Aaron Minyard wasn’t familiar with normalcy.
Ever since he was a baby, nothing had ever gone right for him. His mother had given him up when he was still an infant and then had enough last-minute regret to take him back. Growing up, he endured her heavy-handed abuse. In his teenage years, he discovered he had a secret sibling he never knew about.
A twin, even.
Aaron had wished for a sibling as a kid and was even a little excited. Andrew Doe, his name was. His first attempt at contact earned him a ‘fuck you’ and then he later learned that Andrew was put in juvie. Breaking and entering, they said. The Hemmicks pressured his mother into adopting Andrew back into the family.
Then his twin killed their mother five months later, another obstacle to add to their rocky relationship. Tilda was a horrible mother, but he still loved her.
Homicide aside, growing up alone meant that he never learned what normal things siblings did. Nothing Andrew did mirrored what he saw on TV or in movies. He never teased him or pulled his hair. Some days, Andrew would stare straight through him. Other days, he actually looked at him, even if it was just to tell him to pass him something.
For Aaron, that was a big deal. With each joint therapy session, they were inching closer to normalcy.
They were beginning to understand each other’s motives just a bit more.
After sorting through his clothes and dirty laundry three times over, Aaron found he was missing a shirt. A dark blue one in particular. He needed it for his date tonight; he and Katelyn were going out with the other Vixens. He frowned, folding his arms and stepping back as he raked his mind for a clue. He poked his head out of the room to address his roommate.
“Matt, have you seen my blue shirt?”
“Hm? No, why?” Matt replied, his smile friendly as always. Aaron sighed, shaking his head and exiting the room.
“Maybe I left it in my old room,” he mumbled, opening the door.
“Make sure to knock!” Matt called after him. For a second, Aaron was perplexed before making a disgusted noise in response. The day he walked in on Neil and Andrew was the day he’d invest in a melon baller to gouge his eyes out. He went down the hall, knocking on the door he no longer possessed a key to.
Of course, it was Neil who opened the door. On the bright side, he was decent. Aaron breezed past him without a greeting, glancing around and bee-lining for his old room. “Andrew.”
When he opened the door, his eyes landed on Andrew sitting by the window. There was a cigarette tucked between his fingers as he exhaled a trail of smoke. He didn’t even turn to look at him.
“Andrew, have you seen my—” He trailed off. Aaron stared at the long sleeved shirt that Andrew was wearing and dropping cigarette ash on. “You’re wearing my shirt.”
His twin said nothing until he walked closer to him, his mouth curled downward in displeasure. Andrew was still staring out of the window, flicking ash outside of it.
“Who, me?” He droned, his voice drenched in boredom.
“Yes. I need that shirt tonight. Give it back.” Aaron crossed his arms. Andrew brought his cigarette to his lips again before shifting and blowing the smoke in his brother’s direction.
“It’s mine,” he stated simply.
“What? No, it isn’t. I bought it, Andrew.”
“Get your own.”
“That is my own, you jackass. I bought it, with my own money.” Aaron huffed when Andrew offered no reply. “You’re going to ruin it.”
Andrew brought a finger to the corner of his eye, miming a tear escaping. “A tear for your discomfort.”
“You never wear anything besides black, anyways!” Aaron pointed out before groaning. The only other option was taking it from his brother and he could see that going swimmingly. “You know what? Never mind, I’m not getting into any more stupid arguments with you.”
Andrew stubbed out his cigarette. “Water’s not wet.”
“Wh— How the fuck is water not wet, it’s fucking water!”
Even though he switched rooms with Neil, Aaron still swung by to play video games with Nicky. He sunk deeper into the bean bag he had settled into, his fingers furiously tapping buttons on his controller. The pair was utterly entranced in their virtual competition; there was money riding on this.
Aaron’s score lurched ahead of Nicky’s and there were merely seconds left on the clock. He was going to win. Nicky swore in frustration.
“Aaron, I want a rematch, that’s no fair,” he was already complaining. Aaron’s lips twitched.
“No rematches.” He faintly registered the sound of footsteps and Andrew drifting past him in a flash of black. The freezer opened. Aaron leaned forward subconsciously as he neared his goal. The footsteps came closer again.
He was so close to winning this round when he felt a shocking coldness against his right cheek. Aaron flinched back, his eyes ripping away from the screen. He fumbled not to drop the controller, but to no avail; his attention had been snagged for too long and Nicky won. He whooped victoriously.
“What the fuck was that for, Andrew!” Aaron yelped, glaring at his twin. He furiously wiped the wetness of condensation from his face. In Andrew’s hand was a new tub of ice cream and in his mouth, was a spoon.
Andrew removed the spoon from his mouth, humming. He tilted his head for a brief moment, like he had to think about it. He then gave a shrug. “Felt like it.”
He then spun on his heel, heading back into his room. Aaron twisted on the beanbag, glaring at his back the entire way until he closed the door behind him. He hoped his brother had felt it.
“Woo! Ha, pay up, Aaron!”
Andrew never texted Aaron unless it was about going to Columbia or one of his manipulative plans, where he’d drag him and Nicky in. It was break during practice. Aaron had taken a few sips from his water bottle and was now sitting in the stands. Renee, Neil and Andrew were making laps around the court like always.
Aaron wasn’t sure what they talked about for so long. The snips of conversation he often heard when they circled past him just left him more clueless than before. Aaron was scrolling through his phone when he got a notification, telling him he had a text from Andrew. He had sent a photo.
He stiffened, looking up in puzzlement. Andrew just slid his phone back into his pocket, responding to something Renee had said. He didn’t even glance his way. Aaron frowned, opening his message and preparing to be dragged into more bullshit, which was the daily on this fucked team.
Once it loaded, it took Aaron a full minute to understand what he was looking at. Instead of blackmail material or something mysterious, it was a funny animal picture. Somehow, that was more unsettling.
“What the hell?” Aaron whispered to himself, looking up at Andrew again. Seemingly, nothing else was forthcoming, so he re-read the text and took a minute to digest the fact that Andrew had texted him a funny picture for no visible reason.
‘Ha’, he typed, his thumb hovering over the send button before he thought, just fuck it.
His heart was thundering in his ribcage from just sending one word to his brother. Break time was going to end soon, so he opened up his gallery and scrolled through his saved pictures. He landed on one that he could picture a medicated Andrew laughing at, sending it.
They spent the rest of the few minutes sending weird pictures back and forth until they were ordered back to practice. It wasn't an actual conversation, per se, but it was still a lot of progress.
Aaron slipped away his phone, feeling lighter as he went back to exy.
Aaron was hoping to sit through his first lecture quietly, but apparently having 'Minyard' in his name always brought attention or trouble. The class actually began in a few minutes, so he was hoping to sit quietly until the rest of the class trickled in. He tapped rapidly and silently on his phone, sending messages to Nicky and then Katelyn.
"This isn't your course, Andrew."
"Aaron," he corrected automatically, his eyes not straying from his phone. He sent his text, looking up at the professor who squinted at him behind his glasses.
"Ah. That makes more sense," he muttered, standing in front of his desk. "You and your brother look just alike."
No shit, Sherlock. Aaron twitched, but forced himself to respond neutrally. "I get that a lot."
And he did. Not every day, but pretty damn close.
"Isn't your brother that psycho who never talks?" He heard someone murmur beside him. Aaron shot a vicious look at the guy before he could stop himself. The student in question raised his hands, as if to ward off a rabid animal. Sure, Andrew was batshit, but that didn't give him the right to just say those things about his twin.
"Well, I'm hoping you'll choose to participate. Your brother never did and refused to talk, but always made amazing marks," the professor continued. Why did educators always associate their students with their siblings? This even happened in high school. It was irritating.
He didn't make perfect grades without ever needing to study, he didn't leave before the last few minutes of class, he didn't have a flawless memory.
He was just Aaron.
"I'm not Andrew," he clarified to the man, suppressing a sigh. "We shared a womb, not a mind."
He wasn't ready for another semester of this.
Andrew's relationship with Neil Josten was gross.
No, not because Andrew was dating a guy. Aaron was still working on that part of himself that instinctively recoiled at seeing two men together. It was hard to block out the religious drivel of the Hemmicks.
But they were gross in another way.
Andrew and Neil didn’t often show public affection. When they did, it was… Weird. A tap on the wrist or a touch on the neck. He was no closer to understanding their relationship, but he was smart enough to know that it was more than hate sex. Neil got through to Andrew when he had tried for years. He felt sour about that but was overall grateful that he'd lessened the gap between them.
Neil Josten brought death and danger wherever he went. Aaron had actually treated him with some decency when he first arrived at Palmetto. Then he brought the fucking mafia and his killer-daddy issues.
He made Riko Moriyama put a target on their whole team when he was previously focused on coaxing Kevin into coming back. He put his two cents where they did not belong and meddled in relationships that weren't his. He was a web-of-lies.
His sharp tongue caused trouble more often than not. His big mouth always ended in casualties.
These were all facts.
But the simplest fact was that Neil was macking on his twin brother and that shit was gross in itself. Aaron was pretty sure that if Andrew were with a girl, it'd still be gross solely because of the fact that it was his brother.
Andrew and Neil were going to Columbia for the weekend, guests not invited. They were packing and the upperclassmen were making drinking plans for the weekend. They had invited the rest of the monsters to party with them.
Neil walked past him to place his things in the Maserati, his duffel bag over his shoulder. Andrew was right behind him, briefly and lightly touching the small of Neil's back. There was nothing dirty about it.
Aaron wrinkled his nose.
Maybe it was a sibling thing to be grossed out by their relationship...
Nicky had recovered a photo of Aaron, the night he was taken home from the hospital. He was so tiny and open eyed, the blanket swallowing him up. His cousin cooed over the picture. Aaron begrudgingly let him, because he definitely was a cute ass baby and he wouldn’t deny it.
“Hey, Neil, want to see Aaron’s baby picture?” Nicky asked, waving it as he and Kevin walked through the room. They’d been watching old exy games on Kevin’s laptop and taking notes. Neil stopped, frowning at him.
“Why would I want to see Aaron?” Asshole. Nicky made an offended noise in response while the twin scowled.
“Because it’s basically seeing what your boyfriend looked like as a baby,” Nicky explained, as if it were incredulous that he’d even ask.
“They don’t look that alike,” Neil muttered, but came closer. He spared a glance at baby Aaron but was ultimately uninterested in him. Kevin even snuck a glimpse before they went to the kitchen.
Baby Aaron still had his hospital bracelet around his little wrist. “Minyard, BBB”. Born on November 4th.
Nicky tilted his head, reading it. “What does ‘BBB’ mean?”
“Huh?” Aaron’s eyes dropped down to the point. “I don’t know.”
He saw Andrew, who’d been ignoring this conversation and refusing to look at the picture, shift in the corner of his eye. His brother stood up, coming over to them. Nicky turned the photo so he could look at it properly. He stared at it before looking at present-Aaron.
“That means I’m older than you.”
There was a beat before Aaron replied, baffled. “What? No, it doesn’t.”
“That’s how they label twins.” Andrew took the picture from Nicky’s hands, turning it around and pointing at Aaron’s bracelet. “Baby Boy B.”
“Baby B.” He pointed a finger at Aaron before pointing at himself. “A.”
Nicky’s jaw dropped. Aaron’s eyes were impossibly wide. His gaze darted between Andrew’s neutral face and the old picture before it sank in. Andrew was the older twin. Aaron was a younger sibling. He was Aaron’s big brother.
In the back of his mind, he had always known that one of them was older, but he had never given much thought to it. Aaron had always internalized that they would never figure it out, that Tilda threw away all the evidence. He pursed his lips, staring at the picture of himself.
Andrew dropped the photo, letting it flutter back down to his lap and turning to leave the room. “You’re pre-med, to think you would know this.”
Nicky had his hands cupped over his mouth, still marveling. His eyes glimmered with unshed tears and he took in a breath to compose himself. He smiled at Aaron, shaking him by his shoulder. “Congrats, Aaron! You’re the baby bro. I never would have figured it out.”
When he received no response, he nodded and patted Aaron’s shoulder before standing. “You keep that. I’m going to call it a night.”
The dorm door clicked closed behind him. Aaron thumbed the glossy lamination before standing. He slipped it away in the back of one of his binders for safe keeping, glancing back at it occasionally while reviewing notes.
It sounded dumb, but…
It sort of made sense. Andrew had always assumed the more protective role between them when he acknowledged his existence. He defended him from harm and didn’t let anyone hurt him, regardless of their broken off promise.
Aaron had assumed that Andrew had brushed the new revelation aside and didn’t care half as much as him. Why should he? It wasn’t that big of a deal.
So, it warranted a lot of surprise when Andrew brought it up again at the most random time. They were at Sweeties, waiting on their ice cream.
“You can’t keep telling me what to do, Andrew.”
“Oh?” Andrew said without even glancing his way, as if it were news to him.
“Yes,” he hissed over the table. “We don’t have that promise anymore.”
“We don’t,” Andrew agreed. “But I’m still older than you.”
What. Aaron’s eyebrows furrowed, staring at his twin for a handful of seconds as he deciphered his vague statement. … Was he… Using that as reason to order him around?
“Are you kidding?” Aaron said slowly. “That’s not how this works! ”
“It kind of is,” Nicky murmured, shrugging.
“Nicky, you don’t even have any siblings.”
“It’s like, in the book of sibling things! He’s allowed to tell you what to do.”
“Oh, my God.”
Once Andrew began randomly flicking his ear, Aaron was fed up.
He was having lunch with Katelyn and venting to her about all the stupid shit that Andrew had done this week. It was a change of pace from him having to vent about the dangerous things that his brother often did.
“What?” Aaron narrowed his eyes at his girlfriend. Katelyn giggled a bit more, muffling it behind her hand unsuccessfully. She waved her hand, shaking her head.
“Nothing, it just… Sounds like you’re doing what siblings do. Bicker over nothing and irritate each other.”
Aaron stared at her in disbelief, his jaw working for a few seconds. “We are not.”
“Yes, you are, baby.” Katelyn laughed again, cradling his hand in her own. “I have a sister, remember?”
“I remember…” Aaron echoed. He leaned back in his seat, staring at the table top. Katelyn squeezed his hand in hers.
He was inclined to believe her, because she had more sibling experience than him due to growing up with her sister.
Were they really starting to mirror actual siblings now? If you get past the joint therapy sessions and maybe squinted, it was nearly like they were inching towards normalcy.
That was a comforting thought.
Aaron fought down the itch of a smile.