I cover my teeth and drop to the ground as quickly as gravity can move me. But he just laughs.
“Bad dream?” he asks, turning, and sits down beside me. The fluorescent I’d turned off is now back on, properly. It casts a harsh white light and dark shadow around boxes and through cobwebs into my corner. His face looks sharp and angular in the contrast.
“You were whimpering,” he says. Calmly. Remarkably so. “That’s how I found you,” he adds.
He places his hand between my ears and begins to rub my head.
Out of the corner of my eye, I can see a white bandage on his left shoulder. His chest is bare, and I can smell blood. But it’s already drying. His arm seems okay—he isn’t moving it much, but it isn’t hanging limply either. I can’t smell any bone or marrow.
Just a flesh wound, after all. We got lucky.
“I was waiting for you upstairs,” he says, still rubbing my head. His hand doesn’t tense, but I can’t help wondering if I’m missing a sign. He works his fingers gently into the muscles on my skull, behind my ears.
“Why didn’t you come see me?”
It’s not a question I want to answer. I’m not even sure if I can. But I can’t seem to muster too much care. His fingers work carefully into the skin beside my ears, all gentle, restrained strength. Back and forth. Back and forth. He knows exactly where to touch, how hard to push. Tension fades from my muscles in a soft tingling glow, and, against my better judgement, my fear drains away with it. With every stroke he tells me the very thing he hasn’t told me in so long. That he’s happy with me. That I’m his, and he’ll take care of me.
He’s my brother, and I have nothing to fear.
And I can’t resist him. I let out a long breath, wishing he would never take his hand way, wishing he would never stop. We’re here, together, against the world. And that’s all we need. I think I see him smile, though I can’t be sure without turning; but he strokes a little more firmly.
And then he stops. He removes his hand and says, “Come on, Tiergan. I want to talk to you.” I want to beg him for more, to let me stay in his care a little longer.
But as the glow fades, my better sense pushes itself back up from ecstasy. He’s in a good mood. He’s happy with me.
Keep it that way.
I stretch out and change.