Little Things Ch. 02 of 04bynomennescio©
Part 2 of 4. I strongly recommend that you begin with part 1, as the sections of this story are not meant to be independent.
Morning comes with the pale glow of dawn in winter, and I awaken with both a feeling of rested satisfaction and a vague sense of guilt. David - his name is on my lips before I can even think about it. Last night. Jesus, that was not what I had in mind, not at all. I mean, I'm not sure what I did have in mind, but it damn sure didn't involve me getting so worked up I have to run off and finger myself. Fuck.
It doesn't mean anything. It can't. It's just biology, right? I haven't gotten any in a while, I get a cute guy feeling me up in the dark...the body reacts. Nothing deeper than that. Just a situation that I shouldn't have gotten myself into. The real trick is going to be facing him today, after what happened. Talk about awkward. It's just a damn good thing I wasn't drunk, or it probably would have been about a thousand times worse.
Breakfast is indeed an uncomfortable experience. We sit silently on opposite sides of the kitchen table, gamely spooning cereal into our mouths while the clock ticks steadily on the wall and Marie makes the occasional quiet comment about the unexpected snowdrift. I don't look at David. I can't - when my eyes touch on his, a rush of embarrassment colors my cheeks, and I have to look away. God, what a stupid idea it was. 'Feel my legs.' Just like me to screw things up.
We don't say a word to each other until after breakfast, after Marie heads out, and even then, it's David who speaks first. Hesitantly, as I sit facing carefully away. "Ah...are we still set to head out to the town today?"
"Sure." My voice is unnaturally high, chirpy through a throat tight with discomfort, and even to my own ears my laugh sounds nervous. "No reason we wouldn't be, right?"
"Right." A low note in the word, and a long pause. "Um. Should we take the truck? Or we could take your car too, or walk, or...I guess it's probably pretty cold out to walk, and I dunno how far it is, but..."
"No, that's, um." I shake my head weakly, my gaze brushing upon David for a brief moment, long enough to note the anxiety painted on his face. "The truck's fine, we can take the truck, I can drive, that's...it's fine. You know, whatever, it's good."
"Okay." Quiet, again, as I stare at the refrigerator, trying to memorize its exact proportions. Counting the ticking of the clock. Five. Six. Seven. He speaks again. "When do you think we should..."
"Now." I hop to my feet, muscles taut with nervous energy. "Now's good, right? No reason to wait, get out in public, you know, see the people, see the town. It probably will be cold, though. You bring any warm clothes?" Old protective instincts kick in, and I glance at him, appraising. "Have you showered?"
"Y-yeah," he stutters lightly over his answer, his own eyes dodging away. "That's - yeah, I've got a jacket, and I showered last night, after...um."
"Good." Purpose. Something to distract us. That can only help, right?
It's the work of a minute to grab a long tan trenchcoat from my closet, buttoned up tight with a dark grey scarf, and then we're crunching through the couple inches of snow to the family truck. Stepping up into the cab, me in the driver's seat. I start the engine and flip on the heating, giving it a few moments to warm up, and that's when he says it. "I'm sorry, Sam." Soft and fairly woebegone, looking away from me, out into the light blanketing of snow.
Shit. I did not want to talk about this. I don't even want to think about it right now. But my vague irritation that he's bringing it up is overpowered by a deeper exasperation that he's apologizing. Letting go the gearshift, I give him a pointed look. "Sorry for what, exactly?"
"For last night." He gestures vaguely with one hand. "For-"
"For doing what I said you could do?" I cut him off quickly. "Hell, what I told you to do?"
He shakes his head curtly, shaggy blonde locks waving with the motion. "You only said to because of how I said I felt. It's still - I shouldn't've..." A weak, perturbed sigh escapes his lips as he tries to put his thoughts in order. "I shouldn't do something to you that you don't like, just because I do."
I snort quietly at the absurdity of this. "Christ, Davey, I did like it. That's the whole problem."
"You..." His mouth quirks up as he glances at me, skeptically. "No. I mean, you ran off, you..."
"Yeah - because I liked it. Because you had me about ready to..." I shake my head without finishing the sentence. "It's complicated. I wanted you to do what you did, but I didn't want to like it, and when I started to like it I didn't want it. Um." A bit of a laugh struggles out. "That didn't really make any sense at all, did it?"
David manages to chuckle as well, somewhat wryly. "Not a lot."
"Right, well..." We need to work this out. I need to work this out. "Look, it was just a bad idea. Finding out...what I found out yesterday, it was a big shock. I wanted to give you something. To give you myself, kind of." A half-hearted smile curves my lips, vanishing swiftly as I move on, struggling to put words to what went wrong. "But that's not really something we can do. I'm your sister, for fuck's sake. Even if you've somehow got this crush thing on me, I can't be attracted to you, and I can't act like I am."
"No. No, of course not." His voice is hollow as he looks away, and I wince at the stab of pain in his expression.
"Jesus, I didn't mean it like that. You...hey." Trying again to smile, I grab for his unresisting hand and give it a gentle squeeze. "You're a wonderful guy, David. You're sweet, and you're funny, and you're sensitive, and you've got, let's be honest, a rockin' bod." I try a hopeful little laugh at that. When he he doesn't join in, I push onwards. "And like that's not enough, you're also about the most decent, the most honorable guy I've ever known." Not until the words leave my mouth do I really realize how true they are. No one else compares. "Last night, I was...I don't know. I was mixed-up and horny and I wasn't thinking straight, and if you had pushed I think I'd have done something we'd both really regret right now. But you didn't. That matters, that's important." My tone drops to quiet simplicity as I give him a serious look. "I can trust you. I do trust you, probably even more than I trust myself. I feel safer with you than I do with anyone else." A quiet moment. "You're an amazing guy. If you weren't my brother, I'd be all over you."
"But." He speaks it dully, morosely. As though calling for the headsman's axe.
"But you are." Damn it, why does he have to string it out? I don't want to have to hurt him like this. "You are, and that's...we can't ignore that, we can't move past it. I don't even...god dammit, David." A surge of anger, hot and undirected. I'm angry at him. At myself, at I don't even know what. "What would you even do if I did feel the same way, huh? Ask me out to the fucking prom?"
He shakes his head ever so slightly, but I press on, a hateful snarl in my voice. "What, then? Ask me to be your girlfriend? Or would we just be secret fuckbuddies, is that it?"
"Sam..." So quiet a plea, a touch of hurt aching in its heart. So hard to believe that he can be this meek, this unassuming. A star quarterback with the personality of a Dickensian schoolboy hero, all soft honesty and pitiful dignity behind a front of meat and muscle. Absurd.
I can't sustain my anger; it drains out of me with a low sigh. "It just doesn't work." I speak distantly, staring into the blank stucco walls of the building. "It's like I said yesterday. A feeling like that doesn't go anywhere. So I can't feel that way about you."
"You can't?" He asks quietly, his gaze resting half on me. "Or you don't?"
"It's the same thing." Still looking away. I can't bear to look into his eyes, not right now.
He shakes his head. Here he has confidence, here he has certainty. "I don't think it is." He's so large, filling up the space beside me. A little world unto himself. If I could disappear into that world... "Sam, I have no idea what we'd do, if you felt like I did. But I hope that you could tell me the truth, if you do or you don't." His voice catches, then comes again, rough and deep. "Don't I deserve that, at least?"
Damn it. It's not fair. My mouth works wordlessly, hoping for an easy answer that doesn't come. The truck rumbles on, patiently burning through gas, waiting for our detente. I can feel David's eyes on the side of my face, staring, imploring, demanding. Calling me. I foolishly risk a glance, only for my gaze to be ensnared in a prison of gentle blue, clear and vivid. Shining like crystal, like pools to another world. "I don't know."
I hardly realize for a moment that I've said it, that I've stammered it out. But I have and it's...it's an answer, as true as anything else, and I cling to it. "I don't know, okay? I can't tell you what I don't know." My eyes take the opportunity to break away, fleeing back to the windshield, and I speak at a pace that rapidly becomes frantic. "I mean, shit, I thought this was going to be a pretty ordinary visit, you know? Then all of a sudden I'm finding out that my brother, my best friend, has had a crush on me for the last five fucking years, and I'm looking at you in a whole different way, and like an idiot I figure it'd be a great idea to tell you to feel me up and it was good, okay? It was way better than I wanted it to be, and...and I don't know, you're my brother, and I love you, and I can't say I don't feel anything back, but you're my brother, and jesus christ David I've had like barely a day to adjust to any of this and to figure anything out about how I actually do feel, you know? Okay?" One hand climbs to clasp at my temples, and the last of my breath escapes in a exhausted sigh.
"Of course." David bites his lip, such chagrin visible on his face that he looks almost physically pained. "Of course, you're right, I haven't even given you a chance, you haven't had any time, I...I'm sorry."
I have to smile a bit, rolling my eyes in faintly amused exasperation at the familiar refrain. "Look." Trying to regain control over the conversation. "What I do know - however I feel - is that we can't do what we did last night. We can't. We're not some pair of hillbilly kids in the middle of Bumfuck, Arkansas, you know? We're better than that." Managing to look him in the eye now, quietly appraising. "You understand? Whatever happens, we can't do anything like that again."
He'll understand, he'll agree - I know he will, for all the injured disappointment I see poorly hidden in his features, the hopes swiftly raised up and then dashed to the ground. He'd walk on hot coals if I asked him to. But as his lips part to answer I briefly wonder what might happen if he didn't. If he shook his sculpted head, said no, that he wanted me too much to hold back. That I would be his to touch, to feel, to caress, to squeeze...if he reached out right now and grabbed me, ran his strong hand up my leg. Would I like that? I shouldn't. It wouldn't be like him. But...
"I understand." His voice sounds, sad and low, and my heart drops a fraction of an inch, the little wondering of my imagination quashed. Of course. It was a silly idea - that's not who he is. I wouldn't care for him if it were, if he were some smouldering near-rapist more concerned with his own lusts than the feelings of those around him. It's just that...no. Nothing. I grab for the gearshift, push the truck into reverse, and start us out of the driveway when David speaks again, a hesitant voice spurred into action by some deeper drive. "Just, Sam...what can we do?"
"What?" Putting back on the brakes, I look over at him uncertainly. Unsure of what he means, of what I want him to mean.
"Um, you know, as brother and sister." Pink on his cheeks now, softly glowing. I'm still not sure just what he's getting at.
The direct approach is usually the best. "What exactly do you mean?" Slipping the truck back into park, I fix him with an inquisitive eyebrow.
"I mean, can we..." Silence, hesitation. He swallows. "Can I still give you a hug?"
I almost laugh, thoughtlessly, tension snapping at this innocent request. "Jesus, Davey, I thought you were..." A little shake of the head. "I mean, yeah, of course. You always have."
He half-smiles, a slight curve on solid, salmon-pink lips. "Can we hold hands?" His voice steadier, smoother, pushing forward.
"Well..." It's my turn to hesitate - but only for a moment, returning then his awkward partial smile. "Sure."
There's a long pause, longer than I'd expect. He keeps looking at me, his strong jaw set, his breathing controlled. I only recognize that he's screwing together his courage when he moves, his hand sliding slow and deliberately forward to rest atop mine on the gearshift. I could pull away before contact, but I don't - he settles down, his palm warm and rough and powerful on the back of my hand. Squeezing it softly. That gently irresistible compression, the feeling of his strength around me. I can hardly even see my hand under his...
But he's still looking at me, while I've been staring at his hand on mine. Wordlessly, I turn to meet his gaze; his lips part once, twice, before he speaks. Carefully enunciating - I can barely hear the tremble of uncertainty in his voice, the fear he's trying to hide. "Can we kiss?"
"David..." It comes out a faint rebuke, but I don't know that I mean it. A kiss. My mind flows back over old memories, across the span of years, back to the brightness of childhood. How old was I? Eleven, twelve...deciding I was just about grown up, that I needed to know how to kiss. I stole my mother's lipstick, painted it crudely upon my lips, convinced it was a necessary element. Posed David just so, his head tilted up, and made him stand in stillness while for something like ten minutes I practiced at kissing him, figuring out how to avoid bumping noses, how to hold my lips, when to close my eyes. By the end his face was smeared with red, but when this was inevitably noticed he joined with me to pretend that the two of us had both just been trying on makeup. The excuse earned him a hefty load of extra chores from our disgruntled father, but he never complained, never revealed the truth.
Nothing like that since, of course. Not exactly, anyway. Pecks on the cheek on his birthday, or when I came home to visit. The kind of kiss you don't think about, a burst of ecstatic emotion squeezed into action. Do those count? Where is the boundary, the line between sisterly affection and unhealthy attraction?
"I don't know." An answer to the both of us. Or a lack thereof. Hedging my bets. I struggle to smile past my jangling nerves, feeling still his hand on mine, his presence beside me. "Let's not worry about this right now, okay? Let's just...head out. You've got a town to see. Everything else, we can figure it out. Later."
He stays quiet for a time, still looking at me, and I can feel the weight of his gaze. The words he wants to say. But moments pass, and before too long he shakes his head wryly, a smile taking root on his lips - forced at first, but swiftly becoming genuine. "Yeah. Yeah, let's go see the town." His voice settling down somewhere closer to calm, sounding with a gentle overtone of happiness that resonates brightly in my heart. His hand still rests on top of mine, closed just on the edge of tightness; it takes a raised eyebrow from me and a glance in the direction of the gearshift before he realizes, lets go with a laugh and a slight, affectionate squeeze.
I shift back into reverse with a swiftly beating heart and a nervous mind, but beneath it I feel...I don't know. Tingly. Energetic. The excited energy of an uncertain future. It's that kind of buzzing tumult that fills me as I pull out into the street. Headed for downtown, aiming for the day.
In the end, there isn't all that much to see. I wander with him haphazardly around the shopping district, such as it is, showing off the stores and the eateries with largely ironic theatrics. Fancier storefronts than back home, perhaps, and shinier products, but the ultimate feel of it isn't much different. Or maybe I'm just used to it by now - David himself seems halfway dazzled by the modest signs of neon, and by the traffic that keeps roaring past us despite the snow.
We have lunch at a little Mongolian grill that I fell in love with two years back; I helpfully point out the bar across the street that doesn't check IDs too carefully. It's on our way out, afterward, that David's eye catches the lights and posters of the town theater, a few stores down. A bit of a grin spreads on his lips as he reads over the titles, and he gives me a light jab in the side, our old and friendly way of grabbing each other's attention. "Hey, is that one of those new 3D places?"
I smirk back, crookedly. "I think all these places are 3D, actually."
"Hah." His laugh rings out quick and spirited as he shakes his head. "You know what I mean. With the glasses and everything?"
"Yeah, actually." I nod, with less than total enthusiasm. "They put it in like a year ago; I went with a bunch of friends to see My Bloody Valentine right after. It's not really that great, though. Kind of a gimmick, just tossing a bunch of stuff at the audience for no reason."
"Well, still." Glancing from me to the theater and back again. "It seems kinda cool." I shrug, and it's a few more moments of quiet timidity before he asks, "I don't suppose you want to see that Avatar movie, do you? I mean," he hurries to add, "I'd pay for your ticket and everything."
I have to giggle a bit. Oh, this guy. "You really don't need to do that, Davey."
"I sorta want to." A little smile, soft and self-conscious.
"Hmm." I probably shouldn't let him. But, hell...I mean, if he really wants to...it's just movie tickets. And it's not like he's going to demand a return on his investment. "Okay. But I'm paying for the popcorn."
"Great!" Gently enthusiastic. His grin goes wide and slightly goofy, shining with teeth just off-white, and I can't help laughing. He really does have an adorable smile. Treading off towards the cineplex, a gentle drift of snow begins to fall just as we push through the wide glass doorway, into the warm and welcoming interior.
Ten minutes later, we're sitting side-by-side in a darkened theater, sporting a couple pairs of polarized glasses and sipping unreasonably-sized sodas while we wait for the movie to begin. I'm not expecting much; haven't had a taste for hollywood blockbusters for a while now. And once it gets started, I'm not disappointed. Lots of sound, lots of action; stock characters and cheap attempts at emotion. The effects are impressive, of course, but the story feels like a carbon copy of Pocahontas.
Oh, well. It's a popcorn flick. With that thought, I grab another handful out of the bag in David's lap and settle in for the long haul, contenting myself with the occasional whispered snark. "I wonder if they're going to get together," when the obvious love interest shows up. "How the hell do they sleep in that," with the first appearance of brightly-glowing nighttime flora. And just helpless giggling at 'unobtainium.' The people in front of me don't seem to appreciate it much, but David returns at least an amused chuckle each time.
I only realize the awkwardness as it pushes towards the climactic romantic scene. It's still stupid, still a cliché - the girl hesitant, afraid to speak the interest that shows in her every action. The man unwilling to settle for any but his chosen love. The trees glowing lambently, like moonlight in the darkness, as they kiss. It's so transparently manipulative, I should be insulted. Hell, I am. But I also feel a little ache, a faintly painful force in the beating of my heart. Their feeling, their love, their desire for each other. It's a fantasy, yeah, a mindless image, but I can't avoid a quiet wanting, that I had someone to love like that. To love me like that. Someone.