tagIncest/TabooCould Be Worse

Could Be Worse

byXarth©

Author's Note: Thanks to LizHaze for the editing.

****

I was still cursing under my breath as I finally made it to my brother's place. It shouldn't have always been up to me to keep track of him; he was the older one and by all rights it should have been the other way around. I was just pushing nineteen and had only recently started living on my own, and as far as I was concerned it was enough trouble just looking after myself. The fact that I had to climb five flights of stairs to get to his apartment didn't help my mood either.

I didn't even knock before using the key he'd given me to unlock his door and barge my way in. If he didn't want to respond to my half-dozen texts or answer his goddamn phone when I called, he didn't deserve the warning. In hindsight, maybe that particular decision hadn't been quite as well thought out as it could have been.

Typically, there was only one real reason Sam would ignore me, and that meant he'd found a new girl to occupy his attention. Following that train of thought to its conclusion would probably have allowed me to guess, accurately, that said new girl was most likely in the near vicinity when he decided not to answer his phone. In fact, she was still there when I burst through the door looking about ready to murder someone.

Sam's apartment was hardly what I would have called big. It was nicer than mine by a long way, but it still opened directly into a combined kitchen and living room. The kitchen half, in this instance, was occupied by girl who was looking more than a little confused at my sudden entry, and who also happened to be mostly naked. My brother, naturally, was nowhere to be seen, and so was absolutely no help in making the situation less awkward.

The mystery girl, who I assumed was Sam's current girlfriend that he had conveniently failed to mention to me, stared at me for a long moment while I stared right back. She had a half-empty glass of water in her hand, and was wearing nothing except for a pair of panties. She didn't even have the decency to be embarrassed at being caught in her state of undress, though given her body maybe it wasn't that surprising. Even as a girl I had to admit she was hot.

"Hello," the girl tried eventually.

"Hey," I mumbled. "Is Sam here?"

All the anger and righteous indignation I'd been storing up for my brother seemed to vanish, it seemed more than a little unfair to take it out on the relatively innocent girl in front of me. Even if her lack of shame annoyed me slightly.

"Oh," she said, brightening slightly. "You must be Sam's little sister. Lily or something, wasn't it?"

"Yeah, that's right," I said, mentally forgiving my brother slightly for at least having mentioned me. "I tried getting hold of him, but he was ignoring me."

"Mm-hm, I heard his phone going off, but he said he'd get it later. Do you need to tell him something?"

"Only if by tell him something you mean remind him that we need to leave like right now. Mom's birthday's today, and I am so not letting him skip at least showing up to supper. He knew damn well it was today too, I'm always having to kick his ass just to get him to do anything."

I stopped when I realized I was beginning to vent on someone I'd only just met, but she didn't seem to mind and in fact rolled her eyes in sympathy.

"He said that was tomorrow," she said. "He's so terrible at remembering things like that, isn't he?"

"You have no idea," I said, a little surprised at getting such easy support. "It's even worse when he's--"

I caught myself just before saying anything about how distracted Sam got when he had a new girlfriend, since in this case she was standing right in front of me.

"When he's got a naked girl hanging around his apartment?" she said, finishing my sentence for me anyway and looking rather amused as she did. "Speaking of which, I probably should go put some clothes on. I'll send Sam out while I'm at it. He was just in the shower, you know, cleaning up, but he might be out by now. It'll take like five minutes tops. Promise."

I decided I kind of liked this girl. Sure I could have gone without her subtle hint that she and Sam had been fucking shortly before I arrived, but her tone suggested that she knew how to deal with him and that getting him reasonably clothed and out of his room in a matter of minutes was easily doable. I knew from far too much experience that getting him to do anything on anyone's schedule other than his own was a skill even I had yet to master.

About four and a half minutes later, and I was counting, Sam emerged from his room dressed presentably enough for my purposes. The way he smiled at me was infuriating as usual, like he was sure he hadn't done anything wrong.

"Hey Lil," he said. "Ready to go?"

I punched him in the arm as soon as he got close enough. Hard. He gave me a look like a puppy that didn't know why it had been swatted.

"Don't ignore me when I call next time," I said.

"Aw, c'mon. I was busy with... you know," he said, jerking his head back toward his bedroom.

"What's new," I grumbled.

Thankfully Sam didn't require any more preparation to go than simply putting on a pair of sneakers, so we were soon ready to go. The stairs on the way down weren't nearly as bad, though they did leave time for me to gather my thoughts, and I wasn't sure if it was a good or a bad thing.

"So what's her name?" I asked, finally deciding there was a chance I'd need to know his girlfriend's name at some point.

"Who?"

"The naked girl." I gave Sam a warning look not to play stupid with me right now.

"Oh, I thought I told you about her already," he said, seeming to genuinely mean it. I softened a little since I knew it was entirely possible it really had just slipped his mind. He genuinely tended not to be malicious so much as careless most of the time. "Her name's Katherine, she goes by Kat though mostly. She's... well I guess obviously she'd my girlfriend."

"No shit."

"Don't be grumpy Lil, it's just me. You know how I am."

"Yeah, I do. Doesn't mean I have to like it though."

We eventually made it to where our cars were parked; Sam insisted on taking his own because he had 'plans' for later on. It would have made more sense to me just to share since I was already there, but I wasn't about to argue the point. Beyond making sure he showed up for supper with the family, I had no intention of trying to babysit my brother.

****

The evening went well enough I thought. Mom loved having both her kids over, and of course never had the slightest clue that Sam had been very close to not showing up. Dad didn't have quite the same blind spot about his son, and he tossed me an appreciative look when Sam showed up, clearly having a much better idea of the trouble I'd gone through.

I did enjoy the occasional visit home, but I was still happy to get back to my apartment later on. It was so nice to have my own place and not to have to worry about anyone but myself. Partly I just liked my privacy in a way that most people, my family included, didn't seem to really grasp. It wasn't that I needed to be alone for any particular reason, I just... liked it.

As I walked down the hallway toward my door, I noticed a half-open door a few apartments from mine. It was a little unusual since most people kept their doors closed when not entering or leaving, the people living in the area weren't necessarily always people you could trust after all, but it wasn't enough to draw my attention for more than a couple seconds. It was only when I got closer to my own door that I realized something might actually be wrong.

I never left my door open when I left my apartment, never even left it unlocked, yet it certainly wasn't closed. In fact, there appeared to be damage on the frame as though it had been forced open.

"Hello?" I called softly, hoping desperately no one would answer. It was possible there was a perfectly innocent explanation, even if none sprung immediately to mind.

When I saw the inside of my apartment, it was pretty much as bad as I could have expected. I didn't have that much space to work with, so I'd gotten pretty good at keeping things tidy, but the sight that greeted me was exactly the opposite. It seemed like every single thing I owned had been scattered across the floor as if to make the biggest possible mess. My computer and tv, two of the very few semi-valuable things I had, were just gone.

I stepped carefully through the debris, still unwilling to admit it was all that bad, until I made it to my room. It was the same story in there as well, with my clothes having been ripped out their drawers and what little jewelry I owned conspicuously missing. It wasn't like any of it was even worth anything, except for the sentimental value.

I sat down on my bed and stared at nothing for a solid few minutes. I had been well aware that the neighbourhood I had chosen to live in wasn't entirely the safest one out there, but somehow I never expected anything to actually happen to me. It wasn't easy to process, but it seemed my misguided belief in my own untouchable status had been far, far from matching up with reality.

It wasn't fair; that's what I eventually decided. It just wasn't fair. Sure my apartment was kind of small, and in a shitty building, and in a sketchy part of town, but it was supposed to be mine. I was supposed to be able to decide who got to come in, if I let anyone in at all. Now... that seemed like a joke. One of those jokes that wasn't meant to be the slightest bit funny.

I wasn't proud of it, but I almost started crying a couple times. When I'd moved into the apartment I swore I'd never have to move back in with my parents and I could be my own person. All of a sudden the safety and certainty of home seemed like a much better deal to me than it ever had before.

After far too long doing absolutely nothing, I finally decided I should probably do something about the situation. I wasn't sure what exactly since cleaning seemed very much like a waste of time, and from the look of the doorway on my way in it wasn't anything I could fix on my own. I did still have my cell phone, even if it took me longer than it should have to remember it, but I wasn't sure who to call.

The police were my first thought as I pulled my phone out of my pocket and stared at the screen. This was probably exactly the sort of situation one should call them, in fact. The problem was I really didn't want to. They'd just ask questions, and I couldn't handle questions right now. Even helpful ones. My parents were a bad choice for more or less similar reasons, with the added downside that they'd worry and try to help and generally just suffocate me.

There was another choice of course, and his number was conveniently sitting right at the top of my 'recent calls' list. I very, very rarely asked my brother for help, but this time I felt like I needed to. I flat out couldn't handle the situation on my own, and he was a good compromise of someone who I hoped would care, but not to the point of actively making things worse.

I sat there as the phone rang, hoping that this time he'd actually pick up and not leave me hanging again. It had only been annoying when he'd done it earlier, this time I would be legitimately pissed. Or maybe I actually would just have that cry I'd been contemplating. I'd have to wait and see.

"Hey Lil, what'd I forget to do this time?"

Sam's voice came through, irritatingly cheerful to me given my current state of mind, before I even realized that the ringing had stopped. He naturally assumed I was just calling to pester him again, and I truly wished that was all it was.

"Can you come over?" I said, struggling to keep my voice even.

"Um... does it really need to be now?" he said, his tone dropping some of it's levity as he picked up a little on the fact that I was in no mood for jokes.

"Now," I said. "Please."

There was a brief silence of the other end, or rather just a hint of soft voices that probably meant Sam was discussing it with Katherine. Kat. Whatever.

"Did something happen?" Sam asked.

"Just... please," I repeated, then hung up before he could ask any more questions. He'd either come or he wouldn't. Telling him everything first wouldn't help me either way.

While I waited to see if Sam would actually show up, I took another zombie-like walk around my apartment. It didn't look any better the second time. I knew it was pretty much a waste of time, but I picked up a few things as I went, setting them either back where they belonged, or at least out of the way. My floor was something of a minefield full of things to step on if I wasn't careful.

A little while later, sooner than I expected actually, Sam showed up. Kat was with him, which was also kind of unexpected, but I knew she'd been there when I called so in some ways maybe it wasn't all that surprising.

"What the hell happened?" Sam asked, after taking a couple seconds just to stare at the mess that was my apartment.

I shrugged. "You know about as much as I do. I came back and found it like this."

"Is anything missing?" he asked.

"Pretty much anything worth selling."

I waited for the comment I was sure was coming, about how it was inevitable that something like this would happen given the area my apartment was in. It never came though, not from either Sam or Kat, and all they did was look at each other for a second before my brother turned back to me.

"Well I guess you probably shouldn't stay here tonight," he said. I braced myself for the suggestion that I go stay with our parents for a few days, or something along those lines, but it never came. "You can stay with us for now, if you want," he said instead.

It was fair to say the offer caught me off-guard, and part of that was the fact that, either accidentally or purposefully, he had let slip that Kat was living with him. I hadn't even considered that things were that serious between them, though I had no reason to since I'd only met Kat earlier that day.

"I guess... I can't really stay here until I at least get the door fixed," I said. "I don't even know what to do about it."

"Don't worry about that now," Kat said, finally speaking up. "You'll come stay with us and sort this mess out when you're ready."

"Okay," I said, somehow feeling some comfort in her definitive tone. She didn't make it sound like I'd be intruding at all, though I was sure I was at least a little.

"Good, now let's go pack some clothes for you," she said. "Sam, you stay here and, I don't know, clean up a bit or something."

"Why do I have to stay here?" he protested.

"You don't. You're welcome to come rifle through your sister's underwear if you want," Kat said sweetly.

Sam shook his head, and grinned ruefully in defeat. My opinion of Kat rose another notch as she once again handled my brother like someone who'd known him as long as I had. There weren't many girls I'd ever known who could put him in his place when necessary.

I led Kat to my room, not that it was hard to find, then mostly just stood to the side and absently watched as she packed a bag full of my clothes. She had turned out to be just what I needed, someone to take charge without being condescending or over-protective about it.

"Is there anything particular you want to take?" she asked me, and I shrugged guiltily as I realized just how useless I was being.

"I dunno, whatever's fine," I said.

"Okay, I'll just pack stuff for a few days and we can come back if you think of something."

I gave her what I hoped was a grateful smile, but otherwise mostly continued to stare off into space until she was done. We then returned back to where Sam was waiting for us. He'd been cleaning up a little in our absence; not necessarily putting things back where they were supposed to go, but at least getting them up off the floor for the most part.

"Ready to go?" he asked.

"I think so," Kat said, looking at me for confirmation.

I just nodded.

Sam closed the door as well as he could on our way out, but it wouldn't be much of a barrier to anyone trying to get in. Not that it mattered at this point. I really wasn't up to driving, so Sam drove my car and I rode in the passenger seat while Kat took his car.

"So, are you okay?" he asked after a few minutes of driving.

"Not really," I said. "But I'll live. Thanks for coming," I added as an afterthought.

"Well I couldn't very well not," he said. "You'd have been very annoyed if I hadn't."

A faint smile forced itself on me, despite my best efforts. "Yeah, I guess I would have. Still, thanks."

Sam looked a little unsure how to deal with my genuine gratitude, but to be fair it wasn't something he had to deal with often.

"Come on, you're my sister right?" he said. "I couldn't, like, just leave you."

He was right; I was his sister, and he was my brother. Sometimes it was nice to remember that he was more than just a pain in the ass.

****

I slept in my brother's spare bedroom that night. He and Kat unsurprisingly shared one room, and all I could do was try not to imagine what they would be up to in there. It took me longer to get to sleep than normal, partly because I was sleeping in an unfamiliar bed, and partly because I couldn't stop worrying about my place. Sure there really wasn't much more damage that could be done, so worrying at this point wouldn't do any good, but that didn't mean I could put it out of my mind easily.

Eventually I did get to sleep, and even slept in the next morning a little more than I usually did. I had no pressing desire to get out of bed even after I woke up, but I knew if I let myself lie there too long I'd probably drift off again. Much as I really, really didn't want to go, I did have work to get to at some point and there was no clock in the room for me to gauge the time by accurately.

As it turned out, I exited my temporary room just in time to find Kat getting ready to leave. She kissed Sam goodbye, then hugged me on her way out which was unexpected, but not unpleasant. Other than my parents, I couldn't remember the last time someone had hugged me. Let alone someone I'd known for less than twenty-four hours.

"Morning," Sam said.

He was seated at what passed for his dining table, though it was half covered with junk and barely had enough room left for eating in my opinion. I had always been a little fussier about those sorts of things than him.

"Morning," I replied, sitting down opposite him.

I wasn't hungry just yet, though I was sure I would be soon. Until I was it didn't seem worth trying to find something for breakfast.

"Hey," Sam said. "Feeling any better?"

"A little bit," I said. "I guess."

"Well, you could try hanging around being useless all day like I do sometimes," he said. "It usually works for me."

"Gotta go to work," I said regretfully. "Otherwise I'd actually be tempted."

"You could always call in sick or whatever. Or actually, the truth might be enough of an excuse depending on how sympathetic your boss is."

It hadn't even occurred to me to take the day off until Sam mentioned it. Then again, I'd always been the sort of kid who hardly ever faked being sick throughout my school career. I remembered doing it once and feeling far too guilty about it later to make it worthwhile.

"Nah," I said after a moment of thought. "I'm pretty sure it's going to be a waste of a day regardless, might as well get paid for it. It hasn't been that busy there lately anyway."

"Fair enough," Sam said. "Well, I have to get going too. Just lock up whenever you leave."

"Bye," I said.

As soon as Sam left, the temptation to skip work suddenly became much stronger. Perhaps because it felt more like no one would know, or maybe just because I wouldn't have minded a little alone time in what felt like more of a safe place than my own apartment. Honestly, it probably was a lot safer, even ignoring the fact that my place had been broken into the day before.

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