whatxsarahxsaid: (Default)
[personal profile] whatxsarahxsaid
Title: Break Me Softly
Author: [livejournal.com profile] whatxsarahxsaid
Pairing(s): Bill/Tom
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: The characters depicted in this work of fiction are based on the personas of real people. I do not know these people personally so I cannot say this happened. I highly doubt it. Please don't sue me, I'm a very poor university student. You won't get anything from me, I promise.
Warnings: Uhhhhh....twincest? Nothing too bad, I think.
Summary: On the brink of a well deserved holiday, illness strikes Bill and Tom volunteers to stay behind and nurse his brother back to health, never knowing the ramifications that would follow.
FQF Prompt: "10. Either Tom or Bill get slightly injured and the other twin freaks out, realizes their feelings and confesses."
Author's notes: Written for [livejournal.com profile] th_fanfic's Tokio Hotel Fuh-Q-Fest for the twin's and Gustav's birthday. This was betaed by my lovely sister who is not even a fan of Tokio Hotel, [livejournal.com profile] letitbegin. (If you're a fan of DBSK, go read her fanfictions! *shakes fist*) All other mistakes are mine.


Drawing near to their destination after a two hour car trip following their final performance of the year, Tom wondered if he’d prefer being in only a local band as he shifted restlessly in the seat of the tour bus. He reached above him to turn out the reading lamp and shoved aside the magazine he had absently been trying to read: People. One of Bill’s picks, no doubt, he thought. He looked up, his eyes slowly growing accustomed to the dark and sudden flashes of light from the road: other poor souls stuck on the highway of Germany in the early hours of morning following midnight. He heard the heavy, lulling breathing of Gustav to his right and envied his ability to sleep anywhere, in any position.

Sliding back irritably into his seat, he turned to see Bill and Georg softly talking together in front of him. He strained his ears to catch a glimpse of what they were discussing but it was an attempt in vain so he settled for just watching the two, shifting his attention between them: Georg's lively, bright expressions which were often followed by shier, gentler smiles. Bill’s face remained stiller than the former’s, but maintained a light of its own. Tom smiled slightly, a calming feeling brought on by the familiarity of his twin coursing through his body. He looked away but continued to look towards the two periodically until his glances towards Bill turned to stares as his newfound calm was destroyed by an increasingly unsettled feeling.

“Bill,” he said suddenly, breaking the gentle murmur of whispers and road.

Bill looked up, surprised, his large, dark eyes focusing on the dark figure behind him. “Yeah?”

“Are you okay?” he asked.

Bill frowned and looked towards Georg as though for an explanation. “I feel fine, why?”

“You don’t look yourself.”

“I have a small headache and am tired,” Bill admitted, though still confused. “That’s it, though.”

“You look the same to me,” Georg said. He smiled back towards Tom, “you must be imagining things.”

Tom looked down and didn’t say anything, frowning at their rejection of him. He was sure there was a certain reservation in Bill’s mannerisms that weren’t usually present. He glanced back towards him, now slightly more subdued, as though the suggestion of being ill suddenly made him more cautious. He shifted around in his seat restlessly as a small cold chill of unease began to settle in the pit of his stomach. He noticed that Bill was still gazing at him with confusion etched on his tired face. Bill gave Tom a slight, but an oddly tight smile when he noticed he'd been caught staring at his brother. Tom forced a smile of his own and watched Bill turn away to murmur a comment on something Georg had just said.

Tom sighed inwardly and decided that if no-one else was going to care, neither was he. He slumped back into his seat and turned to stare out of the window at the passing cars, on their way to whatever it was they were going to. Tom always liked to look out of the window, or just sit in a public place and watch the people. Though, he was finding it harder and harder to find it possible to do so without being recognized. When he was younger, he and Bill used to play a game where they'd make up a story as to why one of the cars was on the road. They would be fantastic stories where one car was on their way to the hospital because their wife was in labor with their first child. Or, one car was late in picking up a friend at the airport, and they were in for an earful for being late. Tom knew Bill had grown out of that ridiculous game, but Tom still wondered every time he looked out of a window at the crowded world around them.

Gustav shifted in his seat to the left and started to snore lightly in his sleep. Tom slid down in his seat with a groan. Turning around, Bill grinned and mouthed, we’ll be there soon. Tom grunted lightly and rested his head on the window. At least Gustav wasn't doing his full snoring that could rival a bear in hibernation, he thought.

After fifteen minutes or so, David Jost turned around from the front and told them to gather their things because they would be arriving back at the house in several minutes. Tom shook Gustav lightly, who mumbled something, but Tom couldn't make out more than the words, "much later, please." Tom shook Gustav harder and called his name.

"Wha?" he said, his voice slurred with sleep.

"We're almost there. Get your shit together." Tom reached underneath his seat and brought out his knapsack and started shoving the things he brought out to occupy himself with during the ride. By the time he was finished, they were pulling up in front of their studio house. Shortly after the twin's 18th birthday, needing more room and personal space, Tokio Hotel was moved into a much larger house. The entire bottom floor was dedicated to their studio, while they lived on the upper floor. The move had taken a lot of energy and time, but it was worth it in the end. Everyone had their own room in which they could truly make it theirs.

"At last we arrive at our destination! Where our humble beds are crying with the need to be slept in," cried Georg. Bill smiled that strangely tight and reserved smile, as though he was hiding something.

"You're retarded," Tom remarked, helping Bill by picking up his bag and shouldering it. Georg winked and wiggled his eyebrow. Tom snorted and walked off the bus.

When Tom stepped out into the night air, he took a long drawl of the cool, fresh air. After several hours in the van, fresh air was heaven. He stomped through the grass and noticed the night's dew had already collected on the ground. Glancing behind him, he noticed that Georg and Gustav were pushing and shoving one another in a friendly manner, racing to get to the door; Bill was walking slowly behind them, shaking his head and shaking with silent laughter.

Once inside, everyone disappeared to their rooms, saying few words and full of intentions of getting some rest before the morning could really begin. Tom opened the door to his room and groaned, he'd left mountains of clothes on his bed and desk in an earlier attempt to look for a favorite shirt. He pushed his way through the door and shut it behind him with a click. Walking over to his desk, he turned on his lamp and surveyed the rest of the damage. He set down his knapsack, threw off his hats and put his hands on his hips.

"It can't be helped," he muttered. Walking to the bed, he shoved the collected mess of clothing and miscellaneous items off onto the floor. He winced and berated himself for leaving this mess to come home to in the first place. Although he was slightly messy, he didn't like things to be messy to this degree. He fell heavily on the bed and glanced at the clock for the first time in hours. The bright green digits glared at him: 4:17. Swearing, Tom stood up and changed into an old t-shirt and sleep shorts, went out into the hall and headed for the bathroom to take care of his nightly absolutions.

As he passed by Bill's room, he noticed it was cracked open and a small sliver of light shone out into the hall, lighting a small patch. He knocked lightly and pushed open the door. Bill was sitting on the edge of his bed, struggling to pull off one of his boots.

"Hey," he said looking up. Tom nodded a greeting and leaned on the doorframe.

"How's the headache?"

Bill rolled his eyes and winced at the movement, "It does seem to be increasing, but I'll live, I think."

"Yeah." Bill raised an eyebrow.

"You need something?" he asked as he stood to put away his boots.

"No, I just wanted to say goodnight," Tom said, straightening up.

Bill smiled and took out a brush from one of his bags. "Goodnight." Tom nodded and went back into the hall, leaving the door open a crack.

Entering the bathroom, Tom looked at his reflection in the mirror as he brushed his teeth. His face was pale from lack of sleep; there were dark circles under his eyes, and there was a dark red rim around his eyes from the sleep deprivation. Won't get the ladies looking like this, he thought. Finishing in the bathroom, he went back to his room, set his alarm, turned off the light and collapsed in the middle his bed. He crawled under the soft, comforting warmth of the blankets and fell asleep a few seconds after his head hit the pillow.

***

A sudden, piercing, rhythmic beeping noise jolted Tom from a fitful sleep. Rolling onto his back, he pulled his arm from the tangle of blankets and slammed it down across the alarm, knocking over something on the nightstand in the process. Groaning, he slowly peeled his gummy eyes open and peered into the brightly lit room. Automatically, he swung his feet over the side of the bed and placed them on the floor. The chill of the hardwood floors seeped through his skin and helped to wake Tom up further. Glancing at the time, he remembered why there was an excited fluttering in his heart: they were going on holiday for a week. They were all going to Kitzbühel for some much needed rest, and to try their hand at skiing. Tom was looking forward to just getting away, while he knew Bill was looking forward to doing some extravagant shopping. Georg and Gustav, he knew, were the only ones looking forward to doing some actual skiing.

There was something else besides the excitement of a holiday bubbling through his veins. He was feeling decidedly unnerved. A strange feeling of uncertainty settled in his chest and made his heart flutter uncomfortably. His heart skipped a beat and he quickly sat on the edge of his bed, grasping his head between his hands. I'm just nervous about the trip, he thought, nothing more. But he couldn't fully convince himself. He smoothed down his long dreads, stood up and stretched out the kinks in his back.

He quickly changed into a large t-shirt and worn jeans and picked up a luggage bag from his closet. Glancing around the room, he promised himself he would clean up the mess if he had time before he left. Digging through the tangles of clothing, he folded and shoved items into the bag.

Thirty minutes later, Tom closed the door to his much tidier room and began to drag his over-packed luggage down the hall and down the stairs. Walking into the entrance hall, he placed his bags down by others and went back upstairs to the kitchen in search for breakfast.

As he entered the kitchen, Gustav was washing his breakfast plate.

"Good morning," he said, grabbing a banana and a bowl.

Gustav nodded in greeting and started to dry his plate. "Are you all packed? We're leaving at 9."

"I'm all set. I put everything by the door," he said as he poured cereal into the bowl and started to slice up the banana. Gustav reached in the refrigerator and handed Tom the milk as he sat down.

"Now we're just waiting for Georg and Bill?" Tom said through a mouthful of cornflakes.

Gustav shook his head, "No, just Bill. Georg is out buying some snacks for the trip down."

Tom nodded and ate quickly his breakfast as Gustav picked up that morning's newspaper and started to read with a disgruntled look. After several comfortable minutes of silence, they heard the front door open and Georg strolled into the kitchen with two huge grocery sacks filled with chips and candy, along with cans of soda and Red Bull. Georg put them on the counter and took off his sunglasses and pulled the hair tie from his hair, his dark brown hair cascading to his shoulders.

"We all set to go, yet?" he asked as he pulled out a chair and threw himself into it with a thump.

Gustav checked his watch. "Nearly, we're just waiting on Bill, but he hasn't been even down yet. We need to leave in ten minutes if we want to get there on time," he said irritably.

Putting his bowl in the sink, Tom said, "I'll go see if he's ready if you'll take care of this bowl."

Sighing, Gustav got up and nodded. Tom flashed him a grateful smile and left the kitchen.

Pulling up his sagging jeans, Tom started to climb the stairs to the living apartment upstairs. When he got to Bill's door, he knocked and waited. Nothing. He knocked again, louder this time. He might have his iPod going as he packed, he thought, the unnerving feeling he woke up with starting to mount.

"I'm coming in, Bill."

Tom opened the door slowly and his dark eyes widened as they grew accustom to the darkness of the room and took in the sight before him. The curtains were drawn tightly shut with blankets tucked into the curtain-rack where ever there was a crack of light the curtains didn't cover completely. A strong scent of sickness, sweat and the strong, yet soothing smell of methanol cough drops floated through the air and engulfed Tom, making him stagger slightly. The floor beside the bed was littered with cough drop wrappings and piles of crumpled-up tissues. On the bed, underneath a pile of blankets and pillows, lay a bedraggled and pitiful Bill.

When the door opened, Bill turned to see who came in. When he saw Tom, he tried to smile, but it turned into a grimace.

"Bill..." Tom said as he crept closer to the bed. He looked at his brother's pinched and withdrawn face. Bill was pale, save for his cheeks which were flushed with fever, his hair that hung around his face was matted with sweat and strands clung desperately to his forehead and temples. Under his eyes were dark circles, as if he had gotten only a few minutes of rest since they had gotten home a few hours before.

Bill opened his mouth to speak, but a pathetic hacking cough was forced out instead.

Tom was at a loss for words; Bill rarely got ill. "What's wrong?" Bill dragged an arm out from under the blankets and motioned to his head, throat, chest, and stomach. Then he frowned and vaguely waved his arm the whole length of his body. He dropped his arm by his side and whimpered.

Tom sat on the edge of the bed and gently pushed Bill's hair away from his forehead and rested his cool hand against Bill's scolding skin. "You're burning up. We need to take you to the hospital."

"I'm fine," Bill rasped, waving a hand tiredly at Tom.

"Like hell you are!" exclaimed Tom, deeply shaken at the state of his twin brother. Bill winced at the loudness of Tom's outburst. Tom bowed his head and in a much gentler voice he said, "Sorry. We need to take you to the doctor."

"No. No, I'm fine. I just need rest is all," he said, closing his eyes. He was so tired. He just wanted to sleep. "I'm just going to lay here for a few minutes, okay? Are we leaving soon?" he asked drifting off to sleep.

Tom stared at Bill as he fell into a fevered sleep. Making a decision, he stood up and headed back to the kitchen. Upon entering it, he was confronted by a very grouchy Gustav.

"Well? Where is he? I can usually count on Bill to be on time. It's usually Georg I have to worry about," he said, pacing up and down the kitchen in anxiety.

"Bill's really ill and can't go anywhere, so I'm going to stay and look after him. You two go on ahead."

Gustav and Georg exchanged looks. "But, he was fine yesterday," Georg said.

A much subdued Gustav said, "Shouldn't we stay here too?"

Tom lowered his eyes and shook his head, "No, you two go and have fun. I'm his brother, it's only fair. If he feels better, we'll come later; the fresh air would help his health, I think." He looked up again, his eyes shining with familiar fierceness and protectiveness.

It took a few more minutes of convincing for Georg and Gustav to leave their friends behind and Tom ushered them out like a nervous mother hen. Climbing into the van, Georg and Gustav promised to buy some souvenirs and anything they saw they knew Bill would like.

Standing on the sidewalk, Tom waved as they drove down the road, and finally out of sight. He sighed as he tugged down his hat and turned back to the house. He put his hand on the cool banister and started to climb the stairs to his brother. Deep down, Tom was a little afraid. Bill never got ill. Tom got colds and unexplained fevers, but Bill never so much as got a sniffle. He was always hyper and healthy, and full of bubbly zest for life. But now Bill lay in bed, blotchy and bedraggled, looking completely woebegone.

He opened the door to Bill's room and knelt down by the bed to pick up the cough drop wrappers and the crumpled, used tissues.

"You don't have to do that," Bill's soft voice said from the bed.

Tom looked up from the ground and smiled, "Of course I do. I thought you were asleep."

Bill smiled slightly, "I was. I woke up when you opened the door."

Tom frowned. "I'm sorry; I tried to be quiet," he said straightening up. He looked down at Bill lying helplessly on the bed. Bill's red, tired eyes shone into his identical ones with a quiet light that, for once, Tom was unable to decipher the message. That inability flooded Tom's veins and left him feeling numb and unbalanced.

Sitting down heavily on the edge of the bed with a sigh, Tom rearranged the blankets around Bill. "Georg and Gustav just left."

"Why didn't you go with them?" Bill questioned.

"Don't be a dummy. You can't expect me to just abandon you here alone, can you?"

"I can take care of myself," Bill said vehemently. His excitement caused him to lunge forward with wracking coughs. Tears of pain leaked from the corners of Bill's eyes as he continued to wheeze and cough. Tom sat frozen as he watched his brother fight for breath before each cough. Slowly, Bill's coughs subsided and left him breathless.

"Can I get you anything?" Tom whispered, frowning with concern.

"Water," he rasped.

Nodding dumbly, Tom fled the room. The fear he was feeling earlier was increasing exponentially. He walked to a closet and began rummaging through a cabinet for the cold compresses. Almost shouting with success, he grabbed the box and bit back a curse when he felt it was empty. A trip to the store it is, then, he thought. Grabbing a wash cloth, he went to the kitchen and filled a glass. Soaking the cloth, he wrung it out and went back to Bill's room.

Bill had his eyes closed when he walked into the room. Setting the glass down on the nightstand, Tom brushed Bill's soft dark hair off his face and placed the cloth across his forehead.

"How does that feel?" Bill hummed with pleasure as the cool dampness of the cloth eased some of the heat from his head.

"Will you be okay for a few minutes? I have to make a run to the store to grab a few things," Tom said helping Bill sit up a little to drink some of the water.

Bill nodded and Tom said, "Good. I won't be long, maybe you can try and get some rest, okay?" Tom patted Bill on the shoulder and got up.

"Thank you," Bill said, his voice tapering off. Tom looked fondly at his twin and silently left the room.

Walking into his room, Tom swiftly changed into tighter clothes and put on oversized sunglasses to help try and conceal himself. Whenever Tom had to change to go out in public in the hopes of not being recognized, he always felt as thought he was some famous superhero like Clark Kent and if his identity was blown, the world would implode. Of course, all he had to worry about was being hounded by hordes of fans and not the entire destruction of the world. Grabbing his wallet, he quickly left the house.

***

Nearly thirty minutes later Tom let himself into the house, loaded with groceries. Having anticipated a week away, they didn't buy any necessities. He put away everything he bought and grabbed a cold compress and some cold/flu medication.

As he walked into the room, Tom noted that Bill had flung off the blankets and was curled on his right side, his back to the door. On closer inspection, Tom noticed that Bill seemed to be dead to the world. He almost felt bad for having to wake him up. He put his items on the nightstand next to the water and gently called Bill's name. Almost instantly, Bill groaned and opened his eyes.

"Can you sit up for me?" Tom said grabbing the damp cloth from where it slid off Bill's forehead and was leaving a wet patch on the bed.

Bill rolled onto his back and started to pull himself up. At once, his arm slipped and he fell backwards. Grabbing Bill's sweaty and hot shoulders, Tom helped Bill into a sitting position.

"That's better, isn't it?" Tom said and Bill shrugged. He picked up the cloth and started to wipe Bill's forehead and face, clearing it of the sweat and make-up that had been smeared over Bill's face as his tossed and turned earlier. Bill sighed contentedly and leaned into the soft, loving strokes like a cat hungry for attention.

Reaching over to the nightstand, Tom picked up the compress. "Look what I got," he said, unwrapping the compress from its foil.

Bill's eyes lit up. "Thank God. Those are like heaven," he said has he pushed his hair out of the way as Tom placed it on his forehead. "I feel better already."

"Yeah, right," Tom said, crumpling up the foil. He took aim and tried to throw it into the bin, but it landed just to the left.

"You suck," Bill said as he pulled up his blankets and slumped down into the pillows.

Tom snorted and stood up. "I guess I won't be a famous basketball player, and I'll just have to stick to nursing. Is there anything else you need besides rest?" he said pointedly.

"No. Thank you."

"Good. If you need anything, just give a shout, I'm going to be in the living room."

"But..." Bill trailed off.

Stopping at the door, Tom turned around and looked at Bill. He was sitting straight up and looked at Tom with a strange light in his eyes. "What?"

"Can you stay in here?" he said softly, reaching for a tissue has he sneezed. "You can do whatever you want, you won't bother my sleep," he pleaded.

Tom's heart clenched at the helplessness in Bill's voice. "Sure, let me just grab a book." Bill sagged with relief when Tom came back into the room with a book.

"What book is that?" he inquired as Tom dragged the desk chair over to the side of the bed.

Tom shrugged. "One of Gustav's I found in the living room."

Bill hummed and closed his eyes and seemingly drifted off to a quiet sleep.

***

Over the next hour, Tom spent his time reading the book, which was turning out surprisingly well. Occasionally Bill would mutter fever-induced confessions in his sleep. Tom heard his name a few times, which grabbed his attention each time, fearing he was being called.

Around noon, Tom put down his book and stood, stretching his tired muscles. He was exhausted. He moved to the bed, in hopes of waking Bill to see if he could get him to eat anything. Looking down at Bill, Tom stared at the wonder he had the honor of calling his twin. They were so alike, and yet, so different.

He sat down and picked up Bill's warm hand and squeezed it gently, watching Bill sigh with pleasure in his sleep. Tom was so lucky to have Bill as his brother. He could be himself when he was with him. He could drop the cocky playboy act every other fan loved and expected from him. He could let down those walls he so carefully built around him and be truly insecure and vulnerable.

His hand tightened around Bill's as his mind drifted to darker thoughts he tried to bury every time they crept to the surface. All the 'what ifs' plagued his mind when he was laying in bed, alone in the dark with nothing else to occupy his mind.

What if Bill was hurt by an anti-fan?

What if Bill finds someone to share is life with and forgets about me?

What if Bill died and left me here utterly alone?


That thought always chilled him to his very core and made his stomach hurt worse than eating three bowls of Georg's homemade chili. At times when that thought rocketed to the surface of his mind, his chest would tighten and after it became excruciating to just breathe, it would steal his breath away completely. Tom didn't know how to function without his brother by his side, doing all those endearing, quirky and irritating things that made him Bill.

Tom exhaled softly and rearranged the blankets for the millionth time. He loved his brother. Of course he loved his brother. But a nagging thought fluttered through his thoughts like an elusive butterfly. It's more than love for a sibling, isn't it? it taunted. Tom tightened his hand around Bill's, feeling the veins and tendons shifting as his grip squeezed harder as he listened to the thought. You love Bill like you would a lover, it whispered in Tom's straining ear.

"You're hurting my hand."

Tom's head whipped over from where he was staring on the bedspread. He looked in Bill's identical cinnamon-brown eyes and he felt a surge of feelings crash through his body. His hand went lax and Bill's hand slid limply from his hand as he stood up quickly, catching the chair by the bed on his knee, knocking it over with a loud crash.

"I - I - sorry," he stammered, backing away quickly. "I have to go," he said as he all but fled the bedroom with Bill crying his name.

***

Tom spent the next hour in a mixture of pacing his room, playing his guitar, and listening to blaring music. He put on headphones when he would hear Bill having a coughing or sneezing fit in his room down the hall. He didn't use a guitar pick, preferring to use his fingers, strumming the strings so hard the tips of his fingers were becoming raw and torn. During his pacing, he would mutter a mantra, "No. Absolutely not. You're tired. It's wrong."

Tom felt sick to his stomach and paranoid, as though anyone who saw him could instantly read his mind and see his feelings towards his twin was more than platonic and brotherly. But worst of all, he felt guilty. His brother was laying in bed ill and he was supposed to be taking care of him, and instead, he was in his room, panicking because he realized he was in love with his brother.

He sighed and put his head between his hands and rubbed his head violently. He didn't know what to do. He'd never felt more lost and lonely in his life. Not even when Bill was in the hospital when they were younger.

Suddenly his cell phone rang, breaking his thoughts. Looking at the caller-id, he read Georg cell.

Flipping open the phone, he said, "Hello?"

"Hey, it's Georg."

"I know."

"Gustav and I just checked into the hotel. Man, you cannot believe the size of these rooms! They're unbelievable."

"Uh-huh."

"How's our little Bill fairing?"

"Fine."

"...are you coming down with it?"

Tom gave a noncommittal grunt.

"Okay...well, Gustav wanted to call and see how things were going and tell you we got here."

"Thanks."

"I hope you don't get it. Talk to you later."

"Thanks, have fun. Bye."

"Bye."

Tom closed the phone and threw it on the bed. From down the hall he heard Bill cough and groan painfully. Tom stared wide-eyed out of his doorway in the direction of Bill's room. He knew he should go check Bill, but his feet stayed firmly planted on the floor. Suddenly he heard his mother's voice resonate through his head, "Take care of your brother, Tom. I'm counting on you to do that while you're both away from home."

Walking with trepidation, he slowly made his way down the hall and outside Bill's room. His paranoia that Bill will know started to flood his senses. They always knew what the other was thinking. Ever since they could remember. Forcing all thoughts from his mind, Tom walked into the room.

Bill was curled on his side, with his back to the door. He was trembling.

Alarmed, Tom called out to his brother. "Are you okay?"

He saw Bill shake his head. He walked up to the bed and grabbed his shoulder, forcing him on his back. Bill's face was tomato-red and sweat poured from his skin. Tears of pain flowed from his eyes, mingling with sweat.

"What's the matter?"

Bill opened his mouth, but a sob forced its way from his mouth instead. "It hurts," he hiccupped.

Tom sat on the edge of the bed and gathered Bill into his arms. No other thing felt more right than Bill in Tom's arms. Tom rocked him back and forth and rubbed his back soothingly as Bill cried into his neck, tears and snot soaking his shoulder. All other thoughts fled his mind as he tried to comfort Bill.

"What do you want me to do for you?" He felt Bill shrug. "Do you want some hot tea or something? A hot shower, a bowl of hot soup, crackers, another compress, a humidifier, a dehumidifier," Tom rambled.

Bill gave a huge shuddering sigh and collapsed fully against Tom. "Do we still have that can of Mom's chicken noodle soup?"

"I think so. You want me to go look?"

"Please?" Tom released Bill and helped maneuver him to a comfortable position. He handed a tissue to Bill to wipe his face with.

"I'll be right back."

In the kitchen, Tom found the dusty can of their mother's soup she had made for the boys when they first moved in. "Just in case," she had said. Dumping some in a pan, he quickly warmed it up and placed it in a bowl. Feeling more like a nurse than before, he placed it on a tray with some water and brought it to Bill.

"Here," he said as he placed a napkin over Bill's lap. He accidentally brushed Bill's thigh and felt his face flush. Oblivious, Bill greedily stared at the bowl where Tom placed it on the bed. Tom snorted softly at the 180° turn of Bill's mood. That was one thing Tom envied. He could never turn his moods around as fast as Bill.

"Don't you dare eat that too quickly or eat too much of it. I won't hold your hair while you throw it back up," Tom said.

"No, of course not," Bill's cough weary voice rasped. Tom picked up the chair he overturned in his hast to leave earlier and sat down to watch his brother eat.

Even with his face puffy, red with fever, and skin glistening with sweat, Bill was still the most beautiful, perfect person Tom had ever seen. His gut clenched and twisted uncomfortably as he sat watching Bill, who seems unaware of being an object of an intimate observation.

Bill ate carefully, taking slow and measured bites. The entire time, Tom fidgeted, pleading for Bill to finish so he could seek solitude in his room. When he finished, Tom stood up and picked up the tray.

"Do you need anything else?"

Bill paused but shook his head after a minute of consideration.

"Try and rest, then," Tom said, handing him a new cold compress.

"But..."

"'But' what," he snapped, his temper rising in his attempt to flee.

Bill's head snapped back as if he were slapped. "N-nothing, never mind."

Ashamed of his outburst, Tom left.

***

Tom spent the rest of the afternoon working himself into a state of anxiety and denial that rendered him beyond exhaustion. Tom should have been disgusted with himself for being in love with his brother, but what scared him the most and what made his gut clench was how right it felt to him. He rolled onto his stomach and groaned into his pillow and tried to sleep.

It was nearing four when Tom heard a loud crash and a cry of pain from Bill's room. Racing to his room and almost colliding into the doorframe as he turned into the room, Tom found Bill on the floor, tangled in blankets.

Tom rushed to Bill's side and tried to help free him of the mess. "What happened?"

Bill shook his head and gestured frantically towards the bathroom and put his hand over his mouth.

"Do you have to be sick?"

Bill nodded, panic showing in his eyes. Tom wrestled the rest of the blankets wrapped around Bill's legs, grabbed his elbow and they raced to the bathroom. As Bill was sick, Tom held his hair from his face.

After being sick twice more, Bill wanted to take a hot bath to calm his nerves, upset stomach and throbbing head. Muscles weakened from illness, Tom drew the bath while Bill looked on from his perch on the counter.

"Thank you for putting up with me," Bill said over the roar of the filling tub.

"It's not putting up with you," Tom replied.

"Thanks anyway. You could have gone with Georg and Gustav."

"No, I couldn't have."

Bill looked away and mumbled, "Well, even though, you could have gone out and picked up some girl."

"No, I couldn't have," Tom said so sharply Bill looked at him.

"Why not? Because you have to baby-sit me? I know you'd rather be out there picking up some girl than be trapped here taking care of me," Bill spat.

Taken back by Bill's tone, Tom stood flabbergasted. "No, that's not it."

"Sure it is. Everyone has to take pity on me. Poor little Bill can't take care of himself. It's always been that way. Even when we were younger. No, especially when we were younger. I can stand up for myself, you know," Bill glared.

"I know you can," Tom said gently, turning off the water. "That's not the point."

Bill sighed, losing strength and energy to keep up his anger. "Then why?"

"I just don't feel like it."

"Why? You always feel like it," Bill said, hoping off the counter.

"No reason," he lied, picking up a towel and handing it to Bill.

"Tom. Why?" he pressed, looking in Tom's eyes. "Do you like someone?" he guessed.

"N-no," he stammered. Only Bill could make him feel like an idiot and stutter like a school girl.

"You like someone!" Bill exclaimed, his dark eyes gleaming with light. "Why haven't you told me? We don't keep things from each other," he said, glaring at Tom.

"Drop it, Bill. Take your bath and go back to bed," Tom said, backing towards the door.

"Who is it?"

"No-one!"

"Why won't you tell me?"

"Because it's nothing!"

"Who is it?"

"I mean it, it's nothing."

"You can't lie to me, Tom."

"Please stop," Tom pleaded.

"Tell me," Bill said, reaching out his hand, looking to grasp something. His eyes were filled with a strange light. "Who is it?"

"It's you, okay?! Now leave me alone!" Tom screamed and fled the bathroom, slamming his door shut. As he left the bathroom, he heard a soft sob that seemed to engulf the silence and roar in his ears.

Tom slid down door after he slammed it shut and sat crouched on the floor. His hands were shaking after his rash confession, his head pounded as the blood rushed around, never settling, his stomach heaved violently. Distantly he could hear Bill move around in the bathroom and go into his room again. He let his head fall back against the door, almost taking delight in the pain, as his head connected with the heavy oak door, just to feel something other than the gut-wrenching misery he was feeling.

How could he be so stupid? Why couldn't he control himself around Bill? How could he face him again after what he said? Maybe he could pretend not to remember. Or he could tell Bill it was a dream he had while he was sick. Bill might believe that. No...that couldn't possibly work. Tom felt trapped. He needed to get out. To be somewhere other than here. He checked his watch: quarter to five. He needed a drink. He didn't want to go to a club. He couldn't pick up any girl anymore without thinking of her not being Bill.

Tom picked up a fallen hat and twisted it in his hands in his anxiety. He heard a terribly loud rip and looked at it and let out a small moan of pure misery. It was a gift from Bill on their 15th birthday, one of his favorites. He didn't know if he wanted to throw it across the room, to get it as far away from him as possible or cry because he broke the gift.

What a mess, he thought, laughing at the hopelessness of the situation. Tom didn’t look up when he heard the door behind him open and the shuffling footsteps, softened by thick cotton socks that followed.

“Tom,” he heard the voice say, reaching from somewhere indefinite: close but seemingly far to his ears and his brain that attempted to slip into an unattainable seclusion. “Tom,” the voice repeated, something soft and kind but pained with a strained resistance against giving into full compassion that frightened him, the same tone that sparked what he knew he, himself felt lingering in his own heart.

“You shouldn’t be out of bed,” he said finally.

He heard a small breath let out from Bill, a mix of exasperation and wearisome amusement but no more words followed.

“You’re still too sick,” he said, staring down at the remains of his hat and at his hands which were taking on a strange tremble. He clasped them together in an attempt to throw their unease.

“Is that all you have to say?” Bill asked evenly, as though addressing him as a child caught in the aftermath of some foolish act of delinquency. He hated the question and its implication, the fact that it was all he had to say.

He turned his head around finally and said, “what else is there? I told you everything else. What more do you need to hear?” The words came out in a cruel hiss but Bill’s expression couldn’t change. He stood in the doorway, eyes dimmed and face pale with fatigue but his face was tense and his hands clutched his crossed arms in a fearsome way and Tom regretted the pressure he had put on his brother with his words that had so clumsily been choked out in his haste. “I’m so stupid,” he said, offhanded, turning away in remorse and pain and a stain of embarrassment shaded his face, an angry, red color.

“Tom,” Bill said breathlessly as he kneeled on the floor in a reckless sort of way that didn't seem entirely deliberate. “Tom, you’re not stupid.” He heard the gasping breath of preliminary sobbing as he said, “and I’m so, so glad you told me. If I had always had to carry on without knowing, without realizing that I was the only one with such a feeling. I couldn’t—“ he stopped, interrupting his own words as Tom turned to face him totally and saw the small, wavering hands covering his eyes as though attempting to disguise the oncoming tears.

Tom stared at the shakey figure before him and let the words resound in his ears while his brain struggled to make comprehension of them but nothing was stable and nothing seemed as it was, everything twisted and intangible, impossible to understand. He waited in the detached mode of being that he had created for himself in that moment until he was brought back to the world again by Bill taking his hands away from his face, wet and obscured with tears, an uncertain grin hiding behind his frail fingers.

Hope began to find its way into Tom’s heart as he allowed himself to accept the reality around him again but something was still wrong; a steady hesitation seized his heart and the tears that flowed over the smile before him made him feel cold and he shook his head in disbelief as he began to understand Bill’s mixed impressions.

“You know it doesn’t mean anything.” Bill gave him a small, forced smile as his hands dug into the carpet he rested on. “This isn’t right,” he said.

“No,” Tom said. “No,” he repeated, raising his voice and grabbing Bill’s arms. “You can’t say that.”

Bill winced at the hands that so tightly gripped his body still weak from sickness. “Tom,” he said in a voice so filled with wisdom and self-assurance that Tom wanted nothing but to stop it. He let go of Bill and began to draw away in disbelief.

“No,” he said, “I can’t listen to this. You can’t tell me this.” He looked at Bill in desperation. “Bill,” he breathed. “Please.”

“Tom, you have to understand, don’t you?” He looked at him sadly, “this can’t happen. Have you even thought of it? What people will think? What kind of life do you think we could lead together? It’s impossible.”

“We could go away together, where nobody knows us,” Tom said softly.

Bill smiled, a horrible, cold thing. “It’d be hard not to recognize us as twins.”

“I’ll change,” Tom said quickly. “I’ll get surgery and everything. No one will suspect. We can just—“ but his voice failed and his words faded into the consuming helplessness that he felt.

They sat in silence, understanding nothing of life but the faces that they shared with one another, the ones of this mutual hopelessness and the terror and accompanying delight they found in each other’s recipient love, the despair of their realization of their inability to maintain it.

It grew dark around them, the sun abandoning them as the street lights began to flicker on one by one, creating circus color glares across their skin and allowing Tom to see the glint of light that fell with each tear on Bill’s face until he finally closed his eyes to the images that seemed too harsh to bear any longer. He felt the soft, warm breath on his cheek and the kiss of Bill’s lips against the lids of his eyes, and the words that traveled on that breath across his temple to reach his ears: “I love you.” He felt his own tears fight their way from beneath his eyelids as they softly ran down his cheeks. “But this is the way it has to be.”

He let a sharp sob escape his lips as he allowed himself to be gently folded into Bill’s embrace. He felt Bill’s face in his hair and the hot air that was expelled from his lungs, so evenly and so exact he felt a growing weariness begin to consume him. He relaxed his body and moved to create comfort for himself as Bill gently responded to his movements. “Stay like this with me,” he whispered, “at least for tonight.”

He felt Bill stroke the hair out of his face and the tender, soft movements of his fingers across his skin that made Tom ache. He heard Bill’s breath exhaled, strained but a hint of resignation trailing somewhere along the fringes.

“At least for tonight.”
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August 2010

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