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"I hear these sounds," Pietro says in English, always in English because they are always practicing, even when they are alone. One day, they might not even have accents: the better to blend in, to disappear, to keep safe. "These soft, quiet sounds. I am curious."

Wanda goes very still, the tips of her fingers wet, the chill air settling over her exposed skin. It is the breath of monsters hovering over in the nighttime.

This day has been trying, very long by half, and she is exhausted. Her heart is heavy, and her rage, and yet she hungers; and this, here in the shadow of her other half, is the only place she will ever feel safe. But she wasn't meant to be heard.

"I am thinking," Pietro says, shifting on the bunk above so that the cheap, old frame of their most recent stay-room creaks, "these are not the sounds of my twin who is asleep."

She breathes in slow under her lungs, but she doesn't move her sheets; and she doesn't move her hands. She dares: "Do you listen so often, that you should know the difference?" She stares at the worn back of his mattress, close above her head, and contemplates the distance of this one, small barrier. She hadn't known Pietro could ever hear her; she'd always been so quiet. She'd always waited until he was sound asleep. She swears she waited.

The silence stretches and Wanda's pulse jumps and throbs. It is too much for them, this: they are joined in everything else, but Wanda draws hard lines in her mind, even where they connect. He is all she has. What is starving her, now and often, when she is absolutely alone inside her own head, would be heresy to the pristine religion of their unity.

But time passes, and Pietro answers. "I am listening always. Every moment I am with you." A breath, a sigh, another shift on the mattress. "You are brushing your hair and I am thinking: this is for me to do. You are finding and fetching a dinner, and my pride tells me I should be doing so, in service to you."

"Pietro," Wanda says his name, and it is like gasping; but perhaps she is simply gasping only, and his name is the shape that forms.

"You are sleeping, and thrashing, and having nightmares and I can hear them. And I would ferociously guard your dreams, unable still to enter them, because my place is here, always."

Helplessly, Wanda arches into the air, her wrist bent and aching, the backs of her knees damp with sweat. She is thinking of her brother who loves her.

And then Pietro says, "I am hearing your fingers, my sweet sister, and I am thinking, What if they were mine?"

She bites down on her thin blanket to swallow her voice; keeps her throat tight at great personal cost; ultimately gives in to the pressure, and breathes, hollow and high into the back of her throat, as stars burst inside of her hips and circle her waist like a gold chain, as they bleed down the vessels of her legs like wet lightning, as constriction and release go to war and her body burns red from the inside out.

She pants like a dog in heat, ashamed and afraid in the aftermath, and Pietro washes it all away with a whisper: "Can I see you?"

"Okay," she says, because it is the only word she has.

He's beside her in moments, faster even than she expected from him, like he couldn't make himself wait an eternity of seconds to use the ladder in the normal fashion. He is beside her, sucking out all of the air, and he is leaning in, and Wanda is bare but for the edge of a sheet over her belly.

He hovers over her in the darkness and his fingers splay over her thigh like she is burning him.

"You are nervous," he murmurs. "Do you hate this? Are you shy? Should I stop?"

She cannot possibly answer his questions, even if she were not so sure of the truth.

He kisses her face, her temple, her cheek—the way he has been kissing her for every day of their lives. Then his palm is dragging over her hip and his thumb is pressing inside her. "You are so little," he breathes, all wonder.

"You don't know how this works?" She laughs, breathless and sensitive, and then covers her mouth with one narrow hand as his thumb begins to move.

"T-too much, Pietro, you," she gasps, and he stills immediately.

"I should be stopping?" He asks, his dark eyebrows folding together over the most beautiful face she has ever been blessed to look into.

"Of course not," she admits.

Wanda loses time under the impossible motion of his hands, and whether or not she ascends the mountain a dozen times or simply languishes, over an eternity, at the summit, is most probably a matter of perspective. At the end of it she is mindless and liquid, bathed in sweat despite the cold of their room, and Pietro is arched over her like a pale angel, broad-shouldered, his face buried in her neck. He breathes her in and in like she is fine perfume.

"Do you never think a single thought," Wanda asks him, her eyes closed and her stomach in loose knots. "Do you always just go and go, rushing in without any idea in the world?"

"Do you know," Pietro asks, heavy and hot where her thigh has fit, just so, between both of his,"that I have felt it every time? Always: at first in small pieces, and then in ripples, and waves, until there is a storm which swallows the whole of me." He shifts in small measures, erratic and immobile, the matter of her entire universe compressed to a single point. "I have started waiting for it. But you have been keeping secrets. I should have known. Then, I would not have waited at all; then, I would have come to you."

He leans up enough to struggle out of his worn sweat pants, his bare forearms cutting clean silhouettes of darker-than-darkness, his fingers clumsy, his breath coming fast. Then he is arranging her blankets; then he is joining her beneath them; then his hand is on her rib, high, as though he is asking for the right to touch her. But they have been touching each other since before they were born. Separation has always been an agony-this is merely another homecoming.

"You don't think I had reasons for this secret?" She asks softly.

"There are no good reasons to keep secrets from me," Pietro tells her sharply. "You have never kept them before." He touches her temple with the gentlest hand she has ever known, and his lightning-pale eyes have darkened as before a storm. "I am not you with your gifts, but I am still a part of you. I have always been a part of you. And I know you."

"Then know me," she challenges at last.

He kisses her mouth like he always has, then touches her breast like she is created from something priceless. When her body bows like refracted light, he handles her as something slightly more durable.

"We cannot go back from this," he tells her, and he says so in such a way that it must cost him something. Already he has angled his body, already she can feel him there, straining against the desire to be inside her.

"If you are a looking for the time at which we might have been saved," she growls, her fingers like thin wires as she jerks forward his hips, "we were ten. We had lost. I chose you long ago."

"What choice could you have had," he laughs rancorously, but there is joy, too, and the freedom that comes of knowing. Then he is pushing her thighs apart with hands that are shaking, then he is easing into her body like it is the slowest act he has ever done.

"So little," he repeats, a low hiss in her ear.

"I have just come like Christ returned," she manages, but only just. "Of course I will be little." She shifts, very slick but very tight, too full by half, and adds, "I think you don't fit very well, Pietro."

"I think you're a liar," he says, a hand on her hip and the other at her shoulder, "I think you are a secret-keeper, I think all of my life is a single, perfect picture of fitting together with you."

Wanda feels swollen on the inside, and warm, and whole in the way she has never not felt, even once. Pietro is the one making the sounds now, rough and stilted, crushing long lines of her hair against his nose and breathing her scent like air, drinking her like water.

"I'm going to," he gasps.

"Out, you must get out," she commands, pounding at his shoulders insistently, but he takes her wrists and kisses her quiet, keeps his rhythm until she is sure they have made a mistake—but then he is pulling away like a dog from the hearth, colder for it, and his hand is working between his legs like a bullet. He spills his seed on her belly, shaking, airless, but his cries are louder than ever hers have been.

She kisses the side of his face, her smooth cheek against the rough angle of his beard.

"I have made a mess of you," he murmurs. Then he is gone.


He is back with a shirt, probably his own, and gently wiping her down. "There is—some blood. Have I hurt you?"

"No." She looks. "It is only a small amount. It is to be expected."

He is meticulous and apologetic, but she stays his hand and kisses his mouth.

"We will keep until the morning," she says. "We can wash properly."

She waits for him to return to his bunk, to begin his faint snores which she has fallen asleep by for all her life, but he makes no moves. He only presses close to her beneath her sheets.

"There is not room here for the two of us," she mentions, warm against the curled bulk of his body.

"Nonsense. They are calling this a twin bed? It is just right."

"We are two adults on a mattress meant for a child," she presses, warm and exasperated.

"We shared a womb for nine months. I am sure you can handle the luxury of an entire mattress."

Cramped and close, Pietro falls asleep with his face buried in Wanda's hair. After a time, to the steady drum of her twin's breath, Wanda sleeps, too.