being bold

They had all been more than a little curious as they had left after the viewing of the painting. Everyone snagging a cookie or two before they went on their way. Yael had waved them off, leaning lightly against Quentin as he did. He looked exhausted and Quentin knew it wasn’t all that surprising. This had been a lot of stress for a single young man to go through, after all.

“Why don’t we get some rest? Tomorrow is going to be a big day, all the setting up and preparing. We have to decide what we’re preparing for that meal. It’s been some time since we’ve last cooked for so many people.” Yael still was leaning slightly against him at that point though once the door closed and the last of their guest was one, he turned to his companion, one brow quirked slightly.
“What are you preparing?”

“That’s a surprise, love, please humour me and go with me on it all? Just think of it as having everyone over, it’s been forever and I feel like preparing food for everyone, something simple but delicious.”

“Hot pot?”

“The one with the meat and veggies and at times tofu where everyone cooks their food themselves in the broth? Rice and salads on the side?”

Yael nodded, rubbing his eyes as he started to walk away from the door. He felt absolutely exhausted at this point and he knew that sleep would do him some good.

“That is actually a wonderful idea, we’ve never done that before, not even with Eoghan and his trips around the world, we’ll just need to get at least two pots but that’s something I can do tomorrow. I can get some beef, some shrimp and veggies. I’ll look online to find more information and I’ll do all that shopping. On Friday afternoon we can start slicing and dicing stuff, sounds good?”

“Sounds good.”

So that was it there. They had sliced and diced, prepared plates, put them back in the fridge to keep certain four-legged fur balls from getting into the plates, they had prepared enough sauces they knew they’d have more leftovers than they knew what to do with it all. They had set up the table, prepared the broths (conveniently they used the broth Quentin had been preparing when Yael had finished his painting two days back), set everything up.

By the time their guests started arriving, the broths were beginning to bubble. Seats were taken at the table, plates handed out and, for this particular occasion, an occasion no one but Quentin understood the significance of yet, they even had wine. Even the twins were handed slight cups. Mira scrunched his nose at his own and was offered a glass of water instead.

The meal was eaten, the air filled with chatter and discussion about everything and nothing of importance, as usually was the case for their shared suppers. Several times over the course of the meal, Quentin left the table, looking into the fridge, as if to check to make sure that whatever he was worried about still was where it was meant to be.

Once the meal was done, he shooed everyone to the family room where the new painting had been hung onto the wall. Eoghan stayed behind along with Mira to help put things away, to help clear up the table. Once the table was clear, it was Eoghan’s turn to gently shoo Mira off to join the other, telling him they would be joining the lot of them shortly.

Finally alone with Quentin, Eoghan tilted his head somewhat to the side, a curious note escaping him. He looked down to the very nervous looking Quentin and set his hands on those shoulders. Quentin stopped his almost pacing and looked up, his eyes wide. There was a tiny hint of fear in them but Eoghan refrained from digging into the other’s mind.

“How about you tell me what this is all about?” He kept his voice low, knowing it wouldn’t carry over the talking being done in the family room.

Quentin licked his lips to moisten them as best as he could. He swallowed around a lump in his throat. Instead of answering, he opened the fridge and brought out a beautiful cake, already sliced in eight portions. Along with the cake he brought out a bottle of champagne.

Eoghan looked at both items, still confused and Quentin stepped closer. He moved to stand on the tip of his toes and once his lips were as close as he could manage to his friend’s ear, he whispered something. As he leaned back, Eoghan’s eyes widened. “Really?”

Breathing in deeply, Quentin nodded. He rubbed the back of his neck and rolled his shoulders. “I think this is the single boldest thing I’ll ever do in my life and I just want it to be right.”

Eoghan chuckled, patting Quentin on the shoulder gently. “Here, let’s just set the cake, along with the plates, the flutes, the forks and the champagne on this tray, we bring everything down to the family room. You do your thing and we pop open the champagne, sounds good?”

Again, Quentin licked his lips to try to get some moisture to them. He patted his pockets and nodded. “Okay.”

Eoghan smiled down to him once more and gathered everything onto the tray. Quentin walked to the family room, Eoghan nearly at his heels. The tray was set down and Quentin cleared his throat gently. Silence settled over their guests.

“Yael, could you come here, please?” Eoghan stepped to stand next to Lex, leaning comfortably against him. Yael moved away from the window and stepped closer. Once he was close enough, Quentin took Yael’s hand in his and eased down to one knee. Eoghan hid his grin as best as he could and the rest of their company stood, eyes just a little wide. Yael’s eyes were widest of them all.

“Yael, some people would think I’m crazy. A lot of people think I’m an asshole, I can’t stand most humans. When you entered my life, you changed me. You made me a better person, you helped me learn patience. I know our relationship hasn’t been an overly long one but every day, as I wake up, I tell myself that I couldn’t spend my life with anyone else. You’re all I want in life.”

He paused them, looking up to those icy-blue eyes, a film of tears covering them. “I don’t even know if we can make this work here but I don’t really care. I’m honestly doing this so you know how much you mean to me, so you know that I want to spend the rest of my life with you and that if you ever decided to move on, I think- no, I know I wouldn’t be able to let you go.”

As he offered those last few words, he clicked open the box he had been keeping in his pocket all meal long. It was a slim sort of box, black and velvety. Inside, a ring. It wasn’t overly fancy, it was a simple band with a long stone embedded into it. Inside, a few words engraved in a language long lost.

“Will you be mine until the very end of times?” The room was silent, eyes wide from all parties, even Eoghan who looked on, breath held as a single tear ran down Yael’s cheek. His lips pulled into a smile and he nodded. His other hand was in front of his mouth, as if unable to really believe what was going on, it didn’t seem as if it could be real, not at all.

Relief flooded him at that nod and Quentin slipped that simple, but oh so beautiful ring onto Yael’s finger. The fit was perfect.

He eased to his feet, Yael nearly throwing himself at Quentin and they hugged. Applause rose from their mock-crowd.

“This is so very wonderful, I’m almost jealous that Yael is the first one of us to get a ring.” He shot a glance to Lex who looked to Quentin and Yael in turn, the laughed and Eoghan blinked. “You guys are going to have to tell me what’s so funny. Later though, much later, for now, cake and champagne!”

He reached for the bottle, popping the cork and managing, surprisingly, to not get champagne foam everywhere. He filled in glasses while Lex took a moment to place the cake to the plates. He stepped to Eoghan however, a soft chuckle escaping him. “Thing is, I thought about putting a ring on that finger of yours, last Christmas. It’s what all that jewellery was meant for, I didn’t think we were ready for the ring itself.”

Eoghan looked up to him, his eyes widening again though he laughed in turn, handing out flutes as Lex handed out cake plates. This was a day that was meant to be celebrated to the very end and back.

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what you see

He couldn’t really remember the exact moment he had started working on this portrait. For its size alone, he figured the term ‘mural’ was best fitting but that wasn’t right either. It was on a large canvas, thus not a mural and it wasn’t simply a painting of one person from the shoulders up so a portrait wasn’t right either. He had no terms for it and it didn’t really matter. What mattered was that he was done.

He looked at it from all possible angles and he couldn’t find anything that might have seemed wrong or missing with it. The more he had worked on it, the more he was afraid he was doing too much but now that he looked at it, now that he saw it in the clear light of day as it poured into his studio, it was perfect.

Yael looked down to his paint covered arms and laughed. This wasn’t new. This was as far from new as it could ever had been possible. Working on this particular painting had left him with paint everywhere on his person, from his arms, to his face and up in his hair. He shook his head and wiped his hands clean on his pants, those were as stained as the rest. He opened the door to his studio and looked briefly out to see if he could spot his companion.

“Quentin?” He called out, voice thoughtfully quiet, almost afraid the other demon might have been busy in his own work room.

From the kitchen, the blond head peeked out, curiosity settled clearly into that face. Yael’s own brightened and he grinned. He almost waved his arms but managed to keep himself standing as still as he could manage. It wasn’t much, he was nearly bouncing on his toes. “Come see!”

Quentin, curiosity piqued even more, wiped his hands on his apron, having been in the middle of preparing some broth, and stepped out of the kitchen, to Yael’s studio and stepped inside once the other moved to the side. He didn’t have to wonder long about what he was supposed to look at, the painting was right there, almost life-size, almost. He stared at it for a long while, his mouth hanging slightly open at the sight.

“Yael that is so beautiful.” It was. As far as he was concerned, it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. “Want me to see if we can gather everyone in for a while after supper? I bet I can tempt most of them with the offer of hot tea, coffee or hot cocoa with some of those too delicious cookies you’ve made lately. I know we still have plenty of them.”

Quentin was rather pleased with himself, he’d managed to not eat his way through all of said cookies though it had been so very, absolutely tempting.

“Would you do that? I really want all of them to see it. I could show it to them Friday when we all get together but I don’t really want to bring it outside and to Eoghan’s place just for that.”

“I’ll call them, don’t worry. I’ll call Eoghan and he can see about everyone else. Why don’t you have a shower, you’re colourful again today. I’ll call while you shower and we can set it out in the family room once we’re both done with our current tasks and set it on the couch. It’ll be just perfect there. After that we’ll have to figure out where we’re putting it.”

“I’m almost done with the smaller one too, the one with the older type of clothes. I tried to stick with the clothes I imagine everyone wearing when they were younger and preferably from where they were born. It’s not as clashing as I thought it would be.” He laughed again, looking down to his arms. He really was covered, this time.

“I can’t wait to see it. Go on, get washed up, if I finish with the broth and the call before you’re done, I’ll head in to help you scrub yourself clean.”

The painting looked beautiful in their family room, sitting, for the time being, on the couch. There was a wide open space above it, right on that wall though it would have taken a bit more time than they could have spared right then to set it up. Later, they could hang it up and be reminded of the beauty that was their family, though only two of them blood-related, every time they stepped into that room.

Yael fidgeted, wringing his hands together as he waited and paced. Quentin had left him be for the time being, knowing that nervousness was more than likely to abound and there wasn’t much he could do about it. Yael needed the approval of their friends as far as this painting was concerned and it was out of his hands and into theirs.

Not long after they had set the painting up on its temporary resting spot, they came, all together, at once. Wearing light coats and not even the hint of a scarf. The weather had warmed significantly in the past few weeks and just two days away from the solstice, it was easy to see that spring was in the air.

“I’m grateful that you’ve all come here. When I called Eoghan, I didn’t really tell him why I wanted all of you here, why we, both of us,” he motioned to Yael who was joining them, still looking absolutely nervous, “wanted you here. I did bribe him with some of those delicious cookies Yael has made recently and I imagine it might be how he persuaded you all to come this way. So I’ll go and Yael can lead you to where you’ll be at least for the new few minutes. We’re not asking you to spend the night, but this is an important event in our lives, especially in Yael’s.”

With that said, Quentin disappeared back to the kitchen and all eyes turned to Yael. His eyes grew two sizes, the jitters of his first time ever in front of an audience robbing him of most of his thoughts. He stared blankly, his eyes unfocussed and Eoghan was the one to step forward, settle a gentle arm over Yael’s shoulders with a chuckle. “Just tell me where we’re going and we’ll go there, yes?”

Yael licked his lips to moisten them. When he managed words, they were so soft he barely heard them slip from his own mouth. “Family room, if you’d all please.”

Eoghan nodded, turning the wide-eyed demon around and he led him, and the rest of their group into the family room. Once there, his eyes fell on the painting and he released Yael who stepped to the side and went right back on to wringing his hands together. He watched as eyes widened and mouths opened slightly to gaping position. This was a good start, he didn’t see anything negative in anyone’s reaction, he felt already somewhat better, he felt less completely stressed out.

“Ah, I see you’ve all discovered why we asked you to come about.” Quentin’s voice broke through the silence as he weaved his way into the room itself, a tray of cookies in hand that he set down on the table in the middle of the room. He moved to settle at Yael’s side, slipping his arm along that slender waist.

“Yael, this is beautiful, I have no words.” Eoghan was the first to find his voice. He stepped closer, studying the details put into the painting itself. It was amazing. It was almost as though he was looking in a mirror.

The twins finally stepped closer themselves but Yael caught Cyrille’s gaze more than he did the twins’s own. He was confused, as if he didn’t understand how he’d made it into that painting himself. He looked to Yael a moment, his eyes wide, confusion absolutely clear as day before he looked back to the painting.

“I’ve been working on this painting since I’ve met Quentin, just about. On and off, I’d paint it, change it, modify it. Then, Eoghan came into our lives, I sketched him into it. Alexis was added, then the twins and Zora, though when she left I didn’t feel comfortable leaving her in the painting. Armin and finally though certainly not the least of addition, I’ve added you, Cyrille. You’re as much part of this family as everyone else. You’ve done so much for everyone in your own way, I don’t think we’d quite by the same without you. You deserve to be in this painting as much as everyone else.”

He paused, finding smiles all around as they looked at him. Courage settled into his bones then and he smiled, looking to his completed painting. “I was terrified some of you might not like it. This is the first time I’ve had so many people looking at my art and it is such a personal piece that I was terrified of what might come of it. Now I know that it was worth every second I’ve poured into it. Every shower I’ve had to take because somehow with this painting more than any others I ended up covered in paint from head to toe. It was worth everything.”

A group hug would have been symbolic then but perhaps it was asking for too much. Yael did find himself on the receiving end of several hugs by his friends, it was all he needed, they appreciated the work he had put in the painting and that was that.

“Before anyone goes anywhere, I’d like to offer that we do our shared meal this week here. There’s something special I’d like to do myself and I’d feel better if it was done here, if that’s all right with everyone.” Quentin looked around at the group, little nods coming from all parties though there was curiosity in their gazes one more. A curiosity he found in Yael’s gaze as well and that was the plan.

strange children

“I don’t get these kids.” Agni, sitting on the bench at the edge of the park, looks on as several children, almost a dozen really, run around the park, jumping into mud puddles before crouching down to gather that mud and fling it around.

“They’re a little strange, I give you that.” Cyrille, sitting besides him, tries to remember if he’s ever liked the idea of playing in the mud. He’s aware that mud-baths are supposed to be good for the skin but there’s also the fact that it’s not just every day mud that folks do use for that kind of thing.

“They’re just kids having fun?” Mira isn’t even looking his face is upturned to the sun, his eyes are closed and he’s relaxing where he’s at. The day is warm though it still requires a light jacket.

“They’re throwing mud at one another, Mira. I don’t know what’s so fun about that. Whoever their parents are, I don’t seem them around, I mean, I guess they could be around but I don’t see a single adult anywhere around these kids. There’s this one guy standing at the edge of the park and he’s been watching them but that’s it.”

“Maybe he’s their caretaker. Maybe they’re kids from an orphanage or one of those families that take in other people’s kids when they can’t take care of them themselves.”

“Foster homes?”

“Yeah.”

“I guess they could be but I don’t think they’re from an orphanage, too well dressed and I don’t even know that we have an orphanage here in Dunkerque.” Cyrille shrugs and cringes as one of the kid flings some mud in their direction. It lands several feet away but he feels no comfort in thinking they might just start throwing the stuff at strangers they don’t know because they feel like it.

Mira finally looks down from his sunning position, he notices the mud splat not far from them and then he looks between his brother and friend. “I think they’re getting comfortable with the situation, how about we find somewhere else to lounge at? We could have stayed home and enjoyed the sun from the roof, why didn’t we?”

Agni rolls his eyes though he laughed and he holds up his mostly empty smoothie glass. “We went out for something refreshing to drink, remember?”

“Oh, right.” Mira looks down next to his feet on the ground, his own empty glass sits there, he shakes his head with a soft snort. “Forgot about that.”

“That’s because you drank it all down like an idiot who’d been out in the desert for who knows how long without any water.” Agni snickered as he stretched to his feet, he stepped over the low chain that hung barely to his knees and stepped out of the park. Cyrille followed suit, Mira moving to their side, right as a mud ball splattered against the back of the bench they’d been occupying.

“I think we moved just in time.” Cyrille shook his head, not much caring for the idea of being struck by mud balls. “It’s a shame we can’t enjoy being outdoor in parks without being afraid that unruly kids will throw stuff at us just because they feel like it. I suppose it’s in how I was raised but I never threw shit like that at strangers, just for the hell of it.”

He shakes his head and drops his empty smoothie glass in a recycling bin as they walk passed one, Mira does the same and Agni drinks in the last few sips of his before he does as well.

“So where do we head now?”

“I’m itching for a swim.”

“Mira, you’re always itching for a swim but for once I think I might not actually mind, I think having ourselves a bit of a swim could be nice and we’d be safe away from mud-throwing children.” Agni stretches, his arms held high above his head as he does so. He groans softly as he feels something pop along his back and sigh.

“So we head home?” Cyrille chuckles, things had been going much more smoothly since they all had talked. Just sat down in the living room, on the floor, knees touching and they had talked about everything and nothing. Brought up how they felt about their current situation, discussed worries and other things that had surfaced in their minds, it had done them some good.

“We head home.”

“I’m honestly glad you guys have this pool, you have no idea. I love swimming, Magali would take me swimming everywhere she could when we were out and traveling the world. Even if our parents had planned other things for us, she’d take at least one day out of our trip and we’d go swimming wherever we could. The hotel pool, the nearest lake or river, it was so wonderful.” Cyrille sighs softly at the memories. He knows now that with his sister settled in Spain, he’ll see her less often but it doesn’t bother him. It will make the visits all the more important and wonderful.

Mira pulls him out of his thoughts as he jumps into the pool, splashing both Cyrille and Agni as he does. Agni blinks, looking down at the little drops of water as they run on down his legs. “If I’d wanted to be wet, Mira, I’d have gone swimming, you know? Oh wait.”

He laughs, as though his job is the funniest thing in the world. He slips into the water much more smoothly and lets himself float on his back. He swims better now than he had before though he still isn’t all that comfortable by the idea of being in the deep end. He leaves that for Mira who is an absolute fish while in the water.

Cyrille joins the twins, sighing at the warmth of the pool. The day above them, beyond the panes of the solarium is bright and clear, a few clouds in the sky but they are rare. It is a beautiful day. Too cold to be out swimming in outdoor pools and that is why he appreciates his life now. It feels like every little detail was taken into account and he can get away with doing things during certain seasons that he couldn’t while he still lived at his house.

From the side, not unseen but mostly left alone, Armin watches the trio swim. He smiled lightly, having waved them in when they had stopped in the doorway upon spotting him. The pool wasn’t a private area and he would not have kept them out. Armin knows that he swims poorly but it doesn’t stop him from appreciating a bit of covered sun. He knows he’s mainly safe from sunburns where he’s at but he can still lounge calmly in a chair and have some of that wonderful sun on his skin without anyone judging him for how he looks.

He thanks Eoghan in his heart every time he comes into a situation like this one. His shorts reveal his legs, both of the, the ‘good’ one and the ‘bad’ one. He feels no shame in letting them be seen, at least by those he now calls his family. This is not something he ever could have managed, or ever will manage with anyone else. Eoghan is the one who keeps on telling him that he has nothing to hide and that he should feel no shame for having been born looking somewhat different from the rest of the world. He’s unique, not a monster and that is all there is to him.

He listens to the twins as they splash one another, Cyrille not far from them and he sighs, it is an absolutely content sound. He closes his eyes, letting the heat of the day wash over him and the pleasant happiness warm him inside. This is a kind of life he knows he never would have had if Eoghan hadn’t accidentally woken up his gift and even if an opportunity to go back in time presented itself, he would not take it.

Yes, he still misses Andoni on some days but the ache is no longer a gaping hole in his heart or his soul. This life is good as it is now.

raindrops

Spring was finally beginning to settle in. The snow was melting little by little, uncovering things that might have been lost within its wet and cold arms for the past few months. On this one particular day, the first show of spring’s return was the rain. Armin had woken up to the little platter of raindrops falling against his windows.

To him, it had been a beautiful sight, a sign that warmth was returning to their lives and that their chances of another snowfall was lessening with every passing day. He had no issues with snow, he loved it to a point but when there was enough slow that he had to struggle to get through it with his crutch, there just was too much for him to love it anymore.

As they all walked into the library from the backdoor, Mira lingered outside, his face turned up to the sky, his face set to elation as still cold raindrops fell and hit him. He laughed and Cyrille had to step back outside to snag his wrist to drag him inside. “It’s still cold as can be for a spring day out there, Mira, we had to deal with your brother being sick almost two weeks ago, I’d rather you not get sick too though I know you’re a pretty quiet and calm sick from what I’ve heard.”

Mira pouted at him somewhat but went inside with the tugging. He wiped his face clean and dry of the water and his feet of the dirt. There were mud puddles everywhere at this point, between the snow melting and the rain now adding up to it. The last thing he wanted was to track mud into their beautiful library.

They had more visitors now than he could ever recall seeing during the regular hours, it was warming to know that this place was better in every way. It was warmer, it had more room, the lights were brighter, there just was nothing negative about it all except that some people had mentioned that it was a little further out of their way but that they appreciated all the good changes enough that it wasn’t such a bad thing.

“Had to drag him inside again, huh? Just you wait, this summer, we’ll have to drag him inside whenever it rains and he’ll be soaked to the bone and you’d think he’d have just gotten done getting laid for how he acts.” Agni snickered softly, Mira blinking at him and rolling his eyes.

“It’s not as though you’d know how it feels to feel pleasure this way, Agni. I’m pretty sure you still haven’t even learned to give yourself a hand in the morning or in the afternoon or whenever your body seems to request it.”

“I have too jerked off before.”

Cyrille could only look between the siblings, amused in ways he couldn’t begin to explain. This was hardly the kind of discussion to have in a library and he could only be glad that they weren’t actually opened to their visitors yet. “Honestly guys, you’re having a fight about who knows how to jerk off best? That is so last season.”

He laughed, the sound soft and low before he walked off to head to the front so they could put all of their coats away. The twins exchanged a look, stuck their tongue out to one another and followed him to the front where Armin was already looking through the books that had been dropped in overnight.

“Now that you three are done talking about I’m not sure what way at the back over there, I’m sure one of you wouldn’t mind helping me sort through these books while the other two go about unlocking out front doors, yes?”

The day went by without much of a hitch following the opening of the doors, visitors came in, some went to the computers, a few parents dropped their kids off into the children’s area while they sought out the books they had come from, some settled into the reading sections and others simply came, found their books, stopped by the front desk and stepped back out into the grey day.

Mira kept their earlier discussion out of his mind as he placed books back where they belonged and made sure that others he found in places they weren’t meant to be went back to their own shelves as well. The work was routine in its own way but he didn’t mind. He could work without worrying that his fingers might try to fall off or that the heat might get so bad he’d feel like fainting because of it. The place was beautiful, there was low, almost inaudible classical music playing from placed speakers all over the place, it was so soft it could almost be forgotten about.

Agni didn’t step anywhere near him, keeping to his side of the library. He was brooding somewhat, not much caring to talk about his private life in the way they had while at the back of the library. Perhaps it just had felt too unfamiliar, this sudden step into a world he hadn’t really tried to discover yet. Of course he had lied to cover himself. He didn’t much see any need to touch himself yet though there had been mornings when he had woken up hard. He’d only ignored it, turning to the aid of a cold shower to get it to go away. He really was only waiting for the right time to try, that was all.

He doubted Mira had tried anything either, maybe he was only putting on airs so their friend wouldn’t think them slow to discover that side to life. He didn’t know and he didn’t care much. Eventually he did let go of the whole thing, focusing instead of checking books over and putting them where they belonged.

As they closed the doors, that afternoon, the rain had stopped, replaced by a fine mist that shrouded their surroundings in a pale cloak. Cyrille drove them back home, careful of where he went since he couldn’t see too far ahead of himself. It was just one of those things he didn’t care much about when spring came around. Spring and autumn both had days of mist turning to heavy fog that made getting anywhere impossible as he couldn’t even see his hands in front of his face. It was nowhere near that bad at that point but he was glad when he parked the car in the building’s driveway.

“You guys go up first without me, I need to help Armin bring in a box of book into his apartment and I’ll be up once that’s in.” Cyrille stepped around the car and to the back, he popped open the trunk and hefted the box out of it, moving towards the building itself. Armin was not far from him but it was Mira who opened up the door for him.

Cyrille stepped inside and Mira stepped out of the way, holding the door open so both Armin and Agni could step inside as well. Once all were within, he released the door. Cyrille stepped down the hallway, Armin a few paces behind him and Agni was turning to head up the stairs. Mira looked between the three a moment before he followed his brother up.

“I’m sorry for this morning, Agni. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. My mouth went off before I could really think it through.” Mira stopped at the top of the stairs, curling his fingers around his brother’s wrist to stop him as well so they could talk. He knew he could have waited until they were in the apartment but he felt bad, had felt bad since lunch had rolled around and it had weighed on his mind since then.

Agni blinked at him, looking down to his caught wrists though he didn’t try to pull them away. He knew he couldn’t be mad at his brother, not for long. The longest had only been a few days and it had been back there, when Mira had decided that they needed their own separate rooms.

“It’s okay. You caught me by surprise. This is just one of those things I hadn’t honestly really given any thought about and I didn’t feel comfortable talking about it where we were. I guess, if you want to, we could talk about it tonight though, I mean, it’s not a subject I can imagine brothers talking about but we’ve never really hidden anything from one another before so it wouldn’t be such a bad discussion to have, would it?” He shrugged, a little uncomfortable by what he was offering, what he was asking.

Mira tilted his head to the side, he released his brother’s wrist and enfolded him in his arms, hugging him tightly. Only a heartbeat passed before Agni was returning that hug, a fierce hold on his brother. They only parted ways after Cyrille had made it up the stairs and stopped next to them, a look of worry settled into his face. The twins shook their head a moment, resting their forehead together.

“We’ve been drifting apart for a while, I think it’s time for a good and long discussion about where we are in our lives. We should do that more often to this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.” Agni murmured those words before they straightened.

“We’re fine, Cyrille, I promise. I think we just both realized we’ve been a bit distant to one another lately and we found out how to fix it, I promise.”

“I just don’t want you guys to not be friends anymore, that’s all I honestly want. I need the three of us together.”

“We’re not going anywhere, are we, Mira?”

“Nowhere at all that isn’t right here with the two of you. Let’s head in, I’m starving, we can have ourselves something to eat and then we can sit down and just talk and then talk some more.”

“Sounds perfect.”

“Do you guys want to do this with just the two of you and should I make myself sparse?” Cyrille headed back to their door, opening it for them as he did. They stepped inside, quiet for a few moments. Mira shook his head first.

“I think we can have this discussion all three of us together.”

aftermath

Curled miserably on the couch, Agni tries to ignore the churning of his stomach. He looks at the empty container of sour candy with reproach, as though it had ruined his whole life before he closes his eyes with another groan. He feels pathetically ill and it is most unpleasant.

This is a first in his life and he wishes he would never have to go through it again. He knows there is nothing he can do about it at that moment but live through it and learn from his mistakes.

Not far from him, he hears his brother and their friend talk together, their voices are low, whispered notes that he can’t focus on. He breathes in and out slowly through his nose, not much caring to breathe through his mouth else he throw up again in the trash bin they’ve left not far from him.

“What happened, exactly?” Cyrille looks over to the curled teenager before he looks away. They have wrapped Agni in a blanket and left a bin next to him, in case he feels the need to throw up again. He doubts there is much left to throw up as he’s rather certain that all the sour candy he’d eaten has already come back up.

“He had bought the container of that sour candy he loves so much in order to celebrate, we went through our exams for history, the last ones we were meant to go through, I passed mine with flying colours but he failed his. Just by a few points but he failed and Eoghan said he’d have to take it again. Cue him stuffing his face with his candy to forget the bad news.”

“Mira, I was gone for all of half an hour, you’re telling me he ate through all of his candy in half an hour?”

“Twenty minutes, I’d say.”

“No wonder he’s sick. You want to keep an eye on him while I head back down to the store? I know what to get him, he needs to at least keep hydrated and in a way that’ll stay down.”

Mira shrugs gently, a wry smile finding his lips though he sighs and closes his eyes, rubbing the back of his neck as he does. “I have nowhere else to be though I was thinking of asking Eoghan or Armin for a miracle remedy if there’s any. Just come back soon, please.”

“I’ll be in and out, I’ll head to the closest corner store and once I’m back and trying to get him to drink the stuff, you can head up and check in with Eoghan to see if he might know something though I don’t think there’s much we can do, else than keep him hydrated.”

“He what?” Eoghan frowns as he lets Mira in, closing the door behind him and walking him to the kitchen.

“When you brought us our test results back, he started eating his way through that big container of sour candy he’s bought. Now I’m pretty sure he’s thrown it all back up already but he’s miserable and he can barely take a few steps without feeling dizzy and wanting to throw up again. Cyrille got him some sports drink of sorts, he said it was to help him stay hydrated but I wanted to check with you to know if there was anything we could make for him or give him that would help him along.”

“That is one poor coping mechanism.” Muttering, Eoghan looks through his herbs and spices, knowing he might have something he can put together to at least help a little though he knows it won’t be much. It could soothe the stomach enough, at least. “I can probably manage to prepare him a mix of herbs to steep in hot water, a tea that could help his stomach settle down. I would feel better knowing it came from Simon at the shop but that would take longer to get to him and back, then steep it all up than it is for me to try to recall the ingredients. Can you get some water heating on the stove? We’ll prepare it up here and you can bring it down to him once it’s cooled.”

Mira nods, filling the kettle with water and setting it on the cooking top to heat up. With that done, he steps back and out of the way as he only watches Eoghan. The man digs through his spices, most of them Mira still has never heard off and he puts little quantities of this and that into a tea bag.

After five or so minutes, he nods and closes the bag, sealing it with its little string to pull the top closed. He sets it in a large pitcher and Mira blinks at him, opening his mouth to ask his question but closing it when Eoghan chuckles softly and shakes his head. “I’m preparing more than less, that way you’ll have extra to give him throughout the day. About a cup of the stuff should be enough for a few hours and it can be taken hot or cold, it’s what’s in the bag that helps.”

Eoghan knows it’s not perfect, far from, Simon would have known better but the herbal shop is nearly at the other side of the town and it would have taken them too long to get there.

Once the water is boiling, Eoghan fills the pitcher up to the brim, drops the tea bag in it and sets a five minute timer on the microwave, letting it count down, second by second until it beeps. Once it does, he pulls the bag out and sits in on a plate to the side. He puts a cloth around the pitcher and offers it over. “It is going to be piping hot but it should cool down a little bit by the time you’ve gone back down. Just fill in a glass three-quarter full for him and have him drink it up. He might not like the taste but he has no choice if he wants to get better, hear me?”

“Thank you, Eoghan.”

“You’re welcome, now get.”

“That stuff smells pretty bad.” Cyrille leans over the still somewhat steaming glass of tea, scrunching up his nose as the smell of it. Mira shrugs gently, leaving the pitcher on the counter to allow it to finish cooling down. He then takes the glass to his brother, kneeling down next to him.

Agni looks at him, misery all over his face, he scoots up just slightly, barely, so he can at least be mostly vertical and he curls his fingers around the warm glass.

“This is going to taste pretty bad but you have to drink it all down. Eoghan said it will help your stomach feel better. I have more and you’ll likely be needing more throughout the day but only some hours apart. It all depends on how you’ll feel.” Mira sighs but steps back and away, letting his brother sip slowly at the cup. He utters not a single word but it is written all over his face that whatever is in there tastes terrible.

Cyrille watches from a distance, trying not to feel guilty. He is the one who helped the twins discover these candies. Of course, Mira cares little for them but Agni’s adoration for the sour little bites have obviously turned to a bad thing. He wonders if the teen will ever eat another sour candy again after this little issue, however. He shakes his head at the thought, hoping that Agni has learned his lesson well enough that he will leave those candies be, at least for a while yet.

When his glass is empty, Agni sets it down, feeling his stomach already settling down somewhat, despite the terrible taste in his mouth. His throat no longer burns from all the throwing up he has done. He cares little for what little he has ingested but he can understand natural medicine to a point and knows it’s for his own good.

“I’ll help you study for the next test, Agni. I looked at your test answers and it’s mostly a few numbers you’ve switched around, stuff you know but probably didn’t notice were written jumbled up.” Mira’s voice is soft but Agni ignores him for the time being, not even wanting to think about the test for the time being. He knows he didn’t fail by much but still he failed and it annoys him to no end.