It's just the start of the summer when someone breaks your brother's jaw in two places. Barely even June and you're just starting to figure out that the reason Sharlie-Melissa-Andrea-Stephanie didn't work out is a little less to do with their incessant habit of needing you and a little more to with the fact you pop a boner when you wash your brother's hair.
That in itself is more than a little embarrassing, and you pray to a god you don't believe in that Jake's so doped up on painkillers that he doesn't notice. You don't think he notices the soft sounds he makes either.
They're kind of a combination of contentment and pain, because it can't be comfortable even after two weeks of the whole wired shut thing. You expect it's kind of a pain in the ass, and Jake glares at pretty much everything when he's conscious, so you figure you're probably right.
Then again, you really could just be assuming too much, because you and Jake don't get along even when you're not speaking to each other. Jake just tolerates your fingers in his bleached hair because he still can't lift his hands above his head and then there's the whole noises thing too.
Jake's always been a tactile guy, forever with girls attached to his hands and hips and somehow he never gets caught with two of them. You think this must be killing him, the silence and the lack of human contact, minus the touch of his younger brother's fingers in his hair.
You do your best to keep it as nonsexual as possible, even if he's leaning his head way back, practically in your lap, as you balance on the edge of the tub. He's got his long legs crossed at the ankle and spread wide open for balance. You try not to look at the way his wet shorts are riding up his pale thighs, even if you want to.
There's that noise again, this one's halfway between a purr and a whimper, and Jake rubs his head back against your knee so it's closer to a purr. You take the measuring cup and dump another cup of warm water of his head.
He grunts a bit as the water stings his eyes, and you bend closer as you mumble apologies and wipe the suds away.
Jake blinks his eyes open then, and you freeze because you may or may not have let your fingers trace over his cheekbones, above the still-swollen line of his jaw. He blinks just once and closes them again.
You let out the breath you were holding. You still have four more weeks of this to go.
Jake can actually speak, and he knows that you know it. He doesn't sound like himself, though, all quiet and unsure of himself and kind of like you, actually.
No one can hear him the first time he speaks, like they aren't listening or aren't sure he's actually speaking. Jake just shrugs when someone asks him to repeat himself, and then he just stops talking in the first place.
It gets real quiet after that, like everyone in the house is keeping it down in solidarity or something. You don't want to, but the looks you get just from the music blaring from your ear buds are a little disheartening.
The worst part is, you share a room with Jake right now. You're both home from school and maybe you agree that your younger brothers need separate rooms more than you do (for the four months you use it, at least) but it still sucks.
You spend a lot of time sprawled on the top bunk of the bed, okay with the dark from the closed curtains and the steady breathing of Jake on the bed below you. He sleeps a lot and spends even more time thinking, you figure.
Maybe it's a good thing, what with him graduating with a degree in English and you're not exactly sure it's good for anything. He isn't either, because he hasn't done shit with it except get his jaw broken in two places.
Jake's making these soft sounds again, and the only reason you can hear them is because the play list on your iPod just finished the last song. He's got these noises now that substitute for speech. It's no conscious effort on his part, and it's mostly in your head that you're thinking it.
He's got one, not this one, but another soft snort mostly through his nose that means he's laughing and another that's him being sarcastic. This one, it's kind of like he's hungry but doesn't want to ask for another blended something.
"Hey, Jake," you say, rolling over and peering over the side of the bed to where he's lying down. "You hungry?"
He grunts, shifting on the mattress. You can just make out the pale shape of his skin with the light from the hallway.
"Whatever," you say, getting down from the top bunk to leave Jake in his misery.
You're not completely heartless, you're sure he's in a lot of pain and you saw the x-rays. Just, he's ungrateful. You're not one to be a nice guy, let alone to your older brother. He's an ungrateful invalid, and it's only when you're spooning the peanut butter into the blender that you think maybe it's the invalid part that Jake's ungrateful about.
Not like Jake's used to taking things lying down. You scrape the peanut butter off the spoon with your finger, sticking it in your mouth to clean it off as you press the blend button.
The noise is too loud in the quiet house, and you're glad your mom is out doing something instead of giving you heck over disturbing Jake.
You take out a glass for your smoothie—peanut butter raspberry strawberry honey vanilla and something else that you think is pre-mushed banana but could've been sour cream instead. Either way it doesn't smell half-bad and even if you've made way too much as usual it's worth it.
Come to think of it, the look on Jake's face when you leave the extra smoothie in the blender (for him, but don't tell him that) is worth it too. It's all in the eyes, what with his mouth not being much to write home about, and yeah, there's that snort. The sarcastic one.
So after a few days turns into a couple of weeks of this awkward crippling silence that everyone thinks will make up for the fact Jake's not making his usual nasty comments, you finally decide you've had enough.
You start carrying your iPod in your pocket all the time, one white ear bud trailing up through your shirt and into your ear so that at least you're listening to something. Right now you're wishing you'd pushed for separate rooms when you'd come back from school, because the sort of half-noises that Jake makes are worse than his usual mutters.
It's sort of a choice that he's so quiet, but more because he's got so much metal in his mouth than the fact he can't speak. The absolute silence of the house after your three younger brothers leave for school and your mom leaves you in charge, that gets to you. Jake's always had a smart mouth and he's gone and broken the one part of him you're comfortable with.
You figure, it was you, you'd be busy taking it for all it's worth. Everyone's bending over backwards because you all feel so frigging guilty and even your dad's gotten into it. You've seen him more since the hospital called than you have since you came back from school.
Not like it's a big thing, you're not really upset over that, it's more the whispers of your mom in the hallway when Jake's supposed to be sleeping, but you know that he's watching Family Guy turned down all low on his computer.
He asks you to update his iPod without saying a thing, and you don't even remember downloading songs that he likes, but there they are, all in a folder waiting for him. This kind of bothers you, more than the fact you're slipping his headphones in your ears to listen to the songs he had started with.
It's kind of weird with his headphones in your ears, and you pick at a spot sticky with residue on the long white cord that's connecting you to your brother's iPod. Nothing more than that, except you're listening to all the songs that Jake likes and you take the headphones out so quickly they pull at your ears.
You flip through the screens on the computer, waiting for the disconnect warning to stop. All of Jake's play lists have names like Lear and Othello and Juliet, so when you add more songs you put them in a list called i am no viper, all in lowercase, because you did pay attention in English class, but maybe not the same way that Jake did.
Later he grunts a thank you but you take it because you figure he's in pain again. He pops pills like secrets, sliding them between his teeth and it figures that you can't get away from him when he's so far away he's still lying on the bed beneath your feet.
If you thought it was hard to carry on a conversation with your brother when his jaw wasn't wired shut, what with him talking about mostly himself and you listening only to every other word, well, now Jake doesn't listen and you use three words when one would do.
Your socks land on his bed underneath yours when you peel them off one night so he throws you the bird and it's okay. He still uses words you don't understand and you don't say what you mean, but you figure you're on the same page.
And for all that you think the past four weeks have brought you and Jake closer together, it only takes three seconds for you to ruin everything.
Actually, you're not sure if it's your fault or Jake's. After all, he's been kind of a bitch these past few days, since he was supposed to get unwired three days ago and they added another week just in case.
It's understandable, but you don't like it any more, because he's been sulking in your shared bedroom with the lights out and makes this frustrated grunt that's gotta hurt around the wires, even if his jaw's technically not broken anymore.
So it's maybe a Thursday, two days after Jake comes back from his appointment with a scowl and a giant bird shit right on the hood of his car. You poke the obligatory fun at it because it's shaped like the worst giant bird shit you can think of, and he just levels a glare at you that speaks more than his silence ever does.
You clam up and back into the wall as you retreat back to your bedroom. This, being shared with Jake, doesn't get you much of a break because he follows you right in and glares like he wants you to get the hell out but can't tell you.
Eventually he flops down on his bed and leaves you standing in the middle of the room like a dumbass, because you're afraid to attract his attention by moving. Then he sighs as he rolls around on his unmade bed and you kind of wish you'd remembered to charge your iPod last night.
Instead you climb up onto your bunk and slip the earbuds in and pretend like you're listening to Snow Patrol or Blindside or something else that isn't Earth, Wind & Fire or Johnny Cash or any of the other bands that Jake listens to.
You're pretending so hard to be in a Warmer Climate or Chasing Cars or something like that that you don't feel Jake climb up to your bunk until he's rolling overtop of you to lie next to you in the too-small bed.
Jake sighs again, something you can feel because he's right next to you, nothing you can see because the curtains are pulled tightly shut again.
"Jake?" You ask, tugging one of the useless headphones out and pretend to pause your iPod. "You okay?"
"Eh," he says, shrugging his shoulder against yours. He's not glaring anymore but he looks anything but relaxed.
"Seriously man," you continue, turning a bit on your side because this is uncomfortable and so you can see his face better. "Things not go so good?"
"I got another week," Jake mumbles, lips barely moving.
You only understand what he says because you know it's a one-shot deal, no second chances to hear him say it again. He can't enunciate well and you know that he feels like he's retarded when he speaks, so he does it as little as possible.
You also know that his torn shoulder means that he still can't wash his own hair but he's been gathering grease for days rather than ask you to do it again.
"That's too bad," you finally say, wondering if you should maybe clap his shoulder in a manly way but it's his bad shoulder pressed against your own, so you don't.
"Yeah," Jake says, squeezing his eyes shut as he lies next to you. "It is."
You want to say something encouraging or helpful, like your dad would, something like better safe than sorry or good things come to those who wait, but that's not you and you can't really tell your brother anything when he's looking like he's trying not to cry.
So instead you lean over and try to do a brotherly shoulder squeeze to the good shoulder but you squeeze the side of his neck instead and then, you know, you kiss him.
Your lips press softly against his, and you can taste the cherry lip balm he uses and feel the hard line of his teeth and then the answering pressure against your mouth.
Then you roll back out of the bunk, landing awkwardly on Jake's bed beneath yours and get tangled in the cord from your iPod. You don't even give him a chance to not say anything before you throw yourself out of the room.
You keep running until you hit the side of the garage hard with your shoulder, enough that it makes you stumble and change your mind about running through the waist-high corn in the field behind your house. Instead you drop down into the dried out remains of last year's vegetable garden, right on top of where the row of carrots gave way to beefsteak tomatoes.
Hidden by the overgrown clumps of chives and herbs left over from a more ambitious gardener, you sprawl like you've been shot by something fatal instead of just an attack of conscience. You kind of know that you're looking suspicious but no one's going to find you until they're right on top of you.
This is, of course, if they go looking, which you figure they won't. What with Jake having a bit of trouble talking, you don't think he's going to call you on this one.
You press your fingers to your eyelids, press down and feel the blood throb back against your fingertips. It makes you feel normal for a second, until the headache starts pushing against your temples.
Sighing, you let your arm fall back into the weeds you're lying in, shifting a bit so the leaves don't irritate the back of your hand.
You're not exactly sure how long you lie there, but when you shift in the grass and look up it's getting cloudy. You have no idea what time it is now. It could be anywhere between five and nine, and you suck at telling time even when the light outside give you a hint.
As it is you still know that you're hiding and don't know how long it's going to take until Jake's passed out. You're sharing a room, you remember suddenly, and wonder how long you can squat in the rec room downstairs or maybe one of your brothers' rooms before Jake starts getting suspicious.
Then again, the way you tore out of the room earlier isn't exactly subtle. You pull your iPod out of your pocket, hooking the earbuds in your ears and press play only to remember that the battery's dead.
You sit up, brushing the dead grass from your hair and take a look at the back of the garage. You can't see the house from here, but you just know that Jake's pissed and throwing shit around.
It's almost a good thing he's still wired, gives an excuse for his behaviour. You decide you can maybe sneak in the house and hide in the basement, play Nintendo long enough for Jake to get bored with watching you and waiting to talk. Wrapping the headphones around your iPod, you slip it back in your pocket as you come back around the side of the garage.
The swing of headlights cuts across your legs, only for a second before they straighten out and retreat back down the driveway. You frown at the sight of the giant bird shit on the car's hood and wonder where Jake's going in such a hurry.
Then you don't mind, because you've got a couple free hours before you might have to, you know, think of a reason why you can't be in the same room.
You don't know why you didn't try to kiss your brother on a shorter break, like reading week, so at least you could see the last of him for another month or two. Instead it's like the middle of July and you've got to get through August yet.
Your mom's in the kitchen when you get back in the house.
"Where's Jake?" You ask, knowing it comes across as random but you're okay with that.
"I asked him to pick up milk," your mom says, not turning from the countertop. "He was looking for you."
"Oh," you say, and aren't sure whether you're relieved he's gone or concerned with why he gave up looking. You decide instead you should just go and charge your iPod and hit the sack a little early tonight.
So you do, and you don't hear Jake come back to your room because you've got Metallica turned up nearly to the maximum, and you don't even like Metallica.
Thing is, you know what a zipper sounds like in the dark. Maybe you first memorized it when you went camping, but the sound of a hoodie and the fly of your jeans sounds the same when you can't see to know the difference.
You'd bet money on you owning at least a dozen sweaters, all with names like quiksilver and volcom and billabong, in similar shades of brown and grey and black. Your favourite has logos and lines on sharp angles, in a monochromatic scheme that you keep to yourself, because there's some things that just beg to get hit in the face.
Sprawled on your stomach, you don't really think about much other than the way the fan's blowing cool on the back of your sweaty knees, your iPod underneath your pillow and the earbud that's pressing uncomfortably in your shoulder.
Anyway, you hear the sound of the zipper and because you're half asleep, don't really put that together with the creaking noise of the bunk bed ladder until Jake's flopping down nearly on top of you.
You tense up because this brings back memories of a few weeks ago, and then Jake's got his hand on the back of your head.
"Hey," he whispers into your ear and his breath smells like rum.
It's sticky hot. The back of your shirt is stuck to your lower back and you can't quite twist your mouth around to answer him.
"Listen," Jake starts, and he's moving his fingers so he can cup the back of your head, sliding his fingers into your sweaty hair. "I was thinking."
You still don't answer; rubbing your fingers on the smooth warm surface of your iPod, wishing you still had it in. The song you can imagine playing right now while Jake starts talking to you like you're asleep is probably Hamburg, maybe that Overture by Patrick Wolf.
"About last week." Jake tightens his fingers in your hair, holding your head still even though you're not trying to move. You're still trying to pretend like you're asleep even if Jake's not buying it.
You let a slow breath out, not quite a sigh but you can feel your pillow's damp from your nervous exhale. Jake slides closer, sets his chin on your shoulder and presses his hot skin closer to yours.
"You're kind of a pussy," Jake whispers. His chin feels hard and heavy on your shoulder, moving when he speaks. "Running out like that."
His fingers tug at your hair, at the thick waves that are the start of curls, getting a little too long on the top and rough with a day's worth of nervous sweat. You've been jumpy with expectation, wanting and wondering but never thinking of this. Never figured Jake'd jump back in bed with you.
You stiffen when you think about that, and of course Jake notices immediately. He uses the hand in your hair to twist your head to the side and pull it up from the pillow in an uncomfortable angle that means you can't ignore him any more.
"So," Jake says softly, inching closer to your sweaty skin and breathing warm across your cheek. "You gonna tell me what that's all about?"
You close your eyes in the near-dark of the room and try to swallow but can't, not with your neck bent with your shoulders all bunched up at the back.
"Fuck," you mutter, about all you can do before you let go of your iPod and slide your hand over Jake's damp blonde hair.
You're thinking shit shit shit and what the hell am I doing but then he leans into the palm of your hand and you figure maybe and then you lean in and kiss him.
You have exactly four seconds before you remember that Jake's your brother, before he opens his mouth against yours, before you slide your tongue up against his.
He makes a noise, back in his throat, something that sounds like nothing you've ever heard from him before. You like it, though, so you twist your arm around and wrap it around his shoulders and pull him closer.
Jake laughs when he pulls back, because your neck hurts from this angle and you can't inhale enough to catch your breath.
The earbud from your iPod is pressing hard into the bone of your elbow, so you slide your arm out and fall back against the pillow without your support.
"So?" Jake repeats, setting his chin down against your chest and grabbing one of your wrists with his hand, holding it up far above your heads. "You never answered."
"God," you mutter, rolling your eyes even though he can't see so the effect's kind of lost on him. "Actions speak louder than words."
"That's clichéd," Jake points out, rubbing his thumb against the soft skin on the inside of your wrist. He's pretending like he's not touching you, though, not on your wrist or his chin hard on your chest or his legs rough against yours.
You sigh, feel Jake rise and fall with you. "I don't want to talk about it."
"Huh," Jake says, sliding his hand up your arm and settling in the sweaty crease of your elbow.
Bringing up your other hand, you rub at an eye itchy with allergies and the fact you'd just kissed your brother again. This time he's lying enough on top of you that you can't get away even if you wanted to.
You don't, you realize belatedly, as Jake's smoothing his damp fingertips across your cheek. He's rubbing your own sweat against your face and you can't think about anything but how right it felt when you kissed him.
So you do it again, as suddenly as you've done it the other times, just lean in and press him back against the wall and don't even mind when he takes his hand and grabs your hair again.
After a second you try to pull back, because it just seems like this is about the time you do something stupid. You don't get very far because Jake still has a good grip on your hair and maybe you weren't trying too hard.
"You gotta do all the work," Jake mumbles against your mouth, tightening his fingers in your hair. He licks at your lips before he tries to slide his tongue in your mouth, and yeah, so you think that it's kind of disgusting and weird. That's before Jake ever tried it and with his tongue all hot and wet in your otherwise uninteresting mouth, you have a hard time telling him no.
Actually you have a hard time remembering where your hands are, right up until you have one on his bare chest, sliding through the smoothness of sweat that leaves your thumb on his nipple. If maybe he hitches his breath and presses his leg up against your dick when you do it, that's a complete accident that has nothing to do with you doing it again.
Maybe it has a little to do with it, but you find it hard to keep making excuses when your fingers brush against the top of his shorts, your thumb pressing in the hair underneath his belly button and then just, you know. Do something.
Jake doesn't seem to mind, smiling with the corners of his mouth and pressing his forehead into the sweat that gathers at the bottom of your neck. Maybe that helps when you remember you've got your hand on your brother's dick and he's biting his lip so no one hears and then he's kissing you again, and all you can think now is that thank god you didn't know about this before your brother had his jaw broken in two places.