This is a weird one. It's Jak/Lor, and could be taken with incestuous intent. Again, it makes more sense if you've read Stitches, because then you know what Jak has to say. (stich . comicgenesis . com)

Also, you may have noticed by now that all these titles are Frou Frou or Imogen Heap titles, because she's my indefinite inspiration, so much love to all her wonders.

Stitch 2.5: Hear Me Out

Lor loves Jak with every bone in her body, every inch of her skin and every string of her heart.

But he drives her crazy with this, he really does. With everything. He drives her mad. He slips his socks off his feet and his body under the covers, and covers his bare chest with the sheets. She's wearing the top of his pajamas, he the bottom of hers. Sometimes he complains that they're too short – she tells him to wear his own.

He tells her to wear her own, and she says, "No."

He smiles and says, "Good night," and the lights flicker off, and the pale purple glow of the later hours is enveloped in the empty abyss of ebony. The darkness comes simultaneously with every other window on their level, painting their world black. Maybe when they're older, it'll flicker later, and she'll have time to fight with him, and pretend she's angry. (But she isn't, because it's Jak, and she's never really mad at Jak.) Stupid darling brother.

Why won't he just tell her already, she wonders, as he whispers into her ear as the glow in the metal in her light bulb dies down into nothing, "I have something to tell you, but later." This is why he drives her mad – this, along with other things.

Most days he gets grades better than her, by one percent, and it bothers her. (Makes her jealous.) That one percent misaligns because she's bothered and he's a better liar, this stupid darling twin of hers. Tomorrow she'll crawl into the endless white of his bed, the pseudo-snow of his sheets and she'll ask how he managed that Physics test – how does he ever manage? Physics doesn't make any sense. It never has, and she's so sure it never will. Maybe when she's older she'll understand. (When she's tall and has long legs, and bigger breasts and more mature eyes.)

Maybe she'll understand everything, at least a little bit better. Jak's slick smiles lead her to believe that he must know everything already – he's just a good liar and he's lying about it. But she knows every inch of him better than her herself, and she'd probably know if he did, she thinks. (But doesn't know for a fact.)

She glares at him for this and no other reason when he tugs the cold fabric of her boots on by accident. But their feet are the same size, anyway, like the fingers that do the tugging and the knee above his socks. The boot on her right foot is hers, the boot on her left foot is his. "Oops," he says, too late.

"Dummy," she complains, and she lightly smacks his forehead. And Your Boot becomes My Boot, for the rest of today and until it switches back with more tumbling and stumbling and accidental screw-ups. He bends backwards and he picks up a pillow, and he hits her with it, gentling, because tripping is inevitable while the two of them walk this one-line way, and she needs to stop noticing. But it's hard. Reverberating laughter flies from her lips before she can stifle it, suffocate them, slowing her breathing back to normal. (The bacchanalia of butterflies in her stomach has no business fluttering away, and she'll snatch at them and him with her eyes.)

The orange glow of the morning light and the sun sliding off the Walls slips over him, framing his figure and smile. The pillow she picks up dances from ivory white to sunshine yellow as it passes the window, and she stifles him with it, lightly.

He can't steal her skirt and she can't steal his pants, but they can switch once in their room, for fun, which they did and it felt weird. It doesn't make any sense and never did, but it feels like her knees can't breath, when they should. After all, her elbows can.

She brushes her blonde hair into a braid outside the Cafeteria, after lunch, after class. Well, during lunch. After class and before the next one, she stands out on the marble tiles that stretch endlessly left and right, and die into daises and grass before her eyes. Behind her back they melt into glass and a marble floor, and the Cafeteria tables and benches and the boots of other students. Her shoulder-length sunflower waves twist into place beneath her fingertips, flying in the open air and the bizarreness of a beginning-less breeze. It smells faintly of bread by the Cafeteria, and when Jak's arms encase her he smells faintly of vanilla. Sometimes, first thing in the morning, he smells raw and musky, like she imagines she must, too. (But she's desensitized to that, or whatever.)

The air all about her is lukewarm and the tiles beneath her feet are cold and the boy behind her back is the warmest thing in her world right now, so she leans into that fire and releases the strands of her hair. She should braid his, instead, and would, were it longer. It's blond, like hers, but shorter.

The faint taste of apples still lives on her tongue as she licks her lips, listening, "I have things to tell you," he whispers, right in her ear, and she wants to say, "I know." But that's obvious and redundant and she quiets for him, anticipating and waiting and wanting to know.

But at the same time she does know that this is Jak, and whatever it is it must be bad, because Jak's as bad as she is, if a hundred times more beautiful and a thousand times more brilliant. Jak knows everything, which is too much, and he lies for a reason and needs to keep it up.

So she feels justified in reaching a hand behind and holding it over his mouth. Because she can feel in the tremor in his tone: the hesitation and the problem. It has to be low because students walk by and a dragon walks towards them, and she flinches, and she knows. But he leaves her first, and the faint vanilla scent so indescribably unique to Jak goes with him.

He reaches the dragon with a hand on a stronger chest, leaving hers to cope with the emptiness of air and the tightening in her chest, quickening in her breath, which she can distinguish as no better. He's protecting her, she knows, but she still wants to protect him and hates seeing the two of them leave, leaving her to stand, standing alone on the cold tile of a hallway, masked by the marble columns on either side. She follows them to the opposite end of these tiles, stops at those, holding and rubbing her arms to dispel the sudden chill in the air, and forcing herself not to be bothered. (Or jealous, though she's not sure of exactly what anymore.) And she shouldn't think about it, so she doesn't.

Jak doesn't tell her in class because he's nearly late, just barely escaping a detention, sliding in across the alabaster stone of the floor as the bell sounds overhead, jarring. The dissonance is awkward against the smooth rhythm of his breath, labored as he catches it, and sits. Against the teacher's slow and sudden drone, he mouths, "later," and she mouths, "please."

And he smiles and she sighs, and she looks out her window. (No listens, and flips the pages of her text accordingly, fingers poised with her pencil in place – and still his grade will beat at hers, at least by one percent.)

Stupid Jak and his saving graces, saving her from everything, like foxes. He intercepts again in the hallway after everything, before explanations can be requested or received. Walking back to her room alone, somehow, always feels twice as long than when with him. She misses him already and knows her existence must be sad; she's never happy alone. (She needs more, more, but can't draw anymore – because she's told to draw like this and never like that. Jak says to draw however she wants and that's why she covers his mouth while he talks, because he's bad. Her head says this but her heart says that.) Life's easier when she can draw her brother how she wants, but reality forces her to accept his unpredictable absence.

When he does get back, late, they dance, his hand finds hers and her other finds his shoulder, his other her waist. Step by step he leads her, spins her, under his arm so her skirt spins out, seventeen pleats spread wide. He dips her and she giggles, and he pulls her back up and he flings her, and she twirls out of her own accord and collapses on her bed, breathing hard. The sound of his footsteps finds her, and he collapses next to her, and his azure eyes look into hers, and she whispers, "What?"

The wait drives her crazy, it really does, but still he breathes, "later." When she finds out it will drive her mad, even madder than this and the fact that's he got her socks again, and now the top of her pajamas. And she's got the bottom of his. And she complains that it's too loose around her waist – he tells her to wear her own.

(But Lor loves Jak with every bone in her body, every inch of her skin and every string of her heart, and no matter what he says, to her he'll always be good.)

O

Corresponding artwork: yeaka .deviantart .com/ art/ Hear-Me-Out-69614242 (Remove the spaces)

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