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just when we believed we could be great

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     The first thing she does is draw a bath. It takes just as long to strip out of her leathers as it does to fill the large tub, peeling off layer after layer of sweat-soaked fabric. Her undershirt is clotted to her skin in places, blood from wounds that no longer show. Stepping in, Vex feels pins and needles in her toes from the searing heat of the water, but she doesn't hesitate, quickly submurging herself, leaving only her face aloft. She tilts her head back, soaking her hair, and closes her eyes, letting the water mute the quiet of the castle. Her own heartbeat sounds in her ears, and suddenly Vex is back in the tomb, flat on her back, the dark threatening to suffocate her. She sits up, water splashing over the edges of the tub, knuckles white against its edges.
     Stillness won't do, or quiet. As she picks up cloth and soap, Vex wishes she'd accepted Vax's offer to sit with her, to keep watch. She's grown now, they both are, they don't need each other's constant reassurance but; Vex washes off traces of blood and slime and tar with shaking hands. No matter how she focuses, her hands wont still, and she's furiously annoyed that her body won't bend to her will. Like she hadn't been put back in quite right, like her soul wasn't settled. Its enough to make her lash out, to make her scream and hurl the soap across the room. As the bar hits the far wall with a slick thud, Vex hears her brother's voice from just outside the door. He's calling to her, words gentle but voice frantic, and Vex opens her mouth to respond and;
     Vax cracks opens the door to see his sister stone-still, knees to her chest, mouth slightly open. Her eyes are wide, meeting his, and he's bowled over by the panic in them. Without thought, he shuts the door behind him, darting to her side. "Hey, hey," he soothes, running a hand through her dripping hair. "We're safe," he murmurs. Vex's eyes don't leave his, still quietly screaming panic, and Vax strokes his thumb along her temple, her fear creeping into his own heart. He pulls away, and the terror in her eyes increases. As he strips off his armor, one of their mother's terrible off-key lullabys comes to his lips, and he sings, softly, slipping into the tub behind her in his underclothes. Vax tucks an arm around her waist, the other going back to her tangled hair, and rests his head against hers, humming quietly.
     It's several long minutes before the tension begins to drain from her shoulders, before she seems to reclaim her body. Vex melts back against him, and soon huge, horrible sobs wrack her small frame, Vex holding her tight while hiding his own tears in her hair. The water has begun to cool by the time Vex has calmed herself, breathing slow and steady against her brother's heartbeat. She feels the soft cloth of his shirt against her back and chuckles weakly, picking at his submerged leggings. "You'll never get these off, now."
     Vax huffs a quiet laugh against her back. "Any sacrifice for you, sister." He swallows around the raven-feather lump in his throat, and forces a smile, even though Vex can't see it. "Let's get this rat's nest sorted, shall we?" Vex lets Vax comb through her hair, sitting without complaint as he washes and oils it, then braids it back tight against her scalp. They both remember the fights they used to have, their mother setting them to each other's hair. They would both yank and tug with combs and nails, just for the fun of hearing the other squawk.
     He lifts her out of the tub when the last of the grime has been scrubbed from her back, from where she lay cold on the tomb floor. Vex lets him wrap her in one of the ridiculous gaudy robes stashed in each of the castle's washrooms, then turns as he strips out of his wet clothes and dons his own horrid, embroidered gown.
"Look," he says, with a smile that finally reaches his eyes. "We're twins."
     Even the fact that he brought her back from the dead not twelve hours ago doesn't stop her from socking him at that.