Jander awoke early the next morning to loud cracks of thunder overhead. He was cold, his hair was still damp, and he was sweating profusely. A nightmare had driven him, running, but simply not having the speed to escape some faceless yet ever present threat. He rose from his bed, intending to get a drink for his parched throat, but found vertigo hit him swiftly, sending him tumbling into a heap on the floor. Grasping onto furniture, he managed to walk the few meters to his brother's room, where he fell to a sitting position before the lower bunk. He poked Zeke.
"I feel sick." He procured.
Zeke awoke, the latter day's thoughts gone from his mind. He furrowed his brown in concern. Studying his brother for a moment, he put a hand on Jander's forehead, and the other on his own.
"Hm, you have a fever." He said. "You don't look well at all."
Jander whined, burying his face in the blankets before him. "Uuuuhhh." He sniffled.
Zeke sighed. "Come on, let's have mum and dad take a look at you." He lifted him up, in the process brushing his hair. "Hey, why is your head all wet?"
"Shower..." Jander managed through his chattering teeth.
Frowning, Zeke began moving Jander to their parents room one floor below.
Is it my fault he's ill? He took a shower... A cold shower... Must have been last night after...
As they made their way downstairs, another crack of lightening and blast of thunder rattled the old windows. The wind blew noisily, spiraling down the large chimney located in the den, producing an eerie whistling sound.
Zeke knocked lightly on their parent's door before entering.
"Mum, dad, Jander seems to have the flu." He murmured, pulling his brother in front of him, as if submitting proof of his conviction. Their mother was the first up, throwing back the pastel blue linen, gliding over in her floor-length night-gown, checking her son's temperature with the back of her hand, asking him about symptoms and how he felt.
"Well." She finally concluded, crossing her arms. "Well have to tuck you right into bed until you get better. That was very silly going to bed with wet hair. You know better than..." She prattled on, eliciting nods from both Zeke and Jander every time she paused for conformation. Finally she ended her tirade, instructing Zeke to take Jander back to bed while she readied some ice water and extra coverlets.
While slowly leading his half-stumbling brother back to his room, he studied Jander's profile. He was probably too distracted by his sickness to care that Zeke was so close.
He seemed very repelled by my advances before, now he seems... aloof, not really caring... It's nice, though. I get to be close to him, feel his heat and the softness of his clothes, the way he smells like that shampoo only he uses.
As Zeke was tucking his brother in, piling blankets over his prone body, Jander watched him.
"You gonna stick around... Take care of me?" He asked meekly, blue eyes wide, and slightly bleary. His cheeks were flushed, and his hair, now dry, was a tousled blond mess, thick spiky strands trailing over his forehead and cheeks.
"Sure. I'm not going anywhere."
Jander seemed placated by this, but narrowed his eyes slightly. "You won't try anything funny?" He grabbed the blankets, pulling them to his chin as if to amour his body against his brother. Zeke contemplated for a moment, swiftly crawling beside his brother, on top of the blankets. "Can I stay just like this?"
"Then, no. Nothing funny... Until you're better." He chuckled at Jander's attempt at staring daggers. So endearing was the expression, Zeke wrapped his arms around his brother in spite of himself. He smiled as he felt Jander settle, sighing into sleep. Once his twin's breathing slowed to a slumbering pace, Zeke propped himself up on his elbow, looking down on Jander. He pushed a few loose strands of hair away from the other's warm cheek, kissing it softly.
I wonder if he still thinks this is some egocentric vain thing I'm doing... Sometimes I wish I could read all your thoughts, Jander... I want to know what you really think of me... And what you're going to do when you're well again...
Jander rolled over in his sleep, arms cupped to his chest, snuggling over to where Zeke lay.
"Don't leave, eh?" He mumbled in his feverish unconsciousness.
Late that night the rain cleared, leaving the skies full of sparkling stars upon stars. Zeke was awake still, being well enough to not need the entire day's sleep. He also didn't let himself fall asleep when the urge came, wary that his brother may take a turn for the worse while he was dozing. Much to his surprise, Jander woke around 2:00 AM, his fever completely gone, but nonetheless, groggy.
"Mmm... What?" Were Jander's first waking words, before his eyes cleared and he began to consciously look around, surveying the room. A half-melted bowl of ice water and a cloth sat on a chair beside the head of his bed, which was piled high with blankets, and housing both him and his brother.
Jander froze, looking owl-eyed at Zeke, who made a placating motion with his hands, before whispering a fairly rocky explanation.
"See... Jander... This is what happened." He scolded himself for sounding so guilty when nothing had happened. "... You woke up early today... Well, yesterday, and came to my room. You had a fever because you went to bed and caught a cold... So I stayed and took care of you... Yea."
Jander still didn't move, frozen in an aghast pose, watching every move his brother made. When Zeke motioned to touch his shoulder, Jander all but flew off the bed into a fighting stance some ways away.
"Don't think I forgot!" He shrilled, fighting to keep his voice down as to not awake his parents.
Zeke took a deep breath, closing his eyes in the process, laying down, facing the ceiling. "I know. I don't want you to forget." He turned and looked at Jander, who relaxed slightly, his expression melting from rage to confusion. Zeke turned back to the ceiling, closing his eyes and stretching. He crossed his arms behind his head, thinking. "You know... I've felt this way for some time, Jander... I just never told you, because I was afraid my admission would ruin everything I'd built for myself, I simply hid the fact I love you... In more than a brotherly way." Zeke could hear Jander make a small wincing noise. "... But... Now... I see that what I've done so far doesn't matter. Grades aren't everything, pleasing parents and teachers isn't everything... It's getting that I can't do either; get good marks, or appease the professors. It's time I did something I really want to do... But before I got to that, I saw you, and... I couldn't really help the fact my emotions came out the way they did. I'm not apologizing, Jan... I'm just saying... It's nothing new."
Through all this, Jander's expression changed, slowly diverging from the disgust and repulsion he felt toward Zeke, to a genuine concern, and, finally, a sympathetic worry.
"Because you did well on that one proficiency test, and I didn't... It could be me, right now, suffering through tons of work I have to study three times harder than other gifted kids to complete..." Jander lowered his head. "And then... Have all the people I respect tell me I could do better... If I gave up distractions... Like friends and sports..." Jander looked up through his unruly bangs at his brother. "So you aren't really all that studious... We are the same."
Zeke sat up, hanging his legs off the side of the bed. "That's right..."
Jander looked at Zeke, the human mirror of the sadness he felt for a long moment before something within him snapped. "I'm sorry, Zeke! I want you to be happy, I want you to have fun and be like me, I want you to be around forever, but I don't want you!" With that, he ran out, to Zeke's room, where he locked the door and crumpled to the floor, sobbing.
Please, please let Zeke understand. Please, if anybody is listening, let him know that life is a lot of things, and he can survive just being himself- he doesn't need me, he doesn't need to be the perfect student or the perfect son... Please let him choose to live.
After a long bout of sobbing, Jander slowly recovered. He stood, meandering around Zeke's room. It was very impersonalized, only holding a bunk bed, the computer table and system, and a large bookcase filled with dictionaries, reference manuals, and encyclopedias. Exhausted, Jander collapsed on his brother's bed and slept.
Zeke couldn't sleep. He still had a strange instinct about having his brother in his room. Years of driving themselves apart as two different people with diverse interests had made Zeke particularly protective of his personal things- the objects that defined him as him. Being in his brother's room now, the cluttered space, unkempt, full of sports paraphernalia, and plastered with pictures of women and bands made Zeke feel he had a tenuous hold on himself.
Am I so interchangeable with my brother? He'd be just like me... If that once incident... That one
test was in reverse. Wouldn't he? Zeke thought for a long while, gauging Jander's reactions. No, he
would have stood up for himself when teachers pressed too hard. He would have said 'enough', when
I said 'okay'. But even if I start to do things for myself, will I ever be like him? Zeke frowned. All
these years he had spent attempting to distinguish himself from Jander, and now, in the most
tremulous time of his life, he attempted once again to assimilate with his twin.