me, he humiliated me, broke my trust in him and most of all, hurt me. Both physically and mentally.

 

I know it bruised. I wouldn’t even need my cranky old hand-mirror to know that there’s an ugly bruise stretching over my cheek. I can feel it whenever I accidentally brush over it.

 

If you hit someone, you’re scum in their eyes. At least that’s what our grandma always told us. It means you don’t respect the person in front of you.

 

Deep, deep down somewhere in my heart, I know that he didn’t mean to hit me, it was probably just a rash reaction (though that’s no excuse), but my heart broke too much yesterday and now my brain takes over and induces everything he did and said on a completely new level.

 

He acted violently towards me in more ways than just one; The looks he gave me, expressions I’ve never seen on him before and that scared me to death. He took it so far that he made me feel feared of him.

 

The way my body reacted when he screamed out that first painful and hurtful paragraph where he made fun of me, was something that I never experienced before in my life and hopefully never, ever will again.

 

I felt like my heart stopped beating, I felt like chocking because my body was trembling so heavily and uncontrollable. Even my teeth clattered. My voice sounded chopped and thin and foreign to me. I was barely aware of the tears running from my eyes or my hand that was yet clasped around his wrist. It felt like I was out of my body in some frightening way.

 

And when he slapped me, that’s when I got really scared. Who slaps someone, and for that matter, their little brother, with such hate in their eyes?

 

Will I ever be able to come near him again without feeling the urge to curl into a ball to protect myself?

 

I’m angry that he hid, or at least felt like he had to hide the things Brian said to him, whatever they were. Doesn’t he know he can trust me? Didn’t I always show him that I trust him in all aspects of life? I mean, for all that is Holy, I trusted him so much that I let him touch me in my most vulnerable area to bring me into a state of sheer joy. Isn’t that the biggest proof of trust someone could come along with? Did he just take that for granted? The thought makes me sick to my stomach.

 

Of course, I miss him, sickening so, even, but I wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t acted so extraneous and fierce towards me.

 

Half of the morning passed, and I still haven’t calmed down. I tried to distract myself by finding something to eat, but I came up with nothing, my hunger increasing minutely. The only thing I fed my stomach since yesterday was the poor breakfast in the morning before the fight and then two hands full of disgusting tasting pond water.

 

Dehydrating doesn’t sound so much fun though, so I squeeze my eyes together and swallow a few more mouths full of water before going back to my pathetic rock-shelter. There’s no use in making a fire now that I have nothing to cook and I gave up on warming up at that point.

 

So here I am again, with nothing to do but to listen to every gruesome thing my brain shouts at me.

 

Between all the chaotic and tangled thoughts, I find something that catches my interest. Something I haven’t yet given a proper thought to. Something that always tried to sneak away whenever it crossed my mind, hidden behind other thoughts and emotions. Just one, single word. A name.

 

Brian.

 

What on earth did Brian tell Gerard that made him act so damn brutal?!

 

“If they ever come back and find out what happened, they’ll separate us and throw us into prison! I tried to prevent that from happening all these years..”

 

“Brother’s don’t do that, okay? Brother’s aren’t so close to each other! They aren’t supposed to be attracted to each other and they certainly don’t have sex together! It’s wrong! It’s forbidden!”

 

“You can’t have me.”

 

-“Who says that, you? Who told you all these things?”

 

“Brian did.

 

After I repeat those words over and over in my head, I come to the preliminary acceptance that all of this is entirely Brian’s fault. Whatever he told Gerard, besides what he revealed to me in tiny bits the other day, must have gotten to Gerard in a very serious way.

 

I’m taking a deep breath to contain my anger and to try to bring some sort of structure into all of this.

 

So, what I know, is that he told Gerard that if someone ever came back to rescue us and found out what we did, they would throw us into prison because we are brothers and brothers don’t have sex with each other. Am I getting this right?

 

I must be because if that’s what he told him, I sure as hell would have acted the same way as Gerard did. And what we did wasn’t even considered sex yet, I think. A preliminary stage, if anything.

 

Bit by bit, memories find their way to my brain and it becomes painfully clear what Gerard must have gone through the last years and especially the last few months.

 

When I woke up that first night in the cave because he was stroking me when he thought I was sleeping, the way he froze and the look on his face when he found that I was awake. The morning after when he struggled with a morning erection, as I know now, and tried desperately to hide it from me. Every moment after when he was scared to let me come too close when I begged him to never leave me alone when I felt so anxious back when I was so scared of losing him. I can hear his words still so clearly;

 

“What I did in the cave, I did that to protect you..”

 

“I promise I will explain it to you one day, and that day will come, but for now I can’t tell you.”

 

That situation not too long ago when he had me pressed against the tree trunk...

 

“You,- you wouldn’t know..”

 

“Sometimes you look so..it’s so difficult sometimes not to-..“

 

And finally, that eventful day barely over a week ago.

 

“Mikey we- we can’t do this..”

 

-“Why not?”

 

“We shouldn’t be doing this.”

 

None of this was ever Gerard’s decisions, but he felt like he had to do as he was told because someone, someone who I thought I could trust and always looked up to, abused his trust and fed him lies and threatened him with the most absurd things.

 

It’s so horrible to think about it. Gerard was only twelve back then, just an innocent child when someone came and enlightened him into the secrets of love and desire and forbade him in the same moment to do any of those wondrous things with the person he loved.

 

I don’t even know if he felt like that towards me then, but judging one of his statements he made, he didn’t. That only came later. How terrifying must it have been for him to grow up and realize that all the bad things he was told to keep back did in fact occur?

 

I remember now how he looked over his shoulder anxiously several times after we actually got this far and let happen what had happened. He must have been totally frightened that someone saw it happen and immediately take us away from each other like Brian promised they would if they ever found out.

 

Now I feel devastatingly sorry for forcing all of this on him. Of course, I had no idea, but knowing what pain it caused him is just dreadful.

 

And while all of this is awful even to think about, it does have a positive side to it.

 

I know now that none of this was ever one-sided on my end.

 

To know that all those tiny, shy glances and secret touches he’d often give me were real and honest, to know that none of it was ever forced or fake or that he felt like he had to be close to me because I told him to do so, is so relieving, that I could cry again.

 

His love for me must be really big if he was ready to give up all of his feelings and secret desires just so I would be okay in the end, or both of us, for that matter.

 

That thought sews a few of the many broken pieces of my heart together again.

 

It surprises me that I don’t feel any sorts of betrayal towards him. I would have thought that I would feel betrayed for the simple fact that he believed all the things Brian told him, but I know my brother. I know him better than anyone else in this world and I know that he felt like he didn’t have a choice.

 

I would risk my life to assume that deep down, he knew that what he was told was wrong. After all, he was the one who told me that everyone should be able to love whoever they wanted to love. I know he strongly believes in equality for everyone and that people who say otherwise were full of crap.

 

When I was maybe five or six, Gerard told me that I could do whatever I wanted to do in life for as long as it would make me happy and didn’t hurt anyone. I mean, how must he have felt when suddenly someone came and told him that everything he ever believed in was wrong?

 

Love, in any way, is one of the few things in life you cannot prevent from happening and I know, just know from the bottom of my heart, that Gerard lives after that.

 

Kids have such fragile minds and they should be protected from getting hurt in every way possible.

 

Brian hurt my brother.

 

And for that, I will hate him until the end of my life.

 

I’m grateful that he saved us and enabled for me and Gerard to be together after we lost everyone else and I’m grateful that he taught us how to survive out here and, yes, we had fun times together that I will surely never forget, but now that I know that there was always that unfamiliar fear creeping in the back of Gerard’s mind, I can’t help the hate and disgust that gathers up inside my stomach.

 

I can’t even begin to understand the guilt he must be feeling after all of this. I won’t take back that he hurt me, because he did plenty, but it wasn’t his fault.

 

How did he even live like this for so many years without going completely crazy? All his feelings, the good ones and the bad ones must have gathered up for so long now and while it’s sad and wrong that they finally came out this way, I’m glad they did because now we can talk about it. Now that I understand.

 

I just hope there will ever be the chance to do so.

 

Now that I experienced everything from realization to grief, anger, and betrayal, more or less, it’s nostalgia that floods my body and soul from head to toe, and it’s absolutely awful. There is simply no other way to explain it.

 

While I was struggling with my thoughts, the day stretched over my head and now that I thought every thought one could possibly think, my headache from yesterday returns and wrecks my head greatly.

 

It looks like it is the middle of the afternoon and my poor stomach whines for food. I also tried to avoid drinking that disgusting water since early this morning, and now I’m paying the price for it because my mind starts to swim.

 

I can’t stay here for a second longer. I need food and water and clean clothes. I need a warm body to curl up against to warm me up before I catch pneumonia. I need to get away from here and apologize to Gerard.

 

With that goal in mind, I stand up on shaky legs to make my way back home, where I belong.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 8

 

 

I’m approximately halfway home when my head starts to swim heavily from dizziness and I miss a step, causing me to trip and fall over in a blurry haze.

 

On the long and exhausting walk home from the other side of the island, I stopped counting the painful cuts on my feet put there by the wild nature of this jungle I’m not so much used to.

 

The pain of that, the lack of food and water and sleep must be what caused my brain to almost shut down. I know I didn’t pass out, but I feel like it was a really close thing. I know that I’m still all the way there when I feel the sudden and agonizing pain that shoots through my right foot and ankle, causing me to cry out in pain.

 

When I pull myself together and try to focus on what happened, I see that I jammed my foot in between a split root of a tree that emerges from the ground, it seems like. I must have bent my foot too far and I pray that the bone-shattering pain isn’t the sign that it’s broken. Wouldn’t that just be my luck on top of everything else?

 

It must be, though. Because with every poor attempt at getting my foot out of there, the pain increases to a point where I’m about to lose my mind, so eventually, after a good half hour of trying and crying out in pain with every weak pull, I give up and slump back against the trunk of the tree that caused me to break my foot.

 

My entire face burns from the dirt that has been accumulating there since I left home and mingled with tears that left my eyes for too long now, and from the several cuts inflicted from falling over and crashing into several random bushes and branches in the good hour and a half I’ve been walking now.

 

It’s hard to focus and watch where you’re going when your brain is constantly clouded with dizziness and a black fog. None of this would have happened if I just drank enough water from the pond or, well, if I wouldn’t have run away in the first place.

 

Another hour and the evening is making itself noticeable in the sky, and that’s when I get really scared. There’s no way for me to move in that state which means I have to spend the night here, in the middle of nowhere, without any sorts of shelter and in so much pain that I threw up twice already. Nothing but stomach acid came out which is just another proof of how long I’ve gone without anything to eat now. That can’t be a good sign.

 

I feel so inhuman in my own body; every inch of my skin hurts, my foot is still painfully twisted between that damned root and started to swell and turn blue and purple, I long for a bath because I’m covered in dirt and grime from head to toe and I’m so incredibly weak that I can’t think straight anymore.

 

This is not going to be the end for me, is it? Wouldn’t that be just funny? Two kids survived a shipwreck, magically found an island in the middle of the ocean and made themselves at home there for over half a decade. Then one of them dies because they got mad and run away, tripped over and broke their foot and will now find the end of their days lonely and alone in the depths of a jungle and will probably get killed by wild animals.

 

The worst of it all is, that I never got a chance to apologize to Gerard. I might be overdramatic here, but I can’t help it.

 

Thinking about him lets fresh tears well up in my eyes and I don’t even bother to brush them away. It’s not like it matters anymore.

 

Another two hours later, and I’m sure that’s it. The pain increased to a point where I zoned out a couple of times now and I feel like my body is drying out from the inside which is one of the worst feelings I’ve ever experienced and hopefully never, ever will again if I come out of here living.

 

As the twilight breaks in and dives everything around me in sinister darkness, something catches my eyes.

 

I engage my eyes and brain to focus one last time and after a moment of weird haze, I find a little, yellow monkey sitting by my broken foot, happily chewing on something and looking up at me through big, black eyes.

 

My first thought is that I imagined him. We don’t have these kinds of monkey on this island. Or do we and I’ve just never seen one? Maybe they only live on the far end where we never bother to go? That must be it.

 

When he makes a shrill sound and runs to a bush a few feet away from me, that is when I’m sure that I didn’t make him up.

 

My eyes follow him to the little bush where he made himself at home and that’s when I recognize what he’s eating so happily: Mint! How come I didn’t see that until now?

 

“Hey..would you mind passing me some of these?” I haven’t spoken for too long now and since my mouth is all dry, it’s hard to form words.

 

The yellow monkey turns his head and looks at me while chewing wildly on the leave in his tiny fingers. Of course, he doesn’t make a move to actually give me a handful of leaves, but it almost doesn’t matter, because now that I know that there’s something to eat, even if it’s just a gap filler, it is something and I feel new motivation bubbling up inside of me.

 

Very, very slowly, I reach out and weakly rip some of the leaves from their branch. The monkey watches me intently the entire time and doesn’t make a move to run away.

 

When I slump back against the tree and I put some of the leaves in my mouth, I could nearly cry from joy. The minty flavor revives my brain cells and the tiny dew drops, that gathered in the grooves of the leaves, slightly help to re-saliva my mouth.

 

It does nothing to still my hunger, but it gives me a fillip to stay awake and to keep fighting against the darkness that makes itself home inside my head for a little while longer.

 

The monkey makes another high-pitched sound and jumps on the trunk of the tree I’m leaning against.

 

“You’re leaving already?” I ask in a husky voice and when I tilt my head to look up, I see him hanging there upside down on the trunk, watching me with those dark eyes.

 

A smile creeps onto my face and the pain seems forgotten for a precious moment when he crawls down and starts to mess up my hair. At first, I’m startled as to what he’s doing, but when I feel his tiny fingers carding through my hair, I relax and let him do whatever he’s doing since it doesn’t hurt.

 

After a while, he stops and crawls down my head and shoulder and sits down on my forearm that I can barely hold up because I’m weak, but for him, it’s worth using all the strength I have left inside of me. His claws hurt a little bit on my sensitive skin, but I’ve felt worse pain.

 

“Aren’t you beautiful,” I say in a quiet voice so I won’t startle him.

 

And he really is. It’s almost dark by now, but I can still make out his tiny, almost human-like hands and fingers that grab my arm tightly, his dark nose and even darker dots of eyes. His fur is grey and yellow and his tail is long and flexible.

 

“What are you doing here all by yourself?” I ask him and watch as he flexes his head from side to side nimbly. “I got into a fight with my brother and run away from home, you know? We hurt each other pretty badly, but I miss him a lot.”

 

I don’t know why I keep talking at this point, it’s not like he understands a single word, but it distracts me and that’s enough for me to keep going.

 

“If I told you a secret, would you keep it?”

 

He sits up straight and starts poking at his slightly round belly and I can’t help but stifle a small laugh.

 

After watching him for a moment, I eventually sigh and say, almost in a whisper so no one will be able to hear the secret slipping from my lips, “I think that’s how nature wanted us to be all along, you know? Together. Me and my brother, I mean.”

 

My own words bring a sad smile on my face and remind me how badly I want and need to be with him.

 

The monkey stops poking at its belly and looks back at me, curling his tail around my arm.

 

“Do you have a name? Would it be okay if I called you Peppermint?” he did, after all, save my life in a way. Or at least extend it for a little while longer and in my opinion, that deserves a cool name.

 

He makes another sound and jumps from my arm and that’s when I notice that he’s only got three feet. The left one on his backside is only a stump where his little leg ends. It doesn’t seem to bother him at all though, because he runs around happily and ably.

 

“Well, for one so small you are pretty strong, huh?” I say and watch in awe as he jumps on another tree across from me. Then he shrieks again, startled from a sound that makes me jump as well, and before I can stop him, he disappears into the high crones of the trees above my head and into the darkness.

 

I follow the direction he left to with my eyes for a few more seconds until I hear the sound again that startled us in the first place.

 

It’s Gerard.

 

It must be him, because who else would be walking around with an old lantern in his hand and my white dress in the dark of the night? And have I mentioned yet how much I love that dress on him?

 

I know that I didn’t make him up either, because he calls my name from the top of his lungs and every single emotion I experienced from the second he started to reject me a week ago comes up and overwhelms me, causing the exhaustion the monkey eliminated for a moment to come back, stronger now than ever.

 

If he didn’t notice me by now, he certainly has now because my sobs are loud and uncontrollable. I don’t find the strength to call out his name. It doesn’t matter though, because the light of the lantern stops to move from left to right in the dark, and then it comes closer and closer until he’s there and falls to his knees in front of me.

 

I’m unable to move and it seems he’s going through the same moment of shock as me when he sees me in the dim light of the lantern. He looks equally wrecked as me, with dirt clinging to his clothes and skin, hair a mess, red around his nose and eyes from salty tears and the look of insomnia and exhaustion in his gaze.

 

His hands shoot up to his face and clasp over his mouth, and new tears fall heavily from his eyes in pain and shock and guilt.

 

“What did I do to you…” he starts to sob out, but I ignore it and clumsily throw my arms around his neck, screaming out in pain when another shot of hot pain fires through my ankle from the sudden movement.

 

“Oh Mikey, I’m so-“

 

“Take me home, I want to go home now, Gee,” I try to gasp out, but it’s nearly drowned by the pain that takes over my voice. Another very unpleasant move and I have to let go from Gerard to grasp at my foot with gritted teeth and eyebrows drawn together in pain.

 

It seems he only now realizes why I’m sitting in such a weird position on the ground and his eyes go wide when he sees my swollen ankle in between the tree root.

 

He looks up at me quickly with a frightened expression on his face and asks, “For how long have you been here like this?”

 

I want to answer, but my mouth won’t seem to function and all I can do in the end is to shake my head purposeless. Then my head suddenly feels like it weighs a ton and it falls to my side while a tiny sound of debilitation escapes my mouth.

 

“No okay, don’t move Mikes, I’ll figure something out, yeah? Don’t go to sleep,” he sounds worried and panicked, just like I feel.

 

There’s no sound for a long moment and I wonder if I passed out again because when I open my eyes next, he breaks the root apart with two thin but massive sticks.

 

I watch him as he works but can’t help to contribute. Every few seconds he would look up and make sure that I’m still awake.

 

“There was a monkey,” I say breathless, not really realizing that my mouth moves.

 

He stops in his tracks and looks up at me funny. “What?”

 

“He was yellow...stroked my hair,” and then my eyes fall shut again.

 

“Damn it!” he curses and heaves a heavy breath and then I hear a loud cracking sound that must come from the root. I feel the pressure on my foot subsiding but another kind of pain shoots through my ankle as he lifts my leg.

 

I whine out another moan of agony and he says, “I know, I know Mikes I’m sorry,” and then I feel him by my side again, wrapping one of his strong arms under my armpits and the other under my thighs.

 

“Sweetie, can you wrap your arms around my neck? Can you do that for me? You can sleep soon, I promise.”

 

His voice is sweet and familiar and loving, causing my belly to burn. I nod and weakly lift my arms to let them slump around his neck like he ordered me to do. He takes in a loud breath and everything around me starts to swim again when he stands up, holding the lantern in the hand he has under my thighs.

 

My head immediately falls to the side and crashes against his collarbone and as much as I try to tighten my muscles so I’m not so heavy for him, it’s not working. My legs dangle together in the air from the way they are hanging from his arms and with each step he takes, they crash together, causing me to groan in pain.

 

He shushes me well-meaningly and apologizes whenever he needs a small break, but at some point, I only zone in and out, not perceiving what’s happening anymore. That is until he says something that catches my interest in the haze of darkness.

 

“Look ahead, can you see them?” he asks and when I lumberingly open my eyes, I see tiny dots of light in the dark of the night.

 

“Lucioles,” I whisper out the only French word we both know and he nods with a small smile on his face that I can barely make out but God, I missed that smile.

 

When we finally reach the beach after what feels like an eternity, we’re both so strained that we’re close to passing out on the spot. I can’t believe he carried me all the long way without saying a word. I mean, I know I’m not that heavy, but I’m large and unhandy.

 

He looks so tired when he carefully lays me down on our bed, but instead of going to sleep, he gets up and comes back a minute later with a wet cloth and a cup of water.

 

He puts me into a half-sitting position and makes me drink the entire cup before refilling it and making me drink that one as well. It hurts to swallow and my stomach protests at first, but it gets easier after the first couple of gulps.

 

Then he carefully removes the dirty blouse over my head (that is everything but light blue at this point) and lays me back down again. When I shiver, he feels my forehead and brings all our blankets but doesn’t put them on me just yet. Instead, he swipes the wet cloth carefully over my chest, my arms, my hands and eventually my face.

 

He stops then, with his palm on my cheek on the spot where he hit me and the bruise probably still blooms angrily. It must be because new tears float his eyes and he looks down at me sadly. He tries so hard not to let the tears fall that his chin starts to quiver.

 

“Your beautiful face…” he chokes out in a whisper, but I’m not ready to hear long preachings about how he’s sorry and wishes he could take it back. I do want to hear it, but just not right now.

 

I weakly lift my hand to cup his own cheek and copy his sad smile and when one of his tears falls down and lands on my shoulder, I feel his thumb stroke over my eyebrow.

 

He squeezes his eyes shut tightly for a moment and I let my hand fall back on my side and when he opens his eyes again, he continues to swipe over my face carefully and hisses to himself every time he accidentally catches a cut on either my face or later on my feet.

 

“Can you sing?” I ask, barely able to keep my eyes open at that point. I barely heard his voice in the last week and when I have, it was either angry or loud or scared. I long for it to sound normal and carefree again.

 

“Okay,” he says without questioning and carefully starts to inspect my broken foot. “Any wishes?”

 

“The Wolf Song,” I say through gritted teeth and try not to cry out again when he carefully turns my foot this way and that.

 

It’s a German song about a hungry wolf that wants to steal the mother’s child. Our grandma used to sing it to us when we were over for the weekend and later, she taught us the words in that foreign language. She knew German because she liked to travel and got stuck in that country for a few years in her youth. Whenever I hear it now, it reminds me of her, and Gerard and I as kids cuddled together in her big bed that smelled like her cologne.

 

When Gerard starts to sing, a little shy and croaky at first but then sure and strong, my heart aches in both grief and joy.

 

Wild heult der Wolf des Nachts im Wald,

vor Hunger kann er nicht schlafen.

 

Und seine Höhl´ ist bitterkalt,

er giert nach fetten Schafen.

 

Du Wolf, Du Wolf, komm nicht hierher.

Mein Kind bekommst Du nie mehr...

 

There are many more verses in this song, but I’m only able to hear the first one before finally passing out to his voice and the feeling of warm blankets being dragged over me and a warm hand brushing over my forehead.

 

 

*

 

 

When I wake up, the sun stands high in the sky already and a big variety of fruits, fish, and drinks stands next to the mattress on the floor. I’m disappointed to find that Gerard isn’t sleeping next to me, but maybe that was a bit too much to be expected. It doesn’t surprise me now that I had no trouble letting him close to me last night, when only a few hours before, I wasn’t so sure. The worries were blown away the second I saw him and I’m glad it came that way. I guess that’s how I saw it coming, or hoped so, at least. I depend on him and I don’t want to feel like that towards him, not ever.

 

When I try to sit up without moving too much, my ankle makes itself noticeable and when I lift the covers, I find it resting on a bunch of bundled up clothes and wrapped in a thick bandage of leftover cotton that we stored in one of the boxes in our dressing room.

 

My toes poke out and I notice something yellow lurking out from under the bandage when I take a closer look.

 

“That’s arnica. Mother always used it when we had bruises. I went out to get it last night...”

 

I didn’t notice Gerard standing in the doorway and when I look up, I see that he nervously twists his hands together. He looks awfully tired and I wonder if he got any sleep at all last night.

 

“Thank you,” I say dumbly and look down on my foot again.

 

There’s an awkward silence where neither of us knows what to say, so instead of saying something, I gesture for him to sit down and eat with me, which he does after a moment of uncertainty.

 

Despite how very little I ate in the last few days, I can’t seem to get more than a few bites of grilled fish and two cups of tea down. It is a start though and my blood sugar seems to thank me greatly.

 

Gerard only eats little himself in tiny, unsure bites and whenever our eyes meet for a quick second, he would look away immediately and fumble nervously at his button up.

 

After another awkward 15 minutes of pretending the other isn’t in the room, I finally can’t take it anymore.

 

“You hurt me.”

 

When I say it, Gerard’s head snaps up and he looks at me with big and guilty eyes. He’s about to say something, but now it’s my time to speak. I shake my head and he closes his mouth again.

 

“You hurt me,” I repeat, quietly and calm. “And I’m not even talking about my face, that scared me. But everything you said hurt me and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget any of it. But...”, I say, but stop when I see that he starts crying and I know I’m crying too.

 

I force myself to keep going with a shaky voice and start to get desperate when I say, “But I forgive you. I forgive you if you promise me here and now to never do that to me again, and if you ever break that promise, I will-“

 

But then he shakes his head violently and throws his arms around my neck, his head crushing against mine but I seriously don’t care about pain at this point anymore. So instead of complaining, I curl my arms around his back and press my face into his neck and we’re both sobbing into each other’s skin.

 

“I promise you, Mikey, I swear I’ll never hurt you again! I’m so sorry- I. I’ll never forgive myself for any of this and I know you deserve so much better than me-“

 

“Shut up! Shut up, you idiot! Don’t ever say that!”

 

Then there are no more words for a long while and the only sound in the quiet room are our heavy breaths and our mixed snuffles and tiny whines.

 

After a moment, he sags against my shoulder and then I realize that he probably stayed up all night to make sure I was alright and didn’t die in my sleep or something. And he says I deserve better than him...

 

“When was the last time you slept?” I ask and card my fingers through his hair, which seems to relax him a bit.

 

“When you-“ he starts but doesn’t finish the sentence, and he doesn’t have to. He didn’t sleep since I ran away, just like me.

 

“Come on,” I say quietly and pull him in a lying position with his head still on my shoulder.

 

He doesn’t protest when I pull the many blankets he brought last night over our shoulders, and when I turn in on him a little more, he’s already passed out from exhaustion.

 

I follow not much later.

 

 

-

 

 

The next time I wake up, it’s already getting dark again which means we slept almost the entire day. This time, Gerard is curled up low against my side and I’m painfully relieved.

 

My head is still throbbing as well as my ankle, but I don’t feel dizzy anymore and I’m rested for the first time in days. Carefully, so I won’t wake him, I get up into a sitting position with Gerard’s head in my lap. Then I reach over to where the food is and stuff my mouth with Gerard’s home-made specialty: Banana mango pancakes.

 

While I’m eating, I watch Gerard sleep. I normally don’t do that, mostly because I don’t like being watched while sleeping myself, but this time I can’t help it.

 

He looks small and fragile. His head is positioned on both of my upper thighs, facing my feet, and one of his hands rests lightly on my left thigh next to his eyes and nose. His hair is messy and unkempt, probably also unwashed for several days just like my own. His face is scrunched up, almost as if in pain. His knees are curled up next to my own knees and his ankles are crossed, his toes curled. He must have thrown the blankets away in his sleep, probably because it’s so warm in here.

 

He’s still wearing the button-up and also the brown leather loincloth I didn’t notice this morning. The birthmark high on his cheek looks redder than usual, maybe because he’s so pale or maybe because the lighting in here is bad.

 

Despite all the dirt sticking to his hair and body and clothes, and despite the unrelaxed look on his face, he looks absolutely gorgeous in my eyes.

 

He’ll be my own personal doom eventually. He’s a beautiful disaster.

 

“You’re still here,” is what he says when he wakes up and turns his head, looking up at me with sleepy eyes.

 

When I nod and curl a strand out of his eyes, his mouth curls into a slight smile and one of his arms wraps around my belly. Now he’s lying in the opposite direction as before with his face facing my belly and his knees bend somewhere up his body. When he nuzzles his nose deeper against my belly, that is only covered with the thin blanket I wrapped around myself earlier, I have to suppress a cackle.

 

“Are you sniffing me?”

 

“Mmm, maybe. You always smell so nice.”

 

I snort at his words. “How can I possible smell nice right now?!”

 

I can smell my own body, which is something I’m now very self-conscious about, now that he put it out. I know I smell unwashed and probably like leftovers of undefinable grime he didn’t catch with the cloth yesterday.

 

“Dunno, you just do,” he says, but it comes out muffled against the cotton of the blanket.

 

“What do I smell like, then?” I want to know.

 

“Like..sweat. A little raw maybe, but also..you know how really warm sand smells like? Like that, too. And soft.”

 

“You like that I smell like sweat?”

 

There’s a moment of silence and I might feel a grin on his face, but I can’t know for sure with his face hidden like that. Then he makes a snarling sound and says, “Yes,” and nothing more.

 

The self-consciousness I might have felt a minute ago is now gone and replaced with amusement.

 

Gerard is ridiculous.

 

“You’re a weirdo,” I state and now it’s his turn to snort.

 

There’s a moment of comfortable silence and he might even have gone back to sleep, but there’s something I need to know, something that has been nagging on my mind for too long now and I need answers and most of all, a proper clarification.

 

“Gee? Tell me about Brian.”

 

 

-

 

 

Crying while speaking is not the best combination.

 

Less than half an hour into the story and Gerard is a weeping mess in my lap and every single one of my assumptions got confirmed. And there is more.

 

“It was maybe only 30 days after we got here,” he began. “I was twelve at the time and you were just about to turn ten. At first, I didn’t understand what he was trying to tell me. Most of the things didn’t make sense to me. I mean, I was only a child..”

 

That was the first time I heard a soft sniffle coming from him and I stroked his hair to let him know I was there.

 

“He said that at some point, my instincts would kick in and I’d be all over you in a matter of time because you were the only person there with me besides him, and he knew how close we were. I didn’t understand what he meant with ‘instincts’, and when I asked him, he laughed grotesque at me and said that I’ll figure it out sooner or later, so I left it at that.”

 

“The next time he took me on a walk was only a few days later. This time, he was really nice, not like the last time, and sat down with me to explain puberty to me, what would happen with the body and all that gist. It made me feel excited and anxious at the same time because he spoke of it as something very terrifying and big and I wasn’t sure if I was ready for that to happen to me in less than a year…and…well, the next time was also the last time, he died the next day.”

 

At that, my gut wrenched. I didn’t like remembering that day and Gerard didn’t either. It was just another black day in our lives. And his next sentence made me want to throw up.

 

“He asked me if I knew what abusing was,” he said, very quietly and anxious and I reached down to tangle our hands together, which made him relax a little.

 

“I told him that I had a fair idea because one of mother’s friends was an abuse victim and I heard family members talking and I remembered a few things. I didn’t understand why that was important to him, but then he said ‘Pal, if you ever get too close to your brother, then that’s abusing.’ That also didn’t make sense to me because we were close all the time and no one ever said anything, but then he told me that this was about other things…sex things.”

 

I heard him heave a heavy, painful sigh and then continued, his hand getting sweaty in mine.

 

“I asked him if it was wrong if I wanted to kiss you at some point or even go further than that, I mean, I didn’t even understand what sex or masturbation or serious kissing meant at that point. I only had a few pictures in my head from what he told me the first few times. Anyways… when I asked him, he looked at me, so engrossed and disgusted, that it scared me for a moment. It was just natural to me that these things could happen, you know? Well, after that, he told me that these things were called ‘incest’ and that they were wrong and forbidden and people who did it deserved to die in a fire.”

 

As he said that, my body went numb and my heart stopped beating for a long moment. And this is where he is in the story now. As I said, only half an hour, maybe even less, in, and every terrible thought got confirmed.

 

Brian really did tell him these things and it’s even worse than I thought.

 

“You don’t have to keep going...I understand it,” I say sadly now and with tears of my own in my eyes. I don’t want him to re-live all these horrifying things and I feel bad for forcing this on him.

 

But he shakes his head and sniffles, “No, it’s okay. I’m sick of keeping secrets from you.” So, with another heavy sigh, I let him continue.

 

“I told him that no one deserved to die, except maybe the worst murderer or war leader, but he said that this was on the same level as murdering someone. I told him that I would never abuse you or do anything against your will, but I could feel that he didn’t believe a word of what I was saying. I really meant it, though. I would never do anything without your permission. ..Or did I ever-?”

 

But I stop him before he gets any further. This is getting ridiculous. He looks up at me now though, for the first time since he started talking, and I can see the deep worry in his eyes so I try to relax my face as much as possible, not letting my anger show.

 

Oh, Gee…no. Never, okay? You never forced me to do anything. Not once, okay? Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.”

 

His expression softens a bit by my words and he leans his head down again, but in the other direction so his face is turned towards my knees.

 

“He asked me if I could imagine doing these things with you, but I couldn’t give him a proper answer, just because I sincerely didn’t know. It never crossed my mind until that point. It was all foreign to me, you know?”

 

I agree with him because I do know. I didn’t understand any of this until a week ago and it still confuses me. And I’m fourteen and a half now, he was only twelve. How can someone expect a kid to know what any of this means or what they might be wanting to do or desire in the future?

 

“Apparently my silence was the wrong answer because then he started to shout at me. Didn’t you hear it?” he asks and turns his head a little to look at me from the corner of his eyes.

 

“I guess I didn’t.”

 

I don’t have any memories of this and he looks relieved when I say it.

 

“Good, because it was very ugly. He grabbed around my wrist and shook me a little and told me, well, screamed at me that if he ever had to see any of this while he was still here or if anyone ever came back and found out, they would separate us forever, throw us into prison, if we were lucky, or killed us right on the spot if we weren’t. That scared me so much that I believed him. I mean, what was I supposed to do, Mikey? I couldn’t live with myself if someone-“

 

“Shh, Gee, it’s okay, you can stop now. I’m not mad at you for believing what he said, I would have acted the same way to protect you, you know that it’s okay.”

 

“But you said-“

 

“That was because I didn’t know. How could I? You never said anything and I was mad and thought that was you talking. I know better now, okay? I knew it the moment I turned my back on you.”

 

Well, that isn’t entirely true. I mean, I knew that he was probably just mad and threw these things against my head in anger a few days ago when things got out of hand, but after calming down and really thinking about it, I got it. I tell him that much and he seems to accept it.

 

’Prevent from getting attracted to your brother in any way. That way, you do humanity a great favor.’ That was the last thing he said before going back. After that, he acted like nothing happened, as if we had a happy talk about the weather or God knows what. The next day he was gone. If it was because of me or not...that I’ll never know.”

 

After that, he goes completely silent and the only way I know he’s still with me are the hot tears that leak through the blanket on my skin.

 

I don’t know what to do or say to make any of this okay or better. All I know is that I need him closer, put him under a blanket and protect him from the world and anyone who could hurt him in any way.

 

I’m so done with the human race at that moment.

 

“Will you hug me?” I ask him carefully, and before I even finished the sentence, he has his arms around me and his face in my neck.

 

“I never meant to bring you down,” he sniffles against me after he’d seen how upset I am myself after all of this. I quickly shushed him and stroke over his back in a way that is hopefully comforting and reassuring.

 

“Don’t worry about me right now, okay? But please do me a favor and don’t force this on you. Even if it was because of what you talked about the day before, what I don’t believe, it was his decision to go and if it was like that, it was a really selfish decision. We could have died the day after without him and our death would have been on him. This is not your fault, Gerard. And no one will ever have to find out, because we won’t go with them if someone ever shows up. We’re here, okay? Just us. Just you and me.”

 

He doesn’t respond to that in words, but I can almost feel how he gets lighter like a burden is taken off of him. It’s so horrible to think that he had to live with that on his chest all these years. No wonder he’d gone mad.

 

He sobs again bitterly then, cries all of his pain and hurt and betrayal and fear and relieve into my neck and I let him, glad that he can finally let it out and make himself free from all of this.

 

It hurts so much to see and hear him like that and yes, I’m sure. For that, I will hate Brian until I leave this world someday, hopefully far in the future. How could he even dare to do this to him! It’s horrendous.

 

“It’s okay,” I whisper into his hair, trying to soothe him.

 

After another few minutes, he seems to calm down and I’m so relieved that I feel light myself. I couldn’t stand seeing him like that for much longer, I’m sure.

 

In a slow and careful move, I lift his head from my shoulder and brush a light but sure kiss against his lips. It’s barely even a touch, just a tiny lingering and he tastes like salt and sadness.

 

When I pull back, he looks at me with new fear in his eyes and I brush the tears under his eyes away lightly with my thumbs.

 

“It’s okay,” I say again, sincerely meaning it.

 

“Promise?” he says, sounding so fragile and scared that it breaks my heart.

 

“I promise.”

 

He nods and takes a deep breath, finally looking slightly okay for the first time in days.

 

“What happened after that?” I ask unsure, going back to the conversation one last time and hoping that the worst is over.

 

He surprises me when he blushes and says, suddenly very shy,

 

“You grew beautiful.”

 

That, in return, makes me blush too and I look down to hide it.

 

“I’m not beautiful,” I mumble, but his hands pull my head back up and I see that he’s shaking his head.

 

“You have no idea..” he mutters and runs a hand through my hair and leans our foreheads together before sighing out, “You grew beautiful and everything I was told to believe was simply gone.”

 

After heaving another sigh, he turns around and leans his back against my chest, asking me approximately a thousand times if that was okay or if it hurt to sit like that, but after I slapped him playfully on the shoulder, he accepted it and made himself even more comfortable.

 

This position is actually quite nice and I carefully wrap my legs around his waist, making sure that my broken foot doesn’t move too much and lays in a good position. It kind of does hurt, but I keep that to myself and I’m glad that he can’t see my face from this position, because If he saw that I just caused myself pain, he’d pull away and I don’t want that. It will stop hurting if I keep it still. Whatever.

 

When I also wrap my arms around him and pull him closer so I can rest my head against the side of his neck, he makes a content noise and continues talking.

 

“I don’t even remember the exact day it happened, all I know is that I was already outside, I let you sleep in I think, and when I saw you the next time, you were just coming down the stairs with a huge smile on your face, for some reason. You wore your favorite dress, you know? The yellow one? Your legs looked so long and your skin was slightly tanned. You were braiding your hair back while walking because it had gotten a little too long, and you were looking at me and it just hit me. It was almost like I had never seen you before, not properly. You grew so handsome overnight that I didn’t know what to do with myself. Before you were my annoying, cute little brother, but that was something entirely different and it scared me to death.”

 

Wow that’s… that’s a lot of information and I’m yet again glad he’s facing away from me because now I’m blushing for real. I always knew he found me cute and probably nice to look at or whatever, he did give me compliments every now and then, but that is almost shocking. Shockingly amazing and relieving. That as well wasn’t just one-sided, then.

 

“Gee..” I mumble sheepishly into his shoulder with a tiny smile, not knowing what else to say. Should I say Thank You?

 

I hear him giggle quietly and then he says, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to embarrass you, but it’s the truth and I meant it when I said no more secrets.”

 

In response, I fumble around until I find his hands and entwine his fingers with mine. “Keep going,” I say, sticking my nose in the spot behind his ear.

 

“Well, before I came to the realization that I was falling in love with my little nerd brother, I had to go through puberty, and we both know how much power that drains from you. Everything is awkward, your body does strange and, in some cases, embarrassing things, you don’t understand what’s going on anymore and all of a sudden, you realize that you become interested in, well, sexual things.”

 

It’s almost like he’s explaining my life-story here. I’ve gone through every single phase of what he just listed down myself and I know how exhausting any of that can be at the end of the day.

 

“I told you before how scared and ashamed I was the first time I woke up with an erection and how long it took me to figure out how to go through my day to day life with it happening randomly around you. And it wasn’t even about you for the first two to three years. That only came when you were 13, maybe even close to 14 already. That’s when it became a serious issue because you were growing up as well and I was scared that you’d understand the reasoning behind it all. So I separated myself as much as I possibly could and…we both know how that ended.”

 

Of course, I know. The sudden shut-down of him sleeping in the same bed every night, the strange morning in the cave and the many mornings after, when I woke up alone in our bed.

 

“Well, that was when I got worried for the first time. I realized that I wanted to kiss you and touch you and do and say all these things Brian warned me about. All of that became real suddenly and I simply didn’t know what to do.”

 

His voice turns sad again after that, and I can only imagine the pain and resistance it must have caused him. I’m so sorry that he had to face all of this alone. I gently kiss his shoulder and let him continue.

 

“When you started to reciprocate some of my touches in moments when I was weak and dumb, that’s when I became really, really terrified. You grew up pretty fast and became clever and I could tell that there was a huge conflict going on inside your head and I so badly wanted to tell you everything I knew, but I just couldn’t, and so I had to wait for you to figure it out yourself, which was not how I wanted things to go, not ever.”

 

He must be referring to the day when I woke up startled and confused and he enlightened me into puberty and attraction and whatnot.

 

I shift around a little and say, “I had a feeling that you wanted to touch me, but I thought you didn’t do it in order to protect me, which I now get, but again, if you’d have just said something, I could have acted differently, you know? Also, you’re not dumb, you twit.”

 

He snorts a laugh and says, “Yeah well, I told you I didn’t know what to do...and you’re a twit yourself.”

 

He lifts one of our entwined hands up to his mouth and presses a kiss to the ball of my thumb before continuing.

 

“The week after, when I acted so repellent, that was because I felt like I reached a point where there was no turning back. It scared me how my body reacted when I saw you in this state, I mean, I didn’t even plan to kiss you or, in the end, touch you like that, it was like my body did it on its own and now that we had crossed this line, I was so sure something would happen. I kept hearing Brian’s voice in my head; I almost imagined him standing in front of me again and shouting at me, reminding me that this was it, people would come and tear us apart now that finally both of us knew what we needed and wanted.”

 

After that, there’s a long pause. He just admitted to me that he does want me and knows that I feel the same way towards him. That’s just...that’s huge and should be a perfect moment between us, but someone took that privilege from us a long time ago, decided for us to feel regret for how we feel. What kind of world is that?

 

“You know all of that is nonsense though, right?” I say and sigh at the same moment he does.

 

“Some of it is, I even knew that when I was a kid, but in some ways he was-“

 

“If you say he was right I will punch you!”

 

“No but think about it, we have the privilege to live here, all on our own with no one to judge for how we feel. But I don’t think he lied when he said that it’s a forbidden thing. Think about all the other poor souls who are in the same position and don’t have the freedom to experience it. I think the rest of the world is still so backward that it is a crime by the law, and that’s just sad.”

 

That actually sounds about right and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the case. If the world can’t even accept people of the same gender loving each other, how will there ever be a chance of acceptance for siblings to fall in love with each other?

 

“The important thing here is that it has to be a thing on both ends, but that should go without saying, you know? If it’s a one-sided thing and the other person would force you to do things, just like you said earlier, then that’s a crime, no doubt. But that goes for everyone and not just people who are in the same position as we are.”

 

After I say that, Gerard turns his head a little in position so he can look at me and when I meet his eyes, there’s understanding and trust in them.

 

“You clever man, Mikeyway,” he says and I immediately argue back.

 

“You don’t need to be clever to know that, Gee. C’mon.”

 

I feel kind of annoyed after that, but when he is unabashed by my childish outburst and just smiles at me, my anger subsides.

 

“I think we’re somehow different in their eyes when really, we’re not. I mean, there’s a huge difference between simply being sexually attracted to someone or really feeling love towards one another,” he says as he turned his head back again.

 

I’m getting angry at this once again. I just can’t comprehend how some people apparently think. “People have their own stupid, restricted minds and when something happens that they don’t immediately have an explanation for, they take the right to make decisions for everyone without the consideration of affected people.”

 

There’s another pause after I say that and my anger is just about to explode again when Gerard says the one thing that explains everything.

 

“I guess in order to understand something like that and accept it and make it okay for yourself, you have to see it happening with your own eyes once in your life to see that these things exist and work if you do it right.”

 

“And you say I am clever..” I grin into his hair and for the first time ever, I feel the real and true love between us. The love that was always there and only turned into different shapes over the years and probably will change another few times in the future, but it will always be there.

 

“Hmm.. those who might laugh at us or condemn us have no idea how it feels to have a world of your own inside your head, you know? But we know, and that’s enough.”

 

“So what does that mean for us now?” I finally ask, both excited and anxious about his answer. This still could turn out the wrong way if we’re not careful.

 

But then he turns around and unexpectedly kisses me on the lips, soft and sweet and gentle and this time, there’s no hint of tears or sadness on his lips.

 

When he pulls back, he smiles lovingly at me and says, “It means we can stop pretending now.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 9

 

 

“Gerard! I need to pee!”

 

“Again?!”

 

“I can’t help it!”

 

“Okay, okay. Be there in a sec..”

 

 

It’s been like that for the last few days. Whenever I’m hungry or thirsty or need help or I’m just simply bored, I’d call him. I feel sorry for him because, on top of him babysitting me, he has to do all of the chores, his and mine.

 

My ankle is a little better, but still stabilized with two flat pieces of lumber and a long piece of linen to keep from moving, and there is no way I can walk anywhere anytime soon without help. I feel like I know every inch of our room by now since I spent every single minute in here since I came home. God, I’m so incredibly bored. I would have never thought it, but I miss doing my chores. I long for the sweet sound of dirty clothes being slapped against the stone and the super boring act of freeing the house of sand.

 

“Hey Twee,” Gerard’s voice pulls me out of my thoughts and I grin up hugely at his slightly annoyed face. I know he’s not really annoyed to help me or whatever, I think he’s just stressed out.

 

When he sees my grin, he doesn’t look so stressed anymore and that makes me happy. I like what an effect I can have on him.

 

After he helped me down the stairs and let me take care of my needs, he takes me back up to our room and sits me down on the chest, that is placed on an elevation of the floor at the far end of our sleeping area, and escapes the room.

 

A minute later, he comes back with my yellow dress and a hairbrush.

 

“What’s that for?” I ask and curl my fingers around the lid of the chest.

 

“What do you think? I’m taking you out, you could use some sun and also, I have something for you,” he says and gestures for me to lift my arms. We’re about the same height even though I’m sitting, so his hips, knees, and face are on the same level as mine. I can’t quite reach the floor with my feet, but that’s probably for the better. It would hurt to put my broken foot down anyway.

 

The only thing I’m wearing is a piece of white cotton as underwear that I wound around my crotch and hips easily. It’s pretty uncomfortable to be lying around in clothes all day. I lift my arms, and when he slips the dress over my head and my hair pop out in all different directions, he grins and cards his fingers through it, either to smooth it down or to mess it up even more.

 

“You have something for me? A surprise?” I ask and lean forward a little so he can close the button on the backside of the dress, not bothering to stretch it properly over my butt but let it pooled around my hips instead.

 

“Well, I guess it kind of is a surprise, but it’s nothing special so I wouldn’t get my hopes up too much.”

 

“Too late!” I say excitedly and clap my hands together like a child on Christmas Eve.

 

He rolls his eyes but smiles takes the brush and runs it through my strands a few times, carefully untangling my birds nest of hair and making sure to catch all the little knots on the back of my head where I lie on it most of the time.

 

“You forgot to braid it!” I say when he’s about to lift me up again to get out.

 

“What?”

 

“My hair, it needs to be braided or else it’ll fall in my face all day.”

 

“I don’t know how; can’t you do it yourself!?”

 

“Nope, I’m sick,” I say and giggle when he sneers and crosses his arms across his chest, sticking his hip out in that way that makes him look super girly.

 

“It’s your foot that is broken, not your hands,” he says in that honky voice that makes me swarm and I bat my eyelashes at him, swinging my legs carefully in the air.

 

“Please? Pretty please?”

 

He stares at me for a few seconds before sighing heavily and leaving the room again only to come back not much later with my hairclips.

 

“I’m telling you now, this’ll look like crap.”

 

I giggle again at that. I actually don’t care if my hair is braided or not, it’ll get messed up by the wind after a few minutes anyway. The real reason is that I want his hands in my hair, but of course, I won’t admit that to him. And this is fun, so why not let him do this for once. Who knows, maybe he’s a born hairstylist and none of us knew?

 

He places one of the hairclips between his teeth, just like I always do, and then takes one of my long bangs that’s dangling down beneath my forehead and ear. To help him, I turn my head to the side a bit, but when he doesn’t do anything for a long moment, I look back only to see a totally confused Gerard in front of me.

 

“I son’t dknow whaf o do,” he murmurs, and when he notices that I didn't get what he just said, he lets one of his hands go of my hair and takes the clip out of his mouth.

 

“I don’t know what to do,” he repeats, clearer this time and I snicker. Yeah, this is kind of fun. But since I’m a good little brother and all that, I decide not to torment him any more than necessary.

 

“You take a strand, part it in three and then you put the ones on the sides alternately to the middle until you have a braid. I could probably also explain how to use a new strand every time you take one from the sides, but that might be a bit too much for the first session.”

 

“The first session? I’m doing this again?!” His mortified expression makes me laugh. He’s such a twerp sometimes.

 

“Sure, why not, if you do a good job?” I say and grin even wider when he starts to look ridiculously frustrated.

 

“Come on, it’s not that hard. I’ll talk you through it if you want?”

 

“Guess you don’t really have a choice because I already forgot what you just said.”

 

He tries to look annoyed, but I know he’s not. Under that façade is a little smile and it’s addressed to me and no one else and I love him.

 

I smile to myself as he sticks the clip back between his teeth and takes the strand from before between his fingers.

 

“Okay, now part it into three equally big units,” I say and decide not to turn my head this time so I can watch him. He looks super concentrated; his eyebrows are knit together so there’s a tiny dimple forming on his forehead and his eyes are focused on what his fingers are doing.

 

“Whaf dnow?” he mutters out between the clip between his teeth.

 

“Take the one on the right side and put it over the one in the middle, then do the same on the left side,” I say, quietly and a little tense now. He unconsciously pulls tighter than I ever would, but I find that I don’t mind at all, quite the opposite actually. I totally forgot about the hairpulling thing until now.

 

I keep watching him intensely and after a while, he seems to get the hang of it. Sometimes he would turn my head this way and that with the strand in his hands, evoking a really nice dragging pain that lets my toes curl inwards against the chest. It’s that, and the way he’s looking and smelling. He’s so close that I can smell his peppermint-breath and his body, he hasn’t showered in a few days just like me, and he looks totally fixated and concentrated, which is a really nice look on him.

 

Sometimes his tongue pokes against the clip between his teeth and that brings back the memories of how he absently sucked the remains of his breakfast from his fingers this morning. He didn’t know I was watching him at the time because he was away in his own little world again. Sometimes he would do that, zone out completely, not observing anything around him. That’s mostly when he gets a new idea for a picture or forms a new concept for a story inside his head.

 

Later he would tell me about it, probably when we’re both in bed and just about to fall asleep. I love that, hearing his voice and listening to his latest ideas. It’s been one of my favorite things about him since the day I was born.

 

I’m pulled out of my thoughts when I feel a scraping against my scalp, which is Gerard trying to stick the clip in my hair. That’s a nice pain as well, actually, and I wouldn’t mind feeling it on some other parts of my skin. This could become a thing if I’m not careful.

 

“It looks stupid,” he says and crosses his arms sulkily across his chest.

 

I lift one of my hands and carefully feel over his creation. It doesn’t feel any different from when I do it, maybe a little loose, but that’s about it.

 

I look him in the eyes and smile.

 

“It’s perfect,” I say and turn my head to the other side, gesturing for him to do this part as well.

 

He sighs and says, “What I wouldn’t do for you,” before grabbing another section of hair. My bangs are on this side and they’re a lot fuller then the hair on the other side of my face and also longer and if I’m lazy, I just comp them across my forehead. This could be a challenge for him because if you’re new to this, you might not be able to tame my curls.

 

When he’s on his second and then third attempt, it’s a challenge for me not to shut my eyes in indulgence. This pulling is somehow really doing it for me as well as his presence so close. During the act of him trying to fix my hair, I parted my legs a little so that there’s more room for him to stand in between my thighs, which in return, brought his crotch closer to mine.

 

Another one of his frustrated pulls and I can’t help the tiny, barely audible sigh that leaves my mouth by accident. It must have been loud enough for him to hear though because he immediately stills his hands and looks at me with wide eyes. He must also get that what he did wasn’t in discomfort for me, but the opposite, because his eyes darken, just like they did when helped me to touch myself.

 

We stare at each other for a long moment and I can feel myself blushing. It could be embarrassing, but I don’t have time to think about that before he experimentally tugs on my hair again and watches mesmerized as my breath hitches and I finally give in and allow my eyes to flutter shut.

 

“You actually like this, do you,” he whispers fascinated, sounding a little breathless himself.

 

I don’t open my eyes but nod in return. Then I lose my grip on the lid I’m sitting on and slowly place my palms on the naked skin on the small of his back to pull him closer, before saying in a dark voice that I never heard myself use before,

 

“Can you try it harder?”

 

He actually gasps at my words, if only very slightly, and the sound goes straight to groin. Now, we haven’t done anything since the big fight and after I returned, which was a good five days ago. We haven’t even really kissed except maybe for a little peck on the cheek and a few shy kisses on the mouth, but that doesn’t really count in this case I think. That doesn’t mean I didn’t think about it though, because honestly, I had a lot of time to think about every single thought a human brain could think about the last few days. I often caught myself thinking not only about what we did so far in that regard and replayed the scene over and over in my head but also what could come next.

 

I know I’m not experienced and I bet I don’t know half of the things that involve sex, but well, one can fantasize, right?

 

I did wake up with a hard on at least 3 times since we started sleeping in the same bed again and I know the same goes to him, but neither of us was really bothered to take care of it. We were either too tired and exhausted or simply not in the mood. And maybe not really ready after what had happened.

 

On the first evening, after I got back, we both decided that there was no need to rush any of this and would just go with whatever time and circumstances offered.

 

I guess this is one of those circumstances if I’m reading this correctly, or if not, then it could turn into one very fast from here if we’re both on the same page about this.

 

He does tighten his grip on my hair after I ask him, not as hard as I might have wanted him to, but it’s good. Really good, even. He does it again and tilts my head back a little in the act, exposing my throat to him.

 

Suddenly I’m brutally reminded of that scene back against the tree trunk when he did almost the exact same thing, back when I had no idea yet as to what was happening in my body and I didn’t know what I wanted.

 

I’m smarter now though, and I know exactly what I want.

 

I let one of my hands wander yet again while the other stays where it is, and run it up his back and over his shoulder until I reach his hairline at the back of his neck where I curl my fingers in. Then, in a swift motion, I arch my back and pull his head closer until he gets what I’m silently asking for, and puts his lips on my collarbone without hesitation.

 

At first, he just nibbles around a little bit but when I make a frustrated noise that surprises both of us, he swipes his tongue over the juncture of my neck and shoulder before he starts to suck.

 

This evokes another sound from me; a little whiny pant.

 

I never had someone sucking on my neck like this before and I’m fascinated what difference it makes to simply kiss and suck. It’s the combination again, too; the hot air he releases through his nose whenever he breathes out, the slight scraping of his teeth against my skin, the smell of him even closer now and his entire body pressed flat against my own.

 

After a moment, he releases my skin with a loud smacking noise and pulls back, much to my disappointment. When I finally open my eyes again to see why he’s not doing anything, I’m surprised to find him staring at my neck with wide and shocked eyes before looking me straight in the eye.

 

“Did I hurt you?” he asks, totally out of content.

 

I’m still a little breathless when I say, “What?! No, not at all, what makes you-“

 

“It looks like I hurt you,” he says and the anxious look doesn’t fade, but when he sees that I don’t get what could possibly make him say that right now because I was really enjoying myself here, he sighs and mumbles,

 

“There’s like, a mark or whatever. It looks red and painful. Are you sure I didn’t-“

 

“You mean like a bruise?” I ask, totally surprised now.

 

He nods and grimaces when he touches his fingertips to it carefully. It doesn’t hurt at all, it tingles, more like, and even though I don’t get how he possibly managed to bruise me without hurting me, I also find that I don’t care because it felt incredibly arousing in a way that could be addictive as well as the hairpulling.

 

“It doesn’t hurt,” I say hastily and pull him back in. This time, he hesitates for a moment but eventually gives in and kisses gently over the spot where he just had his fingertips against my throat.

 

He kisses up my neck and when he reaches a spot behind my ear, my body shudders involuntarily and I tighten my fingers in both his hair and the skin on his back. It’s not helping that he’s wearing nothing but my longish white underpants today, thanks to the heat, and when did it become a thing that we share clothes on a daily base now?

 

Not that I mind, of course.

 

“I wanna try something,” he says in an airy and rushed voice against my neck and I can feel his lips brush slightly against the tip of my ear.

 

“Okay,” I breathe back, not even bothering to ask what he wants. I’m sure I’m okay with whatever he’s got in mind and if not, I know he’ll stop if I tell him to do so.

 

After another moment of mouthing over my skin, he runs his nose through the hair that starts right over my ear and says, “Just tell me to stop if it’s too much,” before turning his head and crushing his lips against mine before I get a chance to respond and it happens so fast that some of his and my own strands stick to our lips.

 

I’m perplexed for a second because this isn’t really anything new, but then I decide that I really don’t care and kiss back out of instinct without much hesitation, not even minding about the few hairs that got caught between our lips. But then, when he tightens his grip on my hair again and I gasp into his mouth, I feel his tongue slide against my own for a lingering moment that leaves me totally dazed.

 

This is definitely new and would swipe the ground away from under my feet if I’d be standing. I am, in fact, so puzzled over that new feeling, that I’m unable to do anything for a moment which in return leads to Gerard pulling away slightly. Not much, just enough so I can still feel his lips ghosting over mine and one of his hands sliding up carefully to remove the hair from both his and my lips before tugging it back to where he held me before.

 

I’m secretly glad that he’s giving me a moment to think and catch my breath over this new thing. Out of all the times we kissed, it was never with tongue and to be honest, I didn’t even know that this could be a thing. Thinking about it now though makes kind of sense and seems like the natural thing to do.

 

Whenever I saw our parents or grandparents kiss, I never saw them doing it like that. Does that mean it’s an uncommon thing to do? Well, to be fair, I was never really enticed to stare at our parents when they decided to smooch in front of me and Gerard, so I wouldn’t really know because I simply never looked long and hard enough.

 

After another few seconds, I come to the conclusion that it has to be a thing that you did when you were in private and not around others. A peck on the cheek or lips is probably more appropriate to do around others than half eating someone’s face.

 

...A thing to do when you were in private...the thought of that is strangely arousing and brings forth a side in me that I didn’t know existed until just now but I sure as hell want to explore more.

 

The slight shock I felt a moment ago subsides completely when I hear Gerard’s quiet, whispered, “Mikey,” against my still slightly parted lips and without waiting a beat longer, I close my eyes and crash my mouth back against his, much to his approval.

 

After a minute of just sliding our lips against each other’s, I feel brave enough to slide my tongue against his upper lip in hope he gets it. He does, because he immediately opens his mouth and when I let my tongue lick into his mouth, maybe a little halting, I’m rewarded with a beautiful moan from him right into my own mouth that goes straight down to my forming erection.

 

It’s weird at first on both sides because neither of us really knows what to do, but after a while, we get the hang of it and suddenly a whole new door is opened right in front of us that leads to a wonderland of new and unbelievingly strong and awesome sensations.

 

When I thought that whatever Gerard did to me in that regard felt good, then I was certainly wrong because while of course, everything he does feels good, this right here is something entirely else.

 

The way he messily runs his fingers through my hair and occasionally pulls, much to my delight, and the way he slides his wet and hot tongue into my mouth and against my own nearly makes me want to roll my eyes back inside my head. This is mind blowing.

 

Then my eyes do roll back inside my head because one of his hands lets go of my hair and slides down low under my hip, grabs there strongly and pushes me forward against his own hips.

 

With a loud smacking sound of our lips parting, we moan at the same time into each other’s mouths at the feeling of both our erections pressed up against each other tightly.

 

For a moment, the only sound in the room is our heavy breathing and the very faint rush of the waves crashing on the beach.

 

“Hhh-is this okay?” Gerard asks then, totally out of breath and in a voice that I would like to hear a lot more from now on.

 

“Yeah,” I say back and wrap my thighs around his hips, silently cursing when it does no good to my broken ankle. It feels too good to pull away though, so in an ungraceful move, I swing the ankle that is broken over the good one to carry the weight in hopes it’ll stop protesting because I really don’t want to stop right now or concern Gerard.

 

It works good enough, I decide but stop thinking about it completely when Gerard makes a gorgeous, crushed noise at the new position and grinds his crotch against mine, even closer now than before. The feeling is so overwhelming and intense that my mind goes blank except for the white-hot sensation that’s building up now.

 

Gerard pulls me in again for a messy kiss that’s all teeth and tongue and sloppy wet sounds and I’m eager to follow his lead and give him back as much as I can.

 

I have to break this kiss with a loud, “Gnnaaaghh,” only a few seconds later though, because that’s Gerard’s hand sliding from my hip down to my thigh and under the hem of the dress to dig his fingers into the almost unclothed skin of my hips.

 

With my mouth gone from his, he drops his head back to my throat again and starts licking and kissing over my Adam's apple (Yes, Gerard taught me the name for it).

 

His thumb slides under the cotton that serves as underwear and presses right into the hollow spot where my thigh ends end my genitals start.

 

“Oh my God,” I gasp out and I’m so glad that we’re the only people living here because there would be no mistake in what’s happening right now if we would still share a room back at home with our parents only ten feet away in the living room.

 

I wonder if people suspected that this could, or, would happen someday when they said how unhealthy close we were and stayed that way into teen and adulthood. I don’t know the answer to that and probably never will, but I honestly don’t care because this right now feels right on so many levels that it just can’t be wrong.

 

My hands start to get sweaty against Gerard’s skin and create a nice sliding friction that maybe should be gross but really, really isn’t. Gerard doesn’t seem to mind either because he chokes out those beautiful little pants and whines whenever I stroke over a particular spot on his back or sides that he apparently really likes.

 

He slides the hand on my hips down my thigh and dips his fingers and palm into the underside of my thigh, which in return, lifts a little up and pushes us closer together, if that is even possible, and evokes another moan from both of us.

 

It’s still not enough to lead into something though and I think I’ll go crazy if I’m not being touched within the next five seconds. Now that he showed me what it can be like, I can’t wait to feel it again- all of it, in every way possible. I’m figuring he must feel the same, because when he pulls his mouth away from my neck and looks down at me through his long and black eyelashes, his eyes are dark and unfocused and his voice is strangled and breathless when he says, “Can I?” and grinds his erection against mine again, asking for permission to untangle the knot that precariously holds the cotton in place, and then get off like this.

 

His face looks blissed out and beautiful, blush high on his cheeks and nose, lips slick with spit and red and slightly parted and hair sticking to his forehead where he sweats a little.

 

I can’t believe my own eyes. I made my brother look like this.

 

I nod at him in permission and feel a little nervous when he starts to work on the knot and about my next move altogether, but not enough to make me stop from reaching to the waistband of his underpants and slightly tug on it, hoping he gets the message without me actually saying something.

 

He seems to get it, because his eyes widen and he nods as well, his eyes never leaving mine while I start to pull the white and worn cotton down his fairly hairy thighs.

 

I feel my heartbeat hammering in my ears when I let my palms slide over the now naked skin of his butt and nearly stop breathing for a second at the look on his face.

 

His eyes fall shut tightly and his eyebrows crease together, his jaw falls open a little more in a beauteous way that should be illegal.

 

Gods, I’m so gone for him.

 

After a moment, he opens his eyes again at the same moment that his hands start to wander again, both hands on my thighs now and slowly pushing under the hem of my dress, pulling it slightly and just enough up in the act, making my breath hitch when I feel the hot air of the day on my now totally exposed skin between my legs.

 

“Okay?” Gerard asks in a slurry voice once he’s got one of his palms spread over my thigh and the other over my hip.

 

As an answer and to hide my slight nervosity, I lean forward and start kissing him again which he returns happily. The act of me pulling his underpants down and him pushing my dress up separated us in the middle and to fix that problem, I dig the heel of my good foot into that spot right above his butt cheeks and pull him close again in one swift move.

 

Now, I underestimated the power of the feeling of skin on skin a big time because that is, once again, nothing compared to anything that I felt so far. Not even his hand on my erection felt as good as his hard on against my own and that has to really mean something.

 

A shocked gasp that escapes both of us stops us from kissing and for a while, we just breathe against each other’s mouths, eyes closed and eyelashes tangling together.

 

But then he starts moving and my back arches and hollows so I’m pressed against him from chest to chest and our hardons are side to side straight against our sweaty bellies.

 

“God, Gee,” I groan out, not able to form a proper sentence. He doesn’t seem to mind though because I feel him nod shakily, almost in fascination, and sets for a regular rhythm with his hips against mine.

 

It feels so good that I’m unable to hold my broken foot up for any longer and it slides down over his butt and thigh until the heel digs into the wooden pattern of the chest while the other stays wrapped around his waist.

 

Gerard seems to notice that I’m kind of losing control over my body because he removes the hand from my thigh and wraps his arm around my back in a tight grip that feels really damn good.

 

With the now steady grinding and skin on skin pressure between our legs, I’m starting to feel the heated pool really fast low in my belly and it feels so good that I just have to buck my hips against his or else I’m going to explode.

 

“Ohhhhh, Mikey-do that again, please do-ahhhhhh!” Gerard gasps out and stops mid-sentence to moan high-pitched and beautiful. His forehead and nose are pressed up against my cheek and I know he must be close because his breath starts to come irregular against the corner of my mouth and his hips start to stutter, nothing compared to the regular thrusts he made until a few seconds before.

 

Wanting to memorise everything that’s happening right now for later, I make a mental list and add the feeling of the way he sounds in that exact moment, the way his skin is damp against my palms, the slight scrape of teeth against my cheek where he tucked his face, the way his body smells; like sweat, Gerard and something strong I can’t identify, and the feeling of his curly pubic hair where the tip of my erection slides through it roughly with every thrust and, last but not least, the indescribably mind-blowing feeling of the wet spot against my belly where he must be leaking that liquid I remember from the first time he swiped his thumb over my tip back on the beach, against my belly, and leaves a wet smear that I maybe shouldn’t find as arousing as I do.

 

Feeling brave and too far gone to care about possible embarrassment, I groan, very lightly and breathless, “C’mon Gerard,” and thrust my hips against his harder now which costs me a lot of concentration because I can feel myself close to the edge as well, so close actually, that I might even finish before him and then suddenly I’m right there and my head rolls back against my neck and I choke out, “I’ll finish, Gee, I’m gonna-“, in the same moment that he goes, “Ah-ah-ah,” and presses so hard against me only to still his hips completely a second later while my thighs clench around his hips and one of my hands shoots up to his head and curls tightly into his greatly messed up hair. My toes curl inwards and my eyes are pressed together so tightly that I’m seeing stars.

 

When I come to my senses again after a few long and blissed out moments, my body still occasional twitching with aftershocks, the air in the room seems used up and hot and I make out a heavy, earthy, musky smell that nearly makes me moan again right on the spot.

 

Now I’m also aware of the hot and sticky liquid low between our bellies and now softening erections. God, I really need to step over my embarrassment and refer to our...parts with their normal names soon. But I’m not quite ready to do that so I decided to stick to the term Gerard taught me a few days ago for a little while longer.

 

“How are you still standing,” I mumble into the mess of his hair after a moment, out of content and just for the sake of saying something. I’m sure my legs would have given up if I was standing right now.

 

Gerard replies something against my skin that I can’t make out and I carefully pull his head back a little so I can look at him.

 

“What?” I ask and smile a tiny content smile when I see that he gives me the same look, screaming on the inside when he doesn’t look freaked out and makes no move to run away within the next five seconds.

 

“I said I was kinda holding on to you, twerp.”

 

Now I smile hugely and smack him against the shoulder, eternally grateful that things are good between us.

 

“Hey! What was that for?” Gerard shrieks and rubs his hand over the spot where I smacked him, ignoring the sticky mess between us where we are still pressed together.

 

“For calling me a twerp?”

 

He sneers at me and then smirks and blushes, running a sweaty hand through my hair.

 

“Guess you have to re-do your hair after all.”

 

I roll my eyes in an amused way and run my fingers through his own hair before pulling him in for another kiss, gentle and slow this time. I can feel him smiling as he returns the kiss and shiver when he slowly runs his palms over my sides and shoulders until he cups my face and tilts my head to deepen the kiss.

 

It’s perfect and I’m pretty sure that I’m the luckiest person on earth right now and every second in the future.

 

 

-

 

 

“Crotches!” I shriek excitedly and nearly jump on him from where I’m standing crooked and pressed against his side where he’s supporting me.

 

After we somewhat cleaned ourselves up and I braided my hair back in place, only because Gerard refused to try it again because ‘it wouldn’t stay in place anyway’, whatever, he picked me up and brought me outside again where he carefully let me down on the sand next to the stairs so I could hold on to the railing.

 

Then he grinned hugely and disappeared around the house only to come back a second later with what turned out to be the surprise he promised earlier: Crotches!

 

“I thought this way you could train your muscles and get a bit of your strength and mobility back, you know? And also because I miss having you out here.”

 

“I love them, they’re perfect! Thank you so much!” I say happily and try to make a careful first step with them.

 

They are two rather thick but not too heavy sticks in the perfect size for my height, and my hands fit perfectly into the mounts where I’m supposed to prop myself up. On the bottom of the sticks, so I won’t sink in the sand too much, he assembled to flat wooden plates. The wood feels good on my palm and the back of my forearms. It almost feels soft and warm and I have to wonder how long he worked on them...

 

“How long did it take to make them?” I ask out loud and immediately know the answer when I see the look on his face.

 

“The night after I found you...It kind of took a while because most of the sticks I found were too thin or fragile and I didn’t want you to get splinters so I had to sharpen them and try them out myself a couple of times because I’m heavier than you. I wouldn’t want them to break and cause for you to fall over again, you know?”

 

He grins kind of apologetic and guiltily and even with both of the crotches in my hands, I throw my arms around him which causes me to half fall over and for him to almost losing an eye because of my clumsiness.

 

“You’re the best big brother, do you know that?” I mumble into his hair and press a kiss behind his ear.

 

“I can’t serve as a big brother anymore if you chop my head off, you stinker.”

 

He giggles and squeezes his arms around me tightly before leaning away and letting me take a few slow steps on the slippery sand.

 

It takes a moment, but once you get the hang of it, it’s actually not that hard and after an hour of slowly walking and hopping around awkwardly, I feel like I could walk a marathon with them. Except it’s also really exhausting and I need a break. So instead of exploring and annoying Gerard where he’s in the middle of doing something on the façade of the house, I decided to sit down by the fireplace and start preparing something for lunch with the supplies he set there for me.

 

After we ate and Gerard cleaned the dishes, he sits back down next to me on the sand where we always eat or hang out if we’re too lazy to do anything.

 

“You know what these remind me of?” I say after a while, interrupting the comfortable silence between us. I smile and point to the crotches that lie next to me, ready to be used at any time.

 

To my surprise, Gerard winks knowingly and says, “Where do you think I got the idea from?”

 

At that, I smile even more and allow myself to slip into memory for a moment.

 

All through my life, I had to fight horrible asthma-attacks which often lead to long hospital stays. I met a lot of interesting people with terrible diseases and more often than not, I made friends with some of the kids. We didn’t stay in contact after one of us was released, but we sometimes would play cards or chess in our hospital beds and quietly tell each other stories when we couldn’t sleep at night or comforted each other when we missed our family at home.

 

There was this girl my age, maybe 8 or 9 at the time, who had an illness called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, or short, the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I don’t know exactly how I managed to remember that complicated name over the years, but I guess it’s because I have a face behind her name, and I usually don’t forget faces easily. Her name was Edwina.

 

Her disease caused her to get weak very fast; she was almost always in pain from her muscles and veins and sometimes, she couldn’t even move her arms or fingers. Sometimes, when we played cards or drew pictures in my bed, the pencil slipped from her fingers because she got another batch of faintness.

 

On bad days when her legs hurt a lot, she walked around with those super cool blue crotches that were designed just for her. With them, she was able to push herself up and relieve her legs, if only for a little while. She could do cool tricks with them as well and I always admired her for her strength.

 

She always used to smile a lot and make jokes, but behind that façade was a sad, exhausted and tired girl.

 

One night, when neither of us could sleep, she told me how crushing the long way to her diagnose was. She had the symptoms for years and they got worse as times passed, yet no doctor believed her and said that she made everything up. She told me that that was because it was a very rare disease, as she found out later. In fact, she was the one who told the doctors what she was suffering from. Even at such a young age, she read every book and paper article her local library offered that had something to do with medicine. She taught herself a lot of things and after months of reading and desperation, she found a paper article from years and years ago where a doctor in that domain talked about the illness that finally gave her a name from what she was suffering from.

 

It took the doctors another few months to finally diagnose her and with that, the opportunity for medical treatment she so desperately needed.

 

Gerard and our parents knew her as well from all the visiting hours and times we sat together in the cafeteria to eat popsicles and cheesecake.

 

I don’t think I will ever forget her and I hope she found someone with the same story, just so she’s not alone in all of this.

 

I also remember two boys, Adam and Gabriel, who I shared the room with once. One suffered from Asperger’s and the other one had an illness called Crohn’s Disease. The Autistic boy always fascinated me to no end because he was incredibly smart and everything he did seemed to be part of a big plan that he had inside his brain. The boy with the Autoimmune Disease made me sad because he had so many scars on his belly from former surgeries and I remember that he told me that there were a lot more to come. He seemed to struggle with his fate and I hope he got the strength and support he inwardly needed but never admitted.

 

There was also Kathrin, the mother of a child I shared a room with, who I know suffered from two different kinds of cancer. I know that because she talked about it with my mother when her kid was not yet back from an examination and I was half asleep after another asthma-attack. Honestly, I have no idea how she did it. Caring for her children, working and dealing with her diagnose, and yet she seemed super strong and full of life and for that, she’ll always a hero in my books.

 

“I’m glad that time is over, you know?” Gerard says, startling me.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“You know,” he says and shrugs a little. “The time in the hospital. No idea how you did it, honestly.”

 

I snort at that. “It’s not like you really have a choice you know? You get used to it. I made friends there, even, and all the nurses liked me.”

 

“I know, but like, I remember how terrible you felt whenever we had to go in the evening. It was hard to bear sometimes, not just for me but mother and father, as well as Grandma and Grandpa.”

 

I know that.

 

I know that I also made it harder for them on some days than it could have been when I aggravated everything by crying hysterically when visiting hours where over and they had to go. I even remember that Gerard sometimes tried to hide in the small bathroom that was attached to the room because he didn’t want to leave me alone. Every day, as soon as the door opened when my family came to visit, he was the first one to shrug out of his shoes and jacked and climb under the covers with me and curled his chubby arms around me. I always loved that part the most about visiting hours and it was the one thing I truly looked forward to when the door closed again in the evening and I was left alone.

 

“I’m sorry,” I say, futile, and lean my head on his shoulder lightly. It’s not like I chose to be sick and I was always very sensible, much to anyone's annoyance, including my own.

 

He reaches up and runs his fingers through the hair on the back of my head and says, “Nothing to be sorry for, Twee. I’m just glad it’s over.”

 

“It’s kind of funny, isn’t it?”

 

“What is?”

 

“You know,” I start and curl my arm across his belly, sighing.

 

“All these years, they fed me all kinds of medicine and nothing ever worked the way it was supposed to. Then we come here and all my symptoms vanished in a flick..that’s so weird.”

 

He’s quiet for a moment, before saying, “I still think it’s the air here, don’t you think? I mean, the air back in the city was always thick and polluted while here, it’s all clear and salty which even helps me to breathe properly.”

 

“If we would still live at home in Jersey, you and I should have moved to the sea when we were old enough to afford a house...maybe where we always went on holiday, remember?”

 

“How could I forget, you learned to walk there. I’m never forgetting that” he says and leans his head on mine with a tiny giggle.

 

“You mean where I learned to chase you!”

 

You know, the story mother always told everyone at family gatherings was ‘when little Mikey Way learned walking by chasing his big brother on the beach during his first vacation’. Basically, the story is that Gerard was happily chasing after a butterfly that flew around near the sand dunes, and I, apparently, thought it was a game of catch and tried to follow him. Crawling soon was too slow, so I tried to copy him and scuttled after him on my chubby toddler legs.

 

When Gerard saw what I was doing, he forgot about the butterfly and instead took my small hand in his slightly bigger one and stomped down to the water with me with a huge smile on his face.

 

That’s what I’ve always been told and I like to believe that it’s the truth. Not everyone starts walking because they feel so drawn to their brother catching a butterfly, you know?

 

“Hmmm..you taught me a lot of things,” I sigh contentedly and close my eyes when Gerard strokes his fingertips up and down between that spot behind my ear and down my neck and shoulder.

 

“That’s ‘cause I’m awesome!” he says, the cheeky tone of his voice so audible that it makes me smile.

 

“You really are,” I say and hear him huff a quiet laugh.

 

Then he turns his head to the side a little so that his nose is buried in my hair and after a moment, he says, ”Same goes to you, baby brother.”

 

I snort again at that. “’M not your baby brother anymore, Gee. Come on.”

 

“Uhm, yes? You will always be my baby brother. Nothing will ever change that, no matter how old you get, Silly. Just like I’m always going to be your big brother, even though you’re probably going to over tower me in a few months.”

 

He giggles to himself and I slap him lightly on the belly where I flung my arm over him earlier.

 

“Fine, baby brother it is.”

 

Actually, it’s kind of nice. It’s intimate and personal and kind of deepens the connection we have between us, in a way.

 

“’Should really take a bath at some point,” Gerard mumbles, probably sniffing my hair with his nose still buried in it.

 

He’s probably right. It’s been a while and I’m not ashamed to admit that. Also, we might not have cleaned ourselves up very considerably after that fiasco in our room. Whatever.

 

But on the other hand...

 

Is it weird to admit that I kind of like the smell of us together on my skin? I mean, there was not only sweat and spit involved, but also other body fluids and greasy hair. I decide to tell him that. Might as well be honest, right? Who knows, maybe he feels the same way. He did say that he liked how I smell and that was way beyond our regular baths.

 

“I don’t mind y’know.,” I say, maybe a little shy now that I said it out loud.

 

He leans back slightly and looks at me with a searching and probably also amazed look on his face. That, of course, makes me blush which in return makes him grin and shake his head amused.

 

“Aw man, we are both cut from the same cloth, aren’t we,” he says and leans in to kiss me when I try to roll my eyes but can’t hide a grin.

 

I like the idea of that as well.